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Sizing up the Orioles-Royals American League Championship Series

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Sizing up the Orioles-Royals American League Championship Series

Posted on 10 October 2014 by Luke Jones

With the start of the American League Championship Series now upon us, here’s how I see the Orioles and Royals stacking up in their first-ever postseason meeting …

Offense
Advantage: BALTIMORE
Skinny: The Royals play small ball better than anyone, but the Orioles don’t waste outs and have the ability to dramatically change a game with one swing of the bat and scored 54 more runs during the regular season.

Defense
Advantage: BALTIMORE
Skinny: Kansas City is very strong in the outfield and behind the plate, but the Orioles have a clear edge in infield defense, which tips the scale in their favor in this category.

Starting pitching
Advantage: KANSAS CITY
Skinny: The Royals’ starter ERA of 3.60 was just a hair better than the Orioles’ 3.61 mark and the veteran presence of James Shields gives Kansas City someone who’s pitched in a number of big games before.

Bullpen
Advantage: BALTIMORE
Skinny: The trio of Greg Holland, Wade Davis, and Kelvin Herrera is every bit as good as Zach Britton, Andrew Miller, and Darren O’Day, but the Orioles are a little bit deeper beyond that, which is more significant in a seven-game format.

Speed
Advantage: KANSAS CITY
Skinny: There isn’t a more lopsided advantage for either club as the Royals stole 153 bases to lead the majors while Baltimore managed just 44 to rank last in that statistic.

Intangibles
Advantage: BALTIMORE
Skinny: The Royals were riding a wave of momentum in topping Oakland and the Angels to advance to the ALCS, but the Orioles endured everything thrown their way this year on the way to 96 wins.

Coaching
Advantage: BALTIMORE
Skinny: Royals manager Ned Yost deserves credit for allowing his young players to be themselves this season after he was previously more of a taskmaster, but Buck Showalter is the better tactician and it isn’t really close.

Unsung hero – Kevin Gausman
Skinny: In a best-of-seven format, there’s bound to be a start or two that isn’t up to par for either side and Gausman’s stuff in a shorter stint in relief is a wild card that we already saw play out in Game 2 of the AL Division Series.

Prediction – Orioles in six games
Skinny: Once you move past their different styles offensively, Baltimore and Kansas City are quite similar in every other phase of the game, making this series difficult to predict. However, the emotional wave that the Royals were riding against the Athletics and the Angels had a chance to subside over the last five days while the Orioles simply looked like themselves against Detroit and were the better club than Kansas City over the course of 162 games.

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Young’s simple approach nets huge dividends for Orioles in dramatic Game 2 win

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Young’s simple approach nets huge dividends for Orioles in dramatic Game 2 win

Posted on 03 October 2014 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — Following one of the most dramatic moments in the history of Oriole Park at Camden Yards, Delmon Young appeared to be the only one who didn’t view his three-run double as anything special after the Orioles’ 7-6 win over the Detroit Tigers on Friday afternoon.

Asked how it felt to hear the roar of the crowd after he connected on a liner down the left-field line off Joakim Soria and what it meant to lift his club to a dramatic comeback victory to take a 2-0 lead in the American League Division Series, Young was short and unemotional with his answers as if he didn’t understand why such a fuss was being made. Of course, it wasn’t the first time Young has delivered in October as it was just a few years ago that he hit eight home runs over two postseason runs with the same team he put on the brink of elimination Friday afternoon.

“Just like winning a ballgame,” said Young about how he felt as just a trace of a half-smile briefly came across his face. “I was trying to do my job and win a game. You don’t want to go to Detroit [tied] 1-1 when they have [David] Price going and [Rick] Porcello going and they have an opportunity to clinch up there.”

The coming days will determine where Young’s hit might ultimately rank in club history, but the 29-year-old’s bases-clearing double has at least given him folk-hero status in a 22-year history of Camden Yards that doesn’t include a long list of great on-field results.

