Tag Archive | "Baltimore"

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Hardy to undergo MRA on left shoulder

Posted on 28 March 2015 by Luke Jones

Orioles shortstop J.J. Hardy is set to undergo an magnetic resonance angiography exam on his sore left shoulder Monday and will not play in any spring games before then.

The 32-year-old jammed his shoulder diving for a ball on Friday and took an anti-inflammatory after it felt worse Saturday morning. Hardy underwent labrum surgery on the same shoulder in 2004, which will obviously show up in the MRA exam that involves injecting dye into the area.

Should Hardy need to miss extended time, the Orioles would likely look at the combination of utility infielder Ryan Flaherty and newcomer Everth Cabrera to handle shortstop duties.

Hindered with a back injury for much of the 2014 season, Hardy hit only nine home runs, his lowest total in his four seasons with the Orioles. In 33 Grapefruit League plate appearances, Hardy is hitting .233 with two doubles and three runs batted in.

 

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2015 Orioles preview: Miguel Gonzalez

Posted on 27 March 2015 by Luke Jones

With Opening Day less than two weeks away, we’ll take a look at a member of the 2015 Orioles every day as they try to defend their American League East title this season.

March 9 – Adam Jones
March 10 – Chris Tillman
March 11 – J.J. Hardy
March 12 – Zach Britton
March 13 – Chris Davis
March 14 – Wei-Yin Chen
March 15 – Jonathan Schoop
March 16 – Travis Snider
March 17 – Kevin Gausman
March 18 – Alejandro De Aza
March 19 – Tommy Hunter
March 20 – Manny Machado
March 21 – Brad Brach
March 22 – Steve Pearce
March 23 – Darren O’Day
March 24 – Caleb Joseph
March 25 – Wesley Wright
March 26 – Delmon Young

RHP Miguel Gonzalez

Opening Day age: 30

Contract status: Under club control through the 2017 season

Minor-league options remaining: One

2014 stats: 10-9, 3.23 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, 6.3 K/IP, 25 HR, 159 innings

Why to be impressed: Gonzalez continued to exceed expectations to a dramatic degree in 2014 as he posted the best ERA of anyone in the rotation despite the disruption of a demotion to Triple-A Norfolk in August because of a crowded rotation. He posted a miniscule 2.09 ERA over the final three months of the season, which included the first complete-game shutout of his career in early September.

Why to be concerned: As mentioned above, sabermetricians aren’t a fan of Gonzalez, whose 4.89 FIP (fielding independent pitching) indicates how much he might benefit from his defense — and perhaps some good fortune. The right-hander allowed a career-high 1.4 homers per nine innings, and his tendency to frequently give up fly balls benefited from Camden Yards playing much more like a pitchers’ park in 2014, something you wouldn’t expect to continue this year.

2015 outlook: It remains unclear whether a crowded rotation might force Gonzalez to the bullpen or Norfolk for periods of the 2015 season, but he’s been a dependable contributor for three straight reasons and epitomizes what the Orioles have been about for the last three years. It would be difficult for Gonzalez to match his ERA from a year ago, but I won’t bet against him posting another season of 150-plus innings with an ERA of 3.75 or better. Simply put, he’s smart and one heck of a competitor on the mound.

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Rice continues waiting for second chance that may never come

Posted on 27 March 2015 by Luke Jones

It was exactly four months ago Saturday that former U.S. District Judge Barbara S. Jones overturned Ray Rice’s indefinite suspension levied by the NFL on the same day the sickening video that changed everything was released.

And that video is the biggest reason why the former Ravens running back reportedly hasn’t received as much as a visit or even a tryout with another team despite the many who have offered their endorsements for him around the league. Various Ravens officials and players have expressed hopes of Rice receiving another chance while former Baltimore assistants such as Indianapolis head coach Chuck Pagano and Detroit head coach Jim Caldwell — men who know Rice better than most and who both had a need at running back this offseason — have echoed that sentiment.

