Eaton eagerly awaits return

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April 12, 2009|By Dan Connolly | Dan Connolly,dan.connolly@baltsun.com

Adam Eaton can't wait to get back on a big league mound - or in a dugout.

Eaton, the veteran right-hander, makes his Orioles debut Sunday afternoon against the Tampa Bay Rays.

He has been with the team for the past week, but because the club wanted to keep an extra pitcher until Eaton starts, he will not be added to the 40-man roster until Sunday morning. Therefore, he wasn't allowed to sit in the dugout during games, instead having to watch on TV in the clubhouse or trainer's room.

"I was anywhere and everywhere," Eaton said. "It was a different feel. Sometimes during the grind of a season, you are like, 'I'll go into the clubhouse and relax for like an inning.' As opposed to now, it's like I want to be out in the dugout."

Eaton hasn't pitched in a game since April 2, when he allowed five runs and nine hits in five innings against the New York Mets in a spring training game. He has pitched two long bullpen sessions and tinkered with his mechanics, and said he's ready.

Manager Dave Trembley isn't sure how Eaton will respond to the long layoff.

"If he pitches good, the rest has been great," Trembley said. "If he doesn't pitch good, then everybody can say, 'Well, he had too much time in between the last time.' It's really very simple."

Trembley said pitching coach Rick Kranitz offered to set up Eaton in simulated games against live hitters, but he preferred to throw the side sessions under Kranitz's watch, which Eaton called "very productive."

He said before Saturday's game that he's so eager to get a feel for the environment that he was considering sneaking into the dugout for a moment - perhaps in disguise.

"I might come in here and grab an EMT coat or something," Eaton quipped.

Albers optioned

The Orioles optioned reliever Matt Albers to Triple-A Norfolk after Saturday night's game to make room for Eaton.

Albers appeared in Saturday night's game and gave up a hit and a walk over two-thirds of an inning in the four-pitcher shutout. He has made three appearances during the first week of the regular season and allowed a run on four hits over 2 2/3 innings. His place on the roster was tenuous because of a fragile shoulder that limits his workload. The other possibility appeared to be Brian Bass, but he was out of minor league options and is capable of eating more innings in an emergency.

The club decided to stick with 12 pitchers rather than attempt to get utility infielder Robert Andino through waivers. Andino has not started yet, but he is the club's only backup shortstop.

Before the game, Trembley said: "I can really see the benefit of having the 13th [pitcher], but I can see the benefit of having the extra position player as well. It is a tossup."

Then there were three

With Kenshin Kawakami pitching for the Atlanta Braves on Saturday night, and after Koji Uehara's start for the Orioles on Wednesday, there are only three major league organizations that have not had a Japanese-born player appear in a big league game: The Cincinnati Reds, Florida Marlins and the Arizona Diamondbacks.

The Orioles became the last American League team to use a Japanese native, but that distinction comes with an asterisk. The Minnesota Twins' lone representative is pitcher Mike Nakamura, who appeared in 12 games for the Twins in 2003. Nakamura was born in Japan and his father is Japanese, but he grew up in Australia.

Baltimore Sun reporter Peter Schmuck contributed to this article.

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