Tag Archive | "Baltimore"

New Orioles outfielder Snider not concerned with filling Markakis’ shoes

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New Orioles outfielder Snider not concerned with filling Markakis’ shoes

Posted on 24 February 2015 by Luke Jones

SARASOTA, Fla. — New Orioles outfielder Travis Snider may be the leading candidate to replace veteran Nick Markakis in right field, but he isn’t taking anything for granted this spring.

Playing parts of seven seasons without ever recording as many as 360 plate appearances in a single campaign, the 27-year-old can’t dwell on the opportunity presented to him in Baltimore after the free-agent departures of Markakis and slugger Nelson Cruz. Call it a force of habit for a former first-round pick who’s seen more disappointment than success in his major league career with numerous minor-league demotions and nagging injuries.

“I don’t worry about what happened last year and who you guys say I’m replacing,” Snider said in an interview with WNST.net. “I came here to play when they tell me to play and where they tell me to play. For me, the focus remains on the day to day of getting better and when they put my name in the lineup, I’ll be ready.”

Fair or not, the pressure is on Snider to perform as he represents the Orioles’ most significant addition of the offseason. The beginning of his career doesn’t remotely stack up to Markakis’ nine-year run in Baltimore, but executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette hopes Snider’s .776 on-base plus slugging percentage in 2014 — Markakis’ was .729 — is a sign of a once-heralded prospect finally figuring it out at the major league level.

Snider’s numbers spiked in the second half of 2014 as he hit .288 with nine home runs, 24 runs batted in, and an .880 OPS to help lead the Pittsburgh Pirates to a wild-card berth. The numbers reflected the kind of prospect Snider once was in posting a .968 OPS in 835 plate appearances at the Triple-A level.

Even if his offense remains a question as a .246 lifetime hitter according to William Hill Sports, the Orioles already like what they’ve seen from Snider defensively as he will potentially replace a two-time Gold Glove winner in right field. The left-handed thrower was viewed as a good defender in Pittsburgh and was frequently used as a defensive replacement when not in the starting lineup.

“I don’t care who you are, you always have these preconceived ideas and visual and then you actually see it,” manager Buck Showalter said. “I watched Travis Snider run two balls down in right field during [batting practice]. You take something out of everything.”

After five disappointing years with Toronto in which he could never live up to his potential as the 14th overall pick of the 2006 draft, Snider was traded to Pittsburgh midway through the 2012 season. His improvement at the plate hardly came overnight — the left-handed hitter batted just .215 in 2013 — but he credits the winning culture in Pittsburgh over the last two years for changing his mindset, which led to his own improvement in 2014.

After being acquired in exchange for minor-league pitchers Stephen Tarpley and Steven Vault, Snider believes playing for a club that has advanced to the postseason in two of the last three years and is coming off its first division title in 17 years is the perfect environment to pick up where he left off in his final year with the Pirates.

“I’ve been able to take some steps forward in my career and the way I approach each day by remaining focused on each day and not worrying about stat lines or box scores and those types of things,” Snider said. “As a young player, I got caught up worrying too much about myself. Being part of a winning culture, it made it easy to buy in and knowing that you’re playing for each other and the pressure is taken off of your personal accolades and put onto the team and what you have to do each night to get the win. It makes baseball a whole lot more fun when you play that way.”

With Snider and the impending signing of infielder Everth Cabrera the only notable position players added to the mix this winter, the Orioles will likely need a breakout performance from an unheralded name similar to what they received from Steve Pearce a year ago to give themselves the best chance to make it back to the postseason. A former Pirate himself, Pearce rose from anonymity at age 31 last year to hit 21 home runs and post a .930 OPS and is now being counted on to fill a regular role this season.

It’s the perfect example to which a player like Snider can aspire after years of failing to live up to expectations as one of the best prospects in the game.

“Steve Pearce was one of the best stories in baseball last year, and that was one of the first things that I told him,” Snider said. “Understanding that this game and this business doesn’t always go the way that we plan, the guys that are able to overcome that adversity and make the most of those opportunities [succeed]. It was a lot of fun for me to watch him do what he did last year.

“We all get humbled at some point in this game. Opportunities come and opportunities go, but understanding where that focus remains and to see guys go out there and do what he did last year, that’s pretty cool.”

