BALTIMORE — The Orioles put a temporary band-aid on their roster crunch Friday by optioning left-handed reliever T.J. McFarland to Triple-A Norfolk to make room for the returning Wei-Yin Chen.
The Taiwanese lefty started the series opener against the Cleveland Indians after being recalled from Single-A Frederick. The decision to demote McFarland means the Orioles will go with a six-man bullpen, a move that will likely only last a day or two.
Faced with a very crowded outfield, the Orioles must decide who to keep among the likes of Delmon Young, Steve Pearce, Nolan Reimold, David Lough, Travis Snider, and Chris Parmelee. None of the aforementioned players have minor-league options, meaning any would need to be designated for assignment to be removed from the 25-man roster barring a trade or trip to the disabled list.
The idea of a six-man bullpen has to be an uncomfortable one for manager Buck Showalter as Orioles starting pitchers have failed to complete six innings in 14 of the last 20 games. Baltimore has gone 15-5 over that stretch, but the longevity of the bullpen will become a concern if starters cannot go deeper into games moving forward.
McFarland was recalled from the Tides on Wednesday and pitched two innings in Thursday’s win at Boston, allowing two earned runs and three hits while striking out one.
After controversially being sent to the minors to make room for Parmelee 10 days ago, Chen made one start for the Keys, allowing one hit and striking out two over three scoreless innings on June 20. The 29-year-old carries a 3-4 record with a 2.89 ERA in 13 starts (81 innings) for the Orioles this season.
Decision on Jones likely coming Saturday
Adam Jones was out of the lineup for the eighth time in 10 games, but Showalter hopes the center field has turned the corner after he felt good throwing on Friday afternoon.
The real test will be seeing if the 29-year-old experiences soreness on Saturday. The Orioles manager acknowledged a trip to the 15-day DL likely would be in order if Jones’ right shoulder doesn’t respond well to the activity and he isn’t ready to play in the second game of the Cleveland series.
With Jones having served as the designated hitter for two games in Toronto last weekend, the Orioles would only be able to backdate his DL trip to June 21. This means the four-time All-Star selection wouldn’t be eligible to return until July 6 at the earliest.
“He is different. You bide some time to get six days,” said Showalter about waiting to make a decision for a player of Jones’ caliber. “You don’t want to DL him and two days later he’s ready to go. He means a lot to us.”
Schoop’s return imminent
Second baseman Jonathan Schoop returned to Camden Yards Friday afternoon for a workout with vice president of baseball operations Brady Anderson before returning to Double-A Bowie for a final rehab game with the Baysox.
In six rehab games, the 23-year-old has gone 6-for-22 with three home runs, two doubles, and a walk. Showalter acknowledged Schoop would likely be the one to take Jones’ place if the latter is placed on the DL this weekend.
Either way, Schoop’s return is considered imminent as he declared himself “ready to go for sure” and expressed great confidence in his right knee.
Weather keeps Gausman in limbo
Right-handed pitcher Kevin Gausman was scheduled to start for Triple-A Norfolk on Friday, but an ominous forecast for Saturday’s game prompted the Orioles to hold him back.
In the event of a postponement for the second game of a three-game set with the Indians — their only trip to Baltimore this season — the Orioles would likely recall Gausman to serve as the 26th man for a possible doubleheader on Sunday. Because the club doesn’t have another day off until July 9, Gausman would be a candidate to start one of the games to avoid upsetting the current rotation in the days following the twin bill.
Gausman was optioned to the Tides after making his first start of the season for the Orioles last Saturday, but he would not need to stay in the minors for the required 10 days to serve as the 26th man for a potential doubleheader.