Tag Archive | "Buck Showalter"

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Time running out for Orioles bats to heat up again

Posted on 20 September 2016 by Luke Jones

The Orioles knew it would be difficult against Cy Young Award candidate Rick Porcello on Monday, but there’s nothing easy about playing in a pennant race, especially against a Boston lineup that’s the best in baseball.

That especially holds true when you’re waiting for a once-explosive offense of your own to finally heat up again. Baltimore has hung a crooked number on the board every now and then since the All-Star break, but the offensive consistency that propelled them to first place for the better part of four months in spite of shoddy starting pitching has disappeared.

Taking nothing away from Porcello’s impressive 89-pitch complete game, the Orioles scored fewer than four runs for the 33rd time in 63 games since the break on Monday. In contrast, they scored three or fewer runs only 31 times in 87 games in the first half.

That’s simply not good enough for a club that’s designed to score plenty of runs.

After averaging just under 5.1 runs per game in the first half, the offense is roughly a run worse since the break at just over 4.1 per contest. The starting pitching will likely be remembered as the Achilles heel of the 2016 Orioles, but the rotation ERA has improved from a hideous 5.15 before the break to a more acceptable 4.51 in the second half.

Yes, the home runs have still been there, but everything else from the first half — the doubles, the high on-base percentage, a few more walks — has dried up to anemic levels. Since the All-Star break, the Orioles rank first in home runs, but they’re 10th in runs, last in doubles, last in batting average, and last in on-base percentage in the American League.

Allowing five runs to the Red Sox on Monday wasn’t ideal, but you better be ready to score when playing a lineup that’s plated a whopping 5.6 per game this season. The Orioles’ AL East title hopes are circling the drain barring three straight wins to conclude the current series, but the offense needs to get on a roll to not only secure a wild card but to try to make some noise in October.

To be fair, the Boston offense hasn’t had an equal all year — the Red Sox have outscored every other AL club by at least 100 runs in 2016 — but the Orioles were at least worthy of being mentioned in the same breath in the first half.

Unfortunately, that feels like a long time ago for Buck Showalter’s club as Boston has begun pulling away.

Bundy dilemma

Monday marked the fourth time in Dylan Bundy’s last seven starts that the right-hander has allowed five earned runs as he took the loss in the 5-2 final.

His 6.62 ERA over his last 34 innings has led many to wonder if he’s tired after eclipsing the 100-inning mark for the first time since his first full professional season in 2012. You can certainly argue that the Orioles are overdoing it with Bundy, but what passes as conventional wisdom in the baseball industry is hardly exact science when it comes to taking care of pitchers’ arms.

The stress of pitching in a pennant race in the major leagues definitely changes the dynamics, but the Orioles originally intended to have Bundy throw around 100 innings in the minor leagues last year before a shoulder injury derailed his season. Does that setback automatically lead to a plan for him to throw even fewer frames a year later, or do you just need to let him go and see what you have at some point?

Bundy again said after Monday’s game that he feels good physically, and it’s worth noting that his average fastball velocity has been up over his last three starts compared to the lull he went through over five starts starting in mid-August. However, his command has suffered in recent outings as he’s walked 19 batters over his last 29 2/3 innings.

On Monday, he struggled with the feel for his curveball, causing him to shy away from using it and making him too predictable with only the fastball-changeup combination. That was evident when David Ortiz appeared to sit on a changeup and hit a decently-located one for a home run in the fifth.

Yes, Bundy might be tired as the Orioles continue to push him further than anyone would have predicted, but he could just be experiencing the typical struggles of a 23-year-old pitcher with limited experience in the majors.

Other side of attendance question

No matter who’s at fault, the Orioles drawing an announced crowd of just 18,456 for the opener of the biggest series of the year is a shame and not a good look.

It’s easy to blame the fan base — plenty of people are already doing that — but many reasons for the decline in attendance have already been discussed, ranging from the tardiness in sending out season-ticket invoices and a substantial price increase to the elimination of cheaper deals such as Tuesday bargain nights for upper-reserve seats. Anyone who expected a different story for this week’s games hasn’t paid attention to the weeknight attendance woes for even the most intriguing opponents throughout the season.

