Tag Archive | "Baltimore"

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Schoop coming into own since returning from knee injury

Posted on 20 August 2015 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — Lost in the excitement surrounding Henry Urrutia’s walk-off home run for the Orioles on Wednesday night was the bounce-back performance from Jonathan Schoop.

After his worst game of the season in which he committed two errors, dropped a relay throw, and went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts in Tuesday’s loss to the New York Mets, Schoop took accountability for his performance, saying he played poorly and needed to be better for his teammates.

A factor often overlooked because he didn’t make it to the majors until more than a year after a then-20-year-old Manny Machado, Schoop is a young player in his own right, just nine months older than the two-time All-Star third baseman. But the Orioles were confident in his ability to bounce back quickly as he shook off two difficult at-bats against Mets starter Noah Syndergaard on Wednesday to belt a game-tying two-run homer in the bottom of the sixth.

The blast came on a Syndergaard curve, the same pitch that had given fits to Schoop earlier in the game.

“Jon’s right where he should be for a college senior [by age],” manager Buck Showalter said. “I feel confident he’ll be as good as he’s capable of being. He cares, he cares. Like a lot of young guys, he’s impressionable and you want to have the right people around him. Same thing with Manny.

“Jon’s become more and more confident with his take on things, which is good.”

Schoop is also becoming more confident at the plate as he entered Thursday’s series opener with Minnesota sporting a .301 average with nine home runs, 24 RBIs, and an .865 on-base plus slugging percentage in 164 plate appearances. The 23-year-old’s play is impressive considering a right knee injury cost him nearly three months of action at a time so critical to a young hitter’s development.

After hitting .209 with 16 homers, 45 RBIs, and a .598 OPS as a rookie, Schoop has improved his homer rate (3.3 to 5.5 percent) and improved his strikeout rate (25.4 to 20.7 percent) from a year ago. According to Baseball Reference, Schoop was worth 1.5 wins above replacement in 2014 with most of that value derived from his defense, but he has already been valued this year at 1.4 wins above replacement in what amounts to just over a quarter of a season.

Such impressive talent coupled with the words of teammates like Adam Jones and J.J. Hardy made it a foregone conclusion that Schoop would be fine despite a forgettable night on Tuesday.

“To be honest, I’ve got great teammates and coaching staff,” Schoop said. “They talked to me and made me feel like that wasn’t me. Like I said yesterday, I have to play better, especially this time of year with focus. All those guys told me everybody has a bad day. Just flush it out and get it tomorrow.”

Those bad days have been few and far between for Schoop as he’s on the verge of becoming a mainstay in the heart of the Orioles lineup.

Injury report

Steve Pearce (oblique) began his minor-league rehab assignment for the Gulf Coast League Orioles on Thursday, going 1-for-4.

The outfielder and first baseman will play there again on Friday — including defense after serving as the designated hitter in his first game — before reporting to a minor-league affiliate closer to Baltimore over the weekend. Showalter was noncommittal about the possibility of Pearce being ready to rejoin the Orioles to begin the road trip on Monday, citing that the 32-year-old has missed more than a month of action and will need some time to get back into a groove.

Despite initial optimism that right-handed relief pitcher Chaz Roe (right shoulder tendinitis) would be ready to rejoin the Orioles when eligible to return from the 15-day disabled list on Tuesday, Showalter indicated his activation would be closer to Sept. 1.

Right-handed pitcher Mike Wright (calf strain) will throw a three-inning, 45-pitch simulated game on Saturday.

Pitching prospect Hunter Harvey threw a 25-pitch bullpen session as he continues to go through his throwing progression. The 20-year-old right-hander and 2013 first-round pick has been sidelined all season due to a flexor mass strain in his right forearm, but the Orioles hope to see him pitch this autumn in either the instructional league or the Arizona Fall League.

The Orioles expect Norfolk right-hander Tyler Wilson to get back on a mound shortly as his oblique strain continues to improve.

 

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urrutia

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Unlikely hero Urrutia provides feel-good moment for Orioles

Posted on 20 August 2015 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — Henry Urrutia may never hit another home run and the Orioles still may not qualify for the playoffs despite his dramatic game-winning blast in a 5-4 win over the New York Mets on Wednesday.

