CHICAGO — It was a little surprising to see right-hander Bud Norris, who had just been demoted to the bullpen Friday, on the mound in the Orioles' 3-2 loss to the Chicago White Sox on Saturday.
After starter Chris Tillman lasted just 4 2/3 innings, manager Buck Showalter turned to Norris. It was his first relief appearance since pitching 2 1/3 innings in the late innings of the Orioles' 18-inning loss to the Rays in Tampa Bay on Sept. 20, 2013.
Norris responded well and saved the bullpen. He retired the first seven hitters he faced, including three by strikeout, before issuing a leadoff walk to pinch hitter Gordon Beckham, who scored the winning run on pinch hitter J.B. Shuck's double off Darren O'Day.
Two of Norris' three strikeouts came on sliders, including one to Carlos Sanchez with so much bite that Matt Wieters couldn't corral it for strike three. Sanchez wound up on third base with one out after Wieters' wild throw to first, but Norris escaped the jam, striking out Adam Eaton and inducing an inning-ending groundout from Jose Abreu.
"He threw the ball well," Tillman said of Norris. "He threw the ball really well. I thought he had that slider that he's always had. I think that's what he's been struggling with a little bit, is that slider command, and today, it was there. It was really good. I thought he threw the ball great."
Norris pitched with a lot of chutzpah, and maybe some of it was rooted in an I'll-show-you mentality after his relegation to the bullpen. As Showalter said, the long-relief role is an important one, and his outing Saturday gave Showalter a little sense of peace that Norris could assimilate to the role well.
Norris' 2 2/3 innings marked his second-longest relief outing and his longest since throwing three scoreless innings in his major league debut, in 2009.
-- In seven games since returning from his right shoulder injury, Orioles center fielder Adam Jones is 4-for-27 (.148) at the plate. In this weekend's series, Jones is hitless in eight at-bats.
Jones also has just one home run in his past 15 games.
He seems to be healthy, though Jones could not make a play on Jose Abreu's triple at the wall in right-center field Saturday afternoon. So maybe he's still dealing with some physical problems. Jones often plays through his ailments, which goes to show how poorly his shoulder must have felt for him to miss significant time last month.
-- The Orioles' postgame roster move Saturday to option infielder Ryan Flaherty to Triple-A Norfolk wasn't a popular one in the Twitterverse, especially since Flaherty is hitting .288 over his past 16 games.
The move opens space on the 25-man roster for second baseman Jonathan Schoop, who is slated to be activated from the disabled list before Sunday's game and start in the series finale in Chicago.
Keep in mind that the Orioles could call up Flaherty when Nolan Reimold goes on the paternity list, likely on Monday.
The Orioles then would have to make another move Thursday, when Reimold must be activated, but it at least buys the team another few days to deal with this latest roster crunch.