Tag Archive | "Alexi Casilla"

Orioles hoping hot corner doesn’t burn chances in October

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Orioles hoping hot corner doesn’t burn chances in October

Posted on 27 September 2014 by Luke Jones

The Orioles may not be sounding an alarm, but all you need to know about their concern at third base was signaled with the insertion of veteran Alexi Casilla at the hot corner in Saturday’s lineup against the Toronto Blue Jays.

Yes, Casilla brings major league experience and manager Buck Showalter wanted to take a look at him after he was rehabbing a hamstring injury in Sarasota earlier this month, but how many games did the 30-year-old play at third base for Triple-A Norfolk this season you might ask?

None.

In fact, Casilla had made just two career starts at third and appeared at the hot corner just 10 times in his eight major league seasons before Saturday’s game at Rogers Centre. But it reflects the level of uncertainty the Orioles face at the position as Casilla became the fourth different player to start there since the announcement of Chris Davis’ 25-game suspension on Sept. 12.

The concerns at third base have been very real since 2013 Gold Glove winner Manny Machado went down with a season-ending knee injury on Aug. 11, but the Orioles appeared to find an acceptable solution in Chris Davis before the slugger’s 25-game suspension was announced on Sept. 12. Since then, Showalter has shuffled candidates with the results being mixed at best.

Though the Orioles have been playing out the relatively-meaningless regular-season string since clinching the division title on Sept. 16, they’ve committed five errors in their last eight games at third base entering Saturday.

The switch-hitting Jimmy Paredes has shown offensive promise with a .308 average in 54 plate appearances, but the 25-year-old has also displayed poor hands and an erratic arm, committing three errors in 13 games and looking shaky on a number of other plays at third base. Showalter has given Paredes the most extensive playing time at third, but his defense has often led to him being pulled in the late innings.

Veteran Kelly Johnson has shown decent hands, but his throwing arm hasn’t inspired confidence to throw out speedier runners at first base. The left-handed hitter also sports a .215 average in time split among the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, and Orioles this season.

Considered the strongest defensive option on the current roster, Ryan Flaherty has even shown recent struggles at the hot corner with two errors in his last four starts at third base this past week. And though he’s hitting over .300 in the month of September, Flaherty’s appearance at third creates another hole at the bottom of the order — he’s a career .222 hitter with a .654 career on-base plus slugging percentage — to go with rookie second baseman Jonathan Schoop and one of Caleb Joseph and Nick Hundley behind the plate.

It’s unlikely that Casilla makes the postseason roster, but the simple fact that he’s getting a look at third base speaks volumes about Showalter’s lack of confidence in any of the candidates at the position.

The Orioles knew they wouldn’t be able to find an option with the all-around ability of Machado when he was lost for the season, but they appeared to be able to live with Davis’ solid defensive play while knowing the offensive upside he brings despite his .196 average in the 2014 regular season. But his suspension lasting until the ninth game of the postseason leaves the Orioles flapping in the wind at third for at least the American League Division Series and some of the AL Championship Series before Davis is an option.

None of their current options provide enough upside with the bat to endure such shaky defense and only Flaherty — if you’re willing to overlook the recent shakiness — appears to provide steady-enough defense to Showalter’s liking. That’s what makes the 2012 Rule 5 selection the most palatable option over Paredes, Johnson, or the recently-summoned Casilla until Davis can potentially return.

Looking for an answer since Machado crumpled to the ground on Aug. 11 and then again when Davis was banned on Sept. 12, the Orioles have yet to find a solution with the Division Series beginning in less than a week.

While many look at the Orioles’ league-leading home run total and improved pitching numbers, defense remains the heart of their success over the last three seasons. Baltimore ranks third in the AL in team ERA but only 10th in strikeouts, a simple reflection of how hurlers pitch to contact and how important the defense has been. Entering Saturday, the Orioles were tied for first in fielding percentage and had committed the second-fewest number of errors in the AL.

In October when such a premium is placed on pitching and defense in typically low-scoring games, the Orioles defense will need to be at its best as they begin a journey to try to win their first World Series since 1983.

You just hope the uncertainty at the hot corner doesn’t burn their chances.

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Looking at the Orioles’ non-roster invitees in Sarasota

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Looking at the Orioles’ non-roster invitees in Sarasota

Posted on 14 February 2014 by Luke Jones

The Orioles officially began spring training with their first official workout on Friday as they look for a number of answers over the next six weeks leading up to Opening Day on March 31.