But what has the organization — not the club on the field, but the business and marketing side — done to try to pack Camden Yards for weeknight games when it was apparent over the summer that this problem wasn’t going away? Where are the weeknight promotions such as discounted tickets, concession specials, or a few more giveaways that have become all but exclusive to weekend games?

If a restaurant with good food is struggling to attract patrons during the week, does management simply stomp their feet and continue to ask why no one is coming there to eat or do they try to do something about it in the form of specials and attractive deals?

Yes, winning should be enough — no one is arguing that this is the best fan base in baseball — but you have to be prepared to try to find other ways to compel people to come to the ballpark on weeknights, especially when they can watch the games on high-definition TV at home every night. If not, maybe you just don’t care all that much to have more people in the ballpark for such important games.

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Ten observations on why Baltimore sports fans aren’t going to Orioles games

Posted on 15 September 2016 by Nestor Aparicio

My story and history with Peter G. Angelos is pretty well told. There are many “insider observations” that I know and have lived that shall remain private for now but it’s pretty obvious that I’m a journalist who has been intimidated and lied to by them for so long now – and in so many ways – that it could only make sense to someone who has witnessed the past few months of this presidential race.

If you’re one of the low information people who think it’s “no big deal” or justified to ban any legitimate media member who asks fair questions and has the accountability and public availability that I’ve had in the Baltimore sports media marketplace for 25 years, then you should simply move on because you’re the type that doesn’t want to deal with the facts. Your bar is lower than it should be.

I promised some fair thoughts today on why YOU and many other citizens of Maryland and fans of the Baltimore Orioles don’t go to the games as regularly as perhaps you once did. I wrote a blog earlier this week about why I don’t go to games and actively give Peter G. Angelos my money.

So if the question is: “Why are there so many empty seats at Camden Yards for Orioles baseball games in height of pennant race?”

Consider these mostly global thoughts:

1. Washington has a baseball team. This was the worst nightmare of Peter G. Angelos. When he sat with me in 1997 (and mostly lied to me), he also predicted that if D.C. got a team it would “split” the fanbase and make for two “mediocre” franchises (back when attendance mattered more than the siphoning of cable TV revenue).

 

Those fans south of Laurel who love the Nationals are long, long gone. And they’re not coming back. And there are a LOT of them.

2.People simply have other things to do and other interests. Kids sports leagues. Various other sports and hobbies and passions. Family issues. Work. Church. Civic Issues. Festivals. The beach. Pokemon? The world has changed since 1966 when the Baltimore Orioles had a summer monopoly on civic pride and evening stoop soap opera. Peter Angelos is competing with anything and everything inside your mobile device. He’s not #winning your hearts.

3.It ain’t cheap. And it ain’t as cheap as it used to be. Tickets are easy to get but not so cheap as to not make it a decision. My wife and I want to go next Thursday night for the final game of David Ortiz. (She’s a Red Sox fan. This is pretty well documented.)       boston-day-4-25 The whole process feels like I’m waiting out a stock because the “get ins” on the roof are $18. If the game matters, perhaps demand will sky rocket and everyone will want to be there. But, the Orioles could also be five games out and fighting for their lives. I buy from the secondary market whenever I do go and it’s a weird market. It’s also clear they’re spreading out the sales of the seats to make the bowl look more full and manipulating them on Stubhub. The jacking up of prices for key games – while industry standard – is a tacky business move and hasn’t just backfired here in Baltimore. The elimination of discount nights smacks of another greedy Angelos idea. And the beer and concession prices – and the quality of the food – speaks for itself. Not to be a dick – but where in life is there a more expensive and generally crappy decision than buying food at a sporting event than at an arena, theatre or stadium? We’re all kinda blind to it but there’s nowhere else on the planet you feel comfortable paying $12 for a draft beer, $10 for leathery chicken tenders or $8 for a cold hot dog or $4.50 for a bottle of water. It’s obscene – but acceptable in America. But, still…not cheap. There are many folks who would love to go an Orioles game who simply can’t afford to go more than once a month or once a season. From the tickets, the parking, the concessions and the time invested, it’s just not a cheap night out for the family or even a date. It’s a decision made with your wallet as much as your heart. Meanwhile, the place sits empty most nights. MORE…

 

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It’s now or never for road-challenged Orioles

Posted on 05 September 2016 by Luke Jones

The Orioles have one winning road trip all season.

