Tag Archive | "Buck Showalter"

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Jimenez’s dramatic struggles have Orioles in unenviable position

Posted on 29 May 2016 by Luke Jones

The Orioles weren’t expecting Ubaldo Jimenez to be their ace in 2016.

Manager Buck Showalter probably would have taken a repeat of last season in which he posted an unspectacular but acceptable 4.11 ERA, even if it did include a 5.63 mark in the second half after a sparkling 2.81 ERA before the All-Star break. With so many questions about their starting rotation entering the season, the Orioles needed Jimenez to be more 2015 than the 2014 version of himself.

So far, they haven’t even gotten the latter model as another poor performance Saturday elevated his ERA to 6.36, third worst among qualified pitchers in the majors entering Sunday. He’s averaged 5.2 walks per nine innings and opponents have a .375 batting average on balls in play against him, numbers suggesting he’s been both bad and unlucky this season.

And it’s only getting worse as the 32-year-old has posted a 10.26 ERA over his last four starts with the Orioles losing the last three in blowout fashion. Jimenez has walked 14 in 16 2/3 innings over that time, perhaps the clearest barometer of his inability to give his club much of a chance to win these days.

Making matters worse, Jimenez allowed four stolen bases in Saturday’s game and opponents have stolen 11 bases against him already this season, another of Showalter’s pet peeves.

Something has to give — and soon.

Showalter said before Sunday’s finale in Cleveland that Jimenez is listed as the “projected” starter for the series finale against Boston this week. The thought of the struggling right-hander facing the best lineup in baseball on Thursday almost appears cruel at this point, but the Orioles’ alternatives are limited.

Unlike two years ago when Jimenez lost his spot in the starting rotation, there isn’t a Kevin Gausman waiting to take his place. It’s no coincidence that Yovani Gallardo will make his first minor-league rehab start on the same day Jimenez is set to make his next start, but the former may need another start or two after that in his recovery from right shoulder tendinitis.

Even if you decide that Gallardo — or Vance Worley or T.J. McFarland or anyone else — takes his rotation spot, what do you do with the struggling veteran?

Despite many fans continuing to call for it, the Orioles aren’t releasing a pitcher owed the remainder of his $13 million salary this year and another $13.5 million in 2017. Unless you have two or three legitimate pitching prospects waiting at Triple A to take the next step, you don’t dump a pitcher who showed he was able to pitch at a high level for a significant portion of last season when he’s owed so much money — even if it might amount to little more than a way-too-expensive lottery ticket at this point.

Do you just send Jimenez to the bullpen? The problem with that is you can only count on him for mop-up duty and one of the last things you want in a long reliever is to walk hitters when you’re just trying to eat low-leverage innings. At the very least, it would give him opportunities for side sessions to try to fix his mechanics, something not easy to do when you have just four days between starts.

Will the Orioles find a physical issue — authentic or not — that would allow them to put him on the disabled list? Two years ago, an ankle injury met with plenty of outside skepticism allowed Jimenez to rehab and pitch in two minor-league games before he was activated roughly a month later.

Even if Jimenez can reverse his latest struggles, how much can you trust him to pitch for a contender?

Of course, these alternatives aren’t preferable to Jimenez doing the job the Orioles are paying him handsomely to do. Nearly 2 1/2 years into their marriage, the right-hander has turned in one excellent half of pitching with occasional good starts sprinkled in the rest of the time.

His woes aren’t from a lack of effort, but the well-liked Jimenez just isn’t getting the job done.

The Orioles find themselves back in the same position they experienced two year ago, in contention and needing to replace him.

It appears time for a change.

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Jimenez could be impacted by Gallardo’s return

Posted on 23 May 2016 by Luke Jones

(Editor’s note: The Orioles traded left-handed reliever Brian Matusz to Atlanta for two minor-league pitchers on Monday night.)

The Orioles were pleased with the first bullpen session for Yovani Gallardo on Sunday, marking another significant step in his recovery from right shoulder tendinitis.

On the 15-day disabled list since April 23, the 30-year-old is expected to complete another bullpen in Houston before pitching a simulated game and potentially beginning a minor-league rehab assignment as early as next week. That timetable would put Gallardo in line for a return in early June, which could potentially impact a pair of struggling pitchers on the current roster.

