Tag Archive | "Baltimore"

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Orioles hoping Wright can provide boost in bullpen

Posted on 13 May 2015 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — With Kevin Gausman still on the 15-day disabled list and slated to once again be stretched out as a starter, the Orioles have elected to turn to right-hander Mike Wright for help in the bullpen.

The 25-year-old was recalled from Triple-A Norfolk on Wednesday after Rule 5 pitcher Jason Garcia was placed on the DL with right shoulder tendinitis. He doesn’t figure to receive many high-leverage opportunities early, but the Orioles would like to have another power arm in the bullpen as Wright’s sinking fastball projects to sit in the mid-90s pitching in relief.

“There’s a lot of good options down there. It could be a short time; it could be a long time,” manager Buck Showalter said. “We felt like he would be here at some point. He’s another one that we think has a bright future for us, but it’s still the biggest jump in sports. You never know how that’s going to play.”

Wright doesn’t receive the same attention as top pitching prospects Dylan Bundy and Hunter Harvey, but the 2011 third-round pick has been on the Orioles’ radar for the last couple years as manager Buck Showalter has periodically mentioned how he fared pitching in the minors. Despite underwhelming results for much of the 2014 season at Triple-A Norfolk, Wright excelled in his final seven starts when he posted a 0.95 ERA in 47 2/3 innings.

The 6-foot-6 right-hander followed that with an impressive spring for the Orioles, pitching to a 2.70 ERA with eight strikeouts in 6 2/3 innings of Grapefruit League action. Wright owned a 3-0 record with a 2.64 ERA in his six starts for the Tides this season, which included 30 strikeouts and nine walks in 30 2/3 innings.

In addition to his fastball, Wright possesses a solid slider, a changeup, and a curveball. While many project Wright to be a fringe starting pitcher in the majors, his velocity and pitch repertoire would appear to give him a reasonable chance to carve out a long-term relief role at the very least.

Whether Wright is ready to make meaningful contributions to the 2015 Orioles remains to be seen, but his body of work at Norfolk and in the spring warranted the opportunity he will now receive.

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machado

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Machado’s off-key defense concerning in early going

Posted on 13 May 2015 by Luke Jones

It’s been a strange start to the 2015 season for Orioles third baseman Manny Machado.

Offensively, he’s on pace to hit a career-high 31 home runs and currently boasts an .868 on-base plus slugging percentage, which dwarfs his previous best of .755 last year. His .354 on-base percentage and club-leading 13 walks — his career high was just 29 in 2013 — have prompted manager Buck Showalter to move the 22-year-old into the leadoff spot in the order. He’s also stolen five bases, one shy of his career high and a sign that his knee issues are hopefully behind him for good.

But the young infielder’s trademark defense hasn’t been so “Machadian” thus far with a club-leading eight errors in 31 games. His seventh-inning throw behind Chris Tillman on what would have been a 3-5-1 double play eventually led to Toronto breaking a 2-2 tie and scoring four times in the Orioles’ 10-2 loss to the Blue Jays on Tuesday night.

It was his latest miscue to hurt the Orioles this season after he made two late-inning errors in a home series against Boston in late April, one that preceded a tie-breaking three-run homer in a loss and another that resulted in a blown save for closer Zach Britton.

To be clear, Machado has made his share of highlight plays this year, but several of his errors have been costly for a pitching staff so reliant on the Orioles’ usually-stellar defense. Opponents have scored 11 runs in the remainder of innings following a Machado error. Of course, a defensive lapse isn’t an excuse for a pitcher to melt down, but it does illustrate how costly it can be to award extra outs to the opposition.

Of his eight errors, six have been on throws, most of them being rather routine plays.

He’s committed six in the seventh inning or later.

At this point, is he too confident or not confident enough with his throwing? How did the 2013 Gold Glove winner explain the uncharacteristic struggles after Tuesday’s loss?

“I don’t know. Playing baseball,” said Machado, who’s shown his frustration on several occasions this season. “I’m trying to make outs and it’s not turning out like it’s supposed to be. I’ve got to keep grinding, keep catching grounders, and keep making those throws.”

It’s clear that Machado and the Orioles recognize the inconsistency as he was out on the field early on Tuesday afternoon working with third base coach and infield instructor Bobby Dickerson.

