KANSAS CITY -- Former Orioles pitching coach Mark Connor, who resigned on June 14, has agreed to return to his former role as the Rangers' player development special consultant, according to several sources familiar with the situation.
Connor held that position in Texas for two seasons before he was hired last winter to serve as manager Buck Showalter's pitching coach. Connor cited personal reasons for leaving that post.
The Orioles pitching staff posted a 4.22 ERA under Connor and has struggled mightily since, entering Wednesday with a 5.73 ERA due to injuries and underperforming young pitchers including Brian Matusz, Jake Arrieta, Zach Britton and Chris Tillman, among others.
The 62-year-old Connor served as the bullpen coach for the Rangers from 2003-05, and was named the team's pitching coach the following season. He was dismissed from that post in August, 2008 and rehired as a consultant later that year.
Britton working through his recent struggles
KANSAS CITY -- Orioles lefty Zach Britton admits it's been a rough past few days. The 23-year-old Britton, who allowed nine runs -- six earned -- and recorded just one out in Saturday night's game in New York, said on Wednesday he was finally able to get over the disastrous outing -- his second straight rough start -- after spending two hours talking with pitching coach Rick Adair on Tuesday afternoon.
"I was able to kind of breathe a little bit [after that]," said Britton, who has also benefited from the advice and support of his teammates, most notably closer Kevin Gregg and shortstop J.J. Hardy.
"I was scared to talk to [manager Buck Showalter], I was like, 'Is he mad at me?'," said Britton, who has allowed 17 runs (13 earned) and recorded just three outs over his last two starts. "Obviously I know that's not the case, but you have bad outings like that in our situation, we haven't been playing well and I go out there and hurt our bullpen.
"Obviously the reason [reliever Jason] Berken got sent down was the way I pitched. So that's tough to get over everything. As a starting pitcher what you do affects the whole team. Whether you like it or not, that's the way it works."
What hasn't worked for Britton lately has been trying to solely rely on his sinker, which has lost some of the movement he had earlier this year, allowing opposing teams to capitalize on it. Catcher Matt Wieters and Britton have talked about him pitching more to certain locations, rather than relying on the natural action his ball was getting earlier in the year.
"Some people have a little hiccup, for me it's kind of been a big struggle. Two outings that were like, 'Oh my gosh, what the heck happened?'," said Britton, whose ERA (4.56) has jumped over a run in that span.
"It's more mental. The stuff is not as great as it was at the beginning of the season, but no one's is at this point. It's about making adjustments ... I haven't done that. I've been able to get by [before these two starts], but now I got to make the adjustments."
Besides being more of a pitcher, Britton said he's starting to put added emphasis on preparing in between starts, leaning on the more experienced arms to find a routine he's comfortable with and doing something every day with a specific purpose.
"When things are going well at the beginning of the season, I feel like you kind of get comfortable," said Britton, who jumped out to 5-1 with a 2.63 ERA in his first six career starts. "This game has a way of humbling you. It's kind of like, 'OK, you are not as good as you think you are. You still got stuff to work on.' I think it's going to make me better."
Hunter slated for first O's start on Friday
KANSAS CITY -- As expected, Orioles right-hander Tommy Hunter will make his first Major League start this season in Friday's series opener against Toronto. Hunter, who was acquired in Saturday's trade with Texas, made his Orioles debut on Tuesday night against the Royals, allowing a run on two singles in the eighth inning and showcasing a fastball that topped out at 97 miles an hour.
The 25-year-old Hunter was a 13-game winner as a starter for the Rangers last year, but strained his right groin at the end of Spring Training. Hunter missed three months and was never able to regain his spot in a crowded rotation, prompting Texas to use him in middle relief.
Hunter has appeared in a total of nine games this season, pitching to a 3.31 ERA. Friday's start will be his first in the Majors since taking the mound for Game 4 of last year's World Series.
Saturday's primary candidates to start are Triple-A Norfolk's Chris Tillman and Brad Bergesen, who rejoined the Orioles prior to Tuesday's game after three days on paternity leave.
"We've got options because of the potential to DL Jake [Arrieta]," manager Buck Showalter said of the decision. "We got a pretty good picking pool."
