Tag Archive | "Buck Showalter"

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“Rounding the Bases” in Orioles’ 5-3 win over Tampa Bay

Posted on 10 April 2016 by Luke Jones

Who stood out in the Orioles’ 5-3 win over the Tampa Bay Rays on Sunday afternoon?

In the spirit of hockey’s “three stars” system with the addition of home plate for honorable mentions and other notes, we go around the bases after the fifth game of the 2016 season.

1stManny Machado said after the game that he isn’t yet locked in at the plate, but he sure looked like it on Sunday as he went 4-for-4, hitting a two-run home run in the second off Rays starter Jake Odorizzi and scoring two runs. The 23-year-old also showed impressive baserunning instincts in the bottom of the eighth when he scored on a wild pitch by Erasmo Ramirez — even if Matt Wieters astutely alerted him to touch the plate after he had initially missed it on his slide. Machado is hitting .429 and has homered three times over the first five games, reminding us why he’s the Orioles’ best player.

2nd — Brad Brach entered with two outs in the top of the fifth and the Rays threatening to tie the game with runners on the corners, but the right-hander got Brad Miller to fly out to deep right, just the latest example of how effective he is against left-handed hitters. He followed that with a flawless top of the sixth that included strikeouts of Steven Souza Jr. and Curt Casali, setting the tone for the rest of the bullpen to protect a small lead over the final three innings.

3rdJonathan Schoop continued his strong start to the season, collecting an RBI double to start the Orioles’ scoring in the bottom of the second inning. The 24-year-old second baseman is now hitting .313 on the young season and has four extra-base hits over the first five games. He also extended his hitting streak to 11 games dating back to last season.

HomeVance Worley was on a pitch count and hadn’t pitched since the spring finale on April 1, but the right-hander was very effective the first time through the order against a club he’d never faced and managed to get into the fifth with a 4-1 lead. Manager Buck Showalter acknowledged that he probably stuck with Worley too long trying to get him through the inning to be eligible for a win, but he’ll need to go deeper if he’s going to stick in the starting rotation. … Mychal Givens rebounded from allowing three runs in his first two appearances by pitching a scoreless seventh inning that included strikeouts of Logan Morrison and Evan Longoria. … Hyun Soo Kim collected two hits that didn’t leave the infield, but it was a good start for the South Korean outfielder in his major league debut. … Mark Trumbo collected two more singles and is now 9-for-19 on the season, all of those hits being singles. … Pedro Alvarez picked up his first hit of the season and scored the first Baltimore run by evading the tag of Casali. … The Orioles have started a season 5-0 for the first time since 1970. … Yovani Gallardo will make his second start of the season Monday afternoon in Boston and will be opposed by Red Sox ace David Price.

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Kim makes major league debut as Jones remains sidelined

Posted on 10 April 2016 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — South Korean outfielder Hyun Soo Kim was set to make his major league debut on Sunday as the Orioles concluded a three-game set with the Tampa Bay Rays.

Kim was slotted in the No. 9 spot and playing in left field after not appearing in the first four games of the 2016 season. With Adam Jones sidelined with rib soreness for a third straight game, regular left fielder Joey Rickard was once again in center as Kim received his first start.

The 28-year-old hasn’t started in a game since March 25 and received just two more spring at-bats after that as the Orioles tried to persuade him to accept a minor-league assignment.

“We talked about it, but you don’t want to say too much,” said manager Buck Showalter about Kim making his regular-season debut. “There’s a fine line there — go play. He’s probably got enough things going on without me jumping in there too deep.”

As he predicted on Saturday, shortstop J.J. Hardy was back in the lineup after missing Friday’s game due to tightness in his left calf. However, Showalter continues to be cautious with Jones, who is improving but is still feeling some discomfort in the rib area at the end of his swing. The manager reiterated that the training staff does not believe that Jones is dealing with an oblique problem.

For now, the Orioles are willing to wait before considering putting the five-time All-Star selection on the 15-day disabled list. Jones hasn’t played since Wednesday night when he felt discomfort swinging in his final at-bat.

“It’s a concern because he’s one of our best players and he’s not playing,” Showalter said. “But it’s close we think; [we’ll wait] as long as it takes. You know that 10 days is as far as you can backdate something [for the DL], so 10 days? Then, if on the 11th day, he comes in and says he feels good, I’m fine with that, too.

