Orioles' young staff learning the hard way

KEN FIDLIN, QMIA gency

, Last Updated: 12:31 AM ET

ST. PETERSBURG, FLA. - As the Blue Jays have learned over the years, the American League East is not the ideal place to introduce young pitchers to the world of big-league baseball.

More often than not, the AL East’s piranha-like offences eat young pitchers for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

The Orioles have fallen victim to that feeding frenzy this year.

Ealier this week, FoxSport’s Ken Rosenthal wrote that the Orioles’ slide into oblivion might be traced to the resignation of pitching coach Mark Connor on June 16, supplying statistical evidence that would seem to support such a theory. He points out the Orioles had a 30-33 record with a respectable 4.22 ERA under Connor. Since the torch passed to current pitching coach Rick Adair, the O’s are 13-31 (not including Thursday’s game) with a 5.75 ERA. Drilling down even deeper, Orioles starters had a 4.16 ERA on June 12 but since then, it’s 6.61.

Youngsters like Brian Matusz, Chris Tillman and Zach Britton, who had promising starts to 2011, have fallen on hard times. Now Jake Arrieta, who has been handling the pressure best of all of them, is probably going to miss the rest of the season with an elbow injury.

Showalter came out of the Texas front office where he had spent two years as a player development consultant, to join Showalter’s staff this year. He resigned for personal reasons after 21/2 months and is now said to be rejoining the Rangers in his former role.

“We’re not pitching really well. We weren’t pitching particularly well before he left,” Showalter told Rosenthal.

“Developing young pitching in the American League East is a challenge. It’s not for the weak of heart or for those who lack intestinal fortitude. If you can get through it, you’re definitely better. But sometimes it makes for too healthy a respect for the hitters.”

The Orioles traded for Texas pitcher Tommy Hunter last week and it’s hoped he will help stabilize the rotation.

When he takes the mound Friday against the Jays, it will be Hunter’s first start since Game 4 of the 2010 World Series. The 25-year-old suffered a groin injury near the end of training camp this spring, missed three months and never re-established himself in the Rangers’ rotation. Last week he and first baseman Chris Davis were traded to Baltimore for reliever Koji Uehara.

Saturday’s starter is still to be named but the frontrunner for that assignment is Chris Tillman, who was optioned to triple-A last week, but would be considered eligible to return because of Arrieta’s injury status.

Showalter isn’t buying the change of pitching coaches theory for the O’s pitching woes.

“Rick (Adair) was kind of hand-picked by Mark (Connor). They’re cut from the same cloth,” Showalter said. “Mark was the pitching czar in Texas. Rick has a pretty good track record.

“I think that would be a convenient excuse if you wanted to believe it. I’m not allowing it here.”


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