Manager Buck Showalter said Sunday that right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez is not in danger of losing his spot in the starting rotation, but his ERA has climbed to 6.04 after he allowed six earned runs in 5 2/3 innings in a 10-2 loss to the Los Angeles Angels. Unfortunately, it’s an all-too-familiar position for Jimenez and the Orioles, who replaced him in the starting rotation with Kevin Gausman two years ago in the midst of his abysmal first season with Baltimore.

As Showalter pointed out when asked about Jimenez’s status in Anaheim, however, the Orioles don’t have a clear-cut replacement this time around despite the 32-year-old pitching to a 5.79 ERA in his last 135 1/3 innings going back to last year’s All-Star break. Whether fans like it or not, the organization isn’t about to designate a pitcher for assignment who is making a total of $26.5 million over this year and 2017, but Gallardo’s return could prompt the Orioles to have a difficult conversation with Jimenez if he doesn’t fare better over his next few starts.

If young pitchers Tyler Wilson and Mike Wright continue to outperform Jimenez, the Orioles might have no choice but to put the struggling veteran in the bullpen, which could then impact another struggling hurler on the 25-man roster.

There’s little roster flexibility in the current bullpen with Mychal Givens being the only member with minor-league options, and it’d be a tough sell to say you’re doing what’s best for the club if you send your fourth-best reliever to the minors. The next names to enter the conversation would be Vance Worley — who has done an acceptable job as a long reliever — and Brian Matusz, who is currently serving as the forgotten lefty specialist who hasn’t been able to get lefties out since returning from the DL last month.

Of course, any role for Jimenez in the bullpen would more closely resemble what Worley currently does, but how much longer can the Orioles continue to carry Matusz — despite his $3.9 million salary for 2016 — if he’s not going to begin showing signs of turning his season around? He’s made just four appearances this month and lefty bats have gone 5-for-11 with a home run, a double, and five walks against him this season.

The Orioles would clearly like to have an effective lefty specialist in their bullpen, but right-handers Brad Brach and Darren O’Day have performed well enough against lefty bats to help minimize that deficiency on the roster. Carrying Jimenez in the bullpen in place of Matusz would be far from ideal and likely only a temporary measure, but the first-place Orioles haven’t suffered too much without a viable lefty specialist through the first quarter of the season and could likely endure without one for a little longer.

What’s best for Baltimore would be for Jimenez to straighten himself out to pitch more like the guy who posted an impressive 2.81 ERA in the first half of 2015 and for Matusz to regain his form against tough lefty bats in the later innings, but time could be running out for both. Something will have to give sooner than later once Gallardo is ready to return to the rotation.

The pressure is on both Jimenez and Matusz to turn their fortunes around.

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Thoughts about Orioles’ weekend series in Anaheim

Posted on 22 May 2016 by Luke Jones

Sunday’s 10-2 loss shouldn’t spoil a series victory for the Orioles as they took two out of three from the Los Angeles Angels to begin their longest road trip of the season to this point.

The weekend was highlighted by Matt Wieters’ dramatic three-run home run in the top of the ninth inning to erase a 1-0 deficit and give Baltimore a 3-1 win on Saturday night. The blow came on Wieters’ 30th birthday and continued a strong month for the veteran catcher in which he’s hit .372 with three homers, eight RBIs, and a 1.038 OPS.

It was another game that had a 2014 feel to it in the sense that the Orioles came away with one they had little business winning after Matt Shoemaker had dominated them. And it’s the kind of win you remember fondly if they’re still in the thick of the race in September.

Even with the lopsided loss in the series finale, the Orioles went into the off-day holding the best record in the American League and leading the East by percentage points over the Boston Red Sox.

** Ubaldo Jimenez continued a nightmare month on Sunday by allowing six earned runs in 5 2/3 innings, lifting his season ERA to 6.04 and his May ERA to 7.81 in 27 2/3 innings.

It’s been an extended period of struggles for the right-hander dating back to the second half of last season. Since holding an impressive 2.81 ERA at the 2015 All-Star break, Jimenez has pitched to a 5.79 mark in his last 135 1/3 innings of regular-season work.

The frustration over Jimenez’s performance is obvious, but the problem is that the Orioles aren’t exactly bursting at the seams with alternatives — at least until Yovani Gallardo is ready to return next month. Despite the cries of some fans, the organization just isn’t releasing a pitcher in the third year of a four-year, $50 million contract, especially when Jimenez is capable of getting on a roll in which he pitches at a high level.

