Tag Archive | "Alexi Casilla"

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Showalter going with short bench to spread bullpen work around

Posted on 06 April 2013 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — The Orioles knew a roster move was coming with fifth starter Chris Tillman coming off the 15-day disabled list to make Saturday’s start against the Minnesota Twins, but manager Buck Showalter will keep an eight-man bullpen for the time being.

To make room for Tillman on the 25-man roster, the Orioles optioned infielder Yamaico Navarro to Triple-A Norfolk, a day after he was recalled to take the injured Brian Roberts’ roster spot. That move means Rule 5 selection T.J. McFarland will remain as a long reliever in the bullpen. Many speculated that executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette would try to deal another reliever such as Luis Ayala or Tommy Hunter or attempt to work out a deal with McFarland’s original club — the Cleveland Indians — that would allow them to keep McFarland in the organization without him being on the 25-man roster.

Instead, Showalter will protect his bullpen arms by spreading out the workload in the early stages of the season as the current members of the starting rotation attempt to establish themselves as permanent fixtures. The Orioles manager also cited a 20-game stretch without a day off that begins on April 17. In Showalter’s eyes, it’s all about putting his top relievers in position to be at their best for the entire season.

Through the first four games of the season, no reliever has appeared in more than two games, with McFarland being the only member of the bullpen yet to appear in a game.

“We’re going to err on the side of carrying arms, especially protecting the bullpen, until guys kind of find their step as starters,” Showalter said prior to Saturday’s game against the Minnesota Twins. “[Pitching coach Rick Adair] and I spent a lot of time — mostly leaning with what Rick thinks — about protecting some of our guys’ innings, because we want to make sure we’ve got all of our bullets as we go through the season.”

Showalter expects to go back to a four-man bench at some point down the line, but he also pointed to the versatility up and down the list of position payers that allows them to play with a shorter bench. Ryan Flaherty and Alexi Casilla can both play several infield positions while Steve Pearce was mentioned by the manager as the club’s emergency catcher in addition to his ability to play in the outfielder or first base.

Third baseman Manny Machado and first baseman Chris Davis are also capable of moving to other positions if necessary, just lending more support to Showalter’s decision to go with an extra bullpen arm.

“Right now, I’m more interested in passing the load around,” Showalter said. “We’ve got some different pieces. There will come a time where it’s not going to be that way all the time. I’m very protective of trying to make sure we get everybody off to a good start.”

For the second straight night, Flaherty started at second base on Saturday, but Showalter said Casilla will make his first start as an Oriole on Sunday. The Orioles will use both players at the position in Roberts’ absence over the next three to four weeks, but it appears that Flaherty is receiving the first chance to take the lead at second base in terms of playing time. The switch-hitting Casilla would figure to start against tough left-handed pitchers with the left-handed hitter Flaherty on the bench in this situations.

Flaherty is 0-for-6 with four strikeouts so far this year while Casilla struck out in his only plate appearance in Friday’s win over the Twins. Showalter did not rule out a strict platoon but said it will be a fluid situation based heavily on how the two perform.

Here are Saturday’s lineups…

MINNESOTA
CF Aaron Hicks
C Joe Mauer
LF Josh Willingham
1B Justin Morneau
DH Ryan Doumit
3B Trevor Plouffe
RF Chris Parmelee
2B Brian Dozier
SS Pedro Florimon

SP Vance Worley (0-1, 4.50 ERA)

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

SP Chris Tillman (2012 stats: 9-3, 2.93 ERA)

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Five questions to ponder for Orioles spring training

Posted on 13 February 2013 by Luke Jones

The Orioles held their first workouts for pitchers and catchers to officially kick off spring training in Sarasota on Wednesday.

Trying to build on a 93-win campaign that included their first trip to the playoffs in 15 years, the Orioles have several questions marks after a quiet offseason void of significant moves.

Here are five questions to ponder as Baltimore begins preparations for the 2013 season:

1. Can Nolan Reimold stay healthy and be the impact bat the Orioles failed to acquire in the offseason?

Executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette failed in his quest to acquire a middle-of-the-order bat, but a healthy Reimold would go a long way in providing the extra offense the Orioles are looking for after they finished ninth in runs scored and 11th in on-base percentage in the American League last season. Of course, expecting Reimold to stay injury-free has only resulted in frustration over the years as the left fielder missed most of last season after undergoing spinal fusion surgery.

The good news is Reimold is already taking live batting practice and appears to be 100 percent for spring training as he will compete with Nate McLouth for the starting job in left field. McLouth is the superior fielder and has more speed, but few would argue Reimold’s ability at the plate as he hit .313 with five home runs in 67 at-bats last season.

The club could elect to use Reimold as the designated hitter more frequently to keep him healthy, and he would be an ideal fit in the No. 2 spot because of his plate discipline (a career .338 on-base percentage in 916 plate appearances in the majors) or in the fifth or sixth spot because of his power. At 29, Reimold appears to be running out of time as a viable option on which the Orioles can depend moving forward, but the club signed him for $1 million in the offseason and maintains control of him through the 2015 season.

