Despite those missteps, the Orioles were 14-10 entering May, but 23-27 leaving it. They had nine blown saves during the month, as many as the New York Yankees suffered the entire first half. The same meltdowns that took place under former manager Ray Miller were happening again for Mike Hargrove.
Changes were made before the All-Star break. Al Reyes was optioned to Triple-A Rochester on April 21 before being traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers for Mills on June 13. Tim Worrell, who made the club as a nonroster invitee in spring training, was designated for assignment only three weeks into the season.
Ryan was optioned to Rochester on June 9. Gabe Molina began the season at Triple-A and was recalled five times before being packaged with left fielder B. J. Surhoff and sent to the Atlanta Braves on July 31.
Darren Holmes wasn't the answer. The Orioles purchased his contract from Rochester on June 29, but he was released three weeks later, having allowed 13 runs in 4 2/3 innings.
Jose Mercedes made 16 relief appearances and had three stints in the rotation before convincing the Orioles that he was most comfortable - and productive - as a starter. He went 14-7, with 11 victories coming after the break, and is assured of pitching every fifth day.
It's not likely that Calvin Maduro will be part of the bullpen solution. He wasn't tendered a contract on Dec. 20, and though the Orioles expressed a desire to keep him in the organization, he still hasn't been re-signed to a minor-league deal.
The Orioles no longer have a visa spot available for him, but Thrift said, "We should have one in a week or two, maybe three. There's always that possibility."
He'd have to avoid getting lost in the crowd.
"There are good pitchers out there," Thrift said, "but I just didn't want to block these young men who have a high upside. We have some pretty good possibilities."
Young O's arms
John Bale: With Lara of Venezuelan league, was 2-1, 1.27 ERA, one save, 21 1/3 innings, 11 hits, 6 walks, 28 strikeouts. Acquired from Toronto Blue Jays for minor-league catcher Jayson Werth.
Jorge Julio: With La Guaira of Venezuelan league, was 0-2, 2.70 ERA, 6 saves, 20 innings, 16 hits, 11 walks, 24 strikeouts. Acquired from Montreal Expos for infielder Ryan Minor.
Luis Rivera: With Culiacan of Mexican League, 2-4, 4.36 ERA, 33 innings, 20 hits, 29 walks, 31 strikeouts. Part of three-player package obtained from Atlanta Braves for left fielder B.J. Surhoff and reliever Gabe Molina.
Willis Roberts: With Estrellas of Dominican League, 6-1, 1.66 ERA, 48 2/3 innings, 37 hits, 14 walks, 31 strikeouts. Signed as a six-year minor-league free agent.