TORONTO — The Orioles still don’t know their next step with pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez, but sending the veteran right-hander to the bullpen for the time being is among the possibilities.
Jimenez, who remains on the 15-day disabled list with a right ankle sprain and hasn’t pitched since July 5, will throw a side session before Wednesday’s game against the Toronto Blue Jays at Rogers Centre.
A decision on whether Jimenez will return to the rotation for this weekend’s series against the St. Louis Cardinals at Camden Yards might not be made for the next few days. He will either start Friday or Saturday against the Cardinals or move to the bullpen as a long reliever.
Before Jimenez went on the disabled list, Orioles manager Buck Showalter previously had six available starters and utilized matchups to line up his rotation. But now Showalter said he’s looking for any tiebreaker to decide how to find a way to fit Jimenez into the mix.
Jimenez reiterated Tuesday that he’s ready to return to the rotation, but he doesn’t expect to know anything until after Wednesday’s work day.
The Orioles pitching staff — both the rotation and bullpen — has been the club’s strength in recent weeks.
If Jimenez, who was signed to a club-record four-year, $50 million deal in February, is moved to the bullpen, it likely would mean that the Orioles would be forced to option left-hander T.J. McFarland to Triple-A Norfolk.
But McFarland has been a valuable long-relief asset because he has given Showalter a left-handed option to put into the game behind a right-handed starter. Right-hander Miguel Gonzalez, who is scheduled to start Thursday in Toronto, could also be optioned, but he wouldn’t be able to return to the major leagues for 10 days.
Regardless, right-hander Chris Tillman likely will start Friday’s series opener against the Cardinals to keep him on regular rest. That means the Orioles have to choose from Jimenez, right-hander Kevin Gausman and right-hander Bud Norris to fill two starts against St. Louis on Saturday and Sunday.
Jimenez does have good numbers against the Cardinals — he is 2-3 with a 3.33 ERA in eight career starts against St. Louis — but most of those outings occurred when he played for the Colorado Rockies.
Around the horn
The Orioles entered Tuesday leading the major leagues with a 3.12 ERA in night games, and their 47 wins at night ranked third in the majors and second in the American League. … Nick Markakis had his 42nd multihit game of the season Monday, tying him with the Seattle Mariners’ Robinson Cano for second-most in the majors behind the Houston Astros’ Jose Altuve (47). … The Orioles officially added left-hander Joe Saunders to Norfolk on Tuesday. To make room on the roster, left-hander Clay Rapada was released. Also, right-hander Eddie Gamboa was sent from Norfolk to Double-A Bowie after he completed his 50-game suspension for violating the minor-league drug program. … Over his last nine games through Monday, catcher Caleb Joseph was 11-for-30 (.367/.387/.667) with two homers, three doubles and four RBIs. He hit a solo home run in the fourth inning Tuesday. … Former Orioles minor league catcher Chris Robinson, a native Canadian, filled in for the Blue Jays radio broadcast. Robinson was in major league camp in 2013 and still knows several current Orioles, so he received a warm reception when he visited the clubhouse before Tuesday’s game. … Webb made his second scoreless appearance since joining Norfolk, pitching a scoreless seventh inning. In the same game, right-hander Suk-min Yoon allowed four runs and four hits in 1 1/3 innings of relief. … Norfolk first baseman Christian Walker was 3-for-4 and drove in two runs Tuesday. He now has 89 RBIs on the season.
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