Tag Archive | "Buck Showalter"

Struggling Orioles reliever Hunter lands on DL with groin injury

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Struggling Orioles reliever Hunter lands on DL with groin injury

Posted on 22 May 2014 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — A week after surrendering the closer job due to his early-season struggles, Orioles relief pitcher Tommy Hunter was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a left groin strain.

The right-hander said he suffered the strain while throwing prior to Wednesday’s loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates. Hunter was unavailable on Wednesday night and was replaced on the 25-man roster by right-hander Preston Guilmet, who had a brief stint with the Orioles earlier this month before being optioned back to Triple-A Norfolk on May 13.

“Anytime you do anything to move it around, it’s going to be sore,” Hunter said prior to Thursday’s series opener against the Cleveland Indians. “I shut it down as soon as it happened, so I went in and got treatment and showed up today.”

Hunter has a history of groin issues that dates back to his days with the Texas Rangers as the 27-year-old had a stint on the DL that lasted two months, but manager Buck Showalter is optimistic that the club was being proactive in shutting down the struggling reliever immediately to allow him to return quickly.

Named the Baltimore closer at the end of spring training, Hunter has a 6.06 earned run average and was 11-for-14 in converting save opportunities, but consecutive blown saves last week prompted Showalter to remove the hard-throwing pitcher from the role. Left-hander Zach Britton has converted the only situation the Orioles have had since Hunter blew a save against the Detroit Tigers on May 13.

It remains unclear whether the reliever will remain with the club for the next road trip or travel to Sarasota to continue treatment and rehab for the injury. Hunter made it known that the groin strain was not what was causing his struggles over the first two months of the season as he’s posted a 1.84 WHIP (walks plus hits per inning pitched) in 19 appearances spanning 16 1/3 innings.

“There is really no excuses for those [games], sorry,” Hunter said. “If that is what everyone is fishing for. I apologize.”

The 26-year-old Guilmet has appeared in two games for the Orioles this season, striking out three without allowing a run in 1 2/3 innings. Showalter was hopeful that Guilmet could provide some length out of the bullpen if necessary after Chris Tillman was knocked out in the second inning of Wednesday’s game at Pittsburgh.

Davis healthy and expecting

First baseman Chris Davis hopes to build on the momentum of Tuesday night’s three-homer performance in Pittsburgh and says the strained oblique that landed him on the 15-day DL in late April is no longer a factor as he tries to bounce back from a slow start to the 2014 season.

The 2013 All-Star selection quipped that his left elbow was hurting after being hit by a pitch on Wednesday, but his oblique has held up well since returning from the DL on May 11.

“The first couple of games I came back, I don’t want to say it was stiff, but it was almost like it was rusty,” Davis said. “I hadn’t done anything for a couple of weeks. But it hasn’t bothered me. There were a couple times this last series when I took some hard check swings, but stopping [my swing] was something that killed me. I didn’t feel it, so it’s good to know that it is behind me.”

Davis’ wife, Jill, is expecting the couple’s first child and is scheduled to be induced on Sunday morning, meaning the Orioles are planning for Davis to miss games on Sunday and Monday before rejoining the club in Milwaukee. Of course, that timetable would change if she goes into labor prior to then, and Davis will be placed on the paternity list, which allows a player to be removed from the roster for up to three days.

Infielders Jemile Weeks and Steve Lombardozzi are considered the prime candidates to take Davis’ place on the roster.

Santana making more progress

Veteran left-hander Johan Santana continues to impress in his rehabilitation from shoulder surgery as he threw 58 pitches in a four-inning outing in an extended spring training game.

Santana allowed one run on a home run and his velocity was once again in the upper 80s as his fastball was clocked as high as 90 miles per hour. Santana is expected to pitch in one more extended spring game before being assigned to pitch for an affiliate.

After signing the former two-time American League Cy Young Award winner in early March, the Orioles estimated that Santana would need until early June to continue rehabbing his surgically-repaired left shoulder, a timetable that appears to be very accurate as he continues making progress and increasing his velocity.

More baby news

Executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette and his wife, Amy, welcomed a baby boy named Colt shortly after midnight on Thursday morning.

 

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Lombardozzi squeezed out of infield picture with Machado’s return

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Lombardozzi squeezed out of infield picture with Machado’s return

Posted on 01 May 2014 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — The Orioles had a decision to make about the state of their infield with the much-anticipated return of third baseman Manny Machado, and Steve Lombardozzi ended up being the odd man out on Thursday.

