(Updated: 12:00 a.m.)
BALTIMORE — Wanting to play it safe with the nasty blister that’s developed on starter Miguel Gonzalez’s right thumb, the Orioles have elected to place the right-handed pitcher on the 15-day disabled list.
The club has recalled right-handed reliever Alex Burnett from Triple-A Norfolk to take his place on the 25-man roster as well as provide an extra arm in the bullpen for the next couple nights. Gonzalez’s DL stint is retroactive to May 4, meaning the 28-year-old could return to the starting rotation as early as May 19 in a series finale against the Tampa Bay Rays.
Gonzalez completed a bullpen session on Thursday with a bandage covering the thumb, but he only threw fastballs as the blister that developed under a broken callous hindered his ability to throw his two-seam fastball and off-speed pitches. According to manager Buck Showalter, the plan is for Gonzalez to complete another bullpen session this weekend in Minnesota and then throw a rehab start at either Bowie or Norfolk next week.
Of course, a blister is a very tricky ailment for a pitcher that you can’t rush in fear of re-aggravating the skin and putting yourself right back in the same predicament. The Orioles remain confident that the decision to place Gonzalez on the DL is the proactive choice that will eliminate the problem for the remainder of the season.
“I just think this is the most prudent thing to do,” Showalter said. “I don’t care what happened today; he’s still going to be tentative throwing his breaking ball and his split. If it forms again, you’re going to have a season-long problem, so we just decided to get that done before he had the work day and get that out of his mind.
On the surface, the short-term loss of Gonzalez would create a problem after the Orioles finally appeared to ease their fifth-starter dilemma — at least for the time being — with veteran Freddy Garcia. The good news is the Orioles will only be faced with the problem of replacing Gonzalez in the rotation for Saturday’s start since they benefit from days off next week on Monday and Thursday.
Showalter was initially tight-lipped regarding his thoughts for Saturday’s starter, but announced that right-hander Steve Johnson would be recalled to take the ball in Minnesota. The 25-year-old Johnson pitched for Triple-A Norfolk on Monday, throwing 94 pitches, allowing two earned runs, and striking out eight in 5 2/3 innings against Buffalo.
Once they’ve completed Saturday’s game, the Orioles could get away with using only Wei-Yin Chen, Jason Hammel, and Chris Tillman as starters all the way through Sunday, May 19 when Gonzalez would hypothetically be ready. Of course, that means Garcia would be available to pitch in relief or make a start should they want to give any of the aforementioned pitchers such as Chen an extra day of rest as Showalter often likes to do when able.
As Showalter likes to say, there are plenty of moving parts and a lot could change quickly, but the Orioles appear to be in good shape to endure Gonzalez’s absence thanks to a couple well-placed days off after recently completing a 20-day stretch void of any scheduled days of rest.
Roberts surgery successful
Second baseman Brian Roberts underwent right hamstring surgery on Thursday morning in Dallas in what was deemed a successful procedure.
The 35-year-old exchanged some text messages with Showalter and is expected to return to Sarasota this weekend where he’ll begin a six-week recovery period. The hope is that the procedure will eliminate any tangible risk of re-injuring the hamstring once Roberts is able to resume baseball activity.
“Everything went well today,” Showalter said. “Very positive. The doctors felt good about getting it done after getting in there. It will speed up the process. I’ve got marked off what [six] weeks is from today, so we’ll see what happens.”
Showalter expressed empathy for Roberts’ latest setback while acknowledging some of the frustration and emotional responses expressed by critics and fans regarding the $10 million the second baseman is making this season in the final year of a four-year, $40 million contract.
Various injuries have limited Roberts to just 118 games over the last four seasons.
“He’s not going to give in,” Showalter said. “That’s why it makes me confident that he’ll come back and be a contributor. We think he’s worth waiting on. It’s been tough on him. It would be kind of selfish to say it’s tough on us. It’s tougher on him if you put yourself in the position he’s been in the last two or three years and ask yourself sincerely what you would do.”
Orioles add minor-league third baseman Wood
Executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette sent cash considerations to the Kansas City Royals in exchange for infielder Brandon Wood on Thursday.
The 28-year-old will report to Triple-A Norfolk as he continues to plug away in a disappointing career that once held a tremendous amount of promise. Wood was Baseball America’s No. 3 prospect in all of baseball prior to the 2006 season but has never been able to put it together at the big-league level.
In 700 career at-bats in the major leagues, Wood has a career .186 average with 18 home runs, 64 RBIs, and 218 strikeouts.
Back in 2006 and 2007 when the Orioles were exploring trades for shortstop Miguel Tejada, the Angels were often linked in discussions with Wood’s name mentioned as a player the club might covet in return. He became somewhat of a folk hero in the minor leagues by hitting 43 home runs and 53 doubles in his 2005 season split between high Single A and Triple A.
However, the talent that once made scouts salivate never came to fruition at the big-league level as the Orioles will now be Wood’s fifth different organization.
Odds & ends
Closer Jim Johnson picked up his 85th career save on Wednesday night. If he collects 21 more this season, he will move into second place on the club’s all-time list ahead of Tippy Martinez (105) and Stu Miller (100). Gregg Olson remains the Orioles’ all-time saves leader with 160. … Left fielder Nate McLouth has stolen 11 bases (second in the American League) and is on pace to steal 52 this season. That would be the third-best mark in Orioles history behind Luis Aparicio (57 in 1964) and Brady Anderson (53 in 1992). … The Orioles have the highest team fielding percentage (.991) in baseball in the 85 games since third baseman Manny Machado arrived in Baltimore on Aug. 9, 2012. … Since July 29, 2012, the Orioles have the best record in baseball at 62-33 (.652 winning percentage) as well as the best home record at 32-13 (.711 winning percentage).