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Looking for relief, O's move Lopez to bullpen

LOS ANGELES — LOS ANGELES - The Orioles pulled Rodrigo Lopez from the starting rotation and put him back in the bullpen yesterday, hoping the move could fix their troubled pitching staff as a whole.

Lopez was 2-1 with a 6.41 ERA in five starts and was scheduled to start again tomorrow, but the Orioles decided to push forward with a rotation that includes Sidney Ponson, Eric DuBose, Daniel Cabrera, Matt Riley and Erik Bedard.

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Riley is returning from Triple-A Ottawa and will make tonight's start against the Los Angeles Dodgers, and Bedard will pitch tomorrow's series finale. Orioles manager Lee Mazzilli called Lopez into his office before batting practice last night to deliver the news.

"I told him I feel we're a better team with him in the bullpen, no question about it," Mazzilli said. "You'd rather have a guy you can use three or maybe four days a week, as opposed to once a week."

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Mazzilli had a similar conversation with Lopez at the end of spring training, when he told the right-hander he would be starting the season in the bullpen.

Lopez emerged as one of the top relievers in baseball, going 3-1 with a 0.33 ERA.

On May 18, shortly after the Orioles first moved Lopez into the rotation, the bullpen's ERA was 3.03 and the team was 19-16.

Entering last night, the team's record since then was 8-16, and the bullpen had posted a 6.83 ERA. With Mike DeJean struggling, Mazzilli hasn't been able to find a reliable right-handed setup man.

After getting the news, Lopez was unavailable for comment.

Mazzilli said DuBose and Bedard will remain in the rotation - for now. DuBose is 1-3 with an 8.08 ERA since the start of May, and Bedard has one win in 10 starts.

Mazzilli said that's still subject to change "if it doesn't get back to where it should be or where I think it should be. How many times do you want to go out there and beat your head against the wall?"

Cleveland bullpen flap

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Orioles bullpen coach Elrod Hendricks said Monday wasn't the first time the lines of communication from the dugout to the bullpen haven't worked. He and pitching coach Mark Wiley have worked out a system of hand signals so Hendricks can alert the relievers when it's time to get warm.

But when DuBose was struggling during Cleveland's seven-run third inning, Hendricks was sitting by the phone and couldn't see the dugout. When Wiley called to get Rick Bauer loose, the ringer on the bullpen phone wasn't working.

Can you hear me now? No! "That's why we have two phones in Baltimore," Hendricks said.

So Wiley finally sent a batboy from the dugout to the bullpen to relay the news, and Bauer got up. But he only had one at-bat to get ready before Mazzilli made his move. Bauer came in and gave up six earned runs in 1 2/3 innings, lifting his ERA to 6.61.

The Orioles aren't thrilled with the Indians for the technological breakdown, but Orioles executive vice president Jim Beattie said he didn't expect to file a formal protest.

Around the horn

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To make room for Riley on the 25-man roster, the Orioles sent Bauer back to Ottawa. ... The Orioles' talks with former first-round draft pick Jeffrey Hammonds are still on hold while they wait for his right thumb to heal. ... The Orioles signed five more draft picks, including No. 8 David Haehnel, No. 9 Samuel Howell, No. 10 Andrew Moffitt, No. 17 Kyle Boehm, No. 18 Trent Baysinger.


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