Tag Archive | "Baltimore"

Ravens still awaiting official word on Rice discipline

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Ravens still awaiting official word on Rice discipline

Posted on 22 July 2014 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens officially welcome veterans back to their Owings Mills facility for the start of training camp on Wednesday while continuing to remain in the dark on the status of running back Ray Rice.

The 27-year-old running back and his wife met with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell on June 16, leading many to assume a ruling on a potential suspension would come before the start of camp as the Ravens try to rebound from an 8-8 season that saw them miss the postseason for the first time since 2007. Head coach John Harbaugh said Tuesday he was unaware of when a decision or announcement would be made regarding Rice’s standing for the start of the 2014 season.

The seventh-year coach wouldn’t say whether he was surprised not to already know Rice’s fate at this late stage of the summer.

“I’d rather not get into that. It’s not for me to say,” Harbaugh said. “It’s not my decision to make or any of us here. It’s in other people’s hands. I’m sure there are a lot of complications in making those kinds of decisions. There are many sides to every story, and there are a lot of factors. There are other people involved; there are other disciplinary situations involved around the league. That has to be weighed and taken into context.

“They’re going to have to sort through that and be fair about the whole thing. I know the league is very judicious about that. I think they work really hard to do the right thing. I don’t think they worry about public opinion too much. I think they want to do the right thing by the people involved, and we’ll see how it goes.”

Rice took part in organized team activities and mandatory minicamp in the spring after pleading not guilty to a third-degree charge of aggravated assault and being accepted into a pretrial intervention program. His legal trouble stemmed from a February incident in which he was arrested and charged for allegedly striking his then-fiancée, Janay Palmer, in an Atlantic City, N.J. casino.

According to Harbaugh, the Rice suspension will not impact preparations for the start of the regular season until after the second preseason game. Third-year backup Bernard Pierce, veteran Justin Forsett, and rookie Lorenzo Taliaferro are expected to compete for more reps while Rice serves his expected suspension.

“We’ll just be business as usual until then,” Harbaugh said. “We’re installing for the first six days [of camp] and working situations through the first two preseason games. Once we get past the second preseason game, then we’ll need to know that. Whenever they’re ready to let us know, we’ll be ready to hear it.”

The Ravens coach didn’t have much to offer in response to the arrest of cornerback Jimmy Smith earlier this month.

The fourth-year defensive back was arrested and charged with misdemeanor disorderly conduct after an incident at a Towson bar on July 12. Smith became the fifth Ravens player to be arrested this offseason.

“I understand what happened,” said Harbaugh, who reiterated that the message about off-field conduct has been delivered to his players extensively. “I heard it from a lot of different sources, and I haven’t thought about it since. I think I’ve given it the amount of attention that it deserves.”

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Adam Jones named Orioles’ Heart & Hustle Award winner

Posted on 22 July 2014 by WNST Staff

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — The Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association (MLBPAA) is pleased to announce the 30 preliminary winners of the 2014 Heart & Hustle Award. This esteemed award honors active players who demonstrate a passion for the game of baseball and best embody the values, spirit and tradition of the game. The Heart & Hustle Award is also the only award in Major League Baseball that is voted on by former players.

The MLBPAA formed 30 committees, comprised of Alumni players with established relationships to each team. One player from each Major League team is chosen by the committees based on the passion, desire, and work ethic demonstrated both on and off the field. These players will be recognized prior to an upcoming home game. As the season draws to a close, fans, all Alumni and active players will vote to select the final winner from the 30 team winners. The previous overall winners are David Eckstein (2005), Craig Biggio (2006, 2007), Grady Sizemore (2008), Albert Pujols (2009), Roy Halladay (2010), Torii Hunter (2011), Mike Trout (2012) and Dustin Pedroia (2013).

The final winner will be announced Nov. 18, 2014, at the 15th Annual Legends for Youth Dinner in New York City. This event is the primary fundraiser for the series of free Legends for Youth baseball clinics. These clinics impact more than 15,000 children each year at 110 clinics, allowing them the unique opportunity to interact with and learn from players who have left a lasting impact on the game of baseball.