“He’s worth waiting on.”

Kevin Gausman (right shoulder strain) was set to make a rehab start for Double-A Bowie on Sunday that was expected to last three or four innings. The right-hander would then make his next rehab start at Single-A Frederick on Friday and could be activated from the DL as soon as April 20 if all goes to plan.

Lefty reliever Brian Matusz (left intercostal strain) will pitch two to three innings for Bowie on Monday and is expected to be activated from the DL on Thursday when the Orioles begin a four-game series in Texas.

Showalter said pitching prospect Hunter Harvey experienced a mild setback with a groin issue he’s been dealing with since late March.

Right-hander Mike Wright will now make his 2016 debut in a Tuesday start against Boston after Saturday’s start was postponed. Chris Tillman will now make his next start against the Rangers on Thursday.

Below are Sunday’s lineups:

TAMPA BAY
2B Logan Forsythe
DH Logan Morrison
3B Evan Longoria
LF Corey Dickerson
1B Steve Pearce
SS Brad Miller
RF Steven Souza Jr.
CF Kevin Kiermaier
C Curt Casali

SP Jake Odorizzi (0-0, 1.59)

BALTIMORE
CF Joey Rickard
3B Manny Machado
1B Chris Davis
RF Mark Trumbo
C Matt Wieters
DH Pedro Alvarez
SS J.J. Hardy
2B Jonathan Schoop
LF Hyun Soo Kim

SP Vance Worley (2015 stats: 4-6, 4.02 ERA)

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Hardy hopes to play Sunday, Jones still absent

Posted on 09 April 2016 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — As the Orioles tried to endure unseasonably cold weather in the second contest of a three-game set with Tampa Bay, shortstop J.J. Hardy and center fielder Adam Jones were once again out of the starting lineup before Saturday’s game was eventually postponed.

Hardy said his left calf was feeling much better after he sat out Friday’s series opener, but the low temperature and high winds in the forecast for Saturday night were factors in giving him one more day off. Manny Machado was making his second straight start at shortstop with utility infielder Ryan Flaherty starting at third base.

“I’m walking around with no pain,” said Hardy, who added that he plans to play in Sunday’s series finale. “I think I probably could get it going tonight and play, but I think with the cold I think everyone’s kind of scratching that idea. I’ll be good to go tomorrow.”

Jones was out of the lineup for the third straight game due to soreness in his rib area. Manager Buck Showalter was noncommittal about the status of both Hardy and Jones for Sunday, citing a forecast with temperatures that were only supposed to climb to just over 50 degrees.

Rookie Joey Rickard was making his third consecutive start in center field in place of Jones.

“They’re close. They’ll be available if I need them tonight. But if not, I wouldn’t tell you,” said Showalter on Saturday afternoon. “I’ll never say never [about Jones and Hardy returning on Sunday]. It’s a quick turnaround.”

With lefty Drew Smyly starting for the Rays on Saturday, Pedro Alvarez began the game on the bench with Matt Wieters serving as the designated hitter. Alvarez is the only Orioles regular still looking for his first hit of the season after going 0-for-12 in the first four games.

Showalter confirmed that Sunday starter Vance Worley will be on a pitch limit since he hasn’t thrown in a competitive game since the final spring game in Philadelphia on April 1.

Relief pitcher Brian Matusz (left intercostal strain) said he felt good after one-inning outings at Double-A Bowie on Thursday and Friday, but the lefty specialist may have one more extended outing with the Baysox on Monday before joining the Orioles on the upcoming road trip. There was previous talk of Matusz being activated from the 15-day disabled list as early as Sunday.

Starting pitcher Kevin Gausman (right shoulder strain) was scheduled to make a rehab start for Bowie on Saturday, but the Baysox postponed their game, pushing his outing to Sunday. Gausman will then make a rehab start at Single-A Frederick on Friday, but the previous target date of April 19 for his activation from the DL will be pushed back at least a day because of the schedule change.

In addition to the Baysox, the Washington Nationals postponed their Saturday afternoon game due to the bitter conditions, but the Orioles attempted to play their game with wind chills expected to fall below 30 degrees on Saturday evening.

