O's in thick of playoff race despite injuries

O's in thick of playoff race despite injuries

BALTIMORE -- As the calendar flips to September, the best boost the Orioles can get for their playoff hopes will come from the disabled list.

Baltimore ended August with Adam Jones, Darren O'Day, Chris Tillman and Joey Rickard either banged up or on the DL, and each player's return could go a long ways toward helping the O's get to the postseason.

"No one is going to feel sorry for you when they get through playing the anthem. Our fans have high expectations, and that's what I want them to have," manager Buck Showalter said of his club, which is chasing Boston for the top American League Wild Card spot and Toronto for the AL East.

"But it's tough when you continually do it and you don't see an end game. But there is one -- we are going to get Adam back at some point, we are going to get Tillman back and Darren back and Rickard back. We've done a good job in the past with not just holding the fort down, but actually making leaps with the opportunity that people are getting that they haven't normally gotten. We've had some of that this year, not as much as probably we need. [That says] a lot of some of our depth that we've been challenged with."

Orioles executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette has made some late moves to try to help that depth, both in the pitching and outfield department.

Baltimore acquired lefty Wade Miley at the non-waiver Trade Deadline, and the club claimed outfielder Drew Stubbs off waivers on Wednesday from the Rangers and traded for outfielder Michael Bourn with the D-backs.

Still, the most important additions will come from just getting healthy.

"I hope so," Duquette said of getting a lift from the pending return of some of the team's stars. "And we may have some players that come up from the farm system and make a contribution too in September. We want to see this thing through."

For that to happen, the O's will need more starts like they got from Miley (seven innings on Monday) and Ubaldo Jimenez (6 2/3 on Tuesday) this week against Toronto.

Tillman (right shoulder bursitis), who could get on a mound this weekend, isn't expected to be back until after Sept. 10, though Jones (left hamstring strain) could return to the starting lineup as early as Friday. The Orioles don't have a timeline for O'Day and Rickard, the latter of whom will be checked out again on Friday to determine if he's ready for baseball activities.

Even if the O's get close to full strength, it's a rough road ahead, as they have more road games than home games in the final month-plus. Baltimore ends the season at Toronto, where it has struggled to do well, and in New York, where it has lost five of six.

"We know how many games are left and the competition," Showalter said. "Our guys have been through a pretty tough stretch [already].

"We have an opportunity. I don't want to say that's all you can ask. We wanted to grind like heck all season, Spring Training, through the year to have the chance to play meaningful games down the stretch. And we have that opportunity."

The road ahead

It doesn't get the attention of the Giants' even-year expertise, of course, but the Orioles are vying to advance to October like they did in 2012 and '14.

Home games: 14

Road games: 15

Games vs. teams over .500: 19

Two key series: Sept. 19-22 vs. Red Sox; Sept. 27-29 at Blue Jays

Help on the way? Right-hander Tillman (right shoulder bursitis) could return by early September. Outfielder Rickard (thumb) could be cleared for baseball activities on Sept. 2, and he would give the O's speed and defense off the bench.

Cause for concern: The Orioles' starting rotation has been among the league's worst all year, putting pressure on the bullpen.

Brittany Ghiroli has covered the Orioles for MLB.com since 2010. Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, follow her on Facebook and Twitter @britt_ghiroli, and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.