The Baltimore Orioles, fed up with a bullpen that blew three straight games this week in Toronto, yet unable to make the wholesale changes Manager Ray Miller threatened on Thursday, today went as far as they could to change the bullpen's makeup.
The Orioles were unwilling to release several relievers with big contracts and unable to pass others through waivers in order to send them to the minors. Instead, they placed right-hander Ricky Bones on the 15-day disabled list with arm fatigue and recalled right-hander Gabe Molina from Class AAA Rochester.
In addition, the club signed Boston Red Sox castoff Jim Corsi to a minor league contract. Corsi, 37, who became a free agent June 15 after refusing a minor league demotion, will report to Rochester on Monday and could be with the Orioles soon.
"We're going to find guys who can get the outs we need to get," General Manager Frank Wren said. "We're not satisfied with the way things are going."
Although a team source said Wren, Miller and pitching coach Bruce Kison are out of favor with Orioles majority owner Peter Angelos, for now the only changes will be on the field.
Illustrating how desperate the Orioles' bullpen situation has become, Corsi's 5.25 earned run average in 23 appearances for Boston this season would tie him with Doug Johns for the lowest ERA in the Orioles' bullpen entering tonight.
Bones, 30, had a 1.62 ERA in April, when he was used primarily in long relief. But pressed into service in recent weeks in a setup role, he failed to retire a batter in three of his last four outings. He has a 9.56 ERA in his past 15 appearances.
The Orioles' bullpen, which has a major league-worst ERA of 5.93, was responsible for all the losses in a three-game sweep in Toronto, during which the Orioles hit .315 and scored 20 runs.
After the third loss Thursday, Miller questioned the courage of some of his relievers, saying they should be embarrassed to walk through the clubhouse, and threatened to get a "whole new bunch of them."
Instead, Miller today held a short team meeting in which he addressed, among other things, the bullpen's tendency to pitch defensively.
"Whether it's a mind-set or a fault of mine or the coaches or the pitchers in general, I'm just tired of seeing defensive pitching," Miller said. "It looks like everyone's trying to miss the bat. . . . Our pitch selection I've been unhappy with, and the way we've been going about things I've been unhappy with. I just want to kind of clear it."
While several pitchers privately have expressed dissatisfaction with Miller's use of the bullpen, including what some see as an excessive number of warmups during a game, Miller today admitted just one fault: not using Rocky Coppinger enough.
"He's been shorted out there," Miller said. "I've been a little remiss in using him. And it's about time to find out [what he can do]. We'll use him anywhere that's the right spot for a right-hander."
However, last week the Orioles attempted to option Coppinger to Rochester, only to discover he must first pass through revocable waivers. Subsequently, the Orioles have tried unsuccessfully to pass Coppinger through waivers.
Coppinger and Johns are the only Orioles relievers with options remaining, and both must pass through revocable waivers to be sent down.
Wren said today he does not foresee the club releasing any of its relievers, which is understandable considering how much money is tied up in many of them.
Mike Timlin, who has a league-high eight blown saves, is in the first year of a four-year, $16 million deal. The club has been trying to find a taker for Timlin, but any trade would require the Orioles to pick up a large portion of the remaining contract.
Jesse Orosco, 42, is signed through next year at $1.1 million. Arthur Rhodes makes $2.2 million, will be a free agent after this season and has the most trade value of any of the Orioles' relievers. Scott Kamieniecki makes $3.1 million this season.
"If there are other names out there better than ours, we'll try them," Wren said. "But we don't have a lot of flexibility."