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Morning Reaction Orioles 10-Game Scorecard (Games 31-40)

Posted on 22 May 2012 by Luke Jones

During the 2012 season, Drew Forrester and Luke Jones of The Morning Reaction will provide the “10-Game Scorecard” for the Orioles, rating the club in 10-game increments in a number of categories and looking ahead to how Baltimore will fare over the next 10 games on the schedule.

To hear the full explanation from Monday morning, click HERE.

1. Should the Orioles have been better or worse than their 7-3 mark?
Drew: Worse
Luke: Worse

2. Most Valuable Player/Least Valuable Player
Drew: MVP – Adam Jones; LVP – Chris Davis
Luke: MVP – Wei-Yin Chen; LVP – Chris Davis

3. Biggest surprise
Drew: The emergence of Xavier Avery
Luke: Plate discipline of Xavier Avery

4. Best thing about the 10-game stretch
Drew: The Orioles keep fighting despite injuries and adversity
Luke: The club continuing to play well away from Camden Yards

5. Ten games from now…
Drew: Tampa Bay will be in first place.
Luke: People will be feeling better about the development of Brian Matusz.

6. Record in the next 10 games (**1-2 already, two with Boston, three with Kansas City, two at Toronto)
Drew: 5-5
Luke: 6-4

7. Stock rising/falling over the next 10 games
Drew: Rising – Matt Wieters; Falling – Darren O’Day
Luke: Rising – Brian Matusz; Falling – Xavier Avery

8. Grading Buck Showalter in games 31-40
Drew: B
Luke: A-

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Could Roberts’ return be unlikeliest chapter of surprising season for Orioles?

Posted on 22 May 2012 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — The view from the dugout wasn’t pretty on Monday as the Orioles squandered an early lead before falling 8-6 to the Boston Red Sox, but Brian Roberts is watching the action with a different perspective these days.

Having not played in a game in over a year, the second baseman admittedly wondered if he’d ever take his spot on the diamond at Camden Yards again while simply struggling with his overall quality of life at different points over the last 20 months. However, after a healthy spring of fielding ground balls, taking swings in the cage, and turning the double play in an empty stadium hours before games, Roberts can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel.

While manager Buck Showalter and Roberts won’t disclose the specific timeline, the pair admitted there is a date in mind for the 34-year-old to go on a much-anticipated minor league rehab assignment — perhaps as early as the next week or so. After so many setbacks and disappointments over a long road to recovery, you can forgive the involved parties for not wanting to jinx the possibility.

“For a long time, I wasn’t sure where the finish line was and I certainly didn’t see it,” Roberts said before the start of the Boston series. “When you do get a glimpse of that, it’s nice and you do get a breath of fresh air and some added momentum. There were a lot of times in the last year that I had no idea if I’d ever play baseball again. So, in some ways, it’d be a huge achievement or triumph just to get back out on that field.”

Of course, embarking on a rehab assignment isn’t exactly taking the field against the Red Sox or the Yankees at Camden Yards, but Roberts has done everything he possibly can and cleared all hurdles spelled out by the doctors to this point. The medical team has prepared Roberts for the possibility of some growing pains as he re-acclimates himself to playing in a live-game environment with a quicker pace and the background noise of people in the stands.

But when you remember Roberts was advised not to attend January’s Fan Fest event due to the effect the ambiance of a big crowd might have had on his recovery efforts, simply hearing the Orioles and Roberts talk in terms of when — not if — he will play again is a colossal step forward.

Admittedly, the veteran second baseman won’t really know how close he is to being ready to return to the Orioles until he faces real pitchers and takes his spot at second base for one of the organization’s minor league affiliates.

“Mike Bordick doesn’t have the stuff that Strasburg had [Sunday],” Roberts quipped. “I don’t know. I don’t think I’ll know until I get out there. I’ve taken probably thousands of swings off coaches without a huge environment around. I have been in the environment, I haven’t played in the environment and had the adrenaline rush and all those things I will have to get used to again. My doctor said I will probably go through the ups and downs that first week or two of getting back into it.”

