Tag Archive | "Brian Roberts"

Roberts leaves series finale in Tampa with hamstring injury

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Roberts leaves series finale in Tampa with hamstring injury

Posted on 04 April 2013 by Luke Jones

The good vibes of a 6-3 victory and a series win over the Tampa Bay Rays were dampened by a hamstring injury suffered by second baseman Brian Roberts on Thursday.

The 35-year-old injured his right leg as he stole second base in the ninth inning. Sliding headfirst into the base safely, Roberts immediately grabbed his right leg and had to be helped off the field.

“He felt something at the bottom of the hamstring. The [doctor] will look at it,” manager Buck Showalter told MASN following the game in St. Petersburg. “We’ve got an early read on it, but I think we’ll know a lot more [Friday]. He’s in some discomfort. It’s going to be a challenge right now.

Roberts is off to a 5-for-12 start in the first three games, including a double and one run batted in. Considered a major question mark entering spring training after having played only 115 games over the last three seasons, Roberts remained healthy all spring and began the season in the No. 9 spot in the order.

Utility infielder Alexi Casilla replaced Roberts in the ninth inning and would likely share duties at second base with Ryan Flaherty if Roberts is to be sidelined for any period of time. The two-time All-Star infielder will undergo an MRI on Friday.

Roberts returned to action last June after more than a year off while dealing with concussion-related symptoms. However, he played in only 17 games before suffering a season-ending hip injury and then underwent sports hernia surgery in the offseason.

Even if the veteran appears on his way to the disabled list, Showalter maintained an optimistic outlook while discussing his second baseman.

“I’m not going to live in that doom and gloom world,” Showalter said. “Just because the good Lord delays things doesn’t mean he denies them. He’s off to a good start and he’ll be back with us at some point and continue to contribute.”

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Orioles’ rare victory against Price not one to take for granted

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Orioles’ rare victory against Price not one to take for granted

Posted on 02 April 2013 by Luke Jones

The Orioles’ season-opening win over the Tampa Bay Rays on Tuesday had just about everything you’d like to see.

A five-run seventh inning turned a 3-2 deficit into a 7-4 a comeback victory over an American League East foe.

Adam Jones, Matt Wieters, and Chris Davis combined to go 6-for-12 with two home runs, three walks, and seven runs batted in. Wieters’ two-run home run provided the early lead, Jones’ two-run double in the seventh put the Orioles back in front, and Davis’ three-run blast later that inning finished off Tampa Bay for good. You can’t ask for much more from the heart of the order.

Starting pitcher Jason Hammel pitched six solid innings and allowed only three runs despite being up in the strike zone for a good portion of the afternoon. The de facto ace earned his first victory of the season and was picked up by Troy Patton and Darren O’Day in the seventh and eighth innings.

All-Star closer Jim Johnson earned his first save in an uneventful ninth inning.

20-year-old third baseman Manny Machado picked up where he left off in the field last year with a couple smooth plays and collected a single and a walk hitting in the No. 2 spot.

Even Brian Roberts and Nolan Reimold, two players the Orioles are depending on to remain healthy this season, went a combined 4-for-8 at the plate.

The euphoria accompanying any Opening Day win aside, we know pennants aren’t won or lost in April except in the most extreme cases, but a victory in a game pitched by 2012 American League Cy Young Award winner David Price is one to put in your back pocket over the course of a 162-game schedule. Price didn’t factor into the decision, but the patience and tough at-bats put together by Baltimore hitters — including a 13-pitch walk drawn by Wieters in the third — pushed the left-hander’s pitch count to 100 through six innings and forced Rays manager Joe Maddon to go to his bullpen earlier than he wanted to with his ace on the mound.

The Orioles made life more difficult than it needed to be for themselves by going 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position and leaving four runners stranded on second or third with Price in the ball game, but that’s as much a credit to the 27-year-old pitcher as any shortcoming of Buck Showalter’s lineup. Jones finally broke the 1-for-9 drought overall with runners in scoring position with the double off lefty Jake McGee, who relieved Price to start the seventh.

In three starts against Baltimore last season, Price was 2-0 and allowed one earned run and 13 hits in 22 1/3 innings. No player on the current 25-man roster had ever hit a homer against Price until Wieters launched one into the left-field seats to give the Orioles a 2-0 lead in the first inning.

The Orioles weren’t fazed by the power lefty, even after he threw four shutout innings against them in Sarasota last week. And they came away with a win in the first of 19 meetings with the Rays, who are regarded by most as a division favorite along with the Toronto Blue Jays this year.

