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“Rounding the Bases” in Orioles’ 3-1 win over Tampa Bay

Posted on 27 April 2016 by Luke Jones

Who stood out in the Orioles’ 3-1 win over the Tampa Bay Rays on Wednesday night?

In the spirit of hockey’s “three stars” system with the addition of home plate for honorable mentions and other notes, we go around the bases after the 20th game of the 2016 season.

1stChris Tillman was terrific as he turned in his deepest outing of the year with 6 2/3 shutout innings and struck out nine to match his career high. The right-hander only allowed four baserunners as Rays hitters consistently struggled to make contact with eight of his nine strikeouts coming on swings. The biggest moment of his night came in the fourth inning when he struck out Chris Dickerson on a 95 mph fastball with runners on second and third and one out and then got Desmond Jennings to fly out to retire the side. Tillman hasn’t been much of a strikeout pitcher in his career, but his velocity is up so far this season and it was good to see him reach back for a little extra against Dickerson in such a big spot. He also effectively used his slider and curveball to miss bats as the night progressed. If not for the fact that he had a rested bullpen, manager Buck Showalter could have gone a little deeper with Tillman, who struck out four of the last six batters he faced and threw 101 pitches.

2ndJoey Rickard brought a sigh of relief to the Orioles dugout when he smacked a three-run shot into the left-field seats off Matt Moore with two outs in the top of the fifth inning. The Orioles had scored only one run in their previous 30 innings before the Rule 5 pick hit his second home run of the season. It would prove to be all the Orioles would need and the rest of the lineup took that literally as Tampa Ray retired 13 in a row after Rickard’s blast. The clutch hit snapped a 2-for-22 slump for the young outfielder.

3rdBrad Brach pitched a scoreless eighth inning despite a two-out walk and has now allowed only one run in his 13 1/3 innings to begin the 2016 season. The right-hander entered Wednesday holding left-handed hitters to a .158 average before retiring all three lefties he faced in the inning. That’s as good as any lefty specialist many clubs would typically use in such a situation.

Home — In addition to making a sliding catch in the third inning, Nolan Reimold worked a four-pitch walk with two outs and nobody on in the fifth to begin the rally that culminated with Rickard’s home run. … Pitching for the first time since April 21, Darren O’Day retired Steven Souza Jr. for the final out of the seventh and has yet to be scored upon through his first nine appearances of 2016. … Adam Jones went 0-for-4 and is now hitting .196 on the season. … Chris Davis was also hitless, but he was robbed of an extra-base hit in the fourth when Souza made a tremendous diving catch on the warning track in right-center. … Beginning a stretch of 17 of their next 20 games at home on Thursday night, the Orioles will send Tyler Wilson to the hill to open a four-game set against lefty John Danks and the Chicago White Sox.

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“Rounding the Bases” in Orioles’ 2-0 loss to Tampa Bay

Posted on 25 April 2016 by Luke Jones

What went wrong in the Orioles’ 2-0 defeat to the Tampa Bay Rays on Monday night?

In trying to identify the top three losing factors with the addition of home plate for any not-so-honorable mentions and other notes, we go around the bases after the 18th game of the 2016 season.

1st — It was only a matter of time before Rays ace Chris Archer bounced back from a horrendous start to his season, but the Orioles were shut out for the first time all season and extended their scoreless streak to 17 innings. And it’s a shame because they received a more-than-acceptable performance with only two runs allowed by Orioles pitching. Entering the night with a 7.32 ERA, Archer did a superb job commanding his changeup and slider to complement his mid-90s fastball, but the Orioles managed just five hits and didn’t have a single batter reach against the Rays bullpen. The lone offensive highlights of the night were provided by Pedro Alvarez, who collected two doubles as he tries to bounce back from a horrendous start. No other Baltimore hitter reached second base, however.

