Tag Archive | "Buck Showalter"

markakis-game saver 8-20-14

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JUMP ON THE ROLLER COASTER

Posted on 26 August 2014 by Tom Federline

Thursday, August 21st – Birds up by 9 on the Spankee’s and 9 on the Boo Jays. Four (4) days later, August 25th – Birds up by 6 on the Spankee’s and 8 on the Boo Jays. Just when you start thinking - the Orioles (73 wins), might just be able to coast into the playoffs - BANG – O’s get  swept/outplayed by the Chicago…….Cubs (58 wins). That downer coming right after riding high sweeping the Chicago……….White Sox (59 wins).  Then to add salt into the wound, the Cubs sweep came at the hands of former Orioles, i.e. Jake “I’m on juice”" Arietta, Pedro “Strope Me Strope Me” and finally the guy who never pitched one inning for the O’s but collected a heckuva paycheck – “One hit” Wada. Up/down/hold on - roller coaster is at turn 1.

On top of being swept, lets add some more salt, O’s fans get the official news – Machado is gone for the rest of the year. Not that you didn’t know that already, especially if you had seen the knee buckle (live) that night. But you go, Orioles front office and media relations. You go, with your weak attempt to fill our minds with hope that it was only a “strained” ACL. The knee bent at almost a 45 degree angle and “it’s just a strain?” SO, during this past year we have learned Manny is not so “Mucho” Machado with week knees, week/slippery hands and bad aim. It’s a shame, Machado was just getting into playing shape, after missing preseason and over a month of the regular season. Machado threat gone joining the Wieters threat that was gone.  Down and further down – keep holding on through turn 2.

When the O’s are hitting, there are moments of, “Man - the Orioles may actually have a shot, they got this.” Unfortunately, those moments are to few and far between. But……….. those moments…… are there. The Orioles are still in first place of the American League East. They didn’t get there by luck. They don’t give up, they show sporadic confidence and even with the injuries they are fairly solid in the field. At least CC Sabathia is out for the year, so he can’t sabotage the O’s by taking Markakis out for this years playoff run. Up/Up and Up - getting ready for turn 3.

The dilemma is, they are probably going to need more game saving catches (Nick). They are going to need late inning wins and walk off home runs. They are going to need someone to pick up the offensive slack (Steve Pearce). They are going to need some serious staring pitching (Chen?Tillman). They are going to need some “lights out” relief pitching (O’Day/Britton). They are going to need some Orioles Magic (Buck-Buck). Down/Up/Down/Up - through turn 4.

Can the pitching save the Orioles? It’s going to have to. I’m feeling better about Cruuuuuuuuuz. If any team had a decent pitching coach, Jones would be out 90% of the time. Feed him down and away and he’s toast. Davis needs a shot of “juicy juice”. Brady – where are you? Isn’t that your job - ”Juice” without getting caught? Davis whiffs and the whole stadium feels a breeze, consistently. Can we get Mark Reynolds back? Whoops weak moment there – forget that one. When the opposing team gets  Markakis out - their odds of winning the game quadruple. There is minimal threat left in the line-up. Wieters gone. Machado gone. Davis – no threat. I’m a big fan of Delmon Young – we need to see more of him. At least he is a major league hitter. Coast/Down/Coast/Up - getting set up for the final stretch.

Then there’s the secret weapon – the manager. The O’s have a shot with Buck-Buck. Buck-Buck is going to keep these boys focused. One of the few criticisms I have on Buck-Buck is, I wish he would get tossed more. Yes, I was and always will be an Earl Weaver fan. It’s going to take the leadership of Buck-Buck, Markakis, Jones and Hardy. If the O’ lose another key player – we are not going to be on any roller coaster ride. So you have your choice – The O’s Rollercoaster or the “Love Rollercoaster” – (Ohio Players). Both rides affect the blood pressure and adrenaline levels. I recommend jumping on both. Go O’s!

D.I.Y.

