Early struggles spell O's downfall in loss
Huff's two-run double unable to overcome Eaton's outing
BOSTON -- Dave Trembley has watched his rotation flounder for the last week, but that doesn't mean he wants to talk about it. Baltimore's manager pointedly avoided two questions about his starter after Saturday night's 6-4 loss to Boston, and when he returned to the topic, he refused to endorse Adam Eaton for another start.
"Until we come up with something else or someone else," Trembley said when asked directly whether Eaton will stay on turn. "I'll consult with [pitching coach Rick Kranitz] and our front-office personnel and see which way we're going to go. But I know it's in there for him. ... I think we all understand that we need to get the job done."
Trembley, in addressing his rotation, underlined a simple fact: The Orioles (6-5) don't have much in the way of options. Baltimore has already lost Alfredo Simon to an elbow injury that could keep him out for a month or more, and if Eaton is to be pulled from the staff, Trembley will have to identify someone to take his place.
And that's the problem. Eaton, who has worked eight innings this season and thrown 193 pitches to do it, is hardly alone in his struggles. Baltimore's starting five have pitched just 22 2/3 innings over the past six games -- four of them losses -- and they have been battered around for 43 hits, nine home runs and 27 earned runs.
"There will be a time where it will turn around," catcher Gregg Zaun said. "All we need to do is limit the big innings. ... It's tough, but they're young and they're good. They can shoulder the load. There's going to come a time where we're going to get a stretch of games where our starting pitchers shoulder the load. I know it's coming. These guys are talented. We've just hit a bad stretch over the past couple of games."
Eaton, who was released by the Phillies early in Spring Training, hasn't found success on the mound in quite some time. The right-hander threw five straight quality starts at one point last year, but he's now gone seven starts without one. Eaton, in fact, has thrown four innings or less in four straight starts dating back to last season.
The former first-round draftee allowed all six of Boston's runs Saturday, and when asked if his last quality start seemed like a long time ago, he referred to a bit of team success he had with the Phillies.
"Obviously, last year ended in the big leagues on a down note," Eaton said. "When I did get sent down, I was also leading the team in quality starts. I don't know exactly if it's justified, that question, but at the same time, I didn't throw well enough to stay there. This is a new year. That's last year, and if you guys want to talk about last year, I also won a World Series. I was part of a team. But that's not here nor there.
"I'm a Baltimore Oriole now. That's where our concerns lie. I like what we have here. I need to obviously step up and throw the way I'm capable of throwing. We'll see what we do next outing."
Eaton (0-2) worked through a scoreless first inning Saturday, but he got burned for two doubles and a run in the second. Boston (5-6) came right back for more in the third, using a three-run home run by Kevin Youkilis and a two-out RBI single by Mike Lowell. The Red Sox scored again in the fourth on three singles.
"If today was better than the last one, I don't know," said Eaton, comparing his two outings. "Obviously, the results weren't good. I don't feel as positive after this start as I did after the last start. We've got some things to work on. There's definitely some positives to take away, things we're working on to get me more consistent.
"I made some pitches when I needed to, but at the same time, I gave up four runs on two changeups I threw to righties. Those are going to be tough ones to sleep on tonight."
The Orioles didn't get to Boston starter Josh Beckett until the fifth inning. Baltimore started that rally with a single and a double, and then Beckett (2-1) walked two straight batters to push home the road team's first run. Aubrey Huff doubled with the bases loaded, and Nick Markakis scored on an error by Nick Green.
Baltimore challenged in the ninth inning against closer Jonathan Papelbon, with Brian Roberts reaching on a one-out single and Adam Jones getting hit by a pitch. The Orioles' two best run producers -- Markakis and Huff -- came up in that situation, but Papelbon got a fly ball and a popup to earn his fourth save.
Trembley credited his team for coming back, and in one of his early comments, he sidestepped a question about his starter to talk about his bullpen instead. Baltimore got strong relief work from Brian Bass, Chris Ray and Jim Johnson, a trio that allowed the Orioles to stay in the game and let their bats chip away.
"The plus tonight was that a lot of those guys needed to pitch," Trembley said. "They had had three full days off. We had it pretty well set up before the game. We felt confident that if the game were close, we were going to get those guys in.
"Obviously, you'd like to get a little bit more from your starter. You'd like to keep his pitch count down and you'd like to keep the run production down. If you stay away from the big inning, it allows you the opportunity to have that tying run in the on-deck circle. It's early in the season. This is something we have to get better at."
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.