While the possibility of Roberts’ return remains a hypothetical until proven otherwise, Showalter admits to daydreaming more and more about the former All-Star second baseman returning to the lineup. What kind of workload he can handle remains to be seen, but the Baltimore skipper made it clear he won’t view the longest-tenured Oriole as a part-time project after dismissing the notion that Roberts might only be a role player at this point in his career.

Showalter has too much appreciation for all the trials the 12-year veteran has faced over the last year to sell him short on a potential return.

“I think Brian is looking at it as a lot more than just getting here,” Showalter said. “Brian wants to get here and bring what Brian can bring, and we all know what that capability is. I think he knows what it takes to perform at this level. He’s not going to put himself in a position to come back unless he knows he can bring that.”

If — and it’s still a major if at this point — Roberts proves capable of making his return to the big leagues after a successful rehab assignment, the Orioles will be faced with the interesting dilemma of how to work him back into the lineup. In Roberts’ absence, current second baseman Robert Andino has done an admirable job, playing solid defense and providing more offense than expected at the bottom of the order.

The effort hasn’t been overlooked by Roberts, who praised Andino’s play when asked whether he felt he would have to compete to win back his starting job.

“Robert has a done a phenomenal job,” Roberts said. “It’s been fun to watch him play, and I’ve been excited to see him. Our team would be not where we are right now if he hadn’t played the way he has.”

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Britton continues moving closer to Orioles return

Posted on 21 May 2012 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — The first-place Orioles welcomed the red-hot Boston Red Sox to town to begin a three-game set on Monday, but all pre-game discussion centered around two players yet to step foot on the field in 2012.

Second baseman Brian Roberts appears closer than ever to making his long-awaited return to the field and may start a minor league rehabilitation assignment within the next week or two. Roberts and manager Buck Showalter have a date in mind to begin the assignment, but the organization is keeping it close to the vest in case of any unforeseen setbacks.

In an extensive interview with the gathered media in the clubhouse on Monday afternoon (you can hear his comments HERE), Roberts said it was unlikely he would report to Sarasota but would instead begin playing in minor league games — Double-A Bowie and Single-A Frederick would be the logical destinations based on their schedule of home games — when deemed ready by his doctors.

I’ll have much more on Roberts later at WNST.net, but it’s apparent the Orioles are talking in terms of when — not if — the veteran second baseman returns.

“Hopefully, that’s something that’s imminent,” said Showalter about a rehab assignment. “We’ve got a plan in place, and 99 percent of it is based on what Brian and his doctors are talking about. We’re at the point where there’s a potential date involved.”

Left-handed pitcher Zach Britton is moving closer to a return after pitching in an extended spring training game in Sarasota on Monday. He threw 69 pitches over five innings and will have another workday on Wednesday. If all goes to plan, Britton could report to an affiliate to officially begin his minor league rehab assignment on Saturday.

Britton hasn’t suffered any setbacks since being placed on the 15-day disabled list late in spring training, and it appears the 24-year-old could find his way back to Baltimore by mid-June, which would create the interesting question of who he might replace in the rotation. Given the pitching woes of the last decade, that would be a welcome problem to have.

The news wasn’t as positive on relief pitcher Matt Lindstrom (finger) as he will not be ready to come off the disabled list on Saturday. He will likely go on a brief rehab assignment, and Showalter said it will likely be another two weeks or so until he’s ready to return to the 25-man roster.

Third baseman Mark Reynolds (strained oblique) is also close to going on a minor league rehab assignment. Meanwhile, veteran infielder Miguel Tejada reported to Triple-A Norfolk over the weekend and was scheduled to bat cleanup and play third base for the Tides on Monday.

Here are Monday night’s lineups…

Boston
SS Mike Aviles
2B Dustin Pedroia
DH David Ortiz
1B Adrian Gonzalez
3B Will Middlebrooks
C Jarrod Saltalamacchia
LF Daniel Nava
CF Marlon Byrd
RF Che-Hsuan Lin

SP Clay Buchholz (4-2, 7.77 ERA)

Baltimore
LF Xavier Avery
SS J.J. Hardy
RF Nick Markakis
CF Adam Jones
C Matt Wieters
1B Chris Davis
3B Wilson Betemit
DH Nick Johnson
2B Robert Andino

SP Tommy Hunter (2-2, 4.78 ERA)

Visit the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault to hear from Buck Showalter, Brian Roberts, and Jim Johnson here and follow WNST on Twitter for live updates and analysis from Camden Yards throughout the evening.