Fedman

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Tillman quietly pitching like ace all summer for first-place Orioles

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Tillman quietly pitching like ace all summer for first-place Orioles

Posted on 26 August 2014 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — Five home runs and a sparkling defensive play by Adam Jones understandably drew the attention in the Orioles’ 9-1 win over Tampa Bay to snap a three-game losing streak Monday, but it’s been one of those seasons for starting pitcher Chris Tillman.

Improving his record to 11-5 and improving his streak of consecutive starts allowing three or fewer earned runs to 15, Tillman hasn’t received the same accolades he did a year ago when he was named to his first All-Star team. The 26-year-old doesn’t light up a box score with gaudy strikeout numbers, but his results have been consistent throughout the summer for the first-place Orioles.

“It comes back to being confident in my delivery,” said Tillman, who allowed one unearned run and three hits in seven innings against the Rays. “When you trust your delivery, you are not afraid to throw any pitch in any count.”

It was less than three months ago when Tillman’s mechanics were failing him as his early-inning woes knocked him out of games, making many wonder whether his impressive 16-win season from a year ago was more aberration than breakthrough. Following a disastrous one-inning start against Texas on June 5 — the second time in four outings in which he’d been chased before recording an out in the second inning — Tillman’s ERA had ballooned to 5.20, a mark higher than even that of the maligned Ubaldo Jimenez.

Whether it was finally getting over a nagging groin issue or simply working on repeating his delivery with pitching coach Dave Wallace, Tillman has been a different pitcher ever since while posting a 2.15 ERA in his last 100 2/3 innings spanning 15 starts. Only twice over the last 15 starts has Tillman failed to complete at least six innings, and the Orioles have gone 10-5 when Tillman has taken the hill over that stretch.

On Monday, Tillman lowered his season ERA to 3.41 and improved to 2-0 with a 1.71 ERA in three starts spanning 21 innings against the Rays in 2014.

“One of the keys is you see him carry a crisp fastball early in the game,” manager Buck Showalter said. “He’s had that for a while now — knock on wood. That’s usually an indicator. And the curveball is of use to him. He can get it in there.”

After so much discussion about Oakland acquiring Jon Lester and Detroit trading for David Price while the Orioles did not add a top-of-the-rotation pitcher, Tillman’s 2.15 ERA over his last 15 starts — close to a half season — stacks up favorably to Price (2.08 in 117 innings) and Lester (1.89 in 104 2/3 innings) over their last 15 outings split between their former and current clubs.

Tillman’s inconsistent start to the season forced him to play catchup for much of the summer, but there should be no debating who would take the ball for Showalter in Game 1 of a playoff series. That wasn’t the case three months ago when some clamored for Tillman to be placed on the disabled list or even to be sent to the bullpen to straighten out his woes.

Of course, the tall right-hander hasn’t been alone as the Baltimore pitching staff has sometimes carried an uneven offense that entered Monday ranking last in the American League in batting average (.231) and on-base percentage (.284) since the All-Star break while still leading the majors in home runs. But Tillman has been at the head of the class in a rotation that may not scare you in the same way that Oakland’s or Detroit’s does, but it’s a group that continues to produce results just like Tillman did Monday night.

“Every fifth day, all our pitchers have been good,” shortstop J.J. Hardy said. “But every fifth day when he takes the mound, we feel like we have a great chance to win.”

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Struggling Jimenez finally heading to Orioles bullpen

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Struggling Jimenez finally heading to Orioles bullpen

Posted on 19 August 2014 by Luke Jones

Exactly six months after signing a four-year, $50 million contract to sure up the Orioles’ starting rotation in 2014, Ubaldo Jimenez is going to the bullpen.

Manager Buck Showalter announced Tuesday in Chicago that the struggling right-hander will now pitch in relief, paving the way for right-handed pitcher Miguel Gonzalez to retake his spot in the starting rotation for the first-place Orioles. Jimenez returned from the disabled list on Aug. 9 after being sidelined with an ankle injury for more than a month, but the 30-year-old allowed nine earned runs in 10 1/3 innings spanning two starts, continuing what’s been a disappointing first season in Baltimore.

