What will the Orioles do with Tsuyoshi Wada? In just over three weeks, they’re going to have to make a decision.
Wada, who signed a two-year, $8.15 million contract in Dec. 2011, hasn’t pitched for the Orioles. He underwent Tommy John surgery on May 11, 2012, and his recovery is nearly complete.
The Japanese left-hander is scheduled to make his third rehab start on Sunday for Norfolk at Lehigh Valley. The Orioles can keep Wada on his rehab assignment until June 14, but then have to decide what to do.
If Wei-Yin Chen isn’t ready to pitch by then, Wada can supplant Freddy Garcia and join Jason Hammel, Miguel Gonzalez, Chris Tillman and perhaps Kevin Gausman in the starting rotation.
Or he can go to the bullpen. Wada has expressed some disdain for the bullpen in the past, but there may be no other choice.
When he signed with the Orioles, it was considered a coup. Wada was apparently in some demand, and the Orioles needed him. At the time, the Orioles starting rotation candidates were hardly formidable: Jeremy Guthrie, Jake Arrieta, Zach Britton, Tommy Hunter and Dana Eveland were the prime contenders. Wada seemed to fit in nicely.
Chen wasn’t signed until another month passed, and Wada was thought to be a frontline starter. It didn’t happen.
There may not be a logical place for him to start, and Wada has thrown just twice in relief while in Japan.
Troy Patton has struggled in the bullpen, and Wada could help there—and may not have an alternative.
The Orioles can’t option him to Norfolk without his permission. He badly wants to pitch in the major leagues, and could use the final months of 2013 to show he belongs.
A few weeks ago, the Orioles delayed Wada’s rehab assignment, ostensibly because they wanted to be cautious with him, but because they didn’t have a spot in Triple-A. They wanted him pitching on a high level after weeks in extended spring training.
When Wei-Yin Chen and Miguel Gonzalez were hurt, the openings with Norfolk were there.
Wada won’t be with the Orioles when he’s eligible to be reactivated late next week, and could get as many as six starts. After Sunday’s start and the following one, the Orioles will have a better idea of his ability. He’ll be stretched out enough to start, but better be ready to relieve.