Millwood's rough start raises health concerns

Millwood's rough start raises health concerns

DETROIT -- When Felix Pie is activated from the disabled list on Tuesday, there's a chance he could assume the roster spot vacated by another injured Oriole.

Kevin Millwood lasted just one inning Monday in his worst performance of the season, allowing five earned runs against the Tigers and showcasing a dip in velocity that raises questions concerning Millwood's health.

"There is some concern there," said interim manager Juan Samuel, speaking about Millwood, who threw just four of 45 pitches over 90 mph.

"[Pitching coach Rick Kranitz] has noticed that his ball was just not coming out of his hand [with authority] and his velocity was a little bit down. And knowing Kevin, he is not going to tell you what's wrong and what's not. He is one of those guys that's going to take the ball anytime you give it to him."

Samuel met with Kranitz, head athletic trainer Richard Bancells and director of baseball operations Matt Klentak for approximately 20 minutes before talking to the media. After speaking to reporters for less than five minutes, Samuel returned to the room.

When asked if the corresponding roster move for Pie could be putting a player on the DL, Samuel said it's always a possibility.

"We are trying to still piece some things together and see what is the best decision we need to make," he said. "And probably keep another arm."

If Millwood is not injured, his recent struggles are alarming. Including the five earned runs he allowed to the Tigers, his first-inning ERA is 24.00 in his last nine starts, and he has allowed 25 runs in that span to balloon his season ERA to 5.77. In his last seven starts, Millwood has a 10.20 ERA, after posting a respectable 3.38 in his first five starts this season and a 4.29 mark in the six after that.

Millwood said he wasn't sure his problems were mechanical, and acknowledged that this stretch, performance-wise, has been one of the lowest points of his 14-year career.

"I have tried a lot of different things to come out of it and change things," Millwood said, "and just haven't been able to do [it]".

If Millwood is hurt and the team opts to put him on the shelf, it would only need a spot starter for Saturday's game in Texas before heading into the All-Star break. While reliever Frank Mata looked to be a sure bet to be optioned back to Triple-A Norfolk for Pie, Millwood's outing overextended the bullpen and puts a premium on arms.

A DL move would allow the Orioles the flexibility of keeping both Mata and rookie third baseman Josh Bell, who is another candidate to be optioned for Pie.

"We have some concern that maybe [Millwood] pitched a bunch early in the season," Samuel said. "But we'll see. We are trying to figure out which way we are going to go with him."