In what has been an unconventional season for the Orioles, the club offered another unique wrinkle on Wednesday afternoon.
Orioles manager Buck Showalter sent two pitchers to the news conference held for the next game’s starter. Obviously, only one can start Game 4 of the American League Division Series, but Showalter wasn’t announcing his choice pre-game Wednesday, so reporters got a tandem at the dais.
The sense is that right-hander Chris Tillman, who pitched the season finale a week ago, will get the call Thursday. But Showalter is the king of hedging his bets and said he wanted to see how Wednesday’s game unfolded, and who he would have to use in relief, before officially naming Tillman or lefty Joe Saunders the starter.
“We were kind of hoping you would tell us, because we don’t know yet,” Saunders joked with the reporters. “Whoever it is, me or Chris, we’re going to go out there and do our job.”
Schedule-wise, Tillman (9-3, 2.93 ERA) would be next up and he’s been the club’s most consistent pitcher. Saunders, however, would be on regular rest and, as a lefty, would face fewer left-handers with the short porch in right field at Yankee Stadium.
“I feel confident either way,” Tillman said. “I think our team trusts us and, either way we go, I feel like we can get the job done.”
Tillman is 2-3 with an 8.16 ERA in seven starts against the Yankees in his career. He is 1-0 with a 6.75 ERA in two starts against New York this season, both in the Bronx. Thursday would be his first postseason start.
“I’ve been in the bullpen the last couple days watching these games. It’s a lot of fun to watch,” the 24-year-old Tillman said. “The intensity was huge, the fans were great. I think you’ve just got to treat it like another start. You can’t put too much pressure on yourself. It’s not fair to yourself, not fair to your team.”
Saunders is 3-1 with a 5.82 ERA in six starts against the Yankees. Only one has come in New York — at old Yankee Stadium in 2006 while with the Los Angeles Angels. He allowed two earned runs in six innings for the win. He has five postseason games on his resume (1-1, 4.94 ERA), including the win in Friday’s American League wild-card game.
“[It’s] just keeping your nerves in check, and trusting your stuff and going out there and doing your thing,” Saunders said of pitching in the postseason.
Right-hander Phil Hughes is scheduled to pitch Game 4 for the Yankees.
Orioles right-hander Jason Hammel and Yankees lefty CC Sabathia are the probables for a potential Game 5, which would be a rematch of Game 1.
Around the horn
Orioles infielder Wilson Betemit (right wrist) will play first and third Thursday in an instructional league game in Sarasota, Fla.. He is hoping to return for the ALCS if the team makes it. …. Adam Jones is the Orioles’ representative for the Hank Aaron Award given to the best offensive player in each league. … Showalter said lefty Brian Matusz would likely begin next spring as a starter to build up innings, but he also could return to the relief role in which he has excelled in the second half and postseason.