Highly regarded right-hander Chris Tillman will make his 2010 Orioles debut Saturday in a start against the Blue Jays in Toronto, according to two club sources.
The Orioles would not confirm Tillman's promotion, but manager Dave Trembley said Tuesday that David Hernandez has been moved to the bullpen in anticipation of another starter for Saturday's game.
"We'll get a starter from Triple-A for the 29th," Trembley said. "I think that will become pretty self-evident the next day or so."
Tillman, 22, lost the fifth starter's competition to Hernandez in the spring and was demoted to Triple-A Norfolk, where he is 5-4 with a 3.12 ERA in 10 starts. He has allowed more than two runs only once in his past six games, a streak that began with a no-hitter April 28 against Gwinnett. Tillman pitched 12 games for the Orioles last year, going 2-5 with a 5.40 ERA.
Hernandez was scheduled to start Thursday, but now Brad Bergesen will pitch that game, with Kevin Millwood remaining on line for Friday and Tillman, who will be pitching on regular rest, going Saturday.
Hernandez, 25, is 1-5 with a 5.31 ERA in eight starts. He broke his 11-game personal losing streak by allowing just one hit through 5 1/3 innings Friday, but some in the organization have always viewed him as a future reliever.
Plus, the Orioles need help in the bullpen after placing both Koji Uehara (strained right elbow) and Alfredo Simon (strained left hamstring) on the disabled list Tuesday.
"You can say it was a need and necessity, and you could say perhaps in the big picture, this is eventually the best thing for him," Trembley said. "I would think once he goes in the bullpen, he's going to stay there until something else [happens]. And hopefully it [doesn't]."
Hernandez has had one relief appearance in his big league career and five in four minor league seasons.
"I think I can be successful either way, starting or relieving," Hernandez said. "But at this point, we're really short in the bullpen. So I feel like me being in the bullpen is going to help the team. Whatever the team needs, I'll handle it."
Bullpen shuffle; no closer
The Orioles promoted relievers Alberto Castillo and Frank Mata from Norfolk to take the spots of Uehara, who was placed on the DL for the fourth time in two seasons, and Simon, who injured his left hamstring Sunday.
Simon, who had converted six of seven save chances, was hoping to avoid the DL, thinking he would be sidelined about a week. But the Orioles couldn't afford to wait for him.
"You can't go with a guy that can't pitch for a week," Trembley said. "If you're training and medical staff tells you he's going to need the full 15 days, to me it's a no-brainer: He goes on the DL."
Simon is the third Orioles closer this season to be injured, joining Michael Gonzalez (shoulder) and Jim Johnson (elbow) on the DL.
Trembley wouldn't commit to whom he'll use in the ninth inning in Simon's absence, though veteran left-hander Will Ohman, who has three saves in parts of eight big league seasons and hasn't allowed an earned run in 14 2/3 innings this season, is the most likely candidate.
"Ohman has had a lot of success for us, but he's been valuable for us as a situational lefty," Trembley said. "So I'm not sure if he'll be a guy who comes in in the ninth inning or not. But we've got some options there."
Mata, 26, was Norfolk's closer, saving eight games and posting a 1.86 ERA in 18 appearances, but the stocky right-hander has never played in the majors.
"I can think of very few times when a kid comes right out of the minor leagues and closes. It's rare when you would do that, particularly when a kid is groomed to be a reliever," said Andy MacPhail, the club's president of baseball operations. "They typically break in at a level in the major leagues that isn't closing. I think that would be asking too much."
Trembley said he'll wait for the situation to present itself before making a call.
"I don't really have anybody in mind right now," Trembley said. "I think you got to let the game go and see how it unfolds."
Infielder Justin Turner, whom the Orioles designated for assignment May 21, was claimed Tuesday by the New York Mets. The Orioles acquired Turner, who was hitless in nine big league at-bats this season, from the Cincinnati Reds as part of the Ramon Hernandez deal in December 2008. Former Orioles special assistant Wayne Krivsky, who is now with the Mets, recommended dealing for Turner at the time.
"When you expose a guy on outright [waivers] that has got options, there's a chance he may get claimed. And, coincidentally, the same guy that recommended him to us is probably responsible for him going over to New York," MacPhail said. "We just wish the kid the best. He's a good kid, and I hope he does well."
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