One.

It was an abbreviated two-game sweep of the Minnesota Twins in mid-May that was sandwiched between two longer homestands. In other words, that’s not a real road trip in the way we typically view a multi-city one lasting the better part of a week or two.

Buck Showalter’s club has avoided disastrous road trips of the 1-9 or 2-8 variety, but a 29-37 mark away from Oriole Park at Camden Yards speaks for itself. While holding the third-best home record in the American League this season, the Orioles have been a bad team on the road.

Entering Labor Day three games behind first-place Toronto in the AL East and tied with Detroit for the second wild-card spot, Baltimore is aware of what’s ahead. A nine-game, three-city road trip precedes the final 11-game homestand of the year and then six more on the road to conclude the regular season.

It’s now or never.

“We’ve got to win games. It’s real simple,” Showalter said. “We have to win games, regardless of how we get there. I don’t care how it looks or how it happens, but we need to have more runs than them after nine innings or 10 or 11 or 12 or so on. It’s a pretty simple equation right now.”

But that been the equation all year on the road. Camden Yards is certainly a ballpark suited for an Orioles lineup constructed to win via the long ball, but that doesn’t fully explain the chasm between home and road performance this season.

At home, the Orioles have hit .266 with a .331 on-base percentage and a .470 slugging percentage. They’ve batted .254 with a .309 OBP and a .431 slugging percentage on the road.

The difference in pitching is even more dramatic with Baltimore pitching to a respectable 3.94 ERA at home compared to an alarming 4.93 away mark. If the Orioles can pitch effectively at hitter-friendly Camden Yards, there’s just no explaining being a full run worse on the road.

Overall, the Orioles aren’t as good as their sparkling 45-25 home record, but they’re also not the poor quality of a 91-loss team as their road record would suggest. They have lost nine of their last 15 home games, so the Orioles can only hope that the worm finally turns on the road.

They need it to.

After three-game sets at Tampa Bay, Detroit, and Boston, the Orioles will return to Baltimore on Sept. 15 with a good idea of where they stand in the playoff picture. If they follow their season-long road profile with no better than a 4-5 trip, the chances of a division title would likely be bleak and they’d be scratching and crawling the rest of the way to secure a wild card. A good road trip — say 6-3 or better — keeps them within striking distance of the division with games remaining against both the Red Sox and the Blue Jays in the final two weeks.

“One at a time,” first baseman Chris Davis said. “That’s got to be the mentality this time of year. You can’t win them all at once; you’ve got to go one at a time.”

That sounds good, but the Orioles haven’t been able to consistently stack wins on the road all year.

It’s now or never.

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Out-of-sync Orioles in danger of falling out of AL East race

Posted on 01 September 2016 by Luke Jones

You couldn’t help but cringe at the pitching matchups as the Orioles returned home to begin a critical three-game set with Toronto on Monday.

Wade Miley, Ubaldo Jimenez, and Yovani Gallardo going up against the Blue Jays’ three best starters? Even the most optimistic of Baltimore fans feared it could get ugly at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

Instead, the embattled trio turned in three quality starts against the second-highest scoring offense in the American League. And the Orioles still lost two of three to the division leader to fall four games back in the AL East.

The term “must-win” is one of the most overused descriptors in sports, but that series win was one that Buck Showalter’s club surely wanted to have, especially playing at home where the Orioles have looked quite mortal over the last few weeks. It’s just been that kind of a second half as Baltimore fell into a tie with Detroit for the final wild card spot on Wednesday.