Manager Buck Showalter reiterated after Sunday’s game that the Orioles aren’t at a point where Jimenez’s rotation spot is in jeopardy, but something may have to give sooner rather than later if his May struggles continue into June.

** Mike Scioscia was rightfully upset with home plate umpire Dale Scott over a pair of awful strike calls in the ninth inning on Saturday, but I’m still scratching my head about the Angels manager removing Shoemaker after just 95 pitches.

There was no reason to think the starter couldn’t have at least finished the eighth after striking out 12 over 7 1/3 innings. Perhaps the baseball gods agreed considering how the ninth inning played out.

** If you’re looking for the latest reason why the win stat means little for starting pitchers, look no further than Kevin Gausman, who has zero in six starts despite a tidy 2.70 ERA.

On Saturday, the 25-year-old showed his best fastball velocity since his season debut and got stronger as the game went on despite no run support from the Orioles lineup. The wins will come, but the important news is that Gausman is healthy and pitching effectively.

** Joey Rickard stole second base in the first inning of Sunday’s game, giving the Orioles just their sixth stolen base of the season.

Entering Sunday, 32 players in the majors had more steals than the entire Orioles club. Of course, Baltimore leading the majors in homers has a lot to do with the reluctance to run.

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Orioles trying to show they have right stuff on road

Posted on 20 May 2016 by Luke Jones

Having managed more than 2,600 games in the majors, Buck Showalter has a good idea of what it will take for the Orioles to return to the postseason for the third time in five years.

There is no magic formula, even if it’s easier said than done as Baltimore begins a nine-game road trip, its longest of the season to this point. Entering Friday, the Orioles owned the best record in the American League but had played just 14 road games, the fewest in the majors.

“There are two common denominators of teams that play in October. They have an advantage at home and they are competitive on the road,” said Showalter, who reminded us that the season wouldn’t be over if the Orioles have a bad road trip. “We know we’ve got to follow that trend. It’s long, tried, and tested. There’s certain math that you do try to follow, but it’s not always that convenient and they don’t always cooperate.”

Baltimore has had that distinct advantage at home so far, winning 17 of 25. Success in their home ballpark is nothing new for the Orioles under Showalter as they’ve gone no worse than 46-35 at Camden Yards in each of the last four seasons.

Whether the Orioles will be competitive enough on the road remains to be seen after they went an abysmal 34-50 in away contests in 2015 — which included the three-game series moved to Tropicana Field last May. It was easily their worst record away from Camden Yards since 2011 and derailed the club’s chances to repeat as AL East champions. Two years ago, the Orioles were an impressive 46-35 on the road, helping them win the division by a comfortable 12 games.

So far in 2016, they’ve gone a respectable 7-7 in away games — including an early series win at Fenway Park — but they’ll be facing a Los Angeles Angels club that’s won six of seven, a young Houston team playing better after a miserable start, and second-place Cleveland in an unorthodox trip in terms of travel.

“Everyone here is experienced with that, so it’s not that big a deal,” said outfielder Mark Trumbo of starting a long road trip. “We want to win as many of those series as we can. I think we’ve got a good opportunity to do some damage, get the bats going a little bit, and it should be some fun.”

More importantly than getting the bats going after scoring just seven runs in a three-game series defeat to Seattle will be the pitching, which entered Friday ranked fifth in the AL in ERA. The Orioles boast a tidy 3.45 ERA in 25 home games, but their 4.31 ERA in 14 road games probably won’t get it done over the long haul.

The Orioles won’t return home again until Memorial Day, the unofficial point at which many attempt to differentiate the contenders from the pretenders. The nine-game road trip is hardly a season-defining one with more than four months of baseball to play, but it could push the Orioles further in a 2014-like direction or stir memories of last year’s frustration away from Camden Yards.

“We’re going to some places where people are playing well,” Showalter said. “Everybody’s trying to seek their level right now. We’re in the middle of May. Everybody’s trying to figure out who they are and [whether] they’re going to be a dancer or someone that spins the records. It’s part of the process.”

The Orioles hope that process doesn’t include spinning their wheels on the road after an encouraging start to 2016.

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Orioles “encouraged” by Gallardo’s progress with shoulder

Posted on 18 May 2016 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — With the Orioles about to embark on their longest road trip of the season so far, Yovani Gallardo will take another important step in his recovery from right shoulder tendinitis in Anaheim.

The veteran starting pitcher has responded well since beginning a throwing program over the weekend and is scheduled to complete his first bullpen session on Sunday. If that goes well, he’ll have another bullpen session on Tuesday with the plan of pitching a simulated game on May 27.