Tueday’s victory is only one in a 162-game marathon, but it’s one you put on the positive side of the ledger that you typically wouldn’t expect to have when facing one of the best pitchers in the game. Of course, it means nothing if you don’t win the close games in which you have a chance, an area in which the Orioles excelled last year with their 29-9 record in one-run games, 16-2 mark in extra-inning affairs, and astonishing 74-0 record when leading after seven innings.

As we would have said had they lost 11-1 at Tropicana Field on Tuesday, it’s only one game. But it is one game just as important as the 161 to follow. And for what’s expected to be an extremely tight division race, Tuesday’s victory represents one the Orioles won’t have to make up in September.

It’s a new season and the improbable 2012 season is only a memory, but the Orioles have already come away with one that you would not have expected.

And that was a familiar feeling.

 

 

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Revisiting five questions for Orioles spring training

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Revisiting five questions for Orioles spring training

Posted on 25 March 2013 by Luke Jones

With only a week to go until the start of the 2013 season for the Orioles, it’s time to revisit the five questions that were posed at the start of spring training.

Some questions have been answered while others still hold cloudy solutions as manager Buck Showalter and his club finish up the Grapefruit League before traveling to St. Petersburg to open the season against the Tampa Bay Rays next Tuesday.

Here’s what I was pondering nearly six weeks ago as Baltimore was coming off its first playoff appearance in 15 years:

1. Can Nolan Reimold stay healthy and be the impact bat the Orioles failed to acquire in the offseason?

A sore throwing shoulder limited Reimold to the designated hitter spot for a large portion of the spring, but he returned to the outfield last week and does not appear to be feeling any lingering effects.

In 41 spring at-bats, the 29-year-old is hitting .244 with four home runs and eight runs batted in. Reimold appears to have regained all strength lost in the aftermath of the spinal fusion surgery he underwent last summer and should be in line to begin the season on the 25-man roster and in the starting lineup.

Considering the Orioles didn’t add an impact bat in the offseason and right fielder Nick Markakis is still recovering from a small herniation in his neck, Reimold must stay healthy to give the lineup a boost from a year ago.

This question ultimately won’t be answered until the Orioles head north and begin the season, but the good news is that Reimold has been healthy enough to play in 14 Grapefruit League games, which is only two fewer than the number he played in the entire 2012 season. And he’s shown to be the same power hitter he was prior to the neck injury.

2. What will the starting rotation look like when the Orioles come north to Baltimore?

Nothing has changed dramatically in the makeup of the starting rotation from what was projected at the start of spring training, but there are plenty of question marks based on what we’ve seen in Sarasota.

The good news is Jason Hammel, Wei-Yin Chen, and Miguel Gonzalez are still projected to hold the top three spots in the rotation, but all come with questions. Hammel hasn’t shown any lingering effects from last year’s knee surgery and is in line to be the club’s Opening Day starter, but he’s also appeared in just three Grapefruit League games, allowing five earned runs in nine innings of work and not displaying the same command with the two-seam fastball that he did last year.

Chen was roughed up by the Phillies over the weekend and has allowed seven earned runs in 7 2/3 innings in three big-league outings. Meanwhile, Gonzalez has seen the least amount of action as he’s made just two spring appearances covering four innings (one earned run).

All have received regular work by pitching in minor-league camp and simulated games, but you do wonder if the top of the Baltimore rotation is adequately prepared to face big-league hitters beginning in a week. Then again, Showalter could simply be hiding his top starters to prevent American League foes from getting a good look at them in Florida.

The rotation becomes foggier after that as Chris Tillman would appear to be ready to take the No. 4 spot in the rotation, but abdominal soreness has limited him to 4 1/3 innings of Grapefruit League action. A four-inning stint at the Orioles’ Twin Lakes facility on Sunday indicates Tillman is ready to begin the season in the starting rotation and not on the disabled list.

Jake Arrieta appears to have the clear edge for the final spot in the rotation as he holds a sparkling 1.56 earned run average in 17 1/3 spring innings covering five appearances. Originally scheduled to start against the Twins on Tuesday, Arrieta was pulled to instead pitch at the Orioles’ minor-league facility, another indicator that he will be the fifth starter when you remember Minnesota visits Camden Yards for the first home series of the season late next week.