It all started quietly enough with the Orioles signing Young to a minor-league deal following a tryout at their January minicamp in Sarasota. His career appeared at a crossroads after a mediocre season with Detroit in 2012 and a disappointing campaign split between Philadelphia and Tampa Bay a year ago.

But the Orioles only envisioned a platoon role for him against left-handed pitching, and manager Buck Showalter quipped after Friday’s game that no one was smart enough to anticipate Young’s 10-for-20 mark as a pinch-hitter in 2014, providing timely hits throughout a 96-win campaign even after stretches when he’d sit on the bench for days at a time.

“He’s always been a good hitter,” said shortstop J.J. Hardy, who scored the go-ahead run on Young’s double and played with him in Minnesota in 2010. “But pinch-hitting, we look at each other in the dugout after he gets a big hit and we’re like, ‘How does he do that after not seeing a live pitch for five or six days and then just come in and hit a pitch like that down the line?’ It’s unbelievable.”

Young shrugged when asked how he’s been able to come through off the bench in the late innings so often, calling it good fortune and stating that it’s a matter of simply being ready whenever Showalter calls his name. Now with his fifth different club in the last four years, the journeyman almost made it sound as simple as rolling out of bed to step to the plate before returning to a state of relaxation after getting the job done.

But teammates know better, applauding his preparation and ability to do something that even many of the most-skilled hitters in the game struggle with.

“It’s the hardest job in sports, being a pinch-hitter,” said first baseman Steve Pearce, who’s filled a similar role to Young’s in past seasons and is a career .190 pinch-hitter in 88 plate appearances. “You’re going up there cold; you haven’t seen any pitching. Bullpen pitching [is] even tougher. That’s why he’s so good. He keeps everything simple. He doesn’t read into anything. He just goes up there and hits, and he does a good job of that.”

Showalter said Young is one of those players that allows a manager to rest his head on his pillow when thinking about using him, because he’s always going to be ready. Young has rewarded that faith with big hits throughout the season.

But none were as dramatic as his game-winner on Friday, putting the Orioles in position to advance to the AL Championship Series with just one more win over the Tigers.

“We don’t know if magic is the word to use,” said Young about the Orioles scoring 12 eighth-inning runs in the first two games of the series. “We’re just trying to beat a very good ball club in Detroit.”

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Orioles acquire outfielder De Aza, infielder Kelly Johnson in separate trades

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Orioles acquire outfielder De Aza, infielder Kelly Johnson in separate trades

Posted on 30 August 2014 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — Looking to augment their roster in their final push for the American League East title, the Orioles acquired outfielder Alejandro De Aza from the Chicago White Sox and infielder Kelly Johnson from the Boston Red Sox on Saturday night.

Unheralded minor-league pitchers Miguel Chalas and Mark Blackmar were sent to Chicago to complete the deal for De Aza, who will provide a much-needed left-handed bat and speed, two areas in which the Orioles could stand to improve despite a comfortable seven-game lead in the division entering Saturday. The 30-year-old is hitting .246 with five home runs, 31 runs batted in, and 15 stolen bases while seeing time at all three outfield positions this season.

“We have been looking to get a little bit better balance to our lineup with the addition of a left-handed hitter,” executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette said. “De Aza is a left-handed hitter that can help balance out the lineup and contribute to the team. We thought it was important to continue to add major league players who can help us in September and also be eligible for the post-season when we advance.

De Aza is a career .268 hitter with a .331 on-base percentage and 77 stolen bases in seven major league seasons. In 2013, he hit .264 with 17 homers, 62 RBIs, and 20 stolen bases in 153 games.

The Orioles hope De Aza can provide what they hoped they were getting when they acquired David Lough from the Kansas City Royals last winter, but the latter is hitting just .213 in his first season in Baltimore and has largely been relegated to late-inning defensive replacement duties and pinch-running in the second half.

He is expected to report to the Orioles for Sunday’s game, meaning the organization will need to make a 25-man roster move to activate him. De Aza is eligible for arbitration and not scheduled to become a free agent until after the 2015 season.