The 30 individual team winners are as follows:

American League
Baltimore Orioles: Adam Jones
Boston Red Sox: Dustin Pedroia
Chicago White Sox: Adam Eaton
Cleveland Indians: Michael Brantley
Detroit Tigers: Don Kelly
Houston Astros: Jose Altuve
Kansas City Royals: Alex Gordon
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim: Mike Trout
Minnesota Twins: Brian Dozier
New York Yankees: Brett Gardner
Oakland Athletics: Josh Donaldson
Seattle Mariners: Kyle Seager
Tampa Bay Rays: Kevin Kiermaier
Texas Rangers: Adrian Beltre
Toronto Blue Jays: Mark Buehrle

National League
Arizona Diamondbacks: Paul Goldschmidt
Atlanta Braves: Jason Heyward
Chicago Cubs: Nate Schierholtz
Cincinnati Reds: Skip Schumaker
Colorado Rockies: Corey Dickerson
Los Angeles Dodgers: Dee Gordon
Miami Marlins: Christian Yelich
Milwaukee Brewers: Jonathan Lucroy
New York Mets: Daniel Murphy
Philadelphia Phillies: Chase Utley
Pittsburgh Pirates: Josh Harrison
San Diego Padres: Tyson Ross
San Francisco Giants: Hunter Pence
St. Louis Cardinals: Matt Carpenter
Washington Nationals: Ian Desmond

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Top 10 Baseball Distractions

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Top 10 Baseball Distractions

Posted on 21 July 2014 by Glenn Clark

Honorable Mention: Boxing-Gennady Golovkin vs. Daniel Geale (Saturday 9:30pm from New York live on HBO); MLL: Chesapeake Bayhawks @ New York Lizards (Sunday 3pm from Hempstead, NY live on CBS Sports Network); WNBA: Connecticut Sun @ Washington Mystics (Wednesday 11:30am from Verizon Center live on Comcast SportsNet/NBA TV), Tulsa Shock @ Washington Mystics (Friday 7pm from Verizon Center live on Comcast SportsNet/NBA TV), Atlanta Dream @ Washington Mystics (Sunday 4pm from Verizon Center live on Comcast SportsNet/NBA TV)

10. Finesse Mitchell (Thursday-Saturday Baltimore Comedy Factory); German Festival (Saturday & Sunday Timonium Fairgrounds); Carroll County Fair (Saturday-Monday Carroll County Agricultural Center); Hercules” and “Lucy” out in theaters (Friday); Transcendence” and “Sabotage” available (Tuesday)

There is not a single damn thing wrong with a good German festival.

The Rock as Hercules is fine and all, but this version of The Rock is obviously still better.

9. Dirty Heads/Pepper (Sunday 7:30pm Pier Six Pavilion); Warped Tour feat. Anberlin/Yellowcard/Less Than Jake (Tuesday 11am Merriweather Post Pavilion), Beck (Thursday 6pm Merriweather Post Pavilion), Neutral Milk Hotel (Friday 6:30pm Merriweather Post Pavilion), Phish (Saturday & Sunday 5:30pm Merriweather Post Pavilion); KISS/Def Leppard (Friday 7pm Jiffy Lube Live), Dave Matthews Band (Saturday 7pm Jiffy Lube Live), Wiz Khalifa/Young Jeezy (Sunday 6pm Jiffy Lube Live); Lionel Richie/Cee-Lo Green (Tuesday 8pm Wolf Trap), Sarah McLachlan (Saturday 8pm Wolf Trap), Darius Rucker (Sunday 7:30pm Wolf Trap); Kelly Bell Band/All Mighty Senators (Friday 8pm 8×10 Club); The Dan Band (Friday 8pm Rams Head on Stage); Mint Condition (Friday 8pm Fillmore Silver Spring), Ziggy Marley (Saturday 8pm Fillmore Silver Spring); Jason Aldean/Florida Georgia Line (Friday 8pm Nationals Park), Billy Joel (Saturday 8pm Nationals Park); Believe in Music Festival feat. Thievery Corporation, Jimmy Cliff, Lake Street Dive, The Bridge (Saturday 12pm Oregon Ridge); Anberlin “Lowborn” available (Tuesday)

This Beck is fine and all, but I kinda miss THIS Beck…

Attention Phish fans: Decriminalization does not go into effect until later this year.

