As much as Craig Tatum's Orioles teammates understood the politics of his demotion to Triple-A Norfolk when Matt Wieters returned from the disabled list July 25 -- the backup catcher was the only position player the team could send down without risking losing him off the waiver wire -- it was not a popular move.
After a slow start, Tatum had raised his average more than 70 points in a little more than a month to a respectable .271 and was doing a good job with the team's young pitchers. Tatum's return Monday was indirectly related to his work with the young staff -- with Orioles starters having pitched effectively of late, left-hander Troy Patton was optioned to Norfolk to get more work.
"I'm just glad to be back," Tatum, 27, said before Monday's series finale against the Chicago White Sox at Camden Yards. "It's always bad when you get sent down. It stinks, but hopefully I can keep playing like I was when I was up here and not down there."
Tatum went hitless in his first 12 at-bats with the Tides and was only 2-for-21, with five strikeouts, before being recalled.
"I just dug myself in a hole real quick," said Tatum, who reached the major leagues last season in Cincinnati after spending six years in the minors. "I don't know what it was. We saw some good pitching, but I just wanted to be up here. I was chasing pitches that I wasn't up here."
Joked Orioles manager Buck Showalter, "Tatum's been struggling a little bit offensively down there compared to what he was doing up here, so I thought we'd get him back to the big leagues so he could start hitting again."
Not worried about Roberts
When second baseman Brian Roberts made an error in the ninth inning in Friday's series opener against the Chicago White Sox, he angrily threw his glove in the dugout after Alfredo Simon closed out the 2-1, 10-inning victory.
That error, Roberts' third of the season, came a night after Roberts failed to turn two potential double plays in the Orioles' eventual 5-4 win over the Los Angeles Angels, the second of which prolonged an inning and led to Torii Hunter's game-tying three-run home run.
"I get frustrated sometimes," Roberts said. "You don't like to make mistakes, and you don't like to look bad out there. And you especially don't want your pitcher to have to work any harder, to give up an out and risk losing a game."
Roberts, who missed nearly 3 1/2 months with a herniated disk in his back, said his recent defensive struggles were not injury-related.
"You don't make excuses for anything, but you go through phases defensively where you just get crazy plays sometimes, and I'm going through one," Roberts said. "It looks bad, but there are things you can always do differently. We've been working on some things, but for the most part, the three plays that I struggled with, there was something weird about each one."
Showalter said Roberts' defense was not a concern and some struggles were understandable considering how long the second baseman spent on the disabled list.
Norfolk outfielder Nolan Reimold is finally showing signs of becoming the player the Orioles expected him to be this season. Reimold went 4-for-5 with a double, a homer, two RBIs and a stolen base against Louisville on Sunday night and is hitting .400 with two homers and seven RBIs in seven August games.
The surge has prompted questions about whether the Orioles could promote their one-time everyday left fielder soon. Reimold, who is hitting .238 in 73 games for the Tides, has been in the minor leagues since May 12, when he was optioned to Norfolk after hitting .205 in 29 games for the Orioles.
"We have had general discussions but nothing specific yet about how the roster will take shape in September," Orioles president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail said. "He's being considered along with others. We'll be guided by where there is innings to be pitched or at bats to be had. [He's made] some progress. Right now, the outfield is just not an area of need."
In other news, pitching prospect Brandon Erbe (McDonogh) will get a second opinion on his ailing right shoulder this week from Los Angeles Angels team physician Dr. Lewis Yocum. He will not pitch again this year, but the Orioles are more concerned about the long-term outlook for the 22-year-old.
Erbe, who was 0-10 with a 5.73 ERA in 14 starts for Triple-A Norfolk this season, has already been checked out by Orioles team orthopedist Dr. John Wilckens, and shoulder surgery is a possibility.
The right stuff
The Right Side Foundation's second annual 5K Run and 1-Mile Fun Walk drew close to 500 participants Sunday at Patterson Park. Proceeds from the event, run by the foundation of Orioles right fielder Nick Markakis and his wife, Christina, benefit distressed children throughout Maryland.