The Orioles will tab left-hander Jayson Aquino to make his first major league start Saturday against the Boston Red Sox, manager Buck Showalter announced before Thursday’s series finale in Cincinnati.
Right-hander Alec Asher will be available out of the bullpen for Thursday’s game, providing a right-handed long reliever to potentially turn the lineup around behind left-handed starter Wade Miley.
Because of a day off next Thursday, the Orioles won’t need a fifth starter again for the remainder of April.
The club’s decision to start Aquino is twofold. As a left-hander, he projects better against the Red Sox lineup, and despite sending him down to Triple-A Norfolk to open the season, the Orioles want to know whether he can contribute at the major league level after a strong spring training.
Aquino has been a starter throughout his career in the minor leagues, but all three of his previous major league appearances were in relief -- he combined for 2 1/3 scoreless innings last season with the Orioles.
Aquino was one of the last roster cuts before Opening Day after posting a 1.20 ERA over 15 Grapefruit League innings while holding opposing hitters to a .185 average. Aquino threw a quality start in his most recent outing for Norfolk, allowing one unearned run in six innings Friday. In two starts, Aquino has a 4.00 ERA, allowing 11 hits with 11 strikeouts and two walks in nine innings.
He was a leading candidate for the club’s fifth rotation spot with right-hander Chris Tillman starting the season on the disabled list. But the club went with Asher when the team needed a fifth starter for the first time Saturday.
Showalter said putting Asher in the bullpen doesn’t eliminate him from future starting opportunities.
Smith not improving
A decision on whether the Orioles will place Seth Smith on the 10-day disabled list is drawing near after the outfielder was not in the starting lineup Thursday and Showalter said he had not improved over the past day.
Smith left Tuesday’s game in the sixth inning with a strained right hamstring that he first felt in his third at-bat of the game. It didn’t go away after playing the field in the bottom half of the fifth.
“I think if there’s not some improvement between now and tomorrow, we’ll have to think about making an adjustment,” Showalter said before Thursday’s game.
Around the horn
Outfielder Joey Rickard, currently on the DL with a sprained left middle finger, did soft toss Thursday and could take live batting practice Friday. He will likely need a brief minor league rehabilitation assignment before returning. … Right-hander Chris Tillman went through his between-starts work day Thursday with no setback. He’s scheduled to make his second minor league rehab start Saturday at High-A Frederick.