Nearly everyone in the NFL who knows Rice wants him to receive another chance, but no one wants to be the one to provide it.

Should Ray Rice receive another chance in the NFL?

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The 2008 second-round pick remains unsigned while the likes of Trent Richardson — along with his train wreck of a career as a former No. 3 overall pick in 2012 — and Darren McFadden — and his 3.3 yards per carry average over the last three seasons — have found new homes in free agency. Make no mistake, Rice’s 3.1 yards per carry average in 2013 is a real factor contributing to his frigid market, but even several running backs you’d describe as “has-beens” or “never-weres” have received work on the open market as the calendar turns to April this coming week.

Yes, the video is what distinguishes Rice from Greg Hardy and Ray McDonald, who both landed elsewhere despite their own dark clouds of domestic violence hanging over their heads. Opinions vary on whether any of the aforementioned men deserve second chances in the NFL, but it’s clear a different standard has been attached to the 28-year-old running back.

The Ravens were willing to stick by Rice until the public relations nightmare of a second video surfaced on Sept. 8, and it’s that visual of the heinous act that makes him unemployable while others who’ve committed — or who have been accused of committing — similar acts have received more of a pass. Fair or not, it appears to be reality for Rice, who continues to wait for his second chance.

Will Ray Rice receive another chance in the NFL?

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If no team signs Rice soon, his chances wouldn’t appear to improve with the upcoming draft that includes a deep group of quality running backs who are several years younger and possess more upside.

Four months after an arbitrator ruled in Rice’s favor and forced his reinstatement, the question is no longer whether he should receive another chance. Everyone has his or her own opinion on that matter that’s unlikely to change at this point.

But when those who know Rice best won’t even give the three-time Pro Bowl selection a second chance, you must seriously wonder if it will ever happen.

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2015 Orioles preview: Delmon Young

Posted on 26 March 2015 by Luke Jones

With Opening Day less than two weeks away, we’ll take a look at a member of the 2015 Orioles every day as they try to defend their American League East title this season.

March 9 – Adam Jones
March 10 – Chris Tillman
March 11 – J.J. Hardy
March 12 – Zach Britton
March 13 – Chris Davis
March 14 – Wei-Yin Chen
March 15 – Jonathan Schoop
March 16 – Travis Snider
March 17 – Kevin Gausman
March 18 – Alejandro De Aza
March 19 – Tommy Hunter
March 20 – Manny Machado
March 21 – Brad Brach
March 22 – Steve Pearce
March 23 – Darren O’Day
March 24 – Caleb Joseph
March 25 – Wesley Wright

OF Delmon Young

Opening Day age: 29

Contract status: Will become a free agent after the 2015 season

Minor-league options remaining: None

2014 stats: .302/.337/.442, 7 HR, 30 RBI, 27 R, 2 SB, 255 PA

Why to be impressed: In addition to providing one of the most exciting moments in Camden Yards history in Game 2 of the American League Division Series, Young was one of the best pinch-hitters in the majors last year, going 10-for-20 during the regular season before delivering the fatal blow against Detroit. Though he’s been better against left-handed pitching in his career, Young’s .809 on-base plus slugging percentage against right-handers in 2014 could bode well for an increased role this year.

Why to be concerned: Manager Buck Showalter has spent a lot of time talking up Young’s defense in the outfield, but the defensive-minded Orioles would be wise leaving him in the primary roles of designated hitter and coming off the bench. Young’s career .742 OPS doesn’t play well as a full-time designated hitter or corner outfielder, so you wonder if an increased role this year will expose his deficiencies and prohibit him from duplicating the magic he seemed to find off the bench last year.

2015 outlook: With the departures of Nelson Cruz and Nick Markakis, Young appears to be a good bet to easily surpass the 255 plate appearances he received a year ago. However, his history of struggling against right-handed pitching shouldn’t be ignored and that will impact his overall production. In 375 plate appearances, Young will hit somewhere around 10 homers while posting a decent, but unspectacular .755 OPS as the primary DH.