Orioles manager Buck Showalter said it’s possible that Gallardo would then be ready to begin a minor-league rehab assignment and probably wouldn’t need more than one or two rehab starts before potentially being activated.

“They’re all parts of the process,” Showalter said. “His arm swing and the backspin on the ball, he’s doing some things he couldn’t do before. I’m encouraged about this if we can stay on this schedule.”

The 30-year-old has been on the 15-day disabled list since April 23 after experiencing right shoulder discomfort in Kansas City a night earlier. It was the first time in his major league career that Gallardo was sent to the DL for an arm injury.

In his four starts covering 18 innings at the beginning of the season, Gallardo posted a 7.00 ERA with nine strikeouts and seven walks and was averaging a career-low 88.3 miles per hour on his fastball, down 2.2 mph from his 2015 average. He signed a two-year, $22 million contract in late February after the initial three-year, $35 million agreement was restructured due to the organization’s concerns about the health of his shoulder when he took his physical.

Showalter also said that pitching prospect Hunter Harvey will begin a throwing program on May 24 as he continues to recover from sports hernia surgery.

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Orioles sitting pretty six weeks into 2016 season

Posted on 16 May 2016 by Luke Jones

Six weeks down, 20 more to go.

Just a simple reminder that it’s still early in 2016 as the Orioles begin a new week holding the best record in the American League by percentage points. But how can you not be optimistic about a club that’s already put together two seven-game winning streaks after no previous run of victories lasting that long since 2005?

Even after Sunday’s disappointing 6-5 loss to Detroit to snap their latest winning streak, the 23-13 Orioles are off to their best start through 36 games in 11 years. It’s quite an improvement from the many preseason forecasts — including this writer’s — expecting Baltimore to be no better than fourth or fifth in the AL East.

We knew the Orioles would hit plenty of home runs — they entered Monday leading the majors in that category — and their bullpen sports the best ERA in all of baseball, but the starting pitching was the major question mark. Through Sunday, Baltimore ranked a respectable seventh in the AL in starter ERA (4.22).

Can the Orioles sustain the success? That’s the question we’ve uttered so many times over the last five seasons whenever Buck Showalter’s club is in the midst of exceeding outside expectations.

No one can predict the future as it relates to injuries or other unforeseen circumstances, but some of the factors their critics have used against the Orioles in past seasons aren’t looking so bad in 2016.

Remember how detractors harped on the 2012 Orioles’ run differential throughout their improbable run to the franchise’s first postseason appearance in 15 years?

Their plus-37 mark so far this season suggests being 10 games above .500 is hardly a fluke. Of course, all it takes is a couple lopsided defeats to throw that mark out of whack when we’re still so early in the schedule, but we are almost a quarter of the way through the marathon.

What about 2014 when Baltimore finished third in the AL with a 3.44 ERA but stat-heads pointed to a 3.96 fielding independent pitching (FIP) mark ranking 11th? So far this season, the Orioles sport the AL’s best FIP (3.63) while ranking fourth in ERA (3.53)

Their rotation FIP (3.88) is even better than the rotation ERA, primarily a reflection of Orioles starters allowing fewer home runs than any other AL club. Some regression is likely, but the rotation allowed the second-most homers in the league a year ago, reflecting how much improvement there’s been in that department so far.

Sporting a career-low ERA (2.58) and registering a career-high 9.3 strikeouts per nine innings, Chris Tillman has led the starter improvement and is so far providing the bounce-back season the club needed. We know the starting pitching will continue to be the hot topic as it relates to staying in games and preventing an exceptional bullpen from wearing out in the second half.

“The pitching’s been solid,” Showalter said. “That’s the thing that’s going to allow us to maintain the level we’re going to have to have to compete in our division. You’re going to have to take care of your own business every night and not expect any help from anybody. But the pitching has been as good as I could hope for it to be so far.”

Being solid is good enough for the starting pitching, but how great can the offense be?

Beyond hitting home runs, the Orioles entered Monday ranked third in the AL in runs, second in batting average, second in on-base percentage, and second in slugging percentage. Their 8.4 percent walk rate is markedly better than their 7.0 percent mark a year ago, reflecting more patience at the plate.

Manny Machado has looked every bit the part of the 2016 AL MVP after finishing fourth in the voting last year. It was fun wondering this winter if the 23-year-old could be even better than he was in 2015, but he’s been exactly that so far as one of the very best players in baseball.