“It’s going to be cold, but we play games,” Showalter said. “That’s what we do.”

Below were Saturday’s starting lineups:

TAMPA BAY
2B Logan Forsythe
DH Logan Morrison
3B Evan Longoria
LF Corey Dickerson
1B Steve Pearce
SS Brad Miller
RF Steven Souza Jr.
CF Kevin Kiermaier
C Curt Casali

SP Drew Smyly (0-1, 6.75 ERA)

BALTIMORE
CF Joey Rickard
LF Nolan Reimold
SS Manny Machado
1B Chris Davis
RF Mark Trumbo
DH Matt Wieters
2B Jonathan Schoop
C Caleb Joseph
3B Ryan Flaherty

SP Mike Wright (2015 stats: 3-5, 6.04 ERA)

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Hardy, Jones out of Friday’s lineup against Tampa Bay

Posted on 08 April 2016 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — Center fielder Adam Jones was out of the Orioles lineup for a second straight night, but a veteran teammate joined him on the bench for the series opener against Tampa Bay on Friday.

J.J. Hardy experienced some calf tightness running the bases in Thursday’s win over Minnesota and was feeling better a day later, but Buck Showalter did not want to take any chances with a player who’s had several health issues over the last couple seasons. Jones was also feeling improvement in his rib area and even took swings in the batting cage on Friday afternoon, but the Orioles decided to give him another day to rest. Both players were available off the bench if needed, according to the Baltimore manager.

“I want to try to get ahead of it and make sure it doesn’t turn into something,” said Showalter about Hardy. “I was going to play Ryan [Flaherty] today anyway. Knowing the players — both of them — they know the difference between something that they should be careful with [and not]. Especially if we don’t play tomorrow [due to inclement weather], they should be ready to go on Sunday.”

Rookie Joey Rickard was leading off and playing center field for the second straight game as he prepared to play against the organization that let him go in the Rule 5 draft in December.

Instead of simply inserting Flaherty at Hardy’s position like he has in the past, Showalter chose to move Gold Glove third baseman Manny Machado to shortstop, his natural position. Machado started six games there last season when Hardy was dealing with injuries.

“He enjoys being able to do something for the club [when] there’s a need there,” Showalter said. “Ryan’s probably a little better third baseman than shortstop. That’s a tough act to follow — [Machado] knows. He doesn’t want to step back. He’s playing with house money as far as going over there. It’s kind of like a new toy for him, but it’s different. The clock’s different.”

Right-handed pitcher Kevin Gausman was still scheduled to make a rehab start at Double-A Bowie on Saturday, but a wintry forecast could postpone that to Sunday. The Orioles are still targeting an April 19 return date for the talented 25-year-old, but Showalter reiterated Friday that they’ll be cautious with Gausman’s health and they’ll delay the process if that’s what’s best for him.

Lefty reliever Brian Matusz was scheduled to pitch again for Bowie on Friday night and could be activated for Sunday’s game against the Rays.

The Orioles announced that veteran right-hander Vance Worley will be the No. 5 starter and is scheduled to start on Sunday, but that depends on what happens with the status of Saturday’s game in which Mike Wright is scheduled to pitch.

Below are Friday night’s lineups:

TAMPA BAY
2B Logan Forsythe
1B Logan Morrison
3B Evan Longoria
DH Corey Dickerson
LF Desmond Jennings
SS Brad Miller
RF Steven Souza Jr.
CF Kevin Kiermaier
C Hank Conger

SP Chris Archer (0-1, 3.60)

BALTIMORE
CF Joey Rickard
LF Nolan Reimold
SS Manny Machado
1B Chris Davis
RF Mark Trumbo
C Matt Wieters
DH Pedro Alvarez
2B Jonathan Schoop
3B Ryan Flaherty

SP Chris Tillman (0-0, 0.00)

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Jones out of Thursday’s lineup with “rib area” soreness

Posted on 07 April 2016 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — After showing clear discomfort in his final at-bat of Wednesday’s win over Minnesota, Orioles center fielder Adam Jones was out of the lineup for the final game of the series on Thursday.

Manager Buck Showalter said Jones is dealing with “discomfort in the rib cage area,” but no further testing had been ordered as of a few hours before Thursday’s game.

