When Felix Pie returns from an injured back muscle sometime soon, interim manager Juan Samuel might have to juggle his starting lineups, getting Pie back into left field while trying to find at-bats for Corey Patterson, who filled in there the past two months.
One thing Samuel won't have to deal with, however, is a playing-time controversy, as far as Patterson is concerned.
"When Felix comes back, I hope he does well. I hope he picks up where he left off. He is a good player, tremendous talent and I definitely am pulling for him," said Patterson, who has started 37 games in left while Pie has been out. "Whatever role they want to put me in, I'll do that because I was at home for about two weeks after spring training."
Patterson, 30, received a new lease on his baseball life in late April, when the Orioles signed him to a minor league deal after he failed to make the Seattle Mariners this spring. Patterson, who was a starting outfielder for the Orioles in 2006 and 2007, played in just 16 major league games last year with the Washington Nationals and Milwaukee Brewers.
He signed with the Orioles as minor league outfield insurance but was summoned May 12 to replace struggling Nolan Reimold in left while Pie was on the disabled list. Heading into Wednesday, Patterson was batting .273 with a .327 on-base percentage, three homers and a team-leading 12 stolen bases.
His numbers are better than the Orioles could have expected, but he's still headed to a fourth outfielder's role.
"I look at it two ways. At the end of spring training I was at home, just working out. These guys have given me a chance to play, and I thank them very much," Patterson said. "At the same time, I am competitive."
Samuel has options to get Patterson into the lineup, potentially juggling Pie, Patterson and Luke Scott, whose status is in question after he suffered a hamstring injury Wednesday night.
"That will be interesting to see what I am going to do when Felix comes in," Samuel said. "Things will always end up working out. They always will."
Gonzalez out for Boston
The Orioles were hopeful that Pie and reliever Michael Gonzalez (strained left shoulder) would be back as the team left for Boston and a 10-game road trip that starts Friday.
While Pie was seen entering Camden Yards within two hours of the end of Wednesday night's game -- no doubt as reaction to Scott's injury -- and should return soon, the same can't be said about Gonzalez.
The left-hander, who has pitched just three games for the Orioles, is with short-season Single-A Aberdeen, where he pitched 11/3 innings Tuesday. Samuel said the pitcher's velocity was up -- to about 93mph -- but his breaking ball has not been sharp.
Gonzalez will take two days off before moving on to Bowie, where he'll pitch Friday, Sunday and Tuesday before he's re-evaluated. It's possible he won't be ready until after the All-Star break.
"It's getting better, but he's been out for so long," pitching coach Rick Kranitz said. "You want him to be 100 percent ready."
Johnson shut down temporarily
Reliever Jim Johnson (slight tear in right elbow) has been rehabbing in Sarasota, Fla., but has been shut down for about five days because of recurring discomfort in the elbow.
Orioles president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail said he doesn't believe the situation is serious. Johnson (1-1, 6.52 ERA in 10 games) was demoted to Triple-A Norfolk on May 1 and later placed on the major league disabled list.
"He felt some tightness and discomfort, and we just backed him off a couple of days," MacPhail said.
Busy day for interviews
MacPhail will conduct two managerial interviews Thursday. Former Cleveland Indians manager Eric Wedge will meet with MacPhail and principal owner Peter Angelos on Thursday morning at Angelos' downtown law offices, and then former Orioles player and coach Rick Dempsey will get his long-awaited interview Thursday afternoon.
This will be the second interview for Wedge, who met with MacPhail on June 9 in Cleveland but hadn't met with Angelos.
It's the first interview this time around for Dempsey, a Mid-Atlantic Sports Network analyst, but he has interviewed for the post on three other occasions.
Tillman working on two-seamer
Looking to give himself more margin for error and another weapon to get hitters out, Orioles pitching prospect Chris Tillman has started throwing a two-seam fastball. When thrown correctly, the pitch gets downward movement unlike the straight four-seam fastball Tillman has primarily relied on. He threw four two-seamers in Tuesday's start for Norfolk.
"The first game out, I was just trying to get it to move, and I was missing down and away," said Tillman, who has allowed four earned runs in two starts spanning 122/3 innings since his demotion. "But I can see the potential there. I need to build confidence in it."