If Flaherty is here, who goes?

The Orioles begin a seven-game homestand tonight, and they're expected to go back to a four-man bench.

Ryan Flaherty didn't play in Triple-A Norfolk's game at Durham last night, and I've heard that the Orioles are prepared to activate him from the 15-day disabled list. We'll see.

I got the impression - and yes, I do impressions - that the Orioles were going to keep Flaherty on his rehab assignment for the maximum 20 days if allowed by Major League Baseball. However, he's 11-for-23 with two home runs, three RBIs and five runs scored since going hitless in his first 15 at-bats.

Flaherty must have been rusty when he showed up in Norfolk. He had gotten only two at-bats with the Orioles since July 23, the arrival of Omar Quintanilla severely cutting into his playing time. He collected hits in four straight games, including two home runs, before being relegated to the bench.

Assuming that Flaherty shows up at Camden Yards, who leaves to make room for him on the 25-man roster?

flaherty-swinging-white-sidebar.jpgOne possibility is that the Orioles decide to option pitcher Tommy Hunter to Norfolk.

With the way manager Buck Showalter has set up his rotation, Hunter wouldn't be able to make another start before Wednesday. Zach Britton starts tonight and Steve Johnson is expected to get the ball on Saturday. Chris Tillman is scheduled to pitch on Sunday, with Wei-Yin Chen and Miguel Gonzalez starting the first two games of the White Sox series.

Britton could start again on normal rest Wednesday.

J.C. Romero has been ineffective since the Orioles traded for him, but he's currently the only left-hander in the bullpen. Brian Matusz has tossed a scoreless inning in each of his last two appearances in Norfolk, and Zach Phillips struck out two in a scoreless eighth inning last night. Phillips hasn't allowed a run in 16 of his last 19 outings.

Johnson had been in jeopardy of losing his roster spot, but the Orioles optioned first baseman Joe Mahoney over the weekend to make room for Britton on the 25-man roster. Showalter wanted an extra arm in the bullpen against the Tigers and Rangers, but Johnson wasn't needed in long relief. He worked one inning Wednesday night, throwing 23 pitches in what amounted to a side session.

Anyway, the speculation will end later today.

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