Tag Archive | "Buck Showalter"

machado

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Showalter still considering options in leadoff spot for Orioles

Posted on 28 July 2015 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — With Nick Markakis in the midst of his return to Baltimore, the Orioles trotted out their fourth different leadoff hitter in the last five games for Tuesday’s contest against the Atlanta Braves.

After manager Buck Showalter moved Manny Machado down to third over the weekend, the All-Star third baseman returned to the top spot, the place in the lineup he’s now occupied 73 times during the 2015 season. Of course, the thinking with moving Machado down in the order was to create more run-producing opportunities for the 23-year-old, but the lack of an ideal option to replace him in the top spot is the bigger long-term problem.

Jimmy Paredes, David Lough, and Nolan Reimold received opportunities in the top spot while Machado hit lower in the order. Showalter has used six different players in the leadoff spot this year with two of them — Alejandro De Aza and Everth Cabrera — no longer with the organization.

“If you hit Manny first, who hits third?” Showalter said on Monday. “If you hit him third, who hits first? You take one away and then you’re trying to replace it. We put out there what we think is best. Guys know that we’re having some challenges there.”

Despite Reimold going 2-for-4 with a double and a walk in the No. 1 spot in Monday’s 2-1 win, Machado struggled in the third spot in the order, going 2-for-15 with four strikeouts and a walk. One certainly shouldn’t draw strong or permanent conclusions from that sample size, but it might have been the level of anxiousness Machado displayed in two at-bats on Monday that reinforced the idea that maybe it’s unwise to mess with a good thing.

Machado came to the plate with two runners on base in the eighth and 10th innings of Monday’s game and struck out each time, swinging at several pitches outside the strike zone. One of the biggest factors in the young infielder’s leap at the plate this season has been his improved plate disciplined with a career-high 42 walks in 423 plate appearances entering Tuesday’s game.

Did the move to the No. 3 spot alter Machado’s mindset?

“I actually asked him about that today. ‘Do you feel any different mentality there? Are you getting bigger?'” Showalter said prior to Tuesday’s game.  “He said, ‘No, it’s just a [slump].’ Since he’s been here — up until the last two or three games — that’s as long as I’ve seen him engaged with a good approach where he was not letting them get him out other than [on] stuff within the zone. He was walking.

“You always think it’s a day away. It’s like he said today, ‘I’ve got to get back to what I was doing. It’s got nothing to do with where I’m hitting him in the order.’ Of course, what’s he going to say?”

Machado looks the part of a hitter who will eventually settle into the No. 3 spot for a long time, but it would be wise to leave him in the role where he’s thrived in 2015, especially with few other options inspiring confidence in the leadoff spot right now.

Comments (0)

hardy

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Five questions pondering Hardy, Rice, Alvarez, Ravens franchise value

Posted on 24 July 2015 by Luke Jones

On Fridays, I’ll ponder five topics related to the Orioles or Ravens (or a mix of both).

Five questions …

1. Is it just me or should the Orioles be concerned about the remainder of J.J. Hardy’s contract? Baltimore’s announcement of a three-year, $40 million extension with the veteran shortstop on the eve of last fall’s American League Championship Series seemed like good news at the time, but it was fair to wonder if it was a sound investment in a middle infielder on the wrong side of 30 and wrapping up a season plagued by back issues that zapped his power. Hardy entered Friday’s game with a .345 slugging percentage, which would be the lowest of his career after he hit only nine homers and slugged .372 last season. To be fair, Hardy is hitting .263 with four homers and a .401 slugging percentage since June 9, but his lack of power is just one of many reasons the Orioles have struggled with offensive consistency all season and he’s still owed a total of $26.5 million in the next two seasons.

2. Is it just me or is it obvious why Ray Rice hasn’t gotten another shot in the NFL? The question really isn’t whether the former Ravens running back should get a second chance, but the fact that Greg Hardy and Adrian Peterson have survived their own off-field transgressions would lead you to believe the 28-year-old is in line for an opportunity. Many — including myself — have discussed Rice’s poor 2013 season and his workload dating back to college as factors supporting the idea that his career might be decline, but it comes down to one factor and one factor alone — the surveillance video of him striking his wife being on display for the world at any moment. Photos and words describing an incident are heinous, but many have sadly become desensitized to those mediums. The video and its public release changed everything, however, as NFL owners have been unwilling to budge on Rice to this point.

3. Is it just me or is it difficult to explain the Orioles’ dramatic struggles on the road? There are a slew of reasons why the 2015 season has been disappointing, but one of the biggest mysteries is why the Orioles have been so poor away from Camden Yards. Baltimore’s 19-30 road record entering the weekend series at Tampa Bay was the worst in the American League while a 27-18 home mark is in line with the success of the last few years. Few would have predicted the Orioles repeating their excellent 46-35 road record from 2014, but even a record in the neighborhood of .500 away from home would have them within striking distance of the Yankees. Alas, a mark of a good club is being able to hold its own on the road and Buck Showalter hasn’t seen that from the Orioles in 2015. Plain and simple, you can’t expect to contend when you play like a 100-loss team on the road.

