Tag Archive | "Baltimore"

humphrey

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Ravens choose depth, upside over immediate need by picking Humphrey

Posted on 28 April 2017 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — For years, the Ravens didn’t invest much in the cornerback position.

Since taking Jimmy Smith in the first round of the 2011 draft, Baltimore hadn’t selected a corner before the fourth round in five consecutive drafts, instead going with late-round projects and cheap veteran band-aids to fill out the depth chart behind the injury-prone Smith and a declining Lardarius Webb. The strategy resulted in the secondary remaining an annual weakness as the likes of Chykie Brown, Asa Jackson, Kyle Arrington, Jerraud Powers, and Shareece Wright were asked to fill meaningful roles at one time or another.

That’s why I can’t be too critical of general manager Ozzie Newsome’s decision to take Alabama cornerback Marlon Humphrey with the 16th overall pick of the 2017 draft on Thursday night. At six feet and 197 pounds, Humphrey’s upside as an outside corner is obvious as he’s only 20 years old and played at a high level for the best program in the nation over the last two seasons. But talent evaluators acknowledge his raw technique and struggles defending the deep ball with a few even wondering if he’s better suited to play safety at the next level. That’s not exactly a dream endorsement for your newly-branded first-round cornerback.

In other words, it’s far from a sure thing that Humphrey will be a starter in 2017, especially with the free-agent acquisition of reliable veteran Brandon Carr last month. There would be no shame in that, of course, as plenty of talented cornerbacks didn’t start as rookies.

There’s no disputing that the secondary is loaded, but did the Ravens maximize their value when you consider their bigger needs and the other highly-rated prospects who remained on the board?

If we’re sticking with Newsome’s Alabama connection alone, defensive end Jonathan Allen and inside linebacker Reuben Foster would have been slam-dunk Week 1 starters and tight end O.J. Howard could have been a much-needed play-maker for quarterback Joe Flacco. Pass rushers such as Takkarist McKinley, Taco Charlton, Charles Harris, and T.J. Watt were also on the board.

Of course, the top three wide receivers were snatched up long before the Ravens were on the clock, but the offensive line also has major holes to be filled.

Would they have been better served grabbing a talent at one of these other positions and waiting to take a cornerback with this draft considered so deep at the position?

Newsome acknowledged Thursday night that the Ravens took calls from teams wanting to move up to the 16th spot, but the proposed returns weren’t appealing enough for him to make a deal. Humphrey was certainly a consensus first-round pick, but it may not have been out of the question to still land him later in the round while picking up an extra pick or two to use in a deep draft.

When the Ravens had better overall rosters five or six years ago, the addition of Humphrey would have been praised as a luxury pick with huge upside. But a team needing immediate help at multiple positions may not feel a great impact from him in his rookie season, putting even more pressure on Newsome to nail his three Day 2 picks.

Humphrey may prove to be a terrific cornerback, but the Ravens drafted for depth and upside instead of filling a more pressing need. It’s an interesting choice for a franchise at a crossroads after missing the playoffs in three of the last four years.

Time will tell whether it works out.

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bundy

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Orioles must remain flexible with Bundy despite early success

Posted on 27 April 2017 by Luke Jones

It would be easy for the Orioles to have tunnel vision with young starting pitcher Dylan Bundy.

Entering Thursday ranked seventh in the American League in ERA (1.65) and having registered a quality start in each of his five outings, Bundy has been Baltimore’s top pitcher and best player so far in 2017. The Orioles have needed him to pitch like an ace, too, with veteran Chris Tillman still on the disabled list and Opening Day starter Kevin Gausman off to a poor start.

But we’re also talking about a 24-year-old who only eclipsed the 300-inning mark for his entire professional career last week and has battled a number of injuries since being selected fourth overall in the 2011 draft. That’s why you can’t ignore the peripherals from his solid six-inning performance in the Orioles’ 5-4 win over Tampa Bay on Wednesday night. It was apparent early that he wasn’t close to having his best stuff, making the results that much more impressive.

Bundy’s fastball velocity was down substantially over the first three innings against the Rays, averaging roughly 89 miles per hour. The right-hander entered the night with a season average of 92.3 mph, but his average velocity had also declined slightly in each start before the significant drop early in Wednesday’s outing. The good news is that Bundy’s velocity climbed over the latter half of the outing and averaged just over 91 mph after the third inning, quelling some concerns of a possible injury that even Hall of Famer Jim Palmer shared aloud during MASN’s telecast.


