Tag Archive | "Alexi Casilla"

Five questions to ponder for Orioles spring training

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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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Key word for the Orioles in 2013?  Same one as 2012…”luck”

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Key word for the Orioles in 2013? Same one as 2012…”luck”

Posted on 13 February 2013 by Drew Forrester

My first baseball blog of 2013.

And it’s February 13.

Then again, there’s not really been any legitimate reason to write about the Orioles since January 1.  First, the football team kept us all in constant contact with Purple Fever, which made writing and opining about anything BUT the Ravens a waste of time.  And, obviously, the Orioles haven’t done anything worth commenting on…unless you count the signing of a broken-down Jair Jurrjens as a move deserving of evaluation.  I didn’t.

But, with pitchers and catchers reporting on Tuesday and the rest of the players showing up by Friday, it’s clearly time to start discussing our orange-feathered-friends with an eye towards the 2013 campaign.

As our very own Luke Jones assessed RIGHT HERE on Tuesday at WNST.net, it’s been a listless off-season for the Birds.  They commenced the hot stove period with question marks and issues worth considering at first base, second base, left field and starting pitching.

The team convenes in Sarasota with none of those problems either completely addressed or improved upon, truth be told.  Rather than go out and get a real first baseman, they simply promoted a formerly-failed glove with a decent bat in Chris Davis.  Not knowing whether or not Brian Roberts will ever return to form, the club elected to add a half-player in Alexi Casilla rather than create a sea change by sending Roberts on his way and giving the job to an everyday major-leaguer.  Left field was rescued in large part by Nate McLouth in 2012, but anyone willing to bet that he will duplicate his form of a year ago is just hoping for the sake of hope.  Oh, right, the team still believes Nolan Reimold can stay healthy and be a threat at the plate and share the left field position with McLouth.  The team likely believes in the Tooth Fairy, too.

In fairness, if the Orioles can get the same yield from guys like Wei-Yin Chen and Miguel Gonzalez, the 2013 starting rotation might not be all that bad.  Would it have been good to see the Orioles make a play for Zack Greinke or Dan Haren or, like Toronto, make a trade to bring in the likes of Josh Johnson and/or Mark Buerhle?  Sure.  But those players all cost money.

While the Birds clearly didn’t do anything in the off-season to improve their team, it’s accurate to note that the Blue Jays wound up being the only A.L. East club to appear as if winning was going to be important to them in ’13.  Boston’s going to stink again, the Yankees appear to be hard-pressed to be an 85-win team and Tampa Bay traded away some of their good young arms to Kansas City for high-level prospect types.  Sadly, had the Orioles actually added a handful of quality players over the last four months, they might legitimately be the favorite in the division.

My guess on 2013?  Pretty simple.  As The Killers showed with their first album, it’s awfully hard to catch lightning in a bottle two times in a row.  I’m going to assume the luck that guided the Orioles through 2012 ran its course a year ago and that same good fortunate bestowed upon the Birds by the baseball gods will instead go to the Royals or Mariners or Brewers or (insert team here) in the upcoming season.

2012 was a fluke season for the Orioles.

I said before the first game a year ago they’d go 79-83 and everyone in town thought I was nuts.  Obviously, I had no idea how lucky things would turn out for them.

I think they’re an 85-win team in ’13, but that won’t be nearly enough to get them into post-season play.  After 14 years of horrible baseball, I suppose we should be happy with back-to-back seasons of plus .500 play, but the Birds turned 95 wins into 85 wins in the off-season by dumpster diving for guys that no other team in the big leagues cared to take.  That philosophy worked a year ago but I can’t see lightning striking twice in the same place twelve months apart.

I’m hoping for the best, because I enjoyed the hell out of 2012, but you can’t count on luck to take you places.  At some point, you have to try to win.  And you do that by adding quality, not gambling on also-rans who swallowed the pill-of-good-fortune and put together a few good months of baseball.

I’d love to be wrong about this group.

I hope like hell they get as lucky this year as they did last season.

But I’m not counting on it.

 

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Duquette hoping lightning can strike same place twice

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Duquette hoping lightning can strike same place twice

Posted on 03 November 2012 by Glenn Clark

You are aware it isn’t true, right?

There is a well known idiom that says “lightning never strikes the same place twice.” The origins of the idiom are not fully known, although it has been attributed to writers like P.H. Myers and Mary Roberts Rinehart over the years.

Lightning can not only strike the same place twice, but could strike the same location an infinite number of times. There are no geographical laws for where lightning can strike, although we can certainly accept the notion that a lightning strike is more likely to hit a tall building than a sidewalk.

If for some reason you’re still REALLY interested in understanding this, here’s a little tutorial Accuweather put together to explain the phenomenon…

I went with this lede because I had to admit it was close to my initial response upon hearing the Baltimore Orioles believed the acquisition of 2B Alexi Casilla had solved their problems at second base.

In fact, I believe my quote was something like “does Dan Duquette really think lightning can strike the same place twice?”

If the Birds’ Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations had been in the room, he could have looked back at me calmly and said “well…it can.”

After claiming Casilla off waivers from the Minnesota Twins, Duquette declared second base to be addressed. He told team-owned entity MASN, ”I think we have enough people on our roster to man the position.”

The O’s second year man Ryan Flaherty at the position with Brian Roberts also perhaps a candidate to retain to the field after hip surgery. Veteran Robert Andino is also an option if the Orioles choose to tender him an offer. Omar Quintanilla is unlikely to return to the team after seeing very little time down the stretch and being left off the postseason roster. Touted prospect Jonathan Schoop may or may not be ready to come to Baltimore at some point in 2012.

Casilla comes to Charm City off a year in Minnesota where he hit .241 and got on base at a .282 clip over 106 games. He added 17 doubles and a home run, but his 21 stolen bases and .980 fielding position have been the saving grace for those applauding the acquisition.

I won’t mix words here. I don’t think much of the addition of Alexi Casilla. I would have preferred the Orioles acquire an actual legitimate major league second baseman this offseason, not another player to add into the mix with some hope it might actually work out. I’m aware the free agent market isn’t particularly deep at second base (Marco Scutaro, Kelly Johnson and Jeff Keppinger stand out), but I’d prefer someone from that group to a “by committee” scenario.

It’s further concerning because it reinforces the idea that the O’s aren’t going to suddenly become the “sleeping giants” of the offseason the way some (including ESPN’s Buster Olney) have suggested.

I instead believe it further reinforces what Dan Duquette said back in May during the press conference to announce OF Adam Jones’ six year contract extension. When our own Luke Jones asked if the $85.5 million deal was a sign that the team was more willing to spend money in free agency, Duquette declared “I don’t think the way to build a team is through free agency.”

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Orioles claim former Twins infielder Casilla off waivers

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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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