4. Is it just me or is it time to take a look at Dariel Alvarez and Christian Walker in Baltimore? Instead of more discussion about a crowded outfield of underwhelming veterans, the Orioles should be making room for the 26-year-old Cuban outfielder, who has 13 homers for Triple-A Norfolk and has rebounded nicely after hitting .238 over the first two months of his 2015 campaign. It remains to be seen whether Alvarez profiles as anything more than a reserve outfielder in the majors, but his rifle throwing arm and power are skills worth evaluating while the Orioles continue to receive so little from their current options. It could also be time to take a look at Walker instead of continuing to run Chris Parmelee out to first base and while contemplating a trade of Chris Davis. The 24-year-old got off to a terrible start, but Walker has heated up over the summer and has four homers in his last 10 games.

5. Is it just me or is it difficult to believe the Ravens are entering their 20th season? As the great John Eisenberg penned earlier this week, seeing Forbes magazine rank the Ravens as the 24th most valuable sports franchise in the world was a pleasant reminder of how far the city has come in football perception. It was just two decades ago that Baltimore kids only dreamed of having an NFL team while their parents and grandparents shared stories of Johnny Unitas, Lenny Moore, and Bert Jones. Not only have the Ravens been profitable, but they’ve been a model of consistency on the field with two Super Bowl titles, four AFC championship game appearances, four division titles, and 10 playoff appearances in the last 15 years. While many opine that NFL owners didn’t support the city’s bid for an expansion team in the 1990s because the package was so attractive to owners pondering relocation, the current franchise value only reiterates how wrong the league was in not giving the ball to Baltimore over other cities.

Comments (0)

paredes

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Five biggest Orioles surprises of the first half

Posted on 16 July 2015 by Luke Jones

Though standing at just 44-44 and in third place in the American League East, the Orioles have benefited from their share of surprises as they now look toward the second half of the 2015 season.

A staple of the prosperity during the Showalter-Duquette era has been the emergence of at least a couple relative unknowns to make key contributions each season while counting on established players to either rebound from previous disappointments or to take their talents to a new level. Even if their season hasn’t gone exactly to plan through the All-Star break, the Orioles have experienced a little bit of everything in terms of pleasant surprises.

Below are my five biggest individual surprises of the first half of the season:

Honorable mention: Darren O’Day, Ryan Flaherty

5. Zach Britton

Why does an All-Star closer with an ERA just a shade higher than it was a year ago belong on the list of surprises? A deeper look at the numbers shows just how dominant Britton has been in his second year as the Orioles’ ninth-inning man.

Relying on a heavy sinker to induce grounder after grounder last season, Britton converted 37 of 41 save opportunities and pitched to a 1.65 ERA, slightly lower than his 1.72 mark this year. However, the lefty benefited greatly from opponents batting .219 on balls in play (BABIP) in 2014, much lower than the league average of .297.

Such numbers would have made it reasonable — if not very likely — to expect some regression similar to what fellow sinkerballer Jim Johnson endured in 2013, but Britton has been even more imposing despite not being nearly as fortunate. Opponents have a .304 BABIP against Britton, but he’s overcome that with an improved slider to help increase his strikeout rate per nine innings (7.3 in 2014 to 10.1) while decreasing his walk rate per nine (2.7 to 2.0).

Simply put, Britton hasn’t been nearly as “lucky” as he was a year ago, but he’s pitching to less contact and still inducing a boatload of grounders when opponents do hit the ball. Britton had a great season in 2014, but he’s established himself as one of the best closers in the game by converting 23 of 24 save chances so far in 2015, numbers that rightly earned him a trip to his first All-Star Game.

4. Manny Machado

It was difficult to know what to expect from the 23-year-old third baseman after he suffered a second serious knee injury in less than a year last August. Machado’s defense and gap power established him as an All-Star-caliber player in 2013, but he’s blossomed into one of the best players in the AL this season and the kind of performer the Orioles hoped he might become one day.

Serving in the leadoff role out of necessity — who else could even handle the role right now? — Machado is hitting .298 with a .361 on-base percentage, 19 home runs, 35 walks, and 13 stolen bases, numbers which are all already career highs. And while the Orioles will continue to knock on wood and keep their fingers crossed for his health, Machado has started all 88 games at third base and you’d never know he has two surgically-repaired knees while watching him play.

Machado has been the club’s best player by a significant margin, continuing to play Gold Glove defense and providing the kind of offense that’s turned him into an MVP candidate in 2015. According to Baseball Reference, the 2010 first-round pick ranks second behind only Mike Trout in the American League with 4.8 wins above replacement.

Taking nothing away from Adam Jones who is having a fine year and has been the club’s best player for several years, we could be seeing the passing of the torch this season with Machado emerging as the kind of rare superstar who makes the game look easy. The Orioles and their fans just pray the injuries are finally behind him.

3. Chaz Roe

Though it’s also a reflection on a disappointing winter, I doubt anyone would have projected the minor-league signing of a 28-year-old reliever with a career 4.44 ERA last December to be their best offseason addition so far in 2015.

Beginning the season at Triple-A Norfolk, Roe quickly established himself as a viable option for manager Buck Showalter in the late innings with a two-seam fastball and a devastating slider that’s helped him strike out 30 hitters while posting a 2.67 ERA in 27 innings with the Orioles.