(Graphic courtesy of FanGraphs)

Still, it’s tough to ignore that even his maximum fastball velocity on Wednesday (93.3 mph) was slower than his average as a starter (93.7 mph) in 2016. He managed only seven swinging strikes, a season low and often a barometer of the quality of a pitcher’s stuff. Bundy reminded reporters after the game that he’s mixing in more two-seam fastballs this year — which are typically slower than a pitcher’s four-seamer — but that wouldn’t explain that much of a drop, either.

To be clear, none of this means that Bundy is injured or doomed as he simply may not have been at his best physically, something that happens to any pitcher at least a couple times over the course of a six-month season. Even pitching in shorter stints out of the bullpen in the first half of 2016, Bundy didn’t really see his velocity start to spike until June and July, making you wonder if this is just part of his process of naturally building up arm strength and pacing himself for a long season.

Bundy is too important to both the present and future, however, to completely ignore the data solely because he’s pitching so well. Manager Buck Showalter acknowledged as much, saying he saw what everyone else did and that Bundy is always monitored because of his injury history. For what it’s worth, the pitcher said he felt good at the end of his outing and that he wasn’t concerned about the velocity.

The steady drop does make you wonder if the Orioles need to adjust their approach despite Showalter saying more than once that “the governors are off” the talented pitcher this season. It could be as simple as shaving his pitch count a bit or giving him an extra day of rest whenever possible, something the Orioles haven’t really been able to do this month while mostly going with a four-man rotation in Tillman’s absence. The practice of extra rest was used periodically with former Orioles starter Wei-Yin Chen, who was much older than Bundy.

With Tillman possibly returning as early as next week, the Orioles will hope to have more flexibility with a normal five-man rotation.

Seeing how special Bundy has been so far, the organization must do whatever it takes to keep him strong and healthy for all of 2017 and beyond. If that means an extra day of rest here and there or even skipping a start if necessary, it should be an easy call to sacrifice the short term in favor of the big picture.

As easy as it might be to just focus on the results, the Orioles need to keep a watchful eye on a pitcher who is looking more and more like he can be something special. But they have to keep him on the mound for that to happen.

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ravensdraft

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Possibilities wide open for Ravens in 2017 draft

Posted on 26 April 2017 by Luke Jones

Despite months of mock drafts, workouts, visits, and rumors, anyone invested in the Ravens is still asking the same question with the 2017 NFL draft nearly upon us.

Who will they take with the 16th overall pick?

Frankly, I don’t think the Ravens even have a good idea this year.

There’s always volatility when 15 other players are to be picked before you’re officially on the clock, especially in a year when there are no slam-dunk quarterbacks at the top of the board. Even last year when the Ravens were picking sixth, how many correctly predicted that they would select left tackle Ronnie Stanley? Even fewer thought the then-San Diego Chargers would take edge rusher Joey Bosa with the No. 3 pick, illustrating how little truthful information most teams give away to outsiders.

Adding to that unpredictability is a deep talent pool lacking clear definition beyond the top few projected selections. Ask 15 different draft experts to rank the No. 6 through No. 25 prospects in order and you’ll likely find less common ground than in typical years. That’s not a bad thing with many considering this the deepest collection of talent in a number of years, but predicting who might be there in the middle of the first round feels even more like a guessing game than usual.

It’s no secret that the Ravens have a number of pressing needs, which is both a blessing and a curse. Needing immediate help on the offensive line and at wide receiver, edge rusher, and inside linebacker and still wanting to enhance its depth at cornerback, Baltimore should have no reason to reach for a prospect over the first few rounds. Of course, that lengthy list of needs also reflects an incomplete roster and a lack of success since Super Bowl XLVII, making it even more important that the Ravens build on their encouraging 2016 draft with another strong class.

Their list of reported visits and meetings reflects those aforementioned needs and offers possible clues, but I’m reluctant to put too much stock into those encounters. It was only last year that the Ravens drafted Boise State linebacker Kamalei Correa after spending a total of 15 minutes with him at the scouting combine and never contacting him again until he was selected in the second round two months later.

