Tag Archive | "Baltimore"

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Sizing up the post-minicamp 2017 Ravens roster

Posted on 20 June 2017 by Luke Jones

With mandatory minicamp in the rear-view mirror and training camp several weeks away, the Ravens now turn their sights toward the preseason and eventually paring the 90-man offseason to 53 by the start of the regular season.

Few conclusions should be drawn from voluntary organized team activities and three mandatory practices — without live contact — but my still-too-early look at the roster suggests as many as 38 players would be considered locks if the deadline to trim the roster took place now. My rough assessment of the 90 players currently on the roster lists 24 on the bubble. Not all bubble players are on equal footing, of course, with some positions lacking enough quality depth and others enjoying an abundance of talent and likely falling victim to the numbers game.

Though general manager Ozzie Newsome, coach John Harbaugh, and the rest of the coaching staff and front office are cognizant of the numbers at each position, trying to pinpoint a specific number of tight ends or cornerbacks or wide receivers isn’t the most accurate way of projecting a roster. The Ravens are looking for reserves who will excel on special teams, so coaches will look carefully at players’ other abilities and overall athleticism in addition to what they bring to their specific position when filling out the bottom of the roster.

Of course, this breakdown can change at any point with owner Steve Bisciotti even expressing his desire earlier this month to add a veteran to an offensive line that lost two starters in the offseason.

The numbers in parentheses indicate the total number of players currently on the roster at that given position. As we move into the preseason, I’ll provide updated looks as well as projections of who’s in and who’s out at different stages of the summer.

QUARTERBACKS (3)
LOCK: Joe Flacco, Ryan Mallett
BUBBLE: None
LONG SHOT: Dustin Vaughan
Skinny: All eyes will be on Flacco to provide more consistent play being another year removed from his 2015 knee injury. The fact that the Ravens didn’t even give Vaughan a special non-contact quarterback jersey this spring suggests he’s not a real threat to Mallett for the backup job.

RUNNING BACKS & FULLBACKS (7)
LOCK: Terrance West, Danny Woodhead, Kenneth Dixon
BUBBLE: Lorenzo Taliaferro, Buck Allen
LONG SHOT: Ricky Ortiz, Taquan Mizzell
Skinny: Taliaferro is an intriguing option at fullback if he stays healthy, but keep an eye on Ortiz if that doesn’t happen. Allen is the most interesting bubble name to watch in this group as he could have a tough time sticking on the roster, especially once Dixon returns from a four-game ban in October.

WIDE RECEIVERS (13)
LOCK: Jeremy Maclin, Mike Wallace, Breshad Perriman, Chris Moore
BUBBLE: Michael Campanaro, Keenan Reynolds, Chris Matthews
LONG SHOT: Tim White, Kenny Bell, Tim Patrick, Aaron Bailey, C.J. Board, Quincy Adeboyejo
Skinny: The top four are clearly defined, but there will likely be one or two more spots up for grabs, making it a big summer for the likes of Campanaro and Reynolds. Special teams will be a major factor here, and it’s worth noting that White showed some ability as a returner this spring.

TIGHT ENDS (7)
LOCK: None
BUBBLE: Nick Boyle, Darren Waller, Benjamin Watson, Crockett Gillmore, Maxx Williams
LONG SHOT: Vince Mayle, Ryan Malleck
Skinny: Depending on whom you ask, the lack of a lock here is a reflection of a deep and talented group or of an inventory having too many question marks. Health will be the biggest determining factor, and Williams is a strong candidate to start the summer on the physically unable to perform list.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN (16)
LOCK: Marshal Yanda, Ronnie Stanley, Alex Lewis, John Urschel, Ryan Jensen, James Hurst, Nico Siragusa
BUBBLE: Jermaine Eluemunor, De’Ondre Wesley, Matt Skura, Stephane Nembot
LONG SHOT: Brandon Kublanow, Jarell Broxton, Jarrod Pughsley, Roubbens Joseph, Maurquice Shakir
Skinny: The addition of a veteran center or right tackle could push any combination of Urschel, Jensen, and Hurst to the bubble line, but those three of easily received the most first-team reps in trying to replace Jeremy Zuttah and Rick Wagner. It’s difficult to trust this group as it’s presently constructed.