The Orioles had hoped the injury layoff would afford Jimenez the opportunity to straighten out his mechanics as he leads the American League with 66 walks and is 4-9 with a 4.83 ERA in 20 starts. Instead, it became apparent that the veteran would not stick in a rotation that’s helped lift the Orioles to a 71-52 record and a 7 1/2 game lead in the AL East entering Tuesday night’s game against the Chicago White Sox.

Gonzalez was optioned to Triple-A Norfolk on Aug. 9 despite going 6-6 with a 3.80 ERA in 19 starts and 20 appearances overall in 2014. The emergence of 23-year-old right-hander Kevin Gausman in June was making in increasingly difficult for Showalter to try to manage six starting pitchers, a problem that was temporarily quelled when Jimenez went to the DL just before the All-Star break.

It’s unclear whether the Orioles will go with an extra arm in the bullpen or decide to option another reliever such as left-hander T.J. McFarland. Of course, rosters will expand on Sept. 1, which will make it easier to carry Jimenez on the roster as the Orioles seek their second postseason appearance in the last three years.

In spring training, executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette envisioned Jimenez giving the Orioles a high-ceiling pitcher who wouldn’t be viewed as an ace but could pitch like a No. 1 starter for stretches of time like he had at other points in his career. Instead, Jimenez quickly settled in as the weak link in the rotation after signing the richest free-agent contract ever awarded to a pitcher in franchise history.

Of his 232 career appearances over nine seasons, the Dominican hurler has only pitched in relief once, his major league debut on Sept. 26, 2006.

Jimenez is under contract through the 2017 season.

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Orioles exhale even as Machado goes to 15-day disabled list

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Orioles exhale even as Machado goes to 15-day disabled list

Posted on 13 August 2014 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — Even as Manny Machado officially went to the 15-day disabled list on Wednesday, the Orioles could breathe a sigh of relief as it relates to the 22-year-old’s future and their World Series chances in 2014.

A season-ending injury to the slick-fielding third baseman wouldn’t have ended the Orioles’ hopes for the postseason — especially with a 6 1/2 game lead entering Wednesday night — or a deep run in October, but it would have been an enormous obstacle to overcome given Machado’s elite defensive ability and improved offense over the last two months. Baltimore apparently won’t have to worry about that possibility after Machado underwent a magnetic resonance imaging exam and was diagnosed with a minor right knee ligament sprain despite a scary scene on Monday night that conjured memories of last September’s left knee injury at Tropicana Field that eventually required offseason surgery.

Manager Buck Showalter expressed optimism that Machado could be ready to return when eligible on Aug. 27, but even if that goal sounds ambitious, the Orioles expect to have the talented infielder back in time for the final push for their second postseason appearance in the last three years.

“Talking to all of the doctors including Dr. [Neal] ElAttrache who did the [left knee surgery], we’ve got a pretty good feel we have our arms around where we are with it,” Showalter said. “Hopefully, it will manage itself during that [15-day] period, and he’ll be back there or close to it. It’s not if now, it’s when, we think.”

Since returning from his infamous five-game suspension on July 5, Machado is hitting .351 with five homers and 15 RBIs while posting a .929 on-base plus slugging percentage in 122 plate appearances. And, of course, the 2013 Gold Glove winner has produced a slew of highlight defensive plays to help one of the best defensive clubs in baseball.

The Orioles initially went with Chris Davis at third base in the series finale against the New York Yankees on Wednesday, but the anticipated weekend return of shortstop J.J. Hardy from a sprained left thumb will likely lead to Ryan Flaherty shifting to third base. Norfolk infielder Cord Phelps was promoted to Baltimore to take Machado’s place and will be another option at third base in the meantime.

Asked about his manager’s hope that he might be able to return in two weeks, Machado initially reacted with surprise before taking a more conservative stance of wanting to be 100 percent when he returns to help the Orioles try to win their first American League East title since 1997.

