Tag Archive | "Baltimore"

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Five Ravens questions for start of 2015 OTAs

Posted on 27 May 2015 by Luke Jones

As the Ravens officially begin their organized team activities on Wednesday, below are five questions for this still-early stage of 2015:

1. How is Joe Flacco adjusting to his fourth offensive coordinator in four seasons?

The franchise quarterback’s early reviews of Marc Trestman have been positive, but it has to be frustrating to now be working with a different coordinator for a fourth straight season. Fortunately, Trestman has a good reputation for working with quarterbacks and intends to maintain many of the principles used in Gary Kubiak’s system, which allowed Flacco to have arguably the best regular season of his career. If the veteran weren’t entering his eighth season, this would be a bigger concern, but the 2008 first-round pick has proven he can work with just about anyone over the years.

2. Which players will be healthy enough to participate?

There is an extensive list of players coming off season-ending injuries or offseason surgeries including tight end Dennis Pitta (hip), cornerbacks Jimmy Smith (foot) and Asa Jackson (knee), linebacker C.J. Mosley (wrist surgery), right tackle Rick Wagner (foot), center Jeremy Zuttah (hip surgery), running back Lorenzo Taliaferro (foot), and safety Terrence Brooks (knee). Many of these players figure to at least be limited during OTAs. Not counting the uncertainty surrounding Pitta, Brooks appears to be the furthest away as the Ravens have said he’ll likely begin the year on the physically unable to perform list.

3. Will promising slot receiver Michael Campanaro stay healthy?

There has been plenty of offseason hype about the potential of the 2014 seventh-round pick, but head coach John Harbaugh has said over and over that Campanaro needs to prove he can consistently stay on the field and that will begin this spring. Catching seven passes for 102 yards and a touchdown in four games, Campanaro shows promises as both a slot receiver and a punt returner, but hamstring issues plagued him throughout his rookie season. If he wants to make his mark in a crowded group of wide receivers, the 5-foot-9 Campanaro simply staying healthy this spring would be a good start.

4. What will Terrell Suggs have to say about Haloti Ngata being traded?

The silence from the 13th-year linebacker has been deafening as it relates to the departure of longtime teammate Haloti Ngata, whose locker was next to Suggs’ at the Ravens’ Owings Mills training complex. This isn’t to suggest that Suggs and the organization are on poor terms, but you do wonder how it went over in his mind to see Ozzie Newsome deal one of the best players in team history for two mid-round picks. Of course, the 32-year-old understands it’s a business after signing a team-friendly extension a year ago, but it will still be interesting to hear what he has to say about Ngata no longer being in purple.

5. Which veterans will not participate?

We’ll likely have to wait until next month’s mandatory minicamp to hear from Suggs as the Ravens generally have a handful of veterans who skip the voluntary OTAs. The most interesting name to monitor will be four-time Pro Bowl guard Marshal Yanda, who is entering the final year of a five-year contract. The Ravens want to sign him to an extension, but no deal was close as of a couple weeks ago. Some fans and media will take exception to any veterans skipping OTAs, but their attendance simply doesn’t mean that much to the overall outcome of the 2015 season when it’s all said and done.

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davis

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Orioles lineup continues firing blanks in month of May

Posted on 27 May 2015 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — Buck Showalter rarely dwells on the negatives after a loss.

It’s just not his style — at least publicly anyway — as he prefers focusing on the positive after any given contest over a 162-game schedule. But his reaction to Tuesday’s 4-1 loss to the Houston Astros was a little different.

While recognizing the strong performance of starter Chris Tillman that was spoiled by a few suspect pitches in the seventh inning and the failures of reliever Brian Matusz an inning later, Showalter continued coming back to the same theme that has plagued the Orioles throughout the month of May.

“We obviously haven’t been giving our pitchers much margin for error,” Showalter said, “but [Tillman] gave us a real good chance to win tonight. Probably even a little bit better than that.

“Once again, we can sit here and talk about [other factors] and rightfully so, but until we start getting some things going offensively, it really makes for a tough atmosphere to pitch in.”

The Orioles have scored just seven runs over their last 40 innings.

They’ve produced three or fewer runs in 13 of their 23 games this month and two or fewer in 11 of those.