The opportunity will be there for Snider this season, but it will be up to him to take advantage.

 

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Orioles, infielder Everth Cabrera finally agree to one-year deal

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Orioles, infielder Everth Cabrera finally agree to one-year deal

Posted on 23 February 2015 by Luke Jones

After several days of ironing out the details, the Orioles have finalized an agreement with infielder Everth Cabrera.

According to CBS Sports, the sides have agreed to a one-year, $2.4 million contract that includes $600,000 in incentives. News first broke about a potential deal last week, but final details needed to be ironed out and the former San Diego Padres infielder is expected to be in Sarasota to complete the signing on Tuesday.

The 28-year-old has experienced plenty of highs and lows in his six-year major league career, ranging from an All-Star appearance in 2013 to a 50-game suspension that same season for his involvement in the Biogenesis scandal. Cabrera has also experienced problems off the field, being arrested for a domestic violence incident before the charge was dismissed in 2012 as well as a resisting arrest charge for suspicion of driving under the influence of marijuana last fall.

The addition of Cabrera is interesting in how it impacts second baseman Jonathan Schoop and incumbent utility man Ryan Flaherty. It is worth nothing that Cabrera does have a minor-league option remaining, but he brings more experience than either of the other two.

In 2013, Cabrera hit .283 with four home runs, 31 runs batted in, and 37 stolen bases before being suspended. His numbers fell off dramatically a year ago as he batted only .232 and posted a .572 on-base plus slugging percentage.

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Five hot topics for “State of the Ravens” address

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Five hot topics for “State of the Ravens” address

Posted on 23 February 2015 by Luke Jones

More than a month after their season-ending loss to New England in the divisional round, the Ravens will finally hold their annual “State of the Ravens” press conference Tuesday afternoon as they look back at last year and offer a look into their offseason plans to improve for 2015.

Below are five topics of interest that are likely to be covered at length:

1. Off-field conduct

A lingering Ray Rice question or two will be asked — particularly of team president Dick Cass, who hasn’t addressed the matter in a press conference setting — but the focus will likely fall on what the organization is doing to address off-field concerns that included five arrests last offseason and ex-Raven Terrence Cody and safety Will Hill already surfacing in the news over the last month. Head coach John Harbaugh acknowledged in January that the bar is higher in terms of expectations, but concerns will remain until the Ravens can show last year was an aberration and not a lack of organizational control.

2. The future of Haloti Ngata

The five-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle’s future and $16 million salary cap figure for 2015 have been dissected ad nauseam, but it will be interesting to listen to general manager Ozzie Newsome’s thoughts after Harbaugh expressed confidence last week that an extension would get done. Even though he ultimately inked linebacker Terrell Suggs to a new deal last winter, Newsome made it clear at last year’s “State of the Ravens” that he wasn’t afraid of letting a good player walk out the door. You wonder if we’ll hear a similar “bad cop” routine from Newsome to contrast Harbaugh’s optimism and put some heat on the veteran player.

3. Fixing the secondary

Newsome has often said you can never have too many good cornerbacks, but there’s no question the Ravens were lacking at that position last year even before the season-ending injury to top corner Jimmy Smith. Veteran Lardarius Webb carries a $12 million cap figure and is a likely candidate for a pay cut or a restructure deal, but the Ravens need to find a cornerback — maybe two — who is ready to step into a meaningful role. Safety might be an even bigger concern with Hill’s off-field baggage and the disappointing starts to the NFL careers of Matt Elam and Terrence Brooks.

4. Taking care of their own 

Much of this will hinge on a tight cap situation, but the Ravens proved last year that they were more concerned with taking care of their own than jumping into the free-agent market after re-signing Eugene Monroe, Daryl Smith, Dennis Pitta, and Jacoby Jones. The Ravens would love to have wide receiver Torrey Smith, running back Justin Forsett, and tight end Owen Daniels back next season, but how realistic is that with so few resources available? An offense that took major strides a year ago will already be dealing with new offensive coordinator, but it’s possible there will be significant player turnover as well.