Roe has struggled of late by allowing six earned runs in his last five outings, but it’s clear the Orioles saw something in the right-hander as he’s throwing his two-seamer more than ever and the movement on his slider has baffled hitters since he was called up in May. His stuff should allow him to remain an effective member of the bullpen even as he’ll need to make adjustments in the second half.

2. Ubaldo Jimenez

Perhaps his track record suggests his rebound shouldn’t have been so surprising, but anyone who watched Jimenez pitch in 2014 couldn’t have easily imagined him being one of their two best starters in his second season in Baltimore.

Simplified mechanics, the heaviest reliance on his two-seam fastball since his 2010 All-Star season with Colorado, and a dramatically improved walk rate (just 2.9 per nine innings this year after an awful 5.5 in 2014) have made Jimenez the pitcher the Orioles envisioned when they signed him to a four-year, $50 million contract last year. His improvement is a major reason why the Orioles remain firmly in contention despite poor seasons from Chris Tillman and Bud Norris.

After throwing his two-seamer just 16.4 percent of the time a year ago, Jimenez has used the pitch more than a third of the time (37 percent) this year to induce more grounders while still striking out 8.9 batters per nine innings. It was a brilliant adjustment to make for the 31-year-old to better take advantage of one of the best defensive infields in baseball.

In the second half, consistency will be the key for Jimenez as it has been throughout his career, but the Orioles couldn’t have asked for much better from him than a 7-4 record with a 2.81 ERA and a 3.21 fielding independent pitching (FIP) mark that is easily the best of the rotation. Other than maybe only Wei-Yin Chen, there’s not another starter Showalter would want to take the ball more on a given night as Jimenez will make the first start of the second half in Detroit on Friday.

1. Jimmy Paredes

Who else could it really be?

After hitting .302 in 55 plate appearances late last year, the 26-year-old was a name of interest in spring training but hardly someone most predicted to make the 25-man roster. Paredes was out of minor-league options and lacked a position with the defensive-minded Orioles, but he stated his case by hitting .364 with a 1.005 OPS in 55 Grapefruit League at-bats before a back injury landed him on the disabled list to begin the year.

Once Jonathan Schoop went down with a knee injury in mid-April, Paredes got the call and hit an astounding .353 in his first 143 plate appearances this year. A 4-for-41 slump that dropped his average 59 points in two weeks appeared to signal the end of a nice story, but the switch hitter has bounced back to hit a very steady .310 in his last 91 plate appearances dating back to June 12.

Clearly better from the left side of the plate, Paredes hinders Showalter’s lineup flexibility with his defensive limitations — the Orioles want him to learn to play the corner outfield spots this winter — but it’s difficult to nitpick a man who was such an unknown. Paredes is hitting .299 with 10 homers, 39 RBIs, and an .809 OPS in 277 plate appearances this year and has been the club’s third-best offensive player behind Machado and Jones.

His 69 strikeouts are the highest on the club behind only Chris Davis, but Paredes has drawn six walks in his last 51 plate appearances, which the Orioles hope is a sign of improved discipline at the plate. Time will tell whether Paredes sticks, but it’s hard not to be impressed — and really surprised — with what he’s accomplished so far in 2015.

Comments (0)

norris

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Five biggest Orioles disappointments of first half

Posted on 15 July 2015 by Luke Jones

Standing at 44-44 and in third place in the American League East, the Orioles have faced their share of disappointments as they look toward the second half of the 2015 season.

Though just four games behind the first-place New York Yankees and sporting the fifth-best run differential (plus-39) in the league, the Orioles and their fans could certainly point to the uncertain future of executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette and a disappointing offseason as the biggest factors contributing to an underwhelming first half. It’s easy to point to the decisions not to re-sign any of Nelson Cruz, Nick Markakis, and Andrew Miller, but the problems have run deeper than that.

On Wednesday, left-handed reliever Wesley Wright was designated for assignment, becoming the fifth veteran — joining Ryan Webb, Alejandro De Aza, Everth Cabrera, and Delmon Young — scheduled to make at least $1.6 million this year to be designated since the start of the season. Not only did the Orioles fail to keep their top free agents, but they spent a lot of money poorly elsewhere.

Below are my five biggest individual disappointments of the first half of the season:

Dishonorable mention: Everth Cabrera, Wesley Wright, Travis Snider

5. Alejandro De Aza/Delmon Young

It’s appropriate to lump these two together after they were both designated for assignment in the first half of the season. At the beginning of the year, manager Buck Showalter envisioned De Aza as his leadoff hitter against right-handed pitching while Young was expected to handle a larger role after the free-agent departures of Cruz and Markakis in the outfield.

Instead, De Aza hit just .214 with a .636 on-base plus slugging percentage and further saw his playing time diminish due to lapses on the bases and in the field. After being traded to Boston in early June, De Aza has provided a spark for the last-place Red Sox with a .323 average, making Orioles fans wonder where that production was earlier in the season.

Young’s .270 average may not have looked bad on the surface, but he offered little else as he homered only twice and posted an anemic .628 OPS in 180 plate appearances. Because of a crowded outfield situation and his limited versatility, Young was designated and eventually released last week.