Among the Top 25 most played Dave Matthews Band songs of all time, this one doesn’t get enough appreciation.

Support our partners Living Classroom Foundation at Oregon Ridge. Also, Lake Street Dive is WONDERFUL.

(Continued on Page 2…)

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Ravens name Odoms new national anthem singer

Posted on 21 July 2014 by WNST Staff

RAVENS ANNOUNCE NEW NATIONAL ANTHEM SINGER

The Baltimore Ravens announced Monday that Joey Odoms has been named the winner of their national anthem competition and is scheduled to sing at each home game during the 2014 season.

One of approximately 50 people to audition for the role, Odoms becomes the Ravens’ second-ever regular performer of “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Longtime vocalist Mishael Miller, who sang at nearly every home game for 18 seasons (since 1996), made his last appearance at the Ravens’ 2013 home finale prior to becoming the head pastor at St. Luke A.M.E. Zion Church in Birmingham, Ala.

A member of the Maryland Army National Guard who recently returned from a tour of duty in Afghanistan, Odoms, 25, is a former Baltimore City 911 operator who is also known for his work as a songwriter, actor and photographer.

The Baltimore native, who attended St. Frances Academy, has made multiple appearances on HBO’s “The Wire” and worked both on and off the stage with many international and domestic performing artists. Impressively, he has also sung at several large-scale military events throughout the world.

“This is amazing,” Odoms stated after learning he had been chosen as the Ravens’ national anthem singer. “I was caught off guard, because I really didn’t think I would get it. I remember sitting there over the years while watching Ravens games and thinking to myself, ‘I could probably do that,’ and how cool it would feel to actually do it. But I never thought I could get to that point or how it would ever happen.”

This past February, Odoms was in Kandahar, Afghanistan, when his commander announced that Ravens head coach John Harbaugh was on the base visiting military members. Upon meeting Harbaugh and obtaining his autograph, Odoms asked the coach if he would connect him with somebody who could help him achieve his dream of singing the national anthem on gameday.

“At that time, I didn’t even know Mishael had moved away or that the Ravens were looking for someone,” Odoms explained. “I was just hoping that maybe there was an opportunity to sing at one game.”

But about five months later, after learning of the Ravens’ competition and filming a video audition alone from his base tent in Afghanistan, Odoms emerged as a finalist to replace Miller. Along with seven other candidates, he then took part in a final live audition in front of eight judges on the field at M&T Bank Stadium on July 15.

“In an intense competition, he became a clear choice for our committee,” Ravens senior vice president of public and community relations Kevin Byrne said. “His voice is pure. His presentation of the anthem is respectful, powerful and done with reverence. We could have chosen any of our eight finalists, and we think our fans would have enjoyed each of them.”

Odoms is scheduled to make his Ravens anthem debut on July 28 at M&T Bank Stadium prior to the team’s free and open training camp practice, which begins at 7 p.m.

“I’m really excited right now, amped up and ready to go,” he stated.

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Orioles activate Norris, option Clevenger to Triple-A Norfolk

Posted on 21 July 2014 by WNST Staff

PRESS RELEASE

The Orioles announced Monday that they have recalled right-handed pitcher Bud Norris from Double-A Bowie and optioned catcher Steve Clevenger to Triple-A Norfolk.

Norris, 29, is 7-6 with a 3.96 ERA (91.0IP, 40ER) in 15 starts for the Orioles this season.

Clevenger, 28, appeared in two games for the Orioles after being recalled on July 12. He has batted .328/.378/.458 in 36 games with Norfolk and .240/.296/.373 in 81 plate appearances for the Orioles this season.

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Five questions entering 2014 Ravens training camp

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Five questions entering 2014 Ravens training camp

Posted on 21 July 2014 by Luke Jones

John Harbaugh enters new territory this summer in trying to guide the Ravens to a bounce-back season after missing the playoffs for the first time in his tenure a year ago.