Trying to hold on, but seemingly losing their grip bit by bit as the summer transitions into fall. Out of sync and trying to avoid falling out of a tough division race in which Toronto and Boston aren’t going anywhere. A wild-card spot that appeared likely now looks in doubt with the likes of Detroit, Houston, and Kansas City surging.

The pitching remains the biggest concern — even two of the top three bullpen arms surrendered runs in Wednesday’s 5-3 loss — but an offense that thrived in the first half has been among the worst in the league since the All-Star break. Sure, the Orioles still hit home runs — they tied the major league record for long balls in August with 55 after hitting a record 56 in June — but they’ve all but stopped doing anything else offensively.

Remember how Baltimore ranked third in the AL with a .333 on-base percentage in the first half? Those more disciplined at-bats and the willingness to draw a few more walks have evaporated with the Orioles ranking last in the AL with a .293 OBP in the 46 games since then. They rank 12th in runs scored since the break despite continuing to lead the league in home runs, illustrating how much more dependent on long balls they’ve become to score runs as the season has progressed.

We knew all along that the Orioles lineup was constructed to win with the home run, but the all-or-nothing outcomes are as extreme as ever. Consider Chris Davis and Mark Trumbo, who have combined to hit 22 home runs and bat .180 in 305 at-bats since the break. They haven’t been alone in the second-half struggles, but you just aren’t going to consistently score runs with that kind of production from your No. 4 and No. 5 hitters.

Because the offense produced at such a high level over the first half of the season, it’s still reasonable to think — at least hope? — a prolonged hot streak could be right around the corner.

But then we come back to the pitching, which ranks 13th among 15 AL clubs. Other than the first few weeks after the All-Star break when the rotation performed at a respectable level — and the offense failed to capitalize — you just can’t trust this starting pitching, especially with Chris Tillman unlikely to return before the middle of September. The bullpen continues to wilt without Darren O’Day, who is just now working out the final remnants of discomfort in his right shoulder.

The Orioles will say they were encouraged by the way Miley, Jimenez, and Gallardo pitched against the Blue Jays this week, but that kind of success feels more like an aberration than a breakthrough for the final month.

Despite exceeding expectations for most of the season, this club just isn’t firing on all cylinders and hasn’t been for quite some time. When the rotation does offer a stretch of decent outings, the offense fails to do its job. When the bats are lively, the pitching struggles to even be competitive. Or, neither phase performs well and it gets downright ugly.

On Wednesday, executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette added Drew Stubbs and Michael Bourn, veterans who can help the abysmal outfield defense late in games and add some speed off the bench. Maybe these spare parts will help spark a struggling club, but the Orioles simply look like a team struggling to keep their heads above water these days.

The losing spells have been more frequent while the good times have been fleeting. In the first four months of the season, the Orioles had three seven-game winning streaks, two five-game winning streaks, and a four-game winning streak. In August, they won as many as three in a row just once while dropping three straight on three separate occasions.

Going just 21-25 since the All-Star break, the Orioles have been trying to hold on, but they’ll need to do more than that in September to secure their third trip to the postseason in the last five years.

You should never count out the Orioles under Showalter with so much baseball left to play, but an increasingly one-dimensional offense, a poor starting rotation, and a bullpen short on trustworthy arms aren’t inspiring confidence in the final month of the season.

It’s just not looking good.

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Tillman goes to DL after more shoulder concerns

Posted on 23 August 2016 by Luke Jones

(Updated: Wednesday 4:15 p.m)

BALTIMORE — Coming off his worst start of the season and experiencing more right shoulder discomfort during his latest bullpen session, Orioles starting pitcher Chris Tillman was placed on the 15-day disabled list on Wednesday.

Manager Buck Showalter said before Tuesday’s 8-1 win over Washington that the right-hander’s work day hadn’t gone well and that his next scheduled start against the Nationals was in jeopardy. On Saturday, the right-hander allowed six earned runs and walked five over a season-low two innings, but he said after the game that his shoulder was fine and told the training staff the following morning that it felt better than it usually does the day after a start.