“Adam was a little sore in his rib area yesterday. He wants to play,” Showalter said. “He said he’s fine and is probably not happy with the old manager right now. I thought it’d be smart to give him a day. The only time it was a challenge for him was the last at-bat, because I asked him if he’s felt it before and was something nagging him [the last few days].”

According to FOX Sports, Jones is dealing with discomfort in his oblique, a problem that can often result in a trip to the disabled list for many players. The Orioles hope they’ve caught the problem in time, however.

Jones, 30, missed 25 games last year while dealing with shoulder, back, and ankle ailments at various points in the season. The five-time All-Star selection had missed a total of just five games in the previous three seasons.

“We’re not going to mention the [oblique] word,” Showalter said. “I’m hoping that it’s a one-day thing and we’re there tomorrow, but we’re not going to take a chance with it on April 7.”

Taking Jones’ place in center field on Thursday was Rule 5 pick Joey Rickard, who was also leading off for the first time in his major league career. Nolan Reimold was making his first start of the season in left.

Below are Thursday night’s lineups:

MINNESOTA
2B Brian Dozier
RF Danny Santana
1B Joe Mauer
DH Miguel Sano
3B Trevor Plouffe
LF Eddie Rosario
SS Eduardo Escobar
C John Ryan Murphy
CF Byron Buxton

SP Phil Hughes (2015 stats: 11-9, 4.40 ERA)

BALTIMORE
CF Joey Rickard
LF Nolan Reimold
3B Manny Machado
1B Chris Davis
RF Mark Trumbo
SS J.J. Hardy
DH Pedro Alvarez
2B Jonathan Schoop
C Caleb Joseph

SP Ubaldo Jimenez (2015 stats: 12-10, 4.11 ERA)

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“Rounding the Bases” in Orioles’ 4-2 win over Minnesota

Posted on 07 April 2016 by Luke Jones

Who stood out in the Orioles’ 4-2 win over the Minnesota Twins on Wednesday night?

In the spirit of hockey’s “three stars” system with the addition of home plate for honorable mentions and other notes, we go around the bases after the second game of the 2016 season.

1stChris Davis homered at Oriole Park at Camden Yards for the first time since Oct. 4, 2015, the game many assumed would be the slugger’s last in an Orioles uniform before he signed a seven-year, $161 million contract in January to remain in Baltimore. The 421-foot shot to center off Minnesota starter Kyle Gibson gave Baltimore the lead for good in the bottom of the third and was the Orioles’ first home run of the season. The first baseman made a good defensive play in the eighth, picking J.J. Hardy’s in-between hop on a throw and keeping his foot on the bag to record the out before tumbling over.

2ndYovani Gallardo allowed just one run and struck out four in five solid innings to win his Orioles debut. The only hits he allowed were a pair of doubles by talented Twins center fielder Byron Buxton, but Gallardo did walk three batters and induced only three grounders, which is fairly unusual for him. His velocity remains a concern as his fastball sat mostly between 87 and 88 miles per hour, but he mixed his pitches well, using his slider to strike out Byung Ho Park and Eduardo Escobar in the fourth. The 30-year-old retired seven of the final eight hitters he faced and threw 89 pitches, 52 for strikes.

3rdJoey Rickard continued to impress in his second major league game, going 2-for-3 and picking up the first RBI of his career with a sacrifice fly to left in the fourth inning. The Rule 5 pick is 4-for-7 with a double and a run scored in two games and is quickly becoming a fan favorite. Rickard also had two six-pitch at-bats on Wednesday, something manager Buck Showalter wants to see if the left fielder is to eventually become the club’s leadoff hitter.