While neither De Aza nor Young were necessarily projected to be everyday players, both were obvious disappointments after the Orioles committed to paying them a combined $7.25 million to contribute in 2015.

4. J.J. Hardy

It’s often forgotten that Hardy was the one big-name free agent the Orioles were able to keep last fall with a three-year, $40 million extension, making the first half of his 2015 season that much more frustrating after other veterans departed.

A left shoulder injury cost Hardy more than a month, but he hasn’t been able to gain his bearings at the plate beyond a few clutch hits here and there. His defensive ability remains a clear strength, but Hardy’s .226 average and .584 OPS must improve in the second half as the Orioles try to advance to the postseason for the third time in four years.

The fact that Hardy hit only nine homers last year while dealing with a lingering back issue was concerning enough, but a second straight season of diminished power (five homers in 225 plate appearances) creates doubt whether the 32-year-old will ever again approach the power numbers he posted in his first three years in Baltimore. Even if that’s the case, the Orioles need more offensive production in terms of average and at least a few more doubles from the veteran infielder.

You never want to discredit Hardy’s value in the field, but he’d be the first to tell you much more is needed with the bat.

3. Steve Pearce

Even his biggest supporters wouldn’t have predicted Pearce to duplicate his magical 2014 campaign in which he hit 21 homers, posted a team-leading .930 OPS, and was worth 5.9 wins above replacement, but the numbers were so strong that you could reasonably hope the journeyman had finally established himself as a solid everyday player.

That hasn’t been the case as Pearce hit .176 in his first 74 at-bats of 2015 and has largely been relegated to part-time duties against left-handed pitching. An .812 OPS since May 16 shows that Pearce has done a better job over the last two months, but most of that has come against left-handed pitching as he’s hitting just .207 against right-handers and .228 overall this year.

In addition to not matching the same power he found a year ago, Pearce’s walk rate has dropped considerably, a part of his game that was solid even before the 2014 season. What has likely saved the 32-year-old’s roster spot has been his versatility as he’s able to play four or five different positions, including second base for the first time earlier this season.

It will be interesting to see if Showalter will give Pearce more opportunities against right-handed pitching with Chris Parmelee struggling immensely of late, but it’s difficult foreseeing a return to the success from a year ago as Pearce is scheduled to hit free agency at the end of the season.

2. Chris Tillman

Predicting a down season for Tillman after he posted no worse than a 3.71 ERA in three straight seasons might not have been out of the question, but a 5.40 ERA and 3.8 walks per nine innings are numbers that would have landed him in the minors if not for the fact that he’s out of options.

The 27-year-old has been better since a nightmarish start in Toronto last month that elevated his ERA to 6.22, but his struggles are a major reason why the Orioles currently rank 10th in the AL with a 4.20 starter ERA. If you eliminate his 15.00 ERA in four starts against the Blue Jays, Tillman owns a very solid 3.48 mark against the rest of the league, but you can’t dismiss that part of the picture when Toronto is one of the clubs the Orioles are competing with in a tight division race.

His strikeout numbers are fairly similar to the last few seasons, but his walk rate is his highest since 2010 and the lack of fastball command has gotten him in trouble too often in 2015. Opponents have sported a .331 batting average on balls in play against Tillman, indicating he’s run into bad luck that’s made him pay even more for the control issues.

You hope the worst is behind Tillman as he pitched too well from 2012-2014 to continue languishing in the second half, but the Orioles wouldn’t figure to have much of a chance to be playing in October if the tall right-hander doesn’t start resembling the guy who had back-to-back 200-inning seasons in 2013 and 2014.

1. Bud Norris

A look at his track record told you Norris was unlikely to win 15 games or match the 3.65 ERA he posted a year ago, but few have had a more dreadful season entering free agency in recent memory than Norris, who was demoted to the bullpen before the All-Star break.

Sporting a 6.86 ERA and being paid $8.8 million this season, Norris has been helpless against left-handed hitters who have posted a 1.005 OPS and hit nine homers against him, prompting opposing managers to stack their lineups with lefties in his starts. The changeup that worked so well against lefty hitters last year hasn’t been much of a factor in 2015, leaving Norris much too reliant on his fastball and slider.

With Kevin Gausman stepping into the rotation, Norris has the stuff to profile as a decent reliever, but the move now leaves Showalter without the “swinging-door” bullpen spot he likes to have to summon a fresh arm from the minors when necessary.

At this point, it doesn’t look like Norris will get another chance in the rotation unless someone else falters or is injured, but he’ll need to be able to pitch effectively out of the bullpen to keep his roster spot as he is out of options. Duquette will undoubtedly try to find a trade partner, but Norris would be difficult to give away at this point with a high salary attached to him.

Very few would have expected Norris to be Baltimore’s best starter in 2015, but the most disastrous season of his career couldn’t have come at a worse time for him or the Orioles.

Comments (0)

davis

Tags: , , , ,

Too many valleys, not enough peaks for Orioles

Posted on 13 July 2015 by Luke Jones

A lot changed in two weeks for the Orioles.