The seventh-year head coach is coming off his most difficult offseason in not only revamping his offensive coaching staff but dealing with the arrests of five different players, painting the organization in a more negative and embarrassing light than it’s faced in quite some time. Of course, the Ravens are hopeful they’ve made the necessary changes to rebound from an 8-8 season and return to the postseason playing in what appears to be a wide-open AFC North.

As rookies, quarterbacks, and select veterans coming off injuries officially take the practice field in Owings Mills on Tuesday, here are five questions — of many others, quite frankly — to ponder:

1. Will different automatically translate to better for the Ravens offense? If so, how much better?

The easy answer is the 29th-ranked offense in 2013 couldn’t be much worse, so it’s no profound statement to say the unit will be improved under new offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak, who will bring a stronger emphasis on running the football. The real question is how much better the Ravens will be after averaging a league-worst and franchise-worst 3.1 yards per carry.

Kubiak has an excellent reputation dating back to his days with Mike Shanahan in Denver, but quarterback Joe Flacco’s adjustment to a West Coast offense centered around timing, excellent footwork, and shorter throws — not regarded as his biggest strengths — will be interesting to watch after he showed encouraging improvements as spring workouts progressed. Of course, the Ravens hope the free-agent signings of wide receiver Steve Smith and tight end Owen Daniels in addition to a fully-recovered Dennis Pitta will provide the quarterback with consistent weapons he sorely lacked beyond wideout Torrey Smith last season.

Steve Smith was the standout acquisition of the offseason and has been praised for the leadership and swagger he’s already brought to the offense, but he has plenty to prove as a 35-year-old receiver whose yards per catch average has dropped in three straight years. Daniels figures to be a clear upgrade as the No. 2 tight end behind Pitta, but he played in only five games last season and must prove he can still gain separation entering his ninth NFL season.

The ultimate factor in determining how high the offense can climb will be the improvement of the offensive line with new center Jeremy Zuttah and the return of left guard Kelechi Osemele from season-ending back surgery. Zuttah will be an improvement over Gino Gradkowski with his physical style of play and will be a leader by example in the trenches, but you wonder if there will be some growing pains in making line calls with the veteran having spent more time at guard during his career. Osemele was impressive during spring workouts, but the Ravens need to see his surgically-repaired back hold up during the daily rigors of camp and the third-year lineman had to alter his workout practices as a result of the procedure.

And, of course, the Ravens still aren’t sure who will line up at right tackle, with Rick Wagner the favorite entering camp.

The offense will look quite different, but will there be enough improvement for the Ravens to climb back among the AFC’s elite?

2. How does maligned offensive line coach Juan Castillo fit with the Kubiak system?

After all the hand-wringing over Castillo and calls for him to be dismissed after the offensive line’s woeful 2013 campaign, the hiring of Kubiak all but eliminated that chatter. However, his seat will heat up again very quickly if his unit doesn’t produce immediately in 2014.

Players have dismissed any notion of growing pains last season, but it was clear the coexistence of Castillo and former offensive line coach Andy Moeller wasn’t a good fit. The bigger question this year will be how effectively Castillo implements Kubiak’s brand of stretch outside zone blocking that has produced a plethora of 1,000-yard running backs over the years.

Castillo demands a lot from his his unit before, during, and after practices, which made him a favorite in Philadelphia for so many years, but Harbaugh will have a difficult time sticking with his longtime colleague if the offensive line gets off to another slow start in 2014.

3. How many younger players are ready to make the jump to become standouts?

It’s no secret that the Ravens have undergone quite a transformation since winning Super Bowl XLVII, but a major key in rebounding from last year’s 8-8 finish will be the emergence of younger impact players, something there wasn’t enough of in 2013.

Torrey Smith and cornerback Jimmy Smith took sizable leaps last season, but others such as Osemele, safety Matt Elam, linebacker Courtney Upshaw, running back Bernard Pierce, and defensive tackle Brandon Williams must become more dynamic players if the Ravens are going to bounce back in a significant way.

Entering 2014, how many great players — not good or solid ones — do the Ravens currently have? Linebacker Terrell Suggs and defensive tackle Haloti Ngata might still be considered great around the league but are on the wrong side of 30 and not as dominant as they were a few years ago.