After examining the players on the 40-man roster earlier in the week, it’s time to take a look at the 19 non-roster invitees who will join the club in Sarasota and try to leave the kind of impression with manager Buck Showalter and executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette that warrants a spot on the major league roster.

Few likely have a real chance of migrating to Baltimore in late March, but many will be looking for a spot in the minor-league system in hopes of getting the call to join the Orioles at some point this season.

PITCHERS (8)

RHP Alfredo Aceves
Opening Day age: 31
Musing: His experience pitching for both the Yankees and Red Sox over the last six years gives him a better chance than most non-roster arms to crack the Baltimore bullpen, but his personality clashes in Boston and a 1.73 WHIP last season are red flags that contrast his 3.69 career earned run average in the big leagues.

LHP Nick Additon
Opening Day age: 26
Musing: The southpaw spent the last seven years as a starter in the St. Louis Cardinals organization but has never pitched in the majors and signed as a minor-league free agent after posting a 4.10 ERA in 131 2/3 innings in Triple-A Memphis last season.

RHP Tim Alderson
Opening Day age: 25
Musing: A former first-round pick of the San Francisco Giants in 2007, Alderson was acquired from Pittsburgh in exchange for Russ Canzler last July and went 1-2 with a 6.27 ERA in 33 innings with Triple-A Norfolk to finish the 2013 season, primarily pitching in relief.

RHP Fabio Castillo
Opening Day age: 25
Musing: The Dominican minor-league free agent posted a 5.34 ERA in 89 1/3 innings starting and relieving for the Giants’ Double-A and Triple-A affiliates last season and will be entering his ninth season of professional baseball.

RHP Eddie Gamboa
Opening Day age: 29
Musing: After five previous seasons pitching in the Orioles system, he became a knuckleball hurler last year and was re-signed to a minor-league contract after going 6-11 with a 4.43 ERA in 25 starts split between Double-A Bowie and Norfolk.

RHP Brock Huntzinger
Opening Day age: 25
Musing: A 2007 third-round pick of the Red Sox, Huntzinger spent the last seven seasons pitching in the Boston organization and went 5-2 with a 1.83 ERA in 49 relief appearances split between the Double-A and Triple-A levels last year before signing with Baltimore as a minor-league free agent.

LHP Eduardo Rodriguez
Opening Day age: 20
Musing: The Venezuelan product is one of the top prospects in the Baltimore system and went an impressive 10-7 with a 3.41 ERA split between Single-A Frederick and Bowie last season, which has made him a target of other organizations in trade talks but a piece the Orioles don’t want to give up.

RHP Mike Wright
Opening Day age: 24
Musing: Named the Orioles’ minor league pitcher of the year last season, the 2011 third-round pick went 11-3 with a 3.11 ERA primarily with Bowie before a late-season promotion to Norfolk and has a reasonable chance to arrive in Baltimore at some point before the 2014 season comes to an end.

Continue to non-roster position players >>>>>

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Orioles bring back 2B Casilla on minor league deal

Posted on 11 January 2014 by WNST Staff

The Baltimore Orioles agreed to a minor league deal with their own free agent 2B Alexi Casilla Friday, giving the veteran infielder an invite to Major League Spring Training.

Casilla played 62 games with the Birds last season, batting .214/.268/.295. He added a home run and 10 RBI and stole nine bases in 11 attempts.

Casilla is expected to compete with Ryan Flaherty, Jemile Weeks (acquired from the Oakland Athletics in the Jim Johnson trade this offseason) and Jonathan Schoop for both the starting second base job and any potential playing time beyond that.

O’s GM Dan Duquette told MASNSports.com “Alexi is a skilled player. He’s a good defender. He’s very good at second base and he’s good at short. He’s a switch-hitter and he’s a talented basestealer. And he brings a lot of energy to the team. And he understands his role.”

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Orioles decline Casilla’s 2014 option, pass on making qualifying offers to free agents

Posted on 05 November 2013 by WNST Staff

Already in the process of shaping their 2014 roster, the Orioles made several decisions regarding their own free agents on Monday.

The club declined a $3 million option for the 2014 season in infielder Alexi Casilla’s contract, making him a free agent after a $200,000 buyout. Executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette also passed on making one-year, $14.1 million qualifying offers in 2014 for free agents Brian Roberts, Jason Hammel, and Nate McLouth.

Seven players on the 2013 Orioles declared for free agency following the World Series: Roberts, Hammel, McLouth, right-handed pitchers Scott Feldman and Francisco Rodriguez, outfielder Michael Morse, and catcher Chris Snyder. The Orioles have expressed interest in retaining some of their own free agents, but no formal discussions have taken place.

