One day after his best outing of the season, Orioles left-hander Wei-Yin Chen was optioned to High-A Frederick before Tuesday's game against the Philadelphia Phillies.
The surprise move was not a demotion. It not only allows the Orioles to carry an extra position player -- manager Buck Showalter will have a five-man bench -- but the team hopes it will help preserve Chen's health through a long season.
"The No. 1 thing was Wei-Yin and making sure he's around in September and October and pitching at the level he pitched last night," Showalter said. "We also found out through the years with him after he's had an extended outing, you get to know the guys, pitch counts, innings, what usually follows. … Wei-Yin, we've got a pretty good sampling. Really didn't like the description of some of the things he was feeling after his start on [June 10]. He felt a lot better last night, but we're trying to get ahead of some things with him."
Showalter said that Chen complained of some general body fatigue following his start on June 10 against Boston. It wasn't a concern in Chen's outing Monday, when he tossed eight scoreless innings in a 4-0 win over the Phillies at Camden Yards. But Showalter said this was the right time to give Chen a bit of a break.
Chen must remain in the minors for at least 10 days unless he is called up for a player being placed on the disabled list, but he is only scheduled to miss one big league start. He will make his next start for Frederick on Saturday and will likely pitch only three or four innings. That would allow Chen to return to the Orioles rotation June 26 against the Cleveland Indians on extra rest.
"It fits better," Showalter said of the decision to send Chen to Frederick. "It doesn't really matter. He's only going to go four innings, at the most, maybe three. Before his last outing, not this one, he was complaining of overall body fatigue. … And he'll get an extra day. He may not even take a work day. We'll shorten up his outing in Frederick."
Over his career, Chen has posted a 3.93 ERA on regular rest and a 3.53 ERA with one day or more of extra rest. This season, he has a 3.05 ERA in six starts on four days rest and a 2.72 ERA in seven starts when he receives extra rest.
The move allowed the Orioles to add outfielder/first baseman Chris Parmelee, who was officially added to the 25- and 40-man rosters before Tuesday's game and is in the starting lineup Tuesday, batting fifth and playing right field. Parmelee could have exercised an opt-out clause in his minor league deal Monday.
The Orioles must now fill Chen's rotation spot for Saturday's afternoon game in Toronto. Right-hander Kevin Gausman, who is scheduled for two innings Tuesday night at Frederick, is the leading candidate to fill that hole if he pitches well.
Right-hander Mike Wright is scheduled to start the series opener in Toronto on Friday night. Chris Tillman will start the Sunday finale at the Rogers Centre.
Center fielder Adam Jones is not in the starting lineup Tuesday. Showalter said Jones, who has started in 61 of the Orioles' 64 games this season, is banged up, but wouldn't disclose any specific ailments.
“Just giving him a day, kind of banged up,” Showalter said. “Hopefully it is just today. Talked to him a little bit a little after lunch today. Won’t get into the various, toe, ankle, foul balls off, dive, shoulders. I just want to give him a day or two. See what tomorrow brings. I don’t know if there are any plans to do any testing yet. We’ll see. Make sure everything we’ve X-rayed is still the same.”
Orioles right-hander Miguel Gonzalez, who is on the DL with a right groin strain, is scheduled to throw off a mound on Thursday while the club is in Philadelphia. That would put him on pace to make a minor league rehabilitation start on Saturday and rejoin the Orioles rotation on June 25 in Boston.
Here are the starting lineups for tonight's game:
Manny Machado 3B
Travis Snider LF
Jimmy Paredes DH
Chris Davis 1B
Chris Parmelee RF
J.J. Hardy SS
Ryan Flaherty 2B
Caleb Joseph C
David Lough CF
Chris Tillman RHP
Cesar Hernandez 2B
Odubel Herrera CF
Maikel Franco 3B
Ryan Howard DH
Chase Utley 1B
Domonic Brown RF
Cody Asche LF
Carlos Ruiz C
Freddy Galvis SS