Walker activated from DL, Liz sent down
Moves could send ripple effect through rotation, bullpen
BALTIMORE -- The Orioles shook up their pitching staff on Sunday shortly before leaving on a 10-day road trip, and from the indications, they may be ready to make a few more moves. Baltimore activated veteran reliever Jamie Walker from the disabled list and optioned struggling starter Radhames Liz to Triple-A Norfolk to make room.
The Orioles can skip Liz's turn in the rotation because his next start fell on an off-day, but they'll eventually have to tab someone as a replacement starter. That arm could come from the current staff, and it could come from Norfolk. And more to the point, the Orioles are considering other moves that could send a ripple effect through both the rotation and the bullpen.
"We're activating Walker, and we're going to option Liz back," said manager Dave Trembley. "I have not named a starter for Wednesday other than what the rotation is right there. You asked me if it was going to be different from [Brian] Burres, and as of right now, it is not. We have a day off on Thursday, so I can bring [Garrett] Olson back on his regular turn."
Liz made 10 starts for the Orioles and appeared to be regressing in terms of command. The hard-throwing right-hander had allowed eight home runs in his last four starts and had completed six innings just once in his last seven outings. Trembley apparently made up his mind after Saturday's 11-6 loss to the Angels, in which Liz allowed six earned runs.
"In all sincerity, he's thought of highly in the organization," said Trembley. "He's got a great arm, but he's been scuffling. I'd rather see him get straightened out, get some success in Triple-A and get himself back here when he's ready. He's spinning his wheels right now. ... He threw 103 pitches last night, and 98 of them were belt-high up or better.
"You cannot pitch like that throwing 99 or 100 [mph] in the big leagues. You might be able to get by with it in [Double-A] Bowie or Norfolk, but in the big leagues, you can't. He has to locate his fastball better, and he's got to get some success."
Liz, just 25, took the news in stride and will attempt to salvage his season at Norfolk.
"I know I'm going to be OK," said Liz. "You're never waiting for them to send you down. All the time you spend working to be here, you know you have to be mentally strong. ... You've got to be prepared for when things like that come."
Walker, meanwhile, will be returning from a monthlong bout with inflammation in his left elbow. The southpaw took a cortisone shot a few weeks ago and recently pitched through rehab outings in Class A Frederick and Bowie. He threw a scoreless inning on Saturday in Frederick and briefly described his performance on Sunday.
"No rocketships. No laser show," Walker said, referring to a clubhouse term for hard line drives. "I actually got popups. My fastball was down, my changeup had good sink on it and I finally threw some good curves. No pain today."
Walker was one of Baltimore's most reliable relievers last year but has struggled this year. He had a 4.98 ERA before he got hurt and has allowed six home runs in 21 2/3 innings -- as many as he allowed last year in 61 1/3 innings.
"I just didn't make good pitches the first couple of months. But we've still got two months to go and you've got to grind it out," he said. "I'm just ready to contribute and help the team out, get on a roll and take this momentum to New York, Seattle and L.A."
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.