HomeJonathan Schoop and Matt Wieters each collected RBI doubles to give the Orioles their other two runs on the night. … Zach Britton allowed a double and a walk, but the 2015 All-Star closer struck out the side to earn his first save, tying Eddie Watt for seventh on the club’s all-time saves list with 74. … Not known for his patience at the plate, Hardy drew a walk for the second straight game and saw a total of 23 pitches in four trips to the plate. The Orioles have drawn 11 walks in their first two games of the season. … Pedro Alvarez is the only regular in the lineup yet to record a hit this season, but the former Pittsburgh slugger walked twice in Wednesday’s win. … Adam Jones appeared to show some discomfort after striking out swinging in the bottom of the eighth, but Showalter said he was unaware of any issue when asked following the game. … Thursday’s announced attendance was 12,622, the Orioles’ lowest mark since April 22, 2013 if you don’t count the empty-ballpark game from last year. … Ubaldo Jimenez goes to the hill Thursday night with the Orioles in search of a three-game sweep after going 0-7 against Minnesota in 2015. He’ll be opposed by Twins right-hander Phil Hughes.

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Gausman, Matusz set to begin rehab assignments

Posted on 06 April 2016 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — Orioles starting pitcher Kevin Gausman is ready for the next step in his recovery from right shoulder tendinitis that’s sidelined him since the middle of the March.

After completing a 30-pitch simulated game in Sarasota on Wednesday, the 25-year-old is traveling to Baltimore and will make a rehab start lasting three to four innings for Double-A Bowie on Saturday. He would then make a start at Single-A Frederick next week with the goal of being activated on April 19.

Left-handed reliever Brian Matusz (left intercostal strain) is even closer to making his return and is expected to pitch one inning each on Thursday and Friday at Bowie. Should those outings go well, Matusz would be activated from the 15-day disabled list on Sunday since his stint was backdated to March 25.

Pitching prospect Hunter Harvey (groin strain) threw 40 pitches in Sarasota and will pitch in a sim game on Saturday. Harvey will begin his season at Frederick when he’s ready to go.

Chris Tillman will start the series opener against Tampa Bay on Friday after the Opening Day starter threw only 22 pitches because of Monday’s rain delay. Mike Wright will make his first start on Saturday, but the Baltimore skipper has not yet revealed his No. 5 starter, who would pitch on Sunday.

Showalter didn’t try to make too much of the boos from some fans when outfielder Hyun Soo Kim was introduced on Opening Day after a turbulent spring that included him refusing a minor-league assignment.

“They’re waiting to embrace him,” said Showalter, who quipped that fans may have been calling Kim’s middle name. “So far, he hasn’t had the opportunity yet to give them anything. Hopefully, that will be there at some point. It didn’t seem to affect him. We’ll see.”

Below are Wednesday night’s starting lineups:

MINNESOTA
2B Brian Dozier
1B Joe Mauer
RF Miguel Sano
3B Trevor Plouffe
LF Eddie Rosario
DH Byung Ho Park
SS Eduardo Escobar
C Kurt Suzuki
CF Byron Buxton

SP Kyle Gibson (2015 stats: 11-11, 3.84 ERA)

BALTIMORE
3B Manny Machado
CF Adam Jones
1B Chris Davis
RF Mark Trumbo
C Matt Wieters
DH Pedro Alvarez
SS J.J. Hardy
2B Jonathan Schoop
LF Joey Rickard

SP Yovani Gallardo (2015 stats: 13-11, 3.42 ERA)

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“Rounding the bases” in Orioles’ 3-2 win over Minnesota

Posted on 05 April 2016 by Luke Jones

Who stood out in the Orioles’ 3-2 win over the Minnesota Twins on Opening Day?

In the spirit of hockey’s “three stars” system with the addition of home plate for honorable mentions and other notes, we go around the bases after the first game of the 2016 season.

1stMatt Wieters wasn’t having a stellar game after leaving five runners on base in his first four trips to the plate, but his first-pitch single off Kevin Jepsen in the bottom of the ninth plated the winning run, giving the Orioles their first victory over Minnesota since Aug. 31, 2014. It was the three-time All-Star catcher’s 700th career hit and the eighth walk-off hit of his career. After an unsettling spring due to a scare with his surgically-repaired elbow in mid-March, Wieters has plenty to play for on a one-year contract and the Orioles want to get as much value as they can from his $15.8 million salary for 2016.

2ndAdam Jones went 1-for-5 with three strikeouts, but his major contribution came in the bottom of the fifth when he doubled home the first two runs of the ballgame and gave a rain-weary crowd something to cheer about after two lengthy delays. The center fielder also provided the icing on the cake — or pie? — for Wieters’ heroics by bringing back the Orioles’ famous pie-in-the-face celebration that was supposedly outlawed in the spring.