Yes, the Ravens will lean on the likes of veterans Steve Smith, Daniels, and Zuttah to upgrade their respective positions, but substantial improvement in 2014 will only come if the draft classes of 2012 and 2013 are ready to make a larger impact than they did a year ago. And if the likes of linebacker C.J. Mosley and defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan can bring immediate impact as rookies, Baltimore will be that much more dangerous.

Simply put, the core of this roster needs younger and more dynamic talent to emerge.

4. What can we expect out of Ray Rice?

Even putting aside the ongoing saga of when NFL commissioner Roger Goodell will finally make a ruling on a suspension for the embattled running back, it’s difficult to project what kind of player Rice will be entering his seventh season and coming off the worst year of his career.

The 27-year-old was noticeably leaner and faster during spring practices, but it’s difficult to measure elusiveness — or any ability to break tackles — when players aren’t participating in full-contact drills. Much like we ponder about the entire offense, it’s not difficult to envision Rice being better at a lighter weight and with a better offensive line in front of him, but it’s fair to ask if his days as a game-changing back are over.

It will also be fascinating to see if Kubiak views Rice as an every-down back or is more eager to continue to hand opportunities to the likes of Pierce, veteran newcomer Justin Forsett, or rookie Lorenzo Taliaferro even after the sixth-year back returns from his anticipated suspension. Rice split time with Forsett working with the starters this spring — Pierce was still limited returning from offseason shoulder surgery — but it’s difficult to gauge how much of that was Forsett’s experience in Kubiak’s system as well as the Ravens preparing for the suspension.

5. Is the commitment to winning strong enough top to bottom on the roster?

You never like to make generalizations about what’s currently a 90-man roster when referencing five specific players being arrested during the offseason, but it’s fair to question the overall commitment when your players make up more than 25 percent of the NFL’s total number of reported arrests since last season.

Most already expected Harbaugh to have a tougher training camp following the first non-playoff season of his tenure in Baltimore, but the poor off-field behavior lends even more credence to the head coach working his players harder than in past summers.

Make no mistake, there are countless individuals on the roster who are fully dedicated to winning, but a chain is only as strong as its weakest link and the Ravens will be under the microscope in not only how they conduct themselves off the field but how they perform on it this season. The poor choices of several individuals unfortunately drew that scrutiny for the entire roster as critics question the organization’s leadership and overall character.

“We have good, really good guys,” Harbaugh said on the final day of mandatory minicamp last month. “Football matters to them. The more it matters to you, the less inclined you are to do anything to jeopardize that.”

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Berry’s strong start highlights Orioles minor league recap – 7/20

Posted on 20 July 2014 by WNST Staff

Here’s what happened down in the Orioles’ farm system Sunday…

-Pitcher Mike Wright was rocked (4.2IP, 6ER, 7H, 2BB) as the Triple A Norfolk Tides were crushed 14-2 by the Rochester Red Wings. Kelvin De La Cruz also allowed three earned runs over 2.1 innings in relief, third baseman Steve Lombardozzi went 2-4 with a double and run scored in the loss.

-Starter Tim Berry worked seven shutout innings, allowing just three hits and three walks as the AA Bowie Baysox blanked the Altoona Curve 3-0. Reliever Oliver Drake worked a scoreless ninth for his 23rd save of the season, right fielder Ronald Bermudez went 3-3 with a walk and scored two runs in the victory as well.

-Sebastian Vader had a rough start for the high A Frederick Keys, allowing four earned runs on eight hits and a walk over just 5.1 innings in a 5-0 loss to the Winston-Salem Dash. Former Catonsville Community College standout Glynn Davis recorded the Keys’ only hit of the game, a single off Dash starter Tony Bucciferro.

-Third baseman Drew Dosch went 3-5 with a RBI but it wasn’t enough for the Single A Delmarva Shorebirds in a 5-4 loss to the Hagerstown Suns. The Shorebirds had a 4-3 lead after seven innings but reliever Garrett Cortright allowed single runs in both the 8th and 9th to allow Hagerstown the victory.

-Pitcher Luc Rennie gave up eight earned runs (nine hits, two walks) as the low A level Aberdeen Ironbirds were blasted 14-3 by the Mahoning Valley Scappers. Center fielder Oswill Lartguez and shortstop Austin Pfeiffer had two hits apiece in the loss.