Appearing poised to take off in the American League East after winning 18 of 23 to move into first place on June 28, the Orioles have instead lost 10 of 13 as we take a deep breath at the All-Star break. Falling back to the .500 mark for the first time since June 14, they’re once again facing many of the same doubts that plagued them for the first two months of the 2015 season.

Their impressive June had many convinced they were ready to recapture the success experienced last year when they won the AL East by 12 games, but poor baseball instead returned as the Orioles have gone 3-8 in July and have scored just 32 runs over those games.

Of course, Baltimore remains in the playoff hunt and is only four games behind the first-place New York Yankees, but a look at the schedule tells a simple story of how the first half played out.

Not counting their 18-5 stretch last month, the Orioles have won as many as three in a row only one other time all season. It doesn’t take a mathematician to understand it’s difficult to climb far from .500 when you’re rarely stacking victories.

In contrast, the Orioles experienced two different five-game losing streaks and dropped eight of 11 in the first half of May in addition to their current stretch that’s lowered them from the top of the division to third place. Strictly looking in that context, are the Orioles fortunate to hold a .500 record at this point?

A plus-39 run differential indicates they’ve played to some bad luck, but too many valleys and not enough peaks have left the Orioles middling instead of thriving in their attempt to repeat as division champions.

Much focus has fallen on a schizophrenic offense that was terrific in April and June and terrible in May and the first half of July, but the biggest concern for the second half should be a starting rotation ranking 10th in the AL with a 4.20 ERA. Beyond Wei-Yin Chen and the rejuvenated Ubaldo Jimenez, the Baltimore rotation has struggled with Chris Tillman and Bud Norris — the latter already being sent to the bullpen — sporting ERAs well above 5.00 and Miguel Gonzalez not being the same since returning from the disabled list last month.

The wild card could be the 24-year-old Kevin Gausman, but the Orioles need better from the rest of the rotation as it was a 2.98 starter ERA in the second half last year that was the biggest factor in Buck Showalter’s club running away with the division. They finished fifth in the AL in starter ERA with a 3.61 mark in 2014.

The next couple weeks will be critical for executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette as he tries to find a way to improve the current club. The return of talented second baseman Jonathan Schoop is another reason for optimism as the Orioles are healthier now than they’ve been since early last season, but a steady corner outfielder and another elite bullpen arm to ease the workload of Darren O’Day and Zach Britton should be the top priorities between now and the deadline.

A top starting pitcher would be a major plus, but the Orioles likely lack the inventory to land one that would be a marked upgrade over what they already have in place.

Much like their 10-game West Coast trip to begin the second half last season, a nine-game trip against three clubs sporting .500 records or better — Detroit, New York, and Tampa Bay — starting Friday could set the tone for the remainder of the season. Last July, the Orioles went 6-4 out west against Oakland, Los Angeles, and Seattle and never looked back.

A lousy 17-26 mark away from Camden Yards this year will understandably make fans brace themselves before the Orioles return home again on July 27. Faltering during this road trip wouldn’t necessarily sink their ship, but it could create a very tough climb over the final two months.

So far in 2015, the Orioles haven’t been able to shift into higher gear like they did a year ago. An AL East lacking any heavyweight remains the biggest positive working in their favor, but it’s fair to wonder if the Orioles are capable of getting to the 89 or 90 wins it will probably take to win the division.

Save for one 3 1/3-week stretch in June, the Orioles haven’t been able to get far without stubbing their toe all season.

Too many valleys, not enough peaks.

And that’s what has them sitting at .500 and looking up in the standings at the All-Star break.

 

Comments (1)

Screen Shot 2015-07-02 at 10.38.27 PM

Tags: , , , , ,

Orioles hear Gausman’s statement loud and clear

Posted on 02 July 2015 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — The Orioles lost 2-0 to the Texas Rangers on Thursday to drop their first series in a month, but that wasn’t the biggest story as it relates to the remainder of the 2015 season.

Starting pitcher Kevin Gausman staked an emphatic claim to a spot in the rotation with 6 1/3 scoreless innings, and the Orioles appear ready to accommodate after the continued struggles of Bud Norris in the first half. After Gausman allowed only four hits and matched a career high with seven strikeouts, Buck Showalter said the right-hander will accompany the club to Chicago instead of being optioned back to Triple-A Norfolk as many anticipated.

The Orioles manager didn’t confirm that Gausman would receive another start, but he did announce that Miguel Gonzalez would pitch on Sunday, presumably leaving Norris as the long man in the bullpen for at least the near future. Despite those criticizing the patience he’s shown with Norris — a 15-game winner in 2014 — Showalter saw what we all witnessed from Gausman on Thursday.

“Good, real good,” Showalter said. “He was using both depths with his fastball. Pitching down all the time isn’t always [good]. Good hitters get their arms extended, but he changed eye levels a lot with his fastball, which I thought was really good. It’s something he and [pitching coach Dave Wallace] have been working on. He was really good.”

Of course, Gausman made a strong case for a spot in the starting rotation long before Thursday’s performance against the Rangers. Showalter has pointed to Norris’ track record as evidence to stick with him throughout the first half, but you can only overlook a 6.79 ERA so long while acknowledging Gausman pitched to a 3.57 ERA in 20 starts last season, many of them coming in the second half in the midst of a pennant race.

