BALTIMORE — What appeared inevitable became official Monday afternoon as the Orioles optioned struggling starter Jake Arrieta to Triple-A Norfolk prior to the beginning of a three-game set against the Toronto Blue Jays.
Needing an extra arm in the bullpen after playing three games in two days over the weekend, the club recalled right-handed pitcher Alex Burnett from Norfolk. He is expected to pitch out of the bullpen until manager Buck Showalter needs a starting pitcher for Wednesday’s series finale against the Blue Jays. The Baltimore skipper prefers not to go to a three-man bench with the upcoming 11-game trip to the West Coast.
The 27-year-old Arrieta was 1-1 with a 6.63 earned run average and had walked 16 batters in 19 innings of work spanning four starts after winning the final spot in the Orioles’ starting rotation this spring. Spotted an early 3-0 lead, Arrieta only completed four innings in Sunday’s 7-4 loss to Los Angeles after walking five batters and suffering his first loss of the season.
“I wasn’t doing my job well enough. That’s the bottom line,” he said. “The team needs me. They need me to be better. That’s the bottom line, really.”
Both Arrieta and Showalter have talked about the pitcher’s inability to handle his emotions and anxiety when he runs into trouble on the hill. The problem is whether that can easily be remedied against inferior competition and lesser stakes.
Showalter stressed several times that Arrieta’s demotion was a product of the club needing relief help, but the manager also acknowledged the struggling pitcher’s part in creating such a scenario. For now, the Orioles will continue to have Arrieta work as a starter and will not consider a move to the bullpen in the same way that they did with Brian Matusz last season.
“With a guy with Jake, stuff-wise, there isn’t a wrong pitch,” Showalter said. “You put a finger down, there’s not one that’s a whole lot better than the other. A lot of times I wish I could let Jake hit off of Jake and have a little different look at it.”
Claimed off waivers from Toronto on April 12, Burnett was 4-4 with a 3.52 ERA in 71 2/3 innings covering 67 appearances for Minnesota in 2012. Burnett figures to only be here a short time before the Orioles decide who will make Wednesday’s start.
There are essentially three candidates: left-hander Zach Britton and right-handed starters Josh Stinson and Freddy Garcia. Of the three, Garcia is the only one not currently on the 40-man roster.
Britton (1-0, 1.98 ERA) would be pitching on an extra day of rest after making his last start on Thursday while Garcia (2-0, 3.57 ERA) is scheduled to pitch for the Tides on Tuesday night. Meanwhile, Stinson (1-0, 1.32 ERA) was recently sent to Single-A Frederick to pitch out of the bullpen on Saturday, but that was done to keep him nearby in case the Orioles needed an extra arm for Saturday’s doubleheader against the Dodgers.
Burnett was 1-0 in three scoreless appearances for the Tides this season and will wear No. 68.
Here are Monday night’s lineups…
SS Munenori Kawasaki
LF Melky Cabrera
RF Jose Baustista
1B Edwin Encarnacion
DH Adam Lind
C J.P. Arencibia
CF Colby Rasmus
3B Brett Lawrie
2B Emilio Bonifacio
LHP J.A. Happ (2-1, 5.06 ERA)
RF Nick Markakis
3B Manny Machado
CF Adam Jones
C Matt Wieters
1B Chris Davis
SS J.J. Hardy
DH Steve Pearce
LF Nolan Reimold
2B Alexi Casilla
RHP Chris Tillman (0-1, 7.07 ERA)