No one who’s watched Machado over the last few years doubts his special ability after he won the American League’s Platinum Glove award as its best defensive player in 2013, but he’s currently on pace to commit 42 errors this season. His eight errors are just one shy of his total from last year in 51 fewer games. He made just 13 in 484 chances in his first full season in the majors when he was 20 years old.

Is it an early-season aberration or something bigger to be concerned about?

Much like their slow start to the 2015 season, the Orioles hope the young third baseman snaps out of it sooner rather than later.

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Ravens still looking to add veteran cornerback to mix

Posted on 13 May 2015 by Luke Jones

Nearly two weeks after addressing most of their positional needs and wants in the 2015 draft, the Ravens apparently aren’t done addressing their cornerback depth.

Speaking to season-ticket holders in a conference call Tuesday night, head coach John Harbaugh and general manager Ozzie Newsome confirmed the organization remains interested in adding a veteran cornerback. Baltimore feels comfortable with the health of starters Jimmy Smith and Lardarius Webb after both dealt with injuries last season, but the important No. 3 cornerback spot remains up for grabs with Asa Jackson, Rashaan Melvin, and fourth-round rookie Tray Walker the top contenders.

“We want to add some competition in there. Ozzie is working on that right now,” Harbaugh said. “I think Ozzie has said [that] we’re not finished there.”

After being released by New England earlier this week, veteran Kyle Arrington would appear to be a good fit at the slot cornerback position, which would take pressure off the Ravens’ younger options. Newsome did not express any specific interest in Arrington, but the 28-year-old would figure to draw plenty of interest around the NFL after collecting 39 tackles, a sack, two forced fumbles, and four pass breakups.

Arrington’s play declined in the second half of 2014, but the 5-foot-10 cornerback brings plenty of experience with 56 starts and nine interceptions under his belt in a six-year career. With just over $10 million in salary cap space, the Ravens will clearly have the ability to make a competitive offer for Arrington if they consider him a worthy addition.

“There are a lot of players available now that I have been on the phone talking to representatives [about],” Newsome said. “This is the time of the year where because of the draft, teams start to tweak their rosters. We’ll be on the lookout not just for additions to the secondary but for any other good players that may get released.”

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Ravens release quarterback Wenning, tight end Supernaw

Posted on 12 May 2015 by Luke Jones

The Ravens made several roster moves Tuesday including the releases of quarterback Keith Wenning and tight end Phillip Supernaw.

A 2014 sixth-round pick, Wenning spent his entire rookie season on the Baltimore practice squad and was once viewed as a potential long-term backup for starter Joe Flacco. However, the free-agent acquisition of veteran Matt Schaub made it clear that the Ravens didn’t think much of Wenning’s future with the organization.

The Ravens will also give spring and summer reps to former North Carolina quarterback Bryn Renner and rookie Jerry Lovelocke, an undrafted free agent from Prairie View A&M.

Supernaw spent last season bouncing back and forth between the practice squad and the 53-man roster and even spent a brief time with the Kansas City Chiefs. In eight total games, he caught three passes for 30 yards.

With the Ravens selecting tight ends Max Williams and Nick Boyle in this year’s draft to join 2014 third-round pick Crockett Gillmore, it was apparent that Supernaw was quite low on the depth chart. Veteran Dennis Pitta still hopes to play again this season, but his status remains in doubt despite a guaranteed 2015 salary.

The Ravens signed Alabama guard Leon Brown, James Madison wide receiver Daniel Brown, and Rhode Island inside linebacker Andrew Bose. In addition to Wenning and Supernaw, rookie free agent outside linebacker Darius Allen was cut on Tuesday afternoon.

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Showalter expecting Wieters to rejoin Orioles on June 4

Posted on 12 May 2015 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — On the same day Matt Wieters caught nine innings for the first time in extended spring training, Buck Showalter gave his clearest projection yet of when the Orioles catcher might be ready to return.

The three-time All-Star selection was moved to the 60-day disabled list Sunday while continuing to work his way back to full strength from Tommy John surgery. The move made Wieters eligible to be activated on June 4, which is the date his manager is expecting to finally have him back in the Orioles lineup.