Even if you didn’t like it, you could understand the organization deferring to the five veterans in the rotation to begin the season — especially with the 2015 money tied into Norris and the long-term commitment made to the enigmatic Ubaldo Jimenez — but the Orioles were shortsighted in sending Gausman to the bullpen in April. The decision likely played a part in the 2012 first-round pick developing right shoulder tendinitis and missing more than a month of action.

Now, there are no more excuses to hold Gausman back as he’s healthy and once again stretched out as a starter after a few outings in the minors and a solid start in Toronto last month. Pitching on three days’ rest, he turned in a performance on Thursday that was superior to any of Norris’ work during the 2015 season.

“I don’t know if I was making a statement, but I just wanted to pitch well,” said Gausman, who quipped that he packed a bag for Baltimore’s road trip in case he wouldn’t be optioned back to the minors. “That’s all I want to do is pitch, whether it’s here or in Triple A. I just want to pitch and throw a lot of innings. Going on the DL was something I didn’t plan. I wanted this to be the year I would get close to 200 innings, but it’s just not going to happen.

“Right now, I’m just focusing on getting more innings and going out there and competing and helping the team win.”

If the Orioles want to have their best chance to advance to the postseason for the third time in four years, Gausman should be in the starting rotation until he proves he’s not one of their best five starters.

Watching him pitch on Thursday, you were reminded of what he possesses that other pitchers simply do not. Seemingly every time he got to two strikes on a hitter, a fastball sitting comfortably around 94 mph in other counts would explode to 96 or 97 on the radar gun. Gausman also had his best split-changeup of the season, a pitch that’s devastating to left-handed hitters when he’s able to command it.

The development of a breaking pitch — a curveball he began throwing this year for the first time since college — is ongoing, but Gausman’s fastball and split were so strong on Thursday that he didn’t need to throw anything else, including his circle changeup. He may not be a finished product and it hasn’t been the easiest year for him, but Gausman is more than deserving of a spot in the major league rotation.

The time is now.

Comments (0)

perez

Tags: , , , , , ,

Orioles sign former All-Star closer Perez to minor-league deal

Posted on 02 July 2015 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — Though still needing to serve a 50-game suspension, former All-Star relief pitcher Chris Perez agreed to a minor-league deal with the Orioles on Thursday.

The 30-year-old will report to Sarasota while serving the ban for a second offense of using a drug of abuse. Perez had posted a 9.39 ERA in 7 2/3 innings for Triple-A Colorado Springs in the Milwaukee Brewers organization this season before opting out of his deal in late April to become a free agent.

“That doesn’t affect us right now, obviously, for 50 games,” said manager Buck Showalter, who learned of the signing Thursday afternoon. “We all makes some changes in our life and get better. I don’t know much at all about what’s been going on with him.

“I do know there are some other variables there that figure into it, I think.”

A two-time All-Star closer for the Cleveland Indians in 2011 and 2012 — he collected a combined 75 saves in those seasons — the right-hander and his wife were arrested for marijuana possession in 2013 after a package with nine ounces of marijuana was delivered to his home in their dog’s name. Perez’s career has declined since then as he was released by Cleveland after pitching a 4.33 ERA and converting 25 of 30 saves in 2013.

The Orioles previously expressed interest in Perez before he elected to sign with the Los Angeles Dodgers and posted a 4.27 ERA in 46 1/3 innings during the 2014 season.

In his seven years in the majors, Perez has a career 3.51 ERA with 133 saves in 379 1/3 innings.

NOTES: There is no timetable for Matt Wieters to begin catching back-to-back games, but he is now throwing and doing other things to continue strengthening his elbow on non-catching days. Showalter reiterated that he expects the 29-year-old to do it at some point this season, but he didn’t want to predict when. … Norfolk will send four players to the Triple-A All-Star game with outfielder Dariel Alvarez being elected to start. Catcher Steve Clevenger and pitchers Michael Bowden and Oliver Drake will also represent the Tides as reserves. … T.J. McFarland started Thursday’s game for the Tides, but the lefty will return to a relief role after that and could be added to the Orioles bullpen sometime next week if there’s a need between now and the All-Star break.

Comments (0)

paredes

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Orioles thoughts on Young, Paredes, starting rotation

Posted on 02 July 2015 by Luke Jones

The Orioles made a tough decision, but the right one on Wednesday.

Delmon Young should never have to pay for a meal in Baltimore again after his three-run double in Game 2 of the 2014 American League Division Series last October, but the 29-year-old was caught up in the numbers game this year. And when the roster consists of several platoon outfielders, it boils down to versatility and how many different ways you can help your club win.

Beyond a decent .270 average, the offensive numbers weren’t pretty for Young as his 2.2 percent walk rate was the worst on the club and his .339 slugging percentage was lower than even the likes of Ryan Flaherty (.400) and David Lough (.340). Despite collecting eight outfield assists, his defensive limitations made Young the most vulnerable of the fringe players on the roster.