In a separate trade, Duquette acquired Johnson and minor-league infielder Michael Almanzar from Boston in exchange for Triple-A Norfolk infielders Jemile Weeks and Ivan De Jesus. Johnson will give the Orioles a veteran option at third base in the wake of the season-ending injury to Manny Machado and is hitting .212 with six homers and 23 RBIs in 87 games split between the New York Yankees and the Red Sox.

Johnson has a career .250 average with a .332 on-base percentage in nine major league seasons spent with Atlanta, Arizona, Toronto, Tampa Bay, the Yankees, and Boston. Johnson has played games at first, second, third base, and left and right field this season.

“Kelly Johnson can play a couple of different positions,” Duquette said, “He’s familiar with the American League East, he’s played for all the other teams but ours, and now he’ll get a chance to play for ours. He’s got some power and he can get on base and he can hit right-handed pitching, and that gives us some more options to help our ball club. ”

Manager Buck Showalter said Johnson is not expected to report to the Orioles until Monday when rosters can expand to 40.

Almanzar was selected by the Orioles in the Rule 5 draft this past winter, but the organization elected to return him to Boston in early July. He is a career .251 hitter with 55 home runs and 333 RBIs in seven minor-league seasons.

Acquired in the Jim Johnson trade last offseason, the 27-year-old Weeks batted .278 in 62 games for the Tides while dealing with injuries this season. De Jesus was a .282 hitter in 113 games with the Tides.

The 22-year-old Chalas was 3-4 with a 4.48 ERA in 30 relief appearances between Triple-A Norfolk and Single-A Frederick this season. Over five minor league seasons in the organization, Chalas sported a 24-21 record with a 3.73 ERA.

Blackmar, 22, was 10-1 with a 3.18 ERA in 26 games (18 starts) for Frederick this season. In four years in the Baltimore organization, Blackmar went 21-13 with a 3.75 ERA.

Earlier Saturday, the Orioles outrighted pitcher Suk-min Yoon and infielder Cord Phelps to Norfolk, creating two open spots on the 25-man roster.

 

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D&L Window Tinting Morning Reaction Orioles 9-Game Scorecard (Games 81-89)

Posted on 08 July 2014 by Luke Jones

During the 2014 season, Drew Forrester and Luke Jones of The D&L Window Tinting Morning Reaction will provide the “9-Game Scorecard” for the Orioles, evaluating the club in nine-game increments in a number of categories and looking ahead to how Baltimore will fare over the next nine games on the schedule.

To hear the full explanation of the most recent “Orioles 9-Game Scorecard” during Tuesday’s show, click HERE.

1. Should the Orioles have been better or worse than their 7-2 mark?
Drew: Worse
Luke: Better

2. Most Valuable Player/Least Valuable Player
Drew: MVP – Nelson Cruz; LVP – Chris Davis
Luke: MVP – Adam Jones; LVP – Brian Matusz

3. Biggest surprise
Drew: The Orioles going 4-1 during the Manny Machado suspension
Luke: The struggling Chris Davis falling below the Mendoza line

4. Best thing about the nine-game stretch
Drew: The Orioles bats coming alive during the end of the last homestand
Luke: Winning the series finale in Boston despite squandering a 6-1 lead

5. Nine games from now…
Drew: The Orioles will be ahead by five games in the American League East
Luke: A limited platoon surfaces with Chris Davis losing some at-bats to Steve Pearce and Delmon Young

6. Record in the next nine games (three with Washington, three with the New York Yankees, three at Oakland)
Drew: 9-0
Luke: 6-3

7. Stock rising/falling over the next nine games
Drew: Rising – Miguel Gonzalez; Falling – Ubaldo Jimenez
Luke: Rising – Manny Machado; Falling – Steve Pearce

8. Grading Buck Showalter in games 81-89
Drew: A
Luke: B+

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Orioles officially recall Gausman, option Berry back to Bowie

Posted on 07 June 2014 by WNST Staff

PRESS RELEASE

The Orioles announced Saturday that they have recalled right-handed pitcher Kevin Gausman from Triple-A Norfolk and optioned left-handed pitcher Tim Berry to Double-A Bowie. Gausman is scheduled to start Saturday’s game against Oakland.

