The Tillman/Arrieta Factor
The Orioles haven’t said anything, but Koji Uehara will almost definitely go to the disabled list. He saw team physician Dr. Wilckens prior to Sunday’s game and has been diagnosed with a flexor prontator strain. While he said the pain was around the same area of his previous injury in his right elbow, the prontator is associated more with the forearm.
As an example of that kind of injury, Mariners closer J.J. Putz developed a flexor-pronator strain during Spring Training ’07 but was available to pitch by the start of the regular season. The Phillies J.A. Happ also deal with a “mild flexor prontator strain” and missed a start. He was eventually placed on the disabled list.
So what do the Orioles do now? They won’t call up another one-inning guy, a fact manager Dave Trembley confirmed prior to Sunday’s game. They need someone who can go multiple innings in the bullpen, someone like David Hernandez.
At this point, moving Hernandez to the bullpen is pure speculation. But it makes sense given the team’s cautious nature regarding top prospects Jake Arrieta and Chris Tillman. Hernandez has typically been a guy who can throw hard and who is better in short bursts. He usually falls victim to one bad inning after throwing three or four great ones. I know Orioles fans have been calling for this move for years, but it finally appears like it might happen.
President of baseball operations Andy MacPhail was in Norfolk last week to watch both Tillman and Arrieta pitch. I haven’t seen either guy since the spring, and I’m not sure who would got the nod over who at this point. Tillman is on the 40-man roster and his service time clock is ticking since he was with the big-league club last year. But while Tillman got off to a slow start, Arrieta has been dominant since the beginning of the year.
Of course, MacPhail could also opt to put one of those two guys in the bullpen, or move another starter. But Hernandez is a guy who projects well out of the ‘pen given that he throws hard and really gets himself into trouble when he goes to his offspeed stuff. Seeing a batter (or lineup) one time through would allow him to use his best stuff. And given how the team hasn’t hesitated to pluck a prospect from Triple-A and put them in the starting rotation in seasons past, it appears that move is imminent.