In contrast, Steve Pearce can fill a similar role against left-handed pitching while being able to play multiple positions at a higher level. Though his health is always a question, Nolan Reimold has power, solid defensive ability, and better speed. And even the maligned David Lough fills a bigger need — for now — as the backup center fielder until Adam Jones proves his right shoulder injury is completely in the rear-view mirror.

Last season, Young was in the perfect role in making just 56 starts — most of them against left-handed pitching — with the Orioles having a fixture in Nick Markakis in right field. However, Showalter being forced to mix and match at both corner outfield spots this year — with disappointing results — eventually led to the additions of Nolan Reimold and Chris Parmelee to the 25-man roster last month and a reduction in Young’s playing time.

Executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette would be wise in attempting to deal Young to a National League contender looking for a right-handed bat off the bench. Given his reputation in the postseason, you’d hate to see the Orioles potentially cross paths with Young this October — or sooner — if he were to end up with an AL club.

With the Orioles still wanting to activate second baseman Jonathan Schoop sooner rather than later, Duquette and manager Buck Showalter will face another difficult decision with so many outfielders remaining on the roster.

However, let’s not forget that these outfielders are all complementary pieces at the end of the day. The Orioles may not consider these as easy decisions, but parting ways with Young — or whoever else they might have chosen — was never going to make or break the season in the long run.

** Another reason why the Orioles felt they were able to part ways with Young was the emergence of Jimmy Paredes, who has been the most pleasant surprise of the 2015 season with a .319 average, 10 home runs, and an .867 on-base plus slugging percentage entering Thursday.

Paredes serving extensively as the designated hitter further diminished the need for Young, and the former’s most recent hot streak likely provided the final confirmation that the Orioles needed.

After hitting a remarkable .353 in his first 143 plate appearances this year, Paredes’ good fortune had appeared to run out when he went through a nightmarish two-week stretch from May 28-June 10 that saw his average plummet 59 points. It appeared that opponents had finally figured out how to pitch the switch hitter during a 4-for-41 drought that included 20 strikeouts.

However, Paredes has rebounded dramatically since then, hitting .404 with four homers and 12 RBIs in his last 56 plate appearances. In recent weeks, he’s shown a little more discipline in laying off pitches outside the strike zone and even drew three walks during Sunday’s doubleheader.

It may be a tall order for Paredes to hit .319 the rest of the way, but he’s certainly shown enough over 242 plate appearances this season to make you think that Showalter and the Orioles have found a nugget with an intriguing future at just 26 years of age.

** Though we shouldn’t read too much into the projected starters for this weekend’s series in Chicago, it was interesting to note that Sunday’s starter has yet to be determined.

For what it’s worth, that is supposed to be Bud Norris’ next turn in the starting rotation, but Showalter revealed that the struggling right-hander will be available in relief on Thursday since Tyler Wilson was optioned back to Triple-A Norfolk to make room for starter Kevin Gausman on the 25-man roster, once again leaving the Orioles with a six-man bullpen.

What happens after Thursday will be interesting with the Orioles counting down to the All-Star break, a time when they’ve gotten creative with the use of their roster over the last few years. Not only does the four-day break begin on July 13, but the Orioles also have an off-day next Thursday, which could prompt them to option a starter — maybe even two — to the minor leagues before the season’s intermission begins.

Should Gausman pitch well against Texas on Thursday, it wouldn’t be inconceivable for the Orioles to keep him around and elect to give the ball to Miguel Gonzalez on four days’ rest on Sunday, meaning they would skip Norris and use him as a long reliever for the time being. They could then option Gonzalez to the minors on Monday to give them an extra roster spot as they would only need four starters for the remainder of the first half with a day off on July 9.

This could be a desirable scenario if they would prefer Gonzalez to pitch over the break as he’s not far removed from a stint on the disabled list and has been out of sync since returning.

It’s only spit-balling and the Orioles could just as easily option Gausman to the minors immediately after Thursday’s game, but Showalter certainly left the door open to pondering the alternatives by not immediately listing Norris as his starter for the series finale against the White Sox.

 

Comments (2)

schoop

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Orioles remain in holding pattern with Schoop

Posted on 30 June 2015 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — The Orioles know Jonathan Schoop is ready to be activated, but they’re not in a rush to make it happen.

The second baseman once again worked out at Camden Yards on Tuesday and will continue his rehab assignment at Single-A Frederick in the next day or two. What happens after that remains to be seen as Schoop’s assignment is scheduled to expire on Friday and the Orioles are discussing their options, including sending him down to the minor leagues temporarily.

A well-documented surplus of outfielders on the 25-man roster remains a sticking point as executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette and manager Buck Showalter are currently using a six-man bullpen and will need to make space for Kevin Gausman to start Thursday’s series finale against the Texas Rangers. Schoop is not expected to travel with the Orioles to Chicago for the weekend series against the White Sox.

“Obviously, he can be optioned. There are a lot of things there for us,” Showalter said. “Jonathan will benefit by every day he can get the knee that much stronger. It’s a pretty significant injury, so I want to keep that in mind, but we feel like Jon — if we had to — could be activated [or] he could benefit by playing in the minor leagues.”

