BALTIMORE — It turns out pitcher Jason Berken’s second stint with the club will be shorter than his first one in Baltimore this season.
After a terrible inning of work in Monday’s 14-3 loss to the Texas Rangers, Berken has been optioned back to Triple-A Norfolk and replaced by left-handed reliever Zach Phillips. Berken allowed six hits and seven runs (two earned) in the ninth inning, which included a long home run by Josh Hamilton.
Manager Buck Showalter planned to only use three pitchers on Monday — starter Brian Matusz, Stu Pomeranz, and Berken — and will now turn to the southpaw relief pitcher he begrudgingly optioned to Triple-A Norfolk at the start of the season because he had a remaining option unlike a few other bullpen arms. Phillips had a brilliant Grapefruit League with the Orioles, posting a 1.35 earned run average in 13 1/3 innings of spring work.
Phillips owned a 4.15 ERA in 13 innings for Triple-A Norfolk so far this season.
He and Troy Patton give the Orioles two left-handers in the bullpen for the first time this season, but Showalter is not ready to designate one as a situational lefty and cited their backgrounds as starters and the ability for either pitcher to throw multiple innings when needed.
“I don’t think there’s enough track record there to [make either a lefty specialist] for sure,” Showalter said, “but both these guys – he and Troy – have the potential to do both, which is unusual.”
As for who will make Friday’s start in the series opener against the Tampa Bay Rays, Showalter is remaining tight-lipped but knows who he will call as long as rain doesn’t interfere over the next few days. All signs point to Norfolk starter Dana Eveland, who was pulled after 63 pitches on Monday despite throwing five shutout innings for the Tides.
The Orioles would have to put Eveland on the 40-man roster, but second baseman Brian Roberts could be transferred to the 60-day disabled list without any consequence to his efforts to return from concussion-related symptoms. Catcher Taylor Teagarden would also be a candidate for the 60-day DL as he continues to receive treatment for a back injury.
When asked about veteran infielder Miguel Tejada, Showalter confirmed the former Orioles shortstop and third baseman passed his physical without any concerns on Monday. However, the Baltimore manager deferred to executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette for more details.
“I don’t know what the process or the plan is at this point,” said Showalter, who was under the impression that Tejada served as the designated hitter during an extended spring training game in Sarasota on Tuesday.
Showalter admitted to not being familiar with Tejada, but he pointed to the positive reviews from former teammates of Tejada that are still on the roster.
Right fielder Nick Markakis is off to a difficult start in 2012, hitting just .230 with three home runs and 11 runs batted in in 113 at-bats. When asked whether he would consider moving the struggling outfielder from the third spot in the order, Showalter brushed it off for now.
“It’s too early,” Showalter said. “I think Nick has swung the bat well for us at times.”
Showalter went on to discuss the batting order in greater detail, acknowledging sabermetrics and varying philosophies on how to construct a lineup. With Nolan Reimold currently on the 15-day disabled list with a bulging disc in his neck, the Orioles lack any semblance of a prototypical leadoff hitter — if you could even label Reimold that to begin with.
Endy Chavez has received the most opportunities in Reimold’s absence, but the veteran outfielder is off to a miserable start with a .127 average. Chavez has a .310 career on-base percentage over his 11 years in the big leagues — not exactly what you’re looking for at the top of the order.
Here are tonight’s lineups…
2B Ian Kinsler
SS Elvis Andrus
CF Josh Hamilton
DH Adrian Beltre
3B Michael Young
LF David Murphy
RF Nelson Cruz
C Mike Napoli
1B Mitch Moreland
SP Neftali Feliz (1-1, 3.81 ERA)
LF Endy Chavez
SS J.J. Hardy
RF Nick Markakis
CF Adam Jones
C Matt Wieters
1B Chris Davis
3B Wilson Betemit
DH Mark Reynolds
2B Robert Andino
SP Jake Arrieta (2-2, 3.52 ERA)