Trading back in the first round would hardly be the sexiest development on Thursday night, but it could be the best one in a year when the Ravens have only seven scheduled picks. The problem could be finding a partner wanting to move up as reports this week have indicated that a number of teams are looking to trade back to take better advantage of a deep talent pool. As is typically the case, movement will likely depend on the fascination with the top three or four quarterbacks.

Because I’ve been asked, my official guess prediction is that the Ravens select Western Michigan wide receiver Corey Davis with the 16th overall pick, which probably means 10 other prospects are now more likely to be taken there. His skill set as an intermediate receiver is exactly what Joe Flacco and the passing game need, and his familiarity with Flacco’s brother, Tom, from college also makes for a fun story.

It also didn’t go unnoticed at the pre-draft press conference earlier this month that Eric DeCosta barely made mention of Davis when discussing the top receivers, instead talking more about Mike Williams of Clemson and John Ross of Washington. With Davis then taking an official visit a couple weeks later, was that perceived lack of interest a bit of a smoke screen from the assistant general manager?

If the Ravens do stay put at No. 16, there should be at least a few really good prospects staring them in the face, regardless of how the first 15 picks play out.

If they’re convinced that Davis — or Williams — will be that true impact receiver that the offense needs, they shouldn’t waste time turning in their card, regardless of their rough draft history at the position.

If Derek Barnett or Takkarist McKinley feels like the successor to Terrell Suggs, then go for it.

If they see Temple’s Haason Reddick as a dynamic linebacker, draft him and then carve out a flexible role to best utilize his talents.

And with this draft class not having good offensive line depth, the Ravens shouldn’t dismiss taking Cam Robinson if he can immediately be a stud right tackle or Forrest Lamp if they’re convinced that he’s the next Marshal Yanda. Protecting Flacco and improving the running game are too important to this team’s success to pass up the right offensive line prospect in the right spot.

In other words, there can be more than one right answer for the Ravens at 16th overall.

General manager Ozzie Newsome and the Ravens just can’t afford to be wrong.

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miley

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Twelve Orioles thoughts following 2-0 loss to Tampa Bay

Posted on 26 April 2017 by Luke Jones

With the Orioles being shut out for the first time this season in a 2-0 loss to Tampa Bay, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. The Orioles lineup couldn’t even create opportunities with just two hits and three runners reaching scoring position — two in the second inning — over the course of a damp night. The Rays retired 18 of the final 19 Baltimore hitters.

2. Failing to score runs or collect hits is one thing, but the Orioles hit only four balls out of the infield in the entire game. It doesn’t get much worse than that.

3. You couldn’t have asked for much better from Wade Miley, who allowed two runs over seven innings to register his third straight quality start. He won’t sustain his 2.08 ERA, but Miley regaining the form of his early years in Arizona would go a long way in helping Baltimore contend.

4. For the second time in four starts, the walk was Miley’s Achilles heel as he walked six with both runs originating as free passes. For a pitcher with a career walk rate of 2.8 per nine innings, it’s strange to have outings of seven and six walks already this season.

5. After Ubaldo Jimenez gave the Orioles only 3 1/3 innings on Monday, Miley throwing 116 pitches over seven innings was a bulldog effort to spare the bullpen. He’s averaging 6.5 innings per start so far in 2017.

6. It doesn’t excuse the punchless bats, but Rays manager Kevin Cash scratching scheduled starter Erasmo Ramirez 20 minutes before first pitch because of “uncertain weather conditions” was unusual since there was very little rain until late in the game. I’m guessing that didn’t sit too well with the Orioles.

7. Manny Machado and Mark Trumbo are hovering at the Mendoza line, but the former can chalk up some of that to bad luck as he’s hit a number of balls hard with little to show for it. The same can’t be said for Trumbo, who hasn’t homered since Opening Day.

8. Chris Davis struck out looking for the 14th time this year, which is more than his 13 swinging strikeouts. With him going down looking a career-high 79 times last year, it’s becoming apparent that the first baseman needs to be more aggressive with two strikes.

9. Caleb Joseph had another opportunity to collect his first RBI since 2015 with runners on second and third and two outs in the second, but he struck out looking. He continues to do a good job defensively, but the RBI drought has to be torturing his mind at this point.

10. Darren O’Day turned in his fifth consecutive scoreless appearance and is really quelling the concerns stemming from his poor outings over the first week of the season.