2nd — Kevin Gausman deserved a better fate, but his struggles after failing to get the call on a 3-2 slider to Steven Souza proved to be the difference in the fifth. The Orioles had to be pleased with what they saw from the 25-year-old in his season debut following a stint on the disabled list, but the terrific breaking ball he displayed over the first four innings vanished after the walk to Souza and he worked into too many deep counts and struggled to put hitters away the rest of the inning. The pitch he’d ultimately like to have back was the 3-2 fastball catching too much of the plate that Rays catcher Curt Casali lined down the left-field line to plate Souza for the first run of the game. The 32-pitch fifth brought a premature end to his outing and he probably ran out of a gas trying to keep up with a terrific pitcher on the opposing side, but Gausman removed much doubt about the health of his right shoulder by using a fastball in the mid-to-high 90s and a sharp breaking ball to strike out seven in five innings. He just didn’t get any help from his offense.

3rd — In his second appearance since coming off the DL, Brian Matusz walked the two left-handed hitters he faced and loaded the bases in the sixth. If the lefty specialist isn’t going to get lefty bats out, his place in the bullpen becomes tenuous at best as he doesn’t offer as much length as other pitchers. Yes, it was Vance Worley who clipped Casali’s jersey with a pitch to force in the second Tampa Bay run, but Matusz was the one who created the mess that led to a 2-0 deficit.

Home — The Orioles didn’t have many opportunities, but Jonathan Schoop, Joey Rickard, and Manny Machado combined to go 0-for-4 with runners in scoring position. … Chris Davis was 0-for-4 with three strikeouts. … Despite hitting Casali to force in a run, Worley pitched 2 1/3 scoreless innings for Baltimore to save the rest of the bullpen. … Adam Jones grimaced after swinging at the second strike in his final at-bat and was captured by MASN cameras talking to trainer Richie Bancells in the dugout after he grounded out in the ninth inning. … Ubaldo Jimenez goes to the hill on Tuesday night and will be opposed by Tampa Bay right-hander Jake Odorizzi.

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Orioles thoughts on Gallardo, Bundy, Kim, more

Posted on 25 April 2016 by Luke Jones

When veteran pitcher Yovani Gallardo left Friday’s game after two innings with right shoulder and bicep tendinitis, you wonder if some small part of the Orioles organization breathed a soft sigh of relief.

No one is taking satisfaction in the 30-year-old being injured, of course, but anyone who’s watched Gallardo pitch so far has observed a significant drop in velocity from even last season, leaving one to wonder if he was healthy. If he had been 100 percent over these first four starts, you’re left with a pitcher who simply can’t get the job done with a fastball sitting in the mid-80s and the lowest ground-ball rate of his 10-year career.

It’s certainly disappointing that Gallardo is already on the shelf after the Orioles forfeited the 14th overall pick in this year’s draft and $22 million over the next two years to sign him, but the pitcher we’ve seen so far isn’t a better option than the likes of Mike Wright, Vance Worley, or Tyler Wilson. In other words, his trip to the 15-day disabled list isn’t a dramatic on-field loss if what he’s done so far is all he’s capable of at this point in his career.

This doesn’t mean that a cortisone shot and a couple weeks of rest will magically transform Gallardo into the pitcher he was three or four years ago, either, but you hope he has a little more left in the tank than what he’s shown and this time away could help him recapture that. If not, it’s fair to ask why the Orioles were still willing to sign Gallardo when their rigorous physical brought red flags about the state of his right shoulder and prompted a restructured deal of two seasons instead of three.

That wouldn’t make them correct about Gallardo as much as they would look desperate to have signed damaged goods because they waited all offseason to address a rotation that finished 14th in the AL in ERA in 2015 and lost its most consistent starter over the last four years in Wei-Yin Chen.

Bundy a starter?

It’s encouraging to see Dylan Bundy healthy and contributing out of the Orioles bullpen with a 2.57 ERA through the first three weeks of 2016, but the discussion of him being a starter later this season is premature.

