In 119 2/3 innings as a starter last year, Jason Berken struck out 66 batters. In 41 innings as a reliever this year, he's struck out 32, many on a slider that was absolutely devastating last night. Berken has been quite a revelation this year in his transition to the bullpen and he's probably one of two Orioles – Ty Wigginton would be the other – who has actually exceeded the club's individual expectations. And I know people will point out that Berken has succeeded mostly in low-pressure situations as the long man, but he's been awfully good recently pitching later in tight games. Berken never looked intimidated last year even when he was compiling a 6-12 record and a 6.54 ERA. But everything about him is different this year, from his body language to the finish on his pitches to his confidence level.
The Orioles will likely make two roster moves tomorrow to promote starter Brad Bergesen and to activate reliever Koji Uehara. Interim manager Juan Samuel said the team will probably dump one reliever and one position player. All signs point to that one position player being first baseman Garrett Atkins, who won't exactly be floored by the news. The first baseman, who despite his on-field struggles has handled himself with class, told my colleague Dan Connolly earlier this week that getting designated for assignment is "probably going to happen. Not really much sense in having my agent call and talk to them about it. Eleven at-bats in this month, I mean, it doesn't seem like I serve much of a purpose. But, like I said, I am still here and I'll be ready when they need me." The reliever to go will probably come down to Frank Mata or Matt Albers. When outfielder Felix Pie is activated from the disabled list as early as the middle of next week, Lou Montanez obviously would be the top candidate to head back to Triple-A Norfolk. And then the survivor of Mata and Albers would be at the most risk for a demotion when Michael Gonzalez is ready, which could be in about 10 days.
According to a team official, Chris Tillman's fastball was clocked between 90 and 93 miles per hour in his first outing back at Triple-A Norfolk yesterday. And speaking of the Tides, infielder Robert Andino is serving a two-game suspension from the International League as a result of his ejection on Wednesday.
I've gotten a couple of emails about whether Nick Markakis' meeting yesterday with owner Peter Angelos was a slap at president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail, and I don't believe it was. Markakis has talked to MacPhail before, including a closed-door meeting late last season at Tropicana Field which included Brian Roberts. MacPhail also said that he was aware of the meeting and in favor of it. MacPhail would never say this, but I've heard from a couple of team officials that members of the front office are pleased that Markakis is taking a more vocal role with the club. That was what they had hoped when they signed him to a six-year, $66.1 million deal.
I, like several other reporters and many fans, were not exactly behind the Orioles' decision to name Craig Tatum the team's backup catcher and grant veteran Chad Moeller his outright release. My opinion was more based on Moeller's leadership than on-field performance. But Tatum deserves a lot of credit and has pretty much done exactly what you'd want from your backup catcher. First of all, the Orioles are 6-8 in games that he has started behind the plate, which isn't bad when you are 20-52 overall. Second, Tatum has held his own at the plate with a respectable .262 average. I still think the Orioles' young pitchers could really use Moeller's leadership and knowledge, gained from years in the big leagues, but Tatum has been a solid addition as well.