Bullpen missing Birkins, Hawkins


Already stretched thin, the Orioles' bullpen was without Kurt Birkins and LaTroy Hawkins yesterday.

Birkins wasn't available because of a tender left elbow and the left-hander is not expected to be available tonight, either. It's possible that the Orioles could place the rookie on the disabled list.

Hawkins was placed on bereavement leave yesterday after the death of his grandmother. Manager Sam Perlozzo said he expects the right-hander to be back Friday and that he will use right-handers Todd Williams and Chris Britton in the setup role until then.

Right-handed reliever Eddy Rodriguez, who got the win yesterday, was called up to take Hawkins' spot on the roster. Rodriguez had been sent to Triple-A Ottawa to make room for starting pitcher James Johnson. Johnson was optioned back to Double-A Bowie after his major league debut Saturday.

To replace Johnson, the Orioles activated left-hander Tim Byrdak from the 60-day DL. Byrdak had been out since April after having surgery April 21 to remove bone chips from his left elbow.

Byrdak had a 3.60 ERA over five appearances while on a minor league rehabilitation stint. The Orioles could possibly stretch Byrdak to two innings if needed, which was the longest outing he had in the minors.

"Velocity's been very good, back to where it was, maybe a mile or two off, but the biggest thing is getting the extension on the fastball and being able to finish the pitch," he said. "The same thing with the slider, a little more consistency with the slider in the zone."

Benson update

Kris Benson, who has tendinitis in his right elbow and hasn't started since July 25 against the Kansas City Royals, said yesterday that his arm was feeling great.

"Today is the first day that I haven't woken up in the morning and straightened out my arm and felt any kind of soreness," he said. "So that's a real good sign."

Benson, who is 9-9 with a 4.71 ERA, said he will take two days of light toss and probably be throwing from the mound Wednesday. He is still not sure if he'll be ready to make his next start.

The right-hander visited Dr. Craig Morgan of the Morgan Kalman Clinic in Wilmington, Del., where Boston Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling has also received treatment, on Friday and Benson said he received a good report.

"I went to see Morgan and he gave me some good feedback," said Benson, who worked with Morgan in 2003. "Just said I have a few things I need to work on with my internal rotation, stuff was lacking a little bit."

Benson has been getting treatment for his elbow since May and decided it was the right move to rehab his arm, hopefully reducing the chance of soreness flaring up again this season.

He also said he was more concerned with the quality of his pitches than overcompensating and possibly injuring himself more.

"I wasn't able to get extension because my elbow was locking up," he explained.

"I wasn't able to get a lot of extension on my pitches. I feel with the break I'm actually getting that range of motion back."

Cabrera, Penn start in minors

Both Daniel Cabrera and Hayden Penn made starts for Triple-A Ottawa over the weekend, but when asked yesterday, Perlozzo said he was still unsure of how the rotation would look later in the week.

Cabrera (2-1, 5.40 ERA) earned the win in the Lynx's 7-6 victory Friday, but allowed six runs, including one home run, while striking out nine in 5 1/3 innings. On Saturday, Penn (3-3, 2.45 ERA) pitched six innings, gave up five runs and struck out six in a 5-0 loss. katherine.carrera@baltsun.com

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