In addition to his lack of starting experience above Double-A Bowie, Bundy hasn’t shown the ability to miss bats so far with opposing hitters sporting an 89.8 percent contact rate, the highest of any Orioles pitcher in 2016. The 23-year-old has one strikeout in seven innings of work with a fastball averaging just over 93 miles per hour in short stints out of the bullpen when pitchers typically cut it loose.

If he’s only hitting 93 or 94 mph when asked to only throw 20 or 30 pitches, how would that translate as a starter being expected to go six or seven innings?

Of course, this is a small sample size and it’s reasonable to think Bundy’s velocity will increase the further away he gets from his 2013 Tommy John surgery and his shoulder issues from a year ago, but little of what we’ve seen so far from him in 2016 screams starter candidate.

For now, the Orioles and their fans should just be thankful that he’s healthy and contributing in relief, and they’ll see how he progresses from there.

Kim deserving of more chances

It isn’t difficult to see where South Korean outfielder Hyun Soo Kim stands within the organization after starting just three times in the Orioles’ first 17 games, but he’s gone 5-for-10 with two walks in those limited opportunities.

Meanwhile, primary designated hitter Pedro Alvarez is off to a miserable 4-for-37 start. To be fair, Alvarez has a track record of bringing 30-homer potential to a major league lineup, but the Orioles invested $7 million in Kim over two years compared to a one-year, $5.75 million deal for the former Pittsburgh Pirate. This isn’t to suggest that Kim should be given an everyday DH role over Alvarez, but he’s done enough with his rare chances to warrant more frequent shots here and there.

If you don’t think he can play, release him or give him a few more chances to prove that he just can’t cut it in the majors. When he has received time, however, Kim has far from embarrassed himself.

Davis showing more patience

Chris Davis entered Monday with a .230 batting average, but he’s hit six home runs and his walk rate has gone through the roof in the early going.

The 30-year-old slugger has walked in just under 20 percent of his plate appearances, up from 12.5 percent last season. He’s also swinging at just 21.6 percent of pitches outside the strike zone compared to 31.0 percent last year, another reflection of improved patience at the plate.

To this point, he’s striking out a little less frequently, walking a great deal more, and homering at a similar rate (7.9 percent of plate appearances) to what we saw in 2013 (7.9 percent) and 2015 (7.0 percent). It’s still very early, but the Orioles will gladly take that spike in on-base percentage and not care nearly as much about his batting average.

Brach the pitching MVP so far

Zach Britton and Darren O’Day understandably receive most of the attention in the bullpen, but Brad Brach has been the Orioles’ most valuable pitching piece so far this season.

Tied with T.J. McFarland for the club lead with 11 1/3 relief innings, Brach has pitched to a 0.79 ERA and is averaging 10.3 strikeouts and 3.2 walks per nine innings. Right-handed hitters are just 1-for-19 with 10 strikeouts against him while lefty bats are 3-for-17, making him a good matchup for Buck Showalter against any hitter.

His mid-90s fastball and slider make him very difficult against right-handed bats and the downward movement on his changeup makes him that rare right-handed middle reliever who can be extremely effective against lefty hitters. Considering the issues the Orioles have had with starters getting into the sixth inning, Brach’s effectiveness and durability are key to bridging the gap to O’Day and Britton late in games.

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“Rounding the Bases” in Orioles’ 4-3 win over Toronto

Posted on 21 April 2016 by Luke Jones

Who stood out in the Orioles’ 4-3 win over the Toronto Blue Jays on Wednesday night?

In the spirit of hockey’s “three stars” system with the addition of home plate for honorable mentions and other notes, we go around the bases after the 13th game of the 2016 season.

1stManny Machado wasted no time extending his hitting streak to 13 games with his RBI double in the first inning, but his most impressive at-bats came late in the game when it was clear that Toronto pitching wanted no part of the All-Star third baseman. Coming to the plate with a runner in scoring position in both the eighth and the 10th, Machado saw a total of one strike while patiently taking walks to continue the innings. A couple years ago, he might have expanded the zone to try to be the hero in those situations, but he instead drew his free passes on Wednesday night. It was the kind of maturity at the plate that sometimes makes you forget that Machado is just 23 years old. His 2-for-3 night raised his average to .407 on the season.

