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BALTIMORE — After nearly a two-month absence, left-handed pitcher Wei-Yin Chen is scheduled to make his much-awaited return to the Orioles on Wednesday.
Prior to the start of this week’s four-game series with the Texas Rangers, manager Buck Showalter confirmed that the Taiwanese southpaw will make his first start since May 12 after a pair of minor-league rehab starts with Double-A Bowie. Chen threw seven shutout innings against Harrisburgh on July 4, meaning he could have returned on normal rest for Tuesday’s game.
Instead, Showalter has elected to give lefty Zach Britton the start on Tuesday, essentially meaning the Orioles will use a six-man rotation until the All-Star break.
“Trying to give everybody a little extra rest,” Showalter said. “We can make some adjustments depending on what we do with our bullpen. We don’t want guys to get too far away but not get the benefit. Because of the four days, it allows us to do whatever we want to do post-break. Everybody will have had enough rest to put them in the mix.”
The Orioles could elect to option Britton to Triple-A Norfolk following his Tuesday start to make room for Chen on the 25-man roster. Such a move would allow Britton to stay on regular rest over the All-Star break as the Orioles did with Chris Tillman last season. However, last week’s trade for Scott Feldman and Chen’s return likely mean Britton will be the odd man out when it comes to the current rotation.
Rookie right-hander Kevin Gausman may be another candidate for such a minor-league stint over the break as he’s currently pitching out of the bullpen. The 2012 first-round pick has essentially taken over the spot previously occupied by Pedro Strop, but you have to wonder whether the 22-year-old pitching infrequently in long relief is the best way to develop his skills.
For now, Showalter is taking advantage of the opportunity to give his starters an extra day of rest with the second half and the dog days of summer looming.
“That’s not going to be there shortly,” Showalter said. “Obviously, we’re not going to be able to carry six starters in the second half — if that’s what we’re calling the post-All-Star break. We can talk about for an hour the different factors that figured into it, but when it was all said and done, we thought it was pretty clear-cut.”
In other pitching-related news, the Orioles received a favorable report on Steve Johnson on Monday. The right-hander threw 35 pitches from a mound in Sarasota and appears to be inching closer to a rehab assignment.
Johnson would become another option for the bullpen when he’s able to return after the All-Star break.
Top infield prospect Jonathan Schoop is scheduled to begin his minor-league rehab assignment with short-season Single-A Aberdeen on Thursday. The 21-year-old hasn’t played since May 12 while recovering from a stress fracture in his lower back.
With the highlight of third baseman Manny Machado’s latest defensive gem on Sunday making the rounds via social media, Showalter was asked to recall his favorite defensive play of the many the 21-year-old has provided in less than a full season in the big leagues.
Showalter did describe one play that Machado made in spring training two years ago when he was still at shortstop but provided the ultimate quote that will excite Orioles fans while also tipping his cap to Hall of Fame third baseman Brooks Robinson and his superb defensive work in the 1970 World Series.
“I hope it’s yet to come,” said Showalter of Machado’s finest fielding moment. “I hope it’s that one where he catches the last out in the World Series. That’s the one I’m looking for. Kind of like another third baseman that was real good over there.”