DEFENSIVE LINEMEN (8)
LOCK: Brandon Williams, Michael Pierce, Chris Wormley, Bronson Kaufusi, Brent Urban
BUBBLE: Carl Davis, Willie Henry
LONG SHOT: Patrick Ricard
Skinny: Davis was lining up as the starting 3-technique defensive tackle to begin OTAs, but a pectoral injury once again leaves you wondering about his ability to stay on the field. Urban is a surprising lock at this stage of the offseason, but he handled virtually all 5-technique reps with the first team.

INSIDE LINEBACKERS (8)
LOCK: C.J. Mosley, Kamalei Correa, Albert McClellan
BUBBLE: Patrick Onwuasor, Lamar Louis
LONG SHOT: Boseko Lokombo, Bam Bradley, Donald Payne
Skinny: Onwuasor would be a good bet after shining on special teams as a rookie, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Ravens add a veteran to the mix if Correa struggles in the preseason. There’s a clear opportunity here for the lesser names in this position group to earn a roster spot.

OUTSIDE LINEBACKERS (7)
LOCK: Terrell Suggs, Matt Judon, Tyus Bowser, Tim Williams
BUBBLE: Za’Darius Smith, Brennen Beyer
LONG SHOT: Randy Allen
Skinny: This is a critical summer for Smith after he disappointed in his second season and fell behind Judon in the pecking order, but playing time is up for grabs off the edge, especially with Suggs turning 35 in October. Beyer has worked some as an inside linebacker to improve his roster chances.

CORNERBACKS (10)
LOCK: Jimmy Smith, Brandon Carr, Marlon Humphrey
BUBBLE: Maurice Canady, Brandon Boykin, Sheldon Price
LONG SHOT: Robertson Daniel, Jaylen Hill, Al-Hajj Shabazz
INJURED RESERVE: Tavon Young
Skinny: Canady could be viewed as a lock based on the way he practiced in the slot in place of the injured Young, but many corners have stood out in the spring before fading and Boykin isn’t far removed from being a solid nickel in the NFL. Despite the improved depth outside, don’t sleep on Price.

SAFETIES (7)
LOCK: Eric Weddle, Tony Jefferson, Lardarius Webb, Anthony Levine
BUBBLE: Chuck Clark
LONG SHOT: Daniel Henry, Otha Foster
Skinny: The Ravens may have the best safety group in the AFC, which will make it challenging for the sixth-round rookie Clark to make the team. There’s potential to be creative with Weddle, Jefferson, and Webb all on the field at the same time, so it will be interesting watching their usage this summer.

SPECIALISTS (4)
LOCK: Sam Koch, Morgan Cox, Justin Tucker
BUBBLE: None
LONG SHOT: Kenny Allen
Skinny: There’s no roster intrigue with this group, but Allen only needs to look at the success of Wil Lutz with New Orleans last year as evidence to soak up as much knowledge and experience as he can from special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg and the incumbent specialists this summer.

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Twelve Orioles thoughts following 12-0 loss to Cleveland

Posted on 20 June 2017 by Luke Jones

With the Orioles being shut out for the fourth time this season in a 12-0 loss to the Cleveland Indians, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. The Orioles made history in the wrong way Monday by allowing five or more runs for the 16th consecutive game, setting a new AL record formerly held by the 1937 St. Louis Browns. They’re four shy of the 1924 Philadelphia Phillies for the major league record (dating back to 1913).

2. Jason Kipnis led off three straight innings for the Indians, who sent nine hitters to the plate in both the fourth and fifth and eight in the sixth. The Orioles gave up 11 runs over those three frames, but Cleveland also left 13 runners on base for the night. Astonishing.

3. Dylan Bundy faced one batter over the minimum through the first three innings before surrendering four doubles, a walk, and a hit batter in the fourth. Seeing him struggle to command his pitches and go off the rails like so many other Orioles pitchers was just deflating.

4. Despite pitching three scoreless innings to begin the night, Bundy went to three-ball counts to five of the first nine hitters he faced and gave up some loud outs. Both he and Buck Showalter acknowledged after the game that all wasn’t well even before the fourth inning.

5. This outing could have simply been some regression to the mean for a young pitcher who entered Monday with a 4.46 fielding independent pitching mark or Bundy could be tiring from the heaviest workload of his career. His average fastball velocity of 91 mph was his slowest in a month.

6. Vidal Nuno has now given up eight earned runs and three home runs in 2 2/3 innings since being recalled last week. He’s shown no signs of belonging in the major leagues with a 10.43 ERA in 14 2/3 innings with the Orioles.

