Just as interim manager Dave Trembley was getting his bullpen in order, another injury has caused a disruption and removed the Orioles' closer for an extended period.
The Orioles placed Chris Ray on the 15-day disabled list yesterday with inflammation in his right elbow caused by a bone spur, but he'll be unavailable for much longer. The initial plan is to put Ray through a three-week rest and rehabilitation program before he can begin throwing.
"The last five or six games, I felt real well and I was getting on a roll and then this happens," said Ray, who's 5-6 with 16 saves and a 4.43 ERA in 43 appearances. "It's frustrating, but hopefully I can get it taken care of and I can pick up where I left off."
Ray, who didn't allow a run in his past six outings, made one appearance on the road trip, tossing a scoreless inning Friday night in Oakland. He played catch yesterday with assistant trainer Brian Ebel before batting practice - and before the Orioles decided to recall reliever Cory Doyne from Triple-A Norfolk.
"I probably could pitch tonight, but then I might be right back in the same situation I was Saturday and Sunday where I can't throw again," Ray said. "When you have someone down in the 'pen that can't throw back-to-back nights or every other night, then it's just going to hurt the other people down there."
Ray estimated that he made 25 throws to Ebel, backed up to 100 feet.
"I was letting it go pretty good," he said. "It wasn't completely pain-free, but it was for the most part a lot better."
Just not good enough for the Orioles to delay making a roster move, which came after consulting Ray and head trainer Richie Bancells.
"He was still feeling some discomfort in the elbow, and it was Chris' opinion, and Richie's, that the best thing for him is a little inactivity, and we will continue to try to diagnose it and try to understand exactly what it is," said Andy MacPhail, president of baseball operations.
Said Ray: "I don't feel like I have to change my motion or change the way I pitch. What I feel, it's just a matter of discomfort and not wanting to aggravate it some more to make a small thing become a big one."
Ray was scheduled to meet yesterday with team orthopedist Dr. Andrew Cosgarea, and the Orioles were considering another magnetic resonance imaging and an arthrogram, in which dye is injected into the elbow. An MRI on Monday revealed the spur.
"I'm going to talk to the doctor, see what the best course of action is, whether it be tests to take a better look at it or just some rest, just treat it, not throw for a little bit and then get back and see how it feels," Ray said.
Triple-A pitcher Hayden Penn also had a bone spur in his right elbow this year that eventually required surgery after rest and treatments didn't eliminate the discomfort or restrictions in his throwing motion.
MacPhail said it was too soon for the Orioles to say whether surgery is an option for Ray.
"At this point, you have the luxury of time. You may as well take it," MacPhail said. "Inactivity is the first thing that you ought to do. One of the things that I'm sure they'll consider is whether they put the radioactive dye in and see if surgery is an option. But at this point, we have the benefit of time.
"I think you'll find that we are pretty conservative and we'll take the conservative course first. If the evidence is such that we need something more drastic, we'll do something more drastic. But there's no sense going to Point Z right away."
Doyne leads the International League with 29 saves. He's 0-1 with a 2.23 ERA, with 16 walks and 49 strikeouts in 42 games. In his most recent outing Monday, he allowed two runs and three hits, with two walks, in two-thirds of an inning against Columbus.
Doyne, 25, made one appearance for the Orioles on June 16, retiring the only batter he faced in his major league debut before being optioned to Norfolk. He signed as a free agent Nov. 2 after spending the past two seasons in the St. Louis Cardinals organization.
Trembley is expected to go with a committee approach to closing, depending on the situation. Jamie Walker recorded saves in the past two games, but Trembley also can use Danys Baez and Chad Bradford against right-handed hitters.