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Matusz, Moore do battle Saturday night at Camden Yards

Posted on 12 May 2012 by WNST Staff

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After being on wrong end of history, Orioles must now fight their own

Posted on 09 May 2012 by Luke Jones

History was made at Camden Yards on Tuesday night, but the story for the Orioles wasn’t Josh Hamilton becoming the 16th player in major league history to hit four home runs in a single game.

Entering Monday with the best earned run average in the American League and coming off a nine-game stretch in which they allowed a total of 23 runs against Oakland, New York, and Boston, the Orioles have surrendered 24 runs over the last two nights against the powerful Texas Rangers to knock them down a couple pegs in an otherwise impressive start to the 2012 season.

Like Brian Matusz on Monday, Jake Arrieta had no answers for the Texas lineup as an Orioles starter turned in a poor outing for the third straight game while a patchwork bullpen that included three call-ups over the last two days hasn’t been any better.

Needless to say, manager Buck Showalter wasn’t in the mood to discuss the heroics of Hamilton, whose 18 total bases on Tuesday set an American League record and were one shy of former Dodger Shawn Green’s major-league record 19 set on May 23, 2002.

“We didn’t score many runs, either,” Showalter said. “I think you’ve got to tip your hat to their pitching staff, too. We’ve obviously given up a lot of runs in a couple nights to make it tough. Obviously, Hamilton had a big night.”

The offense, which seemed to have come alive in the last five games of the last road trip, has suddenly gone silent over the last two nights against Texas starters Matt Harrison and Neftali Feliz, scoring just six runs in two games.

The Orioles have lost consecutive games for the first time since April 20 and 21 in Anaheim, but one of the most impressive aspects of their 19-11 start has been their ability to dust themselves off after the handful of losses suffered over the first five weeks of the season. Even so, you have to wonder how two lopsided losses to the Rangers — who look like the class of the American League early on — will impact the club’s psyche following a successful 5-1 road trip against the Yankees and the Red Sox.

After winning a remarkable 17-inning marathon in Boston on Sunday, the Orioles have appeared to lack energy over the last two nights, though it’s easy to say that when facing a team many regard as the best in baseball. In addition to the physical demands of the aforementioned game against the Red Sox, you wonder if the inexperienced Orioles suffered a mental hangover in coming home after such a successful road trip against their two biggest tormentors of the last 14 years.

One of the biggest signs of a winning team is its ability to rebound quickly from tough losses and prevent negative spurts from transforming into extended losing streaks. Realistically speaking, two straight losses are nothing at all over which to be concerned, but mainstays of the roster over the last few years have a laundry list of lengthy swoons they’ll need to keep from their minds while trying to regroup for the final two games of the series against the Rangers.

As uplifting as their 19-11 start has been, dropping 10 of their next 11 would all but erase the positive vibes circulating through the Baltimore clubhouse. They can try to fight it all they want, but losing still flows through the veins of many key players and can’t be eliminated completely in a 30-game period. Unlike winning clubs of recent seasons, the Orioles don’t have positive experiences of rebounding from adversity from which to draw, forcing you to take pregnant pause at the first sign of trouble.

They simply aren’t familiar with how winning teams handle a bump or two in the road.

Despite being outscored 24-6 over the last two nights, the Orioles will have the opportunity to put that behind them immediately on Wednesday and Thursday as they try to snap a seven-game losing streak to the two-time American League champions that dates back to last season.

Unlike any other sport, baseball gives you the opportunity to erase the pain immediately.

But it’s also unforgiving in how consecutive losses can quickly turn into a nightmarish stretch of time if you’re not careful.

The Orioles know that all too well in recent years and will try to get back on track with their pitching, the phase of the game that’s carried them to their best start since 2005.

It needs to regroup in a hurry.

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Orioles add bullpen help against powerful Rangers

Posted on 07 May 2012 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — A day after one of the wildest games in franchise history, the Orioles were forced to make difficult changes to their roster to add a couple bullpen arms to the mix with the powerful Texas Rangers coming to Baltimore for a four-game series.

