Struggling Berken May Lose Spot

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After Latest Loss, Trembley Says, 'I Think He's Stuck'

August 03, 2009|By Jeff Zrebiec | Jeff Zrebiec,jeff.zrebiec@baltsun.com

While pitching prospect Brian Matusz is expected to join the Orioles in Detroit and make his major league debut Tuesday, it appears that manager Dave Trembley will have another rotation spot to fill as rookie Jason Berken's struggles continued Sunday.

Berken (1-9) allowed six earned runs in just 1 1/3 innings in the Orioles' 18-10 loss to the Boston Red Sox in the series finale Sunday at Camden Yards. His ERA stands at 6.93 after 13 starts, and he's now lost nine straight decisions after winning his major league debut.

Trembley said after the game that the club has to do something "to help Berken," an indication perhaps that a demotion to Triple-A Norfolk is imminent for the 25-year-old right-hander.

"I think he's stuck, and we got to try to do something to get him out of neutral because that's where he's at," Trembley said.

Berken said that his confidence is fine, but the disappointing starts continue to mount. He has just two quality starts this season, and has allowed five earned runs or more in three of his past four outing. Sunday marked a new low as he faced a total of 13 Red Sox and allowed seven of them to get hits and two to reach via walks.

"I think he's probably shaken, as he probably should be," pitching coach Rick Kranitz said. "He's got to pitch better. He's got to throw down in the strike zone. You get a lot better results when you pitch down in the strike zone and ahead, as opposed to behind and up - especially against a ballclub like that and in a ballpark like this when it's carrying the way it was today. And you know what? They absolutely hit everything."

While it seems likely that Berken will be replaced, the Orioles aren't exactly overflowing with available starting options in the minors. David Pauley and Chris Waters have struggled to get outs consistently in Triple-A.

Matusz, the team's first-round pick last year, is one of the few starters that has been pitching well at the upper levels of the minor leagues as he is 7-0 with a 1.55 ERA for Double-A Bowie. The Orioles haven't officially announced him as Tuesday's starter against the Tigers, but it's little more than a formality.

Bullpen running on fumes

The Orioles start a four-game series in Detroit Monday night with a tired bullpen that was needed for 12 2/3 innings over the previous two games. That looms even larger when you consider the Orioles' starters the next two nights (Chris Tillman and likely Matusz) have one big league start between them.

Asked if the Orioles might have to add a reliever for Monday's game, Trembley said, "Maybe. ... We'll get it figured out."

Mark Hendrickson certainly will not be available Monday as he threw 3 2/3 innings the past two days and made a total of 77 pitches.

More at-bats for Pie

Felix Pie started in left field in place of Nolan Reimold on Sunday and he went 1-for-4 with two runs. Trembley said that he plans to get Pie more at-bats the last two months of the season. That could become a little easier with Reimold trying to play through knee, ankle and hamstring soreness.

"I think Pie gives us some life, he gives us some energy. I need to get him in there," Trembley said. "We need to find out about the guy. I'll probably try to do a better job, playing him more than once every 10 days."

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