Having blown five of their first eight save opportunities this season, and nearly botching one again Sunday in Boston, Orioles manager Dave Trembley said he is taking a new approach with his bullpen.
"There is no closer right now for me. Who wants it? Somebody take it," Trembley said Tuesday. "There is no setup guy. Who wants it? Somebody take it."
Jim Johnson, who is 1-for-3 in save opportunities this year and 12-for-20 in his career, had taken over as closer this month from Michael Gonzalez, who blew two of his first three chances and is now on the disabled list.
Johnson still might get some opportunities, but so will a host of relievers, including Alfredo Simon, who was recalled Tuesday from Triple-A Norfolk and earned his first major league save several hours later.
"Whoever can get outs is going to get the chance," Trembley said. "I don't think there [are] any roles. I don't think you can define roles."
Four pitchers have saves for the Orioles in their four wins this season: Simon, Gonzalez, Johnson and Cla Meredith, who picked up the first save of his career Sunday after Johnson ran into trouble in the bottom of the 10th against the Boston Red Sox.
"What we have been trying in the bullpen has not worked," Trembley said. "I have been giving it to just about everybody, and, until we find the right combination, we are probably going to continue to make moves. And if I have to try something different, don't blame me for trying it. Because at this particular point in time, I think it is open for the best man to step forward and say he wants it."
Hughes starts; Atkins sits
Rhyne Hughes, who collected two hits in each of his first two major league games, was in the lineup at first base again Tuesday, his third consecutive start since being called up from Norfolk on Saturday.
While Hughes plays, Garrett Atkins, who started 14 of the Orioles' first 17 games, has been relegated to a pinch-hitting role.
Trembley said he talked to Atkins on Tuesday and explained the reasoning for his lineup decision. He said the right-handed-hitting Atkins likely would get a start today against the New York Yankees' CC Sabathia, a lefty.
"I did talk to Atkins today and gave it to him straight," Trembley said. "‘I've got a guy that came up from Triple-A, and he's hotter than a firecracker. He's going to stay there as long as he hits. There's a lefty going tomorrow. You're probably in there.' Straight, no sugarcoat."
Atkins, whom the Orioles signed this winter to a $4.5 million contract, has struggled, entering Tuesday hitting .220 with five RBIs in 59 at-bats. He said he is not worried about losing his job, which happened last year in Colorado when he started off slowly and was replaced by Ian Stewart.
"Obviously, it is early. We are not to May 1 yet," Atkins said. "So I am just trying to find myself, find my swing, and when that happens, things will get better."
Trembley would not call the situation a platoon — at least not yet.
"That depends on how Hughes hits. That depends on when Atkins gets back in the lineup if he hits," Trembley said. "I'm not opposed to putting anybody out there, or taking anybody out if they don't get the job done."
Simon makes it back
Simon, who started 2009 in the Orioles' rotation but had season-ending elbow ligament-replacement surgery in May, returned to the team as a reliever Tuesday after going 1-1 with a 1.59 ERA in four games (three starts) with the Tides. He has bounced back from Tommy John surgery in less than a year, and he said he's throwing harder than he did last season.
"I think it is an incredible story," Trembley said. "The guy was full-go the very first day [of spring training]. He is strong, physically and mentally. He wants to be here. … I hope he does well. I think everybody should be pulling for him for what he has gone through."
Trembley said some in the organization believe Simon, 28, could close games with his mid-90s fastball and fearless demeanor. Simon said he just wants to pitch.
"I am going to do my thing," Simon said. "I know I am in the bullpen; I will try to do the best I can."
To make room for Simon on the 25-man roster, the club demoted Kam Mickolio (7.36 ERA in 32/3 innings) to Norfolk. To create a 40-man roster spot, Double-A Bowie reliever Wilfrido Perez, (0-1, 10.80 ERA, three saves) was designated for assignment.
Bergesen will start Saturday
The Orioles haven't officially announced it, but Brad Bergesen will start Saturday night's game against the Red Sox.
Bergesen was sent to the minors April 20 after going 0-2 with a 12.19 ERA in three big league starts. He allowed two earned runs in seven innings in his lone Triple-A start Sunday. The Orioles will have to make a corresponding move when they recall Bergesen.
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