BALTIMORE -- With Monday's decision to option starter Tommy Hunter to Triple-A Norfolk, the Orioles need a starter for his next turn on Friday, and lefty Dana Eveland looks to be the organization's preferred choice.
Eveland was pulled from Monday night's start after five innings and 63 pitches, potentially tipping the Orioles' hand in setting him up for Friday's series opener against Tampa Bay. The 28-year-old Eveland has been the Tides' most effective starter -- going 3-2 with a 2.21 ERA, while allowing two earned runs or fewer in five of six games.
"There are multiple candidates, but we pretty much know what we are going to do," manager Buck Showalter said of Friday's starter. "We are trying to set it up where we keep all our options available. There is nothing worse [than] when you are thinking about taking a guy and he pitched four innings that night. ... We are also trying to keep [Triple-A manager] Ronny [Johnson] and [pitching coach Mike Griffin] equipped to play their games and give them a chance to win their games, too."
Adding Eveland, who is not on the 40-man roster after clearing waivers this spring, would require the Orioles to open up another spot, a move that could be made by transferring either catcher Taylor Teagarden or second baseman Brian Roberts from the 15- to the 60-day disabled list. The pair of injured players -- who both started the season on the DL -- already have their time backdated to the end of spring and wouldn't figure to change the timetable on their return.
Eveland, acquired in a trade from the Los Angeles Dodgers this winter, is 2-1 with a 2.84 ERA in three career starts against the Rays. Hunter, who is in line to pitch Friday for Norfolk, is also an option, but he can only be recalled if there's an injury situation. Major League Baseball rules state that, once a player has been optioned, he has to remain in the Minor Leagues for a minimum of 10 days unless there's an injury.
Chris Tillman is another option -- although less likely -- among the players who are in Triple-A and on the team's 40-man roster. He is scheduled to pitch Saturday for Norfolk. Joel Pineiro started Tuesday, with Steven Johnson going Wednesday and Brad Bergesen in line for Thursday.
Orioles option Berken, activate lefty Phillips
BALTIMORE -- The Orioles optioned reliever Jason Berken to Triple-A Norfolk and activated left-hander Zach Phillips to help bolster a bullpen still feeling the lingering effects of Sunday's 17-inning game.
Phillips said he was made aware of the decision Monday night, and the 25-year-old -- this spring's final roster cut -- was available for Tuesday's game against his former club, the Texas Rangers.
"The one thing I think we know about Zach is that he has good makeup," manager Buck Showalter said of Phillips, who pitched to a 1.35 ERA in 11 spring games. "He [isn't] scared of the competition. He comes in, 'Here it is, let's go'. That's been impressive about him."
Showalter has said multiple times that Philips deserved to make the Opening Day roster, but given the contractual status of most of the Orioles' relievers, the organization decided to exercise Phillips' option instead. Acquired from Texas on July 19 in exchange for infielder Nick Green and cash considerations, Phillips made his Major League debut with a scoreless inning on Aug. 31, and he allowed just one run in eight innings to end the season.
Phillips continued that fine form this spring -- holding left-handed batters to a .095 ERA in the process -- and said he didn't take the decision to send him to Triple-A Norfolk negatively. He continued to go about his business.
"I knew I'd get a chance to come back up here and play again and couldn't do anything about [the roster decision]," said Phillips, who has thrown scoreless outings in three of his last four appearances at Norfolk after a few early struggles. "I feel like my mechanics are in the right place."
Phillips will join Troy Patton and give the Orioles two lefties in the bullpen. Showalter said he wasn't sure if either pitcher would be used in a lefty specialist role just yet.
"I don't think there's enough track record to feel that for sure," he said of the two young lefties. "I think both of these guys, both [Zach] and Troy, have the potential to do both, which is unusual. I hope that they can. I think Troy, with his starting background, and Zach, with his starting background, you can look back at the prospect list two or three years ago and he was right there. He's a guy you like looking at every day. He competes. He's smart."
Berken will head back to Norfolk and start on Sunday after pitching three of the last six days. The right-hander was recalled on Monday and used in the ninth inning, where he surrendered seven runs (two earned).
Showalter trying to find right fit at third base
BALTIMORE -- Wilson Betemit started at third base for the 13th time Tuesday night, just two fewer than Opening Day starter Mark Reynolds.
Both have seen time at designated hitter, where Reynolds started on Tuesday, as manager Buck Showalter continues to shuffle the O's lineup.
"Both guys have made some good plays and both guys have had some games where they weren't as good as they're capable of," Showalter said. "I think we're still kind of familiarizing ourselves a little bit."
Reynolds led all Major League third basemen with 26 errors last season despite playing only 114 games at the position before switching to first base late in the year.
Reynolds made an effort to improve defensively this offseason, shedding 20 pounds in hopes of increasing his mobility. But the results have not shown through 15 games at third in 2012, as Reynolds has posted an .850 fielding percentage, committing six errors in 40 chances. On Monday against Texas, Reynolds' ninth-inning throwing error led to five unearned runs in a 14-3 loss.
Betemit's play at the position has not been an improvement, however, as he has committed five errors in 32 chances for an .844 fielding percentage. Still, Betemit was optimistic about his defensive performance to this point.
"So far this year I'm doing good," he said. "I'm going to do what I do, just go out there and play."
Showalter said a dark horse at third is Ryan Flaherty, the only Orioles player aside from Betemit or Reynolds to start a game there this season. Flaherty, a Rule 5 Draft pick, is yet to commit an error in his two starts at third, although Showalter said a sample of five chances is hardly enough to make a definitive statement.
"I think the real question is Ryan," Showalter said. "We haven't really gotten a feel for him defensively yet, but I guarantee at some point this season something is going to happen, and we're going to get a real good look at him.
"I don't look at him as your prototype Rule 5 guy. We don't look at X number of days we have to keep him to keep him ours. I think if he would've come into our club independently, he would have made our club. I think everybody keeps talking about him as a utility guy that can play all over. I think in the future you're going to see him have a chance to be an everyday player."
Other possibilities at third include Bill Hall, who is playing third and hitting .265 for Triple-A Norfolk, and Miguel Tejada, who passed a physical Monday, signed a contract Tuesday and is taking part in extended spring training in Sarasota, Fla. Although the 37-year-old Tejada hit just .239 in 91 games with San Francisco before he was released last season, he posted a .985 fielding percentage in 44 games at third base.
Nolan Reimold said he is feeling better after being placed on the 15-day disabled list to treat a bulging disc in his cervical spine. His treatment with a Medrol Dosepack has calmed his symptoms, but he said he will not be fully ready until the pain and numbness have gone away entirely. Reimold added that he could possibly make his return on May 16, his first day of eligibility, although he will have to complete a rehab stint before he rejoins the Orioles' lineup.
The O's record in series openers dropped to 5-5 after Monday's 14-3 loss to Texas. Baltimore has posted a 14-5 mark in all other games, including a 7-2 start in series finales.
The Orioles' pitching staff has pitched to a 2.99 ERA this season, the best mark in the American League. The only team in Major League Baseball with a better ERA is Washington, which has a 2.59 mark.
Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, and follow her on Twitter @britt_ghiroli. Greg Luca is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.