7. I hate to say it, but Indians hitters wouldn’t have been able to generate nearly as much exit velocity if a batting tee had instead been set up at home plate. These are the kind of thoughts that creep into my mind during these blowouts.

8. If we’re being honest, even a good performance from Bundy would have been wasted with the way Corey Kluber was dealing for the Indians. The 2014 AL Cy Young Award winner retired 15 in a row at one point and struck out 11 in a three-hit shutout.

9. Old Toronto nemesis Edwin Encarnacion collected his 1,500th career hit with a double in the fourth inning. Contrary to popular belief, half of those have not come against the Orioles, but he does have more hits (129) against them than any other team.

10. Francisco Lindor, arguably Cleveland’s best player, went 0-for-6 and was the only Cleveland starter without a hit. So, there’s that.

11. I liked Adam Jones’ approach trying to go the other way against Kluber to try to account for his nasty curveball. It resulted in a first-inning single and decent contact again in the fourth. He’s gone the other way more this year than he has at any point since 2006.

12. The Orioles have won just five of their last 16 games with four coming against National League teams. They’ve lost nine of their last 10 against AL clubs. Any possibility of trading leagues with Washington?

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Hardy sidelined at least 4-6 weeks with right wrist fracture

Posted on 19 June 2017 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — Orioles shortstop J.J. Hardy is expected to miss at least four to six weeks after suffering a non-displaced fracture of his right wrist in Sunday’s win over St. Louis.

The 34-year-old underwent a CT scan Monday, but the injury will not require surgery. Hardy was hit by a 93 mph fastball from Cardinals starter Lance Lynn in the fourth inning and left the game before his next at-bat two innings later.

The Orioles selected the contract of veteran infielder Paul Janish from Triple-A Norfolk to take Hardy’s place on the 25-man roster.

This marks the second year in a row in which Hardy will miss extended time because of a broken bone. He suffered a hairline fracture when he fouled a ball off his left foot last May, an injury that sidelined him for just over six weeks.

“I felt like I was making strides getting out of the little funk I was in and then this happens,” said Hardy, who is batting a career-low .211 this season. “It’s just frustrating. I’d never broken a bone in my life until last year and now this.”

Hardy owns the second-worst on-base plus slugging percentage (.556) among all qualified major league hitters this season, but he said he had recently made some adjustments at the plate with hitting coach Scott Coolbaugh and had been 7-for-23 with four doubles over his last seven games. He is in the final season of a three-year, $40 million contract.

Manager Buck Showalter said veteran Ruben Tejada will receive the bulk of the opportunities at shortstop in Hardy’s absence. Once the starting shortstop of the New York Mets, Tejada, 27, is a .252 career hitter with a .647 OPS in 2,284 career plate appearances over eight major league seasons.

Third baseman Manny Machado moving over to his natural shortstop position is not a consideration at this point. Showalter would prefer leaving the rest of the infield intact and expressed belief that it was “taxing” for Machado to move back and forth between the two positions in Hardy’s absence last year.

Despite Hardy no longer bringing the offensive value he offered in his first three seasons with the Orioles from 2011-2013, his teammates and coaches have regularly spoken about the veteran infielder’s intangibles and on-field leadership over the years.

“He’s always separating offense from defense and always [handling] coverages on stolen bases, hit-and-runs, relays,” Showalter said. “He’s kind of like the quarterback of the infield so to speak. There’s a lot of things that people miss that he brings. There’s just a real calmness with everybody. He makes everybody click a little bit better.

“He’s driven in some big runs for us. I know it hasn’t been offensively what he wants it to be or he’s capable of. But he still had some big hits through that. There are a lot of things you miss with him that you can’t quantify.”

According to Baseball Reference, Hardy has been worth minus-0.6 wins above replacement, another indicator of how dramatic his struggles at the plate have been this season. He has been worth one defensive run saved and owns a 0.4 defensive WAR.

In other injury-related news, closer Zach Britton was scheduled to begin his minor-league rehab assignment at short-season Single-A Aberdeen on Monday, but that’s been rescheduled for Tuesday because of inclement weather. The two-time All-Star selection has been on the disabled list with the recurrence of a left forearm strain since early May.

Right-handed reliever Darren O’Day had a successful mound session Monday and will pitch in a simulated game on Wednesday. If that goes well, O’Day could be activated from the DL as soon as Friday. He has been out since the first week of June with a right shoulder strain.