Newcomer Mark Trumbo was initially viewed as an insurance policy for the potential free-agent departure of Chris Davis in the offseason, but he’s been the club’s second-best hitter while the likes of Davis and Adam Jones struggled through parts of the first six weeks. Expecting him to hit .300 would be unrealistic, but there’s no denying him having a Nelson Cruz-like impact on his new club so far.

Machado and Trumbo have led the way, but the Orioles have three other hitters — Davis, Jones, and Jonathan Schoop — sporting an OPS of at least .770 after recent surges. And that’s not even considering Matt Wieters and Pedro Alvarez, who are hitting well below their career numbers but are capable of being above-average offensive contributors at their respective positions.

Of course, none of this means the Orioles are a lock to win their second division title in three years and secure their third postseason berth in five seasons as we know there’s a very long way to go. Boston has sported the best offense in the league and lost no ground to the Orioles during the latter’s seven-game winning streak that ended on Sunday. Toronto has lagged behind the other two in third place, but the Blue Jays surprisingly sport the best starter ERA in the AL while they wait for their imposing lineup to heat up.

The Orioles aren’t going to run away with this division, but there’s plenty to like about them through the first six weeks, some expected and some of it not. And it’s been more than just smoke and mirrors.

Yes, Baltimore is sitting pretty.

Prettier than expected, which is really be nothing new for these Orioles by now.

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Orioles place Paredes on waivers as rehab assignment ends

Posted on 15 May 2016 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — With Jimmy Paredes’ rehab assignment concluding on Sunday, Buck Showalter only hinted about his status as the Orioles concluded a four-game set with Detroit.

Comcast SportsNet and multiple outlets reported that the switch hitter was placed on waivers after Showalter indicated that a decision had already been made regarding his status, but the Baltimore manager deferred to executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette for further details.

“I don’t think I’m supposed to divulge that, right?” Showalter said. “I mean everybody knows, but I’m not [telling]. I think that’d be a good question for Dan.

“Legally, you could wait until [Monday to make a decision]. Whether or not we did, I do know.”

Paredes, 27, began the season on the 15-day disabled list after spraining his left wrist early in spring training. Since beginning his minor-league rehab assignment last month, the switch hitter has batted .308 with two home runs, nine RBIs, and an .847 on-base plus slugging percentage in 73 plate appearances split among Single-A Frederick, Double-A Bowie, and Triple-A Norfolk.

Though he’s played both corner outfield spots and third base during his rehab stint, Paredes lacks a true position, diminishing the appeal of making room for him on a 25-man roster already housing a few players with defensive limitations. Paredes hit .216 with a .517 OPS in the second half of 2015 after surprisingly holding an .807 OPS at the All-Star break.

Should he clear waivers, Paredes could be outrighted to Norfolk. He was starting at third base for the Tides on Sunday and was scheduled to go on their next road trip, according to Showalter.

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Orioles “very pleased” with Gallardo’s first throwing session

Posted on 14 May 2016 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — Orioles starting pitcher Yovani Gallardo was encouraged by his first throwing session since being placed on the 15-day disabled list with right shoulder discomfort on April 23.

The right-hander made 25 throws from 60 feet on flat ground Saturday afternoon and told reporters that he felt good. Manager Buck Showalter isn’t ready to disclose the full schedule for Gallardo’s potential return to the mound, but he will throw from 90 feet on Monday and from 120 feet after that.

“He and [head athletic trainer Richie Bancells and bullpen coach Dom Chiti] were very pleased with it,” Showalter said. “So far, so good. That was a good step for him. We’ll see how he feels tomorrow. He wasn’t just flipping it — you throw. It’s got some intensity to it.”

Showalter said the throwing progression will be similar to the one completed by Kevin Gausman in late March and April but would probably take a “little longer.” Gausman was sidelined for just over a month after receiving a cortisone shot for right shoulder tendinitis on March 20 and making his first regular-season start on April 25.

Gallardo, 30, had never gone to the DL with an arm-related injury in his first nine major league seasons.

He hasn’t pitched since leaving an April 22 start in Kansas City after two innings due to right shoulder discomfort. In his four starts covering 18 innings, Gallardo posted a 7.00 ERA with nine strikeouts and seven walks.