“Whenever I feel good. Whenever I’m able to go out there and be Manny Machado,” the 2013 All-Star selection said. “I don’t know when that’s going to be. It could be tomorrow, it could be in a month, it could be three weeks. It’s something that is a feel thing. Like [the doctor] said yesterday, it’s more of how you feel once you get out there and once I do what I need to do.”

Long-term concerns will persist about Machado’s health as he’s now experienced substantial injuries to both knees despite being only 22, but the Orioles and Machado began feeling optimistic quickly Monday night when he was able to walk in the clubhouse without the aid of crutches and the initial shock and pain subsided.

Only time will tell whether Machado returns as quickly as the Orioles anticipate and produces at the same high level with October rapidly approaching, but Wednesday’s outcome was worlds better than the sickening feeling all involved parties experienced when he collapsed in the batter’s box in the third inning on Monday night.

“Obviously, it’s a great relief,” Machado said. “It’s one of those things that when it happens, things cross your mind and you assume, already, the worst. You really can’t assume anything until you actually see the results and it’s front of your face and you have a doctor next to you and helping you make the decision.

“I’m just glad it’s not as bad as we thought and not as bad as it is. So, get it stronger, get back, and keep running forward.”

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Orioles announce Machado dealing with “right knee ligament sprain”

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Orioles announce Machado dealing with “right knee ligament sprain”

Posted on 12 August 2014 by Luke Jones

A day after Manny Machado injured his right knee while taking a swing in the third inning of Monday’s win over the New York Yankees, the Orioles announced the third baseman was diagnosed with a right knee ligament sprain.

The official update didn’t offer much clarity on his status moving forward since the Orioles announced during Monday’s game that Machado had exited with a sprained right knee. More information will be revealed Wednesday, but executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette told local reporters that Machado being placed on the disabled list is under consideration.

He underwent a magnetic resonance imaging exam on Tuesday.

“I haven’t heard anything negative,” said manager Buck Showalter after Tuesday’s game against the Yankees was postponed due to rain. “Manny seems to be in good spirits. That’s good. So, we’ll see what the day brings. I’ve heard early stuff and whatever, but [I'll wait] until everyone weighs in. I feel more positive than negative, especially after talking to Manny.”

Machado fell to the ground after his knee bent awkwardly upon hitting a grounder to shortstop in the bottom of the third inning. He was helped off the field by head athletic trainer Richie Bancells and Showalter but was walking around in the clubhouse and spoke to reporters following the game.

In addition to playing exceptional defense at third base, Machado is hitting .278 with 12 home runs and 32 runs batted in over 327 at-bats this season. Since serving a five-game suspension stemming from a bat-throwing incident in early June, Machado is hitting .351 with five homers and 15 RBIs while posting a .929 on-base plus slugging percentage in 122 plate appearances.

Shortstop J.J. Hardy also underwent an MRI on his sprained left thumb on Tuesday, and the results indicated there are no long-term concerns regarding his status. The Orioles hope he will be available to play over the weekend when they begin a road trip in Cleveland.

Even if Machado is able to avoid going on the DL, the Orioles are considering calling up an infielder from Triple-A Norfolk with Steve Lombardozzi and Jimmy Paredes among the candidates to be promoted.

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With Saunders inked, would Orioles consider minor-league deal for Jim Johnson?

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With Saunders inked, would Orioles consider minor-league deal for Jim Johnson?

Posted on 01 August 2014 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — The Orioles added to their organizational pitching depth Friday by signing left-handed pitcher Joe Saunders to a minor-league deal, leading many to wonder whether former All-Star closer Jim Johnson could be the next former Baltimore pitcher to return to the organization.

After beginning the season in the Rangers’ starting rotation, Saunders was released twice in the month of July and went 0-5 with a 6.13 ERA in eight starts for Texas this season. After being released by the Rangers on July 4, Saunders signed a minor-league deal with the Royals and was let go earlier this week after posting a 6.75 ERA in four starts for Triple-A Omaha.

Of course, Saunders was acquired by the Orioles late in the 2012 season and went 3-3 with a 3.63 ERA in seven starts spanning 44 2/3 innings and was the winning pitcher in the inaugural American League Wild Card Game to send the Orioles to their first American League Division Series appearance since 1997. The 33-year-old went 11-16 with a 5.26 ERA in 32 starts for Seattle last season.