Utility infielder Ryan Flaherty (right shoulder) experienced a setback throwing from more than 60 feet in Sarasota on Monday. He had felt no discomfort in previous throwing sessions from up to 60 feet, but this development obviously means his return is not imminent.

Right-handed pitcher Mike Wright will travel to Sarasota to continue rehabbing his right shoulder Tuesday. First baseman Chris Davis (strained right oblique) will remain with the club and travel with the Orioles for this weekend’s series against Tampa Bay before reporting to Sarasota next week.

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Orioles shortstop Hardy’s wrist “not good” after being hit by pitch

Posted on 18 June 2017 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — Orioles shortstop J.J. Hardy left Sunday’s game after being hit on the right wrist by a pitch and could be sidelined for a while.

The club initially announced the injury as a right wrist contusion, but manager Buck Showalter expressed concern after the 8-5 victory over St. Louis. Hardy was plunked by a 93 mph fastball from Cardinals starting pitcher Lance Lynn in the fourth inning and initially stayed in the game before departing in the top of the sixth.

“Not good, not good,” Showalter said. “We took an X-ray here and saw something that concerned us. I know he’s got a scan in the morning, and we’ll have a little more definitive idea there.”

Ruben Tejada took Hardy’s place at shortstop and would presumably be in line for more extensive playing time if the 34-year-old shortstop were to be sidelined for an extended period of time. With utility infielder Ryan Flaherty still rehabbing a shoulder injury in Sarasota, the Orioles could promote Paul Janish from Triple-A Norfolk to serve as an extra infielder.

There’s also the possibility of sliding third baseman Manny Machado to shortstop like the Orioles did at times last year when Hardy missed several weeks with a hairline fracture in his left foot, but Showalter used Flaherty at third base in those instances.

In 64 games this year, Hardy is batting .211 with three home runs, 21 runs batted in, and a .553 on-base plus slugging percentage. He is in the final season of a three-year, $40 million contract.

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Twelve Orioles thoughts following 15-7 win over St. Louis

Posted on 17 June 2017 by Luke Jones

With the Orioles scoring a season-high total of runs in a 15-7 win over the St. Louis Cardinals, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. The Orioles lineup took out some frustration by scoring nine runs over the first two innings and producing their highest single-game total since Aug. 16, 2015. With Baltimore scoring 10 or more runs twice in the last four games, you hope it’s the start of some extended prosperity.

2. Jonathan Schoop continues to be one of the club’s best players as he homered twice and tied a career high with four hits. He’s struggled defensively as an error led to a run in the first, but his .888 on-base plus slugging percentage is easily a career high thus far.

3. Even with 15 runs, Buck Showalter was forced to use his best two active relievers to record the final 10 outs after St. Louis had cut the deficit to five and loaded the bases with two outs in the sixth. The current state of this bullpen is frightening.

4. Mychal Givens cleaned up the mess created by others and calmed down a suddenly-uncomfortable situation with a strikeout of Eric Fryer to end the top of the sixth. He would throw a career-high 42 pitches in completing 2 1/3 scoreless innings. That was critical work.

5. Wade Miley would have liked to have been more productive after being staked to a 9-1 lead, but the standard is so low with this rotation right now that he received a standing ovation after 5 2/3 frames. At least his outing wasn’t as awful as others we’ve seen recently?

6. Manny Machado sent a 113.2 mph missile into the Orioles bullpen for a two-run homer in the second and made a fantastic defensive play to end the top of the eighth. Yes, he has struggled in 2017, but he’s still special to watch.

7. J.J. Hardy delivered a two-run double to begin the scoring in a seven-run second and later added another RBI double. Any offense you get from the 34-year-old shortstop is a rarity at this point, but he had a strong day.

8. Alec Asher was moved back into a relief role this weekend in an effort to help solidify the bullpen, but he couldn’t record an out in the process of giving up a home run and two singles in the sixth inning. Yikes.

9. Adam Wainwright has now allowed nine earned runs in two of his last three starts. I suppose it’s comforting to know Orioles starters aren’t the only ones putting ugly numbers on the scoreboard recently.

10. Had you ever heard of Paul DeJong before? The No. 9 hitter extraordinaire has looked like Babe Ruth against Baltimore pitching this weekend as he homered for the second straight game.

11. How often do you see a line drive just past a lunging shortstop go all the way to the left-center wall? Trey Mancini absolutely smoked that ball with a 108.7 mph exit velocity in the second inning.

