Berken goes on DL with labrum tear

Notebook

VandenHurk recalled from Norfolk to take reliever's roster spot

August 16, 2010|By Dan Connolly, The Baltimore Sun

Orioles reliever Jason Berken, who was the club's best pitcher in the first half of this season, was placed on the 15-day disabled list Monday with a labrum tear and rotator cuff fraying in his right shoulder.

The 26-year-old right-hander said he is hopeful he can avoid surgery, but it's possible he might not pitch for the remainder of the season. He is expected to get a second opinion this week from New York Mets team physician David Altchek.

"There's a tear in my labrum, and there's some cuff inflammation. At this point, I think that surgery won't be necessary, which is a good thing," said Berken, who is 3-3 with a 3.03 ERA in 41 appearances this year. "But there's time now for some good rest. I'll be shut down for a little while. If that calms everything down, at some point I'll start the rehab process."

Berken, who hadn't pitched since Thursday because of shoulder discomfort, learned the news after undergoing a magnetic resonance imaging Monday afternoon. The move is retroactive to Friday.

"It could have been a lot worse," Berken said. "But it's disappointing and frustrating that I'll be shut down for a while."

Berken, who was moved from the rotation to the bullpen this season, was 2-1 with a 1.96 ERA in 32 games in the first half and 1-2 with a 7.71 ERA in nine second-half games. He allowed 13 earned runs in his past 14 games after giving up just eight runs in his first 27 appearances this season.

The stark decline in effectiveness, especially with his previously nasty slider, alerted the staff that something was wrong.

"It doesn't show up in velocity, necessarily. It shows up in finishing of pitches in the zone, the crispness and the lateness of the breaker, the slider, which was a big pitch for him. Also, you read the body language a little bit. You can tell when a guy is out there without his bullets," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "I think what is challenging for me here, everybody that has been here knows how well he pitched. I've got to make sure he understands that I know it, too. Because I don't want him pushing to get back and jeopardizing the things he might do for us in the future."

Berken said the labrum injury is not "a clean tear" but it is "a little more than wear and tear." He isn't ruling out pitching again this season, but he would have to rebound quickly to make it back within the next six weeks.

"It's a matter of how I respond," Berken said. "I'm going to take some good time off and see how my shoulder reacts to that time off. The last thing I want to do is rush back and make things worse. I'm going to be smart about it."

VandenHurk promoted from Norfolk

In a little more than two weeks, right-handed pitcher Rick VandenHurk has been traded by the only organization he knew and promoted by his new one.

"You never know when it's going to happen, but I was happy getting traded, to come over here," said VandenHurk, whom the Orioles received in the July 31 deadline deal with the Florida Marlins for left-hander Will Ohman. "There's going to be opportunities for me. It's going to be good. I'm going to try to make the most out of it."

VandenHurk, who was 8-9 with a 5.96 ERA in parts of four seasons with the Marlins, pitched two games in relief this season with Florida. In three starts with Triple-A Norfolk after the trade, VandenHurk was 1-1 with a 2.18 ERA.

He'll replace Berken on the roster and in the bullpen initially, but Showalter said it's possible VandenHurk will start for the Orioles before season's end.

"We'll pitch him out of the bullpen initially, and then as the innings pile up on some of our young guys, he's an option for us to start down the road, too," Showalter said.

VandenHurk, a 25-year-old native of the Netherlands who speaks five languages, said he doesn't care which role he is in now that he is back in the majors.

"I'll do whatever. I'm up here, and it doesn't matter when I go out," he said. "I'll do the best I can. Either way is fine."

Showalter on Wakamatsu

Showalter's chance at managing against his good friend Don Wakamatsu ended this month when the Seattle Mariners fired the second-year big league skipper Aug. 9 and replaced him with interim manager Daren Brown. So when the Mariners arrived at Camden Yards on Monday, Wakamatsu was back at his home in Texas.

"I think Don understands managing and coaching. It's not always a reflection on him," Showalter said. "We understand how shelf life works and try not to take it personally. Sometimes that's the only thing some people can do. I certainly have some personal thoughts on it, but in a lot of cases, it's a badge of honor."

Wakamatsu was Showalter's bench coach for four seasons with the Texas Rangers and was a minor league manager in the Arizona Diamondbacks' system while Showalter managed the big league club.

"It was very obvious early on what a good baseball man he is and will be, and still is," Showalter said.

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