Gausman, 23, has pitched to a 2.98 ERA (42.1IP, 14ER) in 10 starts for Norfolk this season

Berry, 23, was recalled yesterday and did not appear in last night’s game. He has gone 3-3 with a 4.12 ERA (63.1IP, 29ER) and a career-best 3.31 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 11 starts for the Baysox this season.

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D&L Window Tinting Morning Reaction Orioles 9-Game Scorecard (Games 46-54)

Posted on 03 June 2014 by Luke Jones

During the 2014 season, Drew Forrester and Luke Jones of The D&L Window Tinting Morning Reaction will provide the “9-Game Scorecard” for the Orioles, evaluating the club in nine-game increments in a number of categories and looking ahead to how Baltimore will fare over the next nine games on the schedule.

(Editor’s note: Since this nine-game scorecard officially ended on Saturday night, it does not include the final game of the Astros series, which will be included as part of the next nine-game increment.)

To hear the full explanation of the “Orioles 9-Game Scorecard” during Tuesday’s show, click HERE.

1. Should the Orioles have been better or worse than their 4-5 mark?

Drew: Better

Luke: Better

2. Most Valuable Player/Least Valuable Player

Drew: MVP – Nelson Cruz; LVP – Manny Machado

Luke: MVP – Nelson Cruz; LVP – Chris Davis

3. Biggest surprise

Drew: Chris Davis’ inability to get on a roll offensively

Luke: Chris Davis getting back in a major funk after returning from paternity leave

4. Best thing about the nine-game stretch

Drew: Steve Pearce continuing to contribute whenever called upon

Luke: The starting pitching stabilizing during the Houston series

5. Nine games from now…

Drew: The Orioles will be under the .500 mark

Luke: The Orioles will stand alone in second place in the AL East

6. Record in the next nine games (1-0 at Houston, three at Texas, three with Oakland, two with Boston)

Drew: 4-5

Luke: 6-3

7. Stock rising/falling over the next nine games

Drew: Rising – Bud Norris; Falling – Ubaldo Jimenez

Luke: Rising – Manny Machado; Falling – Nelson Cruz

8. Grading Buck Showalter in games 46-54

Drew: B+

Luke: B-

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Wieters to avoid surgery on ailing right elbow

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Wieters to avoid surgery on ailing right elbow

Posted on 07 May 2014 by Luke Jones

(Updated: 2:10 p.m.)

Orioles catcher Matt Wieters is in the midst of the best offensive start of his career, but concerning news that surfaced Tuesday caused many to fear his season might be in jeopardy.

The news was more encouraging a day later as multiple outlets reported the two-time Gold Glove catcher will not need surgery for his sore right elbow. Wieters visited renowned surgeon Dr. James Andrews on Wednesday to have his elbow examined as the Orioles wanted to rule out the worst-case scenario of an ulnar collateral ligament tear, an injury that likely would have required Tommy John surgery.

Manager Buck Showalter confirmed that Wieters underwent a magnetic resonance imaging exam on Monday. Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports reports that the concern was with the flexor mass and not Wieters’ UCL.

“He’s been getting it treated for a while,” Showalter told reporters in St. Petersburg Tuesday night. “We just want to make sure we know what we’re dealing with. He’ll be back for the game. We just want to follow up. Hopefully he’s catching for us [on Wednesday].”

It appears that Wieters will serve as the club’s designated hitter at least in the short term as he rests an elbow that’s given him trouble over the first five weeks of the season. The 27-year-old was sidelined for a game with forearm soreness in Toronto two weeks ago and has thrown out just one of 12 runners trying to steal this season, a significant drop from his career rate of throwing out 33 percent of potential base stealers.

