Tag Archive | "Cesar Izturis"

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Orioles Sweep Angels, Face New Test Against Ozzie’s Sox

Posted on 06 August 2010 by Jay Trucker

If the Orioles finish the season undefeated during the Showalter regime, they will be a respectable 89-73.

It doesn’t seem entirely impossible since the Orioles began the Showalter era with a sweep of the L.A. Angels of Anaheim in California near Santa Cruz. Jake Arrieta logged a strong 7 and 2/3 and it looked like the club was going to cruise to a 4-1 series-ending victory before Jason Berken gave up a three-run dinger to Torii Hunter in the eighth inning.

For a moment the club seemed destined for familiar losing territory, until Cesar Izturis knocked in Julio Lugo, pinch running for Matt Wieters, to win the game 5-4 in regulation. The Angels put five players in the infield to defend against the light-hitting shortstop.

That would never fly in beer league regulations. Stand behind the cones!

Anyway, the Angels are now two games under .500 at 54-56, uncharacteristically stuck in third in the West. Friday, the Central-leading White Sox will come to town for series two of the Showalter era. The Sox overcame a slow start and are now 62-46. They’ve won eight of their last ten and play over .500 on the road.

Will Showalter Magic continue at The Yard? It’s not as if the team has played flawless baseball. They nearly surrendered the lead Wednesday and Thursday. Brian Roberts bobbled at least two balls on Thursday and looked visibly displeased following the second, an inning-extending mangled double play. Yet, the club has seen a clear uptick in productivity. In this series alone they’ve had 36 hits, a walk off single from a shortstop the Angels didn’t even respect enough to defend with three outfielders. It will be interesting to see how the rejuvenated Birds fare against the likes of Chicago’s Danks, Floyd, and Buehrle.

They’re still a long way from the 89 win season.

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Bergesen leaving disastrous start to 2010 behind him

Posted on 12 May 2010 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — On the same day the Orioles sent struggling outfielder Nolan Reimold to the minor leagues in hopes of regaining his confidence, the club once again reaped the benefits of Brad Bergesen’s short stint with the Tides.

The right-hander coaxed ground ball after ground ball—16 in all—from the Seattle bats as the Orioles defeated the Seattle Mariners, 5-2, and secured their 10th win of the season. Bergesen pitched 7 2/3 innings, allowing only one run and striking out three to earn his third win of the season, all coming after returning from a brief demotion to the minor leagues last month.

In his three starts since being recalled on May 1, Bergesen has pitched to a 2.33 ERA (19 2/3 innings) while primarily using his sinking fastball in lieu of his breaking pitches, something on which he focused during his stint at Triple A. He has looked far more like the pitcher who went 7-5 with a 3.43 ERA as a rookie in 2009 than the fragile pitcher losing control of his emotions as he sprinted off the Safeco Field mound with a 12.19 ERA on April 19.

“He had better sink [on his fastball], excellent poise,” manager Dave Trembley said. “Boy, he pitched a heck of a game, really did. Much needed, for him and for us. [He] really was in command of the game.”

If there were ever a player for Reimold to pay attention to right now, it’s Bergesen and his quick turnaround after looking miserable at the beginning of the season. The young pitcher could have easily sulked after being sent down, but Bergesen accepted the demotion, acknowledging a need to make the necessary adjustments to the big-league level.

“That break [in the minors] helped me out a lot, just to kind of—not unwind or relax—but just kind of re-find myself,” said Bergesen, who acknowledged picking up some bad habits in his mechanics after injuring his shoulder filming a MASN commercial in the off-season.

It’s clear the last eight months had been cruel to the 24-year-old starter, beginning with the wicked line drive to the shin that ended his rookie season and hitting rock bottom as he ran off the mound in Seattle just over three weeks ago. However, Bergesen is starting to look very much like the pitcher who so pleasantly surprised us last season.

His resurrection is exactly what the Orioles hoped for, but now they’ll have to wait—and hope—for a similar result with Reimold.

Are you paying attention?

The organization had to have grabbed the attention of outfielders Luke Scott and Adam Jones with their roster move Wednesday afternoon, and it reflected in the struggling hitters’ performances—for one night anyway.

Scott hit his fifth home run of the season, a solo blast in the fourth, and also collected a double to contribute to the Baltimore victory. The veteran power hitter entered the game hitting .186, mired in one of the worst slumps of his career.

“I feel much better about my swing,” Scott said. “I’ve been working hard with [Terry Crowley] for the last 10 days. It started in New York. We started taking extra batting practice, looking at film together, and getting to where I need to flatten out my swing a little bit. Get into a little rhythm when I’m up there at the plate.”