Brian Matusz appeared to fall behind Arrieta after struggling in his start on Sunday, but the Orioles must think carefully on what to do with the 26-year-old left-hander. There is clear incentive to shift him to the bullpen role in which he thrived late last season, but this also comes with the understanding that pushing him to a short-relief role means it may be difficult to move him back into the starting rotation from a conditioning and health standpoint later in the season. Moving a starter to the bullpen is one thing, but asking a relief pitcher to suddenly stretch himself out in the middle of the season is begging for an injury to occur.

Rule 5 selection T.J. McFarland and Steve Johnson remain in the hunt, but it appears both pitchers would be more likely to earn a bullpen job as a long reliever if they’re to make the club. Because the Orioles don’t want to risk losing the 23-year-old McFarland, they will likely try to stash the lefty sinkerballer in the bullpen for as long as they can, meaning it’s a good possibility that Johnson begins the year at Triple-A Norfolk.

After a rough start to the spring, Jair Jurrjens has rebounded nicely — pitching five shutout innings in his latest outing — and appears he’ll be among the first pitchers on call at Norfolk early in the season. He and Zach Britton will be nice insurance policies at the Triple-A level for now.

3. Who will step up to play second base?

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Snapshot observations from Orioles’ spring win over Yankees

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Snapshot observations from Orioles’ spring win over Yankees

Posted on 25 February 2013 by Luke Jones

In their first spring meeting with the New York Yankees, the Orioles didn’t exactly face the 1927 Bronx Bombers in a 5-1 win in Sarasota on Monday afternoon.

New York right-hander Vidal Nuno made the start while Brett Gardner, Jayson Nix, Juan Rivera, and Francisco Cervelli were the most recognizable names in the Yankees’ batting order against left-hander Brian Matusz. The Orioles starter pitched two shutout innings to collect the victory while primarily using his fastball against an underwhelming lineup of hitters.

It’s only a snapshot, but here were five thoughts taken away from the Orioles’ first televised spring training contest:

1. You want to knock on wood when you say it — or pinch yourself because you assume you’re dreaming — but healthy versions of Brian Roberts and Nolan Reimold at the top of the order would do wonders for this offense. Roberts was the more impressive of the two Monday as he doubled from each side of the plate while hitting in the No. 2 spot in the order behind Reimold. The second baseman is also no longer wearing the double-flapped batting helmet he sported last season, another indication that his concussion-related symptoms might be behind him once and for all. Reimold was 0-for-2 against the Yankees after going 0-for-3 in his spring debut on Sunday, but he continues to build strength and confidence after being declared ready to go at the start of the spring.

Manager Buck Showalter has stated his preference to lower J.J. Hardy in the order after the shortstop was miscast as a top-of-the-lineup hitter in his first two seasons with the Orioles, and Roberts’ .351 career on-base percentage and Reimold’s .338 mark would fit nicely at the top of the lineup as long as you continue to see no health concerns for either player this spring. It would be a welcome change for a lineup that included low on-base percentage options such as Hardy and the departed Robert Andino at the top of the order before Nick Markakis and Nate McLouth moved into those roles out of necessity in the second half of last season.

It feels like a long shot to be able to count on a 35-year-old Roberts — who is trying to bounce back from season-ending hip surgery as well as offseason sports hernia surgery — after three injury-plagued seasons in a row, but the 29-year-old Reimold could still have plenty of good baseball in front of him if he can finally stay on the field.

2. The case of right-hander Tommy Hunter will be one to follow this spring as he is out of options. Hunter allowed two hits and struck out two in a scoreless inning of work on Monday, and it appears the 26-year-old will be eyed as a relief option this spring.

Hunter has made 75 career starts in the big leagues between Texas and Baltimore, but his stuff has never screamed starting pitcher as he’s averaged only 5.0 strikeouts per nine innings pitched and has a career 4.77 earned run average. In 12 2/3 innings pitched out of the bullpen last September, Hunter allowed one earned run and struck out 12 and featured fastball velocity in the upper 90s.

This becomes more interesting when considering Hunter would need to clear waivers to be sent to Triple-A Norfolk at the end of the spring. Other fringe starters such as Matusz, Jake Arrieta, Zach Britton, and Steve Johnson all have at least one option remaining, making it possible that Hunter could be viewed in a more favorable light in starting the season as the long reliever out of the bullpen while at least some of the others could find themselves pitching with the Tides to start the year.

Showalter has said the club won’t make roster decisions based on option years, but it would appear Hunter would have the inside track on a bullpen role if he has a reasonably strong spring. On the other hand, a poor performance from the right-hander would also mean he’s more likely to pass through waivers unclaimed.

