O's call up outfielders, demote Birkins

The Baltimore Sun

The Orioles boarded their team charter with a three-game winning streak that stayed intact after yesterday's postponement. They savored a rain-shortened sweep of the Kansas City Royals and looked ahead to a series against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays that has the chance to strengthen their position in the standings. But they also had to massage their roster once again.

That always seems to be part of their agenda.

Outfielders Adam Stern and Jon Knott have been brought up from Triple-A Norfolk and will join the team in Florida as the Orioles return to a 12-man pitching staff. They optioned reliever Kurt Birkins to Norfolk and placed center fielder Corey Patterson on bereavement leave after the recent death of his grandfather.

Patterson will attend the funeral in Georgia before rejoining the team Wednesday. His flight isn't scheduled to arrive until 1:50 p.m., and the Orioles' game begins at 3:10 p.m., so they're not counting on having him available.

"We're not sure how that's going to shake down," manager Sam Perlozzo said.

Birkins appeared in one game and surrendered a 12th-inning grand slam to Craig Monroe in a 4-1 loss Wednesday to the Detroit Tigers. He's expected to be placed in Norfolk's starting rotation, which was the original plan before the Orioles recalled him.

Stern has recovered from an arm injury that kept him at extended spring training in Sarasota, Fla. The Orioles needed another center fielder besides Freddie Bynum and weren't sold on Ruddy Yan, who's hitting .115 with the Tides.

"If you made a pinch-hit move, you want someone who can go back out there and play center," Perlozzo said.

Knott, a corner outfielder who's batting .222 with two homers and four RBIs in eight games at Norfolk, signed as a minor league free agent after leading all minor league players with 113 RBIs last season at Triple-A Portland, a San Diego Padres affiliate. He has appeared in 12 major league games, including three last September, and also can play first base.

The Orioles also considered catcher-corner infielder J.R. House, who's hitting .367 with two doubles, two homers and 10 RBIs, but they focused on outfielders while waiting for Patterson and Jay Payton to return. Payton remains on the disabled list with a hamstring injury and might not be activated until the next homestand, which starts Friday.

"I don't know that for sure," Perlozzo said. "He was leaning that it was a possibility, but it wouldn't surprise me if he walked in and said, 'I'm ready to go.'"

Another roster move is coming. Catcher Ramon Hernandez, in Sarasota rehabilitating a strained oblique muscle, will join the team tomorrow and take batting practice. He could be activated during the Tampa Bay series, which would bump backup catcher Alberto Castillo from the roster.

The postponement did little to disrupt the rotation. Jeremy Guthrie was supposed to take Jaret Wright's turn yesterday, but he'll be skipped. Adam Loewen starts tonight's game on regular rest, followed by Steve Trachsel and Erik Bedard. After Thursday's open date, Daniel Cabrera, Loewen and Trachsel will start the three games against the Toronto Blue Jays at Camden Yards.

"I think there will be another chance," Guthrie said. "I expected it a little bit, so it's not a disappointment. It's just a rainout. They told me, 'We'll see how the weather is.' All my friends said, 'You're pitching Sunday, but you're not pitching Sunday.' It wasn't a big deal."

Notes -- No makeup date has been set for yesterday's game. Fans may exchange their tickets for one of the remaining games, subject to availability. Fans living outside a 75-mile radius of Camden Yards may request a refund in writing. ... Wright, on the disabled list with a sore right shoulder, didn't report any new discomfort after making about 30 throws in the outfield with assistant trainer Brian Ebel before Saturday's game. "He wanted to throw more and we cut him off," Perlozzo said. Wright is expected to throw again today. ... Veteran reliever Paul Shuey, whose bid to make the club in spring training was ruined by a tendon injury in his right foot, has left the minor league complex and most likely will be assigned to Double-A Bowie. The Orioles believe Shuey can help them this season.


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