Tag Archive | "Baltimore"

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Flacco still setting sights on being ready for training camp

Posted on 19 April 2016 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco still doesn’t know exactly when he’ll be back on the practice field, but the goal of being ready for the start of training camp remains in his sights.

Less than five months after undergoing surgery to repair the anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments in his left knee, the 31-year-old is running — not yet at full speed — and says he feels little tentativeness except when trying a new movement for the first time in the long rehabilitation process. But he also understands the need to be cautious, wearing a brace as he continues to strengthen the knee and always focusing on the big picture of being ready for the start of the season.

“I feel good. I’m getting better and better,” Flacco said. “I still feel improvement week to week. We’ve never really set a timeline out and said I’m going to be back at ‘this point,’ but I think it’s still going really, really well. Over the past three weeks, I’ve started to feel some big improvements so, I feel good about it.”

With the Ravens beginning their offseason workout program on Monday, Flacco joked about how much quieter it was in the team’s training facility in Owings Mills all offseason when it was just him and a handful of others rehabbing from injuries. He also admitted that the first couple days of meetings have felt redundant as he will start consecutive seasons with the same offensive coordinator, Marc Trestman, for the first time since his first five NFL seasons with Cam Cameron, a positive in overcoming his anticipated absence during spring organized team activities.

But Flacco knows he has much work to do in order to be ready when training camp opens in late July.

“I can do everything pretty much,” said Flacco, who cited how much work must be done to the rest of the body to get in sync with the knee. “It’s just a matter of how well I can do it and do I have a little limp here and there. We do little agility [drills]. It’s not like I’m running full speed and cutting on it and things like that, but I’ve got a good amount of things that I’m allowed to do. I go out on the field and run, wear my braces and all that good stuff.”

Asked about his level of apprehension with his front leg when throwing, Flacco acknowledged that he hasn’t done much passing, but he is moving closer to the time when he’ll be picking up a football more frequently. For the time being, he’s been playing catch here and there from about 15 yards.

Flacco looks forward to the time when he’ll be able to air it out to get a better feel for newcomers such as speedy wide receiver Mike Wallace and veteran tight end Benjamin Watson, but he isn’t overly concerned if that doesn’t happen before late July.

It’s apparent where the Super Bowl XLVII MVP’s head is as it relates to being back on the football field.

“At the end of the day, training camp is going to be enough time,” Flacco said. “I’m pretty sure I’m probably not going to get a ton of time before that, so that’s going to be enough time. You’d like to get as much as you can, but that will be plenty to get going.”

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Trumbo named AL co-player of the week

Posted on 18 April 2016 by Luke Jones

Orioles outfielder Mark Trumbo was named American league co-player of the week on Monday for the period that ended on April 17.

Sharing the award with Houston second baseman Jose Altuve, Trumbo hit .320 (8-for-25) with five home runs, 11 RBIs, eight runs score, and one double to earn the first weekly award of his career. He paced the majors in home runs, slugging percentage (.960), and total bases (24) while leading the AL in RBIs over the week.

His shining achievement of the period came Friday when he became the first player in Orioles history to homer twice in the same inning. The achievement earned Trumbo the fifth five-RBI game of his major league career and first since Sept. 15, 2014 when he was a member of the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Acquired from Seattle in an offseason trade, Trumbo is the first player in Orioles history to hit five homers in his first 10 games with the club, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

Trumbo and the Orioles return to Camden Yards on Tuesday to begin a three-game set with the 2015 AL East champion Toronto Blue Jays.

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Ravens begin 2016 voluntary offseason workout program

Posted on 18 April 2016 by Luke Jones

Photo courtesy of the Baltimore Ravens

Taking another step toward putting a difficult 2015 season behind them, the Ravens opened their voluntary offseason workout program in Owings Mills on Monday.

The opening phase of the nine-week program lasts two weeks and is limited to strength and conditioning work as well as physical rehabilitation. Coaches are not permitted to lead players in on-field workouts during this first part of the offseason program.