Despite hitting .292 in 72 at-bats, the 25-year-old infielder was optioned to Triple-A Norfolk to make room for Machado on the 25-man roster, raising a few eyebrows among fans who expected the light-hitting Ryan Flaherty or the recently-recalled Jemile Weeks to be demoted. As is typically the case when faced with these decisions, manager Buck Showalter and executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette sided with the stronger defensive player.

Weeks provides an element of speed that the Orioles are taking advantage of for the time being.

“I think where we are as a club and what are needs are going to be with Manny coming back, just initially [Jemile] might fit us a tad better, but we’ll see,” Showalter said. “But that’s a good tough decision. Two switch-hitting middle infielders.”

With Machado and shortstop J.J. Hardy coming off injuries and the first base position in flux with Chris Davis on the disabled list, versatility is a must off the bench and Flaherty has the ability to play quality defense at all four infield positions. Lombardozzi appeared in 19 games this season at second base but did not play another position as there are questions about his arm strength to play on the left side of the infield.

Of course, the Orioles could revisit the decision if Hardy and Machado play a couple weeks without any injury concerns, which would decrease the urgency for having Flaherty at their immediate disposal off the bench.

For what it’s worth, Lombardozzi’s career .638 on-base plus slugging percentage is only slightly higher than Flaherty’s .636. Of course, the latter is off to a poor start at the plate for the second year in a row and is hitting just .188.

Veteran Steve Pearce was officially back in the Orioles clubhouse Thursday and made the start at first base in Game 1 of the doubleheader against the Pittsburgh Pirates. While right fielder Nick Markakis and Flaherty could still factor into the puzzle at first base, Pearce figures to receive an extensive opportunity as he’s played 94 games at the position in the major leagues.

“Stevie’s been hitting, he’s stayed active during the time,” said Showalter, referencing the fact that Pearce was designated for assignment on April 22. “I don’t think he ever left Baltimore.”

Machado did not start in the opening game of the doubleheader as Showalter and the 21-year-old both agreed it would be too aggressive to try to play 18 innings in his 2014 season debut. The Baltimore manager didn’t want Machado playing in Game 1 and sitting around all evening before coming off the bench to play in the late innings if necessary.

The third baseman said he didn’t do anything special over the last three days other than his normal in-season workouts and admitted he would feel some nerves before taking the field in Game 2. Showalter quipped that Thursday night would be Machado’s Opening Day after the All-Star break, referencing the club’s three straight days off because of inclement weather.

“It’s actually been kind of good for him to take his breath and get settled here in the locker room instead of traveling back and forth to Frederick,” Showalter said. “There’s nobody more excited today than Manny.”

The Orioles will activate left-handed relief pitcher Troy Patton after the first game of the doubleheader, meaning they will need to make a roster move before the nightcap. Showalter acknowledged having a roster move in mind and an intention to keep the roster at 12 pitchers, but that was dependent on how the pitching staff made it through the opening game.

Candidates to be sent out included long reliever Josh Stinson — who would need to be designated for assignment — and fellow reliever Evan Meek, who has an option remaining.

In injury-related news, veteran left-hander Johan Santana was able to touch 86 to 87 miles per hour on a few occasions while pitching in a simulated game in Sarasota on Monday. Trying to make a comeback from shoulder surgery, Santana’s velocity has steadily increased since he was signed in the spring.

Outfielder Nolan Reimold took batting practice Wednesday in Sarasota as he continues to rehab his surgically-repaired neck on the 60-day disabled list.

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Schoop should stick with Orioles in wake of Davis injury

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Schoop should stick with Orioles in wake of Davis injury

Posted on 28 April 2014 by Luke Jones

It all appeared to be coming together as third baseman Manny Machado started his rehab assignment and the Orioles anticipated having their full lineup together for the first time all season.

Of course, a left oblique strain suffered by Chris Davis has delayed that vision indefinitely, but Machado is expected to return this week, instantly boosting the infield defense as well as helping an offense now devoid of Davis’ Herculean power. Even with the All-Star third baseman’s return, the injury to Davis forces manager Buck Showalter and executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette to alter the way in which they view the starting lineup.

Even if Nick Markakis proves capable of handling the defensive duties of first base — his errant throw on a rundown play led to a run in Sunday’s loss to Kansas City — he’s a significant downgrade offensively just like any realistic replacement would be. It’s why the Orioles may need to take chances elsewhere in trying to make up for Davis’ absence.

In addition to Nelson Cruz filling a full-time outfield role with Markakis in the infield, the Orioles would be wise to continue playing Jonathan Schoop at second base after Machado officially returns. His future appeared to be the club’s biggest roster decision a few days ago as the argument could be made that Schoop needs more seasoning and both Steve Lombardozzi and Ryan Flaherty are stronger defensive players.

