KANSAS CITY, MO — Although he had been in the majors for parts of the past three seasons with the San Diego Padres, right-handed reliever Brad Brach admits he may have been a little jittery when he made his Orioles debut May 3.
He allowed three runs while getting just four outs that day in Minnesota. He pitched in the next game as well — striking out one of the two batters he faced — before being sent back to Triple-A Norfolk two days later.
“I’m definitely more comfortable this time,” said Brach, who was recalled Friday to give the Orioles a reliever capable of pitching multiple innings. “Last time, I got here and wasn’t sure how long I’d be here for, and was thinking about all that stuff instead of just going out there and pitching. The second outing definitely got me back on the ground running.”
The Orioles had to wait 10 days before recalling Brach from the minors, so on Thursday they called up Evan Meek. On Friday, Meek was designated for assignment from the 25-man roster and Brach was recalled.
The designation with Meek was procedural — he is expected to pass through option waivers Saturday and be assigned to Norfolk. He has not been taken off the 40-man roster. But the club needed someone for a day in case the bullpen was taxed Thursday.
“We didn’t want to get cut short [Thursday] night in case we had an early exit and didn’t have arms to protect everybody,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said.
As for the 28-year-old Brach, he was back in the Orioles’ bullpen Friday, serving in whatever role that is needed. In his last outing for the Tides on Tuesday Brach pitched a career-long three innings, allowing just one hit and striking out five.
“The other day I threw three innings for the first time in my pro career — since college. I was a little worried how I was going to feel the third inning, but I felt fine,” Brach said. “I went three innings and had two days rest and am ready to go today. I definitely am more confident that I have done it, but I’m confident doing anything they need me to do.”
Since being sent to the minors, Brach has not allowed a run in three outings with the Tides, allowing just three hits and a walk while striking out 12 batters. For the season, he has struck out an incredible 38 batters in 19 1/3 innings for Norfolk. He credits the tremendous strikeout rate with an improved changeup he throws to left-handed hitters.
“My changeup has been really good. I had trouble striking out lefties and with my changeup being as good as it has been this year, I have been able to strike out a lot of them,” Brach said. “And, with righties, I still have had some pretty good success against them.”
Russell to manage first full game for first time since 2011
Bench coach John Russell, who has filled in for Showalter in spring training and when the skipper has been ejected, will manage all of Saturday’s game while Showalter attends his daughter’s graduation from law school in Texas.
Russell handled pre-game duties last Saturday while Showalter was at his son’s college graduation, but he was back in time to manage the game. So Saturday in Kansas City will be the first time Russell has managed a full big league game since Showalter served a one-game suspension on July 14, 2011. The Orioles lost that one, 8-4, to the Cleveland Indians.
Before that, Russell hadn’t managed a full, big league game since he spent three seasons at the helm of the Pittsburgh Pirates from 2008 to 2010.
“It’ll be fun, yeah, I’m not going to lie and say it’s not going to be different,” Russell said. “Buck asks me a lot of questions during the game; we talk about a lot of different things. So I’ve got a feel of how he likes to do things, but I can’t manage like Buck. I’ll see some things that I think we should do that may not be what Buck does, but he is OK with that.”
The two have discussed lineups for Saturday, but Showalter says that it will be Russell’s game to manage, which demonstrates the trust between the two baseball lifers.
“I’m sure he’ll call me at some point [Saturday] when he has a chance,” Russell said of Showalter. “Just making sure we are still on the same page. And I like that. I like that we prepare.”
The day will be even more special for the 53-year-old Russell. His father, Jack, lives in Kansas City and will be at Saturday’s game.
Rotation schedule set
Showalter said Miguel Gonzalez will pitch Tuesday on five days’ rest in the opener of a two-game series in Pittsburgh with Chris Tillman starting the second game Wednesday. Gonzalez (1-3, 4.76 ERA) had his last start skipped and instead pitched two innings in relief of rookie Kevin Gausman on Wednesday.
Wei-Yin Chen would have been in line to start either game in Pittsburgh, but instead will be pushed back to Thursday’s game against Cleveland at home on six days’ rest.
Heading into play Friday, the Indians had the lowest average (.211) against left-handers in baseball. Pittsburgh was 10th with a .265 average.
Bud Norris is tentatively scheduled to pitch Friday and then Ubaldo Jimenez on May 24 against his old team.
Around the horn
Showalter said Johan Santana threw another extended spring game on Friday. Showalter said it, “went OK, didn't pitch as well as his last time out, but (he) felt fine.” … Zach Britton’s save Thursday was the club’s first by a lefty since Gonzalez on July 16, 2011. Britton is the 45th lefty to save a game for the Orioles and 165th Oriole overall. Tippy Martinez leads all Orioles lefties with 105 career saves for the team. … On Friday, Showalter attended a “legends luncheon” that celebrated the Negro Leagues. On Sunday, the Royals will host their annual “Salute to the Negro Leagues” game with the Royals wearing replica Kansas City Monarchs jerseys and the Orioles wearing replica Baltimore Black Sox jerseys. The uniforms, designed to look like those worn in the late 1920s, will be auctioned off to benefit the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum.