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Orioles whittle down roster

The Orioles thinned out their spring roster Monday, with eight players sent out of camp, including right-handers Brad Bergesen and Jason Berken and middle infielder Matt Antonelli, all of whom were optioned to Triple-A Norfolk.

Two more players, second baseman Brian Roberts (concussion) and left-hander Zach Britton (shoulder), were placed on the 15-day disabled list.

The Orioles re-assigned five non-roster players to minor league camp: pitchers Dontrelle Willis and Armando Galarraga, infielder Steve Tolleson, outfielder Scott Beerer and catcher John Hester.

None of the 10 moves was particularly surprising, though Bergesen, Antonelli and Berken seemingly had a chance to stick around until the final cuts.

Bergesen, who was in competition for a long relief or starting role, was 2-0 with a 3.75 ERA in five games this spring, all out of the bullpen. He allowed 12 hits, five walks and two hit batters while striking out seven.

"I was a little surprised by it," said Bergesen, who was 2-7 with a 5.70 ERA in 34 games with the Orioles in 2011. "But they told me they wanted me to get innings in and be a starting option. They want me to go down (to Norfolk) and start."

Because he had a minor-league option remaining, and several other pitchers didn't, Bergesen appeared to be a potential roster casualty entering spring.

"That's obviously part of it. You can see the numbers. I'm definitely not making any excuses," said Bergesen, who will still earn $800,000 in the minors. "Sometimes it is good to have options, sometimes it is not good to have options."

Bergesen, who will pitch in a minor-league game Tuesday, and Berken are expected to be used in Norfolk's rotation this April. Berken, who had a 5.36 ERA in 40 relief outings for the Orioles in 2011, made his spring debut with a scoreless inning Sunday. He has been limited by a hamstring injury since the beginning of camp.

"We feel like we have some people ahead of them right now," Showalter said of Bergesen and Berken. "Berken is tough because he got behind the eight ball with the leg. But we'll see. Hopefully, they can pitch well and present an option to us as starters. It's not like they are going away. They continue to be, hopefully, some depth for us and impact our club. That's gonna kind of be up to them."

Galarraga, who was 0-1 with a 7.20 ERA in four games this spring, will report to minor league camp and is ticketed for Triple-A Norfolk.

Willis, who signed last week and is trying to re-invent himself as a reliever after a career of starting, is prepared to pitch at Triple-A.

Antonelli, signed to a major-league deal this offseason, hit .194 in 31 at-bats this spring. He was competing with Tolleson, a minor-league invite who hit .286 in 28 at-bats.

With those two sent out, it looks as if Rule 5 draftee Ryan Flaherty has won the Orioles' utility infielder's job, though Showalter wouldn't confirm that Monday.

"I wouldn't say that," Showalter said, "Those guys, like I told all of them, they could come right back. But we want them to get four or five at-bats every day and play. Because of evaluation, we've needed Flaherty to play a little more."

Beerer, a 29-year-old converted pitcher, acquitted himself well this spring, hitting .290 in 31 at-bats.

Hester, 28, was hitless in 14 spring at-bats. He was battling with Ronny Paulino and the injured Taylor Teagarden for the backup catcher role.

Chavez still improving

Orioles outfielder Endy Chavez, who has not played since Wednesday due to a slightly strained groin, said he has been working out and is certain he'll be back in action soon.

"I know they treat me easy, and I'm not to force it," said Chavez, who has hit .500 (14 for 28) in 10 games this spring. "I feel pretty good. (Sunday) I played catch and everything was good."

He said he needed to sprint and see how he feels before getting back into a game. But it is expected he'll return this week. He said Opening Day is definitely not in jeopardy.

Hunter excels as Orioles beat Pirates, 4-1

Right-hander Tommy Hunterlooks like he has rebounded completely from the lower back discomfort that hounded him earlier this spring. Hunter, who is a favorite for the rotation, allowed just one hit in six scoreless innings, striking out five and allowing one walk in a 4-1 Orioles’ victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Hunter threw 70 pitches, 42 for strikes. He was so efficient that he had to throw another 15 pitches in the bullpen after his outing to get to his target of 85.
  “It was definitely fun,” Hunter said. “This was baseball, going out for six innings and still having something left.”

Former Oriole Erik Bedard matched Hunter for six scoreless innings, but the Orioles broke through in the seventh. Mark Reynolds had a RBI single and later scored on an error by Pirates third baseman Pedro Alvarez. Bedard allowed seven hits and two runs (one earned) in six innings.

The Pirates scored an unearned run in the seventh against Jim Johnson, which was set up by a Matt Wieters throwing error. Wieters got the run back in the eighth with a RBI single and the Orioles added another unearned run in the ninth.

Opening Day consideration?

Brian Matusz is now slated to pitch Friday against Detroit, which pushes Jake Arrieta to Saturday in Bradenton versus the Pittsburgh Pirates. And that sets Arrieta up to pitch Opening Day , April 6 on five-days' rest.

If the current rotation follows suit, then Wei-Yin Chen would pitch the second game of the regular season and Jason Hammel would be on-line for the third game. Showalter has not announced his Opening Day starter or his rotation order yet.

Around the horn

Matt Lindstrom and Kevin Gregg each threw two innings in a minor league game Monday at Twin Lakes Park. They were there to pitch a little longer than they would have been able to in a big-league exhibition game. Showalter said they both pitched well with Lindstrom hitting 98 mph with his fastball. … How Tsuyoshi Wada does in his first start Tuesday against the Minnesota Twins will help determine whether the Orioles are still looking at Alfredo Simon as a potential rotation candidate, Showalter said. Simon (groin) has not pitched in a game since March 18, but threw a bullpen session Sunday. … Paulino will be away from the team Tuesday to undergo a minor medical procedure.

dan.connolly@baltsun.com

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