This part of the offseason program is strictly voluntary, but most players beyond select veterans are expected to attend regularly.

The Ravens will provide media access on Tuesday, but photos and video released by the team showed a large number of players in attendance on the first day including three-time Pro Bowl safety and veteran newcomer Eric Weddle, newly-signed running back Trent Richardson, quarterbacks Joe Flacco and Ryan Mallett, wide receiver Breshad Perriman, defensive backs Jimmy Smith, Matt Elam, Terrence Brooks and Kendrick Lewis, linebackers Za’Darius Smith and Arthur Brown, fullback Kyle Juszczyk, and tight ends Crockett Gillmore, Maxx Williams and Dennis Pitta.

A video also showed Perriman taking part in running drills, a positive sign for his still-unclear status after he missed his entire rookie season with a partially-torn posterior cruciate ligament in his right knee.

The second phase of the program lasts three weeks and consists of on-field workouts that may include individual player instruction and drills as well as team practice as long as the offense and defense do not work against each other. No live contact is permitted.

The final phase of the program lasts four weeks and permits teams to conduct a total of 10 days of organized team practice activity (OTAs), which are voluntary. No live contact is permitted, but teams may conduct 7-on-7, 9-on-7, and 11-on-11 drills.

Teams are also allowed to hold one mandatory minicamp for all veteran players during that final phase of the offseason program.

Earlier this month, the NFL released the following dates for the Ravens’ OTA and mandatory minicamp schedule, but these have later been adjusted in the past:

First day of voluntary workouts: April 18
OTA offseason workouts: May 24-26, June 1-3, June 6-9
Mandatory minicamp: June 14-16

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Ravens officially sign Trent Richardson to offseason roster

Posted on 18 April 2016 by Luke Jones

After nearly two months of anticipation, the Ravens officially signed running back Trent Richardson for the start of the offseason training program in Owings Mills on Monday morning.

Baltimore was first linked to the third overall pick of the 2012 draft during the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis, but the organization wanted the former Cleveland and Indianapolis running back to get into better shape. Head coach John Harbaugh said last month that the Ravens had reached an “unofficial agreement” with Richardson, but the 25-year-old is now an official member of the 90-man offseason roster.

The University of Alabama product wasn’t sure if his NFL career was over after he was cut by the Oakland Raiders last August and sat out the 2015 season. However, general manager Ozzie Newsome — also a former Crimson Tide great — and the Ravens were willing to give Richardson another chance despite a disappointing start to his career.

After a solid rookie season with the Browns in which he rushed for 950 yards and 11 touchdowns, Richardson quickly fell out of favor in Cleveland and wasn’t any better following a trade to Indianapolis as both organizations were dissatisfied with his weight and lack of commitment to the game. In 46 career games, Richardson has averaged just 3.3 yards per carry.

The 5-foot-9, 230-pound back rushed for over 3,000 yards in a brilliant collegiate career.

Richardson will still have to earn his way onto the 53-man roster this summer as he’ll compete in a crowded backfield that already includes Justin Forsett, Buck Allen, Lorenzo Taliaferro, and Terrance West.

Wide receiver Kamar Aiken signed his restricted second-round tender on Monday, and Baltimore also announced the signings of three exclusive-rights free agents: wide receiver Jeremy Butler, return specialist Kaelin Clay, and offensive lineman Ryan Jensen.

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Orioles stats to ponder after Sunday’s postponement

Posted on 17 April 2016 by Luke Jones

We’re still in the midst of “small sample size” territory to begin the 2016 season, but below are six statistics to ponder as the Orioles’ series finale with the Texas Rangers was postponed on Sunday.

1. Yovani Gallardo hasn’t recorded an out after the sixth inning since June 27, 2015.

This stat doesn’t exactly make Buck Showalter’s decision to send Gallardo back out for the seventh inning of Saturday’s game look any better. His velocity was slightly better against Texas, but the 30-year-old still isn’t carrying the kind of stuff that makes you think he’ll be able to pitch more than five or six innings in any given start, which isn’t what you’re looking for in a $22 million investment.

