Notebook

Schedule gaps might force rotation shift

Huff cleaning up as No. 4 hitter

R. Hernandez sits out with injury

May 11, 2008|By Dan Connolly | Dan Connolly,Sun reporter

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- After juggling his roster to make sure he had enough pitchers to handle doubleheaders, spot starts and other scheduling quirks, Orioles manager Dave Trembley now has the opposite challenge.

Starting tomorrow, the Orioles have three days off in an eight-day period, and Trembley and pitching coach Rick Kranitz have to figure out how to keep their pitching staff from getting rusty.

Trembley announced last night that after tomorrow's day off, Jeremy Guthrie will pitch Tuesday against the Boston Red Sox and Daniel Cabrera will follow Wednesday - meaning both will be pitching on five days' rest, just one more than usual.

"I think it is best to keep as many guys on regular schedule as you possibly can. I think that's the best thing to do," Trembley said. "I think the more you can keep guys on the routine, especially guys that are pitching well, the better."

The real complications occur after Wednesday. The Orioles have a day off Thursday, three games at home this weekend against the Washington Nationals and then another day off May 19.

If Trembley sticks with a five-man rotation during that span, Guthrie and Cabrera would then be looking at six days' rest before their next turns. And that's something the club wants to avoid. So Steve Trachsel, Brian Burres or Garrett Olson likely will have a rotation turn skipped.

Trembley was noncommittal on whether he briefly will go to a four-man rotation but acknowledged he was considering it.

He would also consider sending one of his 13 pitchers to the minors and recalling a hitter before the Red Sox series. One potential option is to demote rookie reliever Bob McCrory who, heading into yesterday, hadn't pitched since May 1.

"You know the one guy that's sitting out there, it's McCrory," Trembley said. " ... I need to be fair."

Trembley, however, said those decisions have not been finalized.

Huff excels in cleanup

It's a small sample size, but designated hitter Aubrey Huff is excelling in the No. 4 spot. On Friday night, Huff completed his 10th game batting cleanup - including eight straight starting May 2 - and his numbers are impressive: a .385 batting average in 39 at-bats, a .429 on-base percentage, and a .538 slugging percentage.

Huff has batted the majority of his games this season (20) in the fifth spot, and his production there isn't nearly as strong. Hitting fifth in 78 at-bats, he has hit .205 with a .262 OBP and a .410 slugging percentage.

It doesn't hurt Huff that he is batting behind the Orioles best hitter, Nick Markakis, meaning Huff is often seeing better pitches than he did at No. 5.

"I just think he is a good hitter and he knows how to hit with guys on base," Trembley said. "It's been good for our lineup because we've been able split up some guys."

R. Hernandez scratched

The Orioles announced an hour before Saturday's game that catcher Ramon Hernandez was scratched from the starting lineup with soreness in his left wrist.

Hernandez wasn't available for comment, but the team said he was considered "day-to-day." Reserve catcher Guillermo Quiroz started and batted eighth, and center fielder Adam Jones moves into Hernandez's seventh spot in the lineup.

Hernandez's discomfort left Trembley with just two healthy players on his bench last night: infielder Luis Hernandez and outfielder Luke Scott.

Also, second baseman Brian Roberts, who led off last night's game with a single, did not return after a rain delay of almost two hours because of a bruised left foot. The team said his status is day-to-day.

Millar loses bullpen stint

First baseman Kevin Millar had a big smile on his face and a helmet turned backward a few hours before the game as he prepared to catch Guthrie in a bullpen session. But when club management learned one of their starting infielders was going to attempt to catch a big league pitcher, and potentially risk an injury, they pulled the plug.

Millar playfully stormed back into the clubhouse and shook his head.

"It got banged," Millar said in mock disdain. "I'm a franchise player. They lose me, boys, the Cinderella story's over."

dan.connolly@baltsun.com

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