Limited to just 4 1/3 innings in his shortest outing of the year on Sunday, starter Tommy Hunter was optioned to Triple-A Norfolk along with backup catcher Ronny Paulino to clear room for relievers Jason Berken and Stu Pomeranz. Manager Buck Showalter made it clear the moves were byproducts of the 17-inning series finale in Boston, but he also acknowledged some of the physical challenges that have hindered Hunter in recent weeks.

“Understand that Tommy had a slight oblique, which he’s 100 percent back from,” Showalter said. “He had the flu that everybody had. He had an ingrown toenail. So, he went about two weeks without being able to do some of his strength stuff.”

In six starts, Hunter is 2-1 with a 5.00 earned run average and has allowed 1.42 hits and walks per inning pitched. The 25-year-old right-hander has pitched up in the strike zone far too much, resulting in allowing a club-worst nine home runs in 36 innings.

With the Orioles needing bullpen help and Hunter having an option, he became an unfortunate casualty and creates the question of who will make Friday’s start against the Tampa Bay Rays. Barring a need to replace an injured player, Hunter must remain with the Tides for a minimum of 10 days. Showalter said Berken could be a candidate to make the start, but that will depend on how much the Orioles may need to use him over the next couple nights.

Showalter doesn’t anticipate a long stay in the minors for the club’s No. 2 starter entering the season, but he made no promises when breaking the news to Hunter.

“I look to see Tommy really getting back on track down there with one or two starts,” Showalter said. “We’ll see where it takes us.”

It appeared to be a foregone conclusion that third catcher Luis Exposito would be optioned back to Norfolk with the Orioles calling up at least one reliever, but Paulino received the surprising demotion instead. Showalter cited Paulino’s abbreviated spring training — due to work via issues — and his preference to get more time for Paulino behind the plate, which makes you infer the Orioles manager may not be enamored with Paulino’s defensive work.

“He’s done some good things for us,” Showalter said about Paulino. “We just want to let him catch every day down there and get back to where he’s comfortable. Build up some of his leg strength and get some consistent at-bats.”

As for Monday night, Showalter would not tip his hand as to who else would be available in addition to Berken and Pomeranz, but you can only imagine the list to be a short one. He essentially ruled out any pitchers who appeared in all three games of the Boston series — Matt Lindstrom and Troy Patton fall into that category — but it’s hard to imagine him wanting to go to Kevin Gregg or Jim Johnson.

Each threw two innings on Sunday, but neither is accustomed to going more than one inning under typical circumstances. With Gregg’s sporadic workload over the last month and Johnson’s recent bout with food poisoning zapping his strength, the Orioles would be wise avoiding those two if possible.

Considering the Orioles called up two relievers and made two unexpected demotions in the process tells all you need to know about the desperate state of the bullpen.

More than anything, Showalter is praying for a lengthy outing by left-hander Brian Matusz as the Orioles welcome the Rangers to town in a four-day meeting between two of the best teams — record-wise — in the American League. After recording his first win of the season in his last start in New York, Matusz will be expected to give the Orioles innings in the series opener — even if the results aren’t the prettiest.

Here are tonight’s lineups…

Texas
2B Ian Kinsler
SS Elvis Andrus
LF Josh Hamilton
DH Adrian Beltre
1B Michael Young
RF Nelson Cruz
C Mike Napoli
3B Brandon Snyder
CF Craig Gentry

SP Matt Harrison (3-2, 5.40 ERA)

Baltimore
2B Robert Andino
SS J.J. Hardy
RF Nick Markakis
CF Adam Jones
DH Matt Wieters
3B Mark Reynolds
LF Wilson Betemit
1B Chris Davis
C Luis Exposito

SP Brian Matusz (1-3, 4.67 ERA)

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Morning Reaction Orioles 10-Game Scorecard (Games 11-20)

Posted on 30 April 2012 by Luke Jones

During the 2012 season, Drew Forrester and Luke Jones of The Morning Reaction will provide the “10-Game Scorecard” for the Orioles, rating the club in 10-game increments in a number of categories and looking ahead to how Baltimore will fare over the next 10 games on the schedule.

