Berken placed on DL with shoulder trouble
Reliever may miss rest of season with slight tear in right labrum
BALTIMORE -- The Orioles lost one of their best relievers on Monday, placing right-hander Jason Berken on the 15-day disabled list -- retroactive to Friday -- with a right shoulder injury that could potentially sideline him for the rest of the season.
Berken is officially on the DL with right shoulder inflammation, although Monday afternoon's MRI revealed a slight tear in his labrum and rotator cuff inflammation, an injury that could add significant time in the rest and rehab process.
"At this point the good news is we don't think surgery will be necessary," said Berken, who entered Monday with an American League-leading 62 1/3 innings. "So, [I'll] rehab through this and come back stronger next year."
A converted starter, Berken made his first Opening Day roster out of the bullpen this season and was a pleasant surprise, despite the team's first-half struggles. He allowed just eight earned runs in his first 27 outings -- a stretch of 45 innings -- but his waning effectiveness, including 13 runs in his last 17 1/3 innings, started to raise concern.
New Orioles manager Buck Showalter had tried to back off the struggling reliever -- using him to only record two outs on the O's recent six-game road trip -- but the rest and treatment didn't alleviate Berken's shoulder soreness, so the team sent him for Monday's MRI.
A visibly disappointed Berken called the experience frustrating, but said he understood the importantance of not trying to push it and risk further injury. Showalter, who has only been at the helm since Aug. 3 but watched plenty of early season tape, took a similar stance.
"Everybody that's been here knows how well he's pitched," Showalter said. "I've got to make sure that he understands that I know it, too, because I don't want him pushing to get back and jeopardizing the things he might be doing for us in the future."
Berken, who missed his junior year at Clemson after undergoing Tommy John surgery, was optimistic that he would bounce back from his latest injury and be ready to help the O's 'pen, whenever that may be.
"I'm going to take some good time off and see how my shoulder reacts to that time off," said Berken when asked if a return this season was a possibility. "The last thing I want to do is rush back and make things worse."
To take Berken's roster spot the Orioles recalled Rick VandenHurk, who was acquired from the Marlins in the Will Ohman trade. VandenHurk is 9-5 with a 4.25 ERA in 22 Triple-A starts, and he will initially work out of the bullpen.
Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, and follow her on Twitter @britt_ghiroli. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.