Tuesday night’s cleanup man (Chris Davis) sports a .208 average and the No. 5 hitter (Steve Pearce) is batting .188. Delmon Young — who’s spent plenty of time in the heart of the order — is slugging a paltry .333 despite a respectable .287 average.

Beyond the white-hot Jimmy Paredes, Manny Machado, Adam Jones, and Caleb Joseph, the Orioles haven’t gotten nearly enough production from the rest of the lineup. And with Jones struggling recently — he was 0-for-3 Tuesday and has just three hits in his last 25 at-bats — the run shortage has been even more magnified.

“I just think we’ve got to slow the game down,” said Davis, who struck out two more times and hit a sacrifice fly in the sixth for the only Baltimore run on Tuesday. “When you’re not scoring a lot of runs, you’re not swinging the bats like you know you can, the tendency is to press and try to overdo it. I think you’ve seen that in the last few games, just guys getting out of their approach, out of their rhythm and trying to do too much with pitches that aren’t good pitches to hit.”

The Orioles were counting on Davis to look more like the force he was in 2013 — or at least in 2012. Instead, he’s looked just like the frustrated hitter we saw a season ago and has struck out 64 times in 170 plate appearances, registering the highest strikeout rate of his career by a substantial margin.

You keep waiting for veterans like of J.J. Hardy and Alejandro De Aza to start swinging the bat like they have in the past and for Young to start showing a little bit of power. Aside from a couple key home runs in the last week, Pearce hasn’t come close to approaching his 2014 production. Travis Snider hasn’t been the young replacement for the declining Nick Markakis that the Orioles envisioned.

The many clamoring for some change are justified, but Triple-A Norfolk doesn’t have many appealing options to even try at the moment. Former Minnesota Twins first-round pick Chris Parmelee has an .818 on-base plus slugging percentage and Nolan Reimold has begun heating up recently, but that’s about it.

Perhaps a returning Matt Wieters provides a spark as early as next week, but can you realistically expect him to offer much more offense than Joseph after not playing in the majors in more than a year?

The Orioles hope Jonathan Schoop can return sometime next month, but there’s no guarantee how soon that will be.

For now, Showalter has little choice but to ride out the storm — or the drought — by continuing to mix and match in hopes of finding some semblance of consistent production beyond the top three spots in the order. And executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette needs to be exploring what might be out there on the trade market over the next two months.

At 20-23, the Orioles still find themselves in the thick of the American League East and are just one game out in the loss column behind first-place New York. There are 119 games remaining in the 2015 regular season for Baltimore.

But much more is needed from the offense than it’s provided all month if the Orioles want to remain within striking distance.

 

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clevenger

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Counting down to Wieters return, Orioles add Clevenger to mix

Posted on 26 May 2015 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — On the same day Matt Wieters began a rehab assignment at Double-A Bowie, the Orioles recalled Pigtown native Steve Clevenger from Triple-A Norfolk and designated catcher Ryan Lavarnway for assignment.

Looking for more offense as well as some versatility off the bench, the Orioles elected to bring up Clevenger, who has played first base, second base, and third base in addition to catching in his minor-league career and was hitting an impressive .352 with an .864 on-base plus slugging percentage in 91 at-bats for the Tides. Meanwhile, the 27-year-old Lavarnway was just 3-for-28 in sporadic playing time behind starter Caleb Joseph this season.

In Sunday’s loss to Miami, Lavarnway went 0-for-4 and left seven runners on base in his final three plate appearances.

The Orioles have challenged Clevenger to improve his defense, and manager Buck Showalter said the 29-year-old has done that, throwing out 32 percent of runners attempting to steal in the International League this season. Clevenger appeared in 35 games for the Orioles last season before being demoted in favor of Joseph and Nick Hundley when Wieters was lost for the season due to Tommy John surgery.

“I went down there on a mission,” Clevenger said. “Coming into spring training this year, I wanted to focus more on my catching and I tried to do that. I went down [to Norfolk] and played very well and just tried to concentrate on my catching and helping the pitchers do what they can do best and not worry about anything else. I was playing solid defense down there.”

The initial plan for Wieters is to have him catch every other day at Bowie — he could serve as the designated hitter on the non-catching days — with the goal of activating him when he becomes eligible on June 4. His return would likely push Clevenger back to Norfolk, but Showalter didn’t rule out the possibility of the club keeping three catchers since Clevenger does provide a left-handed bat off the bench with the ability to play other infield positions in a pinch.