Tillman received a cortisone injection after being examined by Dr. Leigh Ann Curl at Camden Yards. Showalter confirmed after the game that the 28-year-old would land on the DL in hopes that the rest will allow him to return at the end of the minimum 15-day period.

“I would have liked a little better results or response from the last outing, but it just didn’t respond very well,” Tillman said. ” We’re trying to be safe and get this thing in the rear-view mirror. That way, I’m not fighting it all year. I think it’s probably the best way to go about it.”

His last start was pushed back three days due to shoulder soreness that Tillman said he first experienced the morning after his Aug. 11 outing in Oakland.

Entering Tuesday ranked 12th in the American League with a 4.97 rotation ERA, the Orioles can hardly afford to lose their best starting pitcher in the midst of a tight division race with Toronto and Boston. Tillman is 15-5 with a 3.76 ERA in 26 starts covering 153 innings this season.

The Orioles recalled right-hander Mike Wright to replace Tillman on the 25-man roster and announced that right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez would start on Thursday.

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Orioles send struggling backup catcher Joseph to Triple-A Norfolk

Posted on 22 August 2016 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — Needing to reinstate starting catcher Matt Wieters from the paternity leave list prior to Monday’s series opener against the Washington Nationals, the Orioles demoted backup Caleb Joseph to Triple-A Norfolk.

In an effort to get Joseph some regular at-bats to right his dismal season at the plate, Baltimore elected to keep catcher Francisco Pena on the 25-man roster to back up Wieters for the time being. In 121 plate appearances, Joseph is hitting just .193 with two extra-base hits, no RBIs, and a .450 on-base plus slugging percentage.

He is eligible to return as early as Sept. 1 when major league rosters expand.

“We’d like to get him some at-bats, consistently, with Matt back,” said manager Buck Showalter, who made it clear that Joseph remains in the club’s plans moving forward. “In fact, he would have caught tonight if Matt wasn’t back. We’ve got an opportunity to get him 10 days of at-bats [with] some things he’s been working on. Get him back.

“He probably would have caught maybe once here in those 10 days, maybe twice. We just thought the benefit would be better there. He doesn’t lose any service time or anything. He’ll be back in 10 days.”

In 39 plate appearances this season, Pena has hit .222 with one homer and three RBIs. He filled in as the club’s backup catcher throughout the month of June after Joseph took a foul ball to the groin area and had to undergo emergency testicular surgery on May 30.

Joseph’s intense struggles at the plate this year are quite a change from last year when he hit .234 with 11 home runs, 49 RBIs, and a .693 on-base plus slugging percentage. In 2014, he filled in admirably after Wieters was forced to undergo Tommy John surgery and batted .207 with nine homers, 28 RBIs, and a .618 OPS as a rookie.

He has been an above-average defensive catcher in the majors despite not having the best reputation in that department during his minor-league career, but the Orioles want to get his bat going for the stretch run.

“This guy’s got a pretty good track record, offensively, behind him,” Showalter said. “He’s a better hitter than he’s shown here, and I think sometimes it gets kind of mentally and emotionally in there. Caleb’s driven in some big runs for us, and he’s been a nice guy to have down in the bottom of the order. If you relax on him, he’s a guy you like to see coming up with people on base.

“We’ve just got to get him back to that. How do you do it? Sitting around playing once every 10 days? It doesn’t work too good.”

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Long, painful week for Orioles ends with no relief

Posted on 22 August 2016 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — The Orioles had a chance to stop the bleeding on Sunday after a difficult 1-4 start to an eight-game homestand.

Waiting out a rain delay of more than four hours on the heels of two of their worst losses of the season, the Orioles watched first-place Toronto squander another late lead in a loss at Cleveland. Second-place Boston fell hard in Detroit. Even Seattle — who entered the day one game behind Baltimore for the second wild-card spot — blew a three-run lead in the ninth inning to lose to lowly Milwaukee.

A victory in the finale of the four-game set with Houston would have shrunk the Orioles’ American League East deficit to just 1 1/2 games and increased their lead over the Mariners. It wasn’t a must-win game, but it represented a valuable opportunity to salvage a four-game split, exhale, and regroup after allowing an unseemly 27 runs to the Astros the previous two nights.