12. Even in victory, the Orioles allowed at least five runs for the 14th consecutive game, which is a franchise record. The 1924 Philadelphia Phillies hold the major league record at 20 games, according to Baseball Reference play index data going back to 1913.

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Orioles continue shuffling bullpen due to injuries, ineffectiveness

Posted on 16 June 2017 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — The Orioles continued to shuffle their bullpen due to injury and ineffectiveness Friday by placing right-handed pitcher Mike Wright on the 15-day disabled list and optioning right-hander Jimmy Yacabonis to Triple-A Norfolk.

Manager Buck Showalter revealed Thursday that Wright began experiencing right shoulder discomfort during his outing against the Chicago White Sox on Wednesday and was unavailable. Wright, 27, underwent an MRI on Friday as the Orioles were considering giving him a cortisone injection for right shoulder bursitis.

Wright had pitched to a 5.56 ERA, but he had also struck out 14 batters in 11 1/3 innings since being recalled from Norfolk late last month.

Yacabonis had posted a 0.90 ERA for the Tides this season to earn a promotion to the majors last weekend, but he struggled mightily with his command, walking six batters in just 3 1/3 innings. The Orioles optioned the 25-year-old to Norfolk after Thursday’s loss in which he walked three of the four hitters he faced, but they had not made an immediate announcement.

To take their spots on the 25-man roster, the Orioles recalled right-handed pitcher Gabriel Ynoa and lefty Vidal Nuno. Ynoa pitched six shutout innings of emergency relief for the Orioles on May 5, but he owned a 6.93 ERA for the Tides. Nuno has allowed nine earned runs in 12 innings with Baltimore this season and has pitched to a 3.00 ERA at Norfolk.

With two-time All-Star closer Zach Britton (left forearm) and 2015 All-Star setup man Darren O’Day (right shoulder) both on the DL, the Orioles have been shorthanded in the bullpen. The lopsided nature of their current struggles has largely made that a moot point, of course, but Showalter has essentially been able to trust only right-handers Brad Brach and Mychal Givens and lefty Richard Bleier recently.

In an effort to stabilize the bullpen, Showalter announced that veteran Ubaldo Jimenez will start against St. Louis on Sunday while Alec Asher will return to a relief role. Sporting a 5.05 ERA overall, Asher has pitched to a 1.62 ERA in 16 2/3 innings out of the bullpen this season. Meanwhile, Jimenez has posted a 4.32 ERA in relief this season, but his inability to bounce back quickly after outings has left the bullpen undermanned for days at a time.

Having begun the season in the Orioles rotation, Jimenez sported a 7.17 ERA after a poor start against Minnesota on May 22 and was sent to the bullpen after that. The 33-year-old is in the final season of a four-year, $50 million contract that’s been nothing short of disappointing.

“Ubaldo’s responded well to some time in the bullpen [in the past],” Showalter said. “We’ll see if that happens again. We really want to try to see if we can kind of solidify the bullpen a little bit as far as some of the movement there. ‘Ash’ did a good job for us there and presented himself well as a starter sometimes, but I think it’s as much because of Ubaldo. He pitches and [then] needs three or four days off; it really put us in a tough spot in the bullpen. It’s as much for the bullpen as it is for Ubaldo.”

In positive bullpen-related news, Britton has returned to Baltimore from Sarasota and is set to begin his minor-league rehab assignment at short-season Single-A Aberdeen on Monday. He will then continue with two outings for Single-A Delmarva.

Britton will not be activated before the end of June as the Orioles will continue to be cautious with his recovery from a left forearm strain that’s already included one setback in early May. That occurred just a few days after he was reinstated from his first DL stint.

“We’re starting to get more definitive [with his return],” Showalter said. “I think probably after the second Delmarva appearance, we’ll get a real definitive idea if that all goes well. He feels good. You can tell by talking to him that he feels good about where he is.”

O’Day threw off flat ground on Thursday and felt good, but he is not expected to return until next week at the earliest, according to the Orioles manager.

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Suggs remains strong presence in new era for Ravens defense

Posted on 16 June 2017 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Rookie second-round outside linebacker Tyus Bowser was 7 years old when the Ravens selected Terrell Suggs with the 10th overall pick of the 2003 draft.

First-round cornerback Marlon Humphrey was 6.

Having years ago referred to former teammate and soon-to-be Hall of Fame linebacker Ray Lewis as Mufasa — a reference to the sage leader of the Pride Lands in “The Lion King” — Suggs understands he’s the last of his kind and he’s embraced that, even referring to himself as the Darth Vader of a new era.