But it was a moment to savor as the 28-year-old Cuban outfielder became the fifth player in franchise history to club a walk-off shot for his first major league homer, joining Chris Hoiles (1990), Dave Criscione (1977), Jim Hardin (1969), and Merv Rettenmund (1968) in Orioles lore. Of that group, Criscione became one of the great one-hit wonders in club history in hitting a game-winning homer against Milwaukee despite receiving only 10 plate appearances in his major league career.

If we’re being honest, Wednesday was more likely to be Urrutia’s 15 minutes of fame rather than the start of a long run as the Orioles’ left fielder, but it was easy to feel good for a man who defected from Cuba in 2011 and eventually signed with the Orioles. After a disappointing run that included 58 major league plate appearances in 2013, Urrutia faded from the Orioles’ radar with an injury-riddled 2014 at Triple-A Norfolk and was having a solid but unspectacular season with the Tides before being recalled last weekend.

With Urrutia frequently being criticized for his inability to consistently pull the ball, there was something fitting about the left-handed hitter sending one into the left-field seats on a 1-2 pitch from Carlos Torres to give the Orioles their third walk-off victory of the homestand. As if the congratulatory pie to the face from Adam Jones wasn’t enough, Urrutia was later greeted in the hallway outside the Orioles clubhouse by a Mets fan who had came away with the home run ball.

Emotional as he described what it meant to receive the ball, Urrutia revealed he plans to share the souvenir with his 16-month old son, also named Henry Alexander.

“Wow, that’s the best gift for me tonight,” said Urrutia as he then paused to compose himself. “Now, I can give that baseball to my son, and my son one day can say, ‘This is the first homer for my dad in the big leagues.'”

For the Orioles, Urrutia’s homer helped them to another win in a long season now having 43 contests remaining. But the accomplishment meant more to a man described as having high character and a good work ethic by countless members of the organization.

The mild-mannered Urrutia even apologized for the quality of his English — which is really quite good — during his post-game interview, admitting he was nervous while reflecting on his big moment.

In a performance-driven business where we frequently lose sight of the human beings behind the numbers, fans could not only enjoy a win for the Orioles, but they could recognize and celebrate the top moment of a young man’s career.

Regardless of whether it ultimately leads to anything else for him or the Orioles.

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Pearce, Roe inching closer toward return to Orioles

Posted on 19 August 2015 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — As the Orioles continue to search for consistent production in left field, outfielder and first baseman Steve Pearce appears to be moving closer to a return from an oblique strain.

Manager Buck Showalter told reporters prior to Wednesday’s game against the New York Mets that Pearce took live batting practice in Sarasota, but the 32-year-old was hit in the back by a pitch in his third at-bat, bringing an end to his session. Should Pearce respond well to hitting live pitching and feel no ill effects from the hit by pitch, the Orioles are hoping to send him on a minor-league rehab assignment in the near future.

Baltimore is currently using a platoon of Henry Urrutia and Nolan Reimold in left field after exhausting a number of unsuccessful options over the course of the 2015 season. Of course, Pearce was in the midst of a poor campaign of his own with a .227 average in 193 plate appearances, but he might represent the organization’s best internal option of receiving production in left field if he can channel his 2014 success over the final weeks of the season.

Pearce was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a left oblique strain on July 22 and is eligible to be activated at any point. After a horrendous start in which he batted just .183 through June 3, Pearce was hitting .321 with an .856 on-base plus slugging percentage over his last 59 plate appearances before the injury.

In other health-related news, right-handed relief pitcher Chaz Roe threw off flat ground on Wednesday, the first time he’s picked up a baseball since being placed on the 15-day DL with right shoulder tendinitis. Roe will repeat that task a couple more times before throwing off a mound and could then go on a brief minor-league rehab assignment.

He is eligible to return from the DL on Aug. 25, and the club remains hopeful that he will be able to return close to that date if he isn’t quite ready at the conclusion of the minimum 15 days.

Showalter said Matt Wieters’s hamstring felt good after returning to the lineup on Tuesday. The catcher also took a foul tip off his knee in the 5-3 loss to the Mets, but he stayed in the game.

The Orioles signed left-handed reliever Mike Belfiore to a minor-league contract and assigned him to Triple-A Norfolk. He made his major league debut for Baltimore in 2013, but the 26-year-old appeared in only one game.