2ndJoey Rickard collected three hits, scored the first run of the game, and threw out Ryan Goins at the plate to end the top of the sixth inning and protect a one-run lead at the time. Two of the three hits were of the infield variety, but the Rule 5 pick continues to show good speed to put pressure on infielders when he hits the ball on the ground. Though he’s only drawn two walks to this point in the season, Rickard saw a total of 30 pitches in his five plate appearances on Wednesday, which is exactly what you want to see from a leadoff hitter. He leads all major league rookies with 18 hits this season.

3rdAdam Jones offered the Orioles’ defensive play of the year so far as he laid out in a head-first dive in shallow right-center to catch a sinking liner off the bat of Jose Baustista in the top of the seventh. The play temporarily saved a run as Michael Saunders inexplicably failed to tag up and score, but the Blue Jays left fielder came around to touch home plate on Edwin Encarnacion’s two-out double. That said, Jones taking away a hit from Bautista might have been the difference between a tie game and Toronto going ahead on Encarnacion’s extra-base hit if Bautista had been on base.

Home — The bullpen wasn’t flawless but allowed only one run in five innings of work, and Zach Britton pitched a 1-2-3 ninth against the top of the order to headline the group’s effort. … Jonathan Schoop made fine defensive plays to end the ninth and 10th innings, the latter being a 4-6-3 double play to strand a runner in scoring position. … Baltimore has pitched to a 2.11 ERA in seven games at Camden Yards so far this season. … According to STATS, Wednesday marked the first walk-off win in Orioles history coming on a passed ball. … The Orioles send Chris Tillman to the mound in search of a series win on Thursday while the Blue Jays will go with Marco Estrada.

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“Rounding the Bases” in 6-3 loss to Texas

Posted on 15 April 2016 by Luke Jones

What went wrong in the Orioles’ 6-3 defeat to the Texas Rangers on Thursday night?

In trying to identify the top three losing factors with the addition of home plate for any not-so-honorable mentions and other notes, we go around the bases after the ninth game of the 2016 season.

1st — Going the third time through the batting order is challenging for any starting pitcher with hitters being more familiar with their stuff and fatigue sometimes setting in, but it was painful for Chris Tillman, who had allowed only one run and three hits in his first two trips through the Texas lineup. Counting Delino DeShields’ infield single in the fifth, Rangers hitters went 6-for-7 with three doubles in their third at-bats seeing Tillman and transformed a 3-1 Baltimore lead into a 6-3 Texas advantage as the right-handed starter was chased and the sixth inning eventually came to an end. It didn’t take much as a couple pitches up in the zone to Nomar Mazara and Adrian Beltre quickly transformed what had been a solid start into a nightmare exit.

2nd — For the second straight night, the Orioles squandered scoring opportunities that could have eased the pressure on Tillman in that fateful bottom of the sixth. After Jonathan Schoop singled and Nolan Reimold doubled off Texas starter Cole Hamels to lead off the top of the fifth, the top of the order failed to plate a single run as Joey Rickard struck out looking, Manny Machado grounded out, and Adam Jones struck out swinging. J.J. Hardy singled in a run in the top of the sixth, but Jonathan Schoop grounded into an inning-ending double play with runners at the corners and one out, failing to extend a 3-1 lead. The Orioles left four runners in scoring position and lost by three runs.

3rd — Tillman’s final line of six earned runs and nine hits surrendered in just 5 1/3 innings was ugly, but some of that damage was due to some bad luck in the sixth, which you figure will be balanced out by good fortune over a 162-game season. Mitch Moreland’s RBI double down the left-field line was nothing more than a softly-hit pop fly that Rickard couldn’t catch up to after he was playing the pull-happy lefty hitter way over in left-center. Ian Desmond followed that with a game-tying infield hit that couldn’t have been much softer between the mound and first. As Buck Showalter said to MASN after the game, “The baseball gods weren’t too kind to us.” They made a bad inning worse for Tillman and the Orioles.

