Here’s what we know about Jason Berken:
The Orioles called him up from Triple-A Norfolk yesterday to take second baseman Robert Andino’s spot on the 25-man roster. Andino will miss at least two games after going on paternity leave.
Here’s what we don’t know about Jason Berken:
How long he’s going to stay with the Orioles.
Berken has no idea. He’s just been told to be ready if he’s needed. He’ll be the long man if left-hander Brian Matusz makes an early exit tonight.
Manager Buck Showalter likes how he’s lined up the bullpen, giving his relievers the best chance to succeed by the way he’s using them. He’s getting the most out of Darren O’Day, Luis Ayala, Matt Lindstrom, Pedro Strop and a healthy Jim Johnson. Troy Patton has gotten some big outs.
Berken is the one piece that’s been missing - a true long man.
Is that why he’s here?
The Orioles are a man short on the bench, and it’s more like two with outfielder Nolan Reimold nursing a sore neck. Since one reserve is backup catcher Ronny Paulino, Showalter’s late-inning options are severely limited.
His other reserve, Nick Johnson, is 0-for-23, so he’s not an ideal pinch-hitter at this stage of the season.
There are three theories floating around the press box and the minds of Orioles fans everywhere. Here they are, in no particular order:
1. Berken temporarily brings an additional arm to the bullpen while Johnson is hospitalized and Matusz is struggling to pitch deep into games. He’ll be optioned to Norfolk as soon as Andino returns from Miami.
2. Berken will remain with the club as a long reliever, and the Orioles will bite the bullet and swallow what’s left of the $5.8 million on Kevin Gregg’s contract. Gregg has appeared in four games this season, and none since April 18 in Chicago. Strop is getting the saves in Johnson’s absence. Gregg isn’t even warming up.
3. Berken will move into the rotation and Matusz will be optioned to Norfolk if the lefty doesn’t come up big tonight. Berken has been starting at Norfolk, going six innings in his last outing. He’s allowed one earned run in 15 innings. However, putting Berken in the rotation would again leave Showalter without a long man.
Berken might be here to replace Johnson if the closer goes on the disabled list.
Now we’re back to Gregg, who’s 0-1 with a 9.64 ERA, five walks, two strikeouts and a 2.79 WHIP. He gave up a hit and walked two batters in his last appearance, but he kept the White Sox from scoring. Six of the seven Blue Jays he faced reached base in an April 15 meltdown at Rogers Centre.
You can argue that the Orioles aren’t going to eat all of that remaining salary. You can argue that it doesn’t matter, since Gregg’s getting paid either way, he’s not pitching and that bullpen spot can be put to better use.
What are the chances that Gregg suddenly lands on the disabled list with an ailment that’s gone undisclosed? I don’t have inside information here. I’m just floating the idea.
OK, this is the part where you tell me what’s going to happen. And feel free to shoot down all three theories and come up with one of your own.
In an unrelated note, Norfolk right-handed reliever Miguel Gonzalez, 27, has allowed just one run and one hit, with one walk and 14 strikeouts, in 9 2/3 innings. International League batters are 1-for-29 against him. None of his eight inherited runners have scored.
Also, Bill Hall made his Tides debut last night and went 0-for-4 with four strikeouts as the designated hitter.