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Gausman going to bullpen would be shortsighted move by Orioles

Posted on 26 March 2015 by Luke Jones

It’s no secret that Orioles manager Buck Showalter faces a predicament with his starting rotation.

The possibilities have been discussed at length with six starters vying for five spots and Ubaldo Jimenez’s contract serving as the albatross that can’t be ignored, no matter how much fans would like the Orioles to. Fortunately, the 31-year-old right-hander has shown enough progress this spring to create cautious optimism, but what that means for the starting rotation remains to be seen.

Thursday offered a glimpse at which direction the Orioles might be leaning with less than two weeks to go until Opening Day. Appearing in only his third Grapefruit League game of the spring on Thursday, right-hander Kevin Gausman pitched an inning in relief and allowed the go-ahead two-run homer by Detroit’s Victor Martinez in a 6-4 loss.

The result was of little consequence, but it was Showalter’s revelation after the game that raises concern for how the Orioles are thinking of using the 24-year-old right-hander who last season posted a 3.57 ERA in 20 starts and also owned the best fielding independent pitching mark (3.41) of any member of the rotation.

“[We] might bring Gaus back shorter until everything shakes out,” Showalter told reporters. “I want him to be ready to do both things.”

Of course, the Orioles skipper is referring to Gausman pitching in relief, a role in which he thrived in the playoffs by allowing one earned run and striking out seven in eight innings. There’s no doubting that Gausman could dominate in a relief role to help fill the void of dominant reliever Andrew Miller, who departed via free agency.

But it’s a role that’s too shortsighted for both him and the Orioles over the course of a 162-game schedule. If August or September rolls around and the 2012 first-round pick isn’t one of their best four of five starters and they need the boost in the bullpen, his power arm is a major asset in the late innings and he can let it rip with the end of the season in sight.

Before then, Gausman needs to be pitching every five days and if that can’t be in Baltimore right now, he should be optioned to Triple-A Norfolk to begin the season. The Orioles want the 6-foot-3 pitcher to improve his slider — he threw a hanger to Martinez for the long home run on Thursday afternoon — and he can best do that starting for the Tides.

The truth is that a great reliever isn’t as valuable as a good starting pitcher, which Gausman proved himself to be last season. And until he shows he can’t be a good starter, the bullpen should not be Gausman’s destination so early in a season. A long relief role would provide infrequent work, and short relief is a different animal than throwing 100 pitches every five or six days and it would be obtuse to suggest one can bounce back and forth between those roles easily.

To think the Orioles will make it through the season with only five starting pitchers isn’t realistic, so what would they do if Jimenez falters or another starter gets hurt? Worse yet, what happens if both occur at the same time?

Baltimore would then be in the position of needing to turn to lower-ceiling options such as T.J. McFarland, Mike Wright, and Tyler Wilson from Triple A while trying to stretch out Gausman over the course of a few weeks. It’s a strategy that lacks efficiency and can also lead to health concerns as some opine that trying to stretch out a reliever to become a starter in the middle of a season is a significant injury risk.

Gausman has handled being yo-yoed between Baltimore and Norfolk with impressive maturity over the last two seasons, but pitchers are creatures of routine and tossing him into the bullpen at the beginning of the season is not the recipe if you want him to be an effective starter at some point this season.

Even if Gausman is one of their best five starters, I can’t fault the Orioles for trying to maximize their investment in Jimenez by giving him another shot in the rotation and if the young pitcher is the odd man out for now, so be it.

But relegating Gausman to a relief role in April isn’t the answer when looking at the big picture — in 2015 or beyond that for the promising pitcher. Showalter certainly deserves the benefit of the doubt for repeatedly showing his brilliance over the last few years, but this move wouldn’t feel right.

It might make the bullpen better for now, but such a strategy could backfire on the starting rotation for 2015. And the starting five is the key to keeping the bullpen healthy and productive over the next six months and, hopefully, beyond that.

