The Orioles optioned right-hander Miguel Gonzalez to Triple-A Norfolk before Saturday's game in order to make room on the 25-man roster for right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez, who was activated from the 15-day disabled list to start Saturday's game against the St. Louis Cardinals.
The move will force Gonzalez to miss at least one start but allows manager Buck Showalter to protect the club's flourishing bullpen.
Gonzalez's relegation was by no means a permanent demotion, but because he pitched two days ago, he would able to fulfill the mandatory 10-day minor league window and miss just one start. Orioles manager Buck Showalter said Gonzalez is slated to start for Norfolk either Tuesday or Wednesday against Buffalo and could return when he's eligible to be recalled on Aug. 19.
The decision to send Gonzalez – who has allowed two runs or fewer in five of his last six starts over the past two months – was a difficult one.
"There's no right decision," Showalter said. "If Miguel had been three or four days from pitching, we probably would have kept him. … Let's face it - if he didn't have an option, it wouldn't even have been a conversation. It wasn't a good reason, it was just an honest reason. It's tough, emotional for me. Sometimes you've got to do what's right for the club. This guy has been solid for us for 2 1-2 years and will be again. He's one of the reasons we are where we are right now. He'll be back."
Orioles could have sent down a reliever and used one of their starters out of the bullpen, but the club wanted to keep the starters' regular routine.
"I don't like the idea of floating starters in and out of the bullpen," Showalter said. "That's not good for starters nowadays. They're creatures of habit."
When Gonzalez returns, though, the Orioles will face the same questions about a six-man rotation. Jimenez, who signed a four-year, $50 million deal with the Orioles in the offseason, is 3-8 with a 4.52 ERA, but the club hopes he can duplicate his second-half success with the Cleveland Indians last year.
"It's not like he hasn't pitched any good games for us this year," Showalter said of Jimenez. "I think everybody's talked about his track record late in the season until they're blue in the face. We're getting to the time now where that doesn't mean much. Show me. If we have to make an adjustment, we will."
Ultimately, the Orioles didn't want to tweak the bullpen in its current state. Left-hander T.J. McFarland has been a valuable long reliever, and Showalter likes having a left-handed option following a right-handed starter. The team's other optionable piece, right-hander Brad Brach, has become a valuable multiple-inning reliever.
Showalter confirmed that right-hander Kevin Gausman will start in Sunday's series finale against the Cardinals and right-hander Bud Norris will start Monday's series opener against the New York Yankees. He wouldn't reveal any rotation plans beyond Monday.
Also of note:
-- The Orioles are 8-4 in interleague play this season despite facing the best interleague opponent record of any team in the majors (.544 opponents' winning percentage).
-- Adam Jones' 86th career homer at Camden Yards on Friday night was his 86th at Oriole Park. Jones passed Cal Ripken Jr. for sole possession of fourth place on the ballpark's all-time list.
-- Nick Markakis leads all active major leaguers – and is fourth all-time – with a .338 average in interleague play.
-- The Orioles will face Cardinals right-hander John Lackey, who was acquired from the Boston Red Sox last month. Lackey is 14-7 with a 3.70 ERA in 26 career starts against the Orioles and 6-4 with a 3.64 ERA in 12 starts at Camden Yards.
Here are both teams' starting lineups:
Nick Markakis RF
Manny Machado 3B
Adam Jones CF
Nelson Cruz DH
Chris Davis 1B
J.J. Hardy SS
Delmon Young LF
Caleb Joseph C
Jonathan Schoop 2B
Matt Carpenter 3B
Kolten Wong 2B
Matt Holliday LF
Matt Adams 1B
Jhonny Peralta DH
Oscar Taveras RF
A.J. Pierzynski C
Jon Jay CF
Daniel Descalso SS
John Lackey RHP