5. Offseason surgical procedures and health concerns

Pitta’s future is bound to come up again after Harbaugh presented a less-than-encouraging update last week, but the end-of-season press conference typically brings updates on other players who’ve undergone offseason surgeries. The Sun reported earlier this month that center Jeremy Zuttah underwent a cleanup procedure for his hip, but the Ravens also have a number of players continuing to recover from season-ending injuries including Jimmy Smith, right tackle Rick Wagner, running back Lorenzo Taliaferro, cornerback Asa Jackson, and Brooks.

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Fixing Jimenez one of Orioles’ biggest challenges this spring

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Fixing Jimenez one of Orioles’ biggest challenges this spring

Posted on 21 February 2015 by Luke Jones

It was exactly what the Orioles had envisioned when they signed Ubaldo Jimenez to a four-year, $50 million contract seven months earlier.

With a chance to clinch their first division championship in 17 years last Sept. 16, the Orioles sent the right-handed starter to the hill against Toronto and Jimenez pitched solidly — two earned runs allowed in five innings — to earn the victory. Of course, it was one of the few bright spots of a disastrous season in which Jimenez eventually lost his spot in the starting rotation and was left off the American League Championship Series roster.

Spring training breeds optimism and hope for transformation, and there would be no bigger breakthrough than the Orioles getting Jimenez on track as they try to defend their 2014 AL East title. Pitching coach Dave Wallace believes confidence was as big a problem as any as Jimenez tried to prove himself worthy to his new club. Jimenez acknowledged Saturday that he didn’t follow his normal offseason routine last year as he didn’t sign with the Orioles until after spring training had already started, and it likely led to problems in being able to repeat his complicated delivery.

In 25 games (22 starts) and 125 1/3 innings, Jimenez went 6-9 with a 4.81 ERA and posted a career-worst 5.5 walks per nine innings.

“Who knows what was going through his mind last year? New team, new contract, all that stuff,” Wallace said last month. “Hopefully, that’s all pushed aside. He actually came up with a couple things last year that he made changes with in September that helped him a little bit. We’ll see if we can continue that.”

It’s hardly the first time that Jimenez’s unorthodox mechanics have come into focus as Cleveland pitching coach Mickey Callaway was credited for rebuilding the veteran starter after a career-worst 5.40 ERA in 2012. Jimenez rebounded in the second half of 2013 to finish with a 3.30 ERA, his best season since his 2010 All-Star campaign in Colorado.

Jimenez previously brought his hands high above his head in his windup, which he believes created too many moving parts in his mechanics that hindered his control. In September, Jimenez abandoned that approach, keeping his hands quieter and in front of him as he pitched to a 3.27 ERA in 11 innings with 12 strikeouts. His seven walks reflected that his control was still a problem, but the small sample size brings a glimmer of hope that Jimenez can bounce back in 2015.

He wouldn’t be the first Orioles starter to adjust his windup in recent years as ace Chris Tillman has credited a simpler motion for the success he began enjoying in 2012 and Kevin Gausman has also quieted the movement in his windup since being selected in the first round of the 2012 draft. Jimenez hopes his adjustments will lead to similar results.

The Dominican pitcher estimated that he threw five bullpen sessions and live batting practice this winter in preparation for the start of spring training after the disruptive offseason last year. Manager Buck Showalter was impressed with the pitcher’s first bullpen session in Sarasota on Friday as he continued the simplified approach he used late last year.

“It was all about not going over the top of my head because I was going way too far and that makes my mechanics go everywhere,” Jimenez told reporters in Sarasota on Saturday. “Right now, I’m able to simplify everything by grabbing the ball and just going straight to home plate. Once I saw everything was working, I was staying with it and I’m not changing anything.”

With Showalter and Wallace needing to choose among six starters for five spots in the rotation, Jimenez will need to pitch effectively this spring, but just under $39 million remaining on his deal mean he’ll receive every opportunity to prove last year was a fluke. Historically, Jimenez’s fastball velocity has been the key in determining whether his mechanics are right as his average of 90.6 miles per hour last season was the slowest of his career and continued a steady decline since 2010 when his fastball averaged 96.3.

Much of that can be attributed to wear and tear, but an increase closer to his 2013 level (92.1 miles per hour) would indicate he’s on a better track. Opposing hitters also made contact on 80.8 percent of their swings a year ago, up from his career mark of 78.3 percent. Jimenez still averaged 8.3 strikeouts per nine innings a year ago — the same as his career mark — but hitters were more patient than ever (4.15 pitches per plate appearance) against him as he struggled to throw strikes.