Home — Replays showed Schoop did not get a good read on the Reimold double over Desmond’s head in left-center and probably should have scored from first base on the play. … Machado has a hit in all nine games to begin the 2016 season, but he went 0-for-2 with runners in scoring position. … Tillman turned in the second-longest outing of the season for the Orioles, becoming the first starter to complete more than five innings since Ubaldo Jimenez’s seven-inning performance on April 7. … Mark Trumbo is now 5-for-15 with two homers off Hamels in his career after hitting one out to the opposite field in the fourth. … Vance Worley will make his second start of the season on Friday with Texas sending lefty Martin Perez to the bump.

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Jones returns to Orioles starting lineup in Texas

Posted on 14 April 2016 by Luke Jones

(Updated: 11:15 p.m.)

Orioles center fielder Adam Jones went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts in his return to the lineup for Thursday’s series-opening 6-3 loss to the Texas Rangers.

Jones was slotted in the No. 3 spot in the order and hadn’t started in Baltimore’s previous six games while dealing with soreness in the rib area. The 30-year-old experienced discomfort swinging in his final at-bat of the Orioles’ April 6 win over Minnesota.

Serving as a late-inning defensive replacement in the first two games of the Boston series, Jones had been moving closer to a return and took batting practice before Wednesday’s finale. However, manager Buck Showalter decided to escape the cold conditions at Fenway Park in favor of a first-pitch temperature around 70 degrees in Arlington, Texas to finally put Jones back in the lineup on Thursday.

After missing a total of just five games from 2012-2014, the five-time All-Star center fielder missed 25 contests last season due to shoulder, ankle, and back ailments at various times. That total included 12 of the final 13 games of 2015 as Jones was sidelined with back stiffness.

Dating back to the end of last season, Jones had been out of the starting lineup in 18 of the Orioles’ last 21 games prior to Thursday night.

With Jones returning, rookie Joey Rickard was back in left field after starting the previous six games in center.

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Orioles get perfect results despite imperfect opening week

Posted on 11 April 2016 by Luke Jones

(Updated: 9:00 a.m.)

BALTIMORE — The Orioles finished the first week of the season as the only undefeated club in baseball.

But their first 5-0 start in 46 years came under less-than-perfect circumstances as Adam Jones and J.J. Hardy missed time due to injuries, the starting rotation went more than five innings just once, and the weather in Baltimore felt more like mid-February than early April. Those realities created even more reason for optimism since rarely will everything go perfectly over the course of a season filled with twists and turns.

So, how’d they do it over the first week?

Sensational work from the bullpen, strong defense, and the home run all played important roles as we’ve come to expect over the last few years, but that wasn’t the entire story. Starters pitched quite effectively — if not very deep — and the Orioles did the little things well, ranging from working longer counts to taking the extra base when afforded the opportunity.

Manny Machado played like the MVP-caliber player he’s become and Rule 5 pick Joey Rickard was the early toast of the town. Even Hyun Soo Kim collected a couple hits in his major league debut on Sunday.

Yes, it’s only five games — the 2015 Atlanta Braves started 5-0 and won just 62 more games the rest of the way — but five victories in the first week of the season count just as much as any others if the Orioles are in the playoff hunt in late September.

“You don’t win a championship in April, but you definitely learn how to play as a team,” Machado said. “That’s what we’ve been doing around here, and we’re going to continue to do that hopefully.”

The most notable short-term concern as the Orioles begin their first road trip of 2016 was the health of Jones, who missed the final three games of the homestand and continues to deal with “rib area” soreness. Manager Buck Showalter said Sunday that the five-time All-Star center fielder is “close” to returning, but Jones isn’t the type to miss so much time with a minor ailment.

