Albers optioned to make room for Eaton
Orioles elect to part with reliever as fifth starter activated
BALTIMORE -- Time's up. The Orioles were finally forced to make a decision Saturday night, when they elected to leave themselves a little more vulnerable in the bullpen. Baltimore optioned Matt Albers to Triple-A Norfolk after Saturday's game and will activate Adam Eaton on Sunday morning to start the series finale.
The Orioles had been playing with both an extra reliever and an extra infielder for the first week, stalling a decision that originally confronted them on Opening Day. By demoting Albers instead of exposing shortstop Robert Andino to waivers, Baltimore will go back to a 12-man pitching staff for the foreseeable future.
Manager Dave Trembley has said for quite some time that he needs a player capable of manning shortstop in the event of an injury to shortstop Cesar Izturis, but he's also said that he needs eight relievers to cover for his starters. When asked if he was closer to a decision on Saturday, he deferred the issue until after the game.
"Obviously, with our starters, we're not going into the seventh or eighth inning," said Trembley. "We've needed arms. For the most part, [the extra arm has] given us the option of not going to the same guy three days in a row, which is something you would hope that you wouldn't have to do this early in the season. I can really see the benefit of having the 13th guy, but I can see the benefit of having the extra position player as well. It's a tossup."
Only one of Baltimore's starters has completed six innings this season, creating the extra crunch in the bullpen. Trembley's hand is further complicated by the fact that multiple relievers -- Danys Baez and Chris Ray among them -- are coming back from injuries and can't really be used on back-to-back days this early in the year.
George Sherrill and Jim Johnson are also coming off shoulder injuries that robbed them of part of last season, and Trembley knows that he has to be careful in monitoring his bullpen usage.
"I think it weighs heavily in my decision," said Trembley. "To be very honest and direct about it there are certain guys that unless I absolutely have to do it, I don't want to pitch them back-to-back. Now, if I have to do it and we have no other choice, so be it. But if I have another option, I'd like to be able to not push guys."
Andino remains the only player on the bench capable of playing shortstop, posing another concern for Trembley. Trembley tried Ryan Freel at the position in Spring Training, but came away convinced that he needed another option. Then, at the end of the spring, Andino was acquired from the Marlins in exchange for Hayden Penn.
The Orioles had avoided the situation by leaving Eaton off the roster on Opening Day, but now the grace period is over. In addition, they'll have to hope that Eaton has used the time off to his advantage.
"If he pitches good, the rest has been great," Trembley said. "If he doesn't pitch good, then everybody can say he had too much time in between the last time. There are some options that [pitching coach Rick Kranitz] presented to him, if he wanted to throw to some hitters [or] a simulated game. He didn't want to do that."
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.