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BALTIMORE — With the need for additional long reliever Josh Stinson passing, the Orioles decided it was time to take a look at Triple-A Norfolk closer Jairo Asencio to see if he can be a piece in the second-half bullpen.
After optioning Stinson to the Tides following Thursday’s 3-1 win, the Orioles selected the right-hander’s contract and designated right-handed pitcher Jair Jurrjens for assignment to make room on the 40-man roster. Asencio is no stranger to the big leagues after appearing in 39 games split among Atlanta (2009, 2011), Cleveland (2012), and the Chicago Cubs (2012), posting a 1-2 record with a 5.23 earned run average in 53 1/3 innings.
The 30-year-old Asencio was acquired from the Milwaukee Brewers in late March and assigned to the Tides where he’s saved 20 games to lead the International League to go along with his 4-0 mark and 2.15 ERA in 34 appearances (37 2/3 innings). He was named to the league’s All-Star Game and has struck out 41, walked seven, and made 27 scoreless appearances among the 34 games in which he’s pitched. He’s also held Triple-A hitters to a .174 average in the process.
“Asencio has been pitching well all year down there and we want to get a look at him and get a feel for what we have there before the end of the month,” said manager Buck Showalter, referring to the July 31 trade deadline. “Let’s make sure there’s something we’re going to need there that he can’t provide from within.”
The journeyman reliever features four-seam and two-seam fastballs that sit in the low 90s, a changeup that he uses frequently, and a slider.
It’s likely that the organization would like to see if he can fill the bullpen spot vacated by Pedro Strop, who was traded to the Cubs earlier in the month. Asencio acknowledged that while he’s pitched well at the Triple-A level, it doesn’t mean it will automatically translate to success in the majors, evident by his underwhelming results with three different clubs in the majors.
“I like the way [Norfolk manager Ron Johnson and pitching coach Mike Griffin] describe what he’s doing and the repertoire that has the potential to play up here,” Showalter said. “We’ll see. We’ve got some people here who know him from before.”
Jurrjens odd man out
After much effort to work out a minor-league deal in the winter and optimism that he’d regain his 2011 National League All-Star form, the Orioles designated Jurrjens for assignment, a move that may lead to his departure from the organization.
In two stints in Baltimore this year, Jurrjens made one start and one relief appearance, posting a 4.91 ERA in 7 1/3 innings of work. The 27-year-old has had an up-and-down season with Norfolk, going 6-6 with a 4.18 ERA in 16 starts while his velocity hasn’t improved to the level at which he had so much success in Atlanta.
Jurrjens has dealt with several physical ailments over the last couple years, including a knee injury that delayed his signing this past offseason.
“He could end up back with us,” said Showalter, referring the possibility of Jurrjens not being traded and clearing waivers. “I think we’ve got seven starters down there now. At his young age, I still wouldn’t close the door. I think Jair still has a chance to pitch competitively up here. He’s shown periods down there. It’s just been inconsistent.”
The Orioles will now have 10 days to either trade Jurrjens or see whether he would pass through waivers, allowing the club to outright him to Norfolk while keeping him off the 40-man roster.
Roberts leading off
A night after hitting his first home run at Camden Yards since 2011, second baseman Brian Roberts found himself back in his longtime leadoff spot for the first time since July 1 of last season.
Facing Blue Jays left-hander Mark Buehrle, Roberts was moved to the top spot in the order in part due to his strong numbers against the veteran pitcher. In 43 career at-bats, Roberts is hitting .302 with one home run and three RBIs. The move allowed Showalter to keep right fielder Nick Markakis in the No. 3 spot — where he typically only bats against right-handers — where the club might be able to take better advantage of his .419 career average that includes two homers and five RBIs off Buehrle.
The fact that Toronto also features four left-handers and four right-handers in their bullpen also factored into the decision, according to Showalter. However, the Orioles manager isn’t committing to it being a permanent change against left-handed starters.
“[Bench coach] John Russell and I came down to a couple [lineups], like we do every day, and that one had the best feel to it,” Showalter said. “And he’s done it before. It’s not some new territory for him. It’s a better fit for us tonight. We’ll see what tomorrow brings.”
Dickerson continuing to feel better
Reserve outfielder Chris Dickerson continues to improve after suffering a strained left shoulder in batting practice on Wednesday and planned to throw and swing the bat in the cage on Friday.
The Orioles do not expect a trip to the disabled list for the 31-year-old, especially with the four-day All-Star break arriving at the end of the weekend.