The Orioles also added 25-year-old left-handed pitcher Chris Jones to their 40-man roster and reinstated third baseman Manny Machado (knee surgery) and outfielder Nolan Reimold (neck surgery) to the 40-man roster after each finished the 2013 season on the 60-day disabled list.

With Reimold eligible for arbitration, the Orioles could forgo tendering him a contract and attempt to re-sign him as a non-roster invitee who would not take a spot on the 40-man roster.

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Roberts likely to be activated over weekend against Yankees

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Roberts likely to be activated over weekend against Yankees

Posted on 27 June 2013 by Luke Jones

(This blog brought to you by Atlantic Remodeling. Visit www.atlanticremodeling.com to learn about their Red Cent Guarantee!)

BALTIMORE — After no setbacks and some impressive work in his brief rehabilitation stint with Triple-A Norfolk, Orioles second baseman Brian Roberts could make his 2013 home debut this weekend against the New York Yankees.

The 35-year-old was scheduled to play in two games with the Tides on Thursday night — likely serving as the designated hitter in the second one — and is likely to be activated from the 60-day disabled list at some point over the weekend, according to manager Buck Showalter. Roberts was 2-for-4 with a double and two runs scored in his first rehab game on Tuesday and walked twice on Wednesday before rain suspended the contest between Norfolk and Columbus.

“I think we have a good chance to see Brian over the weekend,” said manager Buck Showalter, who’s received favorable reports on Roberts’ baserunning and defense from Norfolk manager Ron Johnson. “He’s progressing well.”

The Orioles skipper confirmed what most assumed in terms of Roberts’ role upon returning to action for the first time since April 4. The longtime infielder will be the starting second baseman while the club reevaluate how to handle the roles of Ryan Flaherty and Alexi Casilla. The argument could be made to option Flaherty to Norfolk to allow him regular playing time while Casilla would remain in Baltimore, continuing to serve as the club’s utility infielder.

Casilla would have to give his permission to be optioned to the minors and is a speedy backup off the bench in late-inning situations as a pinch runner.

“We’ll spot [Roberts] here or there,” said Showalter, who added that the club has scenarios in which both Flaherty and Casilla remain on the 25-man roster as they were at the start of the season before Roberts’ injury. “[We view] Brian as the same way it was in the spring.”

Flaherty’s ability to play multiple infield positions as well as the corner outfield spots makes him more attractive as a bench piece should the Orioles want to keep him on the 25-man roster, but that would create a potential crunch once outfielder Nolan Reimold is expected to be activated from the DL sometime on the next road trip. That could push platoon DH Danny Valencia back to Norfolk.

For now, Reimold has extended his rehab assignment with Double-A Bowie — it can last up to 20 days but a player must approve it beyond 10 — though Showalter said he could rejoin the Orioles as early as the Chicago series next week. The 29-year-old is just 5-for-33 with 12 strikeouts in nine games with the Baysox.

“The good news is his leg feels really good,” Showalter said. “He’s not having any problems with the hamstring. It’s just getting comfortable at-bat wise.”

Veteran pitcher Freddy Garcia has elected to remain with the organization after weighing his options around the rest of the league over the last 72 hours. Technically, the 36-year-old opted out of his current contract, allowing the Orioles to sign him to a minor-league deal and assign him to Norfolk. This frees up a 40-man roster spot that will likely be used when Roberts is activated from the DL.

Showalter said the right-hander could be used in either a starting or relief role with the Tides, but it appears he will move into the Norfolk rotation for now.

“We were hoping he would [stay],” Showalter said. “It worked out good for both sides and presented some depth for us and we like the way Freddy’s handled himself professionally and pitching at times at both levels.”

The Orioles hadn’t named a starter for Friday’s game prior to the series finale against the Cleveland Indians on Thursday night. Showalter acknowledged rookie Kevin Gausman had a light workday earlier this week to account for him not pitching in a game since last Wednesday when he was still with Norfolk, but the manager still wouldn’t give the official word Thursday afternoon.

Lefty long man T.J. McFarland has also remained an option to make the start in the series opener against the Yankees, but Showalter appeared to tip his hand in reference to most media and fans assuming that Gausman would get the ball before ultimately tabbing McFarland as the stater after Thursday’s game.

“You guys know who’s pitching tomorrow,” the manager said coyly at the end of his pre-game media session.

In five starts with the Orioles this season, Gausman is 0-3 with a 7.66 earned run average but fared very well against Detroit and Boston in two of his last three starts prior to being optioned to Norfolk due to needs in the bullpen. He was recalled on Monday to serve as a long man in the bullpen but wasn’t needed in the first three games of the Cleveland series.