Realistically speaking, Saunders provides little more than some injury insurance as well as an option to pitch in long relief if he can work out the issues that have plagued him all season and prompted two other organizations to give up on him in the last month alone.

The more interesting question presented Friday came after the Oakland Athletics officially released Johnson, who pitched to a disastrous 7.14 ERA in 38 appearances and lost his closer job with his new — and now former — club at the beginning of the season. After Johnson collected a combined 101 saves for the Orioles in 2012 and 2013, executive vice president of baseball operations dealt him to Oakland for infielder Jemile Weeks and catcher David Freitas last winter.

Needless to say, the deal was an utter failure for Oakland while the Orioles haven’t really benefited with their return beyond saving the $10 million the 2012 All-Star selection was set to earn through arbitration in 2014. It’s clear that Johnson needed a change of scenery and a mental break at the very least, but would the Orioles consider bringing back the 31-year-old on a minor-league deal?

Manager Buck Showalter tried to dodge the question on Friday, but it’s no secret that Johnson was one of his favorites in Baltimore.

“We like Jimmy. He pitched real well for us here.” Showalter said. “He’s on his way to Sarasota. I know [pitching rehabilitation coordinator] Scotty McGregor is real close to him. If he becomes completely available, I’m sure a lot of people would have interest in him — including us.”

Showalter mentioning Johnson going to Sarasota was interesting considering it’s the club’s spring training home and the pitcher lives there, making it a compelling landing spot for him to clear his head and figure out his woes to get his career back on track.

Of course, the Orioles just acquired left-handed reliever Andrew Miller to sure up the back end of the bullpen and don’t have a pressing need, but Johnson’s track record wouldn’t make it a terrible idea to see if the organization can fix his problems — he averaged 5.1 walks per nine innings and posted a 2.06 WHIP in Oakland — and make him a middle relief option later this year or even next. Prior to this season, Johnson had pitched to an ERA under 3.00 in three consecutive seasons and was an above-average reliever in the AL for a number of years.

Just like the Saunders signing, a potential move to ink Johnson to a minor-league deal should be viewed with very little consequence and no serious expectations, but the familiar surroundings of the Orioles organization would seem to be a good fit if the reliever is to get his career back on track. Johnson was quite fond of his time in Baltimore and was quite emotional upon learning he had been traded last December.

Above all, it’s the kind of reclamation project that has Duquette and the Orioles written all over it, which would make his return not the least bit surprising.

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Orioles add “good piece” in Miller while Oakland, Detroit make colossal moves

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Orioles add “good piece” in Miller while Oakland, Detroit make colossal moves

Posted on 31 July 2014 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — The Orioles bolstered their bullpen at the trade deadline with the acquisition of relief pitcher Andrew Miller from the Boston Red Sox in exchange for pitching prospect Eduardo Rodriguez.

The trade appears to have improved Baltimore’s chances of winning the American League East, but a look ahead to October and the blockbuster deals pulled off by the Oakland Athletics and the Detroit Tigers created a more sobering tone as the deadline passed on Thursday afternoon. Make no mistake, the Orioles are better with the acquisition of one of the best lefty relievers in baseball, but Oakland landing Boston ace Jon Lester and Detroit securing 2012 AL Cy Young Award winner David Price certainly hurt Baltimore’s chances of winning the pennant should they advance to the postseason.

The Orioles may have improved, but the Athletic and Tigers took colossal leaps in their quest to advance to the World Series. But it’s a reality in which manager Buck Showalter and his club can’t dwell with only a 2 1/2 game lead over the Toronto Blue Jays entering Thursday’s series finale against the Los Angeles Angels.

“I’m not sure we had the wherewithal to land a top starter,” said executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette, who indicated teams kept bringing up 23-year-old Kevin Gausman in trade talks. “We have some other really attractive players, but some of them are helping our current club, right?