The Orioles would like to keep Lavarnway in the organization, but they will gauge interest from other clubs before trying to pass him through waivers and outright him to Norfolk. The former Boston Red Sox product may decline a minor-league assignment and become a free agent, however.

Showalter acknowledged that Clevenger is probably better equipped to handle infrequent playing time, but the Norfolk coaching staff provided favorable reports about his defensive progress this season.

“I try to be blunt to a fault about what they need to do while they’re there,” Showalter said. “I talked about continuing to be engaged with the pitcher and catching and throwing. I said, ‘You’re going to be out of options next year, you’re going to control all this. Try to present yourself for us and everybody else in the game as good as possible. Go down there and lead the league in hitting.'”

Clevenger didn’t have enough plate appearances to qualify, but his average ranked second in the International League batting race at the time of his promotion.

Hardy returns to lineup

A day after being removed in the eighth inning of the series opener against Houston due to back stiffness, shortstop J.J. Hardy returned to the Orioles lineup Tuesday night.

The 32-year-old said he was feeling better and likely benefited from sleeping in his own bed after hypothesizing that a soft hotel mattress in Miami caused the problem over the weekend. Hardy spent the entire offseason focusing on strengthening his core in hopes of avoiding the nagging back spasms that limited him to just 141 games and nine home runs in 2014.

“It is definitely experience,” said Hardy about past problems giving him a good indicator. “When I first went through back issues, I didn’t know what to do, and now I feel like I have a pretty good handle on it. I think Buck definitely made the right decision, but I still wanted to stay in there [Monday].”

Bundy’s shoulder OK

After being scratched from Tuesday’s start at Bowie, pitching prospect Dylan Bundy’s shoulder examination went well with Showalter saying there were no structural concerns.

However, the 22-year-old told reporters in Bowie he planned to undergo a magnetic resonance imaging exam on his right shoulder on Wednesday just to be on the safe side. He was prescribed anti-inflammatory medicine for a mild case of shoulder tendinitis.

The 2011 first-round pick is 0-3 with a 3.68 ERA in eight starts (22 innings) for the Baysox this season.

Flaherty returning

Infielder Ryan Flaherty was leading off and playing second base for Norfolk on Tuesday as he continues his minor-league rehab assignment.

Serving two different stints on the 15-day disabled list for a lingering groin injury, Flaherty could rejoin the Orioles as early as Wednesday, according to Showalter. His return would leave the organization with an interesting roster decision as veteran Everth Cabrera is out of options and hitting just .205 this season.

Odds & ends

Rookie Mike Wright will start one game of Thursday’s doubleheader with the other starter being either Tyler Wilson or T.J. McFarland. Both had abbreviated outings for Norfolk this week with the possiblility of Thursday in mind.

No Orioles players were leading their positions in the first All-Star Game voting update released Tuesday, but Jones ranked fourth among American League outfielders. Manny Machado ranked fourth among AL third baseman while Joseph was fifth among AL catchers.

Former Orioles first baseman Calvin Pickering has been hired as the hitting coach for short-season Single-A Aberdeen.

Baltimore ranks first in the majors in outfield assists with 12. Delmon Young is tied for third in the American League with five while Adam Jones has three.

 

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brach

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After slow start, bullpen becoming steadying force for Orioles

Posted on 26 May 2015 by Luke Jones

Monday brought an even bigger surprise than the Orioles’ ability to hand Houston starting pitcher Dallas Keuchel his first loss of the 2015 season.

After Steve Pearce had clubbed a two-run home run to right-center to give the Orioles a 4-3 lead in the seventh inning, you figured manager Buck Showalter would turn to Darren O’Day or Tommy Hunter to pitch the eighth. O’Day hadn’t pitched since Saturday and Hunter hadn’t worked since Friday, but Showalter instead called upon rookie Oliver Drake, who had pitched three scoreless innings in the 1-0 loss to Miami in 13 innings on Saturday night.

The move raised a few eyebrows, but Drake came through once again, pitching a perfect inning with two strikeouts in his second major league appearance. Showalter cited Drake’s ability to retire hitters from both sides of the plate as his rationale for going to the Naval Academy product — two left-handed hitters were due up in the inning and Brian Matusz wasn’t available — but it’s no secret that the 27-year-old right-hander has already impressed with his nasty split-fingered fastball.