3rdTyler Wilson couldn’t have figured he would factor heavily into the season-opening win, but his three scoreless frames after a 70-minute rain delay at the end of the second put the Orioles in position to take the lead in the fifth. The right-hander helped preserve a bullpen that faced the prospects of pitching seven innings in the opening game because of the rain. Buck Showalter was impressed with Wilson’s poise after giving up a double to Eduardo Escobar on the first pitch he threw, and the 26-year-old paved the way for a strong performance from the bullpen except for Mychal Givens’ struggles in the seventh.

Home — Mark Trumbo became the fourth player to collect at least four hits in his Orioles debut, joining Chris Parmelee (2015), Ronny Paulino (2012), and Sam Horn (1990). Not known for his speed, the right fielder also stole a base in the first inning after not stealing one in all of 2015. … Rule 5 pick Joey Rickard collected hits in his first two major league at-bats and scored the first run of the season for the Orioles. He was the first Oriole to collect a hit in his first major league at-bat since Jonathan Schoop on Sept. 25, 2013. … Before rain cut his start short, Chris Tillman struck out five of the six hitters he faced in two perfect innings. The right-hander struck out five or more hitters in just 11 of his 31 starts last season. … The Orioles have now won six straight Opening Day games and are 13-3 in season openers since 2001. The club is now 18-7 in home openers at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

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Rickard begins Orioles career hitting in No. 9 spot

Posted on 04 April 2016 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — In Buck Showalter’s first pre-game press conference of the 2016 regular season, the opening question was about new Orioles left fielder Joey Rickard and his spot in the batting order.

What a difference a year makes for the Rule 5 pick who began his 2015 season playing in the Florida State League for Single-A Charlotte and was slotted ninth in the Opening Day order on Monday. After contemplating whether to hit the 24-year-old in the leadoff spot, Showalter wanted to ease the former Tampa Bays Rays farmhand into the major league environment.

Not bad for a guy few Orioles fans even knew about a couple weeks ago.

“There’s a process you’re trying to get to how you hope things work out,” said Showalter, who put All-Star third baseman Manny Machado in the leadoff spot as he frequently did last year. “You leave yourself as much wiggle room [as you can]. I’d rather promote guys as the season goes on rather than demote them. I know where I’d like to get eventually, but we’ll see if that works out.

“Let’s go one step at a time.”

Carrying a career .390 on-base percentage in four minor-league seasons, Rickard turned plenty of heads this spring as he batted .397 with a 1.044 on-base plus slugging percentage in 72 plate appearances. The performance not only won him a roster spot but propelled him into the regular lineup to begin the season.

Ideally, the Orioles would slide Machado to the second or third spot in the order to maximize his run-producing ability, but few players on the current roster fit the profile of a top-of-the-lineup hitter. The organization hopes Rickard can prove to be that guy sooner rather than later.

Showalter contemplated hitting Rickard second on Monday, but he didn’t want to put Machado in a position where Minnesota might pitch around him in the order. For the first game at least, the Baltimore manager was more than happy to give as many plate appearances as possible to Machado, Adam Jones, and Chris Davis in the top three spots in the lineup.

As expected, Hyun Soo Kim was on the bench to begin the season opener. The Korean outfielder has a provision in his two-year, $7 million contract signed in December that doesn’t allow the club to send him to the minors without his consent.

“There’s some positives about him being able to take [Opening Day] in, but I also realize this is some more uncharted waters for him,” Showalter said. “There’s a lot of things happening to him for the first time in his 28 years. He’s getting a lot of support from coaches, management, but most importantly, the players. I know they’re all pulling for him. It’s a real good vibe around him with his teammates.”

Placed on the 15-day disabled list with right shoulder strain on Sunday, right-handed pitcher Kevin Gausman will throw a 35-pitch bullpen session on Tuesday. Assuming that goes well, the next step would be a three-inning outing followed by a five-inning one with the goal of Gausman being activated to start against Toronto on April 19.

Lefty reliever Brian Matusz (left intercostal strain) is scheduled to pitch for Double-A Bowie on Thursday and would be activated from the DL on April 10.