(Editor’s note: This scorecard reflects games 11 through 20, not accounting for the final two games of the Oakland series over the weekend.)

To hear the full explanation of the “10-Game Scorecard” during Monday’s show, listen HERE.

1. Should the Orioles have been better or worse than their 6-4 mark?
Drew: Worse
Luke: Better

2. Most Valuable Player/Least Valuable Player
Drew: MVP – Adam Jones; LVP – Mark Reynolds
Luke: MVP – Adam Jones; LVP – Kevin Gregg

3. Biggest surprise
Drew: Darren O’Day
Luke: Jason Hammel

4. Best thing about the 10-game stretch
Drew: Bullpen
Luke: Bullpen

5. Ten games from now…
Drew: Mark Reynolds will hit four home runs and strike out 12 times (over the next eight games).
Luke: J.J. Hardy will hit three home runs (over the next eight games).

6. Record in the next 10 games
(**already two wins over Oakland**, three at New York, three at Boston, two with Texas)
Drew: 6-4
Luke: 6-4

7. Stock rising/falling over the next 10 games
Drew: Rising – Mark Reynolds; Falling – Wei-Yin Chen
Luke: Rising – Brian Matusz; Falling – Jason Hammel

8. Grading Buck Showalter in games 11-20
Drew: A
Luke: A-

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Orioles closer Johnson remains hospitalized with bacterial issue

Posted on 25 April 2012 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — Though Pedro Strop passed his first test as the interim closer in a 2-1 victory over the Blue Jays on Tuesday night, the Orioles still anxiously await the return of Jim Johnson, who remains hospitalized with flu-like symptoms.

Doctors continue to run tests in trying to pinpoint the bacterial issue, so Johnson will be unavailable for the second straight night. Manager Buck Showalter revealed upwards of nine players are currently dealing with flu-related or upper respiratory issues stemming from a bug that swept through the Baltimore clubhouse in the latter portion of last week’s road trip.

Showalter has exchanged text messages with his closer but is more concerned with Johnson simply getting his body right before talking about when he will return to the mound.

“You’re talking about some things that you have to be careful with, but he’s in great hands — some of the best doctors in the world,” Showalter said. “At some point, he’ll rejoin us and then we’ll start talking about baseball.”

Nolan Reimold is out of the lineup for the fourth straight game but says his neck is improving after taking early batting practice on Wednesday afternoon. The left fielder is still experiencing stiffness in trying to move his head up and down, but his side-to-side movement has improved.

Second on the team with five home runs, Reimold is confident he will avoid the 15-day disabled list and return to the lineup sooner rather than later.

“I think we are being cautious,” Reimold said. “[The pain] was there when I played in Anaheim and then it just tightened up real bad after the game and the next morning. I think they want to make sure I’m right and can come back and remain back and not set myself back any further.”

Japanese pitcher Tsuyoshi Wada will receive a second opinion from Dr. Lewis Yocum regarding the ligament damage in his pitching elbow. Showalter confirmed the two options at this point of potentially resting and rehabbing the injury or undergoing a surgical procedure that would presumably end his season.

The Orioles manager had good news on left-handed pitcher Zach Britton, saying his rehab on the left shoulder is “right on schedule.” Britton is close to pitching bullpen sessions from the mound and has not experienced any setbacks since receiving platelet-rich plasma therapy in March.

Pitcher Jason Berken has been recalled from Triple-A Norfolk to take second baseman Robert Andino’s spot on the 25-man roster. As revealed on Tuesday, Andino has been placed on the paternity leave list to be with his wife as the couple gave birth to a daughter, Amarise Hazel, on Wednesday.

Andino joked with Showalter that the couple is now “three and out” after welcoming their third child and that he is planning to purchase a shotgun to keep the boys away since he now has a daughter. The second baseman also celebrated his 28th birthday on Wednesday.

Making three starts for the Tides, Berken would be on regular rest and is available to pitch multiple innings if needed over the next day or two before he presumably returns to Norfolk upon Andino’s return to the club.

“I’ll be in the pen,” said Berken, who credited a new commitment to his changeup in explaining his 0.60 earned run average in 15 innings at Norfolk. “I’m just here to pitch any time they need me, whether it’s one or five [innings].”