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Wieters remaining in Florida once season begins

Posted on 26 March 2015 by Luke Jones

It became clear last week that Matt Wieters wouldn’t be ready for Opening Day, but we learned Thursday that the Orioles catcher will remain in Florida once the regular season begins.

Speaking to reporters prior to Thursday’s spring game against the Detroit Tigers, manager Buck Showalter revealed that Wieters will return to Sarasota for extended spring training following Baltimore’s season-opening series against the Tampa Bay Rays in St. Petersburg. Wieters was shut down with elbow tendinitis a day after playing his first Grapefruit League game behind the plate on March 17.

Wieters continues to build strength in his right elbow after undergoing Tommy John surgery last June 17 and will be placed on the 15-day disabled list before the season begins. The Orioles had hoped that the 28-year-old would be ready for the opener, but they knew it would take perfect circumstances in order to happen.

Showalter said Wieters will play in extended spring games when he’s ready before eventually going on a rehab assignment with the combination of Single-A Frederick and Double-A Bowie, which would allow the catcher to be based out of the Orioles clubhouse in Baltimore each day. It remains unclear when that will happen or when he is targeting a season debut.

Though different injuries and timetables, Wieters’ situation is reminiscent of how the Orioles handled third baseman Manny Machado coming back from his first knee surgery last spring when they pointed to Opening Day as a possibility for his return before backing off over the last couple weeks of spring training. Machado eventually made his 2014 season debut on May 1.

Wieters is expected to resume throwing on Saturday and could play in a minor-league spring game next week, according to Showalter.

The three-time All-Star catcher was hitless in 23 Grapefruit League at-bats while primarily serving as a designated hitter earlier this month.

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2015 Orioles preview: Wesley Wright

Posted on 25 March 2015 by Luke Jones

With Opening Day just two weeks away, we’ll take a look at a member of the 2015 Orioles every day as they try to defend their American League East title this season.

March 9 – Adam Jones
March 10 – Chris Tillman
March 11 – J.J. Hardy
March 12 – Zach Britton
March 13 – Chris Davis
March 14 – Wei-Yin Chen
March 15 – Jonathan Schoop
March 16 – Travis Snider
March 17 – Kevin Gausman
March 18 – Alejandro De Aza
March 19 – Tommy Hunter
March 20 – Manny Machado
March 21 – Brad Brach
March 22 – Steve Pearce
March 23 – Darren O’Day
March 24 – Caleb Joseph

LHP Wesley Wright

Opening Day age: 30

Contract status: Will become a free agent after the 2015 season

Minor-league options remaining: None

2014 stats (with Chicago): 0-3, 3.17 ERA, 1.39 WHIP, 6.9 K/IP, 2 HR, 48 1/3 innings

Why to be impressed: The former Cubs pitcher has posted an ERA below 3.70 in each of the last four seasons and has averaged 8.7 strikeouts per nine innings over the course of his seven-year major league career. The southpaw held right-handed hitters to a .719 on-base plus slugging percentage last season while lefties posted an anemic .594 OPS.

Why to be concerned: Though he had no apparent drop in velocity in 2014, Wright struck out a career-low 6.9 per nine innings a year ago while his walk rate was his highest since 2011. His career 1.40 WHIP becomes even more concerning if he once again fails to strike out hitters like he did last year.

2015 outlook: The acquisition of Wright appears to have made Brian Matusz expendable in the right trade as he has enjoyed plenty of success against left-handed hitters in his career. However, Wright doesn’t have the repertoire to be able to trust him for much more than a situational role in the later innings. An ERA around 3.60 appears to be a fair target if manager Buck Showalter can be selective in using Wright mostly against lefty batters.

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Taking stock of Orioles starting rotation

Posted on 25 March 2015 by Luke Jones

The Orioles have a problem with their starting rotation less than two weeks away from Opening Day.

