The Orioles extended their streak of transactions to four consecutive days by designating Rule 5 left-hander Nestor Cortes Jr. for assignment this afternoon and recalling pitcher Yefry Ramirez from Triple-A Norfolk. Cortes was called into manager Buck Showalter’s office shortly before batting practice.
Pitcher Jimmy Yacabonis was recalled on Saturday while the Orioles placed outfielder Colby Rasmus on the 10-day disabled list. They optioned Yacabonis the following day and recalled left-hander Tanner Scott, who was optioned the next day to make room for pitcher Hunter Harvey.
The 14- and 12-inning games in the Bronx continue to have a ripple effect on the club’s bullpen.
Cortes made the club out of spring training despite allowing nine runs and 20 hits in 17 1/3 innings. He lost the competition for the fifth starter’s job and eventually his spot on the roster.
Challenged to find the plate, Cortes allowed four runs and 10 hits and walked four batters in 4 2/3 innings. He served up two home runs - grand slams to Houston’s Josh Reddick and Toronto’s Josh Donaldson - and let all six inherited runners score.
The Orioles selected three Rule 5 pitchers in December and tried to carry two of them, knowing it would be a supreme challenge while trying to contend in the American League East. Pedro Araujo is the last man standing.
“One of three things is going to happen with Nestor,” Showalter said. “He’s either going to be claimed by one of the 28 other clubs. If he clears, I know we’d like to figure out a way to keep him if we can, see if there’s a trade to be worked out. That would be up to Dan (Duquette) and the Yankees. Or he’ll go back there and be in their minor leagues. And that’s a seven-day period now, not a 10-day period. They changed that.
“We knew it was going to be a challenge. If we could have gotten a little deeper in our games with our starting pitching, I think I could have protected him more. But we were forced into some things. I still think he’s got a chance to be a good pitcher and we’ll see where it takes us. But regardless of what division you’re playing in, it’s the big leagues and like I said, they’re going to have to pitch like Pedro has and he’s done pretty well. And Nestor’s capable of better. Would still like to have him
“It’s pretty tough situations to thrust guys into, but we knew that coming in and we were willing to take the risk.”
Asked whether he saw anything different with Cortes from spring training to now, Showalter replied, “Not really anything. Nothing really different. The situations are a lot different. It’s the big leagues and everybody’s on their A game. You’re facing a lot better hitters than you do in spring training.
“There’s obviously a lot of different things going on as far as the repertoire. He can still be effective. It’s going to be a fine line, though, and in the past he’s been able to walk that fine line.”
Richard Bleier is the lone left-hander in the bullpen and Showalter would like to avoid using him before Friday’s series opener in Boston.
“We’ll see where we are after Wednesday,” Showalter said. “Probably some adjustments we might make going up there to Boston. I think today they had seven left-handed hitters. That could change a lot, but it would play better. I’m hoping Richard’s available by the time we get there, especially with the off-day.”
The Orioles will go back to a four-man bench once the bullpen is settled, and certainly by the time Mark Trumbo is activated from the disabled list.
“It’s a challenge right now with the period we’re going through with the extra-inning games and some of the short starts,” Showalter said. “But yeah, it’s something we’d like to do.”
Ramirez started Norfolk’s opener on Friday, making his Triple-A debut, and allowed one run in four innings. He threw 72 pitches.
The Orioles acquired Ramirez, 24, from the Yankees in a July 31 trade and he went a combined 15-3 with a 3.47 ERA in 24 games with Double-A Bowie and Trenton. Just as the Orioles recalled Harvey yesterday because they needed an available right-hander from the 40-man roster, they turned today to Ramirez as the latest bullpen piece.
“He’s right-handed and available and got a chance to help us,” Showalter said. “Changeup is a big pitch. David Hess just pitched. Left-handers don’t play against this club. They’ve got one left-handed hitter (Curtis Granderson). If you look at the roster, it was kind of him.
“He’s had three days off. We took him out of his workday and he’s available to pitch tonight. There’s some guys I’d like to give a second day off. I really would if I can. They’re all just about going to tell you, ‘I can go.’ You’ve really got to cut through some of that. I’d like to use some caution because it’s a long season. It’s a strength of ours. I’m not going to jeopardize it.”
“Just to check and make sure we were aware of everything going on there,” Showalter said.
“Caught a spike and kind of grabbed him and I think he was a little tentative about it after that, especially with the cold weather. We thought at the time it would be five to eight days in where we were. That’s what we’re trying to find out. I don’t know if they don’t like the progression he’s made in the last couple of days, but I think the doctors were going to do it anyway once we kind of settled back in, just to check the site and make sure there’s nothing going on there.”
Update: The Orioles don’t have a hit off Aaron Sanchez through seven innings and the Jays broke a scoreless tie in the eighth against reliever Miguel Castro.
Justin Smoak walked with one out and Yangervis Solarte dumped a single into right field. Anthony Santander’s throw missed the cutoff man and eluded catcher Chance Sisco, allowing Smoak to score and give Toronto a 1-0 lead.
Tim Beckham also had an error in the inning.
Andrew Cashner shut out the Jays on four hits over seven innings, with three walks, six strikeouts and a hit batter. He threw 104 pitches, 61 for strikes.
Update II: Beckham broke up the no-hitter with a leadoff double in the eighth, the ball zipping through third baseman Josh Donaldson’s legs. Santander singled and Sisco doubled with no outs to tie the game.
The Orioles had the bases loaded with one out, but Jonathan Schoop bounced into a 6-4-3 double play.
Update III: Curtis Granderson homered off Darren O’Day with two outs in the top of the ninth to give the Blue Jays a 2-1 lead.
Update IV: Robert Osuna retires the side in order in the ninth and the Orioles lose 2-1. They’re 4-8 and will try to avoid the sweep Wednesday night.