Albers back in bullpen

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

March 12, 2009|By Jeff Zrebiec and Dan Connolly | Jeff Zrebiec and Dan Connolly,jeff.zrebiec@baltsun.com and dan.connolly@baltsun.com

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -Add Matt Albers to the list of pitchers who have dropped out of the competition for the three open spots in the Orioles' rotation.

This time, though, it's by design.

If healthy, the right-hander will start the season in the bullpen.

"That's what he had success in last year," Orioles manager Dave Trembley said. "He was probably our most valuable guy, and we didn't realize that until after we lost him, how valuable he was."

Albers, who is pitching with torn cartilage in his right shoulder, said his arm feels good, but his durability remains a concern heading into the season.

"It's probably the right call," said Albers, who went 3-3 with a 3.49 ERA in 28 appearances last season, including three starts. "We're still trying to figure stuff out. There's still enough time and I've thrown enough bullpens where it probably could go either way, but I think the bullpen will probably be best for me. It's tough to think that I'll be able to start and pitch a ton of innings."

Albers has pitched four times this spring, including once against the Dominican Republic club, but he hasn't gone more than two innings in any outing. He pitched one inning yesterday, allowing three hits, including two doubles, and two runs to the Minnesota Twins. He blew a 3-2 lead and picked up his first loss of the spring.

Albers, who prepared himself this season to start, said he isn't disappointed in the club's decision. His main goal has been to stay healthy.

"I still have little aches and pains, but it's definitely nothing like it was," he said.

Hill warming up slowly

Left-hander Rich Hill (elbow tightness) is scheduled to throw long toss today and says he's on track to make his spring debut next week.

Hill threw 25 times from 90 feet Tuesday, took a day off yesterday and will throw sideline long toss from 120 feet each of the next two days. He said his goal is to throw off a bullpen mound by Sunday and face hitters in a game a few days later. Out of minor league options, Hill had been penciled in for the starting rotation, but Trembley said it's "questionable" that the lefty will be able to pitch enough this spring to make it into the rotation. It's something Hill understands.

"Obviously with the time [waning], the quicker we can get this thing under way the faster everything can be done," Hill said. "But as soon as I am healthy, I'll be pretty durable."

Around the horn

Koji Uehara (strained left hamstring) will miss at least a start and be pushed back from five days of rest to at least seven, Trembley said. Uehara said he'll continue treatment and probably won't run for a week. Through his interpreter, Uehara called it a "light injury, but I don't know about the days" he'll miss. ... Right fielder Nick Markakis was not at the park as his wife prepares to deliver their first child. ... Reliever Jamie Walker will donate $200 for every appearance and every strikeout recorded this season to the U.S. Army Emergency Relief Fund and $100 for each appearance and strikeout to the Garth Brooks Teammates for Kids Foundation. ... Ty Wigginton, who had three hits in his first 18 spring at-bats with the Orioles, had three hits yesterday.

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