BALTIMORE -- An impending suspension isn't the only issue for Manny Machado as the Orioles third baseman is also mired in a slump that has seen his batting average drop to .222, the lowest it's been this month.
With Machado struggling and Steve Pearce playing well, Orioles manager Buck Showalter opted to drop Machado to seventh in the order for Wednesday's series finale against the Red Sox and move Pearce up to the No. 2 hole.
"Steve Pearce is swinging the bat well," Showalter said.
Machado, who is appealing the five-game suspension for throwing his bat into the field of play during Baltimore's loss to the A's on Sunday, entered Wednesday's game hitless in his last 15 at-bats with six strikeouts. He ended the O's 1-0 loss Tuesday by striking out against Koji Uehara with a runner on first.
Baltimore got a rare runner on base in that inning by way of a pinch-hit single by Pearce. It was one of just two O's hits in Tuesday's loss and brought Pearce's average up to .314. His on-base-plus-slugging percentage of .875 ranked second on the team when qualifying numbers are thrown out.
"Steve has been pretty consistent, pretty solid all year," Showalter said.
Showalter didn't mention Machado's play when discussing the decision to drop the slumping All-Star in the order, but he did give some brief comments on Machado's appeal.
The skipper mentioned that he had looked at past similar cases with Orioles executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette.
"There are some precedents to go on," Showalter said.
Gonzalez's imminent return may affect Gausman
BALTIMORE -- Orioles right-hander Miguel Gonzalez made his first rehab start for Double-A Bowie on Wednesday, which means he could return to the Majors as soon as Monday.
When the time comes, manager Buck Showalter will have a decision to make. If pitcher Kevin Gausman throws as well on Thursday as he did during his last start, then the O's could have six capable starting pitchers. Showalter isn't ruling out using all six.
"It's something we can do," he said. "That'd be a good problem."
Gonzalez threw 70 pitches in 4 1/3 scoreless innings against New Hampshire on Wednesday. He allowed four hits, walked one and struck out five.
"Miguel did OK tonight," Showalter said, "so he's eligible [to be activated] Sunday."
The starter was 3-4 with 4.17 ERA when he hit the disabled list retroactive to May 31 with a right oblique strain. Gausman's 1-1 with a 4.91 ERA, but he tossed seven innings of one-run ball in a win against the A's on Saturday. Showalter wants to see one more start out of Gausman and other members of the rotation before making a decision on its makeup.
"Ask me after Gaus pitches," he said. "Ask me after some other guys pitch."
Gausman will start the opener of a four-game series with the Blue Jays. It will be his third start of the season and all three have come against teams that lead their division.
If he can slow the Jays like did the A's, then it will be tough for Baltimore to send him down.
"It's all based on how you perform," Gausman said. "If I keep pitching well, I'll probably stay here. If I don't, I'll go down. When you get an opportunity, you have to get it done."
Fourth-rounder Connaughton close to deal
BALTIMORE -- Fourth-round pick Pat Connaughton was in attendance for the Orioles' series finale against the Red Sox on Wednesday night after having a physical earlier in the day.
If all goes according to plan, the right-hander from Notre Dame expects a deal will be announced on Thursday.
Connaughton, a 6-foot-5, 214-pound junior, was Baltimore's second pick of the 2014 First-Year Player Draft and the only prospect the team selected from MLB.com's Top 200 prospects. He would be the first player from this Draft to be signed by Baltimore, which is waiting until players pass physicals to officially announce deals.
Connaughton is perhaps better known as a guard/forward on the Fighting Irish basketball team. He plans on playing his senior season.
The starting pitcher went 3-5 with a 3.92 ERA and 36 strikeouts in 10 starts this year after basketball season ended.
• Wei-Yin Chen took the mound Wednesday with a 6-2 record. Four of the starting pitcher's wins have come immediately after an Orioles loss.
"I think it's a coincidence," Showalter said, "but that's a pretty good sampling."
• Adam Jones was back in center field after back-to-back days as the designated hitter. Showalter said Jones wanted to play center Tuesday, but the team opted to give him an extra day to stay off his legs.
• Nolan Reimold's rehab continued in Bowie. Reimold, who went 1-for-3 on Tuesday, went 0-for-4 on Wednesday as the designated hitter. The outfielder hasn't played this season as he recovers from cervical spine fusion surgery.
David Wilson is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.