Triple-A Norfolk catcher Caleb Joseph was scratched from the Tides’ original lineup in Louisville on Tuesday, an indication that he would be joining the Orioles in St. Petersburg. Baltimore outrighted infielder David Adams to Double-A Bowie last weekend to create an open spot on the 40-man roster.

Wieters was in the lineup serving as the Orioles’ designated hitter in the series opener against the Tampa Bay Rays on Tuesday night. Even though it appears that Wieters will be avoiding a trip to the disabled list, it’s possible the Orioles will still purchase Joseph’s contract to serve as the backup catcher to Steve Clevenger for the time being.

Needless to say, the loss of Wieters behind the plate and in the lineup for any significant time would have been a devastating blow to the Orioles as he is batting .341 with five home runs and 18 runs batted in over 99 plate appearances.

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Series Synopsis: Royals come to Baltimore looking to end skid

Posted on 25 April 2014 by Tony Wisniewski

The Royals are one of those teams.

On the cusp of being “good,” the Kansas City faithful has hung onto the idea that likes of Alex Gordon, Mike Moustakas, and Eric Hosmer would lead a generally irrelevant franchise back to a level of respectability it enjoyed during the 1980s and the days of George Brett.

Tonight, a (10-11) Kansas City team rolls into Baltimore looking for some upward momentum after losing four of its last five.

What you need to know about The Royals:

2014 Record:  10-11, last place in AL Central, two games back of first.

2013 Record:  86-76, Third place in AL Central.

Managed by:  Ned Yost.

Streak:  After winning six straight, the Royals have dropped four of five.

Turning Point: Royals’ DH Billy Butler has struggled mightily through 21 games, batting below the Mendoza Line (sub-.200).  If he can find a way to get his bat going, along with the rest of the solid KC lineup,  it could spell trouble for an O’s rotation that has struggled to minimize pitch-counts and efficiency.

Pitching Matchup of the Series:  Ubaldo Jimenez takes the bump for the fifth time as an Orioles’ starter.  He’ll be paired with Royals’ flame-throwing sensation Yordano Ventura.  Jimenez (0-3) is still looking for his first win this season, while Ventura, after earning his first Big League win two starts ago, is looking to rebound from a rocky outing last weekend.  This matchup will set the tone for the series, and if Ventura has his command working, Jimenez could find himself in another spot where he needs to work into the late innings and be much better than he’s been thus far.

Prediction:  The O’s bats came alive in Toronto, and with a healthy lineup for this weekend series at Camden Yards, there’s no reason to think the Birds can’t take two-of-three.

 

 

 

 

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fans pt. 2

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Angelos Was Right…About DC Baseball Fans

Posted on 23 April 2014 by Robert Canady

I fear Peter Angelos may have been correct.  About ten years ago when he was trying to block Washington, DC from getting a Major League Baseball team, he was quoted as saying, “There are no real baseball fans in D.C.”

I remember thinking at the time, what an out of touch old coot he must be.  I lived in the District for a while and worked there for many years.   I was a baseball fan, admitting like a lot of people in the greater Washington, DC area I had grown up elsewhere and found myself here due to my career path.  I still followed my hometown Cincinnati Reds, and became a regular at Camden Yards.

However after attending a game recently between the Washington Nationals and St Louis Cardinals, I might have seen a glimpse of what Angelos was talking about.   The day had everything a real baseball fan could hope for, one of the first warm Saturday’s of the year, both teams contending for first place early in the season and the promise of a successful season laid out ahead.

 

Walking into the stadium it seemed like I was going to be in for a real day to remember.  We made the obligatory walk around the concourse and saw the multitudes of food options, browsed the Clubhouse store and pondered a couple Nationals apparel items.

One thing that struck me was the huge number of fans in St. Louis caps and jerseys.  Now anyone that’s been to a professional game in DC, knows it’s not unusual to the see the opposing teams colors and logos, after all DC is one of the more transient cities in America.  And the Nationals in the past have even taken to marketing to the opposing teams fan base.  But the number of Cardinals fans seemed unusually high.

