CLEVELAND — The Baltimore Orioles have played well enough this season that even their biggest concerns don’t seem particularly urgent.
But sometime soon, whether it’s this week or next month, the club must decide whether it can afford to leave its most expensive starting pitcher in the rotation as the postseason nears.
Right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez, making his second start since coming off the disabled list last Saturday, remained maddeningly inconsistent in the Orioles’ 6-0 loss to the Cleveland Indians on Saturday night.
Signed away from the Indians in the offseason to a four-year, $50 million contract — an Orioles record for a free-agent pitcher — Jimenez was hit hard and dug his team into a big hole.
It was the first time since June 28-29 the Orioles (69-52) lost two in a row, and snapped the club’s streak of eight consecutive series victories.
After totaling 41 runs in their five-game homestand last week, the Orioles scored just once in 20 innings in Cleveland. On Saturday night, right-hander Carlos Carrasco (5-4), making his second start since April, limited Baltimore to three hits and no walks in seven scoreless innings. The Orioles had just four hits.
A brief failure to score, though, masks the most pressing story line: What to do with Jimenez? With right-hander Miguel Gonzalez eligible to be promoted from the minors Tuesday, the Orioles will have a six-man rotation unless they demote Jimenez, 30, to the bullpen.
Jimenez walked the Indians’ first two batters, Michael Bourn and Jose Ramirez. After getting a fly out, Jimenez faced his old batterymate, Carlos Santana, who crushed a 92-mph fastball into the trees in deep center — an estimated 422 feet from home plate — for his 21st homer.
Jimenez struggled again in the fifth. He surrendered a leadoff double to former Oriole Chris Dickerson, who scored on a one-out single by Ramirez. Michael Brantley followed with a two-run homer to right, his 18th of the season.
That was it for Jimenez, who lasted 41 / 3 innings and was charged with six runs. He walked three — padding his American League lead with 66 in 110 innings — and fanned five. In two starts against the Indians this year, he is 0-2 and has allowed 11 runs in 81 / 3 innings.
— Baltimore Sun