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Already losing designated hitter Nolan Reimold to the 15-day disabled list earlier in the day, the Orioles elected to send out struggling second baseman Ryan Flaherty following their 10-6 loss to Tampa Bay on Saturday night.
Red-hot Norfolk infielder Danny Valencia was recalled to take his place on the 25-man roster and in the lineup as the designated hitter on Sunday.
Not in the Tides lineup on Saturday night, Valencia was hitting .306 with 11 homers and 35 RBIs in 160 at-bats at Triple A this season. His .939 on-base plus slugging percentage would seem to be an appropriate fit for an audition at the designated hitter spot while Reimold is sidelined with a hamstring injury.
With Tampa Bay left-hander Matt Moore scheduled to take the hill against the Orioles on Sunday, Valencia was deemed a good fit for the lineup after receiving the promotion. He’s hit .316 with an .831 OPS in his major league career against southpaw pitching. Valencia has primarily played third base for Norfolk, but he has also seen time at first base and the outfield this season.
The 28-year-old is already on the 40-man roster and owns a .257 career average with 25 home runs and 133 RBIs in 1017 at-bats in the big leagues split between the Minnesota Twins and the Boston Red Sox. In 2010, Valencia finished third in the American League Rookie of the Year balloting after hitting .310 with the Twins.
He will wear No. 35 for the Orioles.
The 26-year-old Flaherty was optioned to Triple-A Norfolk as he was hitting just .133 in 29 games this season while serving as the club’s primary option at second base in the absence of the injured Brian Roberts. Flaherty spent the entire 2012 season on the 25-man roster as a Rule 5 pick and hit .216 with six home runs and 19 RBIs.
Playing improved defense at second base this season, Flaherty is held in high regard by manager Buck Showalter, but it was becoming increasingly clear that his immense struggles at the plate weren’t improving enough for a contending club. Flaherty owns just 227 career plate appearances at the Triple-A level and could benefit from the opportunity of playing every day in a pressure-free environment to regain his confidence at the plate.
Showalter said the bullpen should be fine in terms of available arms for Sunday’s game despite starter Jair Jurrjens going just five innings on Saturday, and the club would have been down to a three-man bench if it had decided to promote another pitcher instead of tabbing Valencia for a promotion.