2. The starting pitching entered Sunday averaging the fewest innings per start in the AL, but the rotation has allowed only five home runs, tied for fewest in the league.

Starters are averaging only 5.09 innings per start through 11 games, but at least they’ve kept the ball in play. Of course, the Orioles have pitched in plenty of cold weather early on in 2016, but the rotation gave up the second-most homers in the AL last year. That’s a little bit of progress, right?

3. J.J. Hardy has collected six extra-base hits in 10 games after amassing only 22 all last year.

We know an injured left shoulder played a big role in the veteran posting a .564 on-base plus slugging percentage in 2015, but Hardy is showing he still has the ability to hit the ball with authority. Per FanGraphs, 50 percent of the balls Hardy has put in play have been hard contact and just 16.7 percent have been soft contact after just 23.7 percent were hard contact — his worst percentage since his rookie year — and 19.5 percent were soft contact in 2015. Of course, the key will be keeping the 33-year-old healthy over the course of the season, but Hardy is showing that the ability for him to contribute offensively is still there.

4. Orioles hitters are seeing more pitches per plate appearance and drawing walks more frequently than in 2015.

We’ll see if it continues moving forward, but the Orioles entered Sunday tied for fourth in the AL in walks after finishing 13th in that department in 2015. Their 2016 walk rate is 8.7 percent of all plate appearances so far compared to just 7.0 percent a year ago. The lineup is also seeing 3.98 pitches per plate appearance through 11 games after seeing 3.81 a year go. Through two weeks, the Orioles are showing more of a willingness to work counts and have swung at just 31 percent of pitches outside the strike zone, down from 34.1 percent last year (FanGraphs).

5. Mychal Givens is second on the club in strikeouts while only eighth in innings pitched.

The 25-year-old has been scored upon in three of his six appearances to begin the season, but he’s struck out a whopping 13 batters while walking two in 5 2/3 innings. Lefties have been a problem going 6-for-8, but he held lefty bats to a .555 OPS in 30 innings last season, making you think this is more of an aberration than a startling absolute. Showalter might be wise to limit his exposure to lefties for the time being, but averaging 20.6 strikeouts per nine innings is a ridiculous rate and opponents won’t sustain a .727 batting average on balls put in play against him.

6. Baltimore leads the majors with 23 home runs.

The 1997 Seattle Mariners hold the major league record with 264 long balls in a single season, and the Orioles are averaging just over two per game so far and the weather hasn’t even been that conducive for hitting the ball out. No club has hit more than 250 in a season since the 2010 Toronto Blue Jays, but there’s no reason why this lineup can’t at least approach that plateau if everyone stays healthy.

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ARLINGTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 29: A fan waits through a rain delay between the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and the Texas Rangers at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington on September 29, 2012 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Rick Yeatts/Getty Images)

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Sunday’s Orioles-Rangers game postponed due to rain

Posted on 17 April 2016 by Luke Jones

(Updated: 4:30 p.m.)

Sunday’s series finale between the Orioles and the Texas Rangers was postponed due to rain, the first rainout in Arlington since May 29, 2013.

The forecast called for heavy rain and storms throughout the day with no apparent window to play the final contest of a four-game set. The Rangers announced that the game would be made up on June 20 at a start time to be determined.

That makeup game will fall in the midst of what was supposed to be an eight-game homestand. Now, Baltimore will conclude a three-game weekend set with Toronto on June 19, travel to Arlington for a Monday makeup game, and return to Oriole Park at Camden Yards to open a two-game set with San Diego on June 21.

This is the Orioles’ second postponement of the year after their April 9 game against Tampa Bay was wiped out because of wintry conditions. No makeup has been set for that contest, but it is expected to be played when the Tampa Bay Rays return to Baltimore for a three-game series beginning June 24.

