NEW YORK - - Felix Pie began the season as the Orioles' everyday left fielder. He began Tuesday night without a plate appearance since July 1.
Orioles manager Dave Trembley acknowledged that it has been difficult to get Pie in the lineup, largely because his team has faced a left-handed starter in 10 of its past 11 games heading into Tuesday night. Pie will start in today's series finale against the New York Yankees. Twenty days have elapsed since he last started - against the Boston Red Sox on July 1 - and he has appeared in just two games since.
"It has been tough when you play nine lefties in a row and then you get one day against a righty and then you get another lefty," Trembley said. "I probably should have tried to get him an at-bat on Sunday, but I didn't. He'll get a chance to start the game [today]. He's a member of this team. We play a lot of games. I think we play 20 in a row and then a day off and then 20 more in a row. Like everybody else who is not a regular player, you're going to have to use those guys."
Pie, 24, whom the Orioles acquired this offseason from the Chicago Cubs, is hitting .234 with two homers and eight RBIs. He has started just 23 games, including only six of the Orioles' past 42 games since June 1, because of rookie Nolan Reimold's emergence in left field.
Overall, Pie has gotten just 20 at-bats since May 27, going 8-for-23. However, he has earned praise from Trembley for the way he has embraced his bench role and handled being mostly relegated to pinch-running and defensive-replacement duties.
"He's spent an awful long time with [hitting coach Terry Crowley] in the cage," Trembley said. "His playing time hasn't been what he's wanted it to be, but he hasn't 'mule-lipped,' he hasn't been a malcontent. He's not been anything other than professional about it."
Hernandez earns praise
Rookie right-hander David Hernandez's performance Monday made the Orioles' 2-1 loss on Hideki Matsui's game-ending solo home run a little easier to swallow. Hernandez settled down after a rocky, 35-pitch first inning and allowed one run and three hits through six innings.
"He really grew up a lot and showed a lot," Trembley said. "I thought he beat them with his fastball in the middle of the ballgame. He got better. I thought he just really, really matured as a pitcher."
Hernandez acknowledged that nerves were behind his early struggles, but he settled down after a two-out second-inning walk to Derek Jeter and retired 13 of the final 14 Yankees he faced. In his past four starts, Hernandez has allowed nine earned runs in 24 1/3 innings.
"I thought he's pitched well every time he's pitched," second baseman Brian Roberts said. "I like his stuff. I like his composure. ... He could've folded quickly in the first inning, especially with the amount of pitches he had."
A good rain delay?
The rain, which delayed the start of Tuesday's game for about a half hour, gave new acquisition Cla Meredith a little more time to get acclimated and meet his Orioles teammates. Meredith, a right-handed reliever who was acquired Sunday from the San Diego Padres for infielder Oscar Salazar, wasn't expected to arrive at Yankee Stadium until about an hour before the scheduled first pitch at 7:05 p.m.
To make room for Meredith on the 25-man roster, the Orioles optioned reliever Kam Mickolio to Triple-A Norfolk. Mickolio made three appearances for the Orioles, allowing one hit while striking out three and walking two in 3 2/3 scoreless innings.
"Mickolio did a very good job," Trembley said. "It was simply a numbers thing. He'll be back here."
Around the horn
Dennis Sarfate's rehabilitation outings are scheduled for Friday, Sunday, next Wednesday and July 31, all for Norfolk. Chris Ray's will be Friday, Monday, next Wednesday and July 31, all for Double-A Bowie. Trembley said the two injured relievers will be re-evaluated after their outings and it's possible they could be ready to return from the disabled list at the same time. ... Matsui's walk-off homer was the first allowed by the Orioles since the Washington Nationals' Ronnie Belliard hit one off George Sherrill on June 29, 2008.