O's soon face twist in rotation

The Baltimore Sun

SEATTLE -- After the Orioles' 4-2 loss to the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field on Monday night, starter Brian Burres said he had one regret - a two-out walk he issued to Richie Sexson that opened the door for the Mariners' decisive two-run sixth inning.

Could it also have closed the book on Burres' time in the Orioles rotation? That answer likely won't be known for several days, but the young left-hander's hold on the No. 5 spot, which he moved into after injuries to Adam Loewen and Jaret Wright, is growing more tenuous.

Veteran right-hander Steve Trachsel will be activated from the disabled list in time to make Saturday's start in Oakland. That seemingly leaves either Burres or rookie Garrett Olson to start Sunday.

"All I know right now is Trachsel is scheduled to start on Saturday," said interim manager Dave Trembley, who acknowledged that he discussed the matter with both president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail and vice president Jim Duquette on Monday morning. "What the move is on the roster, until we have to do that, I don't know. We're going to play out the next few days and see how it goes."

Assuming no one else is headed to the DL in the next few days, the Orioles will need to demote a player from their 25-man roster when they activate Trachsel. With infielders Miguel Tejada, Melvin Mora and Freddie Bynum still out, it stands to reason it will be a pitcher who goes.

If Olson doesn't return to Triple-A Norfolk after making two big league starts, he'll remain in the rotation, likely at the expense of Burres, who fell to 4-4 with a 4.33 ERA in the loss Monday. Trembley said on Monday that Olson, the 23-year-old left-hander who is 1-0 with a 3.86 ERA in two starts, probably would not be used in a relief role and needs to pitch every five days to help his development.

MacPhail's decree to take inventory of the organization would seemingly suggest that Olson, one of the Orioles' top prospects, will get a longer look. But it is also possible the Orioles could return Olson to Triple-A and stay with Burres. They could then try to trade Trachsel to open a spot for Olson for the rest of the season.

"We have a few days to tip that around a little bit," Trembley said.

It's not that Burres pitched poorly Monday. In fact, his outing was fairly typical of what the Orioles have gotten from him since he entered the rotation on a full-time basis in May. He allowed nine hits and four earned runs, walked two and struck out four in six innings.

But he also skillfully worked out of several jams and gave the Orioles every opportunity to win. However, the offense did little against Mariners veteran left-hander Horacio Ramirez, who was making his first start since late May. Ramirez allowed only two runs and five hits in seven innings, retiring the last 11 batters he faced. That stretch began when Ramirez induced a double play from Aubrey Huff to get out of a two-on, nobody-out jam in the fourth inning, holding the Mariners' deficit at 2-1.

The Mariners tied the game on Sexson's two-out single in the bottom of the inning, and then got the game-winning hit from shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt, who hit a two-out, two-run double off the top of the left-field wall in the sixth. Burres had two outs and nobody on when he walked Sexson in the inning.

"He pitched good enough to win," Trembley said of Burres. "Unfortunately, their guy pitched a little bit better."

It kept Burres with just one win since May 31, a span in which he has made six starts and two relief appearances. Burres has given up three earned runs or more in his past five starts, including a seven-run outing earlier this month against the Chicago White Sox in which Burres got just four outs. Since June 17, Burres' ERA has gone from 2.80 to 4.33.

However, Burres has surrendered three earned runs or fewer in seven of his 11 starts, though only two of them have gone beyond six innings.

"When people talk about him, they talk about his performance, but this guy is a starter and then goes to the bullpen. He goes 10 days between starts. That's not an easy job that he has," catcher Ramon Hernandez said. "I think it's really been outstanding how he does it. He's been up and down and then he gets pushed back. It's really hard to do the job that he's done, going back and forth to the bullpen and being a starter."

Burres didn't make any excuses but said he's a much better pitcher than he was at the beginning of the season, even if the numbers don't show it.

"I do feel like I could do a better job out there with everything," he said.

Now, he'll have to wait a couple of days to figure out whether he'll be working out of the bullpen or in the rotation.

"It's not like they just throw it upon me out of nowhere," said Burres, 26, whom the Orioles claimed off waivers from the San Francisco Giants before the 2006 season. "It hasn't been too bad as far as the bullpen one time, then five days later start. You just go about your business the way you need to and try to get better when you need to pitch."jeff.zrebiec@baltsun.com

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