11. The Rays turning Tuesday into a bullpen game worked beautifully, but seeing Cash change pitchers with two outs in the fourth and no serious scoring threat fetched more than a few eye rolls in the crowd and the press box on a less-than-ideal night at Camden Yards.

12. The next few days will be big for Zach Britton and Chris Tillman. Britton will complete a bullpen session on Wednesday and may have a rehab outing on Friday. Tillman is scheduled for a 75-pitch outing for Single-A Frederick on Thursday. If all goes well, both could return very soon.

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jones

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Twelve Orioles thoughts following 6-3 win over Tampa Bay

Posted on 25 April 2017 by Luke Jones

With the Orioles hitting three home runs in a 6-3 win over Tampa Bay, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. Buck Showalter rarely makes much out of a single win or loss over a 162-game season, but he expressed great pride over his club’s effort on a night when the weather was miserable and no more than a few thousand people were at the ballpark.

2. Adam Jones led that effort with a 3-for-3 performance, which included the game-winning two-run shot in the seventh. He entered the game 4-for-32 in his career against Chris Archer, but he exacted some revenge. His dependability in all conditions is rare and not lost on Showalter or his teammates.

3. Archer hadn’t allowed a home run to the first 130 batters he’d faced in 2017 before the Orioles clubbed three long balls in a five-hitter span in the sixth and seventh innings. That’s the definition of an outing crumbling quickly.

4. Ubaldo Jimenez throwing more balls than strikes and issuing five walks in 3 1/3 innings told the story of his abysmal start. Shane Peterson’s two-run double in the fourth appeared to be foul, but that can’t excuse Jimenez’s inability to build on his strong start in Cincinnati last week.

5. Jimenez was saved from further damage by Vidal Nuno, who struck out both Corey Dickerson and Kevin Kiermaier looking to leave the bases loaded in the fourth. The lefty long man pitched 2 2/3 scoreless innings and did a superb job keeping the Orioles in the game.

6. A combined 12 walks between the teams made for a difficult product to watch. During one stretch in the third and fourth innings, eight of nine Rays hitters and five out of six Orioles didn’t even put the ball in play as strikeouts and walks dominated the action.

7. It’s no secret that starts have been sporadic for Hyun Soo Kim due to the high number of opposing lefty starters, but he took advantage of his first start since last Thursday, drawing a walk in the fourth and hitting the first homer of the night off Archer.

8. Jonathan Schoop has been on the back end of all three pairs of back-to-back homers hit by the Orioles this season. There’s nothing meaningful to take away from that, but it’s an interesting coincidence nonetheless. He continues to hit after a rough opening week.

9. Seeing Showalter use his bullpen without Zach Britton is hardly ideal for the Orioles, but it’s been fun as he once again unleashed Mychal Givens for multiple innings like he did against Boston over the weekend. He’s becoming an even more dangerous — and much-needed — weapon.

10. It was another rough night at the plate for Mark Trumbo, who left four men on base in his first two at-bats. He’s started fast most of his career, but that certainly hasn’t been the case in 2017.

11. The crowd at Camden Yards was very small but spirited on Monday. I was particularly amused by the group of fans who heckled Rays hitters by slowly chanting their names à la the classic Darryl Strawberry taunt. If you’re going to brave the elements, why not have some fun?

12. News of Boston pitcher Matt Barnes’ four-game suspension broke shortly before the game. Based on precedent, it’s what I expected. I fear it’s going to take a serious injury occurring for Major League Baseball to ever crack down on the pathetic act of intentionally throwing a baseball at a hitter.

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gausman

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Twelve Orioles thoughts following 6-2 loss to Boston

Posted on 23 April 2017 by Luke Jones

With the Orioles failing to complete a sweep in a 6-2 loss to Boston on Sunday, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. Manny Machado had every right to be upset after Boston reliever Matt Barnes’ pitch nearly hit him in the head, but the young third baseman showed impressive composure that wouldn’t have been there in the past. The Orioles couldn’t afford to lose him to suspension, and he’s apparently learned that.

2. Dustin Pedroia deserves credit for handling the weekend-long saga with more class and maturity than some of his teammates and even his manager. You only hope his unfortunate knee injury doesn’t keep him sidelined for long.