“It all works off his fastball command. He has a way to make you look between velocities,” Showalter said. “Even if you’re right on one of the velocities, you might not get there. You saw it on the fastball to [Colby] Rasmus. He doesn’t have to throw 95 [mph] to get a reaction. When you have to defend the other-speed pitch, that 90 looks 100.”

Monday’s win featured three scoreless innings from Brad Brach and Drake before closer Zach Britton slammed the door on the Astros in the ninth, continuing an impressive run for Orioles relievers after a rocky April. Dating back to April 29, the Baltimore bullpen has posted a 2.23 ERA in its last 65 2/3 innings.

The group has been even better of late by allowing just six earned runs in its last 30 1/3 innings. The success has improved the club’s bullpen ERA to 3.32, which ranks sixth in the American League. It’s helped that the Orioles rank only 12th in the AL in relief innings, a reflection of starters working deeper into games than they did in April.

It’s a pleasant change after the bullpen posted a 4.35 ERA in the opening month of the season.

With the bullpen being the backbone of their success over the previous three seasons, the Orioles figured to lean heavily on Britton, O’Day, and Hunter this year, but the emergence of Brach since the second half of last season has been an encouraging development. The 29-year-old right-hander leads the club with 22 2/3 relief innings this season and has lowered his ERA to 3.57 after a difficult start. Since being scored upon in his first four outings of 2015, Brach has pitched to a 2.00 ERA with 24 strikeouts in 18 innings of work.

Despite an uneven beginning to the season for the 20-22 Orioles, seeing the likes of Brach and Drake pick up the slack in some meaningful situations bodes well now and for the long haul.

“That helps with us later on in the season,” Brach said. “You don’t have to throw the same guys out there every single time. You see some of the teams that kind of have the same guys they go to every time. It kind of keeps us on our toes. On the same token, any situation could be any guy and everybody’s got to be ready to go, so it keeps us ready to go and sharp during the game.”

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Hardy not too worried after exiting Monday with back stiffness

Posted on 25 May 2015 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — The Orioles received a scare on Monday when J.J. Hardy exited the game with back stiffness, but it appears the veteran shortstop will not miss extended time.

Following the 4-3 win over the Houston Astros, manager Buck Showalter said it would be “more likely than not” that Hardy would play Tuesday after he was favoring his back upon singling to center field in the bottom of the seventh inning. Back problems are no stranger to Hardy, who dealt with an ailment for much of the 2014 season and was limited to just nine home runs in 141 games.

“If anything, I was just kind of protecting my back,” said Hardy, who anticipated returning to the lineup on Tuesday night unless his back worsened overnight. “Apparently, it didn’t look very good [running], so it was probably the right decision. I didn’t want to come out of the game, but I’d say it already feels better than it did.”

Hardy told Showalter he believed the problem stemmed from sleeping on a soft mattress in Miami over the weekend. The Orioles signed Hardy to a three-year, $40 million extension last October with the knowledge of the infielder’s history of having a cranky back. Showalter expressed confidence that the organization would continue to effectively manage Hardy’s back as the Orioles have already done in recent years.

The 32-year-old received the day off in the finale of the three-game set against the Marlins on Sunday, making you wonder if he stiffened up too much due to the inactivity.

“See what happens? I get a day off and I get worse,” Hardy quipped after Monday’s win. “I honestly feel better right now than I did in the seventh, but I think it was the right decision. Buck just saw me favoring it a little bit. It’s good. It’s not bad.”

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Matusz receives eight-game ban for foreign substance on arm

Posted on 25 May 2015 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — Orioles pitcher Brian Matusz has received an eight-game suspension from Major League Baseball for having a foreign substance on his arm during Saturday’s loss to the Miami Marlins.

The suspension was announced prior to Monday’s series opener against the Houston Astros.

The lefty reliever will appeal the suspension and will be allowed to continue to pitch until his case is heard. The Orioles would play a player short on their 25-man roster should Matusz’s suspension — or any part of it — be upheld.

