If baseball is a game of second chances, reliever Greg Aquino is getting one with the Orioles. How he handles it will determine his future in the bullpen, and in the organization.
Aquino had his contract purchased yesterday from Triple-A Norfolk, where he totaled nine saves and posted a 2.45 ERA in 23 appearances, walking six and striking out 29. He's taking the place of reliever Ryan Bukvich, who was designated for assignment - just as Aquino was April 29 before clearing waivers and being outrighted.
"I'm really looking for a seventh-inning-type guy," manager Dave Trembley said. "Hopefully, our starters will get us through the seventh, but I'm really looking at a bridge to get to the eighth inning, and I need somebody that can throw strikes and keep it where it's at. We're going to give Aquino a shot and see what he can do."
Aquino didn't seize the first opportunity, allowing 10 earned runs in 6 1/3 innings over six appearances after making the Opening Day roster.
"I've been working on my mechanics, on my slider, and it's been going good," he said. "I don't know what happened the first time. I felt bad when they sent me down, but what can you do? Let's see what happens now."
Aquino allowed runs in four of his six games with the Orioles and walked seven batters over his last four innings. His final appearance, on April 27, came on 11 days' rest.
"His stuff is as good as we have in the bullpen, a complete fastball-slider," pitching coach Rick Kranitz said. "We didn't get a great look at him because he didn't pitch a whole lot. Hopefully, we'll be able to get him in on a regular basis and see what he can do, because his stuff plays at this level."
Said Trembley: "He was the 12th pitcher on the club when he was here before. What I saw in spring training was his ability to throw a power slider as a strikeout pitch. Perhaps it was because he wasn't used enough, [but] when he did get an opportunity to pitch, his command wasn't what it should have been. That was probably my fault. So we sent him to Triple-A and he pitched a lot. Most of them were good, and hopefully he can help us."
Aquino pitched one inning in the Orioles' 5-3 loss to the Texas Rangers last night. He allowed one run on three hits.
Bukvich, who signed as a minor league free agent in December, registered a 6.75 ERA in four games since having his contract purchased June 22. He let two inherited runners score in Friday's game after replacing Jeremy Guthrie.
The All-Star selections will be announced today, and Trembley said he believes his club has a handful of worthy candidates, including Brian Roberts, Aubrey Huff, Nick Markakis, George Sherrill and Jim Johnson. But he said he wouldn't be surprised if most of them don't make the team.
"I think it's just mind-boggling that every person can vote up to 25 times and it becomes a popularity contest for a lot of them," said Trembley, who turned in his selections last Sunday. "You look at the DH slot, and you can't argue what Huff has done. [David] Ortiz is out, and Huff's had a tremendous first half. I get the results and Markakis isn't even in the top 15 in outfielders. He's a pretty good player. I know [Ian] Kinsler and [Dustin] Pedroia are having a heck of a year, but Roberts is as good as anybody in this league. And what George Sherrill has done is phenomenal."
Trembley said he didn't contact American League manager Terry Francona to offer his input. "I don't think that's my place," he said. "I wouldn't self-promote one of my own guys. I think you have to give respect to the manager who's running that club."
Bierd continues rehab
Rule 5 pick Randor Bierd has reported to Double-A Bowie to continue his injury rehabilitation assignment.
Bierd is scheduled to throw two innings today and make five appearances through July 17 before the Orioles re-evaluate him.
In three games at Single-A Frederick, Bierd didn't allow a run or hit in three innings. He walked two and struck out seven. He has been on the disabled list with a right shoulder impingement.