“I like having fun with the younger guys,” said the 34-year-old, now entering his 15th season in the NFL. “They tell me how old they are, and I’m like, ‘Holy s–t.’ It’s weird, but I like it. It feels good.”

This spring was different for Suggs, who had always skipped the voluntary offseason workout program in the past and would work out on his own before showing up for mandatory minicamp in June. His weight and conditioning levels varied from year to year, sometimes sparking criticism when he wasn’t in the best of shape.

But after hearing rave reviews from those teammates who worked with Ravens director of performance Steve Saunders last offseason, the six-time Pro Bowl selection elected to give it a try. Having gone through spring workouts in Owings Mills — head coach John Harbaugh chose to hold him out of the voluntary spring practices open to the media — Suggs says he hasn’t felt this good in June in many years.

“It’s funny seeing him die in workouts and doing the running, lifting,” said safety Eric Weddle, who was one of the first to embrace Saunders’ rigorous methods. “It’s great for him. I think he knows that at this point in his career, he needs to be in the best shape of his life. He needs to be as strong as he can so he can get through the season. We need him.”

Suggs enjoyed a fine 2016 in his return from the second Achilles tendon tear of his career — especially considering he played with a torn biceps for much of the season — but his eight sacks marked his lowest total in a year not substantially abbreviated by injuries since 2009. He may no longer stand among the elite defensive players in the NFL, but the 2011 Defensive Player of the Year is still an above-average starting linebacker who plays the run very well and can conjure up a big play in a critical spot.

His boisterous behavior is evident at practices when he’s hooting and hollering at someone or taking owner Steve Bisciotti’s golf cart for a joyride on his way out to the back fields at the team facility, but Suggs does much more than keep the mood light in the locker room and in the huddle. Having learned from obsessive students of the game like Lewis and nine-time Pro Bowl safety Ed Reed early in his career, Suggs is constantly praised by those who know him best for his football intellect.

The Ravens hope he continues passing down those lessons to young players such as Bowser, 2016 fifth-round pick Matt Judon, and fourth-round rookie Tim Williams to rebuild a pass rush that had markedly declined over the last couple years.

“You can really tell a difference in our types of practice when he is here and when he is not here,” said defensive coordinator Dean Pees, who added that Suggs looks like he’s 25 years old again. “It’s more fun for me when he is here, too. But when it is time to be serious, there’s nobody more serious. There is really nobody smarter on this defensive football team than Terrell Suggs.”

Suggs was noncommittal when asked how much longer he hopes to play or whether he has any visions of trying to match Lewis’ 17 years with the Ravens, but he made it clear that he doesn’t feel like it’s his time to “cross that bridge” to retirement yet. His contract runs through 2018 and is scheduled to pay him $4 million in base salary for each of the next two years.

His commitment to be in the building this spring hasn’t gone unnoticed as the Ravens made a conscious effort to get younger this offseason after missing the playoffs for the third time in four years. Seeing general manager Ozzie Newsome show the door to five-time Pro Bowl pass rusher Elvis Dumervil likely served a reminder to Suggs about his own football mortality as he turns 35 in October.

“What I am so impressed with is the leadership by example that he has demonstrated in this offseason,” Harbaugh said. “He is out there doing it, and he is out there competing with the guys every day in the conditioning program. It is impressive to watch, and that is a great way to get guys attention if you want to be a leader.”

Fun and camaraderie aside, Suggs wants to win. He hasn’t gone through a down period like this from a team standpoint since the end of the Brian Billick era and is counting on an extensive batch of defensive additions to help him get back to the playoffs.

Suggs may not have expressed any clear intention of trying to surpass Lewis for most years spent with the Ravens, but he did mention the way his former leader was able to go out on top with a championship.

“We can’t fall short anymore,” Suggs said. “It’s a terrible thing when you don’t capitalize on your potential. We’ve always had a capable team; we’ve just haven’t always capitalized on it. I think it’s time to cash in and don’t be one of the odd teams looking in when it becomes the second season in January.”

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Injury picture relatively clear for Ravens going into training camp

Posted on 15 June 2017 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — It was a trying spring for the Ravens from a health standpoint with both cornerback Tavon Young and tight end Dennis Pitta sustaining season-ending injuries.