“He should join us then if everything goes well and we don’t have any other setbacks,” Showalter said prior to the second contest of a three-game series with Toronto. “It may be an every-other-day scenario here. I was only going to catch him four out of seven [games] anyway, but we may do an every-other-day thing with him. We’ll see how it goes. Today was a good step for him.”

Wieters is scheduled to catch nine innings on Thursday and Saturday as he inches closer to beginning a minor-league rehab assignment. It was expected that Wieters — who turns 29 later this month — would need to catch on consecutive days before reporting to a minor-league affiliate, but Showalter’s revelation on Tuesday possibly paints a different picture for the catcher’s immediate future.

With current starter Caleb Joseph currently hitting .295 with three home runs, 10 RBIs, and an .866 on-base plus slugging percentage in 92 plate appearances, the Orioles have been able to practice more patience since Wieters suffered a setback in mid-March. The possibility of Wieters and Joseph sharing starting duties wouldn’t appear to be a bad scenario for the club, especially with the former scheduled to become a free agent at the end of the season.

“Let me get to [June 4] first,” Showalter said. “Having Matt every other day is better than not having him at all. I think that will progress from there.”

Gausman’s MRI returns clean

The results of a magnetic resonance imaging exam showed no concerns beyond the mild right shoulder tendinitis that landed right-handed pitcher Kevin Gausman on the 15-day DL last week.

Showalter once again confirmed that the plan is for Gausman to enter the starting rotation at Triple-A Norfolk, but the Orioles will take it slow to make sure what remains of the inflammation in his right shoulder fully dissipates. Gausman hopes to possibly be throwing again by the weekend before eventually reporting to the Tides.

“We were contemplating [sending him to Norfolk] anyway because I don’t want Kevin to end up at [only] 50, 60 innings on the year,” Showalter said. “He figures into the potential of being in the rotation down the road [and] next year. When he went out and did that last year, he came back actually better in our bullpen. I want to keep the ball in his hand, so I think it’s going to be good.”

With Bud Norris struggling early in the season, Gausman could factor into the Baltimore rotation sooner rather than later once he is stretched out again as a starter. He has posted a 4.50 ERA in 12 innings pitching in relief this season.

While accepting a bullpen role with no complaints despite pitching to a 3.57 ERA in 20 regular-season starts last season, Gausman makes no secret about the role he’d like to fill in the long run.

“Obviously, I’ve been a starter for most of my career,” Gausman said. “That’s what I’m comfortable doing, so just to kind of get into a routine, that’s what I’m excited about.”

Flaherty back on DL, Navarro recalled

After leaving Monday’s game with a re-aggravated right groin, infielder Ryan Flaherty was placed back on the 15-day DL less than a week after being reinstated.

The Orioles recalled infielder Rey Navarro after he was optioned for the returning Flaherty on Friday. He and Steve Pearce will likely share duties at second base, but the latter was in the starting lineup on Tuesday.

Showalter is hopeful that Flaherty will not be sidelined for long, but the Orioles could not afford to carry him on the 25-man roster with a shortage of infield options behind him.

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nationalguard

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Report: Ravens among teams with military financial deals

Posted on 12 May 2015 by Luke Jones

Lost in the shuffle of the NFL’s punishment of the New England Patriots Monday was a report stating the Department of Defense paid a total of $5.4 million to NFL teams through promotional military contracts over the last few years.

According to NJ.com, the Ravens were among a group of 14 teams that received funds to finance advertising and military tributes. Baltimore has reportedly received $884,500 since 2011 — the second-highest amount of any mentioned team — but senior vice president of public and community relations Kevin Byrne told multiple outlets Monday that the Ravens’ agreement with the Maryland National Guard makes “no mention of honoring soldiers.”

Past advertising included a Maryland National Guard patch on the Ravens’ practice jerseys, the type of measure that probably should have made it clear that there was a financial aspect to their partnership. Of course, this blurs the line between business and goodwill for many as the Ravens have recognized military personnel in a variety of ways over the years.

In fairness, there is much evidence to suggest the Ravens have gone above and beyond in their efforts to recognize the military as head coach John Harbaugh alone has visited soldiers abroad and received the league’s Salute to Service award in 2013 for his well-documented efforts.