Jones, hitting .230 entering Wednesday night, collected three hits and drove in his eighth run of the season. With the club bringing Corey Patterson back to Baltimore, it now has another option in center field if Jones continues to struggle.

Is it a coincidence that both players’ bats awoke on Wednesday night? Maybe, but they each should be aware of the possibility of a demotion if things don’t improve soon.

Welcome back, Corey

After hitting .368 with Triple-A Norfolk, Patterson’s contract was selected to replace Reimold on the 25-man roster. While Orioles fans are familiar with Patterson’s limitations, including a career .290 on-base percentage, he immediately becomes the lone stolen base threat in the lineup with Brian Roberts now shifting to the 60-day disabled list.

Patterson singled to right in the third inning, his first hit with the Orioles since Sept. 5, 2007. The 30-year-old speedster led off and played left field, going 1-for-5 with a run scored.

Four is the score (five’s good too)

The Orioles improved to 8-4 when scoring four or more runs. While we’ve all witnessed how horrible the struggle has been at the plate, it’s staggering to think the club has only scored that many runs in 12 of their 34 games.

Baltimore also went 4-for-10 with runners in scoring position and saw every player in the starting lineup collect a hit except Cesar Izturis, who had a sacrifice fly in the sixth.

“We had early hitting again today, and we’re probably going to continue to have early hitting everyday until we can get everybody where they should be,” Trembley said. “It seemed like guys were a little more relaxed today.”

Check out the final box score here and the pre-game notes below.

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BALTIMORE — Good evening from a rainy Oriole Park at Camden Yards as we await the start of tonight’s game between the Orioles (9-24) and the Seattle Mariners (13-19) at 7:05 p.m.

Ken Griffey Jr. and his napping tendencies may have created the buzz around the ballpark yesterday, but another left-handed outfielder has seized the news today as Corey Patterson’s contract has been purchased from Triple-A Norfolk. If you subscribe to the WNST Text Service, you received the news just before 4:00 p.m.

Here are tonight’s lineups:

Seattle
RF Ichiro Suzuki
2B Chone Figgins
1B Casey Kotchman
DH Jose Lopez
3B Matt Tuiasosopo
CF Ryan Langerhans
SS Josh Wilson
C Adam Moore
LF Michael Saunders

SP Ryan Rowland-Smith (0-2, 6.21 ERA)

Baltimore
LF Corey Patterson
CF Adam Jones
RF Nick Markakis
3B Miguel Tejada
2B Ty Wigginton
C Matt Wieters
DH Luke Scott
1B Garrett Atkins
SS Cesar Izturis

SP Brad Bergesen (2-2, 7.36 ERA)

While Patterson’s promotion comes as no surprise (the former Oriole was hitting .368 for the Tides), the demotion of left fielder Nolan Reimold may have raised a few eyebrows—until Tuesday night anyway.

Reimold was clearly disheartened in the Baltimore clubhouse following the series-opening 5-1 loss to Seattle, and manager Dave Trembley’s post-game comments suggested it was clear Reimold’s days in Baltimore were numbered, at least in the short term.

Patterson returns to the Orioles for a second stint after playing center field in Baltimore in 2006-2007. He is scheduled to bat leadoff and play left field, but as of 5:15 p.m., he hasn’t arrived at the ballpark. (Update: Patterson is at the ballpark and will remain in the lineup.)

Needing to clear room on the 40-man roster for Patterson, the Orioles moved second baseman Brian Roberts to the 60-day disabled list. Roberts’ status has clearly been a depressing topic of discussion around these parts, but the decision to shift him to the 60-day was not surprising considering he hasn’t resumed baseball activity since leaving the home opener with an injury on April 9.

Based on his current activity and the likely need for the infielder to go on an extended minor league rehab assignment, Roberts likely wouldn’t return until just before the All-Star break. Of course, that’s a best-case scenario at this point in time.

Don’t forget to join us in the Orange Crush chat tonight at 7:00 p.m., as an array of WNST personalities will discuss tonight’s action from Camden Yards.

As always, remember to follow us on Twitter (@WNST) for the quickest updates and quips about tonight’s game.

Check back right here for updates (time-stamped below) leading right up to first pitch at 7:05 p.m.

_____________________________________________

6:58 p.m. — It was just announced in the press box that tonight’s first pitch is scheduled for 7:25 p.m. The tarp is still covering the field, however, so we’ll see.

6:50 p.m. — We’d all love to be excited about the return of Patterson to Baltimore, but his career .290 on-base percentage doesn’t make him a strong candidate to solve the Orioles’ problems in the leadoff spot.

Patterson may have been hitting .368 with Triple-A Norfolk, but we’re all too familiar with his limitations in these parts. However, Patterson does bring the element of speed and strong defensive skills to a team severely lacking in both departments.

