Bullpen speculation and another lefty opponent

I guess a four-game sweep in Chicago was being greedy. Taking three of four is acceptable.

Josh Rupe served up Paul Konerko's second home run last night, increasing the White Sox's lead to 6-0 in the eighth inning. He allowed two runs in 14 2/3 innings in spring training, but he's carrying a 7.59 ERA in 10 2/3 innings this season.

Rupe also let an inherited runner score on Konerko's homer, which left Clay Rapada's ERA at 16.20 in 3 1/3 innings.

If the Orioles make any changes to their bullpen, Rupe and Rapada are the most vulnerable relievers. The team doesn't figure to keep carrying 13 pitchers, and one of them is likely to go when shortstop J.J. Hardy comes off the disabled list.

Michael Gonzalez could allow manager Buck Showalter to carry one left-hander again, though two are preferred if they're both effective.

A starter will have to go once Brian Matusz rejoins the rotation later this month. Could the Orioles decide to send Brad Bergesen or Chris Tillman to the bullpen, which would jeopardize Rupe's spot on the roster?

In the past, they've been reluctant to use Tillman in relief, preferring that he start every five days in the majors or the International League. They seem more willing to change Bergesen's role, though they won't do it if he's achieving better results than Tillman.

It's all speculation. Rupe or Rapada could get on a roll. But spots will have to open up for Hardy and Matusz, as well as Justin Duchscherer if he's activated from the disabled list when he's eligible on May 30. And don't forget about Alfredo Simon, who will start Thursday at Double-A Bowie. He's out of options, so he can't be activated and sent to the minors without clearing waivers.

Meanwhile, the Orioles have taken their road act to Kansas City, where the Royals are 12-5 this season. They're 15-13 overall and have won three in a row.

Jeff Francis began the year with four straight quality starts, but he's been tagged for five earned runs in two consecutive appearances. He gave up six runs (five earned) in three innings against the Indians on Wednesday.

Kansas City's rotation has the worst ERA in the American League at 5.29.

The Orioles lost another game to a southpaw last night, failing to score against Mark Buehrle in 6 2/3 innings, and they'll face Francis tonight. They acquired Hardy, Derrek Lee, Vladimir Guerrero and Mark Reynolds in part to improve their record against lefties.

Reynolds is 2-for-23 with nine strikeouts against left-handers this season, his second hit coming last night when he doubled off Buehrle. He batted .218 against them last year with the Diamondbacks and .235 in 2009.

Francis is 0-2 with a 4.85 ERA in two career starts against the Orioles. Reynolds is 9-for-20 with two doubles and two RBIs.

Lee is 7-for-12 with a homer, two RBIs and three walks. Guerrero is 3-for-4 with two doubles.

Nick Markakis, who banged his right knee on a sprinkler head last night and was drilled on the right hand by a Chris Sale fastball, is 2-for-3 with a home run and two RBIs. Hopefully, he slept in a bag of ice last night.

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