Yovani Gallardo gave the Orioles exactly what they needed after poor performances by Wade Miley, Chris Tillman, and a host of long relievers had decimated the bullpen to the point that infielder Ryan Flaherty pitched the ninth inning of Saturday’s loss. Enduring two different rain delays, Gallardo allowed one run over the first four innings on Sunday.

Then, the fifth came.

Two-time Gold Glove third baseman Manny Machado bobbled a chopper off the bat of Teoscar Hernandez for an error to begin the inning. Four batters later, a Carlos Correa line drive to right-center went off the glove of right fielder Chris Davis for a two-run double that would give the Astros a 4-1 lead. Manager Buck Showalter said after the game that his normal first baseman had lost the ball in the lights, but the two defensive miscues led to three runs for Houston.

The bottom of the fifth wasn’t much better as Adam Jones singled home Nolan Reimold to make it a 4-2 deficit, but the center fielder overslid second base as he advanced on the throw home and was then tagged out, ending the inning and adding a baserunning mistake to the poor defense in the top half of frame.

Taking nothing away from a strong eight-inning performance by 2015 AL Cy Young Award winner Dallas Keuchel, the Orioles cost themselves dearly in that fateful inning. Of course, it didn’t help that the bats largely fell silent again after the Baltimore pitching hadn’t given them much of a chance on Friday or Saturday.

Gallardo deserved better over his seven solid innings of work, but the Orioles have done whatever it takes to lose on this current homestand. In a two-game sweep against Boston, little went right across the board. After a 13-5 blowout victory over the Astros in the series opener, the Orioles made major league history Friday night by homering four times before recording a single out and amazingly lost by seven as Miley and the bullpen surrendered a combined 15 runs.

Despite falling to just 11 games over .500 for the first time since June 22, the math tells you the Orioles are still in fine shape and only a modest winning streak away from potentially being back in first place. But it doesn’t feel that way with a maddeningly inconsistent offense, a shorthanded bullpen, and a starting rotation reverting to its first-half form after showing some improvement since the All-Star break.

Since a four-game winning streak in which they swept Cleveland and won the opener of a series with Colorado to improve to an AL-best 58-40 on July 25, the Orioles have gone 9-16 and have been passed by both the Blue Jays and the Red Sox in the division.

It isn’t panic time yet, but losing the final three games against Houston — a team that came to Baltimore having lost four in a row and 13 of its previous 19 — felt alarmingly reminiscent of last year’s four-game home sweep to Minnesota that led to a stretch of 12 losses in 13 games ending any real chance of making the postseason. Of course, the Orioles are in better position now than last year at that point, but their 2016 season appears to be at a crossroads.

The offense has slumped for the better part of six weeks now, once again too dependent on the home run. Dating back to the last West Coast trip, the last six hits apiece from Chris Davis and Mark Trumbo have all been homers, illustrating the largely all-or-nothing performance from the lineup.

The health of No. 1 starter Chris Tillman remains in question despite him saying his shoulder felt fine after his worst start of the season on Saturday. Acquired at the deadline to fortify the rotation, Miley is sporting a 9.53 ERA in his four starts with the Orioles.

The bullpen is once again without Darren O’Day, who doesn’t appear particularly close to returning from a strained rotator cuff. Closer Zach Britton has been nothing short of brilliant all year, but getting to him is becoming increasingly difficult with fellow All-Star reliever Brad Brach struggling since the break.

The Orioles had been nearly invincible at Camden Yards this season in winning 70 percent of their games there, but they no longer have the best home mark in the majors after dropping six of their last seven in Baltimore.

No, things aren’t always as bad as they seem when a team is struggling like the Orioles are right now. The good news is that they didn’t lose any ground Sunday with their competitors all falling.

But instead of stopping the bleeding and starting to reverse their recent fortunes, the wound grew deeper in another frustrating loss.

