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Showalter faces tough choice as Ubaldo returns

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BALTIMORE -- Sometime before the start of the Orioles' 4:05 p.m. ET start against the Cardinals on Saturday, Buck Showalter will have to make a decision. Ubaldo Jimenez will come off the disabled list to make his first start since July 5 and the O's will have to send a member of their red-hot starting rotation or consistently excellent bullpen to the Minors.

"These guys have made it hard on us," Showalter said, "and that's a good thing."

The manager has a move in mind, but he knows that could change during Friday's series opener against St. Louis at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. He knows he won't be optioning one of Baltimore's four bench bats, so he'll have to decide if he wants to add Jimenez into a six-man rotation, send out one of the optionable starters or move one of the starting pitchers into the bullpen.

Wei-Yin Chen, Bud Norris, Kevin Gausman and Miguel Gonzalez all have options remaining and could head to Triple-A Norfolk on Saturday. Any of those four or Friday's starting pitcher Chris Tillman could head to the bullpen.

Since the All-Star break, the O's 3.02 starters ERA is second best in the American League. The weakest link has been Gausman with a 4.19 ERA in the second half.

Even so, Showalter expects Gausman, who came out of the bullpen 15 times in 2013, to start on Sunday, "but that can change depending on what we do in the bullpen tonight."

Whoever gets sent out to make room for Jimenez, who is 3-8 with 4.52 ERA with an AL-leading 60 walks, won't have to leave for long. The Orioles have an off-day on Thursday, so a starter would only have to miss one turn.

And if it's a reliever, he'll be able to return in less than a month for September callups.

"I'm going to take all the information from tonight's game," Showalter said. "I don't want to get out there to the players for sure. They know where we're leaning and we'll solidify it after tonight."

David Wilson is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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