BOSTON -- In his fifth stint with the Orioles this season, left-hander Kurt Birkins will finally be thrust into the role in which he feels most comfortable. Orioles manager Dave Trembley said yesterday that Birkins will start tonight's series opener against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays at Tropicana Field.
Birkins pitched in 35 games last year for the Orioles and 10 thus far this year, all out of the bullpen. Tonight will mark the first major league start for the 27-year-old, who has been mostly used as either a long reliever or left-handed specialist.
"I'm extremely excited," said Birkins, who was 8-4 with a 3.07 ERA in 20 games at Triple-A Norfolk, 19 of them as a starter. "It's something I've always dreamed about. It's one thing to be up here, but to be able to get a start is real exciting.
"It's more comfortable for me being able to show up to the field knowing that I'm going to pitch and getting into my routine. I'm a creature of habit, so as long as I have a routine, I think that's when I'm at my best."
Birkins, who is 1-1 with an 8.00 ERA this season, will be taking the spot that opened with last week's trade of Steve Trachsel. The club hasn't decided whether he'll remain in the rotation.
"He's pitched decent since he's been here. That's one," Trembley said. "Two, he went back to Triple-A as a starter, so he's stretched out. Three, I used [Brian] Burres [Saturday] night and I pitched [Jon] Leicester two days in a row. And against Tampa's lineup, I'd like to see a lefty go on the first day of the series."
Bedard still waiting
Trembley acknowledged he has no idea when injured ace Erik Bedard will be able to pitch again. Because of a strained right oblique muscle, Bedard, the major league leader in strikeouts, hasn't picked up a baseball since starting Aug. 26 against the Minnesota Twins. Bedard likely will return to Baltimore and see a team doctor later this week.
Asked whether it's possible that Bedard won't pitch again this season, Trembley said: "That's not what he wants. He wants to pitch again. Whether he'll be able to hasn't been determined."
Trembley expressed hope that the Orioles were paying attention to the way Red Sox rookie Clay Buchholz used his changeup during his no-hitter Saturday night. Trembley and pitching coach Leo Mazzone have been encouraging Orioles starters, especially Daniel Cabrera, who started yesterday, to use the pitch. But they rarely have.
"I would like to see Cabrera and all of these guys take what they do in their practice sessions out on the mound," Trembley said. "In their practice sessions, they throw all of their pitches. For some reason, they get into the game and they become not only predominant, but somewhat predictable in throwing an abundance of fastballs."
If there was any good that came out of Buchholz's no-hitter from the Orioles' perspective, it was that reliever Rocky Cherry's debut became an afterthought. The right-hander, who was acquired from the Chicago Cubs in the Trachsel trade, was touched for four earned runs on three hits, including Kevin Youkilis' three-run homer, and a walk in just one-third of an inning.
"I think I was trying to impress," Cherry said. "I kind of went out there a little tentative, I was pushing the ball and I didn't throw my pitches. It just wasn't my best. Even though I'm new here, you want to do well, you want to impress. You have to realize that it's not a one-time thing and I'm going to get another shot."
Trembley made a couple of lineup changes about two hours before yesterday's game, starting Freddie Bynum and Tike Redman in place of second baseman Brian Roberts and center fielder Corey Patterson. "Those guys are worn out somewhat," Trembley said. Roberts pinch hit for Bynum in the ninth inning and flied out to center field.