“You just have to weigh what you can do to strengthen your ball club, and I thought adding Miller really strengthens our club, particularly when we have a lead. And it allows some of those other relievers to come into the game and pitch earlier. It shortens up the game a little bit when you have relievers who can get out both righties and lefties. This kid has been dominant against both.”

Right or wrong, the Orioles remained steadfast in not dealing any of their top young pitchers with Gausman currently in the major league rotation and 21-year-old Dylan Bundy working his way back from last year’s Tommy John surgery. The recent elbow injury to 2013 first-round pick Hunter Harvey certainly didn’t make the Orioles any more eager to deal one of their few top pieces.

And there’s no telling how absurd the asking price might have still been to try to acquire Lester or Price from an AL East rival — even if the Orioles were willing to deal one of their young pitchers.

Miller posted a 2.34 ERA in 50 appearances spanning 42 1/3 innings for the Red Sox this season. He has held right-handed bats to a .180 average and lefties to a .150 clip. The 29-year-old is averaging 14.7 strikeouts per nine innings pitched, which is also significant considering the Orioles rank 14th in the American League in strikeouts this season.

It remains to be seen who will be sent out to make room for Miller in the current bullpen as right-hander Brad Brach and left-hander T.J. McFarland would be the logical possibilities since they both have minor-league options.

“He’s just another good piece,” said Showalter, who added that Miller is expected to be in uniform and available to pitch in Friday’s series opener against the Seattle Mariners. “He goes with some other good pieces down there. He gives us more depth down there [to] keep passing the load around. I think he’s a little more than just a left-handed arm. You look at left-handed relievers, the ideal ones are the guys that you’ve got left-right-left and you can leave them in there for the [right-handed hitter].”

Miller is set to become a free agent at the end of the season, making the price of giving up Rodriguez a costly one as the Venezuelan lefty was viewed as the organization’s fourth-best pitching prospect entering the 2014 season. Slowed by a knee injury earlier this season, the 21-year-old Rodriguez was 3-7 with a 4.79 ERA in 16 starts for Double-A Bowie this season.

Duquette acknowledged a preference not to give up Rodriguez in the trade for Miller that was in the works over the last couple weeks before picking up steam in recent days.

“It wasn’t our first choice to trade him. The kid has talent and he has youth, but again, our team is in the race,” Duquette said. “We want to continue what we started, and we needed to add to our club to be competitive with the other clubs — not just in our division, but the other clubs in the American League in the playoff situation.”

Of course, that argument suffers when witnessing what else transpired around the league.

Miller’s career follows a similar narrative to that of current Orioles reliever Brian Matusz in that he’s a former first-round draft pick to have failed as a starter in the major leagues before settling into a bullpen role. However, he is an imposing option against hitters on either side of the plate while Matusz continues to struggle against right-handed hitters this season, a major factor that prompted the Orioles to make the move.

Duquette said the Orioles would still consider making some offensive upgrades to their lineup but made a point to praise the current combination of pitching and defense to go with the club’s power. Players must now pass through waivers in order to be traded, but a number of key moves have been made in that capacity around baseball over the last few years.

“We’ve got some hitters at Triple A that are swinging the bats pretty well,” Duquette said. “We picked up (Jimmy) Paredes, Dariel Alvarez is doing a good job at Triple A, and there will be some other opportunities for some bats through the waiver process. There won’t be much going on now because everybody needs waivers to get traded, so that won’t happen right away. But some time in the next couple of weeks there will be some opportunities for us to address those needs.”

The Orioles certainly took a step forward in their division on Thursday, but Oakland and Detroit may have lapped them in the race for the Fall Classic. And even if Duquette made the right call in keeping his young pitching, there’s no changing that possibility.

 

 

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Orioles pondering right fit with trade deadline approaching

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Orioles pondering right fit with trade deadline approaching

Posted on 29 July 2014 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — With Thursday’s trade deadline quickly approaching, the Orioles weren’t offering a vibe that a significant deal was imminent as they returned home from a long West Coast trip to begin a three-game set with the Los Angeles Angels on Tuesday.

