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Tuesday's starter a puzzle for Orioles

Tuesday's starter a puzzle for O's

BALTIMORE -- Orioles manager Dave Trembley still isn't revealing his starting pitcher for Tuesday's opener of a three-game series against the Twins in Minnesota, though his options are coming more clearly into focus.

"I probably won't until after the game [Monday], because you know what our situation is," Trembley said. "We used 10 guys out of the bullpen the last two games."

Right-hander Steve Trachsel has already had his turn skipped once, because he's been so ineffective this season that his job could be in jeopardy. Trachsel is 2-5 with an 8.82 ERA in eight starts and has allowed 45 hits and 22 walks in 33 2/3 innings. If Trachsel were to start Tuesday, however, it would allow the remainder of the rotation to stay on regular rest.

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In need of an additional long man out of the bullpen after a pair of extra-inning games in a four-day span, Trembley sent Trachsel to the bullpen Saturday. Trachsel was there again Sunday, a multiple-innings option behind starter Brian Burres after right-hander Lance Cormier pitched two innings Saturday night.

Because he was needed in relief Sunday, Trachsel is no longer an option to start Tuesday at the Metrodome. That leaves the Orioles with two choices: Give right-hander Matt Albers a spot start or recall right-hander Radhames Liz from Triple-A Norfolk to go against the Twins.

Albers, acquired from Houston in the Miguel Tejada trade, has been a workhorse out of the bullpen in a variety of roles. He is 3-1 with a 2.08 ERA in 19 games, but that total includes two starts. Albers is 1-1 as a starter.

"He's dependable," Trembley said when asked why he's used Albers so frequently this year.

Albers has also been diligently working to change the poor initial impression he made on Trembley during Spring Training. The right-hander has improved his conditioning through regular running and continues to improve his changeup by working with pitching coach Rick Kranitz.

"He's a fighter," Trembley said of Albers. "I didn't see that in Spring Training. Maybe it was a little deer-in-the-headlights, having just been traded."

Liz, 25, was sent to the Minor Leagues after pitching only five innings without allowing a run in Spring Training, because the Orioles couldn't find enough innings for him to work. At Norfolk, he's gone 1-5 with a 4.05 ERA in 11 starts. Liz was 0-2 with a 6.93 ERA in nine appearances, including four starts, for the Orioles in 2007.

Liz was scheduled to start Friday night for the Tides, but did not pitch. He started Saturday instead, but left after throwing one inning -- what amounts to a side session, meaning he would be available Tuesday.

Trembley discounted the possibility of right-hander Jim Johnson, who has been the club's most dominating reliever, making Tuesday's start. The manager is already being careful of how much he uses Johnson, because he's worried about overextending him.

"Johnson will not start [Tuesday]," Trembley said.

Johnson's 30 1/3 innings are the most worked out of the Orioles' bullpen this year.

Pete Kerzel is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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