BALTIMORE -- The Orioles optioned left-hander Zach Britton and right-hander Kevin Gausman to Triple-A Norfolk following's Tuesday's 8-4 loss to the Rangers, a move that allows the club to activate Wednesday's starter Wei-Yin Chen and add a reliever to help an overworked bullpen.
Britton allowed five earned runs on eight hits and three walks over five innings in his third loss of the season, and he was followed by Gausman, who surrendered a pair of runs over 1 2/3 innings. Gausman, the Orioles' top pitching prospect due to Dylan Bundy's Tommy John surgery, will likely be stretched back out to start for Triple-A Norfolk. Manager Buck Showalter has alluded to that being the organization's preference.
Britton, who has pitched to a 4.76 ERA this season, wouldn't have gotten another start prior to the All-Star break, since Chen's addition has temporarily given Baltimore a six-man rotation. The 25-year-old lefty went six innings or more in just one of his past four starts and is part of an inconsistent starting staff that has forced Showalter to carefully juggle his relievers. The Orioles bullpen picked up 7 1/3 innings in the first two games of the Rangers series alone, and the backsliding O's have lost five of their last six.
"After yesterday, you want to go out there and give the team some innings," said Britton, who followed up Scott Feldman's 5 1/3-inning outing in Monday's loss. "You know they are going to score runs for us, you just got to kind of outlast the other guy. [Rangers starter Martin] Perez outlasted me today, he kept his team in the game a lot better than I did."
Showalter said earlier this week that it's a possibility that the club sends a pitcher or two to the Minor Leagues to get some extra work in over the break. Gausman, 22, pitched to a 7.66 ERA in five big league starts before he was optioned for the first time earlier this season, and will likely return to that role. The Orioles' top pick in last year's Draft, Gausman had pitched seven scoreless relief innings until Tuesday's outing.
Chen, who has been sidelined with a left oblique strain, will be making his first start since exiting May 12's game in Minnesota with the injury.
With Roberts' return, O's work with depth at second
BALTIMORE -- Since Brian Roberts made his long-awaited return to the Orioles' lineup on June 30, the team has kept three second basemen on the roster.
Roberts, who recovered from a hamstring injury, has been a regular in the lineup since his return, but he's played half his games at designated hitter. Manager Buck Showalter has given backups Alexi Casilla and Ryan Flaherty some playing time to ease Roberts back into the lineup.
So is Showalter comfortable with the way he's penned the second base spot in the order recently?
"No, it's not a perfect world," Showalter said. "I was kind of trying to break Brian in little by little, not take anything for granted, but I think you're going to see him as he gets his -- I wouldn't say confidence -- just comfortableness with where he is physically. You're going to see more and more of him on the field."
With Roberts likely becoming more of a regular in the field, that should mean diminished playing time for Flaherty and Casilla. But Showalter also said he doesn't want those two to disappear.
"I hope it evolves into [Roberts starting every day at second base]," Showalter said. "But I also want Cassi and Ryan to be involved, and I'll continue to do that. They have some skills too we want to take advantage of, and Brian knows that, too."
Flaherty, for his part, said he's fine taking a backup role if that's what is needed with Roberts' return to more consistent playing time.
"He's a heck of a player, he's got a track record. He's one of the best second basemen to play this game. So whatever they need me to play, I'll play," Flaherty said.
Flaherty had begun to get more regular playing time and was hitting well just before Roberts was activated from the 60-day disabled list. He said it just takes a little extra preparatory work to be a spot starter or a player coming off the bench. When he's not starting, he said he likes to work with third-base coach Bobby Dickerson and see more pitches off the curveball machine. He also will take as many as 100 ground balls instead of the 15-20 he'd take as a starter.
• Steve Johnson (oblique) will throw batting practice Thursday in Sarasota, Fla., Showalter said. He threw 35 pitches off the mound Monday and reported no problems, and Showalter said he is progressing with his injury.
• Steve Pearce is down to one sore wrist, Showalter said. Pearce is in Sarasota rehabbing after playing through the injury for a while this season.
"He's close to having both of them right," Showalter said. "It could be a few days before he throws a ball or swings a bat."
• As expected, left-hander Wei-Yin Chen will start Wednesday against the Rangers after missing nearly two months with a strained oblique.
Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, and follow her on Twitter @britt_ghiroli. Derek Wetmore is an associate reporter for MLB.com.. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.