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Struggling Ortiz sent to bullpen


ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- One day after failing to record an out in an emergency start against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, Orioles right-hander Russ Ortiz has been removed from the rotation.

Orioles manager Sam Perlozzo said he thought it would be best for the team and Ortiz if the veteran attempted to turn around his season while in the bullpen.

"We need a couple good outings out of Russ so that, mentally, he gets on the right track," Perlozzo said. "At that point in time, we'll find out if he's a pitcher or not."

With a day off tomorrow, the team won't need its fifth starter until Saturday. Perlozzo said Ortiz could be brought back into the rotation then, or the club could seek another option, such as left-hander Bruce Chen or rookie Hayden Penn.

"I told [Ortiz], 'Don't count yourself out of that thing,' " Perlozzo said. "For now, we just want him to concentrate on being in the 'pen."

Ortiz, who was signed June 25 after being released by the Arizona Diamondbacks, is 0-2 with a 13.50 ERA in four starts with the Orioles. On Friday, while pitching on two days' rest because scheduled starter Erik Bedard suffered food poisoning, Ortiz didn't get out of the first inning. All six batters he faced reached base and eventually scored.

"I would think that after [Friday], they would think this is a decision they would have to make," Ortiz said. "They are trying to win ballgames here."

Ortiz said the San Francisco Giants similarly demoted him in 2000, but it didn't last a week. His replacement got hurt, Ortiz went back into the rotation and ended up winning 14 games that season.

"That's what I am kind of hoping," he said. "That when I get the opportunity to throw out of the 'pen, something will click."

Ortiz likely will be used initially in non-pressure situations. When asked whether the club considered releasing Ortiz, Perlozzo said, "I don't think there's a need right now to do anything else."

J. Lopez returns, Hernandez sits

Catcher Javy Lopez was in the starting lineup last night for the first time since last Sunday. He missed four games with lower back pain, which he described to be "like another back spasm."

"I wanted to play every day. I've missed enough playing time already this year. I didn't want to miss any more," Lopez said. "But unfortunately that happened, and I didn't have any choice but to miss a few games."

Not coincidentally, Lopez was behind the plate with Rodrigo Lopez on the mound - the 10th consecutive time they have teamed up.

Regular catcher Ramon Hernandez, who took a foul tip off his collarbone Friday and said it was "a little sore," didn't start last night.

"You take a look at his right shoulder and he's got five or six bruises up there," Perlozzo said of Hernandez.

Hernandez was used as a pinch hitter last night, getting two at-bats, and played two innings at first base.

Gibbons leaves

Right fielder Jay Gibbons (right knee) left the team yesterday and expects to get four at-bats today while the designated hitter at Double-A Bowie. He'll continue the rehabilitation assignment for at least three games starting Tuesday at Single-A Frederick - and maybe another Thursday at Bowie - before rejoining the Orioles on Friday.

Around the horn

Bedard has recovered from food poisoning and is not expected to have any limitations in his start today. ... Reliever Kurt Birkins switched his uniform number from 56 to 25, the number he had worn since high school. Howie Clark most recently had worn No. 25. dan.connolly@baltsun.com

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