It’s easy to say the Orioles regret their rich investment in Jimenez after one season, but his track record suggests better results are likely in order for 2015. Whether that improvement will be enough to justify a spot in the rotation is the real question after the Orioles’ other five starters each posted an ERA of 3.65 or lower a year ago.

“Hopefully, everything changes and I’m going to be able to compete better and be able to give the team a chance to win,” Jimenez said. “Last year was a disappointing year. It was a really bad year. There’s no doubt about it, but just changing my mechanics makes everything better. I’m going to be able to compete.”

For the price they’re paying Jimenez over the next three seasons, the Orioles certainly hope so.

 

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Ravens can’t count on Pitta to continue NFL career

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Ravens can’t count on Pitta to continue NFL career

Posted on 19 February 2015 by Luke Jones

INDIANAPOLIS — Ravens head coach John Harbaugh isn’t giving up hope on tight end Dennis Pitta returning to the football field.

But it’s clear the organization isn’t planning on it at this point.

Speaking at the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis, Harbaugh had “nothing definitive” when asked about Pitta’s football status after he suffered two right hip dislocations and fractures in a 14-month period. The 29-year-old has recovered from the second injury suffered in Week 3 of the 2014 campaign, but it hasn’t been determined whether he’ll return to action for the Ravens.

“It’s between Dennis and the doctors right now,” Harbaugh said. “I’ve got my fingers crossed, but only for what’s best for Dennis. There’s no way in the world that you want anything other than the fact that he can be safe. His hip is fully recovered in the sense of the blood flow is there. There’s no lingering problem from either one of the injuries, so he’s in great position to live a great life, which is the main thing.

“Whether that goes to the next step that he wants or is able to play football — that will be up to them. I’m like you; I’m waiting to hear.”

The Ravens can’t plan on it with 2014 third-round selection Crockett Gillmore the most experienced tight end currently under contract for the 2015 season. Veteran Owen Daniels caught 48 passes for 527 yards and four touchdowns in his first season in Baltimore, but the 32-year-old will be a free agent and has an injury history of his own to consider.

General manager Ozzie Newsome is expected to look to the draft this spring where he will consider prospects such as Minnesota’s Maxx Williams and Florida State’s Nick O’Leary in an underwhelming class of tight ends. In the meantime, there’s nothing the Ravens can really do with Pitta’s five-year, $32 million contract signed last offseason that includes a $4 million base salary that’s fully guaranteed for the 2015 season.

In fact, cutting Pitta right now would cost the Ravens more salary-cap space than keeping him on the roster as he tries to improve enough to make a return at some point. A post-June 1 release would not result in any cap savings, either, making his contract untouchable from a cap standpoint until next season.

“We have nothing to lose by just letting it play out,” Harbaugh said. “He’s got a guaranteed contract for next year, so financially, he’s in good shape. We’ll just have to see where it goes. We’ll just plan accordingly.”

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Harbaugh doesn’t have any doubt Ngata deal will get done

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Harbaugh doesn’t have any doubt Ngata deal will get done

Posted on 18 February 2015 by Luke Jones

INDIANAPOLIS — Addressing one of the biggest questions of the offseason, head coach John Harbaugh expressed confidence Wednesday that the Ravens will work out a contract extension with defensive tackle Haloti Ngata.

The five-time Pro Bowl selection carries a $16 million salary cap figure in the final season of a five-year, $61 million contract, but Baltimore is desperately trying to clear cap space by working out an extension that would lower his cap figure by several million dollars and allow the 2006 first-round pick to finish his career with the Ravens. Some have expressed doubt over whether the organization should invest more money in a 31-year-old defensive tackle, but Harbaugh sees plenty of good football in Ngata’s future.

“Haloti’s going to play great. He loves Baltimore. He loves the fans. He loves the organization,” the eighth-year head coach told WNST.net at the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis. “He wants to be here. We want him here. It’s just a matter of [senior vice president of football administration] Pat Moriarty and [Ngata's agent] Mike McCartney coming to terms on something that Haloti feels great about and the organization feels great about. I’m real confident we can get that done. I really believe it will get done. I don’t have any doubt in my mind it’ll get done, but it’s got to get done.”