3. Even if you buy Barnes’ claim that he wasn’t trying to throw at Machado’s head — it was obvious that he was trying to hit him somewhere at least — that’s why intentionally hitting a batter is dangerous and shouldn’t have a place in the game. Pitchers miss spots all the time.

4. The day was ruined for Kevin Gausman after his first eight pitches as he allowed a three-run home run to Mookie Betts on a fastball and a solo shot to Hanley Ramirez on a hanging slider. His performance after that was OK, but a 7.50 season ERA speaks for itself.

5. How much of an issue has control and command been for Gausman? He walked three batters or more for the fourth time in five starts. He walked three or more in just three of his 30 starts last year.

6. A silver lining to Gausman’s outing was some improvement with his split-changeup, which had largely been nonexistent in his first four starts. However, that pitch failed him in the fifth inning when Mitch Moreland hit one over the center-field fence for a solo shot.

7. Despite giving up a career-high 28 home runs last year, Gausman surprisingly hadn’t had problems with the long ball this season before Sunday. He surrendered three to the Red Sox after giving up only one in his first 18 2/3 innings.

8. Concern with Gausman’s 2017 start is more than fair, but let’s pump the brakes on the hyperbole of him being a bust and comparing him to Jake Arrieta in Baltimore. The 26-year-old posted a 3.77 ERA from 2014 to 2016 and was the Orioles’ best starter last year.

9. Eduardo Rodriguez was impressive over six innings of one-hit ball to earn his first victory of the season. Yes, I’m still fine with the Orioles trading him to the Red Sox for Andrew Miller in 2014.

10. It was a rough day for Trey Mancini, who struck out three times and left five runners on base over his final two at-bats. Of course, he wasn’t alone as the Orioles left 10 men on base and were 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position.

11. Even with Sunday’s defeat, the Orioles still ended the weekend with the best record in the American League at 12-5. With Chris Tillman and Zach Britton out with injuries and Kevin Gausman struggling mightily, who would have guessed that three weeks ago?

12. Watching Barnes throw at Machado in the eighth, I couldn’t help but think of the thousands of kids at Camden Yards who were waiting to run the bases, a great Sunday post-game promotion. I’m sure that nonsensical garbage they had to watch will really help grow the sport though.

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oriolessox

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Twelve Orioles thoughts following 4-2 win over Boston

Posted on 23 April 2017 by Luke Jones

With the Orioles winning their fourth straight game in a 2-0 final over Boston, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. There was nothing fancy about his outing with a fastball maxing out around 90 miles per hour, but Jayson Aquino fetched the desired results by allowing two earned runs over six innings for his first major league win. He limited hard contact and made good pitches when he needed to.

2. Steven Wright appeared to be on his way to avenging his nightmare outing against the Orioles last week before completely losing the feel of his knuckler in the fourth. One of the good stories in the American League from a year ago is currently a mess for the Red Sox.

3. Wright will have nightmares about Trey Mancini, who now has two home runs in three at-bats against the right-hander. Mancini continues to dazzle and tied the major league record for home runs in his first 17 career games with eight.

4. The only real blemish on Aquino’s night was a hanging slider thrown to Jackie Bradley Jr. for a long two-run homer in the third. That was the first ball hit onto Eutaw Street this season and the 89th in the history of Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

5. Aquino’s best moment of the night was his curveball to strike out Hanley Ramirez and strand two runners in the top of the fifth. The rookie needed that shutdown frame after his offense gave him four runs in the previous half-inning.

6. Orioles pitchers have now allowed only three runs over their last 42 innings and have registered quality starts in eight of the last nine games. That’s not too shabby with Chris Tillman and Zach Britton currently on the disabled list.

7. Darren O’Day needed only one pitch to register the save, but Mychal Givens did the heavy lifting in the bullpen. He retired the top six hitters in the Boston lineup over two perfect innings. Lefties are also just 1-for-9 against him so far in 2017.

8. I understood Boston’s displeasure over Manny Machado’s hard slide into Dustin Pedroia on Friday — the All-Star third baseman has to wear his reputation stemming from the bat-throwing incident in 2014 — but it was nice to see no retaliation. Hopefully that continues moving forward.

9. The Orioles are now eight games over .500 less than three weeks into the season. It’s only April, but stacking more wins now means a lighter burden down the stretch. A strong first half last year carried them to the playoffs despite mediocre play after the All-Star break.

