Change is a comin'

A few things could happen in the next day(s) for the Orioles given that Koji Uehara is expected to be placed on the disabled list and Alfredo Simon is likely to join him.  They’ll both got reevaluated today, which is why official word won’t be until later, but in Simon’s case the Orioles can’t afford to be down another arm for a few days. Hamstring issues can linger and Simon has had some in the past, which makes me think the team would lean toward putting him on the 15 day DL and hopefully nipping the issue in the bud.

I’ve gotten a lot of questions as to what the Orioles will do in their bullpen and who will be the closer. I’d say lefty specialist Will Ohman moves into the majority of save situations, given that he’s been the Orioles most reliable reliever and, according to manager Dave Trembley earlier this week, would relish the role.

As to who to recall, the Orioles tipped their hand a little last night when Triple-A Norfolk closer Frank Mata did not enter the 2-1 game. Mata has eight saves for Norfolk and is not on the team’s 40-man roster, meaning there would need to be a corresponding move made there, perhaps designating Pedro Viola or Pedro Florimon, Jr.  Mata is 2-1 with a 1.86 ERA and with appearances in 18 games. Given that he had last night off, you’d have to think the Orioles would recall him with full intent to use him on Tuesday if needed.

What about the second reliever spot that could open if Simon goes on the shelf? The crop down at Triple-A includes right-hander Ross Wolf (who is 0-2 with a 2.70 ERA in 15 appearances) and Alberto Castillo, who was just optioned back following Thursday’s Orioles loss. Since this is an injury situation, the club could recall Castillo and the usual 10-day rule doesn’t apply. Dennis Sarfate is also an option. Kam Mickolio is struggling at Norfolk and has been dealing with some back issues, so I’d rule out him getting the nod. 

The O’s could also move starter David Hernandez to the bullpen, a move which has been speculated about for a few days. With yesterday’s off day the team could go shuffle the rotation -giving Brad Bergesen Hernandez’s scheduled Thursday start on regular rest – and have Kevin Millwood open Friday’s series in Toronto.  That scenario would require a fifth starter for Saturday, which would be either Chris Tillman or Jake Arrieta (and the Orioles would option back a reliever.)

Tillman tossed  six innings of one-run baseball last night to become the first Orioles Minor Leaguer to five wins. Does he get a shot at six? I don’t think so.  Tillman could make Saturday’s start on regular rest and he’s on the team’s 40-man roster. Arrieta is scheduled to pitch tonight for Norfolk, which is a box score I will watch closely. If he gets scratched it’d be an easy guess as to why…

As for Hernandez to the bullpen, it’s an option that makes sense for several reasons, namely that it allows a promotion for Tillman/Arrieta and strengthen the O’s bullpen. As a starter, Hernandez has only pitched in the seventh inning four times in his career, tossing six full innings 10 times in 27 career starts.

Hernandez’s career ERA from innings 1-3 is 4.91 and number that jumps over a run – to 5.97 in innings 4-6. Obviously he has more innings in the first three innings ( 80 2/3) than later in the game (60 1/3). In his first 50 pitches, he is holding opponents to a career .254 batting average against, a number that goes up to .281 with pitches 51-75 and .306 with pitches 76-100. Those appearances are pretty even given that Hernandez has thrown at least 75 pitches in 28 games, lasting to the 76-100 range 26 times.

Hernandez struck out four in his only career relief appearance, tossing 2 2/3 scoreless innings on June 6 at Oakland. As of Sunday night, he said he hadn’t been told anything in regards to moving to the ‘pen, but if the move is made he won’t be mad about it. In my opinion, it’s something he probably saw coming.

Check back later this afternoon for some official moves as the Orioles get ready to square off with the Oakland A’s. 

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