Sarfate replaces Burres in O's rotation
Right-hander to make first Major League start Wednesday
NEW YORK -- The midseason makeover has begun. The Orioles axed their second starting pitcher in as many days on Monday, when manager Dave Trembley announced that Dennis Sarfate would replace Brian Burres in the rotation. Baltimore had optioned Radhames Liz to to Triple-A Norfolk on Sunday, beginning the pitching shuffle.
Baltimore hasn't announced a replacement for Liz but won't need a fifth starter until Aug. 5, and Trembley said Monday that the Orioles are seeking stability in the rotation and doing whatever it takes to get back on the right track.
"Sarfate will pitch on Wednesday as a starter. Burres will go in the bullpen as a long guy," he said. "We'll go with a four-man rotation with the off-day on Thursday and Olson will just go his regular turn on Friday, and we'll pick it up from there."
The swap wasn't much of a surprise, but it does have a few strange elements involved with it. Sarfate has never started in the big leagues and has yet to throw more than 50 pitches this season. Still, Trembley felt the Orioles had to do something to get Burres -- who logged a 7.20 ERA in June and a 6.75 mark thus far through July -- out of the rotation.
And when hypothetical turned into actuality, Trembley felt that Sarfate represented his best option. The right-hander spent most of his Minor League career as a starter and logged a 10-7 record with a 3.67 ERA for Triple-A Nashville as recently as 2006. The former ninth-round pick has a 41-40 record and a 3.68 ERA for his Minor League career.
Sarfate moved to a full-time relief role last season and was subsequently dealt to Baltimore in the Miguel Tejada trade.
"We'd like to see what he can do," said Trembley. "The normal starting pitcher, at this time of the year, would throw 115 to 120 pitches. I think that's a little unrealistic to do that, so we'll play it by ear and see how he goes, inning by inning."
Sarfate threw 3 1/3 innings in his most recent relief stint and said that he doesn't think it will be difficult to stretch himself out. For now, though, he's prepared to take his relief mentality onto the starting rubber with him.
"I've done it before so it's nothing new," he said of starting. "I've just got to go out there and take the same approach, working ahead just like I did last time. Getting outs early, saving the pitch count. I thank Dave for giving me the opportunity. It's a great opportunity for me to take it and run with, but I've got to take the same approach and hopefully give the guys a solid five or six innings in the first one. That way I save the bullpen a little bit, and then work on from there."
Sarfate, like many other power pitchers, tends to lose his mechanics from time to time and from inning to inning. With that in mind, the Orioles are considering an approach that will all but eliminate that concern for his starting debut.
"He may throw out of the stretch [exclusively]," said Trembley of Sarfate's expected approach. "He looks like he is more comfortable out of the stretch, so he may do that. I'm not sure yet, but that is a possibility. I'd have to go back and look it up to see if somebody has done that in the past. But right off the top of my head right now, I couldn't recall."
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.