To clear a roster spot for right-hander Miguel Gonzalez’s return from the disabled list Tuesday, the Orioles optioned right-hander Jair Jurrjens to Triple-A Norfolk after just one start with the big league club.
The move created a vacant spot in the starting rotation for Thursday’s game in Toronto. Orioles manager Buck Showalter said Tuesday that the leading candidates to fill that spot are right-hander Jake Arrieta and left-hander T.J. McFarland, depending on how the two are used out of the bullpen in the meantime.
“I have a pretty good feeling who is going to pitch there,” Showalter said. “We’ll see how the next couple of days go.”
McFarland, the team’s Rule 5 pick this offseason, would be making his first major league start. Showalter said he’s confident McFarland could throw in the 75-to-90-pitch range in a start, but he hasn’t thrown more than 53 in any appearance this season. His longest outing was 3 1/3 innings, which came in his major league debut April 6.
“Heck, he throws 40 pitches in three innings and the next day he’s fine,” Showalter said. “He says, ‘I feel great.’ Of course, what [else] is he going to say? … I wish we were that smart to know all that when we took him, but it’s worked out well.”
Arrieta hasn’t pitched in two weeks — his last start was on May 7 for Norfolk — and he was scratched from his last scheduled start with shoulder tightness. He went 2-1 with a 2.75 ERA at Norfolk before he was recalled Saturday to add bullpen depth.
Arrieta has a 6.63 ERA in four big league starts this season and has pitched to a 7.31 ERA in four career appearances at Toronto’s Rogers Centre.
“We’ve done some [simulated] game stuff with him and what have you, but it’s no substitute for pitching in the game,” Showalter said of Arrieta’s layoff. “I don’t think that precludes him from being an option Thursday, but my big thing is getting through these next couple things physically.”
Jurrjens, who allowed four runs on six hits over five innings Saturday, is the fourth Orioles pitcher this season to be called up from Norfolk, make one big league start and then be sent back down. Josh Stinson, Zach Britton and Steve Johnson also had one-start stints.
“They’re all tough any time you’re sending guys down,” Showalter said. “I think [Jurrjens] knows that we’ve shown him and our guys where we’re going when there’s a need. I hope not, but I’m sure there will be another need this year. It could be sooner rather than later.
Jurrjens declined to speak to reporters Tuesday after the move was announced.
Orioles right-hander Jason Hammel, who has pitched to a 10.43 ERA over his past three starts, said he’s been working at getting back to basics heading into his next start Wednesday night against the New York Yankees.
Hammel allowed seven runs on 10 hits Friday while lasting just 4 2/3 innings in a 12-10 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays. He said that in his bullpen session between starts, he focused entirely on locating his fastball.
“I’m trying to stay away from mechanics,” Hammel said. “It’s not mechanical at all. When you start messing with things that are sound you put yourself in even more trouble. That’s trying to re-invent the wheel, and that’s really not what I’m trying to do. It’s a very small adjustment.”
Hammel, the Orioles’ Opening Day starter, has a 5-2 record despite a 5.72 ERA. But he said he’s not going to try to think about his struggles too much.
“The hardest part of the game is the mental part of it, and a lot of guys struggle with it,” he said. “The worst thing to do is thinking about it too much and trying to do too much. I’m not going to go back to that place. I’ve been there before, so I’ll just keep plugging along.”
Around the horn
Adam Jones was the Orioles’ designated hitter Tuesday night, partially because he tweaked his right leg running the bases Monday. Jones said he is fine, but Showalter wanted to give him a day off from the field as a precaution. … Chris Dickerson’s eighth-inning single Monday was the Orioles’ first pinch hit of the season, ending an 0-for-11 streak to open the season. They were the last team in the majors to record a pinch hit. … Since the beginning of the 2012 season, the Orioles are 0-3 in extra innings against the Yankees and 19-2 against the rest of baseball. … Catcher Taylor Teagarden (left thumb) is a few days away from playing a game, perhaps as early as Monday in extended spring training. … Outfielder Nolan Reimold (hamstring) might travel with the club to Toronto to take batting practice this week. He is expected to go on a minor league rehab assignment before he rejoins the team. … Outfielder Xavier Avery, who hit .300/.391/.406 with 12 stolen bases in 15 attempts in 39 games at Double-A Bowie, was promoted to Triple-A Norfolk on Tuesday. … The Orioles will wear desert digital camouflage caps for their Memorial Day game against the Nationals in Washington. ... Making his second minor league rehab start for Norfolk on Tuesday, left-hander Tsuyoshi Wada allowed two runs (two earned) on six hits over four innings with two walks and one strikeout. Wada left a scoreless game after 83 pitches (47 strikes) with the bases loaded and no outs in the fifth inning before two inherited runners scored against reliever Chris Jones.