Even when he does return, you hope the injury doesn’t linger and impact his performance in the coming weeks. An outfield that’s received an early boost from Rickard but is still vulnerable can’t afford to lose Jones for a significant period of time.

As it has for the better part of the last four years, the bullpen has excelled early on and has allowed just three earned runs over 21 1/3 innings with Mychal Givens surrendering all three over his first two appearances. He was much better on Sunday in a scoreless inning of work against the top of the Tampa Bay lineup and could help Brad Brach serve as the bridge to All-Star relievers Darren O’Day and Zach Britton in the eighth and ninth.

Sunday offered an example of the bullpen’s brilliance but also a warning of how critical it will be for the starters to pitch longer into games as Brach, Givens, O’Day, and Britton were forced to pitch the final 4 1/3 innings of a 5-3 win over Tampa Bay. Showalter had the luxury of all four being available after Saturday’s postponement, but he won’t be in such a position every night over the course of a 162-game season.

“That’s a long chain out of the bullpen today,” Showalter said. “To get through that many outs and not give up a run is pretty remarkable, but we can’t continue to do that. Hopefully as the season goes on, we’ll be able to get deeper in some games as guys get some pitch counts and innings under their belts.”

The starting rotation may have only one start lasting longer than five innings, but the circumstances have been unique for a group that’s posted an impressive 2.28 ERA so far. Chris Tillman’s Opening Day start was halted after two innings due to a rain delay, and he was lifted after just 83 pitches in his impressive five-inning outing on Friday since it was moved up a day.

Yovani Gallardo was effective in his first start, but he will need to pitch longer than five innings more often than not. Ubaldo Jimenez turned in an exceptional seven-inning start on Thursday, but which version of the enigmatic pitcher will the Orioles get on any given night?

The rest of the rotation remains fluid as Vance Worley — who pitched on Sunday for the first time since April 1 — and Mike Wright are receiving the first shots with Tyler Wilson on standby and Kevin Gausman moving closer to his return from the disabled list.

The first week may not have been perfect, but the end results were.

“They gave us a chance to win all five games,” said Showalter of the starting pitching. “And if we do that, we’ll have some fun this summer.”

You can only hope the fun of the first five games will carry over in the days, weeks, and months ahead.

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Kim makes major league debut as Jones remains sidelined

Posted on 10 April 2016 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — South Korean outfielder Hyun Soo Kim was set to make his major league debut on Sunday as the Orioles concluded a three-game set with the Tampa Bay Rays.

Kim was slotted in the No. 9 spot and playing in left field after not appearing in the first four games of the 2016 season. With Adam Jones sidelined with rib soreness for a third straight game, regular left fielder Joey Rickard was once again in center as Kim received his first start.

The 28-year-old hasn’t started in a game since March 25 and received just two more spring at-bats after that as the Orioles tried to persuade him to accept a minor-league assignment.

“We talked about it, but you don’t want to say too much,” said manager Buck Showalter about Kim making his regular-season debut. “There’s a fine line there — go play. He’s probably got enough things going on without me jumping in there too deep.”

As he predicted on Saturday, shortstop J.J. Hardy was back in the lineup after missing Friday’s game due to tightness in his left calf. However, Showalter continues to be cautious with Jones, who is improving but is still feeling some discomfort in the rib area at the end of his swing. The manager reiterated that the training staff does not believe that Jones is dealing with an oblique problem.

For now, the Orioles are willing to wait before considering putting the five-time All-Star selection on the 15-day disabled list. Jones hasn’t played since Wednesday night when he felt discomfort swinging in his final at-bat.

“It’s a concern because he’s one of our best players and he’s not playing,” Showalter said. “But it’s close we think; [we’ll wait] as long as it takes. You know that 10 days is as far as you can backdate something [for the DL], so 10 days? Then, if on the 11th day, he comes in and says he feels good, I’m fine with that, too.

“He’s worth waiting on.”