Catcher Taylor Teagarden remains in Sarasota and will receive a third epidural injection in his back. The organization hopes this will resolve the issue before needing to explore other treatment options.

Here are tonight’s lineups…

Toronto
SS Yunel Escobar
2B Kelly Johnson
RF Jose Bautista
1B Adam Lind
LF Eric Thames
3B Edwin Encarnacion
DH Brett Lawrie
CF Colby Rasmus
C J.P. Arencibia

SP Kyle Drabek (2-0, 2.00 ERA)

Baltimore
LF Endy Chavez
SS J.J. Hardy
RF Nick Markakis
CF Adam Jones
C Matt Wieters
1B Chris Davis
3B Wilson Betemit
DH Mark Reynolds
2B Ryan Flaherty

SP Jason Hammel (2-0, 2.37 ERA)

Follow WNST on Twitter for live updates and analysis throughout Wednesday’s game and visit the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault to hear more from Nolan Reimold, Jason Berken, and Buck Showalter here.

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Orioles banged up with Toronto in town

Posted on 24 April 2012 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — On the heels of an encouraging 6-4 road trip, manager Buck Showalter spent most of Tuesday’s pre-game press conference providing updates on a number of health concerns as the Orioles open a three-game series with the Toronto Blue Jays.

Left fielder Nolan Reimold is once again out as he continues to deal with neck spasms that forced him out of the final two games in Anaheim over the weekend. Manager Buck Showalter said the spasms affect the outfielder’s throwing more than his ability to swing the bat, leaving the door open for Reimold’s ability to pinch-hit with Toronto having three southpaws in the bullpen.

Showalter remains confident that Reimold will not need to go on the disabled list but admitted he hasn’t progressed as quickly as the club originally hoped. Endy Chavez will once again start in left and lead off for the Orioles in the first game of the series.

“Nolan is kind of day-to-day,” Showalter said. “He was in [Monday] for treatment. It’s getting a little better, little by little. The problem is playing has set him back. He’s OK for maybe half to three-fourths of the game and then as the game goes on, it gets worse. When you have that type of spasm, you also have a strain. We’re trying to resolve it completely so that the game doesn’t set him back to square one.”

Closer Jim Johnson is also doubtful to be available on Tuesday night after spending the night in the hospital with flu-like symptoms. Showalter said most of the club dealt with the virus in the final days of the 10-game road trip.

The Orioles will also be without starting second baseman Robert Andino following Tuesday’s game as he will fly to Miami to be with his wife for the birth of their third child on Wednesday. Andino will miss at least one game and possibly two before returning to the club later in the week.

With Andino going on the paternity leave list, the Orioles are allowed to add another player to the roster, which would likely be someone with the ability to play the outfield with Reimold’s short-term status up in the air. Matt Antonelli would be a possible candidate for the promotion from Triple-A Norfolk.

Japanese left-handed pitcher Tsuyoshi Wada underwent an MRA on his pitching elbow on Tuesday, but Showalter did not have the results from Dr. John Wilckens. The swelling in the arm has subsided, but the Orioles will wait to see if there is any structural damage after the pitcher’s rehabilitation program was shut down over the weekend.

Showalter didn’t offer anything new on Dontrelle Willis’ bizarre situation in which he left Triple-A Norfolk without permission, simply stating he expects the ordeal to be resolved and hopes Willis will ultimately remain with the organization.Willis has filed a grievance against the Orioles, claiming he received permission to leave from director of baseball administration Tripp Norton and that they are preventing him from signing with another organization.

One thing is clear: plenty of energy is being expended on a guy who’s won four games since the 2007 season.

Here are Tuesday night’s lineups:

Toronto
SS Yunel Escobar
2B Kelly Johnson
RF Jose Bautista
DH Edwin Encarnacion
1B Adam Lind
3B Brett Lawrie
CF Colby Rasmus
LF Marcus Thames
C Jeff Mathis

SP Henderson Alvarez (0-1, 4.66 ERA)

Baltimore
LF Endy Chavez
SS J.J. Hardy
RF Nick Markakis
CF Adam Jones
C Matt Wieters
1B Chris Davis
DH Wilson Betemit
3B Ryan Flaherty
2B Robert Andino

SP Tommy Hunter (1-1, 5.79 ERA)

Follow WNST on Twitter throughout the evening as I bring live updates from Oriole Park at Camden Yards and visit the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault to hear Buck Showalter’s pre-game press conference here.

