Arrieta to pitch out of the bullpen (quotes added)

The Orioles had a few reasons for optioning Miguel Gonzalez to Triple-A Norfolk today and keeping Jake Arrieta on the 25-man roster.

They wanted Gonzalez to return to Norfolk’s rotation and build up innings so he can be considered for starting assignments with the Orioles. It sounds like they have every intention of bringing him back at some point this summer, perhaps not that far down the road.

Also, they don’t have an immediate need for an extra starter because of Monday’s off-day. Other open dates on the schedule this month arrive on the 21st and 25th.

Arrieta can go to the bullpen, at least temporarily, and work on his command and regain whatever confidence has eroded from his failures as a starter, which left him with a 6.32 ERA after last night.

A decision had to be made by 1 p.m. today, and the Orioles used up almost all of the allotted time before choosing to option Gonzalez. The first inclination was to send down Arrieta, but after sleeping on it and having further discussions this morning, team officials and manager Buck Showalter agreed to keep him in the majors.

Pitching coach Rick Adair searched the clubhouse, trainers’ room and dugout for Gonzalez before returning to the clubhouse and taking him into Showalter’s office. The door closed, and so did Gonzalez’s current stint with the team.

I’ll post comments from Showalter in this entry.

Also, I wanted to pass along that the Orioles are hoping to activate second baseman Brian Roberts from the disabled list on Tuesday, once his rehab assignment has ended. They’re keeping fingers crossed that he makes it through the weekend with his health intact.

Nothing is official, of course, but that seems to be the plan.

Roberts is batting .235/.357/.471 in 12 games and 34 at-bats on a rehab assignment that’s taken him to Double-A Bowie, low Single-A Delmarva, back to Bowie and now Norfolk. He has five doubles, a home run - hit with the Tides - four RBIs, six runs scored, seven walks and eight strikeouts. He hasn’t attempted a stolen base, but he’s made a few diving stops at second base.

Update: OK, here’s how Showalter explained today’s roster move:

“We optioned Miguel out for the time being. Presented himself well, and we’re going to proceed forward from there. Jake will go into the bullpen for the time being.

“We had a lot of discussions about the options and went right up to five minutes before we had to make the move. Just felt like where we are right now, there are some other things available to us down the road, looking at the big picture. We’ll see how it works out. We’ll speak with Jake. There are some adjustments we might want to make. But some people tell you it’s kind of the old-fashion way, where guys work out their problems in the bullpen.

“Obviously, Miguel has options, and he stays in the fold. He presented himself well, and he’ll go down there and start. We got him up to five innings and 70 pitches, which is not quite where you want to be to be a starting option, but we’d like to let him do that and get stretched back out. He went four here, and he should be able to go five next time out.

“We’re going to have to have a fifth starter here in the next week.”

Arrieta probably could use a mental break, as well, as he tries to get back on track. Showalter pointed out some of Arrieta’s missteps on the field that didn’t involve pitching.

“It’s a mental and a physical game,” Showalter said. “You look at Jake’s outings, a lot of it was some things he did other than pitching. A couple of pickoff throws, a couple of bunts, the play last night with (Jim) Thome that we work on a lot, about getting depth and making that. We had a pop up and a ground ball, where sometimes you can have a negative feel about, something’s going to happen. Then he goes out there and strikes out four guys in a row, and you see it. You guys have seen him pitch well. It’s not like we’re speaking something foreign.

“If you look at his hits-to-innings and his walks and strikeouts, they’re better than last year. It doesn’t read except until you get to the part about the actual wins and losses and the ERA. We’re in a mode here where you’re trying to give us the best chance to win, and Jake as a starter isn’t it right now, but you hope it will be.”

Arrieta has criticized himself in the past for thinking too much, perhaps a sign that he’s not trusting his stuff.

“You’re always trying to figure out the answers,” Showalter said. “Obviously, the mental part plays into it. Jake has the physical attributes. It’s just that the opposition doesn’t really care where you are mentally or whatever. They’re just looking for good pitches to hit, and they’re putting good swings on him, and that’s what happened last night.”

The Orioles decided that Arrieta having success in the minors as a starter wouldn’t provide a true read on whether he was ready to rejoin them. It’s easier to make that determination while he’s facing major league hitters.

“I don’t have much doubt that Jake would go down there and do well statistically in Triple-A,” Showalter said. “Regardless of how well you do there, you can be confident of being a good pitcher at Norfolk, but still have that doubt about whether you’re going to be a good pitcher at Camden Yards. It’s still the biggest jump in levels of play in professional sports. You have a lot of guys who go down and do well statistically, but it doesn’t play here.

“I think it will be a little more evident and reveal itself as we go forward in the future with some of the things it allows us to do by doing it this way. There’s some more things we’re probably going to have to do as we go forward with some moves.”

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