Pitching prospect Dylan Bundy underwent Tommy John surgery in Florida at 1:30 p.m. on Thursday, but Showalter hadn’t received an update when he spoke with reporters. The surgery was performed by renowned orthopedist Dr. James Andrews.

Cuban outfielder Henry Urrutia was promoted from Bowie to Norfolk on Thursday, a day after being named to the MLB Futures Game at Citi Field during the All-Star break. He is hitting .365 with seven homers, 37 RBIs, and a .983 OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage) and his defense in the outfield is improving drastically, according to Showalter.

The 26-year-old hadn’t played competitive baseball over the last couple years as he defected from Cuba but was named an Eastern League All-Star as many within the organization think he could present himself as a real option for the major-league roster before season’s end.

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Who’s your favorite in the AL East with July right around the corner?

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Who’s your favorite in the AL East with July right around the corner?

Posted on 18 June 2013 by Luke Jones

(This blog brought to you by Atlantic Remodeling. Visit www.atlanticremodeling.com to learn about their Red Cent Guarantee!)

The American League East is what we thought it would be — sort of.

The Orioles entered play on Tuesday trailing the first-place Red Sox by only two games and fourth-place Tampa Bay was only five games back in what’s been a very competitive division. The biggest surprise might be the unexpected flip-flop of Boston and Toronto as the Red Sox were regarded by many as the weak link in the division and the Blue Jays were the winners of the offseason after a plethora of big acquisitions that haven’t paid off to this point in the season.

As we approach the midway point of the season, it’s clear to see the Orioles’ biggest flaw is the starting pitching that’s posted a 4.80 earned run average, ranking 13th in the AL. The trickle-down effect on the bullpen has helped contribute to some regression that was expected anyway after a remarkable 2012 performance.

While there is some potential for improvement from within with left-hander Wei-Yin Chen on track to return by early July, questions will remain when Chris Tillman and Miguel Gonzalez have been the only consistent pitchers in the rotation. Perhaps Zach Britton and Kevin Gausman can provide a boost in the second half similar to the one offered by Tillman and Gonzalez last season, but most believe the Orioles must address their starting pitching if they’re to give themselves a good chance to win the division.

However, flaws and concerns exist with each of the other four clubs in the division as well.

As surprising as the Red Sox have been sitting in first place under new manager John Farrell, Boston is currently dealing with concerns in their starting rotation as Jon Lester has been ineffective and Clay Buchholz is dealing with a neck injury. The Red Sox lead the majors in runs scored, but they’ve also had concerns in the bullpen that could come back to haunt them in the second half.

The Yankees’ early-season fountain of youth has seemingly dried up as their offense ranks 10th in the AL in runs scored and is still without Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez and has already lost Mark Teixeira and Curtis Granderson to the disabled list a second time. New York’s starting pitching is keeping them competitive, but you wonder whether so many absences are finally catching up as the Orioles recently moved into second place.

Tampa Bay might be the most intriguing of the AL East clubs — and not because they were my preseason pick to win the division — as the Rays lineup has been much better than anyone expected (fifth in the AL in runs). However, the pitching has been a major disappointment, ranking 11th in the AL in ERA as All-Star closer Fernando Rodney has been a shell of his 2012 form and 2012 Cy Young Award winner David Price is on the DL. You’d have to think the Rays will pitch better as the year progresses, but it’s difficult imagining the lineup continuing to produce in the second half like it has.

Toronto has played better of late after winning six straight games, but the Blue Jays lineup ranks eighth in the AL in runs scored and 14th in team ERA as starters R.A. Dickey, Mark Buehrle, and Josh Johnson haven’t lived up to expectations. The Blue Jays face an uphill climb, but they are capable of holding their own against the rest of the division as we’ve seen in their games with the Orioles.

Based on what we’ve seen over the course of the season, it’s difficult not to like Boston’s chances because of the relative consistency they’ve received from their offense and starting pitching, and Tampa Bay is also dangerous if it can get Price back while maintaining a similar level of offensive production. However, the Orioles might just be good enough to prevail in the AL East with a very good lineup, excellent defense, a solid bullpen, and even mediocre starting pitching.

Of course, that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t still try to upgrade by the trade deadline.

Seeing doubles

Third baseman Manny Machado entered Tuesday’s game with a major-league-leading 32 doubles in 71 games and is on pace to hit 73 this season, which would break the major-league record of 67, set by Earl Webb of Boston in 1931. The franchise record is held by Brian Roberts, who hit 56 back in 2009.