Even with a Fox Sports report on Monday saying the Orioles had inquired about the availability of Boston Red Sox pitcher Jon Lester, executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette reiterated a day later that he is not interested in giving away the top prizes of his minor league system, which include pitchers Dylan Bundy and Hunter Harvey as well as current Baltimore starter Kevin Gausman. Duquette told reporters that adding pitching depth remains a priority, which could come in the form of another starter or an extra arm in the bullpen.

The Orioles have also been linked to Philadelphia’s A.J. Burnett, Colorado’s Jorge De La Rosa, and San Diego’s Ian Kennedy in various media reports in recent weeks.

“It’s one thing to go out and acquire somebody, but there’s got to be a fit there,” manager Buck Showalter said. “You guys can figure out where the fit might be. I’m looking at trying to play through the end of October with the 25 people we have.”

The Orioles remain open to the possibility of upgrading the second base and catcher positions but continue to place a premium on strong defense accompanying any improved offensive production. They entered Tuesday ranked sixth in the American League in team ERA (3.78), but rank 14th in fielding independent pitching (4.21), a metric used to roughly determine what a pitcher’s ERA would look like with defensive play eliminated from the equation. This, in part, reflects how important strong defense has been to the Orioles’ success this season.

Jonathan Schoop is hitting just .216 and Ryan Flaherty .207, but both have provided above-average defense at second base. The catching combination of Caleb Joseph (.197) and Nick Hundley (.205) is hovering around the Mendoza line, but Showalter and pitchers alike have credited their work behind the plate as a major reason for the pitching success since early June.

A report from Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports on Tuesday indicated the Orioles are not interested in Minnesota Twins catcher Kurt Suzuki.

“You never assume anything. I don’t want to know every [rumor],” Showalter said. “We’ve talked about some things that are out there, but [Duquette] doesn’t have to [tell me everything] and I don’t want him to. I want our players to know that every ounce that I’ve got is towards the 25 that are here and the 20 [or so] that are in Norfolk and Bowie. That’s my job.”

Duquette and the Orioles clearly won’t tip their hand if something significant is in the works, but it still appears they’re more likely to add a bullpen arm or a starting pitcher with minor-league options before compromising their future for a impact starting pitcher who may or may not be available with so few sellers at the deadline under the current playoff system that now includes two wild cards in each league.

Of course, with the Orioles entering Tuesday with the fourth-best record in the majors and a 2 1/2 game lead in the AL East, they don’t feel the urgency to pull the trigger on a deal simply for the sake of making one, either. And there’s always the distinct possibility of a move being made in August when a number of helpful players will inevitably pass through waivers and once again become available through a trade.

“I’ve got a lot of confidence in our people up there,” Showalter said. “I think we get so bogged down thinking it’s a strict ‘no more trades’ after this day. Take a look at the people acquired after the deadline [in the past]. It’s a moving target. Dan brings me up to speed on things that he wants my input from, and he knows that I go through the coaching staff and we kick it around.”

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Orioles can prove to be beasts of East by surviving West Coast

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Orioles can prove to be beasts of East by surviving West Coast

Posted on 18 July 2014 by Luke Jones

Sitting in first place at the All-Star break for the first time since 1997 didn’t exactly earn the Orioles any favors as they started the second half of the season in Oakland on Friday night.

A 10-game West Coast trip against the two teams with the best records in the majors and the second wild card leader in the American League probably gave manager Buck Showalter a restless night or two over this week’s respite. Knowing the Orioles play their next 23 games against clubs with winning records — not to mention the six following that against teams with .500 marks at the break — likely made him lose even more sleep.

Of course, Showalter and the Orioles have every right to feel good about themselves after winning 25 of their last 40 to move to 10 games above .500 and turn a 4 1/2-game deficit into a four-game lead over that stretch. They’ve built themselves a small cushion in a division in which no one is without sizable warts and imperfections with Toronto and New York seemingly moving in the wrong direction and Boston and Tampa Bay being mostly bad all season.

