NEW YORK -- Still feeling some discomfort in his left side, Orioles starting catcher Ramon Hernandez, who has has not played this season, was placed on the 15-day disabled list yesterday.
The move was retroactive to March 31, meaning Hernandez won't be eligible to come off the disabled list until Sunday against the Kansas City Royals, the final day of a seven-game homestand which begins today. Hernandez and Jay Payton, who is on the disabled list with a strained left hamstring, were expected to travel to the club's minor league complex in Sarasota, Fla., yesterday to begin rehabilitation programs.
"Before he [Hernandez] starts swinging the bat, we want that soreness to be gone," Orioles manager Sam Perlozzo said. "We feel like if we get him down in some warmer weather and keep getting treatment and get his at-bats there, then we'll be better in the long run."
The Orioles recalled left-handed reliever Kurt Birkins to take Hernandez's spot on the roster. Birkins, who went 5-2 with a 4.94 ERA in 35 appearances as a situational reliever last year, will be the Orioles' 13th pitcher and most likely be used in long relief. Brian Burres, who made the Opening Day roster but was sent down after backup catcher Alberto Castillo's contract was purchased after Hernandez's injury, was not available to be recalled because he hadn't been in the minors for 10 days.
"I was a little surprised," said Birkins, who was expected to start today for Triple-A Norfolk and hasn't pitched in a game since late March. "I'm just going to come up here and help the team win."
That might be tough without Hernandez, who hit .275 last season with 23 home runs and 91 RBIs. In his absence, catchers Paul Bako and Castillo have gone 3-for-18 with seven strikeouts, although Bako did hit a fourth-inning, three-run homer off Yankees starter Darrell Rasner yesterday.
"We miss Ramon; we miss Jay Payton," Perlozzo said. "It's the way we put the club together in the offseason to make us better for this year."
Thirteen players and three coaches will experience their first Opening Day at Camden Yards as Orioles this afternoon against the Detroit Tigers. But few will be looking forward to it as much as 35-year-old reliever Jamie Walker, who was in the Tigers' organization for five years before he signed with the Orioles this offseason.
"It's always fun to play your old teammates, and there is always those bragging rights," Walker said. "We all keep in touch. We'll go have some beer after the game, but when you're on the field, like I've said, they are trying to take food off my table."
Around the horn
Bench coach Tom Trebelhorn, who has been with his ailing wife in Arizona since Thursday, is expected back in the middle of this week. ... Walker appeared to be clutching the back of his leg after he covered first base on Bobby Abreu's infield single. He said he landed on first base awkwardly and was fine.