At one point do we simply start referring to doubles as “machados?”

The soon-to-be 21-year-old entered Tuesday also leading the majors in hits (99) and multi-hit games (29). Over his last 51 games, Machado has 24 multi-hit games and is batting .346 with 26 doubles, two triples, three homers, 34 runs scored, and 26 RBIs in his last 51 games.

Machado hasn’t hit a home run since May 5, but it’s amazing to think what type of home-run potential he might have as he gets stronger and simply puts a bit more loft on some of those line drives as he continues to develop as a hitter. Even though he’s on pace to break a doubles record that’s more than 80 years old, Machado may only be scratching the surface of his potential as a run producer and power hitter.

With Machado leading the majors in doubles and Chris Davis hitting more homers (24) than anyone in the big leagues, they can become just the second pair of teammates to lead the majors in doubles and home runs in the same season. According to STATS, the only other time it’s happened was 1927 when Babe Ruth led the majors in homers (60) and Lou Gehrig in doubles (52).

The New York Yankees went on to win the World Series that year.

Suffering at second base

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Roberts returns to Baltimore for “homestretch” of recovery process

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Roberts returns to Baltimore for “homestretch” of recovery process

Posted on 10 June 2013 by Luke Jones

(This blog brought to you by Atlantic Remodeling. Visit www.atlanticremodeling.com to learn about their Red Cent Guarantee!)

BALTIMORE — Injured second baseman Brian Roberts hadn’t been spotted in the Orioles clubhouse since early April when he was placed on the disabled list with a right hamstring injury, but the 35-year-old is glad to be home.

Even if he’s still a few weeks away from a potential return to major league action.

After rejoining the club during its three-game series against Tampa Bay over the weekend, Roberts has elected to continue his rehabilitation efforts in Baltimore after spending most of the last two months in Sarasota. The 35-year-old underwent surgery less than five weeks ago and described himself as being in the “home stretch” of the recovery process before going on a minor-league rehab assignment.

“It’s great to be back,” Roberts said. “You feel kind of isolated on an island down there. It is already good to be around the guys and feel like you are part of the team.”

Roberts has increased his activity level over the last couple weeks as he is taking batting practice, playing catch, and continuing to test his surgically-repaired hamstring as he works his way back to running at full speed. Roberts reiterated Monday what he said over the weekend about not anticipating a lengthy rehab assignment like the one he completed last year while returning from concussion-like symptoms.

Manager Buck Showalter seemed to agree with that assessment as long as Roberts felt he was ready, mentioning three to seven games as possible estimate. Meanwhile, Roberts is focused on testing the hamstring to make sure it’s 100 percent before he takes the next step of playing in minor-league games.

“Mainly the running progression,” Roberts said. “Just continuing to build up to where you can be explosive again [and] where you can cut, you can stop, you can backpedal. The running has really taken some good steps forward in the last couple of days and I’m hoping that is a sign we have reached the point where things can started moving a little quicker.”

Roberts hasn’t played since injuring his hamstring in St. Petersburg on April 4 and is fully aware of the doubts expressed over his ability to remain healthy as the Orioles have struggled to find production at second base with the combination of Ryan Flaherty and Alexi Casilla. The veteran infielder has played in just 118 games over the last four seasons combined.

For now, he’s happy to be back in a big-league environment while in the midst of the final year of a four-year, $40 million that obviously hasn’t worked out how either side had hoped.

“Nothing compares to being in this atmosphere,” Roberts said. “I don’t know how much longer I have left to be in it, and I want to be around it as much as possible.”

NOTES: Right-handed pitcher Dylan Bundy began a throwing progression in Sarasota on Monday, completing 25 throws from 60 feet without experiencing any discomfort, according to Showalter. … Outfielder Nolan Reimold (hamstring) could be ready to go on a minor-league rehab assignment by the end of the current homestand. Showalter offered a similar range of games for Reimold as he spelled out for Roberts. … Left-handed pitcher Wei-Yin Chen will be summoned to Baltimore as soon as he’s ready to begin throwing off a mound, according to Showalter, which should be in the not-too-distant future barring any setbacks. …Casilla was not in the starting lineup after jamming his right index finger sliding into second base on Sunday. Showalter revealed that he likely would have started Casilla against the Angels after the utility infielder went 2-for-3 with two RBIs in the series finale against the Rays.

