Koji Uehara sat in the corner of the visiting bullpen Saturday at Nationals Park bundled in an Orioles sweat shirt, with his arms folded on top of his knees.
He was unavailable to pitch in the Orioles' 7-6 loss to the Washington Nationals, and it's now unclear when he'll be able to pitch again. Uehara, who hasn't been in a game since his 30-pitch outing Wednesday against the Texas Rangers, said he's experiencing elbow pain similar to what knocked him out for the final 3 1/2 months of last season. That injury was diagnosed as a partially torn flexor tendon in his right elbow.
"The bad part is gone, so hopefully I'll be able to recover soon," Uehara said through his interpreter, Jiwon Bang.
It probably won't be soon enough for Uehara to avoid a fourth trip to the disabled list since last May. Orioles manager Dave Trembley, who is already dealing with a taxed bullpen, said he has had discussions with president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail and the club might be forced to put the 35-year-old reliever on the DL.
"I know [pitching coach Rick Kranitz] spoke to him at length today with his interpreter and he didn't pick up a ball yesterday and he didn't pick up a ball today," Trembley said. "You guys have followed the club and are smart enough to realize the role that he plays, and when that guy's not available I'm not making excuses or anything, but it throws the whole bullpen out of whack and you're putting guys in situations where you're asking them to do a little bit more or you go with another guy a little bit longer."
Uehara spent the first month of the season on the disabled list with a left hamstring strain. Since his activation May 6, Uehara has allowed one run on three hits and three walks in six appearances spanning five innings, and established himself as the Orioles' top setup man.
He said he felt the pain in his elbow return in his last outing Wednesday, in which he went two-thirds of an inning and allowed a hit and a walk while throwing 30.pitches. Trembley said after the game that Uehara looked "gassed" and probably would get two straight days off.
Asked about his injury problems, Uehara said, "Everything is my fault."
Left-handed reliever Will Ohman leads the American League with 23 appearances and has pitched in six of the Orioles' past nine games.
Trembley acknowledged that he has had to monitor Ohman closely, but that has been difficult because the 32-year-old always wants the ball and has been the team's most effective reliever. Ohman has yet to give up a run in 14 innings of work.
"There have been times where I told him that he's not going to pitch. He always fights me on it," Trembley said. "You have to be careful, not use him four or five times in a row. If you get him up, bring him in the game like the rest of them. He has had some problems with his arm, and he's been in an awful lot of games. For the most part, what he's been is a situational guy and at times a one-inning guy. But you have to be careful with him because of his history."
Ohman, who made a career-high 83 appearances with the Atlanta Braves in 2008, missed a significant part of last season with shoulder issues. He also didn't pitch in the big leagues in both 2002 and 2003 after having three different procedures on his left elbow. He had Tommy John ligament-reconstruction surgery in January 2002 and then he had bone chips removed from his elbow in January 2003. In November 2003, he had ulnar nerve transposition surgery.
Trembley juggles lineup
Trembley continued to search for ways to jump-start his struggling lineup, inserting the hot-hitting Luke Scott into the cleanup spot and moving Miguel Tejada to third. Scott is the fourth cleanup hitter Trembley has used this season, following Tejada, Nolan Reimold and Matt Wieters. Nick Markakis also moved from No. 3 to No. 2 in the order behind leadoff man Corey Patterson, and Ty Wigginton was dropped to fifth.
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