The Orioles' beleaguered rotation lost another member Friday when struggling rookie Zach Britton was placed on the disabled list with a left shoulder strain.
The news comes a day after Britton allowed six runs (four earned) and 12 hits over 5 1/3 innings in a loss to the Kansas City Royals. Britton, who was making just his second start since a three-week demotion to Double-A Bowie, is 6-9 with a 4.66 ERA in 20 outings for the Orioles this season.
It is unclear how long the injury has been bothering him. The Orioles announced the move just minutes before Friday's first pitch and Britton wasn't immediately available for comment.
However, Britton has clearly been in decline since he won five of his first six starts and carried a 2.93 ERA into June, emerging as a legitimate American League Rookie of the Year candidate. He has won just one of his previous 14 starts and he's logged more than six innings in just one of his past 11 outings. Since June, Britton is 1-6 in nine starts with a 7.78 ERA.
His absence further decimates an Orioles' rotation that has been crushed by injuries and ineffectiveness. Only Jeremy Guthrie has been a constant in the group and he currently leads the American League with 15 losses. The rest of the rotation includes Tommy Hunter, who was acquired from the Texas Rangers on Saturday and made his first start of the season Friday; Alfredo Simon, who wasn't at big league spring training as he dealt with legal issues in Dominican Republic; and Chris Tillman, who will be recalled Saturday.
Orioles manager Buck Showalter didn't want to commit to Tillman for more than one start until he sees how he performs Saturday, but he may have no choice with Britton's injury, and Jake Arrieta expected to miss the rest of the season as he awaits potential right elbow surgery.
"That's there for him if he seizes the opportunity, very much like Simon," Showalter said of the prospects of Tillman remaining in the rotation.
More roster juggling?
Infielder Cesar Izturis, who missed nearly three months after having right elbow surgery, took Britton's spot on the 25-man roster. To make room for Izturis' transition from the 60-day disabled list to the 40-man roster, the Orioles designated right-hander Brandon Erbe for assignment.
Erbe, the 23-year-old who went to high school at McDonogh and was once considered one of the Orioles' top pitching prospects, was 0-1 with a 9.82 ERA in four appearances spanning 3 2/3 innings for short-season Single-A Aberdeen. He had surgery to repair a torn right labrum last August.
Shortstop J.J. Hardy (sore left ankle) was not available Friday, and it's unclear when he'll be able to return to the lineup. Hardy saw team orthopedist Dr. John Wilckens before Friday's game and could get a magnetic resonance imaging taken Saturday.
"Right now, I feel like nothing has happened to my ankle at all," Hardy said. "Just the running and pounding on it kind of irritates it. I don't know what it is. I don't think the trainers know exactly what it is either. Once I see Dr. Wilckens, we'll know a little bit more about what's going on."
The Orioles were also forced to scratch first baseman Chris Davis about 45 minutes before Friday's game. It was called a "manager's decision," and Showalter said that he would address the situation after the game. Mark Reynolds made his third start at first base in Davis' absence, and Josh Bell got the nod at third. With Davis and Hardy unavailable, that left the Orioles with a three-man bench.
Bundy makes an appearance
Orioles first-round draft pick Dylan Bundy is known for maintaining a rigid workout and weightlifting regimen, so the highlight of his first visit to Camden Yards probably shouldn't come as a surprise.
"The weight room is great," said Bundy, sporting a wide smile. "That's the best part."
Bundy, the talented right-handed starter out of Owasso (Okla.) High who the Orioles selected fourth overall in the June draft, was in town Friday to take a physical for the club. The Orioles and Bundy have not started serious negotiations yet on a deal. However, Bundy getting the physical out of the way eliminates one hurdle before a potential agreement could be finalized.
The Orioles have until midnight Aug.15 to sign the 18-year-old, or they'll lose his draft rights.
"We still haven't started the negotiations yet," Bundy said. "We'll see how it goes after that. Honestly, I'm not sure what's going to happen. I know it's coming down to the wire, but whatever happens, we'll be fine either way."
Orioles director of amateur scouting Joe Jordan is expected to meet with Bundy's father, Denver, who is also part of the agency that represents the pitcher, next week.
Asked if he was nervous about how this will play out, Dylan Bundy said: "God has a plan for me so we'll see what happens. Either way, it's a win-win situation. I'll either go to a great [Division I] school at Texas or I'll get to come here."
After his physical, Bundy, who got a tour of Camden Yards and met Showalter and several of the players, went to Prince George's Stadium to watch his older brother, Bobby, make his debut for Double-A Bowie.
"I'm excited to see him. I haven't gotten a chance to see him pitch in the summer for three years now, so I'm excited to see how he does," Dylan Bundy said.
Around the horn
Coordinator of offensive fundamentals Mike Bordick started his stint as acting bullpen coach Friday. … Single-A Frederick first baseman Tyler Townsend has recurring soreness in his hamstring and he'll return to Sarasota to continue the rehabilitation process. … Showalter said that second baseman Brian Roberts (concussion) is making progress, but he's still not been cleared to play in games. … Starter Justin Duchscherer, who was released earlier this week after not pitching in an affiliated game with the Orioles, had successful hip surgery Thursday. The surgeon found some adhesions and floating cartilage in the joint, which were the cause of the pitcher's discomfort.