Berken focused on turning things around
Baltimore (45-63) at Toronto (51-56), 7:07 p.m. ET
DETROIT -- Jason Berken gets it. He knows that he's been extended a great chance to stick with the Orioles and knows that there will be a lot of eyes on him Friday in Toronto. Berken won his big league debut but has lost nine straight decisions, a run that has seen him pitch competitively on some occasions and knocked out early in others.
The point was hammered home last week, when the Orioles placed Berken in the bullpen and began pondering alternate arrangements for his rotation slot. Baltimore didn't need to use him in relief and reinstated his starting slot, but Berken got the message and knows that he needs to pitch better to stay there.
"I am getting plenty of opportunities," he said recently. "It's really time for me to start performing better, time for me to start putting up better numbers and gets some more wins. At this point, there are no more excuses."
Berken said he's recently gone through some video study with pitching coach Rick Kranitz in order to figure out what he's doing wrong, and he also said the two were able to isolate some mechanical differences between his good starts and bad ones. Now, he just needs to figure out how to repair them and take it to the mound.
Specifically, the right-hander said that when things go wrong, he's rushing to the plate and letting his arm drag behind. Sometimes, he releases from the side and gets a bad angle on his two-seam fastball, which causes the ball to rise insead of sinking to in the strike zone. And that, he said, is a major difference.
"When I do have my two-seamer going and I'm getting finish on it, I'm getting away with a little more mistakes," he said. "But now the balls are staying on the same plane the whole time and I'm not getting away with nearly as many mistakes. When I am pitching consistently up in the zone, it is hard to get away with mistakes."
Berken, who is 0-4 with a 9.53 ERA in five road starts, credited Kranitz for sticking with him and said that he can feel things beginning to turn around. The former sixth-round Draft pick has pitched well in his two starts against the Blue Jays -- one of which was his debut win -- and said that he won't crawl into a shell amid his struggles.
"It's been frustrating at times when you are not pitching well and not getting results," he said. "But I think throughout my career I have kind of learned to deal with that adversity. Obviously, I have never dealt with this, battling through a season 1-9, not having won in two months. Has it been tough? Yeah, it has been tough at times, but I think I have been able to stay positive through the whole thing and I am confident this is going to turn around."Pitching matchup
BAL: RHP Jason Berken (1-9, 6.93 ERA)
Berken's last start was one to forget. The rookie lasted just 1 1/3 innings, the shortest outing of his career, giving up six earned runs on seven hits. Berken also walked two batters and lost his ninth straight decision -- all coming since a win in his debut -- in an 18-10 loss to Boston. TOR: LHP Ricky Romero (10-4, 3.53 ERA)
Romero continued his recent hot streak on Sunday, picking up a win on the road against the A's. Over his past nine outings, Romero has gone 7-1 with a 3.36 ERA in a stretch that dates back to June 21. Since then, the Jays have won only 14 of 35 games -- half their wins coming when the rookie has pitched. Bird bites
The Orioles dipped to 18 games below .500 -- their lowest point of the season -- after Thursday's loss to Detroit. ... Baltimore will throw three rookies against the Blue Jays who have combined for two career wins. ... Ty Wigginton singled on Thursday and has batted safely in eight of his past 10 games. He's hitting .343 (12-for-35) over that stretch. ... Brian Roberts has hit in nine of his last 10 games and is hitting .326 (14-for-43) over that span. ... The Orioles are 15-20 in series openers and 11-24 in series finales this season. ... Baltimore is 13-39 when its opponent scores first and 6-47 when it gets outhit by the opposition. ... The Orioles are 5-37 when they score less than four runs. ... Despite their rookie struggles, the Orioles are the only team in modern history to have five rookies win their big league debut in the same season. The only other team to do that was the 1888 Chicago White Stockings. Tickets
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Saturday: Orioles (Chris Tillman, 0-0, 6.75) at Blue Jays (Ricky Romero, 10-4, 3.53), 1:07 p.m. ET
Sunday: Orioles (Brian Matusz, 1-0, 1.80) at Blue Jays (Roy Halladay, 11-5, 2.75), 1:07 p.m. ET
Monday: Orioles (Jeremy Guthrie, 7-11, 5.28) vs. Athletics (Dallas Braden, 8-9, 3.89), 7:05 p.m. ET
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.