10. Adam Jones stole his second base of the season to match his total from 2016. It only took him 16 games to do it this time around.

11. Regardless of the number of opposing lefty starters and Buck Showalter pointing to his lack of familiarity with knuckleballers — no hitters see them regularly — Hyun Soo Kim should be getting more at-bats and certainly shouldn’t be losing so many to Craig Gentry, who’s hitting .167.

12. The results weren’t pretty, but Chris Tillman told Showalter it was the “best he’s felt” in a rehab outing for Double-A Bowie against Harrisburg on Saturday. The recent performance of the starting rotation should ease some temptation to rush him back before he’s ready.

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britton

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Britton’s elbow “really good” after undergoing MRI exam

Posted on 22 April 2017 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — Orioles manager Buck Showalter offered a favorable report on closer Zach Britton after Friday night’s 2-0 win over the Boston Red Sox.

The two-time All-Star reliever underwent an MRI on his left forearm and elbow on Friday that brought no serious concerns, according to the manager.

“Looked good. They did everything. The elbow looked really good,” Showalter said. “That bodes well, obviously, down the road. They found what they thought they would find. We’re moving forward with nothing to hold back his continued progress.”

Placed on the 10-day disabled list with a left forearm strain last Sunday, Britton hasn’t pitched since feeling forearm discomfort while throwing his slider on April 14. The 29-year-old told reporters earlier in the week that the strain was closer to his wrist than his elbow.

It remains unclear when Britton will begin throwing again, but it may not be too long based on the apparent MRI results and the left-hander’s comments to his manager in Cincinnati on Thursday.

“He feels good. He was ready to pitch,” Showalter said before Friday’s game. “Yesterday in the dugout, he said, ‘I’m ready to throw. I’ll get this MRI just to [make sure].’ He was chomping at the bit yesterday. He said, ‘I feel good. I’m ready to go.’”

In Britton’s absence, 2016 All-Star setup man Brad Brach has converted all three of his save opportunities, temporarily easing the concern of not having the man who’s converted 54 save chances in a row.

It’s been a difficult start to 2017 for Britton, who missed a portion of spring training with a strained oblique. Asked whether the disruption created by that ailment may have contributed to Britton’s forearm injury, Showalter didn’t dismiss the possible cause-and-effect relationship.

“It’d be easy for me to say absolutely not,” Showalter said. “Everything’s related to everything, but it has nothing to do with his velocity or his movement. It may have had something to do with his command a little bit. It’s like the whole question about the [World Baseball Classic and this or that. Yeah, everything has a point, counterpoint. But Zach’s not talking about [the spring] too much.”

Britton has converted all five of his save opportunities and has pitched to a 1.29 ERA so far this season, but he has allowed 10 hits and issued three walks in only seven innings. In 2016, he posted an unbelievable 0.54 ERA and went 47-for-47 in save chances to win the American League reliever of the year award.

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wallace

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Ravens to play three prime-time games as part of 2017 schedule

Posted on 20 April 2017 by Luke Jones

A 2017 schedule that includes the Ravens’ first ever trip to London will feature three prime-time games in the regular season.

After playing 11 of their last 12 Monday night contests on the road, the Ravens will finally welcome ESPN’s national telecast back to M&T Bank Stadium for a meeting with the Houston Texans on Nov. 27. This marks the first time since the 2012 opener that the Ravens have had a Monday home game, and it’s only the second one of the John Harbaugh era.

The Ravens will host Miami for a Thursday night game on Oct. 26 and will travel to Heinz Field to take on Pittsburgh for their only scheduled appearance on NBC’s Sunday Night Football on Dec. 10. Baltimore will also welcome Indianapolis to town in a nationally-televised Saturday afternoon contest on Dec. 23.

Beginning their 22nd campaign in Baltimore and 20th season at M&T Bank Stadium, the Ravens will open their season in Cincinnati on Sept. 10 and host Cleveland for the home opener on Sept. 17.

It was known months ago that the Ravens would play Jacksonville in London on Sept. 24, and the NFL has granted their wish not to have their bye immediately after that with the Steelers coming to Baltimore on Oct 1. The Ravens will then travel across the country to face Oakland on Oct. 8 to conclude arguably their most challenging stretch of the season.

Their bye will fall in Week 10.

