CLEVELAND -- The Orioles entered Thursday's series finale against the Indians having thrown eight quality starts in their last nine games, with the young trio of Brad Bergesen, Brian Matusz and Jake Arrieta combining for five of those.
"I felt all along this is how it should be going," pitching coach Rick Kranitz said of the rotation resurgence. "This is certainly what they're capable of doing. There's no doubt about it. Each guy has picked it up, and it's like handing the baton to the next, challenging each other and getting it done. It's fun to watch."
It's also a far cry from the trio's first two starts out of the All-Star break, in which Matusz pitched to a 12.15 ERA (nine earned runs, 6 2/3 innings) with Arrieta's 9.64 ERA (10 earned runs, 9 1/3 innings) and Bergesen's 7.15 mark (nine earned runs, 11 1/3 innings) not far behind.
Since Aug. 3 -- the date manager Buck Showalter took over -- the Orioles' only non-quality start was Arrieta's outing Tuesday, in which Showalter let the rookie pitch out of a five-run fourth inning to go six.
Showalter later called that start a "growth moment" and has made it no secret that he will be evaluating the O's current crop of youngsters to determine their place in the organization's future. Fortunately for most of the O's, Showalter isn't basing his assessment on the past.
"I'm not stat watching, I'm watching people between the lines," he said.
"It's an opportunity for me that may not be here next year. I kind of hope it isn't as much. And I have to take advantage of the looks I'm getting."
Orioles reach deals with three Draft picks
CLEVELAND -- The Orioles added another trio of Draft picks on Thursday afternoon, agreeing to terms with third-rounder Dan Klein and inking fifth-round pick Connor Narron and ninth-round pick Parker Bridwell. Klein's signing is unofficial, meaning he needs to pass a physical first.
Klein's agreement marks the Orioles' top Draft signing, though third overall pick Manny Machado is expected to sign closer to the Aug. 16 deadline. A right-handed pitcher out of UCLA, Klein went 6-1 with a 1.90 ERA and 10 saves, helping the Bruins reach the College World Series. When he passes his physical, he is expected to report to short-season Aberdeen.
According to Baseball America, the O's signed Narron and Bridwell -- both high school selections -- on Friday to overslot bonuses that combined exceed $1 million. Narron is a switch-hitting shortstop who committed to North Carolina, while Bridwell is a right-handed pitcher who was recruited to play quarterback at Texas Tech.
Machado is the only remaining unsigned pick from the Orioles' top five, with sixth-round pick Dixon Anderson and seventh-round pick Matt Bywatter also still in negotiations. While the general consensus is Machado -- a Scott Boras client -- will go right down to the midnight ET deadline before signing, Baltimore will spend the next few days working on the rest of its higher priority signings.
Buck Ball a ratings hit in Baltimore, D.C.
CLEVELAND -- Turns out, former ESPN analyst Buck Showalter isn't just good on television, he's good for it. The arrival of Showalter -- named the Orioles' manager on Aug. 3 -- and the team's 8-1 record heading into Thursday have caused a ratings spike in the Baltimore and Washington, D.C., areas.
Since Showalter took over, ratings in Baltimore households are up 52 percent --from 36,069 to 54,650, with D.C. seeing an increase of 57 percent --from 16,345 to 25,685 -- over that nine-game stretch. The average total number of households tuning over that span is 80,335, up from 52,414.
Wednesday night's 3-1 win over Cleveland earned a 5.9 household rating in Baltimore -- peaking at 8.3 -- and a 1.4 rating in D.C. By comparison, the Washington Capitals earned a 1.5 rating in Washington during the 2009-10 season when they were contending for the Stanley Cup, while the Wizards averaged an 0.9 rating.
Orioles manager Buck Showalter said Thursday there has been talks about possibly going to a six-man rotation to get young pitchers Chris Tillman and Zach Britton some starts, but nothing will be decided until September callups. ... Reliever Jim Johnson tossed a scoreless first inning, throwing 10 pitches (eight strikes) in his first rehab outing for Double-A Bowie on Thursday night. ... Outfielder Lou Montanez (left oblique strain) went 1-for-5 with a run scored in his first rehab game at Double-A Bowie on Wednesday night. He served as the designated hitter. ... Triple-A Norfolk's Brandon Erbe will undergo season-ending surgery on Friday in California to fix a torn right labrum. The O' third-round pick in 2005, Erbe went 0-10 with a 5.73 ERA in 14 starts before going on the disabled list. ... According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Showalter is the first manager in Major League history to win at least seven of his first eight games after a midseason takeover of a team that was at least 20 games below .500.
Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog,Britt's Bird Watch, and follow her on Twitter @britt_ghiroli. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.