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Orioles recall Flaherty, option Navarro to Triple-A Norfolk

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Orioles recall Flaherty, option Navarro to Triple-A Norfolk

Posted on 29 May 2013 by Luke Jones

(This blog brought to you by Atlantic Remodeling. Visit www.atlanticremodeling.com to learn about their Red Cent Guarantee!)

BALTIMORE — It just wouldn’t be the Orioles if they went too many days without making a roster move as second baseman Ryan Flaherty was recalled from Triple-A Norfolk prior to Wednesday’s game against Washington.

The decision raised more than a few eyebrows as the club optioned infielder Yamaico Navarro and his .286 average to Triple-A Norfolk in favor of Flaherty, who was hitting .133 when he was sent to the minors on May 18. Manager Buck Showalter hopes the brief stint with the Tides provided the necessary confidence boost to the 26-year-old infielder after he clubbed two home runs and hit .265 in 34 at-bats over the last eight games. Flaherty posted multi-hit games in four of the eight contests he played at Triple A.

Reports from Norfolk manager Ron Johnson and his staff said Flaherty was handling the breaking ball much better than he was upon being demoted, but Showalter acknowledged you never know whether that will continue to apply at the next level. Critics will certainly question whether eight minor-league contests were truly enough to fix Flaherty’s ailments, but the second baseman told reporters he thought the opportunity to make adjustments in a pressure-free environment helped significantly.

Showalter said at the time of his demotion that the hope was for Flaherty to “get his legs back under him” with the Tides.

“We know the stuff is a little better here,” Showalter said. “He’s handled the breaking ball a little better. We’ll see how it plays. The good thing about him is he’s defending. We just wanted to see him get some good at-bats. It’s what was needed at the time. I hope he benefited from it.”

In his eight games with the Orioles, Navarro has shown potential at the plate but has been erratic in the field, making a few nice plays mixed in with two errors at second base. Showalter and the Orioles clearly value defense to complement a struggling pitching staff that includes several ground-ball pitchers.

The club would be more inclined to give veteran Alexi Casilla more opportunities at second base due to his strong defense, but his .183 average hasn’t exactly screamed for more playing time and the organization sees more upside with Flaherty at the plate. Showalter said the switch-hitting Casilla will continue to be in the mix, likely receiving starts against left-handed pitchers as he was doing before Flaherty’s demotion.

“[Flaherty] understands this is not an open-ended ticket,” Showalter said. “Play better. The one thing I want to see is him be a consistent force for us defensively.”

In other news, pitching prospect Dylan Bundy has a followup appointment with Dr. James Andrews regarding his right forearm and elbow. Bundy received a platelet-rich plasma injection a month ago and has a full range of motion with the elbow after rest. Showalter told reporters the 20-year-old pitcher hasn’t experienced any pain in the last week, signs indicating he could begin throwing very soon.

“I think that’s the final thing for [Dr. Andrews] to sign off on,” Showalter said.

Infield prospect Jonathan Schoop received a second opinion on the stress fracture in his lower back on Wednesday that provided a slightly more optimistic prognosis of four weeks of rest. The hope is that the 21-year-old could be back playing in five to six weeks, which would have him back in action at around the All-Star break.

Reliever Pedro Strop completed a unique workout at his old position of shortstop Wednesday afternoon in an effort for the pitcher to refine as well as repeat his throwing motion. The struggling reliever was placed on the 15-day disabled list over the weekend with what was listed as a lower back strain, an ailment many have viewed as a veiled excuse to allow the club to work on Strop’s 6.11 earned run average and failures on the mound.

The move does not signal a position change for Strop, who broke into professional baseball as a shortstop but hit .207 in 633 plate appearances in the minors.

Starting pitcher Wei-Yin Chen continues to improve from a strained right oblique, but the lefty isn’t pain-free just yet, according to Showalter.

Injured infielders Brian Roberts and Wilson Betemit are each hitting off a tee and throwing as they continue their respective rehabs in Sarasota.

Catcher Taylor Teagarden caught seven innings in an extended spring game on Wednesday and could be sent out on a minor-league rehab assignment as early as Thursday.

Outfielder Nolan Reimold continues to rehab his right hamstring and told reporters that he’s spent some of his time rehabbing at Johns Hopkins Hospital. The 29-year-old says he is now running but not at full speed just yet. The timetable for his return remains unknown, but Reimold said it “won’t be forever.”

Not exactly much clarity in that statement.

Showalter also echoed what he said following Tuesday’s loss in Washington that rookie Kevin Gausman will once again start for the Orioles on Sunday against the Detroit Tigers.

“He’s a mature guy,” Showalter said. “He’s going to seek his level. There’s a process. Talent plays. If you’re good enough, you can’t hide it.”