Infielder Jimmy Paredes (left wrist) is taking swings with a fungo bat, but it remains unclear when he will resume full baseball activities.

Below are the Opening Day lineups:

MINNESOTA
2B Brian Dozier
1B Joe Mauer
RF Miguel Sano
3B Trevor Plouffe
LF Eddie Rosario
DH Byung Ho Park
SS Eduardo Escobar
C Kurt Suzuki
CF Byron Buxton

SP Ervin Santana (2015 stats: 7-5, 4.00 ERA)

BALTIMORE
3B Manny Machado
CF Adam Jones
1B Chris Davis
RF Mark Trumbo
C Matt Wieters
DH Pedro Alvarez
SS J.J. Hardy
2B Jonathan Schoop
LF Joey Rickard

SP Chris Tillman (2015 stats: 11-11, 4.99 ERA)

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Five things that can’t happen for 2016 Orioles

Posted on 01 April 2016 by Luke Jones

At the start of every season, we try to pinpoint what must go to plan and what cannot happen if the Orioles are to have a successful year.

In truth, there are very few absolutes you can count on over the course of a marathon 162-game schedule filled with twists and turns.

No one would have predicted a division title if they knew the Orioles would lose both Matt Wieters and Manny Machado to season-ending injuries in 2014. Last season, the discussion centered around the offseason departures of outfielders Nelson Cruz and Nick Markakis and the Orioles ended up scoring more runs than they did the year before — and still finished 81-81 and out of the playoffs.

You just never really know and that’s what makes the game great.

With that truth in mind, below is a stab at five things that can’t happen for the Orioles in 2016 after looking at the factors that must go right. In an effort to not be too redundant in the wake of the first piece, I tried to avoid discussing the previous points needing to go well.

1. The starting pitching collapses

Yes, we touched on the starting pitching in the previous piece, but what else could possibly top this list — the entire starting lineup adopting Marty Cordova’s tanning bed strategy for the season?

In the AL in 2015, the Baltimore starting pitchers finished 14th in in ERA, 10th in strikeouts, sixth worst in walks, and second worst in home runs allowed. On top of that, the club’s most dependable starter, Wei-Yin Chen, signed with the Miami Marlins in the offseason.

Veteran newcomer Yovani Gallardo was tabbed as the man to replace him and carries a 3.66 ERA for his career, but his strikeout rate and velocity have plummeted over the last few seasons and the Orioles renegotiated his original three-year contract because of concerns with his right shoulder. The hope is that an impressive ground-ball rate keeps the 30-year-old effective pitching at Camden Yards.

Chris Tillman and Kevin Gausman provide the most upside, but the former dealt with a hip issue early in camp and is coming off his worst season since 2011. Meanwhile, Gausman will begin the season on the disabled list with right shoulder tendinitis and the Orioles have already pushed back his projected return date from April 10 to April 19, making you wonder if the ailment is more serious than they first indicated.

You never know what you’re going to get from Ubaldo Jimenez, but he’s been more bad than good in his first two seasons with the Orioles. And now with the Orioles having severed ties with Miguel Gonzalez, they’ll be counting on the likes of Mike Wright, Tyler Wilson, and veteran newcomer Vance Worley to fill out the last spot in the rotation with Wright getting the first shot.

If this group can bring middle-of-the-pack quality — probably the most upside you could reasonably hope for — the Orioles are strong enough elsewhere to be in contention. A repeat of 2015 or worse could lead to a long summer in Baltimore.

And then you’d fear how dramatic struggles from the rotation could wear out a strong bullpen, no matter how effectively it’s managed.

2. Corner outfield wasteland repeats

The Orioles failed in their plan to use a committee of fringe veterans to handle the spots flanking center fielder Adam Jones a year ago, but questions remain for a second straight season.

Projected to be the primary starter in right field, Mark Trumbo should be an upgrade with the bat, but his limitations in the outfield are no secret and negative defensive value would wipe away much of what he brings at the plate. Fortunately, there isn’t a ton of ground to cover in right at Camden Yards, so the test will be how quickly Trumbo can get used to playing balls off the out-of-town scoreboard.

