By Jeff Zrebiec, The Baltimore Sun
9:04 PM EDT, July 24, 2011
Orioles reliever Koji Uehara's English is still a work-in progress, but that doesn't mean that he's not aware of the ongoing speculation about his future in Baltimore.
"To be mentioned and to hear my name in the [trade] rumors obviously is a good thing," Uehara said through interpreter Jiwon Bang. "I'm not really thinking about that. They are just rumors, right?"
For now, that is all they are, but there is growing speculation that Uehara will be moved before the July 31 trade deadline. In a trade market loaded with right-handed relief options, Uehara has distinguished himself by staying healthy and compiling a 1.80 ERA in 41 appearances.
In 45 innings pitched, the 36-year-old reliever has allowed just nine earned runs on 23 hits and eight walks while striking out 59. He leads all American League relievers with a 7.38 strikeout-to-walk ratio and his career strikeout-to-walk ratio is now 6.48. That's the best career ratio for pitchers who have logged a minimum of 150 innings since 1890.
"I'm just preparing myself every day, that's all. Nothing different," said Uehara, who has avoided the disabled list this season after making two trips there in each of his first two seasons in the United States. "My performance, obviously, is satisfying, but it doesn't translate into team wins so that's kind of frustrating."
Since May 8, Uehara has allowed just four earned runs in 33 1/3 innings. He has strung together 11 straight scoreless appearances, during which he has surrendered just three hits and two walks while striking out 20 in 13 innings.
Uehara has made 41 total appearances this season, and 14 more would trigger his $4 million option to vest for the 2012 season. With Jim Johnson expected to start next year and uncertainty surrounding the rest of the bullpen, the Orioles would be more than happy to have Uehara back next year at that rate.
However, he and starter Jeremy Guthrie are really the Orioles' only two trade chips, and the Orioles also know that it Uehara's age and injury history could make it difficult for him to duplicate his success next season.
The Texas Rangers, Pittsburgh Pirates, Detroit Tigers and Minnesota Twins are among the teams that have expressed interest in Uehara, who said Sunday that he definitely plans on playing in the United States next year. His family lives year round in Baltimore and that was one of the reasons Uehara signed an incentive-laden deal to return this past offseason.
"I love it here obviously," Uehara said. "I love the Baltimore Orioles, but it's not going to be any fun if we don't win. That's the dilemma."
Guerrero, Izturis to rehab at Bowie
Designated hitter Vladimir Guerrero and infielder Cesar Izturis were in Double-A Bowie's lineup Sunday night against Trenton. Guerrero went 1-for-4, while Izturis, playing shortstop, was also 1-for-4.
It was Guerrero's first game since cracking a bone in his right hand July 10, while Izturis served as the designated hitter Friday night for the Baysox, going 0-for-4 with two strikeouts. Izturis (right elbow surgery) hasn't played in a big league game since May 10.
Both could be activated from the disabled list in time for Tuesday's series opener in Toronto.
Around the horn
The game-time temperature for Sunday's game was 99 degrees, the "coolest" of any of three games in the Angels series. … Orioles manager Buck Showalter said that the plan remains for Zach Britton to be called up to start one of the two games in the July 30 doubleheader at Yankee Stadium. The other starter that day will either come from the bullpen or the minor leagues. Britton will start for Bowie Monday. … The Orioles drew only one walk in the three-game series against the Angels. … The Orioles are 0-6-1 in their last seven series. … With Nick Markakis hitting his 10th homer Sunday, the Orioles became one of five teams in the majors to have six players with double-digit home runs.
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