Meanwhile, Arizona senator Jeff Flake has criticized the Armed Forces for the allocation of these funds, questioning the effectiveness of the measures while understanding their desire to recruit soldiers from NFL fan bases. Depending on your views, it could be easy to find fault with either side while questioning the authenticity of the many touching tributes we’ve witnessed at Ravens games and across the league in recent years.

Can a team accept military dollars for advertising and marketing and simultaneously recognize soldiers as sheer acts of goodwill like the Ravens say they do?

Opinions will certainly vary depending on who you talk to.

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perriman

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Ravens sign first-round pick Breshad Perriman

Posted on 11 May 2015 by Luke Jones

Two weeks before Memorial Day, the Ravens have signed all of their selections from the 2015 draft with first-round wide receiver Breshad Perriman agreeing to terms on Monday.

The 26th overall pick was the last of Baltimore’s nine draft picks to sign, agreeing to a four-year, $8.7 million contract that includes a fifth-year team option. The deal includes a $4.59 million signing bonus, according to the NFL’s slotting system for draft picks.

The memories of rookie draft picks holding out well into training camp continue to fade as the current collective bargaining agreement signed in 2011 eliminated the drama that once existed in signing early-round picks. All nine draft picks participated in the Ravens’ rookie minicamp in Owings Mills last weekend.

The 6-foot-2 Perriman is expected to start opposite veteran receiver Steve Smith this season.

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gausman

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Orioles weighing next steps for Gausman with fingers crossed

Posted on 11 May 2015 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — The Orioles are considering their plan of attack for what’s next for right-handed pitcher Kevin Gausman while crossing their fingers that his shoulder tendinitis is nothing more serious.

The 2012 first-round pick is feeling much better after taking anti-inflammatory medicine upon being placed on the 15-day disabled list on Friday. Gausman was scheduled to be examined by team orthopedist Dr. Michael Jacobs on Monday and will undergo a magnetic resonance imaging exam on Tuesday, but manager Buck Showalter has already indicated that the preliminary plan is to once again stretch out Gausman as a starter at Triple-A Norfolk when he’s healthy enough to resume pitching.

Of course, that’s assuming the Orioles aren’t dealing with something more serious with the talented 24-year-old’s health as they’ve maintained that he probably could have continued pitching through the discomfort if necessary.

“I’m not going to underplay it. We put him on the ‘precautionary’ DL without casting that on somebody else,” Showalter said. “It was just something we felt was right for Kevin with some of the things that were going on. I have some caution about getting too far ahead of ourselves until Dr. Jacobs [examines him] and the MRI is taken.

“It’s the first time Kevin’s ever had any symptoms like that. He feels great today, so I’m hoping that it was simple tendinitis.”

The timing of Gausman’s injury comes as starter Bud Norris turned in another poor outing on Sunday, lifting his season ERA to 9.88 over six starts. Gausman was being used out of the bullpen and had posted a 4.50 ERA in 12 innings of work after pitching to a 3.57 ERA in 20 regular-season starts last year.

Gausman last pitched on May 6, making him eligible to be activated as soon as May 22. However, if he’s being groomed to return to a starting role, he would likely spend more time with the Tides to get back into the routine of pitching every five days.

Showalter and the Orioles can only hope that’s the biggest decision they’ll be making as it relates to Gausman’s future and the health of his right shoulder.

“It wasn’t hurting him when he was pitching,” Showalter said. “Once he got loose, it was fine. Until we get through [Tuesday], I’m going to be very cautious with him about what the future holds.”

In other injury-related news, catcher Matt Wieters received the day off in Sarasota and is scheduled to catch eighth innings in an extended spring game on Tuesday and pushing that to nine full innings on Thursday and Saturday.

Infielder Everth Cabrera (bruised left foot) took batting practice at Camden Yards Monday and is expected to begin a minor-league rehab assignment at Double-A Bowie later this week. After he reached five years of major league service time last month, the Orioles can no longer option Cabrera to the minors without his consent.

Second baseman Jonathan Schoop (right knee) hopes to begin baseball-related activities this week and is working out on a pool treadmill in Sarasota.

