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Needing roster relief, Orioles place Rule 5 reliever Pedro Araujo on disabled list with elbow strain

Needing to free a roster spot Monday for closer Zach Britton’s return from the disabled list, the Orioles placed Rule 5 reliever Pedro Araujo on the DL with a strained right elbow.

The move came a day after one of Araujo’s worst outings of the season as he allowed four runs — including two home runs — in one inning of work in the Orioles’ 13-3 loss at the Rogers Centre in Toronto.

“He came up with a sore elbow after his outing yesterday,” manager Buck Showalter said after Monday’s game. “Actually he told [us] he had kind of been feeling it, but not to that extent, since back in Tampa. This was the first we heard of it. So, he's going be down a little while until that cleans up. I know they've got an MRI today. So, you find a lot of things. We don't think there's anything structurally wrong, but they see some inflammation there and we're hoping it's just something that will manage itself. I know what time frame they gave me, but I don't want to throw that out there yet.”

Placing him on the DL allows the Orioles to keep Araujo in the organization without having him on the 25-man roster — and forcing him to go through growing pains in a big league bullpen. Rule 5 picks must remain with the team for the entire season to fulfill roster requirements, and he must be on the active 25-man roster for at least 90 days, not including DL time.

Araujo, who was selected from the Chicago Cubs in the Rule 5 draft in December, has served 71 days in the majors in his rookie season.

While it appears to be a convenient move for the Orioles — placing a struggling, seldom-used reliever on the disabled list, allowing him to get the remainder of his service time as late as September when rosters expand — Araujo received an MRI on his elbow Monday. Also, all DL moves must receive Major League Baseball’s approval.

Araujo has a 7.71 ERA. He has allowed nine homers and a .959 OPS in 28 relief innings.

The Orioles have previously placed a struggling Rule 5 pick on the disabled list, doing so with right-hander Jason Garcia in 2015, only to have him return later in the season near the time rosters expand so he could meet the Rule 5 service-time criteria.

Also, Rule 5 outfielder Anthony Santander opened last season on the disabled list, finished the year on the active roster and then fulfilled the rest of his service time at the beginning of this season before being optioned to Double-A Bowie on May 13.

Araujo, 24, initially figured to play a prominent role in the Orioles bullpen after a strong spring training in which he held batters to a .152 batting average, but he struggled early in the regular season. He entered a tie game in the seventh inning in his third appearance of the season and allowed four of six batters he faced to reach base; he was charged with four runs in two-thirds of an inning after giving up a grand slam.

Since then, Araujo hasn’t had many high-leverage opportunities, typically working in the middle innings and with the Orioles behind, but he’s struggled to keep games close in those situations, as was the case Sunday, when he allowed six of the nine batters he faced to reach base. He’s given up runs in 10 of his past 14 appearances.

The Orioles drafted three players in December but returned right-hander Jose Mesa Jr. to the New York Yankees during spring training, then returned left-hander Nestor Cortes Jr. to the Yankees after he had a 7.71 ERA in four appearances.

Besides placing Araujo on the DL to create 25-man roster space for Britton, the Orioles transferred outfielder Colby Rasmus to the 60-day DL to make space on the 40-man roster for Britton.

Rasmus went on the DL with a hip injury April 7, so he has already served the 60 days needed to be eligible to return. He’s on a minor league rehabilitation assignment, where he entered Monday 4-for-28 at Bowie and High-A Frederick.

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