Suddenly, the Orioles rotation is in flux, and it has little to do with performance.
Two pitchers who were in the mix to start this afternoon against the Los Angeles Angels have been scratched, creating a spot for highly regarded Orioles prospect Mike Wright to make his big league debut.
Right-hander Chris Tillman, who was a strong possibility to start today's series finale against the Angels, is dealing with lower-back stiffness and will not pitch this weekend, manager Buck Showalter said.
Showalter said Tillman, the club's Opening Day starter who is 2-5 with a 6.34 ERA, has dealt with the condition intermittently for the past few seasons. And though he's not overly concerned, the manager is not dismissing the ailment.
"I know the history of it and how it's managed and what causes it, but I'm not naive and just taking it for granted," Showalter said. "It's better today. We managed through it two or three seasons now, knowing it's there. Just like all pitchers."
Showalter hopes Tillman can pitch in the Seattle Mariners series that begins Tuesday at Camden Yards. Having Tillman available this week is key, because the Orioles begin a stretch Tuesday of 21 games in 20 days without a day off.
"We've got a doubleheader [May 28] that's going to be a challenge," Showalter said. "So I'm going to take every precaution so our guys can present themselves healthy during that stretch."
Right-hander Bud Norris might rejoin the rotation in the Mariners series, but he won't be starting against the Angels. Norris was supposed to start Saturday, but was scratched because of bronchitis and replaced by Ubaldo Jimenez, who initially was to start today.
Showalter said Norris, who is 1-4 with a 9.88 ERA, had lost weight and was feeling drained. He could be used in the bullpen.
"He's got a pretty severe case of bronchitis," Showalter said. "He's not running a fever now, so he's not contagious."
So Wright, a 25-year-old right-hander, will make his major league debut this afternoon against the Angels.
The rookie sinkerballer was 3-0 with a 2.64 ERA in six starts for Triple-A Norfolk this season, and was 4-2 with a 0.95 ERA in his last seven starts with the Tides in 2014.
Wright was called up Wednesday and put into the bullpen in a long-relief role. A starter most of his career, the 2011 third-round draft pick is a veteran of 91 games (87 starts) in six minor league seasons before making his first appearance in the majors.
Beyond today, the Orioles' upcoming rotation remains unknown.
* The game time for the Orioles' single-admission doubleheader makeup May 28 at Camden Yards has been changed from 4:05 p.m. to 1:05 p.m. to better accommodate the schedule of the Chicago White Sox, Showalter said.
The White Sox are flying in for one day to make up the April 27 and April 28 games that were postponed because of unrest in downtown Baltimore. The White Sox have an afternoon game in Toronto on May 27 and a night game in Houston on May 29. Moving up the initial game time three hours — the second game will start shortly after the first one finishes — will allow the White Sox to get to Houston at a more reasonable time May 29.
"I think it's more of a case to try and be fair to the White Sox as much as we'd like to have it reciprocated [with later games]," Showalter said. "Put yourself in their shoes."
May 28 had been a scheduled day off for the Orioles sandwiched between two home series. The Orioles have a 4:35 p.m. game against the Astros on May 27 and a 7:05 p.m. game against the Tampa Bay Rays on May 29.
"We have a 4:35 game the day before, so we'll get to bed before midnight, before the 1 o'clock game the next day and [the second game] starts shortly thereafter," Showalter said. "It's just one gate in order to get them out of here and into Houston."
Tickets for the postponed April 27 game can be used for the doubleheader. Those with April 27 tickets that can't make the doubleheader and those with April 28 tickets can exchange them for any remaining home game this season on a "dollar-for-dollar" basis. Exchanges can be made at the stadium's box office or by writing a letter to the team. Requests for exchanges must be made by June 30, 2015.
* Showalter said Matt Wieters (elbow) caught seven innings in extended spring. He was originally slated for nine, but Showalter said it was so hot during the game in Florida and the pitching was struggling enough that Wieters basically caught the equivalent of 15 innings. There is not an exact timetable for his return, but the Orioles still hope Wieters can join them in the majors around the time he is eligible on June 4.
* The Orioles dealt minor league infielder Jayson Nix to the Philadelphia Phillies on Saturday for cash. Nix, 32, batted .167 with no homers and eight RBIS in 100 at-bats for Norfolk.
Nix, who signed a minor league deal with the Orioles in the offseason, will report to the Phillies' Triple-A affiliate, Lehigh Valley. He has spent parts of seven seasons in the majors for eight different teams, including the Phillies.