This is a big week for injured Orioles Felix Pie and Michael Gonzalez as they rehab in the minor leagues and, if everything goes well, perhaps rejoin their big-league teammates for Friday's road trip.
Interim manager Juan Samuel isn't putting a date on their returns just yet, saying Gonzalez (strained shoulder) will pitch out of the bullpen for the first time Tuesday night at Single-A Aberdeen, where he started Sunday.
After playing at High-A Frederick, Pie (torn back muscle) has joined Double-A Bowie and will play there Tuesday night.
The Orioles want him to continue to play left field, and if he continues to have success without getting hurt, he'd rejoin the big-league club as its primary leadoff hitter, a spot that Corey Patterson has held for much of the time since he was recalled from the minors.
"Obviously, Patterson has done a good job. But if Felix Pie is here and he's going to play left field, I'll probably have him lead off," Samuel said.
As for Gonzalez – and yes, we are getting ahead of ourselves – Samuel said he'd probably be eased back into late-inning/closing duties and not handed the role on his return. Samuel also said he doesn't feel any pressure to make Gonzalez his closer even though the lefty signed a two-year, $12 million deal this offseason.
"The one thing in baseball, things always end up working out," Samuel said. "I am not worried about that. I am not feeling any pressure at all."