“I’m not going to try to justify anything. It’s a deeper issue,” manager Buck Showalter told reporters before Sunday’s game in Miami. “It’s the same reason why hitters have pine tar. Why is there rosin on the field? Why do we put mud on the ball? We all understand that the crux of the problem is gripping the ball.”

Matusz was ejected in the bottom of the 12th inning of Saturday’s 1-0 loss after Marlins manager Dan Jennings requested that the umpiring crew take a look at the pitcher’s right forearm. It is believed that Matusz had rosin on his arm with some sunscreen potentially mixed with the substance.

While a clear violation of the rulebook, it’s no secret that many major league pitchers use substances to help improve their grip of the baseball. Showalter defended New York Yankees pitcher Michael Pineda last year when he was suspended for using pine tar against Boston, citing the need for pitchers to be able to better grip the baseball for safety concerns. The Baltimore manager has periodically cited the tacky covering on Japanese baseballs as an example of what MLB should use rather than the traditional mud to rub down baseballs.

Matusz had never been ejected from a game in his career. He is the second major league pitcher this week to be suspended eight games for having a foreign substance on his arm, joining Milwaukee left-hander Will Smith.

NOTES: Right-hander Bud Norris (bronchitis) will continue his minor league rehab assignment with a start at Double-A Bowie on Wednesday. Originally a candidate to be activated for Thursday’s doubleheader, Norris will continue rebuilding his strength after surrendering nine runs and 12 hits in 2 2/3 innings for Triple-A Norfolk on Friday. … Right-handed pitcher Tyler Wilson remains a candidate to be called up on Thursday and pitched an abbreviated start for Norfolk on Monday. Lefty T.J. McFarland is another candidate to start one of Thursday’s games. Mike Wright will start one of the two games against the Chicago White Sox. … Still recovering from right shoulder tendinitis, right-handed pitcher Kevin Gausman will throw a bullpen session Tuesday, face live hitters on Friday, and pitch two innings in a simulated game on June 2. … Matt Wieters (right elbow) will catch pitching prospect Dylan Bundy as he finally begins his rehab assignment on Tuesday. … Infielder Ryan Flaherty (groin) began a rehab assignment at Norfolk on Monday.

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chaz

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Orioles call up right-hander Roe for additional bullpen help

Posted on 24 May 2015 by Luke Jones

Feeling the effects of Thursday’s rain delay, a short start from Ubaldo Jimenez on Friday, and Saturday night’s 13-inning affair, the Orioles have again turned to Triple-A Norfolk for bullpen help.

Prior to Sunday’s finale against the Miami Marlins, the Orioles selected the contract of right-handed pitcher Chaz Roe and optioned lefty T.J. McFarland to the Tides. To make room for Roe on the 40-man roster, the Orioles transferred left-handed reliever Wesley Wright to the 60-day disabled list.

The 28-year-old Roe carries some major league experience, posting a 4.03 ERA in 21 appearances for Arizona in 2013 and making three appearances for the New York Yankees last season. He was 3-1 with a 2.19 ERA in 24 2/3 innings for the Tides this season.

McFarland gave up the winning run in Saturday’s 1-0 loss and had appeared in three of Baltimore’s last four games, but many figured rookie Oliver Drake would be optioned after throwing three innings in Saturday’s game. Of course, the Naval Academy product’s impressive performance may have forced manager Buck Showalter’s hand in keeping him around for the time being.

With Thursday’s doubleheader, the Orioles will need an additional starter, which could be McFarland or Bud Norris, who is currently on the 15-day DL and slated to pitch at Double-A Bowie on Wednesday. Of course, Norris’ disastrous start for Norfolk on Friday doesn’t inspire much confidence in him as he was already off to a nightmarish start in 2015.

In other pitching news, left-hander Brian Matusz is expected to receive a suspension — likely in line with the eight-game ban Milwaukee pitcher Will Smith recently received — after being ejected from Saturday’s game for having a foreign substance on his arm. However, no word is expected to come until after the holiday weekend.

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Orioles promote longtime minor league pitcher Drake

Posted on 23 May 2015 by Luke Jones

One of the good stories in the Orioles’ minor-league system will appear to have its culmination with right-handed pitcher Oliver Drake being summoned to Miami.