Left-handed reliever Wesley Wright (left trapezius straing) is expected to throw off a mound in Sarasota this week and could begin a rehab assignment or pitch in an extended spring game as soon as May 19.

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An Orioles performance only a mother could love

Posted on 10 May 2015 by Luke Jones

There was something ironic about the Orioles turning in a performance only a mother could love in a 6-2 loss to the New York Yankees on the holiday Sunday.

In their fifth loss in six games, the Orioles struck out a club-record 18 times as Michael Pineda turned in the first 16-strikeout performance without a walk in the majors since Johan Santana did it in 2007. To be clear, the Yankees starter deserves plenty of credit as he lowered his season ERA to 2.72, but Baltimore’s frustration was evident throughout the afternoon, perhaps captured best in the fifth inning when Manny Machado slammed his bat in frustration after striking out.

Despite Sunday’s dubious achievement, the strikeout hasn’t been a universal problem for the Orioles — they entered the day ranked 15th in the majors — but Chris Davis struck out twice more on Sunday to give him a league-leading 48 in 116 plate appearances. Davis has managed to produce an .805 on-base plus slugging percentage with a club-leading seven home runs, but his contact rate of 61.9 percent entering Sunday was even lower than last season’s 63.6 percent, which doesn’t bode well for future performance.

Hoping to build on back-to-back quality starts, Bud Norris reverted to the pitcher we saw throughout spring training and most of April when he allowed four earned runs before being chased in the fourth inning. It would be unfair to ignore his last two outings in which he posted a 3.95 ERA over 13 2/3 innings, but the leash is shrinking rapidly as we approach Memorial Day.

Of course, the question of who would replace Norris was complicated with Kevin Gausman being placed on the 15-day disabled list with right shoulder tendinitis on Friday. Injuries are a cruel reality of the game, but it’s impossible not to wonder what role irregular work might have played in the most talented pitcher in the organization developing a cranky shoulder. It was one of the biggest concerns mentioned as a reason why some wanted Gausman to be working on a regular schedule in the starting rotation at Triple-A Norfolk if not pitching every fifth day in Baltimore.

The day also brought the latest cringe-worthy outing from Rule 5 pitcher Jason Garcia, who walked four batters and allowed an earned run in 2 1/3 innings. His performance mattered little to the final score, but the 22-year-old has now walked 11 batters in 13 2/3 innings and once again was sitting in the low 90s with his fastball, a far cry from the electric stuff club officials raved about as enough reason to try to carry him on the 25-man roster.

There are simply too many pitchers — Mike Wright, Tyler Wilson, and Steve Johnson, just to name a few — performing well at Norfolk to justify continuing the Garcia experiment if he can’t even pitch in mop-up situations. And his diminished velocity makes you wonder if the long-term payoff of keeping him in the organization is even worth it.

The corner outfield spots continue to create cause for concern as right fielder Delmon Young threw to the wrong base to allow a run to score in the fourth inning and left fielder Alejandro De Aza got a bad read on Jacoby Ellsbury’s two-run double. Even with a proper break, De Aza likely wouldn’t have caught the deep liner, but Orioles pitching simply doesn’t strike out enough hitters to survive with the spottier-than-usual defense we’ve continued to see over the first five weeks of the 2015 campaign.

Even the 2013 Gold Glove winner Machado has struggled to find his usual consistency in the field with a club-leading seven errors this season.

On top of his shaky defense, De Aza struck out twice more to drop his average to .211 with a .632 OPS. He has the second-worst strikeout rate on the club behind Davis, but he hasn’t provided near the production to justify much playing time.

De Aza and Steve Pearce (.556 OPS) were counted on to be consistent contributors in 2015, but both have struggled to even stay in the lineup with such disappointing numbers. Their struggles have provided plenty of ammunition to criticize an offseason in which Nelson Cruz and Nick Markakis departed via free agency and only Travis Snider was added to the outfield.

The Orioles return home 13-16 and 5 1/2 games behind the first-place Yankees in the American League East. Panic and hopelessness are still premature, but it’s fair to be concerned with Baltimore having already suffered separate losing streaks of five and four games in the season’s first five weeks.

