VandenHurk's first start as Oriole could be his last in 2010

Either he or Tillman will start again this week

September 26, 2010|By Dan Connolly, The Baltimore Sun

TORONTO — Rick VandenHurk's first start as an Oriole didn't go the way he wanted, and it's unclear whether he'll be getting another in 2010.

The 25-year-old right-hander lasted just four innings in Sunday's 5-2 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays. He allowed three earned runs on four hits and two walks. He struck out five batters, but threw an inefficient 87 pitches.

In the first two innings, he walked the leadoff batter and each time that runner scored.

"Lead walks, as you know, they are killers. You try to limit the damage as good you can," said VandenHurk, who made 32 starts with the Florida Marlins from 2007-2009. "In the following upcoming start, if I get another start, I will try to limit that."

A decision hasn't been made on whether VandenHurk, who has made six relief appearances this season with the Orioles, will get one final chance to begin another game in 2010. The choice between VandenHurk and Chris Tillman, who is tentatively scheduled to make his final start Thursday.

If Tillman is skipped, Jeremy Guthrie would likely be moved up to Thursday and pitch on regular, four days' rest. VandenHurk would start Friday's game at Camden Yards.

Orioles manager Buck Showalter said after Sunday's loss that he was still mulling that part of the rotation. Brian Matusz and Brad Bergesen are expected to pitch the final two games of the season Saturday and Sunday at Camden Yards against the Detroit Tigers, after starting Monday and Tuesday, respectively, at the Tampa Bay Rays. Veteran Kevin Millwood will pitch Wednesday's road finale versus the Rays.

Before the game, Showalter said the club was not shutting down any of its young starters to limit their number of innings pitched, the way it has with rookie Jake Arrieta.

"I think we're in good shape, right about where we want to be. In fact, [it's] pretty much the way you draw it up as far as trying to get them to a certain number of innings in a perfect world," Showalter said. "They have to pitch well enough to get to that, but they are in a good spot right now."

So the decision between VandenHurk and Tillman will come down to whether the club wants one more look at VandenHurk, who is out of options next spring.

"You can see why there are some positive thoughts about him and he's been a guy people want to look at and see where he can go," Showalter said.

VandenHurk, who limited the Blue Jays to one run and two hits in 5 1/3 innings of relief on Sept. 13, said he feels like he learned plenty Sunday.

"Of course you take positives out of this," VandenHurk said. "It's your first start [with the Orioles]. Of course, you want to go as deep as you can. But we have to be realistic as well. My pitch count went up quick and it was a tough game from the get-go."

Jones with the assist, twice

Center fielder Adam Jones had two assists Sunday, the third time this season he's had a multi-assist game. He leads all American League center fielders with 11 assists and is third among all AL outfielders.

Jones' first came in the sixth when he threw to Brian Roberts, who relayed a strike to Cesar Izturis to stop John McDonald from stretching a single. In the seventh, Jones doubled up Travis Snider at first base on a fly ball to center off the bat of Aaron Hill.

As a team, the Orioles have 33 outfield assists, third-most in the AL. They led the league with 36 last year.

Bautista for MVP?

Toronto slugger Jose Bautista has certainly looked like a Most Valuable Player against the Orioles, hitting nine of his major league-leading 52 homers against them. Other players, such as the New York Yankees' Robinson Cano and the Texas Rangers' Josh Hamilton, might have more traction in the MVP race because they play for playoff contenders.

But Showalter thinks Bautista, who played briefly for the Orioles in 2004, should definitely be in the conversation.

"It's not his fault he's on a fourth-place team," Showalter said. "He's also doing it against probably some of the best pitching staffs in the American League, in the American League East. You've got to take that into consideration."

Lugo felt 'weird,' but good to be back

Infielder Julio Lugo, who had only started twice this month due to recurring headaches, was hitless in three at-bats Saturday in his first plate appearances since Sept. 4. He said he didn't feel comfortable after the layoff, but he's just glad he was in the lineup again.

"I didn't feel very good. It felt weird, like I hadn't played for a long time," said Lugo, who was hit in the head with a pickoff attempt on Aug. 29. "But it felt so good to be back in the game."

Around the horn

The Orioles hope to hear from Dr. Lewis Yocum Monday about the bone spur in Arrieta's right elbow. Yocum, the Los Angeles Angels' team physician, has been asked to review Arrieta's magnetic resonance imaging and offer a second opinion, which could help determine whether Arrieta gets surgery. … The Blue Jays didn't homer Sunday, breaking a streak of 13 consecutive games at Rogers Centre with at least one home run. … Fan appreciation day at Rogers Centre drew 17,831.

dan.connolly@baltsun.com

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