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Live from Camden Yards: Orioles try to solve Sabathia in Yankees series finale

Posted on 11 April 2012 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — With the hopes of salvaging a win in a three-game set with the New York Yankees, the Orioles will have to accomplish something they’ve only done twice in CC Sabathia’s career.

And that’s hand a loss to the 290-pound southpaw.

While struggling against the Yankees ace is a common theme among American League teams, the Orioles are responsible for Sabathia’s third-highest win total in his 12-year career. The left-hander is 16-2 with a 2.74 earned run average in 22 career starts against Baltimore.

Manager Buck Showalter will present a lineup full of right-handed hitters, with right fielder Nick Markakis the only left-handed bat scheduled to start against Sabathia.

The big topic of discussion prior to Wednesday’s game was the defensive struggles of third baseman Mark Reynolds, who committed a critical error in the Yankees’ three-run six inning and failed to catch a foul popupin Tuesday’s loss. Showalter is sticking with Reynolds at third base for now, preaching confidence that the 28-year-old will begin hitting — and fielding.

Reynolds’ inability to corral a Russell Martin grounder in the sixth eliminated the possibility of a win for Taiwanese lefty Wei-Yin Chen in his major league debut.

“We had plenty of opportunities in that game last night to not make anything like that matter,” Showalter said.

Much was made over Reynolds’ commitment to get into better shape in the offseason and the improvement he showed in spring training. His defensive start strongly resembles last season through the first five games of the year, but Showalter isn’t going to mess with the slugger’s psyche quite yet by making a change.

“That’s part of the reason that he’s in there [at third base] today.”

The Orioles have struggled mightily with runners in scoring position so far this season, going just 6-for-41 through five games. Showalter was aware of the numbers but compared it to a basketball team struggling at the free-throw line, pointing out the importance of not placing too much emphasis on it with his club.

“You’ve got to stay away from emotional at-bats,” Showalter said.

The Orioles manager was also asked if he would go to former closer Kevin Gregg in a save situation if Jim Johnson were to be unavailable on a given night, and his answer wasn’t exactly a ringing endorsement.

“We have multiple options,” Showalter said. “Every club has to think about that. A lot has to do with how much they’ve been pitching and where they are physically. We have really three guys down there who have some experience pitching in that part of the game.”

Of course, Showalter is referring to Johnson, Gregg, and newcomer Matt Lindstrom, but it was interesting how general Showalter was in his response when asked specifically about Gregg.

Second baseman Brian Roberts continues to take batting practice and to work with the team, but Showalter said the veteran is still getting back into the rhythm of a big-league environment. There is still no timetable for a possible minor league rehab assignment, and Showalter was unsure whether he will travel with the team on the road trip.

“We’re going to lean on him and the doctors,” Showalter said. “I’m not going to walk by him every day [saying], ‘What about today?’ … He knows what the next step is. The next step is he goes and plays somewhere. And when it happens, it happens.

“It’s just such an inexact thing.”

(Update 6:30 p.m.: The Orioles have signed veteran pitcher Joel Pineiro to a minor-league contract. He will report to extended spring training before likely reporting to Triple-A Norfolk.)

Here are tonight’s lineups:

New York
SS Derek Jeter
CF Curtis Granderson
2B Robinson Cano
3B Alex Rodriguez
1B Mark Teixeira
RF Nick Swisher
DH Raul Ibanez
C Russell Martin
LF Brett Garnder

SP CC Sabathia (0-0, 7.50 ERA)

Baltimore
LF Nolan Reimold
SS J.J. Hardy
RF Nick Markakis
CF Adam Jones
C Matt Wieters
3B Mark Reynolds
DH Ronny Paulino
1B Wilson Betemit
2B Robert Andino

SP Jake Arrieta (1-0, 0.00 ERA)

Visit the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault to hear more from Buck Showalter’s pre-game press conference and follow WNST on Twitter for live updates and analysis from Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

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