As manager Buck Showalter would say, blaming the underwhelming start solely on the losses of Cruz, Markakis, and lefty reliever Andrew Miller — who still has a 0.00 ERA in New York — would be a convenient excuse to overlook other problems. The Orioles have received poor pitching performances from Norris and No. 1 starter Chris Tillman and not nearly enough offense from the likes of De Aza and Pearce as well as former All-Star shorstop Everth Cabrera prior to the recent return of J.J. Hardy.

There’s no such thing as must-win games in mid-May, but the Orioles now play 17 of their next 20 games at Camden Yards. To quell concerns and keep pace as the geriatric Yankees continue to play strong baseball, the Orioles would serve themselves well to take advantage of the home cooking after a brutal stretch on the road.

They can start by putting an ugly Mother’s Day behind them as quickly as possible.

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flaccoeagles

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Ravens to have joint practices with Eagles in Philadelphia

Posted on 09 May 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — For the second straight year, the Ravens will participate in joint practices with one of their preseason opponents during this summer’s training camp.

After hosting the San Francisco 49ers for three practices following the preseason opener last summer, head coach John Harbaugh and the Ravens will travel to the NovaCare Complex in Philadelphia to work out for three days with the Eagles prior to their preseason game at Lincoln Financial Field on Aug. 22. Harbaugh will finalize the practice schedule with Eagles head coach Chip Kelly in the near future.

Unlike last year when he was welcoming his brother to Owings Mills, Harbaugh says he isn’t very familiar with Kelly, but Jim Harbaugh — the former head coach at Stanford — coached against Kelly’s Oregon Ducks for several years in what is now known as the Pacific-12 Conference.

“We’re excited about that. We’re looking forward to it,” Harbaugh said. “I don’t know Chip very well, but Jim’s always spoken real highly of him, and I obviously have great respect for him.”

The Ravens had never held practices with another team prior to last year, but they previously scrimmaged with the Washington Redskins a few times prior to the Harbaugh era. Baltimore hasn’t played the Eagles since 2012 and will host Philadelphia in the regular season next year, which would likely rule out a potential trip by the Eagles to Owings Mills next summer.

This summer will mark the first preseason game between the Ravens and the Eagles since 2011. The Interstate 95 neighbors have met 11 times in the preseason with Baltimore holding a 7-4 edge.

“We were just talking at the owners’ meetings,” said Harbaugh about his interactions with Kelly. “We were kind of wondering why we don’t play each other more in the preseason and to see if we can work something out. It looks like we’re going to be able to do that.”

Ravens studying logistics for trips out west

With two occurrences of back-to-back road games against teams out west, the Ravens continue to weigh their options over whether to stay out there to limit the number of cross-country trips in the regular season.

Nothing is set in stone, but the Ravens may remain out west after their season opener against Denver to then play at Oakland in Week 2. Baltimore also plays in San Francisco in Week 6 before traveling to Arizona for a Monday night game the following week.

“We have not made a final decision on staying out there. We’re leaning in that direction, especially the first week,” Harbaugh said. “We’ll see about the second week; it’s a little bit of a longer trip. We have a couple of sleep-study doctors and time-zone doctors and things like that who we’re talking to.

“We just want to do the smartest thing, whatever it is. We’ll probably have a decision on that within two weeks, I’d say.”

Cornerback injured

After the Ravens’ well-documented injuries at cornerback during the 2014 season, the first injury of 2015 was suffered by another playing that same position.

Participating in this weekend’s rookie minicamp, free-agent cornerback Julian Wilson suffered a fractured lower leg on Friday and will miss the 2015 season. The 6-foot-2 Oklahoma product was considered an undrafted rookie to watch this summer, but he will instead spend his rookie season on injured reserve.

“He’ll be out for the year, and he’ll move on from that,” Harbaugh said. “He’ll still be with us and be a part of us. He has a lot of potential as a player, so it was disappointing in that sense.”

Harbaugh mum on Wells report

Asked to comment about the Ted Wells report released on the New England Patriots’ deflated footballs scandal, Harbaugh wasn’t about to take the bait.

“Our business is right here,” said Harbaugh, who declined comment and quipped that he’s been too busy to read the entire report. “This is our business right here in Baltimore. We’ll take care of our business. Thanks.”

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