Saunders for Friday
The Orioles will start Joe Saunders for Friday’s American League Wild Card game, manager Buck Showalter announced at this afternoon’s press conference in Arlington.
Saunders was picked over Steve Johnson, who threw a light bullpen session on Wednesday to test his sore left knee and was deemed good to go after that. The right-handed rookie, who is 4-0 with a 2.11 ERA in 12 games (four starts), has never faced the Rangers as a starter, but saw them once as a reliever earlier this year.
Saunders, on the other hand, has, but it hasn’t been good. The 31-year-old lefty has a 6.48 ERA in 11 career starts against Texas, including a 9.38 ERA in six games in Arlington. Asked if he was aware of his numbers, Saunders said: “I can imagine. I don’t care. Tomorrow is another day.”
So, why Saunders? Showalter said that the team still isn’t 100 percent certain about Johnson’s knee and Saunders is a veteran who has pitched in the postseason before. Also, left-handed starters fare better in the Rangers Ballpark than righties, which is another thing the team factored in.
“I’ve said many times this year, the No. 1 starter is the guy pitching that day,” Showalter said. “Our whole rotation has been the sum of the parts, and Joe has pitched well for us since he’s been here. And he’s got tough task ahead of him.
If you are looking for pitchers with good numbers against the Texas Rangers they are hard to find. Regardless of who pitches tomorrow, we are going to have to pitch well and do some things out of the bullpen and swing the bats well.”
As for the team’s roster construction, the Orioles will wait until after practicing today before making any final calls. The Orioles have three or four extra players here and don’t need to set the roster until 10 a.m. on Friday morning.
Of other note, Mark Reynolds –who fouled a ball off his left foot in Wednesday’s loss– had an MRI on the area come back negative. Right now, it looks like the team has dodged a bullet in that regard.