No, the trip to the West Coast will neither break nor make the Orioles’ chances of winning their first American League East title since 1997, but those 10 games allow them an opportunity to flex their muscles as a man amongst boys in an underwhelming division. Holding their own in Oakland, Anaheim, and Seattle — even going 5-5 — would not only keep the Orioles in first place but allow them to return home in late July in prime position to continue their quest to a second postseason appearance in the last three years.

A strong showing against the imposing AL West over the next couple weeks could be the difference between a relatively comfortable journey to October and needing to scratch and claw over the final two months of the regular season. In the same way that the Orioles took advantage of the recent struggles of the Blue Jays, the rest of the AL East will be rooting for Baltimore to wilt before finally returning to Camden Yards on July 29.

A starting rotation that’s pitched to a 3.18 ERA over its last 33 games will now face the two highest-scoring offenses in baseball over the next six contests. It was a 1-6 run against the Athletics and the Angels earlier this month that saw the Blue Jays’ one-game lead in the division turn into a 2 1/2-game deficit by the time they left the West Coast.

Even with the daunting stretch staring them in the face, the Orioles couldn’t ask for better timing as they’ll feel more rested now than they will at any point over the rest of the season. Aside from the current ankle injury to starting pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez — which many critics would deem a blessing anyway — the Orioles are as healthy as they’ve been at any point during the first half of the season.

Showalter has set up his rotation to include the 23-year-old Kevin Gausman — who could finally be with the Orioles for good — and will be looking for his starting pitchers to pick up where they left off to close the first half. And he’ll hope the inconsistent offense — currently ranked seventh in the AL in runs scored — will finally hit its stride and struggling first baseman Chris Davis starts looking more like the force he was a year ago and less like the .199 hitter who was lost at the plate for the first 3 1/2 months of the season.

By no means was it a perfect first half for the first-place Orioles as they lost catcher Matt Wieters for the season and saw their $50 million investment in Jimenez lead the majors in walks, but Baltimore was the least flawed of anyone in the division and still appears that way beginning the most difficult road trip of the season.

The Orioles can use these next 10 games to flex their muscles as the clear favorite in the division and solidify their first-place standing or could see themselves fall back with the rest of the imperfect pack in the AL East.

They’ve grown accustomed to being the hunter over the last three seasons; it will be interesting to see how they start the second half as the hunted after four days off to think about it.

By no means is it do or die, but the West Coast trip will be an opportunity for the Orioles to stake their claim as the overwhelming favorite in the division while sampling what they could see again in October.

 

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Showalter reveals post-break rotation for start of challenging West Coast trip

Posted on 14 July 2014 by Luke Jones

Entering the All-Star break in first place for the first time since 1997, the Orioles won’t receive any breaks to start the second half with a 10-game West Coast trip and three clubs with winning records staring them in the face.

Manager Buck Showalter revealed his starting rotation to begin the second half with Chris Tillman, Wei-Yin Chen, and Kevin Gausman pitching in the three-game series against the Oakland Athletics next weekend. After that, Bud Norris and Miguel Gonzalez are expected to be recalled from the minors to make starts against the Los Angeles Angels on July 21 and July 22 before Tillman starts the finale in Anaheim.

Injured starting pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez will not be activated during the road trip as he continues to work his way back from an injured ankle suffered last week. Showalter said the plan is for the struggling right-hander to make a minor-league rehab start on July 23, which would put him in line to be ready to be activated when the Orioles finally return home on July 29.

Jimenez was still favoring his ankle when he tried to work on Sunday.

“He was trying to protect it and we kind of shortened it up a little bit because it wasn’t getting any better and we didn’t want him to have a setback,” Showalter said. “They have X-rayed I’m pretty sure. He’s had a history and anybody who’s had that ankle, it gets a little weaker each time you do it or it’s more susceptible to it. Obviously, he’s got some [discomfort] in there that we’re going to have to clear up before we can pitch him.”

Catcher Steve Clevenger and relief pitcher Preston Guilmet are expected to accompany the Orioles to the West Coast and remain with the club until Norris and Gonzalez are recalled.

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