The Orioles' ongoing roster carousel was expected to spin again Tuesday afternoon, but its passenger heading to the minors was a surprise — and he took to social media to question the decision.
To make room for first baseman/outfielder Chris Parmelee on the 25-man roster, the Orioles optioned lefty Wei-Yin Chen to High-A Frederick on Tuesday, one day after he delivered arguably his best outing of the season.
Chen, who threw eight scoreless innings against the Philadelphia Phillies and has a 2.89 ERA in 13 starts, was a victim of circumstance. The club wanted to take a look at Parmelee, Chen has minor league options available and, since he hasn't pitched well against the lefty-bashing Toronto Blue Jays in his career, he'll have that start skipped and return June 26 against the Cleveland Indians.
The announcement was made after the media's access to players had ended, so Chen took to social media — Facebook and Twitter — to express his feelings about the decision.
"I am in excellent physical shape. I feel great and I am ready for my next start. I just pitched 8 innings of shutout baseball," Chen tweeted in English. "I am disappointed my routine is being interrupted. I will continue to work hard and do my best to perform. Thank you for all the support!"
Chen, a free agent at the end of the season, has only tweeted 38 times since he has had an account, hadn't sent out anything in 34 days and rarely tweets in English. His agent, notoriously shrewd negotiator Scott Boras, also was not happy about what the Orioles did.
Boras conceded it was within the team's rights — Boras wasn't Chen's agent when the original contract, which included the minor league options, was signed in January 2012 — but called the decision "grossly irregular."
"This is a 16-game winner who on [Monday] threw eight scoreless innings and has a sub-3.00 ERA," said Boras, who also represents Parmelee. "To disrupt a season like this for a pitcher of Chen's status and to disrupt his routine, which is so important for a starting pitcher, is grossly irregular. I've never seen anything like this in the sport of baseball in my 30 years of doing this."
Orioles manager Buck Showalter was asked specifically about Chen's reaction in their meeting this afternoon, which included two interpreters. Chen speaks Mandarin Chinese and Japanese, and is also fairly fluent in English, so Showalter said he wanted to make sure his message came across correctly.
"He understands completely," said Showalter, who pointed out that he's sent optionable starting pitchers to the minors on several occasions. "He understands, especially when we've done it with him once or twice and we've done it with Miguel [Gonzalez], we've done it with [Kevin] Gausman, we've done it with a number of guys. We've got a real good return from it. It's hard. Because he's pitching well and will again, but the whole idea is to have him pitch well again and again and again."
Showalter said the lefty complained of some general body fatigue following his June 10 start against the Boston Red Sox. In an effort to keep him healthy and rested, Showalter said the plan is to pitch him three to four innings Saturday for Frederick to keep him fresh.
"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. "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."
Once demoted, Chen will have to stay in the minors for at least 10 days. Since he won't be there for 20 or more days, the decision does not affect his service time or salary.
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. Chen would also avoid facing the Blue Jays, who entered Tuesday batting .313 with an .876 OPS against left-handed pitching. The Orioles have traditionally kept Chen away from the Jays. He has faced Toronto just four times in his career and only twice at Rogers Centre.
Byproducts of Chen decision
Showalter said a "byproduct" of the decision is that it means the club won't lose anyone off its 25-man roster and can get an extended look at Parmelee, who had a career-high four hits Tuesday, including two homers. Parmelee could have exercised an opt-out clause in his minor league deal Monday. But a chance to hit regularly in Camden Yards, where he was 7-for-21 in nine games with the Minnesota Twins, was intriguing.
"I always liked playing here when I came here with Minnesota, so I enjoy this ballpark and I enjoy the fans here so far," said Parmelee, who hit .312 with six homers in 61 games at Triple-A Norfolk. "They were hard on me when I was in a Minnesota uniform, but I like the intensity and I'm glad to be on this side now."
The Orioles must now fill Chen's rotation spot for Saturday's afternoon game in Toronto. Right-hander Kevin Gausman, who allowed one run on a leadoff solo homer in two innings at Frederick on Tuesday, is the leading candidate to start that game against the Blue Jays as he returns from right shoulder tendinitis. Right-hander Mike Wright is scheduled to start the series opener in Toronto on Friday night and Chris Tillman will pitch the series finale Sunday.
Mountcastle signs, meets the media
The Orioles signed high school shortstop Ryan Mountcastle, their second first-round pick in the 2015 draft, to a contract that includes a $1.3 million bonus, roughly $400,000 under the projected slot.
Mountcastle, a 6-foot-4, 190-pound infielder who can play either shortstop or third base, was baseball's 36th overall pick out of Oviedo High in Florida. Mountcastle batted .500 with two home runs and 22 stolen bases in 84 at-bats as a high school senior this year.
"He's an advanced hitter, he has on-base and slugging ability. He has bat speed, he will grind at-bats, he has pitch recognition and he has discipline at the plate," Orioles scouting director Gary Rajsich said. " He's just a good all-around baseball player and we're looking forward to watching him out here at Camden Yards for many years."
Mountcastle chose pro ball over a college scholarship to the University of Central Florida.
"There's a lot of reasons,'' he said at an introductory media conference. "But definitely the money, I think, was life-changing, I think, to forego college and go pro and I just want to start my career a little bit earlier and try to make it to the big leagues as fast as I can."
Rajsich said Mountcastle will be assigned to the Orioles' Rookie-level team in the Gulf Coast League.
Jones doesn't start Tuesday
Center fielder Adam Jones, who had started 61 of the club's first 63 games, was out of the lineup Tuesday. Showalter said Jones was "banged up," but wouldn't point to a specific injury, saying it was mainly overall soreness.
"Just giving him a day," Showalter said. "... Hopefully it is just today. Talked to him a little bit a little after lunch today. Won't get into the various [ailments]: Toe, ankle, foul balls off [of them], dive, shoulders. I just want to give him a day or two. See what tomorrow brings."
Around the horn
Orioles right-hander Miguel Gonzalez, who is currently on the disabled list with a right groin strain, is slated to throw off a mound Thursday while the club is in Philadelphia. That would put him on pace to make a minor league rehabilitation start Saturday and rejoin the Orioles rotation June 25 in Boston. … To make room for Parmelee on the roster, infielder Jonathan Schoop (knee) was moved to the 60-day DL. It's a formality to create roster space; it won't affect Schoop's return to the majors when ready. … The Orioles also announced the signings of sixth-round right-hander Jay Flaa and 10th-round lefty Reid Love. … Mountcastle is represented by Tripper Johnson of Sosnick, Cobbe & Karon. Johnson, coincidentally enough, was an Orioles first-round pick (32nd overall) in 2000 and reached Double-A Bowie with the organization.
Sun columnist Peter Schmuck contributed to this article.