After officially being released by the Orioles, outfielder Travis Snider has signed a minor-league contract with the Pittsburgh Pirates, the club that traded him to Baltimore last winter.

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Perriman undergoes MRI on sprained knee

Posted on 18 August 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Nearly three weeks after suffering a sprained knee on the first full-squad day of training camp, Ravens wide receiver Breshad Perriman underwent a magnetic resonance imaging exam that revealed nothing abnormal.

The rookie hasn’t practiced since injuring his knee while diving for a pass on July 30, but the ailment was initially described as a bruise that would not keep the first-round pick out for more than a day or two. Perriman underwent the MRI on Monday and has now missed 13 consecutive practices in addition to the preseason opener against New Orleans.

“[The results] came back, essentially, normal. We were looking for anything [unusual],” head coach John Harbaugh said. “It has just gone slower than our doctors anticipated it would, so we wanted to get an MRI and see if there was something in there that we didn’t know about, and there wasn’t. It was normal.

“[There is] still a little bit of swelling and still a little bit of sprain — that’s what they call it — and we just have to keep working on it and get him back.”

Though more than three weeks remain until the season opener in Denver, Perriman has missed valuable practice time as the Ravens hope he can provide a vertical threat in the passing game before eventually developing into the No. 1 wideout to replace the retiring Steve Smith at the end of the season. Prior to the injury, the organization believed the 6-foot-2, 218-pound receiver was well ahead of where former Raven Torrey Smith was at the same point in his rookie year before he caught 50 passes for 841 yards and seven touchdowns in 2011.

Selected with the 26th overall pick of the first round on April 30, Perriman is listed as the backup behind No. 2 receiver Kamar Aiken on the Ravens’ current depth chart. His absence and the extensive time missed by third-year receiver Marlon Brown have led to more opportunities for the likes of Michael Campanaro, Jeremy Butler, and Darren Waller to work with the first-team offense in three- and four-receiver formations.

Now all but guaranteed that Perriman will miss the Ravens’ second preseason game in Philadelphia, he would likely need to return at some point over the next several days to have a good chance to play in the all-important third preseason game against Washington on Aug. 29. Harbaugh typically does not play his starters in the preseason finale, meaning Perriman may not have the opportunity to gain live-game experience with quarterback Joe Flacco before the start of the regular season on Sept. 13.

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brooks

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Brooks activated, Pitta to remain on PUP list to begin season

Posted on 18 August 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Just over eight months after suffering a serious knee injury, Ravens safety Terrence Brooks was activated from the physically unable to perform list on Tuesday.

The 2014 third-round pick returned to the practice field and has progressed quickly from a torn anterior cruciate ligament suffered in a game against the Jacksonville Jaguars last Dec. 14. General manager Ozzie Newsome initially said in the offseason that Brooks would begin the regular season on the PUP list, but the Florida State product made great strides in the spring, taking part in voluntary workouts.

“I was already up really early before my alarm clock went off,” said Brooks, who added that he hasn’t taken any time off from the rehabilitation process since injuring his knee. “I was ready to get here, but it was a good day. I definitely didn’t want to sit out this whole year. I put in my mind that I was going to come back and be even stronger than before.”

Describing his knee injury as a “wake-up call” after being disappointed with his rookie year, Brooks’ return boosts depth at the safety position, which was thin behind starters Kendrick Lewis and Will Hill. The Ravens lost 2013 first-round pick Matt Elam to a torn biceps in the first week of training camp.

The plan is to bring Brooks along slowly as he was noncommittal about playing in the Ravens’ second preseason game in Philadelphia on Saturday. But Tuesday’s activation made it clear that Baltimore believes Brooks will be ready to contribute in time for the season opener in Denver.

“We’ve been talking about this for about the last week,” Harbaugh said. “We felt like he’s way ahead of his rehab. He has really done a great job. I don’t think you ever really know how well a guy is going to move around, football-wise, until he starts moving around [in that way].”

Pitta won’t return until mid-season at earliest

With Brooks being activated on Tuesday, tight end Dennis Pitta is the only Ravens player remaining on the active PUP list and Harbaugh confirmed his return is not imminent.

The 30-year-old will remain on the PUP list to begin the regular season, meaning he will miss at least the first six weeks of action after suffering serious right hip injuries in consecutive years. However, it remains unclear if the 2010 fourth-round pick will play again as the Ravens have prepared for the possibility that Pitta’s playing career could be over.

