The Orioles will finish August with a comfortable lead in the American League East over the second-place Yankees, but with four weeks of games left to play, they know there is still work to be done and maneuvering to be made.
That's why Baltimore, looking for its fourth straight win, sent down its Sunday starter Wei-Yin Chen, along with Kevin Gausman, to the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League earlier in the week. Both players had remaining Minor League options and the short-term "demotion" gave the O's another position player, allowing manager Buck Showalter some temporary flexibility with his bench.
The loophole came just before September callups on Monday and kept the same rest period for Chen, who has been one of the O's most consistent starters this season with a 13-4 record and a 3.76 ERA. Because the GCL season ended, the O's didn't have to wait the typical 10 days to return him to the roster.
Chen is coming off his second shortest outing of the season, giving up just two earned runs over 4 2/3 innings and 91 pitches against the Rays. In five August starts, he boasts a 3.16 ERA, holding opponents to a .248 batting average.
He'll be opposed by Twins right-hander Ricky Nolasco, looking to build off his last start, which was his first solid outing since coming back from a right elbow strain. Nolasco gave up just three hits over seven scoreless innings against the Royals on Tuesday, but was stuck with a no-decision.
"A great performance by him," said Twins manager Ron Gardenhire, whose team will be playing spoiler for the remainder of the year. "That was the best we've seen him."
Nolasco was dealing with flu-like symptoms during that outing, another obstacle in an up and down season -- from the elbow injury to his 5.62 ERA.
"Obviously, I haven't been throwing the way I wanted to, but that's the way it goes. Everything happens for a reason," Nolasco said. "I just take it all in stride. Nothing deters me from the way I go about my business. I've still been working hard since day one. Just try and stay the same guy, try and keep going in the right direction and help this team out."
Orioles: Pearce day to day after encouraging MRI
The right abdominal strain that forced Steve Pearce out of the Orioles' 9-1 win against the Twins on Friday before the fourth inning shouldn't keep him out long -- a Saturday morning MRI confirmed that it was just a mild strain and the surprising slugger said he's "day to day."
"It's just what I thought," Pearce said. "I just wanted to take care of it before it got out of hand."
The diagnosis is "about as good of news as you could expect," Showalter said. A night earlier, he made sure to avoid calling it an oblique injury, and the MRI confirmed that Pearce avoided a more serious injury like something with that muscle or a sports hernia.
Pearce got treatment on his abdomen on Saturday and said he's off baseball activities for a couple days. Showalter chose not to elaborate on a more specific timetable for Pearce.
Twins: Deduno claimed off waivers
The club will select the contract of left-handed reliever Aaron Thompson Sunday to take the roster spot of Samuel Deduno, who was claimed on outright waivers by the Astros today.
"We talked about a lefty who could get lefties out," Gardenhire said. "He had a pretty good year down there. He can spin the ball, so I think that outweighed the other stuff against other pitchers. Our lefties have had some troubles."
Thompson, 27, was 3-3 with a 3.98 ERA in 46 appearances for Triple-A Rochester, and has appeared in just four prior games in the Majors, coming with the Pirates in 2011.
• The Orioles acquired outfielder Alejandro De Aza in exchange for right-handed pitchers Mark Blackmar and Miguel Chalas Saturday night. They also added utility man Kelly Johnson from the Red Sox.
•.The Twins' Kennys Vargas has 24 RBIs in August, which leads all rookies in baseball.
Jake Kring-Schreifels is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.