Uehara will start season on DL

Reliever's hamstring injury opens roster spot for another righty

March 30, 2010|By Dan Connolly | dan.connolly@baltsun.com

SARASOTA, Fla. — — Koji Uehara, who was attempting to make the switch from Orioles starter to reliever this spring, will begin the season on the disabled list with a strained left hamstring, opening a spot for a right-hander on the roster bubble.

Uehara, who hadn't pitched since he hobbled off the mound mid-batter March 18 against the Toronto Blue Jays in Dunedin, has been getting treatment for the strain but has not been able to run at full speed or throw from a mound.

Before Monday night's game against the New York Yankees, Orioles manager Dave Trembley said that if Uehara could not pitch by midweek, then he would not be ready for next Tuesday's season opener in St. Petersburg.

When told of Trembley's comments, Uehara said, "I probably won't be able to be ready to be on the mound by Wednesday." He added that there is no timetable for his return.

That declaration basically ended his chances of making the club's initial 25-man roster.

"Obviously, we don't have [many] days before Opening Day," Uehara said. "So I kind of expect it."

Uehara, who turns 35 on Saturday, will be making his third trip to the disabled list in his year-plus tenure with the Orioles. He missed three weeks in May and June with a strain of the same hamstring and didn't pitch again after June 23 because of right elbow tendinitis.

When asked about his frustration in returning to the DL, Uehara said, "The more important thing is to be ready physically."

After signing a two-year, $10 million contract in 2009, Uehara made just 12 starts last season. The switch from starter to one-inning reliever this spring was, in part, an attempt to keep him healthy.

Uehara was expected to join Jim Johnson in setting up closer Mike Gonzalez in the Orioles' seven-man bullpen. Left-handed specialist Will Ohman, right-hander Cla Meredith and lefty long reliever Mark Hendrickson appear to have secured jobs, leaving two available slots for three right-handers: Jason Berken, Matt Albers and Kam Mickolio.

Mickolio, 25, was a favorite to claim a relief role when camp began, but he has battled command issues - walking seven batters in 9 1/3 innings - and has been sidelined since Thursday with a groin strain.

"He did partake in the drills today. I did see him running out there. I don't think he's got up off the mound yet," Trembley said of Mickolio.

"He needs to throw a sideline and he needs to get in a game before we can find out where he's at."

The injury and his lack of consistency have increased the likelihood that Mickolio will start the season at Triple-A Norfolk.

"I think that he's had a very good opportunity to show what he can do. Whether it's been the best he could do, I'm not so sure," Trembley said.

"I don't mean to be very critical, but I think he's capable of doing better more consistently. I think he's showed some glimpses of it, but other times he's pitched too many three-ball counts. I don't know if his leg has been bothering him for a while and this has been a reason. There is an awful lot in there. We just need to get it out of him on a more consistent basis."

Berken, who also had been in consideration for the fifth spot in the rotation, has almost assuredly made the team as a long reliever. The 26-year-old right-hander posted a 2.84 ERA in six appearances, including one start this spring.

Albers, 27, who is out of options and would have to clear waivers before being sent to Triple-A, is also in a good position to make the team. He has a 2.77 ERA through his first 10 Grapefruit League games.

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