Pitcher Clay Rapada tried not to be disappointed when he wasn't a part of the Orioles' 25-man roster at the end of spring training. He understood the team wanted some relievers who could go an inning, possibly longer, and his specialty is situational — getting left-handed hitters out.
But when the team called him up Monday from Triple-A Norfolk and put Chris Jakubauskas on the 15-day disabled list with a strained right groin, Rapada was so excited to be back in the major leagues, he declared himself available for any role.
"If they want me to pick up the [trash] cans, I'll be like, 'Hey, no problem,'" Rapada joked.
Rapada, 30, is 3-0 with a 4.71 ERA in 46 major league games that span parts of four seasons. Last year, Rapada pitched in 13 games with the Texas Rangers, compiling no record and a 4.00 ERA in nine innings. In his career, left-handers have hit just .186 off the sidearmer (with a .305 on-base percentage) in 83 plate appearances. Right-handers have hit .292 off him (with a .418 on-base percentage) in 79 plate appearances. He allowed just one hit and two walks while facing 21 lefties last year.
With the Minnesota Twins, Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees in town on this homestand, the Orioles felt they needed someone capable of getting left-handed hitters out, and thus far Michael Gonzalez hasn't been able to get the job done (0-1,10.38 ERA).
"It seems like [teams] have been getting more and more comfortable stacking left-handers back to back [against us]," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "Hopefully, [Rapada] will help us some in that regard. He's also a guy who has an ability to defend himself against right-handers. We feel confident he's a guy who can, at times, pitch a clean inning as well."
Rapada did one better Monday night against the Twins, pitching 1 1/3 perfect innings and striking out three.
Showalter said Rapada was promoted because of how well he had been pitching for Norfolk. He allowed one hit and one walk while striking out three and picking up a save in two scoreless innings for the Tides. His appearances were limited because struggling Norfolk did not have many late-inning leads.
"Certainly he's had a lot of success against left-handers last year, and over his career," Showalter said. "Sometimes that doesn't translate in the big leagues, but it did last year. This is a guy who was on an American League championship playoff roster, so we'll see where it takes us."
Rapada thought might have an opportunity with the Orioles this year because of his relationship with pitching coach Mark Connor, who was a special assistant in player development with the Rangers.
"When I was going through the offers [this offseason], opportunity to make the big league team was my No. 1 priority. And when it came down to it, I definitely felt this was my best chance," Rapada said. "Having a relationship with Mark Connor, he was like, 'You have the opportunity to win a job here.'"
Jakubauskas hits DL
Jakubauskas suspected something was wrong with his right groin near the end of the Orioles' series against the Yankees, but he and the team decided to give it a few more days to see whether he could play through it. But when Jakubauskas jumped to grab a come-backer against the Cleveland Indians in an attempt to turn a double play, the injury felt serious enough that he and the team decided it was best to deal with it now instead of letting it linger and potentially get worse.
"We were going to try and give it a couple days in Cleveland and New York," Jakubauskas said. "But it hung around a couple days, and we made a decision, a collective decision, that it was probably better to miss two weeks now than two months later if it became something more serious. I don't want to put the guys in a hole if I go in hurt and come out hurt and put us in a deeper hole. It's not too serious, I don't think."
Jakubauskas, 32, allowed six runs in 71/3 innings over three games with the Orioles this month. On April 9, he made his first big league appearance since April 24, 2010, when he was struck in the head by a line drive in his only game with the Pittsburgh Pirates.
"It's more frustrating than anything," Jakubauskas said of his injury. "This is not how I want to start the year, but things happen. I am just glad it is not as bad as I thought it was. It was pretty sore in New York, but it has gotten progressively better every day. But it is not to the point where I can go out and let it go 100 percent. I have two weeks to get it healthy and let it get stronger."
Showalter said pitcher Brian Matusz threw from 60 feet and 90 feet Monday and did it without pain. But the manager cautioned that even when Matusz is able to throw off the mound, he's still going to have to accomplish a lot — including, most likely, making multiple minor league starts — before he's ready to pitch in the majors.
"You keep in mind that when he gets on the mound and is able to throw pain-free, there are a lot of bridges to cross before he's a pitcher in the major leagues," Showalter said. "It's not going to be a one- or two-start thing in the minor leagues. You're not going to bring him up here with three innings under his belt. It's not going to be something where he throws one time and joins us. That's not going to happen."
Shortstop J.J. Hardy (oblique strain) hasn't resumed baseball activities, but Showalter said Hardy felt good Monday for the first time since his injury. His return, however, remains up in the air.
"It's such a moving target," Showalter said. "We're going to be as cautious as we can. We'd like him back yesterday, but you can't make it happen. And if you do push it too much, you're going to pay the piper for that long term."
To make room for Rapada on the 40-man roster, the Orioles shifted Justin Duchscherer to the 60-day disabled list, a move that was mostly procedural as Duchscherer likely wouldn't have been ready before the end of May anyway. He has faced big league hitters only once this year, a two-inning stint in a March exhibition game.
Showalter said he decided to give Luke Scott the night off Monday to help his groin continue to heal and because he's trying to get Jake Fox semi-regular at bats.
New business executive hired
The Orioles have hired longtime baseball executive Doug Duennes to supervise their day-to-day business operations, a club source confirmed. Duennes has spent roughly 30 years in baseball, including a 10-year stint with the Los Angeles Dodgers before he was fired by owner Frank McCourt in April 2005 as part of a management purge.
Duennes also spent eight years with the San Diego Padres and 12 with the Cincinnati Reds, mostly as stadium operations director with both organizations. More recently, Duennes was the senior vice president of operations for the Pennsylvania Convention Center Authority and spent the past year as general manager with Centerplate at the Baltimore Convention Center.
He will oversee all business departments, including stadium operations, communications and marketing — similar to the position held by Joe Foss, who left the organization in 2007. John P. Angelos remains the club's executive vice president. The Orioles have not officially announced the hiring or Duennes' title, but he has been with the organization for about a week.
Around the horn
The Orioles will have a moment of silence before Tuesday's game to honor the memory of former Baltimore Mayor and Maryland Governor William Donald Schaefer, who died Monday. … Single-A Frederick right-handed starter Bobby Bundy left Sunday's outing with right forearm soreness. The injury isn't believed to be serious, and it's possible Bundy will make his next start. … Double-A Bowie first baseman Joe Mahoney still hasn't passed all his physical tests to return from a quadriceps strain, and it appears that he'll be out until late this week.