However, the overall status report has stabilized with most currently-injured players expected to be ready for the start of training camp next month. Linebacker C.J. Mosley (shoulder), wide receiver Michael Campanaro (toe), tight end Crockett Gillmore (hamstring), and defensive tackle Carl Davis (pectoral strain) all missed this week’s mandatory minicamp, but each is expected to be back on the field in late July, according to head coach John Harbaugh.

Six-time Pro Bowl guard Marshal Yanda has also been sidelined throughout the spring while recovering from offseason shoulder surgery. The 32-year-old is a candidate to begin camp on the active physically unable to perform list, but he made it clear Wednesday that he’ll be ready to go ahead of the season opener in Cincinnati on Sept. 10.

“We’ll see what happens. As you know with injuries and dates, you can talk to coach Harbaugh on that one,” Yanda said. “I’ll be working out hard every day, and I’ll be ready to go. I can just tell you [for] Week 1, I’m going to be out there. How about that?”

A bigger question mark than Yanda could be tight end Maxx Williams, who missed most of the 2016 season with a knee injury. The 2015 second-round pick was held out of spring workouts while continuing to work his way back to full strength from a mysterious knee surgery that had never been performed on an NFL player, according to the Baltimore coach.

With a deep inventory of tight ends that also includes Gillmore, Nick Boyle, Benjamin Watson, and Darren Waller, the Ravens could elect to slow-play Williams’ return to the field as they did with running back Lorenzo Taliaferro last summer. Watson (Achilles tendon) and Waller participated in minicamp after sitting out voluntary workouts earlier this spring.

“I think Maxx will be interesting, whether he will be there for the first day or not,” Harbaugh said. “He is going to push it. Knowing Maxx — I guarantee you one thing — if it is humanly possible, he will be ready. But he had that new surgery, so that is a little bit of a gray area for us knowing how he is going to respond.”

Veterans will now disperse for some time away from the training facility while rookies will remain in Owings Mills for two more weeks to continue workouts with director of performance Steve Saunders and strength and conditioning coach Juney Barnett.

The annual message to all players this time of year is to make good choices in preparing for the start of the 2017 season.

“Let’s keep an eye focused for what is ahead,” said Harbaugh, who will attempt to lead the Ravens back to the playoffs for the first time since 2014. “Let’s get ourselves ready emotionally, physically, and spiritually. Let’s take care of our families, and let’s not lose any ground to our conditioning and our training. All those things are talked about.

“Take care of yourself, be smart — all of those kind of things — and let’s get ready to roll.”

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Twelve Orioles thoughts following 5-2 loss to White Sox

Posted on 15 June 2017 by Luke Jones

With the Orioles losing another series in a 5-2 defeat to the Chicago White Sox, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. Chris Tillman persevered through five solid innings before things unraveled for him in the sixth, but the Orioles lineup scoring one measly run until the ninth inning won’t cut it, especially with a pitching staff struggling to even be competitive most nights.

2. We haven’t discussed it much since the Orioles have rarely even been in games over the last week, but it’s alarming how undermanned the bullpen is with both Zach Britton and Darren O’Day on the disabled list. I could understand Buck Showalter trying to push Tillman longer in the sixth.

3. Even the best clubs go through periods when they struggle to pitch or hit, but botching a bunt coverage in a tie game in the sixth is the stuff of bad teams. Tillman took responsibility for it, but that cannot happen when the opposition is giving you an out.

4. Jimmy Yacabonis pitched well enough at Triple-A Norfolk to receive a promotion, but his performance Thursday should probably send him back in the minors. Allowing hits is one thing, but walking three out of the four hitters you face is unacceptable.

5. Jonathan Schoop’s drive in the sixth looked like the go-ahead three-run home run off the bat, but Melky Cabrera caught the ball in front of the left-field wall. It was one of many opportunities in which the Orioles failed to capitalize as they went 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position.

6. There was no doubt about the fourth-inning homer off the bat of Matt Davidson, who hit a long ball in all four games of the series. He’s just the latest hitter to wear out the Orioles in recent weeks.

7. The unflattering result shouldn’t entirely dismiss some encouraging signs from Tillman, who showed solid fastball velocity and threw first-pitch strikes to 21 of the 28 batters he faced. The struggling veteran entered the day throwing first-pitch strikes only 44.4 percent of the time in 2017.