It’s far from the worst dilemma as many clubs don’t have two or three quality arms, let alone enjoy the luxury of choosing among six starters for five spots. It’s a good problem to have quite frankly, even if you roll your eyes thinking about the possibility of Ubaldo Jimenez taking the ball every fifth day.

Fans and critics will understandably remain skeptical, but the steady improvement of Jimenez this spring has the veteran right-hander in position to be in the rotation to begin the season. After averaging 5.5 walks per nine innings last season, Jimenez has walked just one batter in his last three outings spanning 13 innings. A new windup and a quieter delivery have led to better results for the 31-year-old with a career 4.00 ERA in nine major league seasons.

The reality is that short of a disastrous spring, Jimenez — who’s owed more than $38 million over the next three years — was always likely to at least receive a chance in the rotation to start the year. Whether he remains in the rotation for long will be the question.

Assuming Jimenez doesn’t implode over his final couple spring outings — far from a given, of course — manager Buck Showalter and executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette will have interesting decisions to make in how to proceed with the rest of the rotation.

If Ubaldo Jimenez makes the starting rotation, who is the odd man out and where does he end up??

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The possibility of Duquette trading one of his starting pitchers has been discussed since the start of the offseason, but the chances of needing only five starters all season is extremely remote, making that a dicey plan of attack unless the return in the trade provides a major boost elsewhere.

Chris Tillman and Wei-Yin Chen are obviously safe and both have pitched well this spring.

Miguel Gonzalez and Kevin Gausman each have a remaining minor-league option and have been discussed as the two likeliest candidates to be the odd man out to make room for Jimenez, but neither has had a poor spring.

Gonzalez has posted a 4.26 ERA and has yet to walk a batter in 12 2/3 innings of Grapefruit League action. The right-hander could be used in long relief, but you run the risk of him not being stretched out enough to rejoin the rotation if he’s in the bullpen for too long.

The Orioles have handled Gausman differently than the other starters this spring as he comes off the biggest workload of his professional career a year ago. Brought along more slowly, Gausman has pitched primarily in minor-league spring games and has logged only three Grapefruit League innings. Perhaps it’s a sign that the Orioles envision the 24-year-old beginning the season at Triple-A Norfolk despite the fact that he was one of the club’s best starters last season. It wouldn’t make sense to relegate Gausman to a bullpen role early in the year where he either wouldn’t pitch regularly or would be shortened up and used too frequently to safely return him to a starting role at some point later in the season.

Optioning Gonzalez or Gausman to the minors would give the Orioles more flexibility to potentially stash one of their two Rule 5 picks — Logan Verrett or Jason Garcia — in the bullpen, but it’s difficult to argue that being the best possible 25-man roster for a club trying to defend the American League East title.

Bud Norris might be the most interesting case of any of the Baltimore starting pitchers at the moment. The 30-year-old is out of options and is coming off arguably the best season of his career, but he has dealt with back stiffness this spring while posting a 9.26 ERA, which includes nine walks in 11 2/3 innings.

It would be crass to draw a strong conclusion from such a small sample size, but Norris’ struggles might indicate his back is a bigger problem than he’s leading on. Either way, the Orioles need to see better results from the right-hander in his final outings before the start of the season or they may need to look at his health with more scrutiny. The bullpen would also be a possibility for Norris should his woes continue over the next couple weeks and into the regular season.

So, how should the Orioles proceed if we’re to assume Jimenez begins the season with a shot in the rotation?

It isn’t the worst problem to have, but there’s no easy answer for Showalter with the season rapidly approaching. And whatever decision he makes will come while holding his breath that Jimenez’s improvement isn’t just a brief aberration.

 

 

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NFL passes proposal banning New England’s ineligible receiver tactic

Posted on 25 March 2015 by Luke Jones

The “circus act” used by the New England Patriots in their divisional playoff win against the Ravens will be illegal moving forward.