“There’s more to it than just, ‘Can he play? Should he play? Will he be cleared to play?'” Harbaugh said. “And what [does] being ‘cleared to play’ entail in terms of liability and things like that? There’s a lot to it that has to be worked out. I get the impression that he wants to play. He’s rehabbing like crazy. But he’s going to have to make the decision if it’s the best thing for him going forward.”

After taking Crockett Gillmore in the third round of last year’s draft, the Ravens selected Minnesota’s Maxx Williams in the second round and Delaware’s Nick Boyle in the fifth round this spring, moves that reflected the uncertainty with Pitta’s future. Quarterback Joe Flacco acknowledged earlier this summer that he’s gotten used to not having his close friend on the field with the veteran tight end having played in only seven games over the last two seasons.

Tuesday’s injury report

In addition to Brooks, the Ravens also welcomed the returns of cornerback Asa Jackson (knee), wide receiver Michael Campanaro, and rookie offensive lineman Robert Myers (concussion) to the practice field on Tuesday.

Myers had missed nearly two weeks of action since suffering a concussion. Harbaugh added that fellow reserve offensive lineman John Urschel was also close to being cleared after he was also concussed on Aug. 6.

Cornerback Lardarius Webb (hamstring), wide receiver Breshad Perriman (knee), left guard Kelechi Osemele (foot), tight end Maxx Williams (undisclosed), linebacker Steven Means (groin), and offensive linemen Jah Reid (undisclosed) and Darryl Baldwin (undisclosed) did not participate in Tuesday’s workout. Webb has responded slowly to a hamstring strain suffered on Aug. 10.

“He had a little bit of a feel for it [and] couldn’t go in the game,” Harbaugh said. “He came out the next day and didn’t feel good the next day. Maybe he aggravated it a little, perhaps. You’ll have to ask him exactly. But it’s not right, right now, and he’s just nursing it and working it and trying to get it right.”

Rashaan Melvin and veteran Kyle Arrington have handled most of reps with the starting defense in Webb’s absence.

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Joseph, Clevenger offer possible glimpse into Orioles catching future

Posted on 18 August 2015 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — Over the final two games of the Oakland series, Orioles catchers on the 25-man roster collected two home runs, three doubles, and nine RBIs.

That production came with Matt Wieters sidelined due to a hamstring issue as Baltimore completed a four-game sweep over the hapless Athletics. And it could offer a glimpse into the Orioles’ future at the position with Wieters set to become a free agent at the end of the season.

Could the combination of Caleb Joseph and Steve Clevenger — or another quality backup paired with the former — make the decision not to re-sign Wieters an easier one?

The notion isn’t as far-fetched as it would have sounded a year ago when you consider the three-time All-Star selection still isn’t catching consecutive games 14 months after undergoing Tommy John surgery. Wieters was always going to be a challenge to re-sign because of super agent Scott Boras, but would giving a lucrative long-term contract to a catcher approaching the wrong side of 30 even be the right move for a club with other holes to address this offseason?

In 272 plate appearances this season, Joseph has hit .255 with 11 homers, 43 RBIs, a .323 on-base percentage, and a .780 on-base plus slugging percentage. In contrast, Wieters has batted .278 with five homers, 17 RBIs, a .305 on-base percentage, and a .755 OPS in 167 plate appearances. Couple that similar offensive production with the fact that the 29-year-old Joseph is under club control through the 2020 season and you have a sound argument in favor of going with the cheaper option, especially if you pair Joseph with a good backup catcher that can spell him two or three times a week in a timeshare that would keep him fresh and help his offense as we’ve seen it do since Wieters has returned.

That’s where Clevenger could enter the picture as he was recently recalled from Triple-A Norfolk after hitting .305 for the Tides this season. Serving as the designated hitter over the final two games of the Oakland series, Clevenger collected four hits in Sunday’s 18-2 win and blasted a three-run shot off All-Star pitcher Sonny Gray on Monday night, making him the first Oriole actually from Baltimore to homer at Camden Yards.

He’s 10-for-24 with three extra-base hits in his brief time with the Orioles this season.

