O's shuffle roster, farm Bauer, waive Osik, J. Bautista

Pitcher D. Bautista called up to parent club with Leon, catcher Machado

May 26, 2004|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

The Orioles lost more than their momentum on the West Coast. They also left behind a chunk of their roster.

Reliever Rick Bauer was optioned to Triple-A Ottawa yesterday and backup catcher Keith Osik and Rule 5 pick Jose Bautista were designated for assignment - the changes coming with the Orioles at .500 for the first time since April 15.

They recalled pitcher Denny Bautista from Double-A Bowie, placing him in the bullpen, and bought the contracts of catcher Robert Machado and infielder Jose Leon from Ottawa. They also activated left-hander Matt Riley from the disabled list and sent him to Ottawa, where he'll join Bauer in the Lynx's rotation.

Imagine if the Orioles' losing streak lasted two weeks.

Denny Bautista instantly became one of the organization's top pitching prospects after they acquired him from the Florida Marlins on Aug. 31 for first baseman Jeff Conine. He made 10 starts at Bowie, going 2-4 with a 5.10 ERA and 42 strikeouts in 42 1/3 innings.

"I feel so happy to be here," he said. "It was a great surprise. To me, this is a dream come true because it's my first time here."

Bautista lost four straight decisions before defeating Akron on May 18, allowing four runs in five innings in an 8-4 victory. With a promotion forthcoming, Baysox manager Dave Trembley removed him from Sunday's start after 2 2/3 innings.

"I said, `Why are you taking me out?' He said, `You're out of the game, so take a seat in the dugout and I'll let you know why,'" Bautista said.

The Orioles learned in spring training that Bautista, rated their fifth-best prospect by Baseball America, was two years older than his listed age of 21. He went straight to the minor league camp after reporting late because of visa problems.

"He's real high in our system with a great arm," Orioles manager Lee Mazzilli said. "We're going to see what he can do."

Mazzilli did just that, pitching Bautista for 1 2/3 innings last night.

Asked if the team is rushing Bautista, executive vice president Jim Beattie said, "We probably are, but under these circumstances, it's the right thing to do."

Though the Orioles still project Bautista as a starter in the future, Beattie said, "We really felt it would be nice to have a power arm in the bullpen. And we wanted to give him a chance."

One of Bautista's cousins is three-time Cy Young winner Pedro Martinez. They spoke on Monday before Bautista reported to the Orioles.

"He said to keep going," Bautista said. "He said, `You've got a chance right now, so you have to be aggressive.'"

The Orioles will use Leon as a right-handed bat off the bench, but they also could give him some starts at first base.

Taken off the 40-man roster after clearing waivers in October, Leon was batting .339 with 11 homers and 29 RBIs in Ottawa. He led the International League with a .720 slugging percentage.

"I didn't expect to get called up so soon. It surprised me a little bit. But I'm here, and if I can continue to hit the way I did in Ottawa, I can help the team," said Leon, who has had five stints with the Orioles in the past two seasons.

Machado appeared in 18 games with the Orioles last season. He was batting .325 with three homers and 20 RBIs at Ottawa.

The Orioles should get more offensive production out of him than Osik, who was 2-for-25 in 11 games. The Orioles went 0-6 in Osik's starts, and their pitchers had a 6.98 ERA.

"You couldn't ask for a better person to be on a ballclub," Mazzilli said. "It just didn't work out here."

Obtained during the winter meetings, Jose Bautista hit .273 in 15 games. He made two starts, both in right field, and was used as a pinch runner seven times.

Any team that claims Bautista on waivers or acquires him in a trade must place him on the major league roster. If he clears waivers, the Orioles must offer him back to Pittsburgh for $25,000. The Pirates most likely would take him.

"Here's a kid that just played A-ball last year, and to come up here in the big leagues and learn the game is pretty tough to do," Mazzilli said. "You're trying to make a move in this division to win, and you kind of handcuff yourself and cut your options down."

The Orioles want Bauer to start so he can build innings at Ottawa. He was 1-0 with a 6.20 ERA in 11 relief appearances.

NOTE: The Orioles have sold about 34,000 tickets for tonight's game against the Yankees, and 40,000 for tomorrow.

Sun staff writer Joe Christensen contributed to this article.

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