The Ravens are hoping to re-sign the likes of wide receiver Torrey Smith, running back Justin Forsett, and tight end Owen Daniels before they hit free agency next month, making a Ngata resolution a must to clear cap room. After drafting defensive tackles Brandon Williams and Timmy Jernigan in the last two years, the Ravens have built substantial depth around Ngata, but it’s clear they want to continue the relationship at a price that makes sense for both sides.

The Ravens would save $8.5 million in cap space by cutting the veteran defensive lineman.

Harbaugh acknowledged it can be difficult assessing the value of cornerstone players approaching the latter stages of their careers, but he applauded the organization’s ability over the years to project how veteran players will perform in the future. This has led to long-term contract extensions for linebackers Terrell Suggs and Ray Lewis, who were both past the age of 30, in the Harbaugh era.

Despite a four-game suspension for Adderall in December, Ngata had his best season in a few years, making 31 tackles, two sacks, two forced fumbles, seven pass breakups, and two interceptions in 2014.

“Any contract is for what you expect. It’s not for what somebody’s [already] done,” Harbaugh said. “You never pay backwards. You pay forward, so you’ve got to take that into consideration. I think we do a great job of understanding that a lot of what a guy’s done kind of helps predict that in terms of who they are. You’ve got to make a determination.”

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Kubiak calls “elite” Flacco as good as anyone he’s coached

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Kubiak calls “elite” Flacco as good as anyone he’s coached

Posted on 18 February 2015 by Luke Jones

INDIANAPOLIS — Former Ravens offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak has fielded countless questions about the future of Peyton Manning since becoming the head coach of the Denver Broncos last month.

At the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis, a reporter asked Kubiak an oft-repeated question about his old quarterback in Baltimore.

Is Joe Flacco elite?

“You bet he is. He helped me. It’s probably why I’m standing up here today,” said Kubiak as he laughed. “Joe was tremendous. I really enjoyed working with him — as talented a young man as I’ve ever coached and as good a person as I’ve ever coached. I think we’ll be talking about Joe for a long, long time. I really appreciated my time with him, and I wish him the best.”

Not only leading the Ravens offense to franchise-best marks in total yards and points scored, Kubiak guided Flacco to arguably the best regular season of his seven-year career. The 30-year-old threw a career-best 27 touchdowns and completed 62.1 percent of his passes, his best completion rate since 2010.

And while Kubiak already owned a coaching résumé that included an eight-year stint as the head coach of the Houston Texans, the 53-year-old once again praised the Ravens organization for the opportunity it provided last season. He’s using that experience in Denver, a place he previously spent two decades as a player and assistant coach.

“I took a lot of things,” Kubiak said. “I went there because I knew what the organization stood for. I knew what John [Harbaugh] stood for. That’s what I wanted to be a part of — the tremendous expectations there. I just think the job that they do as an organization, everybody’s on the same page and working together. I think Ozzie [Newsome] was tremendous for me to watch him in the draft and Eric DeCosta. That was very beneficial for me.

“To watch the team go through [the Ray Rice] situation early in the season and watch the organization deal with that. For me as a head coach, watching them deal with that situation and bring the football team out of it in a very positive way was very beneficial. Football-wise, a very experienced staff [with] Dean Pees and some of the coaches I got a chance to work with. The bottom line is watching a successful organization go about it every day — one that’s been there each and every year — I take a lot of that with me.”

Kubiak reiterated Wednesday that he wants Manning to return as the Broncos quarterback and said all indications are pointing toward that happening in 2015. Though the schedule won’t be finalized with dates until this spring, the Ravens will travel to Denver to take on the Broncos this coming season.

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Maier glove used to catch 1996 Jeter homer auctioned off

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Maier glove used to catch 1996 Jeter homer auctioned off

Posted on 16 February 2015 by Luke Jones

A week after former Ravens running back Jamal Lewis auctioned off a Super Bowl ring that was a gift from owner Steve Bisciotti, Baltimore fans now have an opportunity to own a piece of local sports infamy.

The glove Jeffrey Maier used to corral a Derek Jeter fly ball over the right-field fence at old Yankee Stadium against the Orioles in the 1996 American League Championship Series is being auctioned off this week. As of Monday evening, the leading bid at Heritage Auctions came in at $13,000.