3. If you’re looking for this year’s version of Lew Ford or Steve Pearce, keep an eye on Russ Canzler. The 26-year-old is capable of playing first base and the corner outfield spots and hit 61 combined home runs in his last three minor-league seasons split between Double A and Triple A.

It was a crazy offseason for Canzler, who was selected off waivers four different times with executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette finally nabbing him from the Yankees on Feb. 5. The right-handed hitter drove in a run with a single in Monday’s 5-1 win and was strongly endorsed by Norfolk manager Ron Johnson prior to the Orioles acquiring him this winter.

It would be an upset to see Canzler break camp as a member of the 25-man roster — he also has two option years remaining — but his .819 on-base plus slugging percentage over nine minor-league seasons is the type of statistic that intrigues Duquette when searching for bargain-basement deals. Canzler was selected in the 30th round of the 2004 draft as an 18-year-old by the Chicago Cubs and spent seven years in that organization before spending a season each with Tampa Bay and Cleveland.

It’s a long shot, of course, that we’ll see Canzler making any tangible contribution to the 2013 Orioles, but no one expected Ford or Pearce to contribute to the Orioles’ first playoff team in 15 years at the start of the season, either.

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Five questions to ponder for Orioles spring training

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Five questions to ponder for Orioles spring training

Posted on 13 February 2013 by Luke Jones

The Orioles held their first workouts for pitchers and catchers to officially kick off spring training in Sarasota on Wednesday.

Trying to build on a 93-win campaign that included their first trip to the playoffs in 15 years, the Orioles have several questions marks after a quiet offseason void of significant moves.

Here are five questions to ponder as Baltimore begins preparations for the 2013 season:

1. Can Nolan Reimold stay healthy and be the impact bat the Orioles failed to acquire in the offseason?

Executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette failed in his quest to acquire a middle-of-the-order bat, but a healthy Reimold would go a long way in providing the extra offense the Orioles are looking for after they finished ninth in runs scored and 11th in on-base percentage in the American League last season. Of course, expecting Reimold to stay injury-free has only resulted in frustration over the years as the left fielder missed most of last season after undergoing spinal fusion surgery.

The good news is Reimold is already taking live batting practice and appears to be 100 percent for spring training as he will compete with Nate McLouth for the starting job in left field. McLouth is the superior fielder and has more speed, but few would argue Reimold’s ability at the plate as he hit .313 with five home runs in 67 at-bats last season.

The club could elect to use Reimold as the designated hitter more frequently to keep him healthy, and he would be an ideal fit in the No. 2 spot because of his plate discipline (a career .338 on-base percentage in 916 plate appearances in the majors) or in the fifth or sixth spot because of his power. At 29, Reimold appears to be running out of time as a viable option on which the Orioles can depend moving forward, but the club signed him for $1 million in the offseason and maintains control of him through the 2015 season.

Duquette didn’t acquire an established veteran bat and also parted ways with slugger Mark Reynolds, so this spring will be critical for Reimold to prove he can provide extra punch to the lineup. If he’s again unhealthy, the Orioles will be forced to lean more heavily on McLouth, who carries his own baggage despite a 2012 renaissance in Baltimore.

2. What will the starting rotation look like when the Orioles come north to Baltimore?

The starting rotation would appear to have a more definitive outline than it did as this time last year as Jason Hammel, Wei-Yin Chen, Miguel Gonzalez, and Chris Tillman all put forth career seasons in 2012, but none of those four come without questions this spring. Concerns over Hammel’s knee were eased with his ability to pitch effectively in the postseason, but the Orioles hope he can replicate his first half last season when he looked like an ace and was included in the fan vote for the final spot on the AL All-Star team.

Chen and Gonzalez will need to prove their rookie campaigns weren’t flukes as the rest of the league will be more familiar with each and the latter’s 170-pound frame will always cause some to question his durability over a full season. Adjustments made to Tillman’s mechanics by director of pitching development Rick Peterson paid major dividends last year, but the 24-year-old will need to replicate that success over an entire season in the big leagues.

Even if those four pick up right where they left off, manager Buck Showalter and pitching coach Rick Adair must sift through a number of other candidates to replace the fifth spot in the rotation left behind by veteran left Joe Saunders, who signed with Seattle last week. Jake Arrieta, Brian Matusz, Steve Johnson, Zach Britton, and Tommy Hunter will all be in the mix, but each comes with their limitations and concerns.

