The inability of the Orioles' rotation to go deep into games claimed its first victim of 2011: left-handed reliever Clay Rapada.
The lefty specialist who was 0-0 with a 7.30 ERA in 22 appearances this season was designated for assignment Wednesday when the Orioles activated Alfredo Simon from the 15-day disabled list.
Although efficient against left-handed hitters, Rapada became expendable because the Orioles need to keep several long relievers around because of a rotation that has pitched seven full innings just once in 23 June games.
"Obviously, I think a lot of the move was dictated by [the fact] we need some length in the bullpen," manager Buck Showalter said. "And Clay, he did what he was designed to do statistically with left-handers, but we just weren't able to carry [a specialist]."
Although his overall numbers were ugly, Rapada was again strong versus left-handed hitters, who went 4-for-35 (.114 average) with one homer, three walks and 13 strikeouts against him. Because the bullpen was often depleted, however, Rapada was also forced to occasionally face right-handers, who were 9-for-13 (.692 average) against him with two doubles, one triple, two homers and three walks.
"It was a tough conversation," Showalter said about telling Rapada he had been designated. "You can look at the ERA overall, but you look at the numbers in the situation he is designed to do and you can see why he has been a chip for people that are playing late into October. So it'll be interesting to see how it develops."
The Orioles signed Rapada to a minor league deal this offseason, specifically because of how he has dominated left-handers in his career (.162 average against) and especially in 2010, when he gave up just one hit in 19 at-bats versus lefties while pitching for the American League champion Texas Rangers.
"You look at his background and who he pitched for and how he pitched last year — if you are in the right situation, your starters are going deep enough, you are able to carry someone like him," Showalter said. "We are just not in that position right now."
Jake Arrieta's seven-inning performance June 10 is the only time an Orioles starter has gone at least seven in a game this month. And only four times this month, heading into Wednesday, had Orioles starters gone at least 61/3 innings.
The club has 10 days to trade, ask waivers on or release Rapada outright. If he clears waivers, it would like to send him to Triple-A Norfolk, but because he has been outrighted to the minors previously, he can elect to become a free agent.
Assuming he was placed on waivers Wednesday — those moves are confidential — the club will know whether he cleared by 2 p.m. Friday, according to Showalter. Rapada was not available for comment.
Simon back from injury
When he was placed on the DL retroactive to June 13 with a right hamstring strain, Simon said he would return as soon as he could be activated. Technically, it took an extra day, but Simon was back Wednesday after throwing a scoreless stint Sunday at Double-A Bowie.
"I just pitched two innings in Bowie and feel ready, so I think I'm ready to go," said Simon, who is 1-1 with a 3.14 ERA in his first five appearances this year.
Showalter said Simon could be used in long relief or to help take pressure off setup men Jim Johnson and Koji Uehara in the late innings.
"He is able to do [long relief], and we are hoping that he can help us … from having to bring J.J. or Koji in too early," Showalter said. "Like all this, it's how deep we can go with the starting pitching."
Scott misses start
Outfielder Luke Scott, who bruised his right knee and jarred his ailing right shoulder while slamming into the left-field wall to rob Matt Holliday of a homer Tuesday, said his knee was still sore and somewhat swollen, but he felt he could pinch hit if needed Wednesday. Initially, he feared it would be worse when his knee smashed the piping that holds up the wall's padding.
"Imagine running into a pole playing basketball and hitting your knee. It's a contusion," he said. "The shoulder is a little sore. I felt that a little more [Wednesday] morning. [Tuesday] night, I didn't feel it because my adrenaline was going. I guess that's just part of it."
Scott said he didn't see the fuss made about his catch on ESPN on Wednesday morning — it was the play of the day — because he doesn't have cable TV in his Baltimore residence.
"I don't have a lot of time to watch TV, plus a lot of things I see on TV gets me fired up," he said. "It's time for me to relax and get sleep and not get worked up emotionally about all the stuff I see on TV. So I opted not to have cable."
An anonymous jokester at Camden Yards had fun with Scott's catch, putting a tape outline of his outstretched body — complete with his No. 30 — on the left-field wall hours before the game. Scott laughed about it, saying he thought the perpetrator might be his buddy, Felix Pie, "but I don't think he's creative enough to do that."
Hardy extension talks
Orioles president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail touched base with J.J. Hardy's agent this week to begin preliminary talks about a contract extension for the hot-hitting shortstop.
Hardy is a free agent at season's end, and MacPhail has voiced his desire to reach an agreement with the 28-year-old. Talks haven't gotten serious, but that could change closer to the July 31 nonwaiver trade deadline. With the struggles of veterans Derrek Lee and Vladimir Guerrero, Hardy has emerged as perhaps the club's biggest trade chip as several contenders, including the Cincinnati Reds, Milwaukee Brewers and San Francisco Giants, could be looking to upgrade at shortstop.
Around the horn
Showalter said Arrieta's bullpen session Wednesday went well and he will pitch Saturday at Atlanta. … The Orioles have signed two more 2011 draft picks: 15th-round choice Eric Wooten, a left-handed pitcher from Central Arizona Junior College and 21st-round selection Jose Rivera, a right-handed pitcher out of Hill Junior College. The club has agreed to terms with 14 of its 50 draft picks. … Thursday's starter, Brian Matusz, is 0-4 with a 5.93 ERA in five interleague starts. … The Cardinals switched around their rotation, pushing Thursday's original starter, Jake Westbrook, to Friday against the Tampa Bay Rays and moving lefty Jamie Garcia to Thursday's start against the Orioles. … Three Bowie Baysox were named to the Double-A Eastern League's All-Star Western Division team: catcher Caleb Joseph, outfielder Xavier Avery and pitcher Pedro Viola. … The Cardinals released reliever Ryan Franklin on Wednesday and played with a 24-man roster. They are expected to add a player Thursday. … Adam Bruck of Bel Air will represent the Orioles in the ages 7-8 division of the Pitch, Hit and Run Competition on July 11 in Phoenix as part of MLB's All-Star festivities.