The Orioles must create 25-man roster space over the next two days to add right-hander Miguel Gonzalez and left-hander Wei-Yin Chen to the active roster so they can start the next two games.
The Orioles have been forced to be creative in manipulating their 25-man roster without losing key organizational pieces, most recently optioning Chen to High-A Frederick on June 16, a move that allowed them to promote outfielder Chris Parmelee before he enacted an out clause in his minor league contract.
Now another round of tough decisions looms in creating space for Gonzalez, Chen and eventually second baseman Jonathan Schoop, who is progressing in his rehabilitation assignment.
"We're going to have the strongest roster we can have every night, and at the end of the night, we're going to try to get ready for the next day," Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette said. "A lot of the players that we have in Triple-A have been able to come up and contribute to the team, which is good. They have experience, and a couple of them have made a strong contribution toward winning games, so hopefully that continues. But we have a couple of roster moves with the pitchers coming back and Schoop is getting closer to helping the major league team again."
Since Sunday, when the team optioned right-hander Kevin Gausman to Triple-A Norfolk following his start Saturday and recalled right-handed reliever Oliver Drake, the Orioles have worked with eight relievers and just three starting pitchers.
They will have to activate Gonzalez from the disabled list before Thursday afternoon's finale against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park and then recall Chen to start Friday's game against the Cleveland Indians at Camden Yards.
The bullpen had only two optionable arms — lefty T.J. McFarland, who was recalled before Wednesday's game with Drake optioned, and right-hander Mychal Givens, who made his major league debut Wednesday. Givens appears to be the most likely to be optioned Thursday to make room for Gonzalez.
The team has seven outfielders on its roster, none of whom have options. Also on Wednesday, starting center fielder Adam Jones (right shoulder) sat out for the sixth time in eight games.
"We'll see," Duquette said when asked whether the club can afford to keep seven outfielders. "We'd like to have the strongest team we can have every night. Having the pitchers on option, that helps the team a lot. We don't have that many on this team, so we'll have to look some other ways to keep the team strong."
Orioles manager Buck Showalter alluded to some "lingering injuries" before Wednesday's game, so a DL move isn't out of the question.
Duquette indicated that the team's negotiations with first-round draft pick DJ Stewart are progressing. Duquette hopes Stewart can be signed and playing by next week.
"I believe he wants to start his pro career, and we'd like him to start his pro career, so that's a mutual sentiment," Duquette said before Wednesday's game.
Including Stewart, the 25th overall pick out of Florida State, just two of the Orioles' first 14 draft picks remain unsigned. Second-round selection Jonathan Hughes, a right-handed pitcher from Flowery Branch High School in Georgia, is also unsigned.
"DJ Stewart, I expect to sign, and I don't know the exact timetable," Duquette said. "If we can progress in our discussions, and get out him out playing for next week, that's what we're shooting for. We'd like to see him out playing ball. I think he wants to go out and play ball, too."
Listed at 6 feet and 225 pounds, the left-handed-hitting Stewart led the nation in walks (69) and had a .500 on-base percentage while hitting 15 home runs and driving in 59 runs in 64 games as a junior for the Seminoles this season.
Stewart, the first position player the Orioles have selected in the first round since taking Manny Machado third overall in 2010, projects to be a left fielder. He immediately becomes one of the organization's top outfield prospects, an area that isn't currently a strength in the Orioles farm system.
McFarland rejoins Orioles
After fulfilling his mandatory 10-day minor league option period, McFarland was recalled by the Orioles before Wednesday's game against the Red Sox at Fenway Park.
McFarland, who posted a 1.93 ERA in 10 major league relief appearances before being optioned June 14 so the team could add a fresh bullpen arm in rookie Tyler Wilson, found out he was returning to the club Wednesday morning.
"I found out there was a chance I was coming [Tuesday] night and then I got the flight this morning and flew in," McFarland said.
The Orioles always planned to recall McFarland, especially with the team playing the left-handed-dominant batting orders of the Indians and Texas Rangers during a homestand that begins Friday.
"We knew, especially they've got some lefties," Showalter said. "Cleveland is loaded left-handed and so is Texas. … Just wanted some length more than anything. Mac has shown he can do that job."
With the bullpen accounting for 24 2/3 innings over the past five games — and Darren O'Day, Brad Brach and Chaz Roe each pitching three straight games before Wednesday — the Orioles relievers could used some help. But McFarland tried not to anticipate his return to the big league club.
"It's kind of hard," McFarland said. "You can't really play that game when you're down there and look at the chess pieces and look at what's going to happen. You just kind of have to focus on what you're doing down there, which I was. Just basically trying to get outs, just trying to get back to what I normally do, which is throw strikes and get outs. But yeah, I'm extremely happy that it worked out this way and I'm here now."
McFarland hadn't allowed a run in five outings before he was optioned to Norfolk, but showed some uncharacteristic control issues, walking six in 5 1/3 innings over his last six outings.
Since McFarland was being used as a reliever at the big league level this season, he worked out of the bullpen when he returned to Norfolk, pitching in middle-inning, multi-inning situations. He neither allowed a hit nor a run in five scoreless innings in his return to the Tides.
Showalter said he wants to get Drake more regular work. The 28-year-old right-hander hasn't pitched since June 15.
Around the horn
The Orioles entered Wednesday's game hitting a major league-best .318 with runners in scoring position, ahead of the Colorado Rockies (.304), Atlanta Braves (.298) and Toronto Blue Jays (.300). Catcher Caleb Joseph ranked sixth in the American League with a .371 average (13-for-35) with runners in scoring position. … Schoop started for the fifth time in six games during his rehab assignment at Bowie on Wednesday. If he isn't activated from the DL this weekend, he would likely report to Norfolk when the Baysox go on the road.