The Orioles reduced their pitching staff to 11 after last night's win over the Kansas City Royals, sending right-hander Josh Towers to Triple-A Rochester and promoting catcher Izzy Molina.
Towers lost his spot in the rotation and was 0-3 with a 7.90 ERA in five appearances, the past two coming in relief. Unable to locate his pitches within the strike zone, he had allowed 11 homers in 27 1/3 innings.
"We discussed sending Josh out when I took him out of the rotation and decided we would try to get him back on track without taking that drastic of a measure," said manager Mike Hargrove. "We can't provide the environment for that to happen here, and it can be provided in Rochester. Josh has some things he needs to work on to be consistent at the big-league level, and we expect him back here and some point and time. He will have a detailed plan with him to follow, and we'll see where it goes."
The league clearly has adjusted to Towers since he won six of his first seven major-league starts last season and was named the AL's Rookie of the Month for June.
"Josh never really adjusted after the league adjusted to him," Hargrove said. "This is not a punishment. We're not upset with Josh. We like Josh a lot, but it's all about getting Josh back here and being effective when he gets here. This really is a positive move. What becomes of it is on Josh now."
In his previous appearance, Towers set a club record for relievers by allowing 10 runs in five innings against the Boston Red Sox. He's convinced that the problem is mechanical, with one theory being that he's throwing across his body rather than staying over the top.
"I've got to go down there and work on whatever it is I'm supposed to work on," he said. "No one ever wants to get sent down, but I wasn't pitching well. I've just got to go down there and work my [butt] off to get back here."
Towers said he hasn't lost confidence, but "I also don't have that utter confidence where I'm like, `Get in the box and let's go. You don't have a chance.' I haven't said that yet."
Molina, a non-roster invitee to spring training who was batting .133 in 14 games at Rochester, provides insurance while Geronimo Gil remains day-to-day with a strained left groin and right hamstring. The injuries occurred while Gil attempted to tag Boston's Tony Clark during Monday's game. Still a candidate to go on the disabled list, Gil said he was feeling better yesterday.
To make room for Molina on the 40-man roster, the Orioles will transfer pitcher Luis Rivera to the 60-day disabled list.
Hargrove also indicated last night that Sean Douglass will remain in the rotation, with his next start scheduled for Monday, but that decision is subject to change. Douglass has failed to get past the fourth inning in both outings.
Johnson targets May 10
Jason Johnson continues to wear a splint on his broken right middle finger but said the pain has subsided. Projected to miss at least three weeks, and perhaps as many as five, Johnson is targeting a May 10 return in Tampa Bay.
"It feels good right now. It doesn't hurt like it did the first three days," he said. "It better not be five weeks, that's all I've got to say, because I'll be ready before that."
The injury occurred when Johnson's hand struck the ground as he simulated his throwing motion in the bullpen before the Orioles' April 25 game against Boston at Camden Yards. He wasn't holding a ball, but he plans to grip a towel in the future to keep his fingers curled.
Johnson is also hoping to avoid making a rehab start in the minors. "I don't plan on it," he said, "but it's up to them."
Rochester shook up its roster yesterday, clearing some room in its infield and thinning the logjam at catcher.
Infielders Eddy Garabito and Alex Arias will be activated today when the Red Wings travel to Indianapolis. Garabito, expected to be their starting shortstop, had been detained in the Dominican Republic while trying to secure a work visa. Arias was signed last week after being released by the Seattle Mariners in spring training.
The Red Wings also demoted shortstop Maikell Diaz (0-for-10) to Bowie and released infielder Hanley Frias.
Aiding tornado victims
The Orioles will hold a silent auction during their games tonight and tomorrow, with proceeds to benefit the Salvation Army relief efforts for victims of Sunday's tornado in Southern Maryland.
The auctions will be held each day beginning when gates open at the Orioles Community Booth, located on the main concourse near Gate D.