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Orioles notes: Ubaldo Jiménez still scheduled to start Sunday, at least for now, Showalter says

Orioles manager Buck Showalter didn't necessarily give a ringing endorsement for keeping struggling right-hander Ubaldo Jiménez in the starting rotation, but he said Tuesday that as it sits now, Jiménez is still scheduled to make his next start Sunday in Houston.

"Jiménez's next start is Sunday and we'll see where we are when we get there," Showalter said before Tuesday night's game against the Minnesota Twins when asked about Jiménez's status. "That's when he's scheduled to start again. … We'll take each day as it comes and see where we are as a staff after each outing."

The Orioles have a day off Thursday — so they could conceivably skip a starter — but Showalter said he plans to keep the rotation on turn to give his starters an extra day of rest.

"I'm going to give these guys the extra day with the off day every chance we get, especially with Dylan [Bundy] and [Kevin Gausman]," Showalter said, referring to the rotation's youngest members.

So for now, Jiménez will stay in the rotation, but after Monday night's outing in an ugly 14-7 loss to the Minnesota Twins, in which Jiménez blew a pair of early five-run leads and failed to go beyond five innings for the sixth time in his past eight outings, his rotation spot is in jeopardy now more than ever before.

Jiménez's 7.17 ERA is the second highest among major league starters who have pitched at least 40 innings. Only San Diego Padres right-hander Jered Weaver's 7.44 is higher.

Jiménez won't go to the bullpen, at least not yet. After throwing 90 pitches Monday, he wouldn't be available to pitch in relief for two or three days at the earliest.

"But that decision one way or the other hasn't been made," Showalter said.

Jiménez is in the final year of a four-year, $50 million contract during spring training in 2014, which remains the richest free-agent contract given to a starting pitcher in Orioles history.

There is no clear successor to fill his rotation spot, but the club has options.

Right-hander Alec Asher has a 2.92 ERA in two spot starts, but he's also settled into a relief role in recent weeks and is starting to receive late-inning high-leverage opportunities, which the club needs with closer Zach Britton on the disabled list. Asher has a 1.84 ERA in 141/3 relief innings.

"I think that would obviously jump to the conclusion that we needed one for Sunday, so I'm going to be careful with that; some people might think we do," Showalter said when asked about Asher's potential for filling a rotation hole. "I don't think on the surface that he's that far removed from the extended outings. Now but in a week or two, [that might not be the case].

"It probably wouldn't be normal length if you went there, but I also think he's also shown the ability to serve a need in our bullpen with Zach being down," Showalter added. "There's some different challenges in our bullpen with Zach out. You need to have an optionable bullpen and you need to have some versatility down there and some guys who can pitch physically more than once every four days down there."

Orioles recall Aquino, option Crichton: After the bullpen had to account for five innings Monday, the Orioles added a fresh reliever before Tuesday's game, recalling left-hander Jayson Aquino from Triple-A Norfolk and optioning right-hander Stefan Crichton to the Tides.

"We needed some length tonight and needed an arm," Showalter said. "Aquino was the most equipped to give us some length tonight. The problem with length is, will the other team cooperate and let you pitch long? It's one thing to be able to pitch multiple innings, but if you can't get them out if you can't pitch multiple innings."

Aquino has a 1-3 record and 5.13 ERA with the Tides, but last pitched Thursday, so he was well rested. He allowed three runs over 52/3 innings on six hits and five walks in his most recent start. Aquino has allowed eight runs over eight innings with the Orioles this season, including a quality start in only start with the major league club April 22 against the Boston Red Sox.

Crichton had a 6.48 ERA over 81/3 relief innings with the Orioles. He allowed two runs — including a solo homer to Miguel Sano — in 31/3 innings in a career-high 59-pitch outing against the Twins on Monday.

Showalter said the club considered making a second roster move, but he said right-hander Tyler Wilson, who yielded six runs (four earned) over 11/3 innings Monday, could give the team an inning if needed Tuesday after throwing 31 pitches.

Right-hander Logan Verrett was not an option for a call-up because he hasn't pitched since May 16 since going on the temporary inactive list for the birth of his child.

"[With] the number of days he's been without pitching, he's not an option at this point," Showalter said.

Latest on Bourn: The Orioles have 24 hours to decide whether to add minor league outfielder Michael Bourn to the 25-man major league roster before he can officially exercise and opt-out clause in his contract.

Bourn's opt-out date was officially Monday, but the club has 48 hours to add him to the roster before the opt-out can go into effect.

Bourn, who gave the Orioles a spark late last season after coming over in a waiver-wire trade, re-signed with the club in spring training but fractured a finger while attempting to catch a football in conditioning drills. He exercised an opt-out at the end of spring training but eventually re-signed.

Bourn is hitting just .220 in 11 games at Norfolk but has a .373 on-base percentage because he's drawn 10 walks in 51 plate appearances.

Around the horn: Showalter turned 61 on Tuesday. "Remember when you thought 61 was old? Well it is," Showalter quipped. When asked about whether he gets reflective on his future in baseball during his birthday, Showalter said: "I take each day as it comes. It's a blessing to get up and be on this side of the dirt." … The Orioles have retained catcher Francisco Peña, who was outrighted to Triple-A Norfolk after clearing waivers, the team announced. Pena had a previous outright, so he could have declined an outright assignment to the minors, but he accepted it.

eencina@baltsun.com

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