NEW YORK — A second rainout in a five-day span — this one postponing the Orioles' series opener Tuesday night against the New York Yankees until July or August — puts Brad Bergesen's roster status back in flux and will again challenge the team's depleted starting pitching depth.
Chris Tillman, who was scheduled to start Tuesday, will pitch Wednesday night opposite the Yankees' A.J. Burnett, and Jake Arrieta will stay on turn and match up with Phil Hughes on Thursday night. Bergesen, who is with the team here and was expected to be recalled Wednesday to start that night, appears to be the odd man out, at least for a couple of days.
Assuming that there are no more rainouts — inclement weather is predicted again Wednesday — the Orioles won't need a fifth starter until Sunday's series finale against the Cleveland Indians.
As of Tuesday night, the plan was for the Orioles to recall Bergesen on Wednesday and have him available out of the bullpen in case Tillman had an abbreviated outing. Bergesen would then make Sunday's start 11 days after his only game action this season.
It's certainly not an ideal scenario, as the Orioles would prefer to have Bergesen pitching in the minors to recoup some of the innings he lost after he missed time late in spring training with a bruised right forearm. However, the rainouts and other injuries and illnesses to starting pitchers have forced their hand.
"It's life in the American League East," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "Everyone is going to deal with exceptions. You just don't hope it's this early. … [Jeremy] Guthrie had pneumonia, [Brian] Matusz was a kick in the you-know-what. But we got Guthrie back and Matusz had a ball in his hand today, so I'm looking at it half full."
Bergesen was optioned to Triple-A Norfolk on Saturday to make up room on the roster for Chris Jakubauskas. In his only outing April 6 against the Detroit Tigers, Bergesen allowed four runs (two earned) in 32/3 innings. Showalter said the demotion was meant to give the 25-year-old right-hander an opportunity to go to the minors, log some innings and get his "feet back on the ground."
Normally, Bergesen would have had to stay in the minors for at least 10 days after his demotion, but because he is in line to replace a player headed to the disabled list (shortstop J.J. Hardy), that rule wouldn't apply.
The Orioles could replace Hardy on the roster with a position player, such as backup catcher Craig Tatum, but they would still need a starter for Sunday and Bergesen wouldn't be available unless another player got injured.
Besides Bergesen, no viable starting candidates have emerged with Matusz (strained left intercostals muscle) and Justin Duchscherer (left hip strain) on the disabled list. Journeyman Ryan Drese and Chris George would be the backup plans if Bergesen isn't inserted into the rotation.
"We're kind of in our sixth and seventh starter depth at a very early point," Showalter said.