The sticking point with Clevenger receiving an opportunity to be Baltimore’s backup over the last couple years has been his defense, but manager Buck Showalter and other members of the organization have credited his work ethic and improvement behind the plate, making him a distinct possibility to factor into the catching picture for 2016 and beyond. Of course, the Pigtown native is more of a unknown than Joseph at this point — at least playing with the Orioles — but he has a track record for handling the bat well in the minors despite his defense holding him back.

Similar sentiments were shared about Joseph in the past as he was stuck at Double-A Bowie for four straight seasons, making you wonder if Clevenger could follow in those footsteps as a late bloomer to find success at the major league level.

In his second season in the majors, Joseph has shown himself to be capable of serving in a role much bigger than the traditional backup catcher who plays only once a week. And in limited opportunities this season, Clevenger is stating a case to be the complementary piece to help fill the catching void should Wieters depart.

Taking nothing away from the All-Star catcher, but the Orioles are looking more and more capable of being able to survive without him as his free agency is rapidly approaching.

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aiken

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Ravens receivers continue shuffling in and out of practice

Posted on 17 August 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Health at the receiver position continues to be one of the Ravens’ biggest concerns of the summer with players shuffling in and out of workouts.

Monday brought the return of Kamar Aiken (foot) and Marlon Brown (back) to the practice field while second-year wideout Michael Campanaro (undisclosed) joined rookie Breshad Perriman as an absentee. Of course, the most pressing issue has been with Baltimore’s first-round pick, who hasn’t practiced since sustaining a knee injury on July 30.

Head coach John Harbaugh said over the weekend that he still expects Perriman to return during the preseason, but he has missed extensive practice time, making you wonder how prepared he’ll be to play a meaningful role by Week 1. Projected to be the team’s No. 3 or No. 4 receiver, Brown has also missed extensive practice time during training camp and only worked on a limited basis on Monday.

Those absences have led to more prominent looks for Campanaro, Jeremy Butler, and Darren Waller, but the Ravens know Perriman is the only wideout on the roster likely to be a high-ceiling threat in the vertical passing game.

“We’re disappointed for him, No. 1, that he can’t be out there to work,” said offensive coordinator Marc Trestman about Perriman’s extended absence. “There’s nothing we can do [about] it. We have to turn it into a positive, and the guys do so by understanding they have a great opportunity here to have another rep, another opportunity. We’ve got to continue to work to develop the guys we’re with, and that’s the positive side of it.

“That’s all we can control in this moment. We can’t control Breshad being out there. We’ll just go from there, and we’re very, very hopeful that he’ll be with us soon.”

Monday also brought the return of defensive lineman DeAngelo Tyson, who primarily worked on an individual basis after missing a week with what Harbaugh described only as a strain.

In addition to Perriman and Campanaro, the Ravens were missing several other key players on Monday including left guard Kelechi Osemele (foot), cornerbacks Lardarius Webb (hamstring) and Asa Jackson (knee), linebacker Steven Means (knee), and reserve offensive linemen John Urschel (concussion), Robert Myers (concussion), and Jah Reid (undisclosed). Jackson injured his knee in the preseason opener after he was given the first opportunity to return punts and kickoffs against New Orleans.

Special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg was pleased with the performance of both Jackson and Campanaro returning punts as the former returned two for 17 yards and the latter registered a 10-yard return. However, both players have dealt with injuries too often in their young careers.

“It’s a long way to go; we have a lot of practice [to go],” Rosburg said. “We get good opportunities again this week against Philadelphia in practice. Then, hopefully, we’ll make them punt a lot and get some more opportunities in the game. We can’t control the injuries; they are what they are. Hopefully, we get them back soon.”

Several players dealt with heat-related challenges throughout Monday’s practice as rookie wide receiver Darren Waller and tight end Maxx Williams both left the field early and did not return. Wideout Jeremy Butler left the field during practice but later returned.

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campanaro

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Sizing up the 2015 Ravens roster after the preseason opener

Posted on 17 August 2015 by Luke Jones

With the preseason opener against New Orleans in the rear-view mirror, I take a look at projecting the Ravens’ 53-man roster for the first time since the end of mandatory minicamp in mid-June.

My current look at the roster suggests 44 players are locks if the deadline to trim the roster to 53 took place today. My rough assessment of the 90 players currently on the preseason roster lists 17 players on the bubble. Not all bubble players are on equal footing, with certain positions lacking depth and others enjoying an abundance of talent.

