The Orioles will be getting pitchers Brad Bergesen and Koji Uehara back by Saturday, meaning two players currently on the major league roster -- likely a hitter and a pitcher -- will be sent packing soon.
The likely candidates to be expunged include Garrett Atkins, the club's Opening Day first baseman who signed a one-year contract worth $4.5 million in the offseason. Atkins has struggled offensively, with just one homer and nine RBIs, and has rarely played this month.
Relievers Matt Albers and Frank Mata also are the roster bubble, along with seldom used fourth outfielder Lou Montanez.
Uehara, who has been out since May 19 with a forearm strain, threw 21 pitches Thursday in a simulated inning against teammates Jake Fox and Scott Moore at Camden Yards. Assuming he has no lingering pain today, Uehara, who has allowed one run in just six relief appearances this season, will be activated from the disabled list Saturday.
"I'm ready to pitch. Whatever they tell me to do, I'll be ready," Uehara said through interpreter Jiwon Bang. "One hundred percent, yes."
Interim manager Juan Samuel said the club considered having Uehara (0-0, 1.80 ERA) go on a minor league rehabilitation assignment, but all his pitches looked sharp and the club could use him in the beleaguered bullpen.
"We have a lot of one-inning guys here. I think we can use him here instead of sending him out," Samuel said. "His stuff looked very, very good today."
Bergesen, who was 3-4 with a 6.50 ERA in 12 games (10 starts) for the Orioles, will start Saturday night's game against the Washington Nationals. Bergesen was sent to Triple-A Norfolk on June 13 and made two starts for the Tides, allowing five earned runs in 72/3 innings.
Samuel said the club considered leaving Bergesen in the minors a little longer while giving reliever Mark Hendrickson the start Saturday, but losing one of its long relievers for several days would further tax the bullpen.
"Out of the options that we've got, I think that [Bergesen] is the one guy that can just slide right in and pitch for us," Samuel said.
The additions, Samuel said, likely will force a reliever and a bench player off the 25-man roster. Atkins is the most obvious candidate to be designated for assignment.
He is hitting .219 in 43 games and had just 11 at-bats in June. Tuesday's acquisition of Fox, who also can play corner infield, likely cemented the decision regarding Atkins.
Either Albers (2-3, 5.68 ERA in 30 games) or Mata (0-0, 5.91 in 10 games) likely will lose his spot as a right-handed short reliever once Uehara is back.
Mata can be sent to the minor leagues, but Albers must first clear waivers before he could be sent to Norfolk.
Montanez, who is hitting .140 in just 57 at-bats and has made just one start in June, also seems vulnerable to a roster move. But he might be kept until outfielder Felix Pie returns from the disabled list.
First base power drought
Heading into Thursday's series finale against the Florida Marlins, Orioles first basemen had yet to hit a home run through the club's first 71 games. That's a franchise record, eclipsing a mark set by the 1959 club, which didn't have a home run from a first baseman to start the season until Bob Boyd went deep in game No. 56 on June 13, according to baseball historian David Vincent.
According to Vincent, only four clubs since 1961 have started the season with a longer home run drought by first basemen. The 1979 Kansas City Royals didn't have one until Game No. 104, when George Scott homered July 31.
The 1984 San Francisco Giants went 103 games until it happened, the 1981 Chicago White Sox 98 and the 2004 Anaheim Angels 73, Vincent said.
Before this season, the Orioles went 20 or more games without a home run from a first baseman four other times in their history: 1959, 1981, 1967 and 1993. The only time besides this year in which it was more than a 25-game drought was in 1959.
Atkins has started 29 games at first for the Orioles, but his lone homer came as a designated hitter. Ty Wigginton has started 24 games at first base, including Thursday, and leads the team in home runs with 13. But 11 of those came as a second baseman and two as a third baseman.
Pie rehabs in Frederick
Pie, who has been on the DL since April16 with a torn back muscle, joined Single-A Frederick to continue his minor league rehab assignment. He was 2-for-4 with an RBI on Thursday in his first game with the Keys after going 1-for-8 in two games with the Gulf Coast League Orioles.
"I think he's probably going to be there three or four days and then move on to [Double-A] Bowie," Samuel said.
Pie will continue to act as a designated hitter because the organization doesn't want him to reinjure himself throwing. He could return to the majors within the next week but probably would do so, initially, as a DH.
Pie was 8-for-20 (.400 average) with the Orioles this season before his injury.
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