The Orioles continue to point to strength in numbers as it pertains to the starting rotation as 12 pitchers made starts for Baltimore last season. And to offer some perspective on how quickly things can change due to injury or ineffectiveness, three-fifths of the rotation that began the 2012 season landed in the minor leagues by the All-Star break.

The top four will have the inside track for rotation spots entering the spring, but Showalter won’t hesitate to make changes quickly if anyone isn’t up to the task.

3. Who will step up to play second base?

Yes, Brian Roberts is still with the Orioles as he enters the final season of a four-year contract that’s seen him play 115 games combined in the last three years. The 35-year-old infielder appears to be recovered from hip surgery and an offseason surgery to correct a sports hernia, but viewing Roberts as a viable option feels more like you’re being polite than at all realistic.

The Orioles acquired the slick-fielding Alexi Casilla off waivers from the Minnesota Twins after the switch-hitting second baseman played in a career-high 106 games last season. The 28-year-old is a career .250 hitter and provides good speed (21 stolen bases in 2012), but it remains to be seen whether he can handle full-time duties at the plate or he’ll be exposed over a bigger sample of at-bats.

The most intriguing option from an offensive perspective would be Ryan Flaherty, who split duties at second base with the departed Robert Andino at the end of last season. Thought limited defensively, Flaherty hit six home runs in 153 at-bats as a Rule 5 player who stuck on the 25-man roster all season.

Because of Showalter’s preference for strong defense up the middle, Casilla would appear to be the favorite to handle the bulk of the duties at second base due to Roberts’ frailty and Flaherty’s limitations in the field. However, this will remain a very fluid position to watch as the spring progresses.

4. How will Showalter handle the designated hitter spot in the order?

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Orioles option Steve Johnson to Norfolk to make room for Machado

Posted on 09 August 2012 by WNST Staff

PRESS RELEASE

The Orioles Thursday announced that they have selected the contract of infielder Manny Machado from Double-A Bowie and optioned right-handed pitcher Steve Johnson to Triple-A Norfolk. To make room for Machado on the 40-man roster, second baseman Brian Roberts has been transferred to the 60-day DL.

Machado, 20, has batted .266/.352/.438 with 11 home runs and 59 RBI in 109 games with the Baysox this season, including a .275/.365/.505 line in 91 at-bats since the All-Star break. Machado will be the 31st player in franchise history to debut before his 21st birthday when he sees his first game action (he is 20 years, 34 days old today). The last player to debut for the O’s before turning 21 was Hayden Penn (June 7, 2005 at 20.237). The last position player to debut for the club before his 21st birthday was Eugene Kingsale (September 3, 1996 at 20.014).

The Orioles’ first round selection (#3 overall) in the 2010 First Year Player Draft out of Brito Miami Private School in Miami, FL, Machado came into 2012 rated as the #2 prospect in the Orioles organization and the #11 prospect overall by Baseball America. He played in the MLB Futures Game in Kansas City in July, going 1-for-3 with a double, two RBI and a run scored. Machado was a 2011 South Atlantic League All-Star. He will wear #13.

Johnson earned his first major league victory last night against Seattle, allowing two earned runs and striking out nine over 6.0 innings. He is 1-0 with a 3.38 ERA (8.0IP, 3ER) in two games (one start) with the Orioles this season.

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Roberts to undergo season-ending hip surgery

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Roberts to undergo season-ending hip surgery

Posted on 29 July 2012 by Luke Jones

(Updated: 5:35 p.m.)

BALTIMORE — After giving one last shot at a rehab assignment with Single-A Aberdeen Saturday night, Orioles second baseman Brian Roberts has elected to undergo season-ending surgery on his injured hip.

He played all nine innings for the Ironbirds on Saturday, going 0-for-4 with a walk, two strikeouts, and a run scored in a 7-2 loss and was slated to play again for Aberdeen on Sunday before announcing his decision to undergo surgery less than an hour before the Orioles’ series finale against Oakland.

“It just hasn’t responded the way we were hoping it would,” said Roberts, who will undergo the same procedure that Ravens safety Ed Reed had two years ago.

Having not played since July 1, Roberts has a torn labrum in his hip and was still experiencing pain despite receiving a cortisone shot and working out in Sarasota. The first doctor he saw recommended having surgery right away, but a second opinion offered the option of trying to play after rest and rehabilitation before ultimately making a decision on a surgical procedure.

Roberts said the rehab process usually takes four to six months and he will undergo the surgery some time over the next week to 10 days.

