The Orioles finally exhausted their patience with struggling reliever Ryan Kohlmeier as they optioned last season's closer to Triple-A Rochester and promoted Chad Paronto.
The move confirmed what has been one of the season's biggest disappointments as Kohlmeier's choppy work schedule without a defined role combined with his susceptibility to home runs and left-handed hitting created a frustrating cycle for the pitcher and his team.
Wednesday night's 6-5 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays represented a breaking point. Kohlmeier inherited a 3-1 lead in the seventh inning but allowed one inherited runner and three of his own to score in his third blown save of the season. Kohlmeier had officially lost his closer title after blowing a save against the New York Yankees on May 13 and had pitched in limbo ever since.
"You could see the writing on the wall," Kohlmeier said before last night's game against the Chicago White Sox. "When things continue to go the way they've been going for so long, it pretty much forces them to do something at some point."
After converting 13 of 14 save opportunities last season, Kohlmeier, still considered a rookie, was 1-0 with an 8.37 ERA before being summoned into manager Mike Hargrove's office yesterday afternoon. He'd surrendered 10 home runs - tied for the most by an American League reliever - in 23 2/3 innings. He had converted six of this season's nine save chances but had been hammered twice in the past five days. Kohlmeier allowed two walks, seven hits and three home runs to his past 17 batters.
After Wednesday's debacle, in which he allowed three earned runs and a home run while getting two outs, Kohlmeier insisted his confidence was intact.
"The results don't show it, but I've really felt like I've pitched better the last couple weeks than the time before that. So I really don't think this should be an extended process," he said. "I think it'll be a pretty short period of time before I'm back up here," he said.
Others, including his manager, saw otherwise. "On some level, his confidence has to have been dented at some level," said Hargrove.
Kohlmeier's difficulties have stemmed from his inability to command the outside part of the plate against left-handed hitters and the inside part against right-handers.
"I haven't been able to pitch to the outside corner against lefties like I did last year," he said. "That's a big thing. It's not just against lefties, it's that side of the plate. If I could have thrown there against righties, it would have given me a little more freedom to the outside part of the plate."
Without an overpowering fastball to compensate for his imprecise command, he has been jackhammered, especially by left-handed hitters, who were hitting .380 (19-for-50) with six home runs against him. He also had walked 13 along with surrendering a .293 opponents average.
Paronto was 1-3 with a 5.60 ERA in 16 appearances between April 18 to June 1.
Get used to it, Cal
Cal Ripken doesn't want to be subjected to a farewell tour as he completes his final season. The White Sox, in turn, don't want his last game at Comiskey Park to pass without giving him special recognition for a Hall of Fame career.
The White Sox announced plans yesterday to honor Ripken before their July 1 game against the Orioles. The ceremony will including former Oriole Harold Baines, who is on the disabled list and nearing his own retirement, and other celebrities.
An ice pack has become a steady companion of reliever B.J. Ryan, who wears one on his left elbow before and after games. During them, he has sat in the bullpen, knowing he didn't feel well enough to contribute. But he's confident that will change without a stop on the disabled list.
Ryan still wasn't available last night because of tendinitis in the elbow, but he will throw today and expects to be ready.
"It's getting better," he said. "It was bothering me pretty bad for a while, but it feels better."
Ryan's been examined twice by team orthopedist Dr. Michael Jacobs. He had an arthrogram, which involved injecting dye into the elbow.
At least Hargrove had a deeper bench last night. Brady Anderson returned after missing Wednesday's game with a sore shoulder. Jerry Hairston also started after missing two games because of extreme fatigue that he blamed yesterday on being "overmedicated."
Chris Richard still couldn't play after slamming his right knee into the fence Tuesday, but most of the swelling was gone yesterday and he didn't need crutches to move around the clubhouse.
Look who's back
Jose Canseco arrived in Baltimore around 6:30 a.m. yesterday, took his physical and declared himself ready to help the White Sox after signing with them on Wednesday.
"I think I've got a lot of years left to play," said Canseco, who was rescued from the independent Newark Bears. "I'm only 36 years old, and I'm completely healthy."
Canseco batted .284 with seven homers and 27 RBIs in 41 games with Newark. He ranks 23rd on baseball's all-time home run list with 446.
Around the horn
Left-hander Richard Stahl will be held out another three weeks because of shoulder tendinitis. Stahl, who was examined Wednesday by orthopedic surgeon Dr. James Andrews in Birmingham, Ala., will report to Sarasota, Fla., to begin a strengthening program. ... Beau Hale, the Orioles' top pick last year, also was examined by Andrews. He'll go on a pitch count because of soreness in his triceps that cropped up after a May 30 start at Double-A Bowie.