But when missing a player of Davis’ ability, the Orioles would benefit from Schoop’s offensive upside while also remembering he’s handled 30 chances at second base without an error. The 22-year-old has struggled bouncing back and forth between second and third base due to the Orioles’ injury-related needs in the first month of the season, but his four errors have all come while playing the hot corner.

“He’s going to turn the double play well above average with arm strength,” said Showalter when asked to assess Schoop’s play at second base. “That’s one thing that steps out at you. He could profile down the road as an offensive run producer that can play the middle infield. We’ll see. I feel confident that Jonathan is going to be as good as he’s capable of being. That’s what makes me feel good about him.”

Truthfully, his offensive numbers don’t overwhelm you as Schoop is hitting just .241 and has struck out 26 times in his first 82 plate appearances as major league pitchers continue to challenge him with breaking balls, but his numbers dwarf Flaherty’s paltry .188 average and he has more power (.405 slugging percentage) than Lombardozzi (.333), who appears best suited for a utility role.

We’ve seen with Showalter’s patient handling of Flaherty that defense can trump offensive production with the rest of the lineup so dangerous, but the Orioles must be more judicious in that approach with Davis missing from the order. Schoop has given no reason to indicate he can’t play a solid second base — the position at which he had the most experience in the minor leagues — and is fifth on the club in total bases and first in doubles.

The rockets he hit in New York and Toronto earlier this month for his two home runs show what kind of power potential he brings to the table. It’d be interesting to see what he can do without the unrest of switching positions on a regular basis weight on his mind.

“You can be in the big leagues 10 years and it’s never going to be easy, but I think the game’s slowing down a little bit,” Schoop said. “I’ve still got to get better. In situations, I’ve got to think what I’m going to do before the ball comes to me. I’ve got to get better.”

A few days ago, it would have been easy for the Orioles to send Schoop to Triple-A Norfolk and settle on the strong defensive platoon of Flaherty and Lombardozzi at second base while watching the rest of the lineup wreak havoc on opposing pitchers. But with Davis sidelined and his teammates trying to pick up the slack, the second base position needs to provide some of the offensive lifting.

While far from a finished product, the Curacao native has shown more than enough flashes for the Orioles to take a chance that he’ll be up to the task.

“I’m glad he’s on our side. He’s got a chance to be a pretty good one,” Showalter said. “But we’ll see where he settles out and see how things go with Manny in the next few days.”

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Orioles move Markakis to first base with Davis sidelined

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Orioles move Markakis to first base with Davis sidelined

Posted on 26 April 2014 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — Veteran right fielder Nick Markakis prepared to make his third career start at first base Saturday night as the Orioles awaited the results of Chris Davis’ magnetic resonance imaging scan on the strained left oblique he suffered in Friday’s loss to the Kansas City Royals.

Davis told reporters he was feeling a little better on Saturday, and manager Buck Showalter described the All-Star first baseman as “day to day” for the time being. The Orioles are hoping Davis can avoid a trip to the 15-day disabled list and scheduled days off on Monday and Thursday would ease the hardship of him being unavailable for a few days.

Markakis hadn’t started a game at first base since Sept. 4, 2011 and was on the field early Saturday afternoon working at the position where he’d only appeared three times in his nine-year career. Showalter moved Nelson Cruz to right field and placed the newly-recalled Jemile Weeks in the leadoff spot as the designated hitter with Markakis moving to the No. 3 position in the lineup.

Whether Markakis remains the first baseman in Davis’ absence is undetermined, but the Orioles have few options on the 25-man roster after designating veteran Steve Pearce for assignment earlier this week. Showalter indicated hesitancy in moving catcher Matt Wieters to first base when he’s not starting behind the plate.

Markakis played first base extensively at Young Harris College before the Orioles drafted him with the seventh overall pick of the 2003 amateur draft.

“He’s one of our options,” said Showalter, who moved Ryan Flaherty to first base when Davis exited in the fifth inning of Friday’s game. “We’ll see how it presents itself tonight. [Nick] takes some work there every once in a while.”

Davis’ immediate future remains up in the air, but the Orioles are optimistic about Manny Machado’s pending return to the lineup after the 21-year-old third baseman went 1-for-4 and started at third base in Single-A Frederick’s 4-2 loss to Carolina on Saturday. Machado is scheduled to play third base once again at Frederick on Sunday before the Orioles decide whether he’ll continue playing for the Keys or will move to Triple-A Norfolk on Monday.

Showalter didn’t dismiss the possibility of Machado rejoining the Orioles for their two-game series against Pittsburgh that begins on Tuesday, but next weekend appears to be the logical target for his return when Baltimore travels to Minnesota to take on the Twins.