8. Tillman is still struggling to put away hitters as was the case in an 11-pitch at-bat with Kevan Smith in the second. Despite quickly getting ahead 0-2 on a catcher sporting a .637 on-base plus slugging percentage, Tillman couldn’t finish him off as Smith eventually singled.

9. I understood Showalter not wanting to remove Joey Rickard against right-hander Anthony Swarzak in a key spot in the fifth because of his short bench, but Hyun Soo Kim should have been used as a pinch hitter for Rickard against closer David Robertson in the ninth.

10. Manny Machado swung at three pitches outside the zone for a fourth-inning strikeout. After making great strides to improve his plate discipline over the last few years, the third baseman has walked only six times over his last 131 plate appearances. That’s very telling of his approach.

11. Seth Smith (back) and Mike Wright (shoulder) were both unavailable on Thursday. The Orioles’ health continues to plummet almost as rapidly as their record.

12. Baltimore has now allowed five or more runs in 12 consecutive games. I’d be curious to know what the major league record is, but it was sobering enough watching the 1-7 road trip as it was.

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Pitta “not delusional” about future after latest devastating hip injury

Posted on 15 June 2017 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Dennis Pitta hasn’t lost his dry sense of humor less than two weeks after suffering his third devastating right hip injury to end his seven-year run with the Ravens.

Using crutches to stand before the media after Baltimore concluded its three-day minicamp, the 31-year-old immediately sparked laughter in what could have been a sobering “farewell” press conference.

“They asked me to do podium and I said, ‘I don’t even work here. Why do I have to come up?'” said Pitta, referencing the Ravens releasing him on an injury waiver last week. “But here I am.”

It was a surreal scene after he had quipped to media only three weeks ago how nice it was to no longer be fielding so many questions about his hip.

Pitta made no retirement announcement on Thursday, but he’s “not delusional” after dislocating and fracturing his hip for the third time in the last four years. The 2010 fourth-round pick spoke about his career in the past tense, but he wants to focus on making a full recovery before facing the finality of his playing days being all but officially over.

For Pitta, being on his feet and back at the Ravens’ training facility was gratifying enough after his horrific injury on June 2 and the surgery that followed. Being driven around by Steve Bisciotti in the owner’s golf cart during Wednesday’s practice, he was greeted by head coach John Harbaugh and many teammates happy to see him.

Unfortunately, this is familiar territory for the man who caught three touchdowns in the 2012 postseason run that culminated with a win in Super Bowl XLVII.

“More of a nightmare, I would say, other than déjà vu,” said Pitta, who had told his wife, Mataya, that he was feeling better than ever just days before re-injuring his hip. “It is what it is. It’s something I’ve gone through before. It’s weird being out here and not being part of things. Just over a week ago, I was out here practicing and feeling really good, so things change in an instant. But I’m positive and staying in a good mind frame.”

We’ll always wonder where Pitta could have ranked on the franchise’s all-time receiving list as he appeared to be emerging as one of the top tight ends in the league when he sustained his first hip injury on July 27, 2013. He missed nearly three full seasons due to the first two injuries and played in a total of just 19 games after signing a five-year, $32 million contract in 2014 that included $16 million guaranteed.

His story is a reminder of how fragile an NFL career can be.

“It’s heartbreaking. I talked to him. He understands it. I understand it,” said veteran linebacker Terrell Suggs, who years ago nicknamed Pitta “American Express” for his reliability in being everywhere you want him to be. “It’s part of the game. Some of these guys look and say, ‘Dang, Sizz, 15 years?’ You know some people don’t have that long. That’s definitely something to be fortunate about. But I talked to him, and he’s in good spirits about it. It’s just one of those things. We play a very brutal sport.”

Pitta said his improbable return to the field in 2016 means even more to him now as he was the only Ravens tight end to appear in all 16 games and led all NFL tight ends with a career-high 86 receptions. He isn’t second-guessing his decision to come back last year despite previously contemplating retirement because of the slow rehab process that came with the 2014 injury.

Expressing gratitude for the support from both his family and the organization over these last few challenging years, Pitta sounded like a man at peace with his fate.

Even if he wasn’t quite ready to to use the “retirement” word.

“I think it’ll be a little bit more cut and dried this time,” Pitta said. “I certainly don’t regret coming back and playing last season. I felt great all year. I think I would have regretted it more being at home and feeling as good as I did and not playing. It was a tremendous year for me personally, just being able to overcome what I did and prove a lot to myself, and I don’t regret it one bit.

“I’m happy I played and fortunate that I was able to get another year in.”

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