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BALTIMORE — The same need that led to rookie pitcher Kevin Gausman’s departure less than two weeks ago has now brought him back to the Orioles for the time being.
Following Freddy Garcia’s short outing against the red-hot Toronto Blue Jays and long man T.J. McFarland’s 4 1/3 innings of work on Sunday that left manager Buck Showalter without the necessary length in the bullpen, the Orioles elected to option Garcia to Triple-A Norfolk — the 36-year-old has 72 hours to accept the assignment or become a free agent — and to recall the 2012 first-round pick to serve in a relief role.
“[Garcia] can stay with us and go to Triple A or [try to go to another team],” Showalter said. “I’m hoping he stays. He’s done some good things for us. He’s had his challenges, but he came and did as advertised.”
The Orioles will need a starter for Friday’s series opener against the New York Yankees, and Gausman appears to be the primary candidate if he doesn’t need to be stretched out over the first two games of the Cleveland series.
McFarland will be unavailable for at least the first game of the Cleveland series and likely the second, meaning Zach Britton and Chris Tillman will need to pitch effectively in order to keep Gausman in line to pitch on Friday night. An inning or two of work wouldn’t be out of the question considering Gausman hasn’t pitched in a game since last Wednesday, but a longer outing than that likely takes him out of the running for a start this time through the rotation.
Gausman made one start for Triple-A Norfolk, allowing seven earned runs and 10 hits in six innings of work. However, the right-hander said he spent the outing working on a few new tricks, including moving over to the third-base side of the rubber against left-handed hitters.
Of course, he left Baltimore with a good taste in his mouth after allowing just two earned runs in 5 1/3 innings in an extra-inning game the Orioles eventually won on June 13. Showalter said at the time that Gausman’s demotion was solely about needing an extra reliever in the bullpen after a 13-inning game.
“I left on a good note. I had a good meeting with Buck and [pitching coach Rick Adair] when I left,” Gausman said prior to Monday’s game. “They told me [at the time] they needed an arm and you have some things you need to work on.”
Gausman is 0-3 with a 7.66 ERA in five starts for Baltimore this season but pitched well in two of his last three starts with that success coming against two first-place clubs in Detroit and Boston.
The Orioles manager acknowledged that he would have preferred leaving Gausman at Norfolk a little longer to work with Tides pitching coach Mike Griffin, but Garcia’s stint that lasted only 2 1/3 innings made it necessary to add another arm to the bullpen and Gausman was the only man available for the job. Should the Orioles need to use Gausman for extensive work on Monday or Tuesday, McFarland becomes a stronger candidate to make Friday’s start against New York, according to Showalter.
“How we pitch as starters dictates a majority of these moves, not only by the length you get but by how [you] pitch,” Showalter said. “Same thing with every team. The team that consistently goes deep into ballgames with their starters, they play in October. It’s as simple as that.”
Asked about the status of Japanese lefty Tsuyoshi Wada after he allowed two earned runs in five innings of work for Norfolk on Sunday, Showalter labeled Wada’s last two outings as “competitive” but added that the 32-year-old wasn’t ready to be considered a candidate for Friday’s start in Baltimore.
In other rotation news, left-hander Wei-Yin Chen threw a four-inning simulated game in Sarasota on Monday without any setbacks as he moves closer to his return to action. The plan is for Chen to complete a workday in Baltimore this week before starting a minor-league rehab assignment on Saturday that would likely last a minimum of five innings.
Depending on how he feels after that first start, Chen could be activated from the 15-day disabled list as early as next week, which would put him in line to make two starts for the Orioles before the All-Star break. Chen hasn’t pitched since May 12 after suffering a strained right oblique.
“We’ll see how Rick and everybody feels after his workday and after — hopefully — a rehab start,” Showalter said. “We’ve got three clubs who are home. He’ll do that at either Norfolk, Bowie, or [Single-A] Frederick. I’d like to see him get through the work here and the workday before we get a feel for how he does the next time out in the uncontrolled environment.”
Second baseman Brian Roberts (right hamstring surgery) will begin his rehab assignment with Norfolk on Tuesday, and Showalter said he will lean heavily on the 35-year-old infielder to determine when he’s ready to be activated. The assignment will last a minimum of three games but could go longer if necessary, according to the manager.
Meanwhile, outfielder Nolan Reimold (right hamstring) will continue his rehab assignment with Double-A Bowie as both he and the organization decided it was best for him to receive some more at-bats with the Baysox. He is just 2-for-21 with with three RBIs and eight strikeouts in six games since beginning his stint at Double A last week.
Right-handed pitcher Dylan Bundy still isn’t throwing off a mound but has progressed to throwing from 120 feet as he continues his progression. Showalter said the 2011 first-round pick continues to feel good with his throwing after he was shut down with right forearm discomfort earlier this season.
In order to provide better protection for first baseman Chris Davis in the lineup as well as to alleviate pressure on the struggling Matt Wieters, shortstop J.J. Hardy was moved up to the sixth spot in the order and the Orioles catcher was placed in the No. 7 slot. In 276 plate appearances this season, Wieters is hitting just .229 with nine home runs and 37 RBIs.
This year’s first-round pick, Hunter Harvey, was at the ballpark Monday to meet with the organization and take his physical after agreeing to terms on a deal late last week. The 18-year-old was the 22nd overall pick of the draft and is the son of former major league closer Bryan Harvey.