Kevin Gausman (right shoulder strain) was set to make a rehab start for Double-A Bowie on Sunday that was expected to last three or four innings. The right-hander would then make his next rehab start at Single-A Frederick on Friday and could be activated from the DL as soon as April 20 if all goes to plan.

Lefty reliever Brian Matusz (left intercostal strain) will pitch two to three innings for Bowie on Monday and is expected to be activated from the DL on Thursday when the Orioles begin a four-game series in Texas.

Showalter said pitching prospect Hunter Harvey experienced a mild setback with a groin issue he’s been dealing with since late March.

Right-hander Mike Wright will now make his 2016 debut in a Tuesday start against Boston after Saturday’s start was postponed. Chris Tillman will now make his next start against the Rangers on Thursday.

Below are Sunday’s lineups:

TAMPA BAY
2B Logan Forsythe
DH Logan Morrison
3B Evan Longoria
LF Corey Dickerson
1B Steve Pearce
SS Brad Miller
RF Steven Souza Jr.
CF Kevin Kiermaier
C Curt Casali

SP Jake Odorizzi (0-0, 1.59)

BALTIMORE
CF Joey Rickard
3B Manny Machado
1B Chris Davis
RF Mark Trumbo
C Matt Wieters
DH Pedro Alvarez
SS J.J. Hardy
2B Jonathan Schoop
LF Hyun Soo Kim

SP Vance Worley (2015 stats: 4-6, 4.02 ERA)

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Hardy hopes to play Sunday, Jones still absent

Posted on 09 April 2016 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — As the Orioles tried to endure unseasonably cold weather in the second contest of a three-game set with Tampa Bay, shortstop J.J. Hardy and center fielder Adam Jones were once again out of the starting lineup before Saturday’s game was eventually postponed.

Hardy said his left calf was feeling much better after he sat out Friday’s series opener, but the low temperature and high winds in the forecast for Saturday night were factors in giving him one more day off. Manny Machado was making his second straight start at shortstop with utility infielder Ryan Flaherty starting at third base.

“I’m walking around with no pain,” said Hardy, who added that he plans to play in Sunday’s series finale. “I think I probably could get it going tonight and play, but I think with the cold I think everyone’s kind of scratching that idea. I’ll be good to go tomorrow.”

Jones was out of the lineup for the third straight game due to soreness in his rib area. Manager Buck Showalter was noncommittal about the status of both Hardy and Jones for Sunday, citing a forecast with temperatures that were only supposed to climb to just over 50 degrees.

Rookie Joey Rickard was making his third consecutive start in center field in place of Jones.

“They’re close. They’ll be available if I need them tonight. But if not, I wouldn’t tell you,” said Showalter on Saturday afternoon. “I’ll never say never [about Jones and Hardy returning on Sunday]. It’s a quick turnaround.”

With lefty Drew Smyly starting for the Rays on Saturday, Pedro Alvarez began the game on the bench with Matt Wieters serving as the designated hitter. Alvarez is the only Orioles regular still looking for his first hit of the season after going 0-for-12 in the first four games.

Showalter confirmed that Sunday starter Vance Worley will be on a pitch limit since he hasn’t thrown in a competitive game since the final spring game in Philadelphia on April 1.

Relief pitcher Brian Matusz (left intercostal strain) said he felt good after one-inning outings at Double-A Bowie on Thursday and Friday, but the lefty specialist may have one more extended outing with the Baysox on Monday before joining the Orioles on the upcoming road trip. There was previous talk of Matusz being activated from the 15-day disabled list as early as Sunday.

Starting pitcher Kevin Gausman (right shoulder strain) was scheduled to make a rehab start for Bowie on Saturday, but the Baysox postponed their game, pushing his outing to Sunday. Gausman will then make a rehab start at Single-A Frederick on Friday, but the previous target date of April 19 for his activation from the DL will be pushed back at least a day because of the schedule change.