While Maier was beloved in New York for his assist, the then-12-year-old was a villain in Baltimore as Jeter’s home run tied Game 1 and the Yankees went on to win the series opener on a Bernie Williams homer in the 11th. Orioles fans have long wondered if the series — won by the Yankees in five games — might have been different had fan interference been ruled on the eighth-inning fly that right fielder Tony Tarasco was camped under before Maier’s glove deflected it over the fence.

Many Orioles fans suggested on social media Monday that the glove needs be burned as a way to exorcise a curse as Baltimore hasn’t advanced to the World Series since 1983. The Orioles have been unsuccessful in three trips to the ALCS since their last championship, also falling in 1997 and 2014.

Of course, some fans quipped that umpire Rich Garcia should purchase the glove since it was his failure to call interference that was the real culprit of the Orioles’ controversial Game 1 loss in the Bronx.

 

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Bovada sets Orioles win total at 82 1/2

Posted on 16 February 2015 by WNST Staff

PRESS RELEASE

Courtesy of Bovada, (www.Bovada.lv, Twitter: @BovadaLV).

MLB Win Totals (Alphabetically)

Arizona Diamondbacks 71½

Atlanta Braves 73½

Baltimore Orioles 82½

Boston Red Sox 86½

Chicago Cubs 82½

Chicago White Sox 81½

Cincinnati Reds 77½

Cleveland Indians 83½

Colorado Rockies 71½

Detroit Tigers 84½

Houston Astros 74½

Kansas City Royals 79½

Los Angeles Angels 89½

Los Angeles Dodgers 92½

Miami Marlins 81½

Milwaukee Brewers 78½

Minnesota Twins 70½

New York Mets 81½

New York Yankees 81½

Oakland Athletics 80½

Philadelphia Phillies 68½

Pittsburgh Pirates 83½

San Diego Padres 85½

San Francisco Giants 84½

Seattle Mariners 86½

St. Louis Cardinals 88½

Tampa Bay Rays 78½

Texas Rangers 77½

Toronto Blue Jays 82½

Washington Nationals 92½

MLB Win Totals (From Highest to Lowest)

Los Angeles Dodgers 92½

Washington Nationals 92½

Los Angeles Angels 89½

St. Louis Cardinals 88½

Boston Red Sox 86½

Seattle Mariners 86½

San Diego Padres 85½

Detroit Tigers 84½

San Francisco Giants 84½

Cleveland Indians 83½

Pittsburgh Pirates 83½

Baltimore Orioles 82½

Chicago Cubs 82½

Toronto Blue Jays 82½

Chicago White Sox 81½

Miami Marlins 81½

New York Mets 81½

New York Yankees 81½

Oakland Athletics 80½

Kansas City Royals 79½

Milwaukee Brewers 78½

Tampa Bay Rays 78½

Cincinnati Reds 77½

Texas Rangers 77½

Houston Astros 74½

Atlanta Braves 73½

Arizona Diamondbacks 71½

Colorado Rockies 71½

Minnesota Twins 70½

Philadelphia Phillies 68½

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Forsett’s son arrives during Valentine’s Day storm

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Forsett’s son arrives during Valentine’s Day storm

Posted on 16 February 2015 by Luke Jones

An unforgettable year became a little crazier for Ravens running back Justin Forsett over the weekend as his wife gave birth to their second son.

Planning to see a Lauryn Hill concert to celebrate Valentine’s Day, Forsett instead had to drive his wife to the hospital to give birth to their son, Zion. It wasn’t until Sunday, however, that we found out how close the 29-year-old Pro Bowl selection came to possibly needing to deliver the baby in the car.

On Instagram, Forsett explained the timing of his wife going into labor and how it coincided with Saturday’s snowfall.

“S/O to my wife @michellekole it took her 4hrs from start to finish to deliver our son Zion,” Forsett wrote. “I thought I was going to have to deliver the baby myself in the car on the way to the Birthing Center it happened so fast last night. Driving in that snow storm definitely added a different element to the experience as well but it all worked out. Best Valentines Day Gift ever! So Glad to have Zion J. Forsett home!”

Forsett is set to become a free agent next month, but he and his family continue to spend this offseason in Baltimore.

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