Hill's Future Could Be Decided Friday

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

Notebook

July 23, 2009|By Jeff Zrebiec | Jeff Zrebiec,jeff.zrebiec@baltsun.com

NEW YORK - - Orioles manager Dave Trembley said he will meet with president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail on Friday in Boston to discuss the status of struggling pitcher Rich Hill.

With a day off today before beginning a weekend series against the Boston Red Sox, the Orioles could skip Hill's next turn in the rotation or they could make a more drastic move and release the pitcher or designate him for assignment. Trembley said after Hill's start Tuesday, in which he allowed five runs in three-plus innings, that the pitcher has been "extended every measure of patience by all of us." Even Hill, who has a 7.64 ERA after 12 starts, acknowledged that the "writing is on the wall."

"In this game, you have to perform," pitching coach Rick Kranitz said. "This is not graduation. You have to be able to perform at this level to continue to pitch. I don't know if he's going to be back starting again or not. But I do know that you've got to be able to give your team a chance. You've got to be able to go out there and throw the ball over the plate and get us through five, six, seven innings. He hasn't done it, and that's disappointing."

The Orioles' decision is complicated by the continued struggles of Jason Berken, who allowed five earned runs in six innings in the team's 6-4 loss to the New York Yankees on Wednesday. It was his eighth straight loss. Top prospect Chris Tillman is expected to fill one of the rotation spots and make his major league debut as early as next week against the Kansas City Royals. Tillman is scheduled to start for Triple-A Norfolk on Thursday, so if he stays on normal rest, he would be in line to pitch Tuesday.

But there is no clear second option to come up and join the rotation, meaning that either Berken or Hill might get a reprieve.

"I'm not one to put pressure on anybody because we don't have a whole lot of aligned choices," Trembley said. "We'll do whatever we can to help [Hill], but we also have to do what we can do to help the team. With Rich Hill, it's a matter of him taking what he does in the bullpen out into the game. If he could do that one time and break through, I think you will see a different pitcher, but we have not been able to consistently see that.

"He just pitches with a lot more life on all his pitches [in the bullpen]. The velocity is better, the sharpness of his breaking ball is better, the mechanics are better. You don't walk anybody in the bullpen, you know? You don't give up any hits in the bullpen, you know?"

Heading to the bullpen?

Kranitz acknowledged that if injured pitcher Koji Uehara returns this season, it will probably be in a bullpen role. Uehara, who hasn't pitched since June 23 because of a partially torn flexor tendon in his right elbow, still hasn't started a throwing program and is not expected back until September at the earliest.

"Once we get home, we'll get a sense of how long it's going to be," Kranitz said. "First, we have to find out when his throwing program starts. Obviously, to get a guy to throw one inning, two innings is a lot easier than to get him to start. As a starter, you got to get him to 90 pitches, and by then, the season may be over. We'd just like to get him back, starting or relieving."

Kranitz didn't rule out Uehara making a September start, but said, "Obviously, he won't have time to build up where he needs to go."

Meredith excited

When Cla Meredith was summoned by San Diego Padres officials Sunday and informed that he had been traded, general manager Kevin Towers told him, "You're going to like this one."

Meredith, a right-handed reliever, grew up in Richmond, Va., following the Orioles and the Atlanta Braves. He said he used to listen to Jim Palmer call games on the Home Team Sports network, and the first game he watched in person was in the 1996 American League Championship Series at Camden Yards, when the Orioles were beaten by the New York Yankees in the Jeffrey Maier series.

"I definitely always had a heart for the Orioles," Meredith said. "You know, when you get called into the office and you get told you're going to get traded, there's a moment [of trepidation]. But this is exciting."

Meredith joined the club about an hour before Tuesday's scheduled first pitch after flying cross-country. He made his Orioles debut Wednesday, pitching a scoreless seventh inning despite allowing two base runners.

"I've heard a lot of good things. I've seen a lot of good things," he said. "I'm a baseball player, and I pay attention to what's going on around the league. Things are going in the right direction here, and I'm glad to be a part of it."

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