The plan is to have Chen (3-4, 2.89 ERA) pitch no more than four innings in Frederick on Saturday and start again for the Orioles on June 26 against Cleveland. Manager Buck Showalter said that it made the most sense to send Chen to Frederick scheduling-wise, and that he even considered Class A Short Season Aberdeen as a possible option.
Showalter said that his starter completely understood the decision, but Chen's Twitter activity on Tuesday says otherwise. Before Tuesday, Chen had sent out just 36 prior tweets with his first coming on May 20, 2013.
"I am in excellent physical shape. I feel great and I am ready for my next start. I just pitched 8 innings of shutout baseball," Chen said in his first tweet.
"I am disappointed my routine is being interrupted. I will continue to work hard and do my best to perform. Thank you for all the support!" Chen said in a subsequent post.
Asked if the message to Chen was clear before the demotion, Showalter seemed certain it had been.
"It was," Showalter said. "We have a pretty good relationship with him. He knows we're doing what's best for him physically and for our club and that is our priority in no special order."
Everyone knew a move was coming, but it was a surprise that Chen's name was called. The left-hander is coming off an eight-inning start against the Phillies on Monday where he gave up no runs and four hits, but the move is more cautionary than anything. Showalter said that Chen experienced some overall body fatigue during his start on Wednesday vs. the Red Sox, and even though he felt fine on Monday, Showalter wanted to ensure he would have his starter at full strength going forward.
"The number one thing was Wei-Yin and making sure he is around in September and October and pitching at the level he was last night," Showalter said.
Showalter also said that the Orioles have some concerns with Chen's performances following a long outing.
"He has a number there that he is pretty close to every time," he said. "You're pushing the envelope at a certain number with him. A lot of guys I don't pay a whole lot of attention to, but with him it's a pretty long track record."
In order to make this move possible, the Orioles needed to place Jonathan Schoop on the 60-day disabled list, but he is eligible to come off Wednesday.
This move also sets up an interesting situation in the Orioles' rotation with Miguel Gonzalez also on the disabled list with a right groin strain. Chen was scheduled to pitch Saturday, but it looks like Kevin Gausman may make his first start of the season and replace Chen against Toronto.
Showalter said the Orioles would wait to see how Gausman's two-inning outing goes in Frederick on Tuesday before making any decisions.
Even more moves could be in store for Baltimore in the future as Gonzalez is set to throw a bullpen on Thursday in Philadelphia. The right-hander must make sure there are no lingering issues from his groin strain during pitching and fielding practice, but Showalter said that Gonzalez could return on June 25 against Boston barring any setbacks.
It's been a busy season with moves amongst Baltimore pitchers, but Showalter is thinking long term.
"I don't want to be sitting here later in the year with a pitcher and go, 'Gosh, I wish I would have shorted him up there so he was available here.'"