The dominance that Calvin Maduro exhibited this spring earned him a place on the Orioles' Opening Day pitching staff. It didn't, however, assure him of a job beyond the first two weeks of the season. He vanished as suddenly as he arrived.
The Orioles outrighted Maduro to Triple-A Rochester before last night's game against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, with John Bale being called up to take his place. The move gives manager Mike Hargrove three left-handers in the bullpen. It also continues what has been a strange and frustrating segment of Maduro's career.
The Orioles have removed Maduro from the 40-man roster for the second time since the end of last season. They gave away his visa spot after trading for Jorge Julio, then re-signed him two days into camp. Maduro, who went on the disabled list twice last summer with a strained elbow ligament, responded with 14 1/3 scoreless innings in Florida to beat out Bale for the final bullpen spot.
He was placed on waivers Wednesday, one day after allowing two runs and five hits in 1 2/3 innings in a 10-1 loss to the Boston Red Sox. He had taken the loss the previous night after allowing two runs in 1 2/3 innings against Cleveland.
Maduro still was available to pitch on Thursday despite being on waivers, and turned in his strongest performance with 2 2/3 shutout innings to leave his ERA at 4.91. Having gone unclaimed, Maduro will report to Rochester and most likely enter the rotation.
Because this is the first time he's been outrighted since reaching the majors in 1996, Maduro had no choice but to accept his assignment to Rochester. If it happens again, he can decline and become a free agent. He's out of minor-league options, so the Orioles had to risk losing him.
"Of course we're surprised and disappointed, especially given Calvin's flawless spring training and his excellent performance [Thursday]," said Maduro's agent, Barry Praver. "Nevertheless, Calvin will report to Rochester with a positive attitude and work hard to return to the major leagues."
Bale was told Wednesday of his impending promotion, and flew to Boston that night. Upon arriving from Syracuse, where the Red Wings were playing, he was instructed to meet the club in Baltimore.
"I was kind of surprised, especially this early. I was in a holding pattern for two days," said Bale, who allowed 11 earned runs and 20 hits in 14 1/3 innings this spring after being acquired from the Toronto Blue Jays in December for former No. 1 pick Jayson Werth.
"I'm just glad to be here."
Bale made one start with Rochester, allowing one run in five innings, but the Orioles will use him in long relief. The only pitcher assigned that role before Bale's arrival was Willis Roberts, who could be called upon more in the later innings.
"It's the same as starting. Go out there and get outs. Three, four, five innings - whatever they need," said Bale.
"You just get out there and go after guys and make a good impression. I don't feel any pressure at all. I'm going to stay with my same game plan as in Triple-A."
The last three Orioles starters had combined for 11 2/3 innings before Pat Hentgen's route-going performance last night, leaving the club vulnerable if subjected to another early exit. "The way we've used our bullpen, we were short a long man going into this series. This certainly remedies that for us," Hargrove said.
"It's never easy sending people down. Some are tougher than others. This wasn't an easy one for us, but we felt like it made our ballclub better at this time to have three left-handers in the bullpen. It wasn't so much a matter of Calvin pitching poorly. It's more a matter of the needs of the club at this time and trying to stay at 11 pitchers."
The Orioles remain committed to having an extra position player until reliever Alan Mills comes off the disabled list.
Closing out the rumors
Hargrove tried to quiet speculation that Roberts could replace Ryan Kohlmeier as the closer after the right-hander tossed four shutout innings on Wednesday. Roberts struck out seven and earned his first major-league victory.
"I like where he's at right now," Hargrove said. "I know the headlines today were, `Hargrove opens his mind to Roberts being a closer.' That shouldn't be news. I thought of that the first time I saw him throw in competition. But we've got a closer right now, Ryan Kohlmeier. There are no plans to make Willis Roberts the closer anytime soon.
"He does have experience as a starter and he's shown he can come in against a tough ballclub and do a tremendous job, as he did against Boston the other night. So far, it's all good. We want to be sure that the decision we make, in whatever role he eventually settles into, is the most effective for him to be productive. I think we have the luxury right now of having a closer that allows us to take our time making that decision."
Slumping Mora watches
Melvin Mora was out of the starting lineup for the second time in three games, with Brady Anderson replacing him in center field.