Though general manager Ozzie Newsome, coach John Harbaugh, and the remainder of the coaching staff and front office are aware of the number of players at each position, trying to boldly pinpoint a specific number of wide receivers or linebackers isn’t the most accurate way of projecting the roster. In filling out the back end of their roster, the Ravens will look carefully at players’ special-teams abilities in addition to what they bring to their position.

The Ravens must trim the roster from 90 players to 75 on Sept. 1 and will go down to the regular-season number of 53 on Sept. 5.

The numbers in parentheses indicate the total number of players currently on the roster at that given position. Bubble players’ names that are underlined are currently on my projected 53-man roster as of Aug. 17.

QUARTERBACKS (3)
LOCK: Joe Flacco, Matt Schaub
BUBBLE: None
LONG SHOT: Bryn Renner
Skinny: Renner was the hero in the preseason opener, but he still profiles as no more than a candidate for the practice squad.

RUNNING BACKS & FULLBACKS (7)
LOCK: Justin Forsett, Kyle Juszczyk, Lorenzo Taliaferro, Buck Allen
BUBBLE: Fitz Toussaint
LONG SHOT: Kiero Small, Terrence Magee
Skinny: Special-teams play could allow Touissant to steal one of the final roster spots while Magee looks like an intriguing practice-squad candidate.

WIDE RECEIVERS (12)
LOCK: Steve Smith, Breshad Perriman, Kamar Aiken, Marlon Brown, Michael Campanaro
BUBBLE: Darren Waller, Jeremy Butler, DeAndre Carter
LONG SHOT: Aldrick Robinson, Daniel Brown, Trent Steelman, Tom Nelson
Skinny: Plenty of competition remains at the receiver position, but it will be interesting to see how many the Ravens will keep, making the next two weeks critical for the second tier of wideouts.

TIGHT ENDS (6)
LOCK: Crockett Gillmore, Maxx Williams, Nick Boyle
BUBBLE: None
LONG SHOT: Konrad Reuland
PHYSICALLY UNABLE TO PERFORM LIST: Dennis Pitta
INJURED RESERVE: Allen Reisner
Skinny: With Pitta expected to begin the year on the PUP list, there isn’t much drama here in terms of roster spots, but it will be intriguing to see how quickly Williams can close the gap on Gillmore.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN (17)
LOCK: Marshal Yanda, Kelechi Osemele, Rick Wagner, Eugene Monroe, Jeremy Zuttah, John Urschel, James Hurst
BUBBLE: Robert Myers, Jah Reid, Ryan Jensen
LONG SHOT: Leon Brown, Kaleb Johnson, Marcel Jones, Nick Easton, Darryl Baldwin, Blaine Clausell, De’Ondre Wesley
Skinny: It wouldn’t be shocking to see the Ravens take advantage of an injury to stash the rookie Myers on injured reserve, which would open up a spot for the improved Jensen on the 53-man roster.

DEFENSIVE LINEMEN (10)
LOCK: Brandon Williams, Timmy Jernigan, Chris Canty, Carl Davis, Lawrence Guy
BUBBLE: DeAngelo Tyson, Kapron Lewis-Moore, Christo Bilukidi
LONG SHOT: Micajah Reynolds
INJURED RESERVE: Brent Urban
Skinny: After two years missed due to injuries, Lewis-Moore hasn’t been impressive this summer and now looks like he could be on the wrong side of the bubble without improvement.

INSIDE LINEBACKERS (6)
LOCK: Daryl Smith, C.J. Mosley, Zachary Orr
BUBBLE: Albert McClellan, Arthur Brown
LONG SHOT: Andrew Bose
Skinny: The Ravens could find a way to keep five inside linebackers, but it was telling that Brown, the 2013 second-round pick, didn’t play extensively on defense until the fourth quarter against New Orleans.

OUTSIDE LINEBACKERS (7)
LOCK: Terrell Suggs, Elvis Dumervil, Courtney Upshaw, Za’Darius Smith
BUBBLE: Steven Means
LONG SHOT: Brennen Beyer, Zach Thompson
Skinny: Means’ leg injury sustained in the preseason opener could change the picture at this position, but the Ravens want to be sure to have enough depth behind Suggs and Dumervil.