“I wouldn’t say anything is [off] the table right now,” said Showalter, who dismissed the notion that Davis’ injury might rush the timetable to activate Machado. “It’s a baseball decision right now as much as physical.. We will have a pretty good idea after tomorrow.”

Here are Saturday night’s lineups:

KANSAS CITY
RF Nori Aoki
2B Omar Infante
1B Eric Hosmer
DH Billy Butler
LF Alex Gordon
C Salvador Perez
3B Danny Valencia
CF Justin Maxwell
SS Alcides Escobar

SP Jeremy Guthrie (2-1, 4.68 ERA)

BALTIMORE
DH Jemile Weeks
RF Nelson Cruz
1B Nick Markakis
CF Adam Jones
C Matt Wieters
SS J.J. Hardy
3B Ryan Flaherty
2B Jonathan Schoop
LF David Lough

SP Wei-Yin Chen (3-1, 4.91 ERA)

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smith

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Nelson Cruz and Steve Smith: An Oriole and a Raven searching for redemption

Posted on 26 April 2014 by johngallo

One man wants to forget his past; the other is motivated by it.

One man is sorry for the mistake he made; the other is adamant he did nothing wrong to be sent packing.

One makes a living hitting home runs; the other earns his paycheck scoring touchdowns.

One was a strike away from winning a World Series in 2011; the other was denied a championship on a field goal with four seconds left in Super Bowl XXXVIII.

Nelson Cruz, the Orioles’ designated hitter and outfielder, and Steve Smith, who Ravens fans want to be the second coming of receiver Anquan Boldin, hope their futures in Baltimore are as bright as their pasts. Cruz made the All-Star Game twice as a Texas Ranger, while Smith was named All-Pro twice as a Carolina Panther.

Two players, two sports, two careers that took unlikely turns, yet both are connected by a single word in Baltimore: redemption.

Turbulent, yet successful pasts

Nelson Cruz is off to a strong start in Baltimore, as he led the Orioles in homers (6), runs batted-in (23), runs scored (16) and on-base percentage (.391) through 22 games. (Courtesy of Wikipedia)

Cruz’s time in Texas was over following the 2013 season, when he turned down the Rangers’ one-year, $14.1 million qualifying offer after serving a 50-game suspension last season for violating Major League Baseball’s drug policy in connection with the sport’s investigation of the Biogenesis of America, an anti-aging clinic in Florida.

Smith’s 13-season run in Carolina was marred by punching two teammates – receiver Anthony Bright during a film room meeting in 2002 and defensive back Ken Lucas at a training camp practice in 2008 – and highlighted by leading the squad to the franchise’s lone Super Bowl appearance in 2004. It ended in March when the Panthers felt he was no longer worth a $7 million hit to their salary cap.

Cruz, 33, is from Monte Cristi, a poor city in the baseball-rich Dominican Republic, where he worked in his uncle’s shop as a mechanic from age 10 to 16. He played professionally for three seasons in the Dominican Republic after signing as an undrafted free agent by the Mets in 1998. In 2000, he arrived in the U.S. after being traded to Oakland – not bad for a teenager who grew up idolizing Michael Jordan before falling in love with baseball.

Smith, 34, is from inner-city Los Angeles, where he never took the SAT while becoming an all-California Interscholastic Federation receiver at University High School. He took the bus to his $5.75 an hour job running the cash register and sweeping floors at Taco Bell, where worked from his junior in high school until he left nearby Santa Monica College. That’s where he and teammate and future All-Pro receiver Chad Johnson had college recruiters flocking to the junior college. Smith earned a scholarship to the University of Utah, where he dominated the Mountain West conference en route to being drafted in the third round (74th overall) by the Panthers in 2001.

Both have traversed the country en route to Baltimore, which represents where they hope to find redemption, yet could be the last place they ever play.

Think about it: What team will sign Cruz if he flops as an Oriole after putting up amazing numbers that could have been the result of using performance-enhancing drugs? What team will sign Smith if he can no longer get open as he did so effortlessly when he was among the NFL’s best receivers as a Panther?

Cruz’s road to Baltimore included stops in Oakland, Milwaukee and Texas, where he highlighted his eight years in as a Ranger by belting six homers and driving in 13 runs en route to being named the most valuable player of American League Championship Series in 2011. His six homers and 13 RBIs are major league records for a championship series. The Rangers lost the World Series to St. Louis in seven games, after being a strike away from a title-clinching win in Game 6.

“Whatever happened in the past, I look to move forward and have a great year with the Baltimore Orioles,” Cruz said at his press conference, where he was joined by eight Oriole teammates after signing a one-year, $8 million deal with February.