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Ten Orioles thoughts with April in the books

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Ten Orioles thoughts with April in the books

Posted on 01 May 2013 by Luke Jones

With the Orioles concluding the opening month of the 2013 season by tying a franchise record with 16 wins in April, here are 10 thoughts to ponder as May begins:

1. Jason Hammel leads the club with four wins, but we’ve yet to see the 2012 version of the de facto ace show up this season. That’s not to say the right-hander hasn’t been one of the Orioles’ better starting pitchers, but the two-seam fastball that led to his renaissance last season hasn’t shown nearly the same bite through six starts this year. Despite a 3.79 earned run average, Hammel is averaging just 5.9 innings per start and his 5.3 strikeouts per nine innings is down dramatically from the 8.6 rate he held last season. Always possessing strong breaking stuff, Hammel needs to find a better feel for his two-seamer in order to make the rest of his repertoire more explosive. There was little debate that 2012 was a career season for Hammel prior to the knee surgery in July, but the Orioles didn’t actively pursue an impact starting pitcher with the thought — wise or not — that they had a pitcher with top-of-the rotation stuff. They’ll need better from Hammel over the next five months of the season.

2. Chris Davis’ historic opening-week start gained the most attention, but the free-swinging first baseman also collected 16 walks in April. His nine home runs have garnered plenty of press as opponents are pitching the left-handed slugger very carefully since the beginning of the season, but the walk totals have led many — including me — to praise Davis for an improved level of patience at the plate after he walked only 37 times during the 2012 season. However, the 27-year-old is seeing just 3.79 pitches per plate appearance after averaging 4.00 pitches per trip to the plate a year ago. Part of this can be explained by Davis’ strikeout rate decreasing (one every 3.5 at-bats compared to one per 3.0 at-bats last year), but it also indicates his walk numbers may not be sustained as his bat inevitably cools off at different points in the season. Regardless of just how much more patient Davis has become at the plate or not, it’s difficult to dispute how much of a force he’s become since the beginning of last season, making his acquisition in the Koji Uehara deal in 2011 a brilliant one by former president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail.

3. The decisions to let go of Mark Reynolds and Joe Saunders weren’t the problem, but electing not to replace them is looking more and more like a mistake. Anyone who expects the former Orioles first baseman to continue hitting .300 like he did in his first month with Cleveland will likely be disappointed, but his eight home runs would look very good in the Baltimore lineup right now. Considering Orioles designated hitters batted .144 and posted a .502 on-base plus slugging percentage in April, Reynolds occupying that role or first base — with Davis handling the other — would be a major boost to the lineup. Meanwhile, Saunders pitched a complete game against the Orioles on Monday night but has been abysmal away from Safeco Field (12.51 ERA) so far. As I said during the offseason, letting go of Reynolds and Saunders was fine if the intention was to upgrade each of their spots and executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette expressed the desire to acquire a middle-of-the-order bat and a veteran starting pitcher. However, neither of those goals were accomplished and that could continue to plague the Orioles throughout 2013.

4. Zach Britton turned in a poor 2013 debut, but his quick demotion sends the wrong message to the organization’s young pitchers. No one expected the 25-year-old left-hander to have a long leash given the higher expectations in Baltimore these days, but I can’t subscribe to the idea of sending down a pitcher who you hope will fit into your future after only one rough start. This creates the impression that young pitchers looking for their chance in Baltimore need to be perfect, which isn’t a mindset conducive to being successful. I also wonder what kind of message it sends to Norfolk manager Ron Johnson and pitching coach Mike Griffin, who gave their recommendation for Britton to be the next call-up after Josh Stinson’s failed start last week. A spot start for an organizational depth guy like Stinson or even a journeyman like Freddy Garcia is fine, but if the expectation all along was for Britton to only receive one chance, the club would have been better served leaving him in Norfolk and not messing with his head. Again, allowing six earned runs in six innings was far from acceptable, but it wasn’t the type of disastrous outing that warranted an immediate exit.

5. It’s safe to say Nolan Reimold has yet to adjust to his new role as the club’s primary designated hitter. Reimold has two home runs, five RBIs, and a 1.029 OPS in 29 plate appearances as the club’s left fielder, but the 29-year-old has posted an ugly .477 OPS with one homer and two RBIs in 52 plate appearances while serving in the DH spot. The problem for Reimold is the remarkable play of Nate McLouth, who has been more productive at the plate and is better defensively in the outfield. Manager Buck Showalter can’t justify taking McLouth out of left field, so Reimold needs to adjust to his new role, which can be difficult for individuals accustomed to being in the game as a defensive player. The good news for Reimold is that he’s remained healthy after undergoing spinal fusion surgery last year, but the Orioles must get better production from the designated hitter or will need to begin looking at other options for the role. It’s fair to acknowledge he’s still regaining strength and is adjusting to not having quite as much range of motion in his neck after the surgery, but Reimold would be the first to tell you he needs to be better at the plate.