Left field was supposed to be handled by Korean newcomer Hyun Soo Kim, but his poor spring has his future in limbo. Putting aside the scouting failure of signing a player who isn’t able to catch up to fastballs and is poor defensively to a $7 million contract, the Orioles haven’t exactly treated Kim in the most hospitable way by benching him and then speaking at length to the media about his shortcomings as they’re trying to get him to accept a minor-league assignment, something he’s under no contractual obligation to do.

Rule 5 pick Joey Rickard is the wild card here after he posted a 1.029 on-base plus slugging percentage in the Grapefruit League, but are the Orioles putting too many eggs in this basket? What did Tampa Bay not like about Rickard that the Orioles could be missing?

Veteran Nolan Reimold will factor into the mix as well, but he is better suited to be a fourth outfielder at this stage of his career. The minor-league options include Dariel Alvarez, Xavier Avery, Henry Urrutia, and converted first baseman Christian Walker, who is intriguing if he proves himself defensively.

3. Chris Davis reverts to his 2014 form

You can’t expect Davis to be any better just because he signed the richest contract in franchise history in the offseason, and it will be difficult for the 30-year-old first baseman to match what he did last season with his 47 homers.

That said, few events would be more deflating than to see Davis have a season more closely resembling what he was in 2014 when he hit .196 with just 26 home runs. If the Orioles are to contend, they’re going to need to hit a ton of home runs and Davis needs to again lead the way in that department.

His ever-increasing pull rate is something to monitor and could cause him to age poorly, but the Orioles hope Davis will continue being a great power hitter for the next three to four years before crossing their fingers that the final few years of the contract aren’t as painful as some fear they will be.

4. Buck Showalter leans too heavily on J.J. Hardy and Matt Wieters

I touched on these topics at length in the offseason, but the Orioles would be wise to better manage Hardy’s health after two injury-plagued seasons and shouldn’t overlook defense when it comes to the catching pair of Wieters and backup Caleb Joseph.

Hardy has stayed healthy and slugged .521 with three home runs this spring, drastic improvement from his .564 OPS while playing the entire 2015 season with a torn labrum in his left shoulder. The 33-year-old shortstop would likely benefit from more routine days off and should no longer be treated as the guy who missed only seven games combined in 2012 and 2013. Keeping Hardy fresh would presumably go a long way in keeping him healthy and productive at the plate and in the field.

The spring scare with Wieters’ right elbow could be a sign that he isn’t yet ready to be the guy who regularly caught 135-plus games per season prior to Tommy John surgery. Even if he is, the tools Joseph brings behind the plate shouldn’t be ignored despite Wieters being the better offensive player. If Wieters isn’t tearing the cover off the ball, the Orioles shouldn’t hesitate to use Joseph more often because of his ability to frame pitches and handle a pitching staff, especially since the former is only under contract through this season.

5. The Orioles are unable to block out the noise

It was a weird offseason a year after executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette flirted with the Toronto Blue Jays’ job promotion, and questions continue about whether members of the organization are on the same page.

The Orioles enter 2016 with a franchise-record payroll, but negotiations didn’t exactly go smoothly with Davis and the early-spring drama with both Gallardo’s physical and the twists and turns with free-agent outfielder Dexter Fowler were nothing short of bizarre.

The decision to release Gonzalez this week may have been the correct one from baseball and business standpoints, but it’s no secret that the well-liked pitcher’s departure didn’t sit well with his teammates. Yes, they’re professionals and will move on, but these are human beings with emotions, as Showalter often likes to remind us.

The Kim situation threatens to linger if the Orioles choose not to eat $7 million and instead carry him on the 25-man roster after saying he wasn’t good enough to make the club. Such a scenario wouldn’t exactly send a great message to the rest of the clubhouse, either.

On top of all that, the Orioles spent a great amount of money to essentially maintain a similar roster to the group that needed a five-game winning streak just to finish .500 last season. And few experts are giving the Orioles much of a chance to make the playoffs for the third time in five years after they failed to make any significant improvements to the starting rotation.

Over the past few years, the Orioles have often thrived under such circumstances, which should give fans hope.

None of this is quantifiable, of course, but with a higher payroll come greater expectations and this is a club with a window of just three seasons before All-Star pillars Manny Machado and Adam Jones hit free agency. And the minor-league well is quite dry when it comes to reinforcements to help address deficiencies.

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