ANAHEIM, Calif. — With center fielder Adam Jones and second baseman Brian Roberts both unavailable to start Saturday because of injuries, the Orioles were down to two healthy reserves on their bench against the Los Angeles Angels.
Sept. 1 and the ability to call up reinforcements can't come soon enough for the Orioles. The question is who will be making the jump to the majors.
"The average team calls up about six or seven guys, and I would imagine we'll be in that range," said Orioles president Andy MacPhail, who spoke at length with manager Buck Showalter before Saturday's game about potential reinforcements.
Expect outfielder Nolan Reimold and starter Chris Tillman to be promoted, but 22-year-old left-handed sensation Zach Britton almost certainly won't be joining them.
The call-ups are expected to come in waves, with Sept. 1 the first possibility, then again after Triple-A Norfolk's season ends Sept. 6 and potentially again when Double-A Bowie finishes, which could be Sept. 6 or later if the Baysox make the playoffs.
Asked about the possibility of players jumping from Bowie to the majors this September, MacPhail said, "That's not out of the question, that's for sure."
There are no Bowie position players and only one active Baysox pitcher, Pedro Viola, on the Orioles' 40-man roster. But that doesn't seem to concern the Orioles, who must feel as if they can tinker with the 40-man roster within the next month.
One thing that looks certain — although MacPhail wouldn't confirm it — is that Britton will not be making his big league debut this season. The club is expected to leave the lefty at Norfolk, where he is 3-3 with a 3.09 ERA in 10 starts. He was 7-3 with a 2.48 at Bowie this year in 15 games. Britton has compiled 142 1/3 innings this season and, with his next start, likely will surpass his high of 147 1/3 innings set in 2008.
"You want to make sure there are innings available, and also you don't want to overtax your pitching," MacPhail said. "Zach will get up to his career high in innings this year. He is certainly a big part of our future. Whether it's the immediate future or not, there are just a lot of variables.
A spot in the rotation will have to be created for Tillman, and the club wants to see Rick VandenHurk, acquired July 31 in the Will Ohman deal with the Florida Marlins, start a game or two as well. That limits the opportunities for Britton.
"We'll sort of play it by ear, but those are parts of the equation we have to consider," MacPhail said. "We'll just see. There are a lot of factors we have to consider, and it can all change tomorrow if somebody sprains their ankle."
The Orioles likely will call up at least one reliever, with Kam Mickolio, Dennis Sarfate and Troy Patton possibilities. Pitchers Armando Gabino and Frank Mata, both of whom have pitched for the Orioles this year, likely will not be recalled.
As for position players, there are several possibilities but no slam-dunks besides Reimold. Rhyne Hughes, Michael Aubrey, Robert Andino and Lou Montanez have past Orioles experience, but MacPhail stressed that the players must fit now and for the future.
"We don't want to bring somebody up and just have them sit and not play," MacPhail said. "You have to try and figure out how you can accomplish two things: whether they are going to get some playing time and whether we can learn something about them going forward."
Pulling out of Bluefield
The Orioles announced Saturday that they are ending their 53-season relationship with Bluefield, W.Va., where the club has its Rookie-level Appalachian League affiliate.
The Orioles have had a minor league team in Bluefield since 1958, the longest such relationship between one parent club and a baseball town in affiliated baseball. But with two teams at a new complex in the Dominican Republic, another short-season team in nearby Aberdeen and the Gulf Coast League Orioles playing in the organization's minor league headquarters in Sarasota, Fla., the Bluefield affiliate became expendable.
"That's a painful thing to do because the people in Bluefield have been so good to us and it has been such a long affiliation," MacPhail said. "It was getting unwieldy, and, ultimately, for us to be as efficient as we can be and not lose anything, we really need to streamline a club, and that unfortunately was the odd club out."
Most of the organization's better young players are sent to Aberdeen or higher once they sign. And international players are staying longer in the Dominican, MacPhail said. In fact, of the Orioles' 25-man roster, only two players, pitchers Brad Bergesen and Jim Johnson, played for Bluefield.
The sleepy West Virginia town likely will find another affiliate to play there, MacPhail said.