Selected in the 43rd round out of the Naval Academy in the 2008 draft, the 28-year-old Drake was recalled from Triple-A Norfolk to give Baltimore another option in the bullpen for Saturday’s game against the Marlins. The Orioles optioned right-hander Tyler Wilson back to Norfolk after he appeared in two of the last three games.

The 6-foot-4 Drake has posted a miniscule 0.96 ERA in 18 2/3 innings for the Tides this season. Using an impressive split-fingered fastball, Drake has struck out 30 batters and walked just four after he was added to the 40-man roster in the offseason.

Once thought to be a diamond in the rough after the Orioles drafted him when most teams assumed the pitcher would remain at Navy, injuries derailed his once promising career as a starter, but Drake has found a niche out of the bullpen. He probably won’t give the Orioles as much length as they’d like as a bullpen addition in the short term, but Drake would become the fifth player to make his major league debut for Baltimore this season, joining pitchers Wilson, Jason Garcia and Mike Wright and infielder Rey Navarro. Knuckleball pitcher Eddie Gamboa was also recalled earlier this season, but he did not appear in a game before being returned to Norfolk.

According to CBSSports.com, the Orioles are also expected to sign Cuban left-handed pitcher Ariel Miranda, a 25-year-old defector.

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Norris’ struggles continue at Triple-A Norfolk

Posted on 23 May 2015 by Luke Jones

A difficult start to the 2015 season didn’t get any better for Bud Norris in a rehab start at Triple-A Norfolk on Friday.

The Orioles pitcher surrendered nine earned runs and 12 hits in just 2 2/3 innings in an 11-4 loss to Rochester in the first game of a doubleheader. He gave up two home runs to Kennys Vargas, who was recently optioned to Triple A by the Minnesota Twins.

Norris was placed on the 15-day disabled list on Monday after he’d been dealing with a case of bronchitis and hadn’t pitched since May 10. The 30-year-old is eligible to be activated from the DL on Tuesday, but his latest poor outing may force the club to reevaluate what to do with the right-hander, who sports a 9.88 ERA in six starts for the Orioles this year after a poor spring.

Manager Buck Showalter was envisioning Norris as one of his starters for this Thursday’s doubleheader against the Chicago White Sox, but his dramatic struggles with the Tides could signal the need for a longer rehab assignment. Minor-league rehab assignments for pitchers can last up to 30 days.

Norris has been particularly poor against left-handed hitters as they sport an on-base plus slugging percentage of 1.174 this season. Right-handers have a .729 OPS against him in 2015.

Scheduled to become a free agent after the 2015 season, Norris is making $8.8 million this season. He went 15-8 with a 3.65 ERA in 28 starts last season and was the winning pitcher in Game 3 of the 2014 American League Division Series as the Orioles swept Detroit.

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Orioles activate infielder Cabrera from 15-day DL

Posted on 22 May 2015 by Luke Jones

Prior to the start of a three-game series in Miami, the Orioles activated veteran shortstop Everth Cabrera from the 15-day disabled list and optioned infielder Rey Navarro to Triple-A Norfolk.

Cabrera was hit on the left foot by a pitch on May 6 and sent to the DL to make room for the returning J.J. Hardy a day later. In 23 games filling in for the injured Hardy at shortstop, the switch-hitting Cabrera batted .205 with two doubles, four RBIs, and two stolen bases.

The 25-year-old Navarro was batting .276 with one home run, two doubles, and three RBIs in 10 games with the Orioles.

Cabrera will likely receive some opportunities at second base with Steve Pearce and Jimmy Paredes also in the mix. Because the Orioles do not have the designated hitter this weekend against the Marlins, Paredes was starting at second base on Friday night.

It remains to be seen how long Cabrera will remain with the Orioles as he has now accumulated enough major league service time that he cannot be optioned without his consent. Infielder Ryan Flaherty remains on the disabled list with a groin injury, but he is expected to begin a minor-league rehab assignment with Triple-A Norfolk by the end of the weekend.

Despite being a 2013 All-Star representative of the San Diego Padres, Cabrera has shown little from an offensive standpoint, posting a .456 on-base plus slugging percentage in 89 plate appearances. Flaherty carries more experience at second base and possesses more power potential while starter Jonathan Schoop continues to work his way back from a right knee injury in Sarasota.

Cabrera signed a one-year, $2.4 million contract with Baltimore in late February.

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