Michael Gonzalez, whom the Orioles signed to a two-year, $12 million contract this winter to be their closer, has been placed on the disabled list with a strained left shoulder after three shaky outings -- an injury the club thinks is new despite Gonzalez's troubles this spring.
"I asked him how long this has been going on, and he said his shoulder has been bothering him the last couple days," Orioles manager Dave Trembley said. "That's the answer that I got from Mike, so that's where I take it."
The Orioles announced the move during Wednesday's game and a few hours after Trembley told reporters that Gonzalez could not get loose while warming up Tuesday and wasn't able to pitch in that game.
Gonzalez, who has an ERA of 18.00 with two blown saves in three games this month and had a 5.14 ERA in seven spring appearances, left before reporters were allowed into the clubhouse Wednesday.
He will stay in Baltimore while the team goes to the West Coast. He is expected to have a magnetic resonance imaging on the ailing shoulder in Baltimore on Thursday. With Gonzalez and Koji Uehara (left hamstring strain) on the disabled list, the closer duties will fall primarily to Jim Johnson, who saved 10 games for the Orioles in 2009.
"Plan A and Plan B are both unavailable for us probably for the next couple weeks. But my experience is that someone often steps up," Orioles president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail said. "I am confident that we can get that one straightened out."
Gonzalez, 31, blew saves and picked up losses in the Orioles' season opener at Tropicana Field and home opener at Camden Yards. In between, he notched his lone save, last Thursday against the Tampa Bay Rays, in which he survived his own bases-loaded jam. In his three regular-season appearances, he allowed five hits, four walks and four earned runs in two innings.
It has been a tough start in an Orioles uniform for Gonzalez, who struggled in the spring with command and a drop in velocity but stressed repeatedly that his arm was fine. He was booed off the mound by the Opening Day crowd at Camden Yards and hasn't pitched since, partially because he was working with his pitching coach Rick Kranitz on his mechanics. He also missed Monday's game because he was in Arizona to witness the birth of his daughter.
"I was hoping we'd get the bullpen straightened out, kind of get him back in order mechanically," Trembley said. "Obviously, we've got to go another route now."
Kam Mickolio, who has pitched 20 games with a 3.80 ERA for the Orioles in the past two seasons, will be recalled to take Gonzalez's roster spot. The 25-year-old right-hander has made three appearances for Triple-A Norfolk this season, allowing four hits, four walks and one run in three innings. He has struck out five.
Tatum gets first start
Backup catcher Craig Tatum, who had played just one inning this season as a defensive replacement, received his first start Wednesday, going hitless in four at-bats.
Before the game, he said he was excited to get some playing time. Regular catcher Matt Wieters had started and played almost all of the previous seven games.
"I'm not too nervous. The only reason I'd be nervous is because I haven't really played in two weeks," said Tatum, 27, who played in 26 games with the Cincinnati Reds last year. "Hopefully, I don't trip. Other than that, I'll have fun. I always do. And I'll go out there and play as hard as I can."
Running into criticism
There already have been a handful of ugly base-running mishaps during the first nine games of the season, and Trembley said they have been the result of "poor decisions."
On Tuesday, Felix Pie was caught in a rundown after taking a wide turn around first base when B.J. Upton bobbled his single and then overthrew the cutoff man. Though Pie probably would have been out anyway, he should have kept running and made the Rays make a clean play to get him. Instead, he was indecisive, stopped momentarily and was forced into a rundown.
It was basically the same situation when Ty Wigginton got hung up and tagged out on a wild pitch Monday night because the lead runner, Luke Scott, stopped and started.
"Indecision is what gets you in trouble,'' Trembley said. "Make a decision and live with it."
Roberts resting until Friday
Brian Roberts won't participate in any strenuous activities until he meets with doctors Friday to see how the herniated disk in his back has reacted to an epidural shot he received Monday. He's on the 15-day disabled list and is unsure whether he'll return when eligible April 25. "It hasn't been fun, I'll say that," Roberts said. "It's frustrating; you want to be out there, and you want to help your team. Sometimes your body doesn't let that happen."
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