Experiencing discomfort in his right elbow, reliever Jason Berken will become the fourth Oriole within a 10-day span to see renowned orthopedist Dr. Lewis Yocum.
Berken, who is likely headed to the disabled list, will have an MRI performed either Saturday or Sunday. He'll also consult with Yocum and Orioles team orthopedist Dr. John Wilckens, who is flying to California late Saturday night.
"Berken is having some flexor issues," said Orioles manager Buck Showalter. "He hasn't responded real well. He's not inactive yet, but we'll see. I'll let Dr. Wilckens and Yocum talk about that. It doesn't look real positive right now."
Berken, whose 2010 season ended because of a partial tear in his labrum, an injury that he opted to rehab rather than have surgery on, has had a difficult season. He's 1-2 with a 5.80 ERA in 35 appearances and he's been optioned to Triple-A Norfolk on two different occasions.
Showalter said that the 27-year-old started feeling some forearm discomfort earlier this month, but it gradually went away. It has not only returned, but it is starting to extend up Berken's arm, which is concerning because the right-hander missed his entire junior season at Clemson in 2005 after having Tommy John ligament-reconstruction surgery on his right elbow.
"Right now, it's starting to move towards where he had that [surgery]," Berken said. "Originally, it was all down here [pointing to the forearm area], but it's moved up. We'll see what the doctors have to say."
Berken last pitched Sunday, logging just 1/3 of an inning in the Orioles' 6-5 loss to the Oakland Athletics. Showalter said that Berken will likely be unavailable until the club learns more about his injury. However, he acknowledged that the reliever is a prime candidate to be put on the disabled list Monday when Zach Britton comes off the DL and starts that night against the Minnesota Twins.
Yocum, the Angels' team physician, removed a bone spur out of starter Jake Arrieta's right elbow Aug. 13. This past Tuesday, he repaired a partially torn right labrum top Orioles' pitching prospect Dan Klein's right shoulder. On the team's off day Thursday, Yocum saw first baseman Chris Davis, who has a partial tear in his right labrum.
Guthrie's status unknown
Showalter announced before Friday's game that Brian Matusz will start Sunday's series finale here, and Britton will be activated from the disabled list to start Monday's series opener in Minnesota. However, when Jeremy Guthrie slots back in to the rotation is unknown at this point.
Guthrie, who was originally scheduled to pitch tonight, has been pushed back several days because of right shoulder stiffness.
"Because of the activation of Zach to pitch Monday, we have a lot of options," said Showalter, who did say that the earliest Guthrie would pitch is Tuesday. "We've already been cautious with him. We'll feed off what he says. We're fortunate to have some wiggle room."
Britton, meanwhile, rejoined his teammates after making one rehab start for Triple-A Norfolk against Charlotte this past Tuesday. Britton allowed one earned run on three hits and one walk while striking out three over five innings.
"I think I got better as the game went on," said Britton, who hasn't pitched in a big league game since Aug.4, and who has been on the disabled list with a left shoulder strain. "The first inning I was a little rusty and I was throwing the ball everywhere. But after that, I settled down and got that good feel back. It was tough to get a feel at first. But it was good. I gained some confidence, too. I had some guys on in one inning and I struck a guy out and got a groundout. Even though it was a Triple-A game, you get confidence out of being able to get yourself out of jams that you put yourself into, or by just having a good outing in general."
Britton, who is winless since June 8 and lost five straight decisions with the Orioles, also said that the time away gave him a chance to think about why his rookie season unraveled so quickly.
"I'm kind of forgetting about trying to do this or that, just focus on going out there and pitching and being aggressive, not being timid," Britton said. "Like I was doing in the beginning of the year, just going right after guys. I said, 'Let's just get back to that.'"
A day after his visit with Yocum confirmed a small labrum tear in his right shoulder, Davis vowed not to give up on his season. Davis said that he'll spend the next two weeks resting, but he's hoping to be back in the Orioles' lineup when he's eligible to come off the disabled list on Aug. 30.
"Basically, what he said is he wants to try to stay away from surgery, he doesn't ever want to go under the knife off the bat. He wants to try some different things," Davis said. "He basically said I need extended rest, and it's going to be better. So what I'm going to do is finish my time on the DL than come off and play and see how it feels. And if it's still bothering me, still giving me problems, that's probably when I'll have to decide whether to have surgery or not."
Around the horn
Vladimir Guerrero returned to the cleanup spot in the order after spending five games in the fifth spot … Showalter said that Cesar Izturis (groin strain) had a positive day in his rehab program. … Shortstop J.J. Hardy turned 29 Saturday … Right-handed reliever Luis Lebron, who was designated for assignment when top draft pick Dylan Bundy was added to the 40-man roster, cleared waivers and has been assigned to short-season Single-A Aberdeen … The Orioles Dominican Summer League team clinched a spot in the playoffs with a 45-24 record.
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