Smith had just one stop as a professional, Carolina, where all he did was set more than 30 career, single-season and single-game team records on offense and special teams, including becoming the franchise’s career leader in total touchdowns (75), receiving touchdowns (67), receptions (836) and receiving yards (12,197).

“Steve Smith has been one of the NFL’s finest receivers for over a decade and has been the face of the franchise for a large part of the team’s history,” Carolina General Manager Dave Gettleman told the team’s website after waiving Smith. “This was not an easy decision. As a team, we made a step forward last year; however, we are also a team in transition, which is a part of the NFL.”

Steve Smith is adjusting to life as a Raven by attending voluntary workouts, where he’s jelling with teammates, learning the playbook and developing a hatred for Baltimore’s biggest rival. (Courtesy of Baltimore Ravens)

When he was released, the five-time Pro Bowler vowed he’d make the Panthers pay, claiming they’ll be “blood and guts everywhere” when he plays them. The teams meet in Week 4 on Sept. 28 at M&T Bank Stadium.

“When you look at the Ravens, they’ve had an amount of great success with integrating older players and younger players and fusing them together and understanding the right combination,” Smith told the Ravens’ website after signing a three-year deal worth a reported $11.5 million. “That part is very intriguing to me and also brings a challenge that I’m up for….They are getting an old guy in age, but a young guy’s spirit and work ethic.”

What’s next?

Where would the Orioles be right now without Cruz? Maybe not 11-11 and in second place in the American League East following a loss to the Royals on April 25. Cruz leads the team in homers (6), runs batted-in (23), runs scored (16) and on-base percentage (.391). His .588 slugging percentage is tied with Steve Clevenger, who has played in seven games compared to Cruz’s 21.

“Nelson is a great hitter,” catcher Matt Wieters told reporters after Cruz blasted two homers during a 10-8 win over Toronto on April 23. “I always had trouble calling pitches against him so I’m glad he’s on our team. He’s a huge addition to the middle of our lineup.”

“We all know what he’s capable of,” Manager Buck Showalter said of Cruz after the game.

Meantime, Smith is adjusting to life as a Raven by attending voluntary workouts, where he’s jelling with teammates, learning the playbook and developing a hatred for Baltimore’s biggest rival.

“My dislike 4 @steelers will grow everyday I’m in the #caste,” Smith tweeted.

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Britton continues coming up huge for Orioles bullpen

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Britton continues coming up huge for Orioles bullpen

Posted on 16 April 2014 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — Miguel Gonzalez earned the win and Tommy Hunter secured his fourth save, but it was Zach Britton who deserved a gold star for his work in the Orioles’ 3-0 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays on Wednesday.

The left-handed pitcher moved his streak of scoreless innings to 11 1/3 to begin the season after blanking the Rays over three frames to bridge the gap from Gonzalez’s five-inning start to Hunter in the ninth inning as Baltimore swept an abbreviated two-game set in unseasonably cold conditions on Wednesday afternoon. Britton wasn’t perfect in his longest appearance of the season, but his strikeout of Wil Myers on a low-and-away sinking fastball in the seventh not only thwarted a bases-loaded scoring chance but provided the latest example of just how dependable the 26-year-old has been.

Entering spring training without any minor-league options remaining and coming off two straight disappointing seasons in which he battled a tender shoulder and inconsistency, Britton has embraced his middle-relief role while being one of the Orioles’ most valuable players thus far. He’s allowed just four hits and has struck out seven while walking four in his 11 1/3 innings this season.

“The first weapon is that he can get left- and right-handed hitters out,” manager Buck Showalter said. “That’s huge for a relief pitcher. He’s in a good place right now. You can see it presentation-wise as much as physically. We had other people who could pitch, but the situation puts you in a nice little rocking chair sometimes when you have a left-handed pitcher who can defend himself against right-handers. And that comes from his starting background and also comes from a pretty good sinker.”

Britton’s effectiveness with a sinker consistently in the low to mid-90s has led some to question whether the southpaw is worthy of another chance in the starting rotation. Showalter was comfortable in allowing Britton to throw 42 pitches since he hadn’t pitched since a 30-pitch outing on Saturday, but this development was particularly interesting given that the Orioles used only two relievers on Monday, were rained out Tuesday, and will enjoy another off-day Thursday before beginning a four-game set against the Boston Red Sox over the weekend.

Beyond right-hander Evan Meek, who pitched 1 2/3 innings Monday and was dealing with flu-like symptoms over the last two days, the rest of the bullpen was fresh even though Showalter alluded to other relievers potentially feeling the effects of the bug that’s been going through the Baltimore clubhouse over the last week.