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After promising stretch, Orioles pitching again looking too vulnerable

Posted on 17 August 2016 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — The Orioles pitching staff appeared to be turning a corner not long ago.

Despite a maddening offensive slump that led to three straight losses in Oakland last week, the starting rotation had rattled off seven straight quality starts as the latest sign of its second-half improvement. There had been some hiccups here and there from the bullpen, but Darren O’Day had finally returned a couple weeks before and the group still led the American League in ERA.

All the Orioles needed was their all-too-powerful offense to awaken from its second-half slumber and they’d seemingly be ready to take off at the right time in an all-too-tight AL East battle with Toronto and Boston.

Then, word came over the weekend that O’Day was dealing with a strained rotator cuff that required a cortisone injection and another trip to the disabled list. Manager Buck Showalter said Tuesday that the hope is for the veteran right-hander to be ready to return at the end of the minimum 15-day DL period, but a shoulder issue is one of the last things you want for a pitcher, particularly one as important as O’Day to Baltimore’s success over the last five years.

Making matters worse are the recent struggles of All-Star setup man Brad Brach, who pitched incredibly well during O’Day’s extended absence earlier in the season. The right-hander gave up the deciding two-run homer to Boston’s Mookie Betts in Tuesday’s 5-3 loss to elevate his ERA to 4.50 in 12 innings of work since the All-Star break. It would have been unfair to expect Brach to maintain the microscopic 0.91 ERA he posted in 49 1/3 innings in the first half, but you do wonder if such a stressful workload and some simple regression to the mean are catching up to him down the stretch.

If they’re to endure this latest O’Day absence, the Orioles need Brach to find his first-half form sooner rather than later.

Of course, Showalter revealing Tuesday night that 15-game winner Chris Tillman would not pitch on Wednesday due to shoulder soreness creates more restlessness. Tillman is currently slated to start against Houston on Saturday, but there is clearly enough concern to scratch your ace from a critical game against the AL East foe who just pulled even with the Orioles for second place in the division.

Dylan Bundy will now try to continue his impressive run as a starter against the highest-scoring offense in the major leagues.

It could all be fine with Tillman making that Saturday start without any issue and a rested and healthy O’Day returning to action before the end of the month, but executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette should be feeling more urgency to fortify the pitching staff ahead of the waiver trade deadline in two weeks. At the very least, the Orioles would benefit from another reliable reliever to ease the burden on Brach and Mychal Givens in trying to bridge the gap to All-Star closer Zach Britton.

Right now, the remainder of the bullpen consists of three long relievers — Vance Worley, Tyler Wilson, and the seldom-used Ubaldo Jimenez — and unproven left-hander Donnie Hart. The Orioles entered Tuesday’s game still sporting an AL-leading 3.15 bullpen ERA, but the parts just don’t breed confidence right now.

Doubts have persisted all year about the pitching, but the latest developments aren’t doing the Orioles any favors.

The offense rising to the occasion like it did in the first half would surely quell concerns, but the Orioles can only hope that a couple of sore shoulders won’t derail what’s been a surprisingly strong season.

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Orioles shift Davis to right field for opener of Boston series

Posted on 16 August 2016 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — Less than two hours before the series opener against Boston on Tuesday, the Orioles made some interesting defensive changes to their originally-posted lineup.

Presumably wanting to improve his overall defensive alignment, manager Buck Showalter shifted first baseman Chris Davis to right field, designated hitter Steve Pearce to first base, and right fielder Mark Trumbo to the DH spot. With Trumbo’s limitations in the outfield not exactly a secret and the Red Sox using five left-handed batters against Orioles starter Yovani Gallardo, Davis brings more athleticism to right. Pearce is also considered an above-average defensive first baseman, meaning there should be little to no drop-off in moving Davis out of the position.

Before the flexor mass tendon in his right arm flared up last week, Pearce appeared on track to start in right field with Trumbo serving as the DH against left-handed starters. It remains unclear when Pearce’s elbow will be healthy enough to play the outfield again, but he is apparently able to play first base where the need to make high-stress throws is usually limited.

