Orioles roster mania

BALTIMORE– The expected flurry of Orioles roster moves this week continued on Tuesday, with the news that right-hander Chris Tillman had been taken out of the rotation and optioned back to Triple-A Norfolk for the second time this season.

Interim Orioles manager Juan Samuel also confirmed that veteran Kevin Millwood will be activated from the 15-day disabled list (right forearm strain) and start Thursday’s game with the rest of the O’s rotation sliding back a day.

Baltimore is expecting to activate closer Michael Gonzalez -either following Wednesday’s game or early on Thursday – and the O’s could also add another arm prior to Wednesday’s game to take the spot vacated by Tillman. Matt Wieters (strained right hamstring) is expected to slide right into the lineup on Sunday, and Brian Roberts, who started a rehab assignment with Double-A Bowie on Monday, could also be activated in the next few days, although the team is leaning toward having Roberts wait. Rookie infielder Josh Bell is expected to be a roster casualty and the team will have to make a few more to clear space.

Although the Orioles roster is in upheaval, president of baseball operations MacPhail said there is “nothing that would indicate” a trade in the next several days, to help free up some space. Beyond that, the Orioles are always discussing possibilities around this time of the year, particularly with veterans like Ty Wigginton and Miguel Tejada.

“We’re still trying to make the decision which way we’re going to go, whether it’s going to be a pitcher or a position player when all these guys come back,” Samuel said of the roster juggling. “I think Andy has got his hands full trying to figure out which way we’re going to go.”

With Roberts, he could possibly begin next week’s road series with the Orioles, but given his injury, a herniated disc in his lower back, Roberts would have to be used sparingly on Toronto’s artificial turf.

While MacPhail acknowledged that “Brian’s rather keen on getting it going,” the organization will reevaluate him on Thursday, when he takes a day off of rehab. Having Roberts play at the Rogers Centre surface -which is similar to the three straight games he started in Tampa Bay prior to reinjuring himself on the Orioles home opener – is hardly ideal and it could push him back another series.

“For me, the ideal place for [Roberts] is Kansas City,” Samuel said. “We have to be smart. We do not want to see him have a major setback. I’m sure he’s going to push his way into playing in Toronto, so we have to be smart with this.”

The Orioles also had to weigh the possibilities concerning sending Tillman back to Norfolk, in what is becoming a yo-yo year for the young righty. With Samuel and MacPhail both against a six-man rotation, Tillman -who allowed eight runs on seven hits over 2 2/3 innings in Monday’s loss – proved to be the odd man. The 22-year-old has struggled to find consistency at the Major League level -nearly pitching a no-hitter in his previous start at Texas-but given that he wasn’t going to throw again for five days, it was an easy choice to make room in the rotation. 

Millwood has been on the disabled list since July 6 with a strained right forearm and has seen a strong-first half collapse into a 10.20 ERA over his previous seven starts. Samuel said he was confident Millwood could return to his early-season form, and Millwood has attested since the All-Star break that his arm has felt much better.
 
The Orioles are equally optimistic about Gonzalez, who was placed on the 60-day DL (left shoulder strain) and used his full rehab assignment, which expires on Wednesday.

While Gonzalez has struggled in the Minor Leagues, Samuel thinks his concentration and focus will help improve his location -and results -when he rejoins the O’s.  Signed to a two-year deal this offseason to close games, Gonzalez appeared in just three games -including two blown saves – before landing on the DL and will be eased back into the later innings.

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