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Decision between Tatum and Fox; other pregame tidbits

It's unbelievably hot, but pretty quiet here at Camden Yards as the Orioles prepare for game three of their series with the Minnesota Twins. Much of the pregame talk was on the pending roster decision with catcher Matt Wieters expected to come off the disabled list tomorrow.

At this point, it appears that the Orioles are leaning toward optioning catcher Craig Tatum, who has started nine of 11 games in Wieters' absence, to Triple-A Norfolk. Tatum is the top candidate because he has options remaining, unlike utility man Jake Fox. The Orioles also feel like that Fox's versatility will really come in handy, especially when/if they trade Ty Wigginton.

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Interim manager Juan Samuel said the current feeling is the club needs to keep an extra pitcher in the bullpen with the inconsistency of so many of the starters. Orioles president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail is also involved in ongoing trade talks, but nothing is expected to get done before tomorrow afternoon. So that pretty much leaves the decision between Fox and Tatum.

"This is going to be a tough one. Whatever guy is going to go, I'm sure both guys have been thinking about it," said Samuel. "Those guys have been doing a good job for us."

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My take: The decision to option Tatum would be wildly unpopular in the Orioles' clubhouse. It's funny how quickly things have changed. When Tatum beat out Chad Moeller for the backup job this spring, the majority of the Orioles were furious, not because they didn't like Tatum, but because they viewed Moeller as a great teammate and valued his leadership to the young staff and Wieters. But Tatum has really won them over with his preparation, work ethic and even his production offensively. I don't think it's an exaggeration to suggest that he's emerged as one of the most popular guys in the clubhouse.

I think it would be a bad message to send down Tatum because he's done everything the Orioles have asked, been productive and worked his butt off. But I also understand where the Orioles are coming from. If you trade Wigginton and I think it's more a matter of when and not if, you need a guy like Fox to play first and serve in a platoon with the left-handed hitting Luke Scott or possibly Michael Aubrey if he keeps hitting at Triple-A Norfolk. That's why if you keep Tatum down at Norfolk for the 10 days that he is required to be down there, I could accept that. But he's proven that he belongs on this club and could be a solid backup catcher.

A couple of other things: Reliever Jim Johnson (right elbow inflammation) will throw live batting practice soon, the final step before he starts making some rehab appearances. Outfielder Lou Montanez (left oblique strain) has started baseball activities. …. Second baseman Brian Roberts started for a second straight night, but Samuel said he'll likely hold him out of the starting lineup on Sunday …. After giving right fielder Nick Markakis the night off on Friday, Samuel said that he will likely do the same with center fielder Adam Jones in the next couple of days.

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