Of course, playing right field isn’t completely foreign to Davis, who has made 57 career starts there and 29 last season. His last start at the position came on Sept. 8, 2015.

Davis made 28 starts in right field in 2012 in place of an injured Nick Markakis and even started there in the postseason.

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Orioles come home from long road trip with good feeling

Posted on 14 August 2016 by Luke Jones

It would have been easy for the Orioles to mail it in when they fell behind 7-1 in San Francisco on Sunday.

Playing the final game of a long 10-day road trip — the last seven days in the Bay Area — and still a cross-country flight away from their second day off since the All-Star break, the Orioles looked like a team largely going through the motions for several innings as starter Wade Miley allowed six earned runs and didn’t make it out of the fifth inning. The defense wasn’t sharp, and the Baltimore lineup was retired on a total of 15 pitches from Giants starting pitcher Johnny Cueto in the third and fourth innings.

You could hardly blame fans who might have turned the channel or elected to enjoy an early-evening nap at that point, but they missed something special as the Orioles bounced back to score seven times over the final three innings with the exclamation point being a Jonathan Schoop three-run homer with two outs in the ninth. Whether this is remembered as a season-defining win remains to be seen — Orioles manager Buck Showalter loves to cite Earl Weaver’s adage of momentum being as good as the next game’s starting pitcher — but a 5-5 road trip feels much better than a 4-6 mark for a club that’s struggled on the road all season.

There was something fitting about Schoop finishing off the colossal comeback with a three-run homer on what would have been the late Hall of Fame manager’s 86th birthday.

The Orioles owned just one win when trailing after eight innings all season, but they did secure their 34th comeback victory of 2016, third most in the majors. As flawed as they might be and as quickly as many want to dismiss their playoff chances at any sign of trouble, these Orioles under Showalter continue to be as resilient as they come.

They now return home and will play 25 of their final 45 games at Oriole Park at Camden Yards, where their 39-17 record has made them the best home team in the majors in 2016. That’s certainly good news for a club that needed a miraculous Sunday win to improve to 27-34 on the road.

All but 10 of those remaining games come against teams currently holding winning records, but the Orioles have fewer remaining road contests than either Toronto or Boston, an advantage over the final seven weeks of the regular season.

The Orioles have obvious flaws, but they’ve spent all season in first or second place and have provided more joy than frustration in a season in which outside expectations weren’t all that great at the start.

A loss hardly would have meant the sky was falling, but the showing wasn’t pretty for much of Sunday. Then, the Orioles reminded us what we should have already remembered countless times over the last five years.

You don’t doubt their resiliency or effort.

Bullpen pick-me-up

Lost in Schoop’s heroics on Sunday was a good bullpen performance of 4 2/3 scoreless innings a day after right-hander Darren O’Day was officially placed on the disabled list with a rotator cuff strain.

The perfect eighth from All-Star setup man Brad Brach was particularly encouraging after the right-hander entered Sunday with a 3.60 ERA since the All-Star break and a 5.40 mark in August. As they did when O’Day was sidelined with a hamstring injury for nearly two months earlier in the season, the Orioles will lean heavily on Brach to turn the ball over to All-Star closer Zach Britton, who improved to 37-for-37 in 2016 save chances on Sunday.

It will be challenging enough to weather another O’Day absence, but the Orioles need Brach to get on a roll again if the bullpen has any chance of continuing to own the best ERA in the AL.

Pearce injury

Hitting for reliever Donnie Hart, Steve Pearce just missed hitting a three-run homer in the eighth inning as he was able to come off the bench for a second straight day after missing five days of action.

A flexor mass strain in his right elbow is bound to limit Pearce’s ability to play defense the rest of the way, but the Orioles desperately need his bat against left-handed pitching. Baltimore is hitting .234 with a .690 on-base plus slugging percentage against left-handers and will see a pair of southpaw starters — Eduardo Rodriguez and David Price — in a two-game set with the Red Sox beginning Tuesday.

Pearce is hitting .339 with an 1.104 OPS against lefties this season.

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