Orioles demote Bergesen, call up Jakubauskas

Right-hander returns to majors for first time since being hit in ear with liner last year

April 09, 2011|By Dan Connolly, The Baltimore Sun

The Orioles have shuffled their pitching staff, demoting one of their young starters to Triple-A while calling up a right-hander whose mere promotion is one of the better feel-good stories of the early season.

Hit with a roster crunch created by short outings from two starters, another's illness and a weather-induced doubleheader, the Orioles demoted righty Brad Bergesen to Triple-A Norfolk on Saturday to bring up Chris Jakubauskas.

Bergesen, who allowed four runs (two earned) in 3 2/3 innings Wednesday, offered a terse "no comment" to reporters Saturday after hearing the news.

It has been a tough start to 2011 for Bergesen, who was 8-12 with a 4.98 ERA in 30 games last year for the Orioles. Wednesday's loss to the Detroit Tigers was his first outing versus major leaguers since being hit on the forearm by a liner in his fourth pitch against the Minnesota Twins during an exhibition game March 25. The 25-year-old had a 5.82 ERA in six games this spring.

"Bergy, I don't think he's pitched more than four innings in 20 days," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "It's time for him to get down there and get his feet back on the ground."

To take his spot on the roster, the Orioles purchased the contract of Jakubauskas, 32, whose last appearance in the big leagues before the nightcap of Saturday's Orioles-Texas Rangers doubleheader was halted by a scary moment.

In his first start as a Pittsburgh Pirate on April 24, 2010, Jakubauskas lasted just two-thirds of an inning before he was struck on the right ear by a liner off the bat of the Houston Astros' Lance Berkman. The force was so great that the ball caromed back to the catcher and left Jakubauskas on the ground for nearly five minutes.

"Thanks for bringing it up," Jakubauskas joked Saturday afternoon. "It is what it is. It took a little bit of time to get over just healthwise, but mentally, it's over and done with. It took 32 years to get hit in the head. If it's my turn to get hit again, it's my turn to get hit again. But it's behind me."

Heading into Saturday's doubleheader, it was a bit unclear what Jakubauskas' role would be. He was considered a possible starter for Sunday's game if he didn't pitch in relief Saturday. Jakubauskas, however, came out to the mound in the seventh inning of Saturday's second game. He struck out Josh Hamilton, the first hitter he faced, on three pitches and went on to complete three innings, allowing five runs on six hits and two walks.

Given his history -- Jakubauskas pitched five seasons in independent leagues before signing with the Seattle Mariners organization in 2007 -- he's just excited to return to the majors.

"It's just rewarding, period, to be back in the big leagues. You don't strive to play in the minor leagues," said Jakubauskas, who was 6-7 with a 5.32 ERA in 35 games with the Mariners in 2009. "You go down there and hopefully you do well and you get the call to be back up here. Your goal is to play in the major leagues."

On the recommendation of bullpen coach Rick Adair, Jakubauskas' pitching coach with the Mariners, the Orioles signed the veteran to a minor league deal without an official invitation to major league camp. Yet he pitched in five spring games and allowed no runs in 6 1/3 innings.

"We saw him this spring; he pitched real well for us," Showalter said. "Locates his fastball, has a feel for pitching, athletic, holds runners, he works fast, which is always a good thing. … He's got some major league experience, too."

Guthrie improving

Starter Jeremy Guthrie, hospitalized Monday and Tuesday with pneumonia, said he was feeling better and still had his sights set on starting against the Rangers on Sunday.

The Orioles weren't planning to make that determination until they saw how their bullpen survived the doubleheader. However, with Jakubauskas having pitched Saturday, Guthrie almost certainly will be on the mound for Sunday's game.

Roberts not worried

The Orioles received good news Saturday when second baseman Brian Roberts said the stomach pain he dealt with Friday night had subsided and he was hoping to play in both games of Saturday's doubleheader. He did, batting leadoff and playing second base.

"Everything's fine," Roberts said. "I haven't been feeling great for a couple days, and the doctor, just a little while before [Friday's scheduled] game, wanted me to go get checked out."

Tests were negative, and the fear that perhaps it was something serious, such as appendicitis, was ruled out.

"There's junk going around. I think a lot of people have had some minor stuff here and there," Roberts said. "I think there's several people that don't feel awesome, but nothing terrible."

Around the horn

J.J. Hardy (sore left side) didn't play in Saturday's first game but started the nightcap, batting ninth and playing shortstop. However, he left the game with a strained oblique after just one at-bat and is likely headed to the disabled list. Felix Pie came in to play left field, and Robert Andino moved from left to shortstop. Cesar Izturis started at shortstop in the opener. … On Friday, the Rangers presented Vladimir Guerrero, Mark Connor and Wayne Kirby with 2010 American League Championship rings. … During an on-field, pre-game ceremony Sunday, Guerrero will receive his 2010 Silver Slugger Award as well as a 2010 Players' Choice Award for AL Comeback Player of the Year. … Third baseman Mark Reynolds hit his first Orioles homer in the second inning of Game 1, a three-run shot. It was the second consecutive game in which Reynolds had at least three RBIs.

dan.connolly@baltsun.com

twitter.com/danconnollysun

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