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Report: Orioles discussing Burnett trade with Phillies

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Report: Orioles discussing Burnett trade with Phillies

Posted on 20 July 2014 by Glenn Clark

With Major League Baseball’s non-waiver trade deadline less than two weeks away, the Baltimore Orioles are apparently pursuing help for their starting rotation. FoxSports.com/Fox Sports 1′s Jon Morosi reported the following Saturday…



The right hander is 6-9 this season with a 4.08 ERA and 1.361 WHIP over 21 starts in 2014-although he has shown durability by working 136.2 innings-over six innings per start. The 16 year veteran signed a deal with the Phils in the offseason after receiving interest from the Birds in free agency. Burnett’s contract is a bit complicated, as explained in a NJ.com report…

Burnett’s contract could scare off potential suitors if the Phillies don’t eat money in a complex one-year, $16 million contract that easily could turn into a two-year, $32.25 million deal by virtue of a 2015 player option and performance bonuses.

If Burnett stays healthy this season and doesn’t play in 2015, a team trading for him this month could end up paying as little as $5.25 million – $2.5 million in salary, $1.75 million in bonuses (if he makes 10 more starts) and a $1 million buyout.

But if Burnett opts to play in 2015 and he makes 32 starts this season – he’s 12 away – his club option jumps from $8.5 million to $12.75 million. He also can earn another $500,000 next season for making his 24th and 27th starts, and $750,000 for making his 30th start.

Burnett last pitched in the American League in 2011 with the New York Yankees (where he had won a World Series ring in 2009), going 11-11 with a 5.15 ERA. It was his second consecutive season with a five plus ERA for the Yanks, although he followed it up with consecutive sub four ERA seasons after moving to the National League and joining the Pittsburgh Pirates.

The Phillies have been expected to be interested in moving a number of veterans, perhaps also including fellow pitchers Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels as well as second baseman Chase Utley and shortstop Jimmy Rollins. Philly improved to 43-54 Saturday after a 2-1 over the Atlanta Braves. They are 10 games back of the Washington Nationals and Atlanta Braves in the NL East.

Burnett has a no-trade clause in his contract with Philly, but it is believed the O’s are not one of the 21 teams he could block a deal to as his family lives in Monkton. The starter had reportedly chosen the Phillies in part because he did not want to pitch in the AL.

A logjam already exists in the starting rotation in Charm City, as Bud Norris and Miguel Gonzalez will re-join Chris Tillman, Wei-Yin Chen and Kevin Gausman this week. Ubaldo Jimenez (ankle) is slated to return closer to August and the Orioles have not ruled out returning to a six man rotation. Acquiring Burnett or another starter before July 31 would leave the Birds with difficult roster decisions to make. Gonzalez and Chen would seem to be the most likely candidates to be moved to the bullpen.

It is not known what the Phillies would be seeking in compensation for Burnett. Most reports have suggested the O’s would not be likely to part with Gausman or fellow former first round draft pick pitchers Dylan Bundy and Hunter Harvey. Other Orioles prospects who could potentially be interesting to the Phillies or another team looking to make a trade include pitchers Eduardo Rodriguez, Mike Wright and Tim Berry; outfielder Dariel Alvarez and first baseman Christian Walker.

Burnett was roughed up in his most recent start, allowing six earned runs on ten hits and a walk over five innings in a loss to the Braves.

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Ravens place defensive tackle Cody on active PUP list

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Ravens place defensive tackle Cody on active PUP list

Posted on 18 July 2014 by Luke Jones

Only days away from the official start of training camp, the Ravens announced Friday that they’ve placed defensive tackle Terrence Cody on the active physically unable to perform list.

The move was not unexpected as the fifth-year defensive lineman missed the entire spring after undergoing hip surgery earlier this offseason. The designation allows Cody to return to the practice field whenever he’s ready this summer but keeps him eligible for the reserve PUP list used at the start of the regular season should his recovery take longer than expected.

Coach John Harbaugh said during this spring’s organized team activities that he had expected Cody to be sidelined until training camp. The 2010 second-round pick became an unrestricted free agent this past winter before ultimately signing a one-year, $730,000 contract in early April that included no guaranteed money.

