BALTIMORE - Radio talk shows, message boards and the Twittersphere were abuzz for nearly 24 hours with Baltimore Orioles fans calling for the immediate release of reliever Pedro Strop following Strop's rough outing on Wednesday afternoon, when he retired only one batter and allowed four runs (and two inherited runners to score) as the Angels turned a 4-2 deficit into an 8-4 lead in the seventh.
But there was Strop in the Orioles clubhouse before Thursday night's Orioles-Red Sox game, telling reporters he can't wait to get back out on the field, that "command" was an issue on Wednesday and that he is fine physically.
"Today is a new day," said Strop, who turned 28 on Thursday. "I can't wait to pitch again."
That was no surprise to Orioles manager Buck Showalter.
"What do you expect him to say, 'I don't want to pitch?'" Showalter said.
Showalter was widely second-guessed for bringing in Strop in such a difficult situation. There were reasons behind the move. Closer Jim Johnson, for example, was unavailable after saving three consecutive games, throwing the normal bullpen mix in flux.
Still, Strop is 0-3 with a 7.58 ERA this season after struggling over the final two months of last season. He is out of options, so he can not simply be sent down to the minor leagues to work out his problems.
Thus, the belief from fans that it's time for the Orioles to give up on the hard-throwing right-hander. Their question is, why is Strop still on the team?
"I know the question. Pete knows the question," Showalter said, noting that pitching poorly is the last thing Strop wants to do."
TURNAROUND: While the Orioles' starting pitching has been trending upward recently, it's been just the opposite for the Birds' bullpen.
Orioles starting pitchers had given up two runs or fewer in seven of the past 10 games heading into Thursday's contest - and that could've been eight of 10 had Strop been able to keep from scoring the two baserunners he inherited from Jason Hammel in the seventh inning of Wednesday's game.
Orioles starters have pitched to a 4.12 ERA over that span, a number skewed by one abysmal start each from Freddy Garcia and Kevin Gausman. It's been even better over the past four games as Chris Tillman, Garcia, Miguel Gonzalez and Hammel pitched to a 3.12 ERA, going 26 inningsand allowing 21 hits and nine earned runs, walking five and striking out 14.
Meanwhile, the Orioles bullpen carries the worst ERA in baseball since May 14.
The team's strength a year ago, the bullpen got off to another good start this season. The relievers had an AL-best 2.64 ERA exactly one month ago. Since then, it's 6.15. The bullpen allowed four runs on Wednesday, one on Tuesday, one on Monday and four on Sunday.
INJURY UPDATES: Injured outfielder Nolan Reimold, out since May 11 with a hamstring tear, is expected to begin a minor-league rehab assignment early next week; second baseman Alexi Casilla (right index finger) was available to pinch run on Thursday but couldn't start because of his injured finger; pitcher Wei-Yin Chen (left oblique) is slated to throw off a mound on Saturday in extended spring training; Wilson Betemit (knee) took groundballs in extended spring training; and second baseman Brian Roberts (hamstring) took batting practice in the Camden Yards basement.
Meanwhile, Showalter said Tsuyoshi Wada's rehab stint may be extended. Signed as a free agent out of Japan before 2012, Wada had ligament replacement surgery that spring and has yet to pitch for the Orioles. He is 1-4 with an 8.62 ERA for Class AAA Norfolk.
ON THE MARK: Orioles right fielder Nick Markakis made two diving catches in recent games at Camden Yards and Showalter said that's no coincidence.
"I don't know if there's anybody in the game that knows the nuances of his home park the way Nick does," Showalter said, adding that he's amazed by "some of the plays he makes, regardless of the score."
A 2011 American League Gold Glove Award winner, Markakis has yet to make an error this season.
KICKING OFF: Baltimore Ravens kicker Justin Tucker threw out the ceremonial first pitch before Thursday's game. It was neither wide left nor wide right.
BIRD BITS: The Orioles have hit the second-most home runs in the majors (88), but no team has allowed more than they have (93) ... The Orioles and Red Sox went into their current four-game set with 14 series wins this season, tied for most in the majors ... Tillman (6-2, 3.89 ERA) is set to face Ryan Dempster (4-6, 4.40) on Friday night.