Duquette didn’t acquire an established veteran bat and also parted ways with slugger Mark Reynolds, so this spring will be critical for Reimold to prove he can provide extra punch to the lineup. If he’s again unhealthy, the Orioles will be forced to lean more heavily on McLouth, who carries his own baggage despite a 2012 renaissance in Baltimore.

2. What will the starting rotation look like when the Orioles come north to Baltimore?

The starting rotation would appear to have a more definitive outline than it did as this time last year as Jason Hammel, Wei-Yin Chen, Miguel Gonzalez, and Chris Tillman all put forth career seasons in 2012, but none of those four come without questions this spring. Concerns over Hammel’s knee were eased with his ability to pitch effectively in the postseason, but the Orioles hope he can replicate his first half last season when he looked like an ace and was included in the fan vote for the final spot on the AL All-Star team.

Chen and Gonzalez will need to prove their rookie campaigns weren’t flukes as the rest of the league will be more familiar with each and the latter’s 170-pound frame will always cause some to question his durability over a full season. Adjustments made to Tillman’s mechanics by director of pitching development Rick Peterson paid major dividends last year, but the 24-year-old will need to replicate that success over an entire season in the big leagues.

Even if those four pick up right where they left off, manager Buck Showalter and pitching coach Rick Adair must sift through a number of other candidates to replace the fifth spot in the rotation left behind by veteran left Joe Saunders, who signed with Seattle last week. Jake Arrieta, Brian Matusz, Steve Johnson, Zach Britton, and Tommy Hunter will all be in the mix, but each comes with their limitations and concerns.

The Orioles continue to point to strength in numbers as it pertains to the starting rotation as 12 pitchers made starts for Baltimore last season. And to offer some perspective on how quickly things can change due to injury or ineffectiveness, three-fifths of the rotation that began the 2012 season landed in the minor leagues by the All-Star break.

The top four will have the inside track for rotation spots entering the spring, but Showalter won’t hesitate to make changes quickly if anyone isn’t up to the task.

3. Who will step up to play second base?

Yes, Brian Roberts is still with the Orioles as he enters the final season of a four-year contract that’s seen him play 115 games combined in the last three years. The 35-year-old infielder appears to be recovered from hip surgery and an offseason surgery to correct a sports hernia, but viewing Roberts as a viable option feels more like you’re being polite than at all realistic.

The Orioles acquired the slick-fielding Alexi Casilla off waivers from the Minnesota Twins after the switch-hitting second baseman played in a career-high 106 games last season. The 28-year-old is a career .250 hitter and provides good speed (21 stolen bases in 2012), but it remains to be seen whether he can handle full-time duties at the plate or he’ll be exposed over a bigger sample of at-bats.

The most intriguing option from an offensive perspective would be Ryan Flaherty, who split duties at second base with the departed Robert Andino at the end of last season. Thought limited defensively, Flaherty hit six home runs in 153 at-bats as a Rule 5 player who stuck on the 25-man roster all season.

Because of Showalter’s preference for strong defense up the middle, Casilla would appear to be the favorite to handle the bulk of the duties at second base due to Roberts’ frailty and Flaherty’s limitations in the field. However, this will remain a very fluid position to watch as the spring progresses.

4. How will Showalter handle the designated hitter spot in the order?

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Orioles claim former Twins infielder Casilla off waivers

Posted on 02 November 2012 by WNST Staff

PRESS RELEASE

The Orioles announced Friday that they have claimed infielder Alexi Casilla off waivers from the Minnesota Twins. Additionally, the Orioles have outrighted outfielder Lew Ford, infielder Steve Tolleson, and left-handed pitcher Zach Phillips to Triple-A Norfolk and reinstated right-handed pitchers Oliver Drake and Stup Pomeranz, left-handed pitcher Tsuyoshi, second baseman Brian Roberts, and outfielder Nolan Reimold from the 60-day disabled list.

Casilla, 28, played in a career-high 106 games for Minnesota in 2012, batting .241/.282/.321. He also stole 21 bases in 22 attempts.

Ford, 35, batted .183/.256/.352 with three home runs in 25 games for the Orioles in 2012, his first major league action since 2007 with Minnesota.

Tolleson, 29, batted .183/.227/.310 in 29 games over four stints with the Orioles in 2012.

Phillips, 26, pitched to a 6.00 ERA (6.0IP, 4ER) in six games with the Orioles in 2012. He made 42 relief appearances for Triple-A Norfolk, going 2-2 with a 3.17 ERA (54.0IP, 19ER).

Drake, 25, was recalled on September 29 and placed on the 60-day DL with right shoulder tendonitis. He made three starts for Double-A Bowie, going 1-1 with a 1.50 ERA (18.0IP, 3ER).

Pomeranz, 27, pitched to a 3.00 ERA (6.0IP, 2ER) in three appearances for the Orioles. He was placed on the DL on May 26 with a left oblique injury.

Wada, 31, had left elbow ligament replacement surgery, performed by Dr. Lewis Yocum, on May 11 and missed the entire 2012 season.

Roberts, 35, appeared in 17 games for the Orioles, batting .182/.233/.182. He ended the season on the DL with a right groin strain and had right hip surgery on August 2.

Reimold, 29, batted .313/.333/.627 in 16 games for the Orioles before being placed on the DL on May 1 with a herniated disc in his neck.

With these moves, the Orioles have 39 players on the 40-man roster.

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