Koji says DL, new 'pen plans

SARASOTA, Fla. — With no real timetable of when he will get
back on the mound, Orioles reliever Koji Uehara said Monday that he expects to
start the season on the disabled list.

 “If it happens,
there’s nothing I can do about it,” Koji said through interpreter Jiwon Bang. “Obviously
we don’t have many days before [April 6's] Opening Day, so you kind of expect
it.”

Uehara exit March 18’s game 
against the Toronto Blue Jays with a left hamstring strain and hasn’t
thrown on the mound since suffering the injury. 
Prior to Monday’s game, manager Dave Trembley said Koji would have to be
able to show he can throw by mid-week to avoid the DL.

Koji ‘s progression has been slow and deliberate -mostly
just light catch and running – but he said starting the season on the DL
wouldn’t be too disappointing.

“The more important thing is to be ready physically,” he
said.

If Uehara starts the season on the disabled list, it would
open up an extra bullpen slot, perhaps for a guy like Jason Berken, who has
pitched predominantly out of the ‘pen. Berken tossed four scoreless innings in
relief of Chris Tillman in his most recent outing Friday, and could give the
Orioles a second long-inning man to go along with Mark Hendrickson.

Right now, I’d say Berken is on the team’s Opening Day roster, with Cla Meredith, Matt Albers and Will Ohman to round it out. Kam Mickolio is another option, but the big right-hander has been sidelined the last few days with a sore groin and Trembley acknowledged he hasn’t pitched up to expectations. 

Albers is out of options –and pitching better — so the logical thing to do is keep him and have Mickolio get some more work in Triple-A. 

“I think he’s had a very good opportunity to show what he can do,” Trembley said of Mickolio. “Whether it’s been the best he can do, I’m not so sure. I think it’s been
kind of an up-and-down for him. I don’t mean to be very critical, but I
think he’s capable of doing better more consistently. I think he’s
shown glimpses of it. Other times he’s pitched in too many three-ball
counts. I don’t know if his leg has been bothering him for a while and
this has been a reason. There’s an awful lot in there. We just need to
get it out on a more consistent basis.”

In 9 1/3 spring innings, Mickolio has allowed two earned runs on seven hits. He’s struggled with his command, issuing seven walks (against 10 strikeouts) and told me today he will try to get back on the mound Tuesday to test his groin.

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