Of course, Showalter isn’t going to broadcast any potential desire to stretch out Britton to the point that he would once again become a starting option and the latest turn through the rotation — sans Ubaldo Jimenez — provided improved results, but there’s no harm in having a relief option that can bring both length and results in close games like Britton has done. It’s the same way the Orioles used Arthur Rhodes — another former left-handed starting prospect — with great results in their 1996 and 1997 playoff seasons.

Before arguing that Britton should move into the rotation, it’s important to acknowledge that what he’s done while facing hitters one time through the order is a different story from being entrusted to retire batters three or four different times as a starter. Assuming success in relief translates into being an effective starting pitcher is often fool’s gold, and Britton has found a niche working out of the bullpen.

The temptation is certainly there to envision him as a starter again, even if the memory of his 4.95 earned run average, 1.725 WHIP (walks plus hits per inning pitched), and meager 4.1 strikeouts per nine innings pitched in eight appearances (seven of them starts) last season make it unsettling to try to mess with something that isn’t broken. But Britton hasn’t looked this good since his rookie season in 2011 when he was 5-2 with a 2.35 ERA in his first 10 starts and appeared on his way to becoming a mainstay in the Baltimore rotation.

No changes in the starting rotation are imminent — nor should be at this early stage of the season — but Britton has provided Showalter with a major bullet out of the bullpen who could become an intriguing alternative if the likes of Gonzalez, Wei-Yin Chen, or Bud Norris slip in the coming weeks. The return of Troy Patton from suspension in the near future will also add another left-handed arm to the bullpen.

Regardless of what happens, the Orioles are pleased to simply see Britton back on track.

“He’s throwing the ball with a lot of confidence,” Hunter said. “He’s got a game plan, and he’s sticking to it. Him and [catcher Matt Wieters] are on a good page right now. I’ll pat him on the butt and hope he keeps it up.”

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Tuesday night’s Orioles-Rays game postponed due to rain

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Tuesday night’s Orioles-Rays game postponed due to rain

Posted on 15 April 2014 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — Dealing with significant rain and falling temperatures throughout the day, the second game of a three-game set between the Orioles and Tampa Bay Rays was postponed on Tuesday night.

No makeup date was immediately announced by the Orioles, but fans were encouraged to keep tickets and parking passes until more information was made available at a later time. Prior to the postponement, manager Buck Showalter suggested in his pre-game press conference that the possibility existed of playing a straight doubleheader on Wednesday, but the decision was made not to play a twin bill.

The Orioles and Rays will meet for a 12:35 p.m. game on Wednesday to conclude their series. Tuesday’s scheduled starter, Miguel Gonzalez, will start on Wednesday while Chris Tillman will be pushed back to Friday when the Orioles begin a four-game set in Boston. Gonzalez will be opposed by Tampa Bay right-hander Jake Odorizzi.

The club also announced that the commemorative Jackie Robinson No. 42 jerseys players were scheduled to wear during Tuesday’s game would be used on a later date.

Jones, Meek sent home with illness

Before Tuesday’s game was postponed, the Orioles were preparing to play the Rays without the services of center fielder Adam Jones, who was sent home earlier in the day with an illness.

A nasty bug has made its way through the Baltimore clubhouse and has stricken others such as pitcher Brian Matusz and hitting coach Jim Presley. Relief pitcher Evan Meek was also sent home on Tuesday even though he wasn’t available to pitch anyway after he threw 1 2/3 innings in Monday night’s win.

The Rays had also changed their starting pitcher Tuesday afternoon as reliever Brandon Gomes would have filled in for Odorizzi, who was also dealing with an illness.

Machado update

Third baseman Manny Machado sprinted three times from 90 feet and three times from 180 feet and also took five at-bats in a simulated game played at the Orioles’ spring training complex in Sarasota on Tuesday.

According to Showalter, the 21-year-old was scheduled to run the bases on Wednesday in what represents the last major test before he prepares to start a minor league rehab assignment.

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Machado approaching final hurdles before rehab assignment

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Machado approaching final hurdles before rehab assignment

Posted on 14 April 2014 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — Manager Buck Showalter has a date in mind for when we might see third baseman Manny Machado back in the Orioles lineup but isn’t ready to share it just yet.

The 21-year-old took another significant step toward his return on Monday as he began sprinting, running at full speed six times from 90 feet at the club’s spring training facility in Sarasota. Machado also had four at-bats in a simulated game in addition to the sprinting.

Machado will sprint from 180 feet Tuesday before attempting to clear the last major hurdle of running the bases this week.