Much had been made about Gallardo’s declining strikeout rate and velocity over the last few seasons before the Orioles deliberated over his physical and eventually signed him to a two-year, $22 million contract in late February, but the organization hopes that the efforts to rest and strengthen his shoulder will result in a more competitive pitcher. Gallardo’s fastball was averaging a career-low 88.3 miles per hour in April, down 2.2 mph from last year’s average.

“You could see some of his arm action was even better,” said Showalter about his first throwing session. “This is a guy who had great command. One of the first things you know when a guy’s not feeling well is when they lose command.

“I’m hoping when he gets back that the stuff and the command are going to be better.”

Alvarez at third

Since J.J. Hardy’s foot injury resulted in some defensive shuffling two weeks ago, Showalter had said several times that Pedro Alvarez had more major league experience at third base than any other player on the roster.

The manager acted on that thought Saturday by giving Alvarez his first start at the hot corner since Aug. 17, 2014 when he was with Pittsburgh. Not known for his defensive work at either corner infield spot, Alvarez has been worth minus-29 defensive runs saved at third base in his career, which prompted the Pirates to move him to first base.

“It’s one thing I’ve been trying to get done,” Showalter said. “It’s something he’s very experienced at; it’s just I [had] to get him out there. As we play our next 120-some-odd games, we need to be able to know what we have — people at different places. There’s only one way to do it.”

Odds & ends

On Saturday, Scott McGregor began a four-game stint filling in as the Orioles pitching coach while Dave Wallace is away to deal with a family matter. … Hyun Soo Kim was making his first start since May 7 and seventh of the season. … Orioles relievers entered Saturday leading the majors with a 2.20 ERA in 110 1/3 innings pitched. Baltimore’s overall team ERA (3.47) ranked fourth in the American League and eighth in the majors. … Adam Jones hit his 200th career home run in Friday’s 1-0 win over Detroit. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the only other player to hit a century-mark homer in a 1-0 game (200th or higher) was Ted Williams, who hit his 400th career long ball in a win over the Kansas City Athletics at Fenway Park in 1956.

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“Rounding the Bases” in Orioles’ 7-0 loss to Yankees

Posted on 05 May 2016 by Luke Jones

What went wrong in the Orioles’ 7-0 defeat to the New York Yankees on Wednesday night?

In trying to identify the top three losing factors with the addition of home plate for any not-so-honorable mentions and other notes, we go around the bases after the 26th game of the 2016 season.

1st — The late Prince’s “1999” was played at one point between innings of Wednesday’s game at Camden Yards, but Yankees starter CC Sabathia pitched like it was 2009 with seven shutout innings. Watching Sabathia at this point is not unlike what we saw from Peyton Manning at the end of his career as the burly lefty struggles to reach the high 80s with his fastball after once being a power pitcher. However, he got vintage results to halt his club’s six-game losing streak by inducing nine grounders and striking out six over the course of the evening. Sabathia moved the ball around and out of the zone effectively — Orioles hitters obliged in expanding the zone — and ended his evening with 14 swinging strikes.

2nd — Though he tossed five scoreless innings to begin the night, the third time through the order proved to be the death knell for Tyler Wilson’s outing. The right-hander allowed only one hit and two walks through the first five frames, but Jacoby Ellsbury reached base for a third time with one out in the sixth and Wilson never really recovered from there as five of the next six Yankees hitters reached base, including Starlin Castro on a throwing error by Wilson that brought Mark Teixeira home with the third run of the inning. Two earned runs in six innings was a perfectly acceptable outing if he’d received even modest run support, but Wilson must find more success the third time through the order if he wants to stick in the rotation in the long run.

3rd — Sabathia deserves plenty of credit, but the Orioles left eight men on base and went 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position over the course of the night. The New York starter didn’t record a single 1-2-3 inning, showing that Baltimore had its chances to give Wilson a lead long before he ran into trouble in the sixth. Adam Jones, Nolan Reimold, and Mark Trumbo each grounded into double plays while Manny Machado and Chris Davis each went 0-for-2 with runners in scoring position. In comparison to Yankee hitters going 3-for-5 with a walk and a sacrifice fly in their third plate appearances against Wilson, the Orioles went 0-for-7 with a walk in their third looks at the veteran Sabathia.

Home — After pitching a scoreless seventh, T.J. McFarland didn’t retire a batter in the eighth and allowed three runs, putting the game out of reach. … Jones went 0-for-3 with a walk and a strikeout to drop his season average to .205. … The Orioles were shut out for the second time this season. … Machado doubled twice to elevate his average to .355. … Kevin Gausman takes the hill seeking a series win on Thursday while New York will turn to Masahiro Tanaka.