Once regarded as the heir apparent to former Ravens nose tackle Kelly Gregg, Cody never lived up to expectations as he lost his starting job in 2012 after starting all 16 games during the 2011 season. In 56 career games, Cody has collected 45 tackles while primarily playing the nose tackle position.

After missing spring OTAs and seeing the Ravens have such high hopes for 2013 third-round pick Brandon Williams and 2014 second-round pick Timmy Jernigan, Cody will need to have a strong preseason to make the 53-man roster and re-establish himself as an option in the defensive line rotation.

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Orioles can prove to be beasts of East by surviving West Coast

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Orioles can prove to be beasts of East by surviving West Coast

Posted on 18 July 2014 by Luke Jones

Sitting in first place at the All-Star break for the first time since 1997 didn’t exactly earn the Orioles any favors as they started the second half of the season in Oakland on Friday night.

A 10-game West Coast trip against the two teams with the best records in the majors and the second wild card leader in the American League probably gave manager Buck Showalter a restless night or two over this week’s respite. Knowing the Orioles play their next 23 games against clubs with winning records — not to mention the six following that against teams with .500 marks at the break — likely made him lose even more sleep.

Of course, Showalter and the Orioles have every right to feel good about themselves after winning 25 of their last 40 to move to 10 games above .500 and turn a 4 1/2-game deficit into a four-game lead over that stretch. They’ve built themselves a small cushion in a division in which no one is without sizable warts and imperfections with Toronto and New York seemingly moving in the wrong direction and Boston and Tampa Bay being mostly bad all season.

No, the trip to the West Coast will neither break nor make the Orioles’ chances of winning their first American League East title since 1997, but those 10 games allow them an opportunity to flex their muscles as a man amongst boys in an underwhelming division. Holding their own in Oakland, Anaheim, and Seattle — even going 5-5 — would not only keep the Orioles in first place but allow them to return home in late July in prime position to continue their quest to a second postseason appearance in the last three years.

A strong showing against the imposing AL West over the next couple weeks could be the difference between a relatively comfortable journey to October and needing to scratch and claw over the final two months of the regular season. In the same way that the Orioles took advantage of the recent struggles of the Blue Jays, the rest of the AL East will be rooting for Baltimore to wilt before finally returning to Camden Yards on July 29.

A starting rotation that’s pitched to a 3.18 ERA over its last 33 games will now face the two highest-scoring offenses in baseball over the next six contests. It was a 1-6 run against the Athletics and the Angels earlier this month that saw the Blue Jays’ one-game lead in the division turn into a 2 1/2-game deficit by the time they left the West Coast.

Even with the daunting stretch staring them in the face, the Orioles couldn’t ask for better timing as they’ll feel more rested now than they will at any point over the rest of the season. Aside from the current ankle injury to starting pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez — which many critics would deem a blessing anyway — the Orioles are as healthy as they’ve been at any point during the first half of the season.

Showalter has set up his rotation to include the 23-year-old Kevin Gausman — who could finally be with the Orioles for good — and will be looking for his starting pitchers to pick up where they left off to close the first half. And he’ll hope the inconsistent offense — currently ranked seventh in the AL in runs scored — will finally hit its stride and struggling first baseman Chris Davis starts looking more like the force he was a year ago and less like the .199 hitter who was lost at the plate for the first 3 1/2 months of the season.

By no means was it a perfect first half for the first-place Orioles as they lost catcher Matt Wieters for the season and saw their $50 million investment in Jimenez lead the majors in walks, but Baltimore was the least flawed of anyone in the division and still appears that way beginning the most difficult road trip of the season.

The Orioles can use these next 10 games to flex their muscles as the clear favorite in the division and solidify their first-place standing or could see themselves fall back with the rest of the imperfect pack in the AL East.

They’ve grown accustomed to being the hunter over the last three seasons; it will be interesting to see how they start the second half as the hunted after four days off to think about it.

By no means is it do or die, but the West Coast trip will be an opportunity for the Orioles to stake their claim as the overwhelming favorite in the division while sampling what they could see again in October.

 

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