Should the All-Star third baseman respond favorably to that task, he is expected to play in at least two or three extended spring training before beginning a rehab assignment that can last up to 20 days for a position player on the major league disabled list. Such a schedule would make a return to the Orioles possible by late April or — more realistically — early May even though Showalter hinted that Machado may not need the full 20 days of minor-league games to get ready after taking part in baseball-related activity to varying degrees since late January.

“Manny’s feeling good. Hopefully, he’ll feel as well tomorrow as he did today,” said Showalter, who exchanged text messages with Machado and spoke with minor league medical coordinator Dave Walker on Monday. “He’s been down this road enough that he knows. He wants to get it right the first time. He’s got a lot of good people around him who won’t let him get ahead of himself. The things they’re putting him through, it’s going to be pretty obvious if he can do them, he’s ready to go.”

The Orioles have used the combination of Ryan Flaherty and rookie Jonathan Schoop at third base in Machado’s absence this season. All three errors committed by Baltimore have come at third base where Schoop committed two miscues in Friday’s 2-0 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays.

While the organization continues to be conservative with Machado, Monday’s developments certainly presented some light at the end of the tunnel that’s remained somewhat ambiguous since the infielder complained of soreness from scar tissue that forced him to stop running in mid-March. Of course, the Orioles will at least hold their breath as Machado tries to cut around the bases this week, which is what he struggled with during spring training.

“As Dave said today, ‘He’s got a good face going right now,’” Showalter said. “We all know what he’s talking about.”

In other injury-related news from Sarasota, pitching prospect Dylan Bundy threw 35 pitches from the mound and mixed in some changeups to go with his fastball for the first time on Monday. Bundy is expected to begin throwing curveballs later this week.

Outfielder Nolan Reimold continues to receive treatment on his surgically-repaired neck but is still not taking part in any baseball-related activity after being moved to the 60-day disabled list earlier this month.

Here are Monday’s lineups:

TAMPA BAY
2B Ben Zobrist
CF Desmond Jennings
DH Logan Forsythe
3B Evan Longoria
RF Wil Myers
1B James Loney
LF Brandon Guyer
SS Yunel Escobar
C Ryan Hanigan

SP Chris Archer (1-0, 1.38 ERA)

BALTIMORE
RF Nick Markakis
DH Nelson Cruz
1B Chris Davis
CF Adam Jones
C Matt Wieters
LF David Lough
SS J.J. Hardy
2B Steve Lombardozzi
3B Ryan Flaherty

SP Wei-Yin Chen (1-1, 6.75 ERA)

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Orioles still waiting for early return on $50 million investment

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Orioles still waiting for early return on $50 million investment

Posted on 13 April 2014 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — Even after investing a franchise-record amount of money for a free-agent starting pitcher, the Orioles knew they weren’t getting a sure-fire ace when they signed right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez to a four-year, $50 million contract in February.

His career has been consistently inconsistent, looking every bit the part of an ace at times and appearing more like a fringe fifth starter in other stretches of his major league career.

But the Orioles need much better than what they’ve gotten through three starts as Jimenez surrendered five earned runs and 10 hits in 5 1/3 innings in Sunday’s 11-3 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays at Camden Yards. He gave up two more home runs and saw his record fall to 0-3 to accompany a 7.31 earned run average and 2.06 WHIP (walks plus hits per inning pitched).

Whether giving up homers (four in 16 innings) or walks (10) in his first three outings — all against American League East opponents — the root of Jimenez’s struggles are simple to identify but more complicated to fix with unorthodox mechanics that require plenty of maintenance over the course of a six-month season.

“His command,” manager Buck Showalter said. “If you look at his history, he gets better as the year goes on. He’s actually pitched competitively for us. He’s real close to keeping us there.”

The Baltimore skipper was being generous in referencing Sunday’s deficit only being 3-1 entering the top of the sixth inning, but Jimenez started the game with a career 5.10 ERA in April, easily his worst month throughout his eight-year career. Last season, it was even worse as Jimenez posted a 7.13 ERA over his first five starts before rebounding to post a 3.30 ERA and help Cleveland qualify for the postseason.

But history doesn’t make Jimenez — or the Orioles — feel any better as he tries to make a strong impression to justify the long-term investment paid to him. Of course, three starts — good or bad — will not determine whether executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette made a wise addition this winter, but the Orioles added Jimenez with thoughts of the high ceiling he possesses when he’s right on the mound.

So far, he hasn’t been able to climb out of the basement as he gave up a Eutaw Street homer to Colby Rasmus in the first inning and a home run to Brett Lawrie with one out in the sixth before being lifted a batter later. Jimenez only gave up 16 home runs all last season and is a quarter of the way to that mark before Easter Sunday.