On the final day of the league meetings in Phoenix, NFL owners passed a proposal forbidding players with eligible numbers to line up as ineligible outside the tackle box. Though the proposal was officially submitted by the league’s competition committee last week, head coach John Harbaugh has made his feelings about the tactic clear, reiterating his original protest that prompted an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty in the third quarter of the 35-31 loss on Jan. 10.

Patriots running back Shane Vereen reported as ineligible and split out three times — while covered up by an eligible receiver — during a touchdown drive in the third quarter. Under the new rules, Vereen would be required to line up as part of the offensive line if he were to report as ineligible.

“We have jersey numbers for a reason. Let’s use it, like they do in college,” Harbaugh said Tuesday in Phoenix. “That was John Madden’s proposal and I like that proposal. Certain jersey numbers are eligible numbers and certain jersey numbers are ineligible numbers. If you’re eligible, you put on an eligible number. If you’re ineligible, you put on an ineligible number. They do it in college and they did it in the NFL up until, I don’t know, I’m going to guess the 60’s. That’s why they created ineligible and eligible jersey numbers so you can look at them and say, ‘He’s eligible and he’s not.’

“Now, we through kind of a circus act where we have to identify who is ineligible and who is not with signals. That’s what got the referees in trouble in the playoffs.”

Harbaugh has said his point of contention was with the tardiness in which referee Bill Vinovich announced which player was ineligible, but many have simply taken the Baltimore coach’s objections as sour grapes after his defense was unprepared to handle Patriots coach Bill Belichick’s unconventional — but legal — tactic. With the rule change passing, it’s clear that the Ravens had plenty of support as even Pittsburgh Steelers president and co-owner Art Rooney II agreed over the weekend that his AFC North rival had a legitimate gripe.

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady suggested after the game that the Ravens should “study the rulebook” when asked about Harbaugh’s objections.

The rule change now means such a tactic would result in a five-yard penalty as an illegal substitution.

 

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2015 Orioles preview: Caleb Joseph

Posted on 24 March 2015 by Luke Jones

With Opening Day just two weeks away, we’ll take a look at a member of the 2015 Orioles every day as they try to defend their American League East title this season.

March 9 – Adam Jones
March 10 – Chris Tillman
March 11 – J.J. Hardy
March 12 – Zach Britton
March 13 – Chris Davis
March 14 – Wei-Yin Chen
March 15 – Jonathan Schoop
March 16 – Travis Snider
March 17 – Kevin Gausman
March 18 – Alejandro De Aza
March 19 – Tommy Hunter
March 20 – Manny Machado
March 21 – Brad Brach
March 22 – Steve Pearce
March 23 – Darren O’Day

C Caleb Joseph

Opening Day age: 28

Contract status: Will become a free agent after the 2020 season

Minor-league options remaining: Three

2014 stats: .207/.264/.354, 9 HR, 28 RBI, 22 R, 0 SB, 275 PA

Why to be impressed: After seven seasons in the minors, Joseph had a reputation for not being very good defensively, but he threw out 23 of 57 runners (40 percent) trying to steal when he was promoted in May to replace the injured Matt Wieters. Joseph had only 171 plate appearances in Triple A, but he showed solid power as a rookie, hitting nine homers in a 47-game span.

Why to be concerned: Joseph was hitting .236 with a respectable .697 OPS in early September before he tired down the stretch and went 0-for-30 with 13 strikeouts to close the regular season. With pitchers having seen Joseph at the major league level, he’ll need to make significant adjustments to improve on his 25.1 percent strikeout rate from a year ago.

2015 outlook: With Wieters sidelined for at least the start of the season, Joseph is expected to handle the bulk of the catching duties in his place, which could allow him to solidify his standing as the backup. If you eliminate his 1-for-26 start and 0-for-30 finish, Joseph put up some respectable numbers (.263 average) in his rookie season. Finding enough consistency to raise his average to the .240 range will be the challenge, but his track record as a hitter in the minor leagues suggests it’s a reasonable expectation along with an ability to hit a few homers in the process.

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