Photo by Keith Allison
Leading up the the ALDS, I wrote a few posts on roster decisions facing the Orioles. I looked at the pitching staff, De Aza vs. Lough, the 3B situation, as well as an overall look at what I projected the final roster would be.
There were a couple things I was wrong about. I looked at 2012 and concluded the Orioles would again go with 12 pitchers in the ALDS. However, this time around the team went with 11 pitchers, which allowed for the Orioles to carry an extra hitter, who, it could be argued, was either David Lough or Jimmy Paredes. Since I am volunteering what I got wrong, I'll also point out that I did mention that Brian Matusz could be excluded if the Orioles faced the Tigers. However, while I acknowledged the possibility, I wouldn't have bet on it. I was also wrong about Ubaldo Jimenez being included on the roster. I didn't see that one coming, and figured the Orioles would carry Ryan Webb or T.J. McFarland instead (or Brian Matusz, but I thought he'd be safe, regardless).
But on to the ALCS roster. While no assumption is safe given the clever way in which this team manages its roster, I would think it's likely that the Orioles carry 12 pitchers this round. And, since a 5-man rotation isn't necessary, pushing a starter to the bullpen capable of being the long-man, Brian Matusz is likely to be the pitcher added, not McFarland.
So, who is going to be excluded in order to make room for Matusz, Lough or Paredes? My guess is Lough. While he's the Orioles best defensive option in LF, De Aza is a perfectly capable defensive replacement for games when Delmon Young or Nelson Cruz start in LF (likely vs LH starters). On top of that, Buck has a lot more options for OF replacements should an unexpected need arise. This isn't the case in the infield, which is why I think Paredes will be included over Lough. What if J.J. Hardy's back flares up and Flaherty has to start a game at SS? Without Paredes on the roster, the Orioles would be left without a backup infielder.
Prediction number 1: Brian Matusz replaces David Lough on the roster.
In terms of the rotation, I expect it to consist of the same 4 pitchers. As Jeff Long wrote about already, Kevin Gausman could (and probably should) be in the rotation, but it seems unlikely that Buck would change his mind now as to who he thinks are his 4 best options as starters.
There's also the question of Ubaldo. I disagreed with including him on the ALDS roster. However, his inclusion on the ALDS roster makes it all the more likely that he'll also be on the ALCS roster. While it is possible that McFarland could get a spot on the 25-man instead of him, it's not likely.
Prediction number 2: The same 4 pitchers are in the Orioles rotation
Prediction number 3: Ubaldo remains on the roster for the ALCS.
There's also the issue of Chris Davis. Thanks to the Orioles making quick work of the Tigers, Davis is not eligible to play until Game 6 of the ALCS. However, he must be included on the roster from the start of the series, so the Orioles would have to play with a 24-man roster for 5 games in order for Davis to be available for Game 6. I don't think this will or should happen. Working with a short bench in order to possibly get 2 games worth of plate appearances from a player who was below league average production this season and hasn't seen game action in almost a month (over a month at the time he's eligible) because of an amphetamine suspension? Pass
Prediction number 4: Chris Davis will be left off the ALCS roster.
Like I said above, the Orioles are clever in their roster management, so they could again surprise us with the roster they submit for the series. But I think the only change that will take place is Brian Matusz being added to the roster at the expense of David Lough.