Sunday’s postponement was just the latest disruption to the start of the season for right-hander Mike Wright, who saw his original 2016 debut date pushed back a day because of rain on Opening Day and has now seen two scheduled start dates postponed. Wright will now start Tuesday’s opener of a three-game set with Toronto and will be opposed by Marcus Stroman.

Ubaldo Jimenez will start Wednesday against knuckleballer R.A. Dickey with Chris Tillman pitching the finale against Marco Estrada.

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“Rounding the Bases” in Orioles’ 8-4 loss to Texas

Posted on 16 April 2016 by Luke Jones

What went wrong in the Orioles’ 8-4 defeat to the Texas Rangers on Saturday night?

In trying to identify the top three losing factors with the addition of home plate for any not-so-honorable mentions and other notes, we go around the bases after the 11th game of the 2016 season.

1st — Buck Showalter is as good they come handling a pitching stuff, but the Orioles manager was too greedy sending Yovani Gallardo out to the mound to begin the seventh inning with a 4-2 lead. It wasn’t even about the right-hander having thrown 96 pitches to that point, but multiple Texas hitters had made hard contact in the previous two innings, making you think the Orioles were already pushing their luck with the veteran through six. A questionable decision was made even worse by allowing Gallardo to not only issue a four-pitch walk to the No. 9 hitter, Brett Nicholas, but a double to Delino DeShields before finally going to T.J. McFarland, who was put in a difficult spot. That seventh inning had Brad Brach’s name written all over it, but he had been used each of the previous two nights. That said, there were too many other options in the bullpen to excuse sticking with Gallardo for the seventh.

2nd — Even if Showalter made a bad decision leaving Gallardo in too long, McFarland and Mychal Givens didn’t do their jobs in the seventh and couldn’t keep the Orioles in the game. It was a lot to ask the former to strand runners at second and third with no outs, but three of the four hitters McFarland faced were left-handed and he needed to be able to keep the game tied at the very least. Givens wasn’t much better as he gave up back-to-back singles that busted it open for the Rangers instead of slamming the door and keeping it a 5-4 deficit when he entered.

3rdThe defense also melted down in the seventh as McFarland failed to cover first base on a grounder to Chris Davis that turned into an infield hit for Nomar Mazara, the first batter the lefty faced. An out there certainly would have improved their chances of keeping it tied or to a smaller deficit. Making matters worse was Mark Trumbo letting Rougned Odor’s two-run single skip under his glove, allowing the speedy second baseman to advance to third and score on a single a batter later. It capped off a nightmare inning that began with a two-run lead and ended in a four-run deficit.

Home — The Orioles left nine runners on base. … Jonathan Schoop was the only Baltimore hitter not to record a hit and went 0-for-2 with runners in scoring position. … Manny Machado homered in the first inning and has now hit safely in all 11 games to begin the season. … Pedro Alvarez drove in his first run of the season with a two-out single in the fifth. … Mike Wright goes to the hill in the series finale on Sunday against Rangers lefty Derek Holland.

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Orioles continue to take time with Matusz’s return

Posted on 16 April 2016 by Luke Jones

Left-handed relief pitcher Brian Matusz was originally slated to be activated from the disabled list by the Orioles last weekend, but he instead will continue a minor-league rehab assignment with one more appearance this week, manager Buck Showalter told reporters in Texas.

After allowing seven earned runs in his first three appearances with Double-A Bowie, Matuz gave up only one run in three innings for Single-A Frederick on Friday night, but his shaky performance makes up only part of the early-season predicament. The Orioles entered Saturday with an 8-2 record, but they’ve leaned heavily on their bullpen as they rank 13th in the AL in starter ERA and have averaged a league-worst 5.0 innings per start through their first 10 games.

Manager Buck Showalter would clearly like to see his starters get deeper into games, but Matusz’s absence has allowed the Orioles to carry an additional long reliever in the bullpen, which has proven to be useful early in the season. The southpaw’s return would likely mean T.J. McFarland or Tyler Wilson being optioned to the minor leagues, giving Baltimore less length when starters are knocked out early.