In addition to the Baysox, the Washington Nationals postponed their Saturday afternoon game due to the bitter conditions, but the Orioles attempted to play their game with wind chills expected to fall below 30 degrees on Saturday evening.

“It’s going to be cold, but we play games,” Showalter said. “That’s what we do.”

Below were Saturday’s starting lineups:

TAMPA BAY
2B Logan Forsythe
DH Logan Morrison
3B Evan Longoria
LF Corey Dickerson
1B Steve Pearce
SS Brad Miller
RF Steven Souza Jr.
CF Kevin Kiermaier
C Curt Casali

SP Drew Smyly (0-1, 6.75 ERA)

BALTIMORE
CF Joey Rickard
LF Nolan Reimold
SS Manny Machado
1B Chris Davis
RF Mark Trumbo
DH Matt Wieters
2B Jonathan Schoop
C Caleb Joseph
3B Ryan Flaherty

SP Mike Wright (2015 stats: 3-5, 6.04 ERA)

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Hardy, Jones out of Friday’s lineup against Tampa Bay

Posted on 08 April 2016 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — Center fielder Adam Jones was out of the Orioles lineup for a second straight night, but a veteran teammate joined him on the bench for the series opener against Tampa Bay on Friday.

J.J. Hardy experienced some calf tightness running the bases in Thursday’s win over Minnesota and was feeling better a day later, but Buck Showalter did not want to take any chances with a player who’s had several health issues over the last couple seasons. Jones was also feeling improvement in his rib area and even took swings in the batting cage on Friday afternoon, but the Orioles decided to give him another day to rest. Both players were available off the bench if needed, according to the Baltimore manager.

“I want to try to get ahead of it and make sure it doesn’t turn into something,” said Showalter about Hardy. “I was going to play Ryan [Flaherty] today anyway. Knowing the players — both of them — they know the difference between something that they should be careful with [and not]. Especially if we don’t play tomorrow [due to inclement weather], they should be ready to go on Sunday.”

Rookie Joey Rickard was leading off and playing center field for the second straight game as he prepared to play against the organization that let him go in the Rule 5 draft in December.

Instead of simply inserting Flaherty at Hardy’s position like he has in the past, Showalter chose to move Gold Glove third baseman Manny Machado to shortstop, his natural position. Machado started six games there last season when Hardy was dealing with injuries.

“He enjoys being able to do something for the club [when] there’s a need there,” Showalter said. “Ryan’s probably a little better third baseman than shortstop. That’s a tough act to follow — [Machado] knows. He doesn’t want to step back. He’s playing with house money as far as going over there. It’s kind of like a new toy for him, but it’s different. The clock’s different.”

Right-handed pitcher Kevin Gausman was still scheduled to make a rehab start at Double-A Bowie on Saturday, but a wintry forecast could postpone that to Sunday. The Orioles are still targeting an April 19 return date for the talented 25-year-old, but Showalter reiterated Friday that they’ll be cautious with Gausman’s health and they’ll delay the process if that’s what’s best for him.

Lefty reliever Brian Matusz was scheduled to pitch again for Bowie on Friday night and could be activated for Sunday’s game against the Rays.

The Orioles announced that veteran right-hander Vance Worley will be the No. 5 starter and is scheduled to start on Sunday, but that depends on what happens with the status of Saturday’s game in which Mike Wright is scheduled to pitch.

Below are Friday night’s lineups:

TAMPA BAY
2B Logan Forsythe
1B Logan Morrison
3B Evan Longoria
DH Corey Dickerson
LF Desmond Jennings
SS Brad Miller
RF Steven Souza Jr.
CF Kevin Kiermaier
C Hank Conger

SP Chris Archer (0-1, 3.60)

BALTIMORE
CF Joey Rickard
LF Nolan Reimold
SS Manny Machado
1B Chris Davis
RF Mark Trumbo
C Matt Wieters
DH Pedro Alvarez
2B Jonathan Schoop
3B Ryan Flaherty

SP Chris Tillman (0-0, 0.00)

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