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07/17/07 1:54 AM ET

Loss could be last for Burres in rotation

Orioles lefty allows nine hits and four runs in six innings

BALTIMORE -- Brian Burres has consistently pitched with the knowledge that his next start could be his last, and that dilemma may have finally reached its natural boiling point Monday night.

Baltimore's starter worked six innings in a 4-2 loss to Seattle and will have to spend the next few days wondering whether he'll be bumped from the rotation.

Veteran Steve Trachsel is expected to return from the disabled list to start Saturday, which gives the Orioles a choice between Burres and rookie Garrett Olson on Sunday. There are rational cases to be made for either choice, and interim manager Dave Trembley perpetuated the mystery after the game.

"All I know right now is Trachsel's going to start on Saturday," Trembley said. "What the move is on the roster to allow him to do that, I don't know. ... We're going to play out the next few days and see how it goes."

On at least two occasions, Burres has been shifted from his rotation slot to work in relief. His previous outing, in fact, was a four-out relief stint against the White Sox just four days ago. Still, the southpaw doesn't make any excuses and tries not to make too big a deal about being shuffled between two very different roles.

"I'm informed before. It's not like they throw it upon me just out of nowhere," said Burres, who doesn't change routines when he switches jobs. "They set it up pretty good to where when I do throw [relief], it's like my side day or something like that. It keeps my blood flowing and keeps me in the routine of actually throwing off the mound."

"It's not an easy job that he has," added Baltimore catcher Ramon Hernandez, who homered Monday night. "They keep pushing him back. He doesn't really have that spot that a fifth starter does, where they're going to pitch every five days.

"It's really hard to do the job he's doing -- going back and forth to the bullpen and starts. I think everybody has to appreciate that. ... He doesn't know where he's going to be today and where he's going to be tomorrow."

Burres, an erstwhile long reliever, moved into the rotation when starters Jaret Wright and Adam Loewen went down with injuries. Burres has held his own -- allowing less than four earned runs in seven of his 11 starts -- but has never made the job his own. Burres has consistently struggled with high pitch counts and has worked through the sixth inning just four times.

In that respect, his latest start was a signature performance. Burres (4-4) nibbled around the plate in the early going and allowed two baserunners or more in three of the first five innings. He exercised damage control in those rallies, allowing the Orioles (41-51) and Mariners (52-38) to hold a 2-2 tie through that portion of the game.

"Either he'd have an 0-2 count and they'd get back in at 3-2 or he'd have a 2-0 count," Trembley said. "I think it was an average outing for him. I don't think it was a particularly sharp outing for him."

The game turned in the sixth inning, right after Baltimore went down in order. Seattle got a leadoff hit and then erased that runner with a double play, but Burres gave them new life by walking Richie Sexson. Kenji Johjima kept the rally going with a single, then shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt delivered a two-run double off the top of the left-field fence.

"I felt good out there," Burres said. "The only thing I'd really like to change was the walk to Sexson in the sixth -- that's the only thing I was upset about. Everything else, I was pretty happy with as far as the way I pitched."

"We come up in the sixth and hit three balls right on the button, right at them," Trembley said of the game-changing inning. "You wonder if maybe tonight's not going to be your night after that. They came up in the bottom of the sixth and they parlay a two-out walk into a couple runs. That was the difference in the game."

Seattle starter Horacio Ramirez, who had missed two months with tendinitis in his left shoulder, went one inning deeper than Burres. The southpaw got two double plays, including an important one in the fourth. Chris Gomez had tripled to start that inning, and Baltimore followed that extra-base hit with a pair of singles.

Then, with no outs and runners at first and second, Ramirez (5-2) turned a 1-6-3 double play on Aubrey Huff. After that, he retired the final 10 batters he faced and handed the ball to the Seattle bullpen.

"We couldn't really pick him up that well today. He kept a pretty good fastball in and a cutter away," Huff said of Ramirez. "It was weird. I was expecting him to be kind of flat and a little bit out over the plate. He honestly didn't throw me anything off-speed. He just threw me all fastballs -- the straight one and the cutter. He put it where he wanted to and didn't make a mistake with it."

Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.