While many have questioned the Orioles’ hesitation in activating Schoop, there is a baseball argument in favor of optioning him to the minors that goes beyond the roster crunch and wanting to take it slow with his rehabilitated right knee. Few would dispute Schoop’s potential or standing as the second baseman of the future, but the Orioles have received better-than-expected play from Ryan Flaherty at second base this season.

It was easy to get caught up in Schoop’s hot start to 2015 with three home runs in 29 plate appearances, but the young infielder is far from a finished product after hitting .209 with a .598 on-base plus slugging percentage as a rookie. Entering Tuesday, Flaherty was hitting .254 with a very solid .734 OPS, which ranked seventh in the American League among second basemen with at least 150 plate appearances.

To be clear, there is no second base controversy, but the position has been in good hands during Schoop’s recovery and will remain that way while the Orioles bide their time with the roster crunch and making a decision on when to activate the 23-year-old. Once Schoop returns, Flaherty has earned the right to remain in the mix at second base while also occasionally spelling J.J. Hardy at shortstop.

“He’s a lot more than a safety net,” said Showalter of the utility infielder and former Rule 5 pick. “He’s a guy you can run out there at about six positions that I feel comfortable with him. You don’t really appreciate those guys until you don’t have them. Everybody’s always looking for that guy.

“Ryan’s showing some things that you look for in an everyday player too. He’s made some adjustments in his swing and mentality that have been very evident. Some guys figure it out at 28 or 29. He’s a guy that’s easy to trust.”

NOTES: Right-handed pitcher Jason Garcia is expected to begin a rehab assignment in the near future after a couple more bullpen sessions. The Rule 5 selection was placed on the disabled list with right shoulder tendinitis on May 15. … Chris Davis was making his fourth start in right field in the last five games with Chris Parmelee back at first base on Tuesday night. … Manny Machado entered Tuesday ranked sixth in batting average (.307), fifth in hits (91), and ninth in OPS (.891) in the American League.

Comments (0)

bundy

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Orioles prospect Bundy unlikely to pitch again this year

Posted on 29 June 2015 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — Two years after undergoing Tommy John surgery on his right elbow, Orioles pitching prospect Dylan Bundy is unlikely to pitch again in 2015 due to right shoulder inflammation.

After being assigned to Double-A Bowie at the start of the season, Bundy was shut down after a start on May 21 due to right shoulder tendinitis and hasn’t thrown since. Buck Showalter chose not to reveal specific details about Bundy’s visit to renowned surgeon Dr. James Andrews, but the manager made it clear the 22-year-old won’t be pitching anytime soon.

He is 0-3 with a 3.68 ERA in 22 innings for the Baysox this year.

“I’m not going to elaborate on doctors’ evaluations and whatever, but I know Dylan throwing again is not imminent,” Showalter said. “I haven’t heard surgery mentioned — not at this point. He’s just kind of shut down for the near future. Kind of let everything calm down and see where we are.”

According to The Sun, Bundy is dealing with calcification in the back of the right shoulder that is causing the inflammation. Surgery is not being discussed as an option at this point.

The news is concerning for Bundy and the Orioles as he is out of minor-league options next year since he signed a major league contract when he was selected with the fourth overall pick of the 2011 draft. Continuing health problems are concerning enough, but the right-hander has missed valuable experience in only making 40 professional starts in four years and would need to be on the 25-man roster next season if he’s healthy.

Bundy has been coveted by other clubs in potential trades over the last few years, but the Orioles were always hesitant to part with him because of his potential to become a top-of-the-rotation starter. This latest setback makes that projection feel even more tenuous as many have pointed to his past workout habits and heavy workload in high school as factors that have contributed to his ailments as a professional.

“Depending on how you look at it, it’s probably as good of news as we could expect,” said Showalter of Bundy’s prognosis. “We’ll see. I obviously know a lot more than I’m going to talk about here. I don’t think it’s good for anybody right now, the timing. But he won’t be throwing for a little while. We’ll see how long that is.”

In other prospect-related news, 2013 first-round pick Hunter Harvey is set to begin a throwing program soon after being shut down with a flexor mass strain earlier this year. Harvey received a platelet rich plasma injection and was prescribed rest when he visited Andrews last month.

Harvey was shut down early last year with the same ailment.

Right-handed pitcher Matt Hobgood, the Orioles’ first-round pick in the 2009 draft, will undergo season-ending shoulder surgery, the latest setback in a disappointing professional career. Hobgood will become a minor-league free agent after the 2015 season.

NOTES: Right-handed pitcher Kevin Gausman remains on track to start Thursday’s series finale against the Texas Rangers. Barring something unforeseen, Showalter doesn’t anticipate the 24-year-old staying with the club after that as the organization wants him to continue pitching every fifth days. … Entering Monday, the Orioles were 10-1 at home and 18-8 overall in the month of June. The last time Baltimore posted 20 wins in a calendar month was September 1999. … In the latest American League All-Star voting update, Manny Machado ranked fourth among third basemen and Adam Jones was seventh among outfielders. The starters will be announced on Sunday night with reserves, pitchers, and the “Final Vote” candidates being unveiled on Monday night. A special will be televised on ESPN both nights. Five Kansas City Royals players remain in the lead to start after eight were leading the voting at their positions earlier this month.

Comments (0)