Matusz began the season on the 15-day DL with a left intercostal strain that hindered him for much of the spring.

So far this season, the Orioles have lacked a lefty specialist — a role in which Matusz has been effective over the last four years — but adding another reliever who can’t be sent to the minor leagues brings less flexibility to a bullpen with four other pitchers out of options. Matusz was respectable against right-handed hitters in 2015 by holding them to a .244 average, but they have batted .299 with an .853 on-base plus slugging percentage against him in his career, which limits the situations in which Showalter would ideally use him.

With late-inning options in right-handers Darren O’Day and Brad Brach who fare very well against batters from both sides of the plate, one could argue that a lefty specialist only facing a batter or two is more of a luxury than a real need in a bullpen that will likely be forced to handle plenty of innings in 2016. Perhaps that’s why we’ve seen the Orioles try to stretch Matusz out in his last two rehab outings.

Making $3.9 million in his final season before becoming a free agent, Matusz could be activated next weekend in Kansas City, but it’s fair to ask whether his skill set is the best fit for a bullpen already sporting plenty of talent in the late innings but needing to do more work early in games. He’ll be capable of getting out a tough lefty bat or two from time to time, but Matusz will likely need to give the Orioles some contributions in the middle innings to be a valuable member of the bullpen.

And that helps explain why the Orioles haven’t been in a hurry to activate the 29-year-old, who hasn’t exactly impressed during his rehab assignment anyway.

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Five questions about the Ravens’ 2016 schedule

Posted on 15 April 2016 by Luke Jones

The 2016 schedule is officially set for the Ravens and below are five questions to ponder:

1. What will the Ravens’ record be at the bye?

I’ll abstain from predicting Baltimore’s record when the draft hasn’t even taken place yet, but it is interesting to note that six of the Ravens’ first seven games will come against non-playoff teams from a year ago. However, this is a bit deceiving as the New York Jets finished with a 10-6 record in 2015 and the Oakland Raiders may have the best young roster in the league after adding even more talent this offseason.

Still, I’m not sure I’ll like the Ravens’ chances of getting to the playoffs if they’re anything less than 5-2 by the time they hit their Week 8 bye, especially when they play road games at New England, Pittsburgh, and Cincinnati in a four-week span to close the regular season.

2. Has a team ever played back-to-back road games at the same venue?

We’ve seen Week 17 opponents meet in the first round of the playoffs in the same stadium, but I’m curious to know how many times a team has played road games against the New York Giants and the New York Jets in consecutive weeks. At least the Ravens should be very familiar with MetLife Stadium by around 4:15 p.m. on Oct. 23.

No, I’m not interested enough to do the research to find out if and when it’s happened before, but I’d gladly thank you if you are willing to do the work.

3. What will the “Color Rush” uniforms look like for the Ravens-Browns game on Nov. 10?

The Color Rush uniforms we began seeing for Thursday games last year will return, so it will be interesting to see what that might look like for the Ravens. Truthfully, the all-black uniforms are no longer special at this point, so what about purple jerseys and purple pants for that nationally-televised game?

Let’s hope the mustard-colored pants from last year never see the light of day again.

Would Cleveland wear orange jerseys and orange pants to go with orange helmets or would the Browns sport an all-brown getup? Remembering how ugly their new uniforms looked last year, do we really want to know?

4. How do we feel about the Ravens playing in the afternoon on Christmas Day?

It’s probably just me being a whiny sportswriter — to be clear, I do love my job — but do we need multiple NFL games on Christmas? It was one thing for the Ravens to play on Christmas night 11 years ago, but an afternoon game is intrusive for many people wanting to celebrate the holiday with their families — in Pittsburgh or Baltimore.