“Tough one, really bad one,” Jimenez said. “I couldn’t be there for the team once again. I’m missing right down the middle of the plate. I’ve been making too many mistakes right down the middle.”

It’s too soon to panic as Jimenez’s track record suggests he’ll be much better than what he’s shown, but the Orioles are counting on him to be a top-half-of-the-rotation starter to go along with Chris Tillman. Improved starting pitching is a must for Baltimore to get back to the playoffs for the second time in three years.

In fairness, Jimenez is just one of several problems to plague the Orioles in their 5-7 start as an underperforming offense was limited to just five runs over the weekend and the defense has been shaky with Gold Glove winners Manny Machado and J.J. Hardy missing time. The Orioles have no choice but to be patient with their free-agent prize, hoping the good Jimenez will surface sooner rather than later and provide the quality pitching he’s capable of for significant stretches.

It hasn’t been there in the first half of April, but Showalter expressed confidence after Sunday’s outing that Jimenez is “better than that.”

“He’s got the right mentality. He’s been through tough times before, but he wants it to end now,” Showalter said. “I guarantee you. I understand what the numbers say, but you guys have seen it. It’s very close to there being some quality outings, but at this level and against this competition, close sometimes gets you in trouble.”

And close isn’t good enough in the AL East.

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Hardy receives cortisone injection, undergoes MRI on back

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Hardy receives cortisone injection, undergoes MRI on back

Posted on 11 April 2014 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — Shortstop J.J. Hardy was not in the lineup as the Orioles began a three-game set with the Toronto Blue Jays on Friday, but measures taken on Thursday appear to have the infielder ready to return over the weekend.

Missing six of the last seven games with lower back spasms, Hardy underwent magnetic resonance imaging and received a cortisone injection for his back and was instructed to rest after previously planning to work out at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on the off-day. The 31-year-old returned to the ballpark Friday to take infield and batting practice and expects to be back in the lineup on Saturday, a sentiment shared by manager Buck Showalter.

“I’ve made a bunch of big strides the last couple days,” Hardy said. “I came in today early and took some groundballs and took some swings. It all felt good. I’ll go through a normal day of practice and anticipate being in there tomorrow.”

Showalter added that Hardy was “more available” to come off the bench in the series opener than he was in the final game of the Yankees series. Ryan Flaherty has been filling in at shortstop with rookie Jonathan Schoop handling third base and Steve Lombardozzi playing second.

Hardy said his history of back issues earlier in his career has caused him and the training staff to take a cautious approach in not wanting to come back too soon and risk the back spasms being a recurring issue throughout the season.

“If I don’t play today, that will be six games and I can still play 156,” Hardy said. “That is kind of my goal. Trying to rush it and miss another six games because I tried to come back too early is definitely something I don’t want to do.”

In four games this season, the two-time Gold Glove Award winner is 5-for-15.

Outfielder David Lough was once again out of the lineup on Friday, but he is available off the bench, according to Showalter. He underwent concussion tests in Baltimore on Wednesday before returning to New York for the series finale and being used as a defensive replacement.

It remains uncertain what exactly is causing Lough’s symptoms at different points since mid-March, but Showalter said the organization is confident it is not because of a concussion.

Third baseman Manny Machado is scheduled to have two at-bats in a simulated game in Sarasota on Saturday, an encouraging step in his recovery from offseason knee surgery.

The 21-year-old will not run the bases but will face veteran left-hander Johan Santana at the Ed Smith Stadium complex. Machado has yet to begin sprinting, but his participation in a sim game can’t be viewed as anything but good news.

Machado will be eligible to go on a minor league rehab assignment lasting up to 20 games once he is fully cleared to play, but it remains uncertain when that will happen.

Right-handed pitching prospect Dylan Bundy threw 35 fastballs off a regular mound in Sarasota on Friday as he continues his rehabilitation from Tommy John surgery last year.

Ravens cornerback Lardarius Webb was scheduled to throw out the first pitch for Friday night’s game.

Here are Friday night’s lineups:

TORONTO
LF Melky Cabrera
2B Maicer Izturis
RF Jose Bautista
DH Edwin Encarnacion
1B Adam Lind
C Dioner Navarro
CF Colby Rasmus
3B Brett Lawrie
SS Ryan Goins

SP Dustin McGowan (0-1, 13.50 ERA)

BALTIMORE
RF Nick Markakis
DH Delmon Young
1B Chris Davis
CF Adam Jones
C Matt Wieters
LF Nelson Cruz
2B Steve Lombardozzi
SS Ryan Flaherty
3B Jonathan Schoop

SP Chris Tillman (1-0, 1.35 ERA)

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