The Orioles, who have scored just five total runs in three games since the All-Star break, are hoping the return of designated hitter Luke Scott will give their punchless offense a boost.
Out since June 30, when he strained his left hamstring while rounding first base on a home run, Scott will rejoin the Orioles on Monday, and it's expected that he'll be in the lineup for the series opener against the Tampa Bay Rays.
"If he gets here [Monday] and the decision is to activate Luke, he is going to be in the lineup," interim manager Juan Samuel said. "But we have to see if that's what we're going to do. We anticipate him being around here."
Samuel said Saturday that Scott would likely join second baseman Brian Roberts for a few games at Double-A Bowie, but the club apparently feels that Scott got enough at-bats in the Gulf Coast League that he doesn't need to extend his rehabilitation assignment. Scott went 2-for-9 (.222) with two walks and two RBIs in three games for the Gulf Coast Orioles.
He is hitting .274 with 12 homers and 30 RBIs in 66 games for the Orioles this season.
"The reports are good. He's played well; he's healthy," Samuel said. "If Luke comes up here, we might need to play with the lineup a little bit to keep all those guys [fresh]. Maybe Luke could get some playing time at first and [Ty] Wigginton could play some second if we want to have all those lefties in the lineup. That's something I have to think about."
With Scott out, Corey Patterson has primarily been handling DH duties with Felix Pie starting in left field. However Scott's return is going to make it difficult for him, Pie and Patterson --all left-handed hitters -- to all be in the lineup the same day.
The Orioles will also have to make a roster move to accommodate Scott's arrival. The two candidates for demotion appear to be third baseman Josh Bell and reliever Frank Mata. Bell appeared to be the front-runner heading into Sunday because the Orioles want him to get regular at-bats, but with Patterson potentially out for a couple of games, the Orioles could keep an extra hitter until Michael Gonzalez is activated in a couple of days. Mata also pitched three innings Sunday and would be unavailable for a couple of games anyway.
More injury news
Patterson was scheduled to bat leadoff and start in left field Sunday, but he was scratched from the lineup about two hours before the game and replaced by Pie. Patterson was diagnosed with a bruised left heel, an injury he expects to keep him out for a couple of days at the most.
Patterson hurt the heel when he landed awkwardly on first base while trying to beat out a bunt in the fourth inning Saturday.
Injured catcher Matt Wieters (right hamstring strain) ran and hit before Sunday's game and said he was pain-free. Wieters is eligible to come off the disabled list next Sunday and said he expects to be ready to play by then.
Starting pitcher Kevin Millwood (right forearm strain) threw another bullpen session Sunday, and it appears he'll be ready to be activated when he's eligible to come off the DL on Wednesday. But it's still unclear how the Orioles will open up a spot for him in the rotation. Brad Bergesen, who is scheduled to pitch Wednesday, appears to be the most likely candidate for demotion. Samuel said he doesn't view a six-man rotation as a "possibility."
Reliever Jim Johnson (right elbow inflammation) will accelerate his throwing program by throwing off the mound Monday at the club's spring training complex in Sarasota, Fla. It will be the first time he has thrown from the mound since late June. The club was hoping Johnson would be available soon after the All-Star break, but he felt discomfort in his right elbow during a flat-ground throwing session July 3 and was shut down.
Albers having strong July
For much of the season's first half, reliever Matt Albers seemingly was pitching for his Orioles life. He had to fight to make the team in spring training and was 1-3 with a 6.75 ERA in April. Things improved in May (2.70), but he regressed in June, recording a 6.94 ERA in 10 games.
July, however, has been a different story for the 27-year-old right-hander, who is out of options and would have to clear waivers before being outrighted to the minors. He's getting his breaking ball over the plate early in the count, which has set up his sinking fastball -- and delivered the results Albers expects.
"I think really it's about locating," he said. "Improving the location of my pitches has really helped."
In 11 innings over six July games, Albers has allowed just six hits and two runs (1.64 ERA). He has walked four and struck out seven. His ERA on June 24 was 5.79. With a scoreless inning Friday, it has dropped to 4.63.
"I felt like I was pretty close to getting on the right track and being successful," Albers said. "And that's kind of where I am at right now. And I hope to keep it going. It's tough; it can change quickly."
Around the horn
With two doubles Sunday, Nick Markakis took the major league lead with 31. ÃÂ Jake Fox got his first start for the Orioles at catcher and went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts. ÃÂ Bell went 2-for-4 while starting at third base. Miguel Tejada was the DH. ÃÂ The Cincinnati Reds, Los Angeles Dodgers, Texas Rangers, Florida Marlins, Houston Astros, Detroit Tigers, St. Louis Cardinals, Philadelphia Phillies, New York Mets and Rays had scouts at Sunday's game.
Baltimore Sun reporter Dan Connolly contributed to this article.
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