CLEVELAND — Wilson Betemit has struggled to regain his stroke since returning from a right knee injury that robbed him of most of the season, and as it appears now, his role as the Orioles' designated hitter against right-handed pitching has all but diminished.
Betemit, who was the Orioles' top hitter against right-handed pitching last season with a .302 batting average, is hitless in nine at-bats since being activated from the disabled list Aug. 27. And while the Orioles hoped his return would bolster the lineup, his at-bats are disappearing.
In Wednesday's series finale against the Cleveland Indians, Orioles manager Buck Showalter placed switch-hitting Brian Roberts at DH for the second time in the past three games, which allowed the Orioles to give the left-handed hitting Ryan Flaherty a start at second base against Indians right-hander Zach McAllister.
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It seemed to be the type of opportunity where Betemit is best utilized, but Showalter has had a difficult time giving key players like Flaherty playing time. And the addition of another left-handed hitter, rookie Henry Urrutia, further complicates the situation. Roberts is hitting well, and his ability to switch hit is valuable with matchups as games progress.
"I'm trying to keep everybody in the flow and Robby has been posting up pretty regularly," Showalter said. "It's been a long road trip for a lot of us, but it just fits better. I just don't want guys we're going to be counting on sitting too long. … It kind of gets everybody in the lineup that we want in there."
With the Orioles facing left-handed starters over the next four games against the Chicago White Sox — Jose Quintana, John Danks, Hector Santiago and Chris Sale — it doesn't appear Betemit will be in the lineup any time soon, aside from possible pinch hitting duties.
"I just need to keep swinging," said Betemit, who sprained the posterior cruciate ligament in his right knee during spring training. "You know, it's hard when you're not playing. Basically where I am right now, I spent a lot of time on the DL, so I can't expect to be gone for four months and come back and think I'm going to be in the starting lineup every day. It's not like that."
Betemit is a well respected veteran in the Orioles clubhouse and one of the club's most dedicated when it comes getting his swings in before the game. But he said it's hard to get his swing back on the bench — no matter how many batting practice swings he takes, it doesn't match facing 95 mph in the batters box.
"I have to work for my time," Betemit said. "Every time they give me an opportunity whether it's one at-bat, I have to take what happens. I understand those guys have to play. They've been playing all year. I understand the situation. I have to wait to get my first hit, then by first RBI and then my first homer. You have to get the first one.
"I understand the situation. I missed a lot of time. … I am going to help the team whenever they need me."
Betemit signed a two-year, $3.25 million contract with the Orioles before the 2012 season that includes a $3.25 million club option that the club likely won't pick up.
Around the horn
Miguel Gonzalez flew back to Baltimore on Wednesday ahead of the team in advance of his start Thursday night against the White Sox. He's never faced Chicago but is 5-2 with 4.09 ERA in in 10 home starts this season. He was pushed back a day when Zach Britton was given the start Wednesday. … Chris Davis entered the series finale in Cleveland with 12 homers on Wednesdays, tied for the second most in a season with Roger Maris (1961) and Frank Thomas (2000). Tino Martinez holds the all-time record with 14 Wednesday homers in 1997 for the New York Yankees. … Aberdeen named first baseman Trey Mancini its Most Valuable Player for the 2013 season. Mancini, drafted by the Orioles in the eighth round out of Notre Dame this June, broke the team record for hits in a season with his 84th on Wednesday night (Kipp Schutz had 83 in 2010). The Ironbirds host their first-ever playoff game Friday night at Ripken Stadium. ... The Casey Cares 5K held at Camden Yards on Tuesday raised $69,642.65 for the Casey Cares Foundation, an organization that provides programs for critically ill children and their families. Nick Markakis and his wife, Christina, served as race ambassadors. ...