The schedule concludes with two straight home games for the first time in franchise history, which should help Baltimore’s bid to return to the playoffs for the first time since 2014. The Ravens will host the Bengals in Week 17, marking the seventh time in eight years that these AFC North rivals have faced off in the regular-season finale.

The Ravens will play seven games against playoff teams from last season: Pittsburgh (twice), Houston, Miami, Oakland, Green Bay, and Detroit. They have six games against opponents who finished below .500 in 2016: Cincinnati (twice), Cleveland (twice), Jacksonville, and Chicago.

Baltimore’s 2017 opponents had a combined .461 winning percentage last season, which would give them the ninth-easiest schedule in the NFL entering the year. Of course, playing the 1-15 Browns twice skews that percentage a good bit.

For now, 10 of the Ravens’ 16 regular-season games are scheduled for 1 p.m. Sunday starts, but many of those games are subject to flexible scheduling (see below).

2017 SCHEDULE

Sunday, Sept. 10 at Cincinnati — 1:00 p.m. (CBS)
Skinny: You mean the Ravens aren’t required by law to conclude every season at Paul Brown Stadium? This marks only the second time in the last seven years that they won’t be in Cincinnati for Week 17. 

Sunday, Sept. 17 vs. Cleveland Browns — 1:00 p.m. (CBS)
Skinny: The Browns have dramatically improved their offensive line, but that only matters so much until Hue Jackson finds the right quarterback to lead his football team. 

Sunday, Sept. 24 at Jacksonville Jaguars (London) — 9:30 a.m. (CBS)
Skinny: Playing the first game in franchise history outside the United States, the Ravens need to be ready to start fast with a breakfast kickoff time back home.

Sunday, Oct. 1 vs. Pittsburgh Steelers — 1:00 p.m. (CBS)
Skinny: The Steelers will once again be the favorite to win the AFC North, but they’ve lost four straight at M&T Bank Stadium with Charlie Batch being the last Pittsburgh quarterback to earn a win in Baltimore.

Sunday, Oct. 8 at Oakland Raiders — 4:05 p.m. (CBS)
Skinny: Playing a road game against the young and talented Raiders appears daunting, but it will be interesting to see how Oakland fans respond to a team officially set to move to Las Vegas.

Sunday, Oct. 15 vs. Chicago Bears — 1:00 p.m. (FOX)
Skinny: Pernell McPhee received a huge contract when he left the Ravens, but Chicago pushed him too hard in 2015 and his well-documented knee issues limited him to just nine games last year.

Sunday, Oct. 22 at Minnesota Vikings — 1:00 p.m. (CBS)
Skinny: Brett Favre was the Vikings quarterback when the Ravens last visited Minnesota, but this one will be played at the extravagant U.S. Bank Stadium, which opened last season.

Thursday, Oct. 26 vs. Miami Dolphins — 8:25 p.m. (CBS/NFL Network)
Skinny: The Ravens demolished Miami by 32 points last December, but the Dolphins earned the last laugh by nabbing the final wild card in the AFC and are moving in the right direction.

Sunday, Nov. 5 at Tennessee Titans — 1:00 p.m. (CBS)
Skinny: It’s been a long time since the Titans were relevant, but young quarterback Marcus Mariota looked more and more like the real deal last year while nearly getting his team to the playoffs.

Sunday, Nov. 12 BYE

Sunday, Nov. 19 at Green Bay Packers — 1:00 p.m. (CBS)
Skinny: The Ravens have never won a game at Lambeau Field, and you have to wonder what the weather will be like come the second half of November.

Monday, Nov. 27 vs. Houston Texans — 8:30 p.m. (ESPN)
Skinny: Bill O’Brien’s team is still a good quarterback away from being a serious contender in the AFC, but his defense was very good even without All-Pro defensive end J.J. Watt last season.

Sunday, Dec. 3 vs. Detroit Lions — 1:00 p.m. (FOX)
Skinny: Former right tackle Rick Wagner and five-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Haloti Ngata will return to Baltimore for their first regular-season game against the Ravens.

Sunday, Dec. 10 at Pittsburgh Steelers — 8:30 p.m. (NBC)
Skinny: These bitter rivals will square off in a nationally-televised contest for the 11th straight year and on Sunday Night Football for the sixth time in the last nine years.

Sunday, Dec. 17 at Cleveland Browns — 1:00 p.m. (CBS)
Skinny: Make fun of the hapless Browns all you’d like, but the Ravens haven’t won a game in Cleveland by more than one possession since 2012.