CORNERBACKS (10)
LOCK: Lardarius Webb, Jimmy Smith, Kyle Arrington, Tray Walker, Rashaan Melvin
BUBBLE: Asa Jackson, Quinton Pointer
LONG SHOT: Cassius Vaughn, Tramain Jacobs, Chris Greenwood
Skinny: Jackson is nursing a knee injury, but his status as the potential return specialist factors more heavily to his standing than his play at cornerback, meaning the surprising Pointer could still grab a spot.

SAFETIES (7)
LOCK: Will Hill, Kendrick Lewis, Anthony Levine
BUBBLE: Brynden Trawick, Nick Perry
LONG SHOT: None
PHYSICALLY UNABLE TO PERFORM LIST: Terrence Brooks
INJURED RESERVE: Matt Elam
Skinny: Depth is a concern at safety with Elam likely done for the year and Brooks’ status up in the air for at least the start of the regular season, meaning Newsome should be looking to add depth here.

SPECIALISTS (5)
LOCK: Sam Koch, Morgan Cox, Justin Tucker
BUBBLE: None
LONG SHOT: Justin Manton, Patrick Scales
Skinny: There’s just nothing to see here.

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davis

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Clock ticking, price rising for Orioles to re-sign Davis

Posted on 16 August 2015 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — The most surprising aspect of the Orioles’ record-tying 26-hit showing in an 18-2 win over Oakland on Sunday was how little the white-hot Chris Davis factored into the demolition.

It was still a good afternoon for the first baseman as he went 2-for-5 and drove in his league-leading 89th run of the season as the Orioles won their third straight game over the Athletics, but his performance paled in comparison to what we saw in consecutive walk-off wins on Friday and Saturday. After hitting a go-ahead home run in an eventual 13-inning victory in the series opener, Davis followed that feat with a two-homer game on Saturday, including the winning blast in the bottom of the ninth.

To put it mildly, the 29-year-old is seeing the ball well these days with an incredible 15 home runs in the last 23 games entering Sunday’s action. It’s a stretch reminiscent of what he put together in 2013 on his way to a club record 53 long balls.

Davis is now on pace to hit 47 home runs, the kind of territory no one expected him to reach again after he hit an anemic .196 and just 26 homers last season.

“Anytime you’re swinging the bat well, you feel good about where you are,” Davis said on Saturday night. “I try not to read too much into it. I know as quickly as it comes, it can go. You just try to take it one day at a time and stay with your approach.”

After Davis’ nightmarish 2014 ended prematurely with a 25-game suspension for unauthorized Adderall, some questioned whether the Orioles even should have tendered the 29-year-old a contract in his final year of arbitration. It was fair to question whether Davis would be worth $12 million following a season in which he hit rock bottom on the field and in the public eye.

A reasonable expectation for Davis laid out over the winter was a return to his 2012 level of production in which he hit 33 homers and drove in 85 runs with an .827 on-base plus slugging percentage. If he wasn’t as bad as he was in 2014 and not as great as he was two years ago, the truth fell somewhere in the middle, right?

But in a contract year, Davis has already outdone those 2012 numbers with 34 home runs and an .895 OPS, to go along with a very respectable .261 batting average in 473 plate appearances. The higher average is especially impressive when acknowledging the extreme infield shifts continuing to be employed against him.

“He’s done this before,” manager Buck Showalter said. “He had good periods last year, he had good periods the year before, and over in Texas. The thing I’ve been most proud of is where his batting average is.”

Despite much handwringing over Davis’ strikeout totals and low average, Showalter’s assessment of the slugger’s run in Baltimore is spot on. There has been far more good than bad in Davis’ four full years with the Orioles as he’s homered at least 33 times in three of those seasons.

In a pitching-rich era in which offense is at a greater premium, can the Orioles afford to let Davis walk away this offseason? Part of a free-agent-to-be trio that includes left-handed starting pitcher Wei-Yin Chen and catcher Matt Wieters, Davis now appears to be the most appealing of the three to keep in Baltimore for the long haul.

The slugger says he isn’t dwelling on his future right now.

“I’d love to stay here,” Davis said. “I told you guys in spring training I wasn’t going to talk about contracts this year. We have way too much on our plate right now [and] too much to focus on. I feel like it’s selfish for me to sit here and talk about my future with the team when we’re trying to make the postseason. We’ll address it when the time comes.”

The excuses are plentiful for why the Orioles won’t do it.

