Orioles prospect James Johnson will make his major league debut today, filling the opening in the rotation left when Russ Ortiz was moved to the bullpen. Bruce Chen will start tomorrow in place of the injured Kris Benson.
Johnson leads Double-A Bowie with nine wins and has a 4.13 ERA and 92 strikeouts in 120 innings. Last year, he won the Jim Palmer Prize as the organization's best minor league pitcher. The 6-5 right-hander mixes a 91 mph sinking fastball, a breaking ball and a changeup.
"His last outing, he pitched very well," manager Sam Perlozzo said in explaining the call-up.
Perlozzo hopes to use Johnson only once. He would like to see Daniel Cabrera or Hayden Penn pitch well enough at Triple-A Ottawa that either or both could join the rotation soon.
Cabrera is 2-1 with a 5.40 ERA, including last night's win, when he gave up five earned runs in 5 1/3 innings, walking two and striking out nine. Penn has allowed only two runs in his past two starts and is scheduled to pitch again today.
Benson has started an exercise program to combat elbow tendinitis, which he had pitched through for about six weeks.
"We're going to kind of see how it goes the next three or four days and hopefully, he'll only miss a start," Perlozzo said.
He said he didn't put Ortiz back into the rotation to replace Benson, because he wants the veteran to have a few good outings in relief.
"We want to get some confidence going in his direction," he said. "Then he'd be a guy we'd be tempted to shoot back in there."
Chen will start for the first time since May 31. He said he feels ready for a longer outing.
"I just want to keep pitching the way I'm pitching," he said. "I feel like I've made some progress."
The left-hander had pitched better in the bullpen before a July 13 outing in which he allowed six runs in two innings against the Texas Rangers. He is 0-6 with a 7.09 ERA.
Chen was disappointed when he was pulled from the rotation. "But I don't feel like have anything to prove," he said. "I'm just glad that I've been given an opportunity to start. I really like starting. I want to help this team."
Gibbons still regaining swing
The Orioles hoped Jay Gibbons might rejoin the team yesterday, but Perlozzo said he needed a few more games at Bowie to regain his swing.
"I'm hearing that he's not having any real problems physically," Perlozzo said. "We need him to get his swing back and get a little confidence that he's ready to come back."
Gibbons has been out since June 13 with a sprained right knee. He had three hits for Bowie on Thursday and went 1-for-2 with a double yesterday.
Duquette aids cause
Orioles vice president Jim Duquette has joined the NephCure Foundation, an organization seeking a cause and cure for the kidney conditions Nephrotic Syndrome and Focal Segmental Glomerulosclerosis, in auctioning four field-box tickets and a tour of Camden Yards. Duquette's daughter has Nephrotic Syndrome, a condition that affects the kidney's filtering units allowing needed protein to escape through the urine.
Fans can bid on the package through eBay beginning Monday at noon. The tickets can be used for any regular season game. For more information on NephCure, call (610) 540-0186, ext. 23, or go to www.nephcure.org.
Around the horn
Catcher Ramon Hernandez entered last night batting .337 with 12 homers and 43 RBIs at Camden Yards and .198 with three homers and 23 RBIs in away games.
Sun reporter Jeff Zrebiec contributed to this article.