UPDATE: Sure enough, the Orioles just announced that they’re going with Saunders over Johnson against the Rangers. Showalter indicated that Johnson’s knee injury played a factor in the decision.
Yu Darvish will start the Wild Card playoff game for the Rangers, but the Orioles remain undecided on who they’ll have on the mound. Or at least manager Buck Showalter hasn’t made his choice public yet.
It will either be left-hander Joe Saunders, who was acquired from the Diamondbacks on August 26, or right-hander Steve Johnson, a 25-year-old rookie who made just four regular season starts.
Based on experience and track record Saunders would be the obvious pick and he’s pitched pretty well since joining the Orioles with a 3.63 ERA and 23/8 K/BB ratio in 45 innings. On the other hand the Rangers are a very right-handed heavy lineup aside from Josh Hamilton and led the league in OPS versus left-handed pitching. Not surprisingly Saunders has pretty brutal career numbers versus Texas.
Johnson was excellent in 38 innings split between the rotation and bullpen, posting a 2.11 ERA and 46/18 K/BB ratio, but he’s been dealing with some knee problems and … well, trusting an unheralded rookie with four career starts in the team’s first playoff game in 15 years would certainly be a gutsy call by Showalter.
Free agent outfielder Jarrod Dyson is still a possible target for the Orioles, according to Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com. The outfielder has received limited interest after entering free agency this season, due in part to the season-ending sports hernia surgery he underwent last September. To that end, Kubatko says, the team has verified his medicals and no red flags appear to have surfaced so far.
Dyson, 33, managed a modest .251/.324/.350 batting line, five home runs and 28 stolen bases in 390 plate appearances for the Mariners last year. He didn’t overwhelm the competition at the plate, particularly during an injury-riddled second half, but still showed himself capable of maintaining the speed and defense that have become his calling cards over the last five seasons. Kubatko notes that while Dyson doesn’t appear to be seeking an everyday role again in 2018, he could be a “useful player” for Baltimore if he remains healthy.
The Giants have also tossed their hats in the ring for Dyson this winter, going so far as to call him their primary non-Lorenzo Cain candidate. Nothing is close to being finalized, however, and ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick reports that both Dyson and the Giants are still talking to other interested parties. The Orioles, too, are exploring alternatives to Dyson, and are rumored to be in talks with an anonymous right fielder who could conceivably platoon in right field and help provide depth behind Adam Jones in center.