“I look at it as more of a positive, too,” manager Buck Showalter said after the Orioles’ 6-1 win on Sunday. “Hats off to Brian for trying to come back and help this club.”

The 34-year-old infielder missed over a year of action due to concussion-related symptoms before returning to the Baltimore lineup on June 12. In 74 plate appearances this season, Roberts hit .182 with no home runs and five runs batted in before he was placed on the disabled list on July 3.

“It’s been a long two years,” said Roberts, who revealed doctors have given him a 95 percent chance of making a full recovery and being back to his old self following surgery and rehab. “It certainly hasn’t gone the way I would’ve drawn it up.”

Roberts has one year remaining on his four-year contract and will make $10 million in 2013.

The silver lining for the infielder may be that his concussion-related symptoms have not resurfaced all season, which allows him to focus solely on getting his hip healthy for what he hopes will be a productive 2013 season.

“The concussion part of it seems to be something that’s not on his mind anymore,” Showalter said.

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jim johnson

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Five Question for the Orioles: Start of The Second Half Edition

Posted on 13 July 2012 by Big Chee

1.)    Who will carry this pitching staff through the dog days of summer?

Jason Hammel has undoubtedly been the best pitcher in the Orioles rotation in 2012. He leads the Orioles in wins at 8, ERA at 3.47, and strikeouts with 101. However, he has struggled in his last three starts, losing all three. And while a 3.47 ERA is not too shabby, not even a month ago on June 22nd, Hammel was sporting a 2.61 ERA. Wei-Yin Chen has been the team’s second best starter, with a 7-5 record and 3.93 ERA. However, just like Hammel, Chen has cooled off as we enter the second half of the season.  He has not won a decision since June 17th and he gave up a career high 3 HRs in his last start against lowly Seattle.

Hammel and Chen are both in their 20s and would benefit greatly from a veteran presence like a Ryan Dempster from Chicago. Even a James Shields of Tampa Bay, who is 30, has big game experience from pitching in the World Series and multiple playoff games. Baltimore would greatly benefit from having guys who have been in postseason contention battles leading their staff. Dempster is coming off the DL and James Shields has a sub-4 ERA throughout his career. Both names will be mentioned heavily come the trade deadline, and Baltimore should definitely be hitting the phones to see what they want.

2.)    Can Mark Reynolds be an effective hitter in this Orioles lineup?

The definition of effective for Mark Reynolds in comparison to other Major League hitters is much different. One can never expect that Reynolds will be a guy who gets on base, he has never hit above .280 in his entire career. Nor can one expect Mark to chill with the strikeouts either. Reynolds led the American League last year with 196 K’s, and that was only his 4th highest total of his career! And don’t even get started on Mark Reynolds and his horrific attempt at fielding. He led the majors in 2011 with 31 errors last year.

Mark Reynolds is an effective hitter when he is hitting home runs. In 2011, he was fourth in the majors with 37 HRs. Despite all of his faults, when he was on, he was not a guy you wanted to face if you were an opposing pitcher. If you follow Earl Weaver’s Three Keys to Winning Baseball: Pitching, Defense, and Three Run Homers, you know for sure Reynolds did not fall into the first two categories. But with two on and two out in the bottom of the ninth, Mark Reynolds is that power hitter that you want at the plate. That is, of course, when he is not mired in a 3 for 25 slump like he was during interleague play.

3.)    Will Brian Roberts have any effect on the Orioles chances of making a postseason run?

Love the Orioles or not, you have to feel for Brian Roberts. I get that he was mentioned in the Mitchell Report back in 2007, and admitted to taking a shot of steroids in 2003. The key is that he admitted he this occasion, unlike a certain pitcher from the Yankees who claims he never did while he was throwing 100 mph at 45 years old. Anyway , Roberts has played in just 115 games since the beginning of the 2010 season, and has missed almost 13 months while recovering from multiple concussions. He returned to the Orioles on June 12th, but was back on the DL not even a month later with a torn right hip muscle.

Now, the longtime leadoff 2B for the Orioles is weighing whether or not he should have surgery on the hip or rehab it on its. On one hand it would be great to see Roberts try and get back with the Orioles sooner than two months, if only to help them out defensively as they lead the MLB with 75 errors. On the other hand, if the Orioles are buyers at the deadline and find themselves in contention come September, how great would it be to have his leadership back in the clubhouse as the O’s make a playoff push?

4.)    Speaking of all this poor fielding, who can the O’s acquire now to help?

