Orioles consider placing Millwood on DL


Club concerned about pitcher's health after he struggles with velocity

July 05, 2010|By Dan Connolly, The Baltimore Sun

DETROIT — After one of the shortest starts of his 14-season career, Orioles right-hander Kevin Millwood was left searching for answers while club officials were mulling the possibility of placing their staff leader on the disabled list.

Following the Orioles' 12-9 loss to the Detroit Tigers, interim manager Juan Samuel postponed his post-game interview with the media for about 20 minutes while attending a closed-door meeting with pitching coach Rick Kranitz, athletic trainer Richie Bancells and baseball operations director Matt Klentak.

"There is some concern there," Samuel said about Millwood. "Kranny has noticed that his ball was just not coming out of his hand today [with authority] and his velocity was a little bit down. And knowing Kevin, he is not going to tell you what's wrong and what's not. He is one of those guys that's going to take the ball anytime you give it to him."

Of the 45 pitches Millwood threw Monday, only four exceeded 90 mph, and he threw several fastballs at 86 mph, several ticks short of his usual velocity.

"Yes, we have some concern that maybe he pitched a bunch early in the season. Who knows, but we'll see," Samuel said. "We are trying to figure out which way we are going to go with him."

Millwood allowed five runs in one inning, the third-shortest start of his career and second-shortest in which he wasn't forced out because of injury. He is 2-8 with a 5.77 ERA this season.

"It's been a tough stretch, and I have tried a lot of different things to come out of it and change things and just haven't been able to do [it]," Millwood said. "I guess you just keep working."

The Orioles need to make a roster move when outfielder Felix Pie is activated from the disabled list Tuesday, and the original consideration was between struggling reliever Frank Mata and third baseman Josh Bell, who was recalled from Triple-A Norfolk on Thursday.

But Millwood's outing forced an already taxed bullpen to throw eight innings. If he is having physical issues — in the past, Millwood has said his ineffectiveness resulted from faulty mechanics — the Orioles could put him on the DL and use a spot starter for his last scheduled outing of the first half of the season Saturday in Texas.

Chris Tillman, who pitched a one-hit shutout for Norfolk on Monday and would be on regular rest, would be an obvious replacement in that scenario. It would allow the team to keep an extra reliever until the starter is needed.

Club, Showalter talk again

The Orioles have spoken again with Buck Showalter about the managerial position, and although he is very interested and considered the favorite, the team has still has not offered him the job.

"I have not been offered anything, that's for sure," Showalter said Monday night, declining to comment further.

It's believed that the Orioles are getting closer to a decision and could have a new manager in place as early as the start of the second half of the season.

Principal owner Peter Angelos and president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail did not return calls seeking comment, but multiple sources have been saying for the past couple of weeks that Showalter had emerged as the favorite over Eric Wedge, who has interviewed for the position twice, and former Orioles player and coach Rick Dempsey, currently a Mid-Atlantic Sports Network broadcaster.

The only other candidate to be interviewed was former New York Mets and Texas Rangers manager Bobby Valentine, who pulled his name out of consideration.

Atkins expected to be released Tuesday

The Orioles have until Wednesday to officially make a decision on first baseman Garrett Atkins, who was designated for assignment June 27. It won't go that long, however.

Barring a surprise, Atkins will clear waivers Tuesday and be given his outright release. The Orioles will be on the hook for the remainder of his contract — roughly half of what's left from the $4.5 million deal he signed in the offseason. He'll be free to sign with another organization, and if he ends up with another major league team, that club will be responsible for only the major league minimum of $400,000, which the Orioles wouldn't have to pay.

Atkins had one homer and nine RBIs in 140 at-bats with the Orioles this season.

All-Star gets defensive break

Ty Wigginton, who was in a 1-for-31 slump heading into Monday, was moved to designated hitter for the fourth time this season. Samuel said he wanted to give Wigginton a break from the field. Wigginton had two hits, a walk, an RBI and a run Monday.

"It just kind of simplifies things for a day," Wigginton said. "You can focus on only one thing."

Missing the Tigers killer

Perhaps the void created by placing Luke Scott (strained hamstring) on the DL will be most obvious this week. Scott is the ultimate Tigers killer. In 14 career games against Detroit, he has 10 homers and 23 RBIs in 47 at-bats. He has batted .426 with a .509 on-base percentage and a 1.170 slugging percentage.

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