Even if Davis cools considerably over the final six weeks of the season, the left-handed hitter would likely command the richest contract in club history.

It will be a headache negotiating with super agent Scott Boras.

The memory of his poor 2014 and his Adderall suspension are examples of his baggage that will always be in the back of your mind.

Executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette dragged his feet over offering Nelson Cruz a fourth year last offseason, but Davis is nearly six years younger and has hit more homers than the former Oriole over the last four seasons. In addition to age, Davis brings more value defensively with the ability to play both first base and right field at a solid level.

At a forum with Orioles season-ticket holders on Saturday, Duquette said the organization wants to re-sign Davis this offseason and indicated that he would be a priority. It’s clear at this point that Davis won’t be cheap, but his strengths are worth having with no acceptable replacement at first base waiting in the wings.

With some high salaries coming off the books this winter, the payroll flexibility will be there — if the Orioles choose to use it — to make a serious run at keeping Davis.

But the price continues to climb with every mammoth home run.

If you’re going to pay a premium for any of the Orioles’ big three free agents, Davis is the clear choice, even with his sometimes-frustrating flaws. It will be intriguing to see what the rest of his season brings as the Orioles try to qualify for the postseason for the third time in four years.

“It’s just words right now,” said Davis of Duquette’s comments on Saturday. “My focus is on the field trying to do everything I can to help us win a game.”

Just words, indeed, as Duquette and ownership will have the opportunity to step to the plate to avoid having another slugger walk away.

Fans can only hope the Orioles won’t whiff again, but they have every right to be skeptical after what transpired last winter.

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Harbaugh still expecting Perriman back during preseason

Posted on 15 August 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — One of the Ravens’ biggest concerns as they begin their third full week of training camp continues to be the status of first-round pick Breshad Perriman.

The rookie wide receiver hasn’t practiced since injuring his knee during the first full-squad workout on July 30, but head coach John Harbaugh remains optimistic that Perriman will return soon. Initially described as a bruise that would sideline the Central Florida product for a day or two, Perriman’s knee issue has now cost him 11 straight practices as well as the preseason opener.

A few days after the injury, Harbaugh mentioned the possibility of there being a minor strain, but the organization has remained tight-lipped about the specifics of the injury over the last two weeks.

“He’s got whatever they want to call it with his knee situation there,” Harbaugh said. “It’s not something that’s going to keep him out for a long period of time, they tell me. If I was a doctor, I’d give you more. [Head athletic trainer] Mark Smith’s right in there. You can walk right in there and ask him yourself, [but] I doubt he’d talk to you.”

The Ravens were without three of their top four projected receivers on Saturday as Kamar Aiken (undisclosed) and Marlon Brown (back) were also sidelined. Veteran No. 1 wideout Steve Smith tweaked his ankle during Saturday’s practice, but it did not appear serious as he finished the workout on a limited basis.

Selected with the 26th overall pick in this year’s draft, Perriman is being counted on to provide a vertical threat for the Baltimore passing game following the offseason departures of Torrey Smith and Jacoby Jones.

The Ravens were pleased with Perriman’s work during spring workouts and have credited his mental approach to the game, but there’s no sugarcoating how much valuable practice time has been lost for the 6-foot-2, 218-pound wideout. At this point, his status for the second preseason game against Philadelphia appears cloudy at best.

“He’ll be back sometime here in training camp, hopefully soon,” Harbaugh said. “I hate that he’s missing it, hate that he’s not out here. I’ve got a knot in the pit of my stomach in some ways about it. In other ways, I know it’s out of our control.”

Other players missing from Saturday’s practice included cornerbacks Lardarius Webb (hamstring) and Asa Jackson (knee), defensive lineman DeAngelo Tyson (unspecified strain), linebacker Steven Means (leg), and offensive linemen John Urschel (concussion), Robert Myers (concussion), and Darryl Baldwin (undisclosed). Tight end Dennis Pitta (hip) and safety Terrence Brooks (knee) remain on the active physically unable to perform list.

The Ravens did see the return of starting defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan, who missed a few days of practice with a foot injury and did not play in the preseason opener.

Players will have Sunday off before returning to Owings Mills for two days of workouts before traveling to Philadelphia for a three-day practice session with the Eagles ahead of next Saturday’s preseason game.

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