Orioles option Donnie Hart to Norfolk, add two relievers to freshen bullpen in Detroit

Orioles manager Buck Showalter will have a conventional seven-man bullpen for the first time in weeks Wednesday night, and as something of a surprise, it won't include left-hander Donnie Hart.

Hart was optioned to Triple-A Norfolk as part of a series of roster moves that added Stefan Crichton and Miguel Castro to the bullpen and had catcher Francisco Peña designated for assignment.


"Just some repercussions of a lot of things that have been going on with our pitching, and extra innings, and some short starts," Showalter said.

Sending down Hart, who was a fixture in the Orioles bullpen in the second half of 2016 and early this year, is the biggest shake-up to a constantly evolving bullpen in recent days.

"Donnie is capable of pitching a little better," Showalter said. "He's hit a little rut here, and he's done some good things for us. If he goes down there and does what he's capable of, he'll be back. But it's an open end. It's just like what we've told Crichton a couple times. He's gone down there and done the job. That's why they come back."

Hart came in to get out of a bases-loaded jam in the 11th inning of Tuesday's wild 13-11, 13-inning win over the Detroit Tigers, but ceded an 11-8 lead by allowing three runs on five hits in the 12th inning.

He has given up six earned runs in six innings over his past seven outings, which stands in serious contrast to the 34 outings spanning 26 innings with just one earned run allowed in that span.

His primary responsibility has been facing left-handed batters, but they're hitting .308 off him this year, way up from last year's .132. In 2016, they had a .348 OPS against him. That's up to .764.

Hart's being optioned will leave Richard Bleier as the bullpen's only left-hander at the moment, but the Tigers have a heavily right-handed lineup, as do the Orioles' next opponent, the Toronto Blue Jays.

That's why Alec Asher, who pitched 2 2/3 shutout innings Tuesday, stuck around despite likely needing a day or two to recover.

"He's shown quick recuperative skills," Showalter said. "He had two days off before yesterday, and I think in a day or two he'll be available again. He's already told us tonight he's available again. He's not."

Both Crichton, who is in his fourth major league stint with the Orioles this season, and Castro, whose first appearance will be his Orioles debut, are available Wednesday.

Castro, who was acquired April 7 in a trade with the Colorado Rockies, who designated him for assignment, had to go to Sarasota, Fla.,  to the team's spring training complex to rebuild his arm. He's made just one appearance for Double-A Bowie, allowing a run on six hits with two strikeouts in four innings Saturday.

Showalter said he worked with Bowie manager Gary Kendall to make the move after Tuesday night's game, and that Kendall had good things to say.

"He likes him," Showalter said. "He's got a good arm, good stuff, and has got some major league experience. He's been throwing well. He spent some time in extended, getting going with his inactivity. But he's been pitching now, and he was our best option."

Castro, 22, began his major league career at age 20 with the Blue Jays, but has struggled in two big league seasons with them and the Rockies. He has a 6.12 ERA and a 1.67 WHIP in 32 1/3 major league innings.


"He's really a three-pitch mix," Showalter said. "Changeup has been good for him at the major league level. He's got a plus fastball, and a decent slider. He's got a good arm. You remember him with Dunedin in Toronto, they had kind of anointed him the closer there for a while. We had some good reports on him. We'll see. It's a big jump for him. I'm anxious to see him. I hope there's not a need tonight."

Crichton, meanwhile, will add length to the Orioles bullpen. Most of his outings at Triple-A Norfolk in between his major league spells have covered multiple innings.

"That was by design," Showalter said. "He's capable of doing that. We're doing that with a lot of our guys in Double-A, Triple-A, really trying to have them pitch multiple innings. Guys don't really come up here much initially as situational guys, so they need to get into that, especially in the American League."

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