Do you really want Aunt Edna bugging you about when you’re ever going to get married or have kids while you’re trying to watch Joe Flacco drive the Ravens the length of the field in the fourth quarter?

For Ravens fans unhappy about only having two prime-time games in 2016, this one practically counts as a third since it will be a nationally-televised game on NFL Network.

5. Why are the Ravens finishing the regular season in Cincinnati again?

Many are complaining about the Ravens now having 10 of their last 11 Monday night games on the road when they travel to New England on Dec. 12, but going to Paul Brown Stadium to conclude the regular season for the fifth time in six years is ridiculous.

Imagine the uproar if the Ravens had to go to Heinz Field for Week 17 every year. How irritated would Pittsburgh be to go to Baltimore or Cincinnati to conclude the season on an annual basis?

The Bengals’ losing past still resonates with many, but they’ve beaten the Ravens five straight times and are the only team in the AFC North to have made the playoffs in each of the last five years. The Monday night thing is quirky, but at least Baltimore has had plenty of prime-time home games over that time.

The Ravens shouldn’t have to go to Cincinnati for the final week every year.

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“Rounding the Bases” in 6-3 loss to Texas

Posted on 15 April 2016 by Luke Jones

What went wrong in the Orioles’ 6-3 defeat to the Texas Rangers on Thursday night?

In trying to identify the top three losing factors with the addition of home plate for any not-so-honorable mentions and other notes, we go around the bases after the ninth game of the 2016 season.

1st — Going the third time through the batting order is challenging for any starting pitcher with hitters being more familiar with their stuff and fatigue sometimes setting in, but it was painful for Chris Tillman, who had allowed only one run and three hits in his first two trips through the Texas lineup. Counting Delino DeShields’ infield single in the fifth, Rangers hitters went 6-for-7 with three doubles in their third at-bats seeing Tillman and transformed a 3-1 Baltimore lead into a 6-3 Texas advantage as the right-handed starter was chased and the sixth inning eventually came to an end. It didn’t take much as a couple pitches up in the zone to Nomar Mazara and Adrian Beltre quickly transformed what had been a solid start into a nightmare exit.

2nd — For the second straight night, the Orioles squandered scoring opportunities that could have eased the pressure on Tillman in that fateful bottom of the sixth. After Jonathan Schoop singled and Nolan Reimold doubled off Texas starter Cole Hamels to lead off the top of the fifth, the top of the order failed to plate a single run as Joey Rickard struck out looking, Manny Machado grounded out, and Adam Jones struck out swinging. J.J. Hardy singled in a run in the top of the sixth, but Jonathan Schoop grounded into an inning-ending double play with runners at the corners and one out, failing to extend a 3-1 lead. The Orioles left four runners in scoring position and lost by three runs.

3rd — Tillman’s final line of six earned runs and nine hits surrendered in just 5 1/3 innings was ugly, but some of that damage was due to some bad luck in the sixth, which you figure will be balanced out by good fortune over a 162-game season. Mitch Moreland’s RBI double down the left-field line was nothing more than a softly-hit pop fly that Rickard couldn’t catch up to after he was playing the pull-happy lefty hitter way over in left-center. Ian Desmond followed that with a game-tying infield hit that couldn’t have been much softer between the mound and first. As Buck Showalter said to MASN after the game, “The baseball gods weren’t too kind to us.” They made a bad inning worse for Tillman and the Orioles.

Home — Replays showed Schoop did not get a good read on the Reimold double over Desmond’s head in left-center and probably should have scored from first base on the play. … Machado has a hit in all nine games to begin the 2016 season, but he went 0-for-2 with runners in scoring position. … Tillman turned in the second-longest outing of the season for the Orioles, becoming the first starter to complete more than five innings since Ubaldo Jimenez’s seven-inning performance on April 7. … Mark Trumbo is now 5-for-15 with two homers off Hamels in his career after hitting one out to the opposite field in the fourth. … Vance Worley will make his second start of the season on Friday with Texas sending lefty Martin Perez to the bump.

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