However, the real shock came once we were settled in our $40 seats on the field level.  I was surprised and bit taken aback to see the people directly in front of us holding an infant that couldn’t have been more than three to six months old.  The couple spent the majority of the game with one of them attending to the baby in one way or another, and I don’t think mom or dad were in their seats together for more than one inning of the entire game.

In addition it appeared grandma and grandpa came along to experience the site of baby fan witnessing her (I’m guessing by the pink towel) first Nationals game.   Grandpa actually appeared to be trying to watch the game. Grandma must have set a Nationals Park record for IPhone photos taken and uploaded to Facebook.

During the game, we were fortunate to witness, several bouts of crying, knee bobbing, burping, and of course the time honored 5th inning tradition of breast feeding, seriously!!

Now, I’m making an example of the couple that happened to be right in front of us, and may be nice of people.  But in our section we saw no less than four other parents with babies that were young enough that they needed to be carried in either a carrier or strap on baby pack, or whatever those contraptions are called.

Why would anyone think bringing a baby that young to a three hour long, outdoor activity packed with 40,000 people is cute? It’s not, it’s selfish and self-centered.   Nationals Park apparently has a doggie zone where you can bring your dog and several times throughout the game fans along with their pups are featured on the video board.   I guess we were in the baby zone but missed the sign.

Now before I get labeled a baby-hater which I’m really not, some of the adults weren’t much more tuned into the game.   Two young 30-something guys that sat right behind us, spent the majority of the game talking about problems at their office and how they seemingly had all the answers.  Well not all the answers, one of them asked how the Cardinals had scored their last run?  Which is somewhat understandable, we were about 300 feet from home plate after all.

All around us it was a constant swarm of non-baseball watching activity, such as groups getting up to “go for a walk.”  Countless trips in and out of the rows to check out a different concession item, well I can’t put too much blame there.

It just seems that nobody sits in their seats anymore, and I didn’t notice one single person around me keeping score with the complimentary scorecard that is still given out.

When the Nationals threatened to tie or win the game in the bottom of the ninth inning, most fans paid little more than obligatory attention.  It took a few guys in the front row to turn around and shout and motion for people to stand up and get excited.

I know I’m from a different era.  My fandom began over 40 years ago. I grew up outside of Cincinnati, Ohio in the late 60’s and stayed into the 80’s.    My formative years of baseball were following the Big Red Machine that would lose to the Orioles and the Athletics in the 1970 and 1972 World Series respectively.   Before winning back to back titles in the 1976 and 1977 against the Red Sox and Yankees—column interruption for Oriole fans to cheer—as I became old enough to drive myself to games, the defining moment of many baseball addicted youths at the time.

After college I moved to cities with no baseball teams first Tampa then Raleigh, yes there actually was a time when Devil Ray…excuse me Rays didn’t exist.   Tampa was the spring training home of the Reds at the time, and I eagerly awaited every late February when pitchers and catchers would show up followed shortly by the full squad. By this time in the 80’s , Johnny Bench, Pete Rose and Manager Sparky Anderson had been replaced with the likes of Dan Billardelo, Ron Oester and Russ Nixon, and the Reds regularly finished in last place of the National League West, behind among others the Los Angeles Dodgers their hated rival at the time.

After the teams left Florida, I took out a mail order subscription to the Dayton Daily News which would arrive in a timely fashion three to four days later and I would devour the box scores and latest—well as latest as they could be—stats.  It’s now with all the details that are available on MLB.Com, bsaeballreference.com and other sites, a through baseball geek can find out what his favorite player is batting on Tuesday nights, against left handers after having chicken-cordon bleu for a pre-game meal.  Back in 1984, I was happy to find out three days later that Dave Concepcion had gone 2-4!!

