Orioles demote Tillman, Bergesen to Triple-A

Struggling right-handers sent to Norfolk

Jakubauskas will re-join club

May 29, 2011|By Jeff Zrebiec, The Baltimore Sun

OAKLAND, Calif. — Not seeing enough progress from Brad Bergesen or Chris Tillman, the Orioles shook up their rotation Sunday, optioning both starters to Triple-A Norfolk.

"There comes a point where we got to get better there," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "Some things aren't good enough. We had a pretty good sampling of things, and if we are not pitching and taking the experience and making strides, then we need to go back down to Norfolk and work on it. Sometimes it's just not good enough."

The Orioles optioned Bergesen after Saturday night's 4-2 loss, in which the 25-year-old allowed three runs (two earned) in 52/3 innings. He fell to 1-6 with a 5.36 ERA in 10 games (nine starts).

Tillman, 23, was sent out after Sunday's 6-4 loss, which completed a three-game sweep by the Oakland Athletics. It was somewhat of a surprise, as it appeared that Tillman had beaten out Bergesen for the final rotation spot with Brian Matusz expected to return Wednesday.

"Yeah, it's a shock, but they got to do what they got to do," Tillman said. "I've been wearing down the bullpen, and they need the bullpen guys with Matusz coming back. It kind of makes sense. I haven't felt right, I haven't felt like me. I'm going [out] there and thinking about everything, what I need to do to throw this pitch, what I need to do to throw that pitch. I just need to go out there and have fun and do my thing."

The Orioles, who have five days off in June, have decided to go with a four-man rotation for the time being. They'll need a fifth starter only twice next month -- June 7 and June 18 -- and they could use reliever Alfredo Simon as a spot starter for those outings.

For now, they'll go with an eight-man bullpen, which includes Pedro Viola, who was recalled from Double-A Bowie on Sunday to take Bergesen's spot, and Chris Jakubauskas, who is expected to join the club in time for Monday's series opener in Seattle. Jakubauskas, who is 0-1 with a 4.50 ERA in five starts for Norfolk but threw seven innings of one-run ball Thursday against Columbus, will be in his third stint with the big league club this season.

It was Bergesen's second demotion this season and his fourth since the beginning of the 2010 season.

Bergesen pitched a shutout against the Tampa Bay Rays on May 14, but the rest of his season has been a struggle.

The Orioles are 1-8 in his nine starts, and Bergesen has allowed 30 earned runs on 58 hits and 15 walks over 501/3 innings. He has gone six innings or more in just three of his 10 outings this season.

"What's going on with Brad, it's not good enough, and he knows that," Showalter said. "There's only one place to get better, and that's down below. We will see if Brad takes the bull by the horns and pitches well down there and continues to be an option. But we need to pitch better. We are trying to find people to help us compete in this division, and Brad had the potential to be there but he's gotten away from it up here."

Bergesen has said after several starts, including Saturday night's, that he feels he is getting closer to the form he showed in 2009, when he went 7-5 with a 3.43 ERA in 19 starts as a rookie. However, the Orioles grew tired of waiting.

"We look forward to him taking some of the anxiety about trying to pitch well enough to stay on the club, compared to going down there and working on something that allows him to come back and help the club win," Showalter said.

Tillman had allowed one earned run or fewer in five of his past six starts but has made it past the fifth inning in just one of those outings. He has gone six innings or more in three of his 10 starts. The final straw apparently came in Friday's series opener, in which the right-hander surrendered two runs (one earned) on six hits and three walks and needed 102 pitches to log 41/3 innings.

"It's never easy going down, I can tell you that much," Tillman said Sunday. "I know what I need to work on, and I know I need to get better. I want to get going as soon as I can. Hopefully, I can throw a side [session] tomorrow or the next day. I want to pitch as soon as I can, hopefully on Wednesday."

Jones leaves with injury

Center fielder Adam Jones was removed from Sunday's game before the bottom of the fourth inning with a sore right shoulder, but he's optimistic he'll be able to play Monday.

"No DL," Jones said. "If I feel good in the morning, I don't see them holding me back."

Jones acknowledged that the pain, which he said he has been feeling for about a week, became "unbearable" Sunday while he was throwing the ball. He said he does not feel it while he's swinging.

He was 0-for-2 in the game, flying out to shallow right field in the first inning and lining out to left in the third. When he left the game, Felix Pie moved to center field and Nolan Reimold entered the game in left.

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