Saturday, Dec. 23 vs. Indianapolis Colts — 4:30 p.m. (NFL Network)
Skinny: Former Ravens defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano was the last man standing in the strained relationship with Ryan Grigson, but it’s tough imagining him surviving another non-playoff season.

Sunday, Dec. 31 vs. Cincinnati Bengals — 1:00 p.m. (CBS)
Skinny: The Ravens ended their five-game slide against Cincinnati last year, and the Bengals’ streak of five straight trips to the playoffs was also snapped, making you wonder if their window has closed.

Notes: In a move that was initiated three years ago, flexible scheduling can now be applied in Weeks 5 through 9. During that period, flexible scheduling can be used in no more than two weeks by moving a Sunday afternoon game into prime time and moving the Sunday night game to the afternoon.

Another recently-implemented wrinkle will be a select number of games being “cross-flexed,” moving between CBS and FOX to bring certain games to wider audiences.

Flexible scheduling will still be used in Weeks 10 through 17 as it has been in past years. In Weeks 10-16, the master schedule lists games tentatively set for Sunday Night Football on NBC. Only Sunday afternoon games are eligible to be moved to Sunday night, in which case the originally-scheduled Sunday night game would be moved to an afternoon time.

Flexible scheduling may not be applied to games airing on Thursday, Saturday, or Monday nights.

A scheduling change would be announced at least 12 days before the game. For Week 17, the Sunday night game is announced no later than six days prior to Jan. 1.

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Twelve Orioles thoughts following 2-0 win over Cincinnati

Posted on 20 April 2017 by Luke Jones

With the Orioles pitching their first shutout of the 2017 season in a 2-0 win over Cincinnati, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. The good Ubaldo Jimenez showed up at a perfect time after Kevin Gausman taxed the bullpen by completing only 2 2/3 innings on Tuesday. The maligned veteran turned in the longest outing of the year by an Orioles starter, allowing only two hits over 7 2/3 scoreless innings.

2. You typically know it’s going to be a good night for Jimenez when he’s inducing more ground balls early. Six of the first eight outs he recorded came on the ground, which kept the defense engaged early.

3. Jimenez did a superb job locating his two-seam fastball down in the zone and later found the feel for his secondary pitches. He only recorded three strikeouts and nine swinging strikes, but the Reds produced little hard contact until late in his outing.

4. The starting pitcher added to the fun by collecting his first hit since 2015. Having spent the first six years of his major league career in the National League, Jimenez is now 34-for-289, but he has never had an extra-base hit.

5. Jimenez collected the victory, but Reds starter Amir Garrett was very impressive, striking out 12 and walking one over his seven innings. His fastball velocity sits in the low 90s, but a 6-foot-5 frame with long arms and legs will make his pitches appear faster.

6. The Orioles struck out 16 times in Wednesday’s win, but they entered the day with the third-fewest strikeouts in the American League. It can be maddening to watch, but remember virtually everyone strikes out in today’s game.

7. Brad Brach looked comfortable in his first save opportunity filling in for the injured Zach Britton as he recorded a 1-2-3 ninth inning on nine pitches. As long as the starting pitching isn’t horrendous, the Orioles should be able to endure a short-term absence from their All-Star closer.

8. We’re only 13 games into a long season, but who would have guessed that Adam Jones would be second on the club in walks with six already? He’s had some really good at-bats so far in 2017.

9. I’m not sure when we’ll see it again, but you could have won some money two months ago if you’d predicted that Trey Mancini would lead off and play left field in the season’s 13th game. His nine-pitch at-bat in the fifth that resulted in a single was impressive.

10. Even with the encouraging updates about his health over the last few days, it’s a no-brainer for Britton to undergo a precautionary MRI on Friday to make sure his forearm strain isn’t something more serious.

11. Jayson Aquino was recalled from Triple-A Norfolk to serve as a fresh long man out of the bullpen, but the Orioles fortunately didn’t need to use the left-hander. This increases the likelihood of Alec Asher or Aquino starting against Boston this weekend.

12. With Wednesday’s victory, the Orioles clinched a winning record for their first road trip of 2017. For a club that was a combined 19 games below .500 in away games the previous two years, that shouldn’t be taken for granted.

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