So enough of convincing that I grew up a baseball fan and remain a baseball fan.   I arrived in Washington the same year that Camden Park opened and made the drive up from Georgetown for several weeknight and weekend games those first couple years.  Hmmmh…I was in DC and I was a baseball fan.  But this is when Angelos was still relying on ticket buyers from what he now considers enemy territory.

The game against the Cardinals was a sellout crowd of 44,000.   Drawing over 2 million fans to Nationals Park each year as they have, the number may say there are enough fans to support the team in DC.  But after what I experienced this past week, I have to wonder if Angelos had a valid point.

 

 

 

 

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Orioles still waiting for early return on $50 million investment

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Orioles still waiting for early return on $50 million investment

Posted on 13 April 2014 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — Even after investing a franchise-record amount of money for a free-agent starting pitcher, the Orioles knew they weren’t getting a sure-fire ace when they signed right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez to a four-year, $50 million contract in February.

His career has been consistently inconsistent, looking every bit the part of an ace at times and appearing more like a fringe fifth starter in other stretches of his major league career.

But the Orioles need much better than what they’ve gotten through three starts as Jimenez surrendered five earned runs and 10 hits in 5 1/3 innings in Sunday’s 11-3 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays at Camden Yards. He gave up two more home runs and saw his record fall to 0-3 to accompany a 7.31 earned run average and 2.06 WHIP (walks plus hits per inning pitched).

Whether giving up homers (four in 16 innings) or walks (10) in his first three outings — all against American League East opponents — the root of Jimenez’s struggles are simple to identify but more complicated to fix with unorthodox mechanics that require plenty of maintenance over the course of a six-month season.

“His command,” manager Buck Showalter said. “If you look at his history, he gets better as the year goes on. He’s actually pitched competitively for us. He’s real close to keeping us there.”

The Baltimore skipper was being generous in referencing Sunday’s deficit only being 3-1 entering the top of the sixth inning, but Jimenez started the game with a career 5.10 ERA in April, easily his worst month throughout his eight-year career. Last season, it was even worse as Jimenez posted a 7.13 ERA over his first five starts before rebounding to post a 3.30 ERA and help Cleveland qualify for the postseason.

But history doesn’t make Jimenez — or the Orioles — feel any better as he tries to make a strong impression to justify the long-term investment paid to him. Of course, three starts — good or bad — will not determine whether executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette made a wise addition this winter, but the Orioles added Jimenez with thoughts of the high ceiling he possesses when he’s right on the mound.

So far, he hasn’t been able to climb out of the basement as he gave up a Eutaw Street homer to Colby Rasmus in the first inning and a home run to Brett Lawrie with one out in the sixth before being lifted a batter later. Jimenez only gave up 16 home runs all last season and is a quarter of the way to that mark before Easter Sunday.

“Tough one, really bad one,” Jimenez said. “I couldn’t be there for the team once again. I’m missing right down the middle of the plate. I’ve been making too many mistakes right down the middle.”

It’s too soon to panic as Jimenez’s track record suggests he’ll be much better than what he’s shown, but the Orioles are counting on him to be a top-half-of-the-rotation starter to go along with Chris Tillman. Improved starting pitching is a must for Baltimore to get back to the playoffs for the second time in three years.

In fairness, Jimenez is just one of several problems to plague the Orioles in their 5-7 start as an underperforming offense was limited to just five runs over the weekend and the defense has been shaky with Gold Glove winners Manny Machado and J.J. Hardy missing time. The Orioles have no choice but to be patient with their free-agent prize, hoping the good Jimenez will surface sooner rather than later and provide the quality pitching he’s capable of for significant stretches.

It hasn’t been there in the first half of April, but Showalter expressed confidence after Sunday’s outing that Jimenez is “better than that.”

“He’s got the right mentality. He’s been through tough times before, but he wants it to end now,” Showalter said. “I guarantee you. I understand what the numbers say, but you guys have seen it. It’s very close to there being some quality outings, but at this level and against this competition, close sometimes gets you in trouble.”

And close isn’t good enough in the AL East.

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