Jose Mesa is out. Ben McDonald is in.
The Baltimore Orioles' pitching rotation took that turn yesterday when the struggling Mesa was optioned to the Class AAA Rochester Red Wings and McDonald was re-activated from the disabled list, where he had been since May 23.
McDonald will start tonight against the Detroit Tigers, the last team he faced before he was forced out of action by the strained muscle in his elbow that has bothered him since spring training.
He finished only one inning in that game, allowing six runs on three hits and three walks, including a home run by Cecil Fielder.
Mesa took the news with equanimity.
"There is nothing I can do," he said. "I wasn't doing my job. What can you say? I've got to be disappointed, but maybe this will be good for me to set my situation straight."
Mesa, the Orioles' best starter the first month, has not won since May 11. He was 0-5 in his past nine outings with a 9.23 ERA.
He is healthy but, said manager John Oates, "is in one of the cycles where nothing goes right. His numbers haven't been good in eight of the last 10 starts. We're hoping this assignment will give him a chance to relax in a less pressurized atmosphere."
Pitching coach Al Jackson said: "I hope he gets straightened out to help us the second half. It seems like he couldn't adjust during a bad inning. He didn't get down [in the strike zone], and before you knew it they had five or six up there on the board.
"His walk-strikeout ratio was terrible, and he was always pitching in contact situations, not strikeout situations. A lot of bad counts."
The Orioles still like Mesa's arm -- he threw 92 mph in his latest start -- and work habits. He has come back from two major elbow operations.
"We've been as patient as we can be," said Oates. "The time came to make a decision. Some things he's said to me lately made me think he's starting to think negatively."
Rather than have Mesa's confidence erode, the club wants him to retool with the Red Wings and regain command of his pitches.
Was the bullpen a possibility? "He has too much talent to be a long man, and we have a stopper," said Oates. "We don't want him to lose stamina going out there."
McDonald has had mixed results in two rehabilitation starts for Rochester, but a stint in the Orioles bullpen Friday apparently convinced the brass he is ready.
"I think he can give us between 80 and 100 pitches," said Oates. "My biggest concern was not stuff; it was health."
Jackson said: "We'll know tomorrow if he's ready. I just hope he doesn't put a whole lot of pressure on himself to try to be Walter Johnson in one start. We don't need that from him."