BALTIMORE — With the calendar turning to September, the Orioles wasted no time making their first call-ups for the expanded roster by summoning relief pitchers Joe Saunders and Evan Meek on Monday.
Baltimore selected Saunders’s contract while recalling Meek and right-handed pitcher Kevin Gausman, who started Monday’s series finale against the Minnesota Twins. Infielder Kelly Johnson also reported to the Orioles and was officially added to the roster after being acquired from the Boston Red Sox late Saturday night.
Beginning the season in the Texas Rangers’ rotation, Saunders was released twice in the month of July and went 0-5 with a 6.13 ERA in eight starts for Texas. Upon being released by the Ranger on July 4, Saunders signed a minor-league deal with the Kansas City Royals and was let go later in the month after posting a 6.75 ERA in four starts for Triple-A Omaha.
The 33-year-old Saunders posted a 1.50 ERA in 10 relief appearances for Triple-A Norfolk, holding left-handed hitters to a .211 average. Of course, Saunders was previously acquired by the Orioles late in the 2012 campaign and went 3-3 with a 3.63 ERA in seven starts spanning 44 2/3 innings. He was the winning pitcher in the inaugural American League Wild Card Game against Texas that sent the Orioles to their first AL Division Series appearance since 1997.
Manager Buck Showalter envisions Saunders serving a role similar in nature to the one held by T.J. McFarland for most of the season. After being temporarily optioned to the minors on Sunday, McFarland is expected to be recalled on Tuesday.
The 31-year-old Meek went 2-0 with 16 saves and a 1.94 ERA (in 39 games for the Tides this season, striking out 37 and walking only four. He appeared in 15 games for the Orioles earlier this season, posting a 7.47 ERA.
The Orioles are also expected to recall right-handed relief pitcher Ryan Webb and backup catcher Steve Clevenger on Tuesday. Webb has recently been dealing with shoulder fatigue and was given a few days to rest. He is expected to test the shoulder for the Tides on Monday before being recalled for the three-game series against the Cincinnati Reds.
Showalter said first baseman and outfielder Steve Pearce is feeling much better from the abdominal strain that sidelined him Friday night. The manager hopes he can give it “a test run” at some point during the Cincinnati series.
The organization also announced which minor-leaguer players would be attending the instructional camp in Sarasota that begins on Sept. 6. Outfielders Dariel Alvarez and Henry Urrutia, infielders Christian Walker and Buck Britton, catchers Michael Ohlman and Brian Ward, and pitchers Oliver Drake, Eddie Gamboa, Preston Guilmet, Brock Huntzinger, Chris Jones, Tyler Wilson, and Mike Wright will participate in workouts and remain ready in case there’s a need at the major-league level during the month of September.