Putting Arrieta -- who is likely done for the season with a a fibrous mass near his right elbow -- on the disabled list would allow the Orioles to recall Tillman, even though he was just optioned after pitching on Saturday afternoon. The minimum 10-day period a player has to stay in the Minor Leagues doesn't apply when it's an injury situation.
Hendrickson optioned to clear room for Reyes
KANSAS CITY -- The Orioles optioned veteran Mark Hendrickson to Triple-A Norfolk on Wednesday afternoon to make room for newly-acquired lefty Jo-Jo Reyes, a starter in Toronto who will be used in relief, at least initially.
When asked about his role with his new club, the 26-year-old Reyes said it didn't matter.
"I'll just take advantage of every opportunity they'll give me," said Reyes, who went 5-8 with a 5.40 ERA in 20 starts before being designated for assignment July 23. "We got basically the whole second half left, so a good first impression to start off and then keep pitching good. That's the main goal."
Reyes got started right away, getting out of a one-out, bases-loaded jam in the eighth inning of Wednesdays' 6-2 loss. Summoned after reliever Brad Bergesen surrendered a trio of singles, Reyes got Alex Gordon on a shallow fly and Melky Cabrera to line out to keep Kansas City from extending its lead.
Hendrickson and the Orioles added a mutual agreement when his contract was purchased that allowed them to option him to the Minors without first exposing him to waivers. The 37-year-old lefty appeared in seven games for the Orioles, going 1-0 with a 5.40 ERA and admitted Wednesday he wasn't as crisp as he wanted to be.
"Mark's loves the Orioles, he's been a solider for us," manager Buck Showalter said. "And he'll be back. He's good people."
Hendrickson, who opted to stay in the organization after being one of spring's final cuts, planned on going home to spend a few days with his family in York, Pa. before reporting to Triple-A over the weekend.
"I think my command wasn't the greatest but that doesn't take away from what I have been doing this year and what I've done up here," said Hendrickson, who was surprised by the move. "It's just one those things where I just clear my head and get back to pitching and go from there."
Bundy, Hoes earn O's Minors awards
KANSAS CITY-- The Orioles named Class A Frederick's Bobby Bundy as the organization's Minor League Pitcher of the Month for July. Bundy went 4-0 with a 2.11 ERA in six starts. The right-hander is the older brother of Dylan, who the Orioles selected with the fourth overall pick in this year's First-Year Player Draft.
The 21-year-old Bobby Bundy, an eighth-rounder in '08, is 11-5 with a 2.75 ERA in 20 starts this season, including a 1.99 second-half ERA. He is expected to make his next start for Double-A Bowie.
Bowie's LJ Hoes was named Player of the Month for July. Hoes batted .349 with six doubles, four home runs, 21 RBIs and seven stolen bases. Clearly, he's gunning for August already as well: he also had two homers on Tuesday night. Hoes was drafted as an infielder in the third round of the '08 Draft, but has been playing left field almost exclusively since being promoted on May 23.
In 63 games at Double-A, the 21-year-old Hoes is hitting .322 with six homers and 41 RBIs.
The Orioles agreed to terms with eighth-round pick Johnny Ruettiger, a center fielder out of Arizona State. They now have three unsigned picks in the top 10: pitcher Dylan Bundy (1) and third basemen Jason Esposito (2), and Nick Delmonico (6).
The Orioles also agreed to terms with right-handed pitcher Willie Eyre, who was in Oakland's Triple-A club but opted out on August 1. Eyre still has to pass a physical for it to be official. The reliever went 4-5 with a 3.48 ERA in 39 games (2 starts) with Sacramento.
Lefty Troy Patton, who was the obvious candidate to come off the Major League roster to make room for Reyes because he was supposed to leave the team, got his court date changed. Patton, who will have to go to Texas for a hearing stemming from a drunken driving arrest this winter, will now leave the team after the Aug. 28 game and be back before the following night's game.
Orioles third baseman Mark Reynolds turned 28 on Wednesday.
Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, and follow her on Twitter @britt_ghiroli. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.