-- Faced with the reality that their ailing bullpen needs Rodrigo Lopez more than their starting rotation does, the Baltimore Orioles reversed course on Tuesday and returned Lopez to his relief role, hoping to stabilize a bullpen that has not been the same since he left.
"I feel we're a better team with him in the bullpen," Manager Lee Mazzilli said before Tuesday night's game against the Los Angeles Dodgers. "I'd rather [be able to use him] three or maybe four days a week [in relief], as opposed to once a week [as a starter]."
The decision, which was spurred by the scheduled return of left-hander Matt Riley to the rotation on Wednesday, reversed the one the team made a month ago, when Lopez was shifted from the bullpen, where he had compiled a 0.33 ERA, into the rotation.
Lopez, who went 2-1 with a 6.41 ERA in five starts, was informed of the team's decision before Tuesday's game, but he was unavailable to comment. However, he has frequently stated his preference for being a starter.
The numbers tell the story of what happened to the bullpen after Lopez left. On May 18, the last day Lopez was available in relief, its collective ERA was 3.03, while the team was 19-16. Since then, however, the bullpen has posted a 6.83 ERA and the team has gone 8-16.
"When he went into the rotation," Mazzilli said, "nobody took over his role."
The decision spared lefty starter Eric DuBose from a demotion, at least for now. He was battered for eight runs in 22/3 innings Monday in Cleveland, leaving him with an 8.08 ERA over his last eight starts.
Mazzilli threatened further changes in the rotation "if it doesn't get back to where I think it should be. How many times do you want to go out there and beat your head against a wall?"
No Olympics for Loewen
After initially giving their blessing for top prospect Adam Loewen to pitch for the Canadian Olympic team this summer, the Orioles have pulled him out of consideration for a roster spot in Athens.
"We said all along, everything had to go right" for the Orioles to allow Loewen to pitch in Athens, said Orioles Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations Jim Beattie. "He had to pitch well. He had to stay healthy. It had to be an ideal situation, and it didn't happen that way."
Referring to the $4.02 million signing bonus the Orioles gave Loewen in 2003, Beattie said, "With the investment we've made in Adam, and where he is in his career, we felt it was best for him to stay where he is in professional baseball this year."
Loewen, ranked as the top prospect in the organization by Baseball America, struggled with his command this spring in his first big-league camp, posting an 81.00 ERA and failing to retire a batter in his last two appearances.
He is 2-2 with a 3.72 ERA at Class A Delmarva -- with 28 walks in 361/3 innings -- and recently missed two weeks with a strained muscle in his rib cage.
"We respect the commitment the Orioles have made to Adam and the necessity of him getting his feet on the ground," said Greg Hamilton, head coach and director of Baseball Canada. "With everything that's gone on with him, going back to spring training, and where he is currently . . . another interruption would not be a good thing."