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Showalter not crazy about Davis’ Bo Jackson impersonation

Posted on 17 April 2013 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — With Tampa Bay lefty Matt Moore taking the hill against the Orioles on Wednesday night, manager Buck Showalter has altered his regular lineup in the second game of the series.

Switch-hitter Alexi Casilla will start at second base instead of Ryan Flaherty, but Nate McLouth will remain in left field in lieu of Steve Pearce earning the start as the designated hitter and Nolan Reimold moving to the outfield. In a small sample size of just two starts, Moore has actually allowed more hits to lefty bats (2-for-11) than right-handed hitters (1-for-24) and can struggle with his command against left-handed hitters. In his brief career that began in 2011, Moore is allowing right-handers to bat .229 while lefties are .238 against him.

Moore hasn’t allowed an earned run in 11 1/3 innings this season, but the 23-year-old has also walked eight batters, including six in his last start against Texas. Patience will be the theme for the approach at the plate for Orioles hitters.

With the Orioles schedule to face left-handed starters in each of the next two games following Wednesday’s tilt, Showalter didn’t want McLouth to sit for an extended period but said Pearce will be in the starting lineup on Thursday against Rays ace David Price. However, Casilla figures to see action in each of the next three games with Flaherty off to a 2-for-28 start this season.

Pitchers Steve Johnson and Tsuyoshi Wada will each throw in Sarasota on Thursday with the former expected to join a minor-league club on either a rehab assignment or an option if all goes well. The right-hander will throw four innings while Wada will toss three as he continues to make his way back from last year’s Tommy John surgery.

Despite rumors of the Orioles being interested in Rangers outfielder Julio Borbon, the 27-year-old was place on waivers this afternoon as Texas’ asking price was apparently too steep. The left-handed hitting outfielder provides good speed, but he wouldn’t appear to be a dramatic upgrade over current reserve Chris Dickerson, making it unsurprising that the Orioles weren’t willing to meet the Rangers’ demand.

Now, we’ll wait to see if the Orioles put in a claim and, more importantly, are successful in acquiring him.

The struggles of reliever Pedro Strop were also a topic of discussion prior to the second game of the series. Showalter was quick to remind everyone how successful the right-handed power arm was prior to his late-season struggles a year ago.

Strop allowed two home runs in the eighth inning and is sporting a 10.80 earned run average in six appearances covering five innings. Of course, the Orioles were forced to use five relievers with starter Jake Arrieta lasting only five innings in the series opener.

“I think he’s going to do some good things for us this year,” said Showalter, who noted that Strop hadn’t pitched since Friday and wanted to give him some work. “He already has. He’s gotten some big outs already; last night wasn’t one of them. It was a pretty long chain there because we only got five innings out of our starter.”

Showalter was asked about Tuesday’s incident in which first baseman Chris Davis broke his bat over his knee after striking out, which instantly became an internet hit. The Baltimore manager clearly didn’t want to make a big deal about it, but Showalter didn’t sound as though he wanted to see a repeat performance of the move Bo Jackson made famous in the 1980s.

“I’d just like to be able to do it myself,” said Showalter before answering more seriously. “What are you going to do? It’s risky. I think I’d be more inclined [to say], ‘Let’s do something that kept us from being that mad. Maybe you can take that pitch.’ He’s not the first guy or the last guy [to do it].”

Regardless of Showalter’s feelings, here’s another look at Davis’ bat-break, courtesy of Cork Gaines:

Here are Wednesday’s lineups…

BALTIMORE
RF Nick Markakis
3B Manny Machado
CF Adam Jones
C Matt Wieters
1B Chris Davis
SS J.J. Hardy
LF Nate McLouth
DH Nolan Reimold
2B Alexi Casilla

SP Chris Tillman (0-0, 7.00 ERA)

TAMPA BAY
CF Desmond Jennings
2B Kelly Johnson
RF Ben Zobrist
3B Evan Longoria
LF Matt Joyce
DH Shelley Duncan
1B James Loney
C Jose Molina
SS Yunel Escobar

SP Matt Moore (2-0, 0.00 ERA)

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