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Orioles keeping options open at shortstop in Hardy’s absence

Posted on 03 May 2016 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — The original Orioles lineup written out by Buck Showalter did not have Manny Machado at shortstop in the series opener against the New York Yankees on Tuesday night.

An afternoon conversation with the two-time Gold Glove third baseman, however, prompted the Baltimore manager to change his mind, shifting Machado to his natural shortstop position and moving recalled utility infielder Ryan Flaherty from short to third base. Showalter said earlier this season when Hardy was dealing with a calf issue that he slightly preferred the defensive alignment of Flaherty at third base with Machado at shortstop, but the Orioles will keep all options open with their three-time Gold Glove shortstop now expected to miss at least a month with a hairline fracture in his left foot.

Slick-fielding veteran shortstop Paul Janish remains a strong possibility to be promoted from Triple-A Norfolk in the near future, and Showalter reminded reporters that Pedro Alvarez has also started more than 500 games at the hot corner in his major league career. Of course, Alvarez at third base wouldn’t represent the optimal defensive alignment for a club that puts much emphasis in defense.

“There’s some other things that we could do,” said Showalter about his decision to move Machado to shortstop on Tuesday. “I’d keep in mind, too, that Pedro’s played a lot of third base. He’s actually played more third base than Manny has in the big leagues. There are some options there. I’d like to keep them all open; I’d also like to keep from moving guys around a lot.

“This is the way we’re going to go tonight.”

Drafted as a shortstop out of high school and having played all but two career minor-league games there before he was promoted to the majors in 2012, Machado was only making his ninth career major league start at short on Tuesday night. The Orioles know the 23-year-old can play elite defense at third base, but it remains to be seen just how good his defense would be at shortstop over the long haul.

The best defensive left side of the infield in Hardy’s absence would likely be Janish at shortstop with Machado staying at third, but the former has hit just .216 and posted a .574 on-base plus slugging percentage in parts of seven major league seasons, making him less than ideal for an everyday role. The Orioles would rather not weaken their defense at two positions, but Flaherty is a better third baseman than shortstop, which has facilitated the opportunity for Machado to play his natural position on occasion.

Perhaps the time is now to see how Machado’s incredible skill at third base translates to shortstop over an extended time as Showalter even noted that he’s seen better preparation than ever from the young superstar who was named American League Player of the Month for April.

“It’s just been so much more focused every day,” Showalter said. “You can tell by the look in his eye that he has a real passion for what he’s trying to accomplish for our team.”

Britton encouraged by ankle improvement

Closer Zach Briton was happy that a magnetic resonance imaging exam revealed no structural damage to the left ankle he jammed on Saturday, and he hopes to return at some point during the Yankees series.

The lefty reliever played catch on Tuesday afternoon to better gauge how close he was to being 100 percent from a pitching standpoint. Britton told reporters that all pain is virtually gone when he walks after he was on crutches just a couple days earlier.

“I feel a lot better. The flexibility and range of motion is back,” Britton said. “It’s just swollen. It’s got some bruising, but as long as I can manage the pain. That’s going to be the biggest issue right now. Does it hurt me doing baseball things — covering first, having to field the bunt, or what not? Those are things that I’m going to have to test out.”

Gallardo update

It remains unclear when starting pitcher Yovani Gallardo (right shoulder tendinitis) will resume throwing, but Showalter is hoping they’ll see a better pitcher than the one who posted a 7.00 ERA in 18 innings last month.

“I’m very optimistic about the return we’re going to get on some of the things that he’s doing,” Showalter said. “Hopefully, he’s moving towards throwing here before too long.”

The 30-year-old was sent to the 15-day disabled list with an arm-related ailment for the first time in his career on April 23.

Harvey sidelined again

Showalter confirmed that top pitching prospect Hunter Harvey underwent sports hernia surgery on Tuesday, the latest challenge in a career that’s been derailed by various injuries since July 2014.

However, the Orioles aren’t as concerned with the current ailment since it has nothing to do with the elbow issues he experienced in each of the previous two seasons.

“If he pitches from June, July on and finishes up strong like we think he can, I think he’s OK,” Showalter said. “But we’d really like to see him get the ball every fifth day at some point there and kind of get some of that experience he needs to finish off some things [with his development].”

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