Showalter could shake up roster for ALCS

Showalter could shake up roster for ALCS

BALTIMORE -- The Orioles, who had a light workout at Camden Yards on Tuesday, have a few days before they must officially set their American League Championship Series roster for Friday's Game 1 against the Royals. And if the AL Division Series taught us anything, it's that manager Buck Showalter will take that decision, along with the rotation order, down to the wire.

But could the O's, who had a few surprises on their roster last round, make some more changes? It's likely they will. Lefties T.J. McFarland and Brian Matusz were left off the ALDS roster given Detroit's right-handed-heavy lineup. And although the Royals as a team hit .266/.322/.387 against left-handers during the regular season and .261/.310/.372 against right-handers, three of their core hitters bat left-handed -- Alex Gordon, the red-hot Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas.

  Date   Recaps Highlights
Gm 1 Oct. 10   KC 8, BAL 6 (10 inn.) video
Gm 2 Oct. 11   KC 6, BAL 4 video
Gm 3 Oct. 14   KC 2, BAL 1 video
Gm 4 Oct. 15   KC 2, BAL 1 video

Gordon does nearly as well vs. southpaws as right-handers, but Hosmer and Moustakas have significant dropoffs in production when facing a left-hander. Hosmer hits .264/.297/.378 vs. lefties with just two home runs while batting .273/.326/.406 with nine home runs vs. right-handers. Ditto for Moustakas, who really struggled against lefties (.172/.241/.313) and hit 12 of his 15 home runs off right-handers.

One interesting exception is Royals leadoff hitter Nori Aoki, a left-handed hitter who hits way better vs. left-handers (.363/.387/.460) than righties (.259/.323/.335), so it will be interesting to see how Showalter matches up against him late in games.

It's entirely plausible, therefore, that Showalter returns either Matusz or McFarland -- or both -- to a bullpen that featured only Andrew Miller and closer Zach Britton from the left side during the ALDS. The likely odd man out is right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez, who had a down season (6-9, 4.81 ERA). He was in the 'pen as a potential long man during the ALDS but did not see action.

Of course, one factor will be whether the team decides to go with 11 pitchers again. Showalter thought about going with 10 for the Division Series but opted to err on the safe side. It worked, as the O's recorded a 3.33 ERA in their sweep of the Tigers.

Another factor to consider is the Royals' speed, which will greatly test catchers Caleb Joseph and Nick Hundley as well as the pitching staff, which under Showalter has made it a priority to be quick to the plate.

If the O's want a late-inning speed option of their own, they could add Quintin Berry, who nearly made the ALDS roster. Infielder Alexi Casilla was another player on the bubble last round who could make the club for the ALCS and add more of a defensive-minded approach than reserve Jimmy Paredes.

The rotation will be the same four: Chris Tillman, Wei-Yin Chen, Bud Norris and Miguel Gonzalez, though the order is still to be announced.

Tillman, likely the Game 1 starter again, is 2-2 with a 6.21 ERA in five starts against the Royals; he tossed his first career shutout in Kansas City, a five-hitter, in May. Kevin Gausman is once again expected to be a weapon out of the bullpen, as a late-inning righty or for multiple frames.

All-Star Chris Davis is not expected to be a part of the roster, as five games remain on his 25-game suspension. He has been working out in Sarasota, Fla., mainly at third base; adding him would force the O's to play a man down for the first five games until he was eligible to be activated.

Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, and follow her on Facebook and Twitter @britt_ghiroli. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.