The Orioles soon should get two players back who were considered keys at the beginning of the season, but exactly where they fit in now hasn't been fully determined.
Outfielder Felix Pie, who has been on the disabled list since April 16 with a torn muscle in his back, and reliever Michael Gonzalez, who has been on the DL since April 14 with a strained left shoulder, are nearing returns, possibly as early as the start of Friday's road trip in Boston.
Pie, who hit .400 in 20 at-bats this season, went 4-for-5 with a double for Double-A Bowie on Tuesday night after a short stint at Single-A Frederick, while Gonzalez pitched 11/3 innings of scoreless relief for short-season Single-A Aberdeen on Tuesday after he threw one inning (two earned runs) in a start for the IronBirds on Sunday.
Orioles interim manager Juan Samuel said Pie will play tonight at Bowie and then "we'll see after his second game if some people feel he's ready to step in or might need more at-bats."
If he is deemed ready to hit and play the field, Pie would be inserted into the Orioles' lineup in the leadoff spot, where Corey Patterson has started 36 games since his recall May 12.
"Obviously, Patterson has done a good job," Samuel said. "But if Felix Pie is here and he's going to play left field, I'll probably have him lead off."
Patterson, who is hitting .273 with three homers, likely would become the fourth outfielder, getting starts in left or at designated hitter when Pie isn't playing and occasionally spelling the other starting outfielders. Where Gonzalez fits is a little murkier. Signed to a two-year, $12 million deal this offseason to be the team's closer, Gonzalez made just three appearances and was 1-for-3 in save opportunities before his injury.
Alfredo Simon has emerged as the club's closer, recording saves in nine of 10 opportunities, while David Hernandez and Jason Berken have thrived in setup roles.
"I don't know as soon as [Gonzalez] comes, that he's going to close again," Samuel said. "I don't think anybody is thinking that way."
Andy MacPhail, the club's president of baseball operations, said there is no mandate to have Gonzalez close just because that was what he was signed to do, especially not when others are doing the job effectively.
"I don't think we are going to throw him [immediately] into the late-inning situations. We'll ease him in and see how it goes," MacPhail said. "I think as long as you have someone doing the job, I think you are likely to leave things that way."
Anderson works with Reimold
Former Orioles outfielder Brady Anderson spent three days in Norfolk, Va., over the weekend, primarily to work with struggling outfielder Nolan Reimold.
Reimold, who the Orioles demoted to Triple-A on May12, is hitting .210 with four home runs and 12 RBIs for the Tides.
"My understanding is, Nolan reached out to him at one point and, if we thought that could help him, we were more than willing to oblige," MacPhail said.
Anderson, who has been a part-time analyst with the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network this year, apparently worked with Reimold on several aspects of the game, not just hitting.
Surhoff may help his old organization
MacPhail also confirmed that player development director John Stockstill has talked to former Oriole B.J. Surhoff, who lives in Baltimore, about working with player development on an informal basis.
"John has some other guys he would like to rotate through occasionally. We like to utilize those assets when we can," MacPhail said. "John has been keen on getting B.J. involved to some degree."
Former Oriole Mike Bordick, the organization's minor league offensive coordinator and an ex-teammate of Anderson's and Surhoff's, has been working with the major league hitters and infielders this homestand.
Orioles left-handed pitching prospect Zach Britton has been promoted from Double-A Bowie to Norfolk and will start Thursday for the Tides. Britton was 7-3 with a 2.48 ERA in 15 outings for the Baysox and last week was named the Eastern League Pitcher of the Week.
The 22-year-old is 6-1 with a 1.74 ERA in his past 10 starts.
"John [Stockstill] just didn't feel like there was anything more for him to learn at Double-A, and we thought the timing was right," MacPhail said. "If you look particularly at his last 10 starts, he was quite dominating."
Is it possible Britton could make it to Baltimore before the season ends?
"We'll see how things unfold and see how he continues to pitch," MacPhail said.
Dempsey interview postponed until Thursday
MASN broadcaster and former Orioles player and coach Rick Dempsey's managerial interview was pushed back from Tuesday to Thursday afternoon to allow for more Orioles representatives to be at the meeting.
Dempsey will be the fourth candidate to interview for the managerial job, joining former big league skippers Bobby Valentine, Buck Showalter and Eric Wedge, who is expected to interview in Baltimore this week.