Did I mention Baltimore was dead last in fielding in Major League Baseball? If one could point a finger at the glaring hole in the infield for this problem, look no further than 3B. Not one of these guys has above average ability to play the hot corner: Robert Andino, Mark Reynolds, Chris Davis, Wilson Betemit or Ryan Flaherty. The Orioles are in a tie with Anaheim for the Wildcard, and pitching should not be the only area where the Orioles upgrade to make a legitimate run.

Two names come to mind that can immediately help Baltimore at 3B, without having to include Bundy, Machado or much else from the farm system. The first is Placido Polanco from the Philadelphia Phillies. A 36 year old playing for the last place, 13 games below .500 Phillies should come at a bargain for Baltimore. Polanco has won three gold gloves in the past five years, and has yet to make an error in 30 games at 3B with Philadelphia. His lifetime fielding percentages at 1B and 3B are the best in major league history. No, that is not a typo.

If Philadelphia decides they do not want to shop Polanco, the second team the Orioles  should call is San Diego to inquire about Chase Headley’s services. Headley is 28, eight years younger than Polanco, and possesses more ability to hit for power at this point of his career. Headley is an average defensive 3B, and unfortunately suffers from Mark Reynolds strikeout syndrome (He has twice in his career made more than 600 plate appearances, and in each of those seasons, he has struck out over 130 times). However, with San Diego not being competitive in 2012 and Headley heading into arbitration, his services would come at a bargain and he would at least push the guys who are already here in Baltimore.

5.)    Can the Bullpen perform as well as it did in the first half of the season?

This may be one of the biggest questions the Orioles face heading into the back half of 2012, if only because it has been the most reliable department of their team throughout the first half. The Orioles lead the American League with a 2.75 ERA as well as hold the best record out of the pen with a 17-6 mark. All Star Jim Johnson has been one of the most reliable closers in baseball, converting 26 of 27 save opportunities with a 1.21 ERA and a 0.75 WHIP. Luis Ayala, Pedro Strop, and Darren O’Day all have sub-3 ERAs and have been very efficient in setting up Johnson before the 9th inning.

Heavy is the head that wears the crown and the Orioles own a daunting task to match their outstanding performance post-All Star break. If history is any indicator for Jim Johnson, than the chances of this bullpen holding up are not very strong. His ERA is 3.98 post All Star break, compared to 2.56 before the break in his career. In addition, it has been 22 years since an AL bullpen statistically threw as well as the Orioles have over a full season. Oakland had a combined 2.35 mark in 1990. Dan Duquette and Buck Showalter will be closely monitoring the bullpen to keep those guys fresh and productive down the stretch. Let’s see how they hold up.

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Five biggest Orioles surprises of first half

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Five biggest Orioles surprises of first half

Posted on 10 July 2012 by Luke Jones

With the Orioles limping into the All-Star break after losing 13 of their last 19 games and failing to score a run in their last 22 innings, it’s becoming difficult to celebrate a remarkable start for a club from which so little was expected.

Although nearly everyone predicted Baltimore would suffer through its 15th straight losing season, the Orioles weren’t below the .500 mark at any point during the first half and haven’t dropped lower than third in the American League East, where they have just one finish higher than fourth place — third in 2004 — since 1997.

Sunday’s loss in Anaheim dropped them to a season-high seven games behind first place, but the Orioles spent 53 days in first over the course of the first half of the season. When you consider the Orioles spent a total of 37 days in first place in the previous five seasons combined — none of those outside the month of April — you’ll forgive fans for taking enjoyment despite the club’s struggles over the last few weeks.

Much focus has shifted to the biggest disappointments of the first half (I’ll cover those later this week) with the Orioles falling back to earth recently, but there have been plenty of individual surprises through the first 85 games of the season.

Here are my top five individual surprises of the Orioles’ first half:

Honorable mention: Brian Roberts’ return from concussion-related symptoms, Chris Davis, Darren O’Day

5. Troy Patton

The left-hander entered spring training out of options and knowing his future in Baltimore was in doubt before pitching 10 1/3 scoreless innings in Grapefruit League play to make the 25-man roster. Patton began the season as the only southpaw in the bullpen and has earned manager Buck Showalter’s trust in using him in late-inning situations.

Patton has a 3.46 earned run average to go along with a 1.00 WHIP (walks and hits per inning pitched) in 39 innings this season. Left-handed hitters have batted just .194 against him while right-handers aren’t much better at .233.

His versatility as a former starter has allowed Showalter to use him in longer stretches occasionally — he has five appearances of two innings or more — but Patton has made regular appearances in the seventh and eight innings of close games as a key contributor for the American League’s best bullpen (2.75 ERA).

4. Adam Jones

The All-Star center fielder got off to the best start of his career and looked like a league MVP candidate through the first two months of the season, hitting .314 with 16 home runs and 34 runs batted in over the first 51 games of the season. The fast start not only led Jones to be named to his second All-Star team but prompted the club to sign him to a six-year, $85.5 million contract in late May to keep him in Baltimore through the 2018 season.

While Jones has cooled considerably in June and July — he’s hitting .252 with four homers and 10 RBIs in his last 34 games — while battling two sore wrists, the center fielder’s willingness to commit to the Orioles for the long haul was a major win for an organization trying to escape the shadow of 14 straight losing seasons. The 26-year-old has also established himself as a leader in the clubhouse and a favorite of Showalter.

He is the clear choice for the team MVP for the first half of the season, and the Orioles will need Jones to get hot again to help jump-start an offense that’s struggled mightily over the last month. His .289 average, 20 home runs, and 44 RBIs lead the club.

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Big Trade Looming?

Posted on 07 July 2012 by Erich Hawbaker

The All-Star break is upon us. And, if the season ended today, the Orioles would be headed to the playoffs. Thursday’s disaster with the Angels notwithstanding, the Orioles have reached halftime without completely faceplanting as most of us expected they would. The bullpen has been the most pleasant surprise, with an ERA still close to the best in baseball. The offense (long balls in particular) has also been a big reason for the success, with Adam Jones on pace for 40 homeruns and several others flirting with 30.

However, just like last year, the most glaring weakness has been the defense. Unfortunately, the O’s also lead the league in errors, which has cost them at least three or four winnable games already this season. The other coin flip has been the starting pitching, which lately seems to always be either stellar or awful on any given night. Jason Hammel and Wei-Yin Chen are aces more often than not, but the other three rotation spots have been consistently shaky with occasional flashes of brilliance.

The Orioles have already made a splash in the trade market this year by acquiring DH Jim Thome from the struggling Phillies for a pair of minor leaguers. For awhile now, I’d been wondering if they were really serious about being buyers this year like Dan Duquette said, and if, to that end, they would be looking to pick up another legitimate starting pitcher. Today when I checked my fantasy team (the Mercersburg Rebels, currently in 1st place), the news feed told me that the Orioles are trying to make a trade with the Brewers for RHP Zack Greinke. It also mentioned that the O’s have two highly-touted prospects in Dylan Bundy and Manny Machado that might be part of such a deal.

For the last few years, I’ve always made it a point to have Greinke on my fantasy team. He routinely goes deep into games, puts up lots of strikeouts, and has a very good ERA and WHIP. He won the 2009 AL Cy Young with the Royals, no easy feat when one considers that they’ve been about as bad as the Orioles over the last decade. This year, his record is 9-2, while his team is currently under .500 by five games.

So, all indications are that he would be an excellent pickup if the Orioles can pull this off. However, I would not part with Bundy or Machado to make it happen. Since Milwaukee lost Prince Fielder, they’re in need of a firstbaseman. Perhaps Mark Reynolds could be part of this trade? True, he’s not crushing the ball like he was last year, but Miller Park is definitely hitter-friendly. And now that the Orioles have Chris Davis, there isn’t a tremendous need for Reynolds here anymore. It would also make a big dent in that error rate.

Another thing to consider here is that the era of Brian Roberts is, regrettably, over. He’s given us some tremendous years, but unfortunately the Orioles simply cannot depend on him as an everyday player anymore. Therefore, letting go of Manny Machado would be unwise, because he will be coming of age right about the time when Roberts is officially finished. I don’t think I even need to elaborate on why trading Dylan Bundy would be a bad move, unless of course the Brewers are offering significantly more than just Greinke.

I have to admit, it’s a VERY nice thought that the Orioles’ rotation could eventually consist of Hammel, Chen, Greinke, Britton, and whoever gets their act together. That, coupled with Jones, Wieters, Davis, Markakis, Hardy, and our current bullpen would almost have to be a serious contender.

However, I must reiterate that even if this becomes reality, we are not yet free of Peter The Terrible, and I still remain unconvinced that the Orioles have truly turned the corner as long as he remains in the warehouse.

What do you think? Should the Orioles trade for Greinke? Is there someone else out there you’d like to see them pursue? Comments are always welcome.

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