The outfielder stole 82 bases in his two seasons in Baltimore, so he becomes an immediate threat on the bases for a team ranking last in the AL in stolen bases. The tools have always been there for the 30-year-old, but his biggest problem has always been figuring out a way to steal first base.

If you’re wondering what happened to Patterson after departing the Orioles following the 2007 season, he hit .205 with Cincinnati in 2008 and played a total of 16 games with Washington and Milwaukee in 2009. It’s clear Patterson would love to find the success—albeit moderate—he enjoyed during his two-year stay in Baltimore. Otherwise, this could very well be his swan song at the big-league level.

6:20 p.m. — The rain is still falling as the tarp continues to cover the infield. With the Weather.com forecast calling for a 100 percent chance of rain at 7:00 p.m., tonight’s start will likely be delayed.

The forecast gradually improves as the night goes on, so we’ll see.

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Tejada’s clutch bat leads Orioles past Red Sox, 5-4 in 10

Posted on 30 April 2010 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — To say the Orioles have struggled in the month of April would be comparable to labeling Mount Everest as a “pretty big hill.”

Their record entering Friday night made them the 12th team to start a season 4-18 or worse since 1900. Not exactly the type of history you want to make. Only the hapless 1988 club has saved the current Orioles from suffering the worst start in franchise history.

The club looked to be well on its way to another disappointing loss after failing to capitalize with runners in scoring position and to protect the lead in the late innings. However, that outlook changed dramatically when Miguel Tejada stepped to the plate in the bottom of the eighth, connecting for a game-tying home run off Daniel Bard.

Tejada’s heroics weren’t finished as the game moved into extra innings, and he knocked in the winning run in the 10th to give the Orioles a 5-4 victory over the Boston Red Sox at Camden Yards.

“I just put in my mind that I had to be able to relax,” said Tejada. “I know they had to throw me a strike, and I was lucky to get one pitch over the plate.”

Considering Tejada was one of the “big bats” acquired by general manager Andy MacPhail this offseason, it’s easy to be underwhelmed with his performance after watching Adrian Beltre sign with Boston and Chone Figgins with Seattle. In reality, Tejada has quietly put together a nice start in his first month back with the Orioles.

He leads the club with 13 runs batted in and has clubbed four home runs, second behind Ty Wigginton for the team lead. While his defense won’t make anyone forget about Brooks Robinson—or even Melvin Mora at this point—his transition to the hot corner hasn’t been nearly as painful as many expected.

“What it comes down to is getting the big hit when you need it from a guy who’s been there and that’s why Tejada is who he is,” said manager Dave Trembley. “He has the ability to rise to the occasion because he’s been there so many times.”

The Orioles have failed to rise to the occasion countless times over the first month of the season, so it was refreshing to finally see it happen, especially against the Red Sox.

Tejada hasn’t recaptured his 2004-level production and never will, but he’s been one of the select few to provide consistent offense in an otherwise miserable lineup. It’s astounding to think how much worse the lineup might be without him.

Then again, does it really matter when you’re 5-18?

Truthfully, the victory masked several of the recurring issues that have regularly cost this team ballgames in the month of April. Garrett Atkins’ comebacker to John Lackey with the bases loaded and no outs in the fourth squandered an opportunity to blow the game wide open and to knock the right-hander out of the game in the process. The first baseman—MacPhail’s other “big bat” acquired last winter—is now hitting .224 and appears to have lost his job to call-up Rhyne Hughes.

The pitching staff issued a season-high 10 walks, including five from the bullpen. Jim Johnson struggled mightily and blew his third save (in the seventh inning) of the season.

However, unlike far too many nights in the month of April, the Orioles found a way to pick up the victory instead of discovering a new method of losing as they’ve done so often in recent weeks.

And—for one night anyway—it’s a welcome change.

– The Orioles and Red Sox are now tied 2-2 in the season series. Friday night’s victory snapped a seven-game home losing streak against Boston.

– Now standing at 11-12, the Red Sox completed their first losing April since 1996.

– After dropping their first six series openers, Baltimore has now won two openers in a row. The club is still seeking its first series win of 2010.

– Nick Markakis has reached base safetly in 21 of 23 games this year and is now 19 for his last 59 (.322).

– Adam Jones picked up his sixth multi-hit game of the season. The outfielder is hitting .100 (7-70) in all other games this year.

– Of the 10 walks issued by Orioles pitchers, three were to No. 9 hitter and former Orioles first-round draft pick Darnell McDonald.

– J.D. Drew hit two home runs in Friday’s game, his 16th career multi-homer game.

– On Saturday night, Brad Bergesen will be recalled from Triple-A Norfolk to face Daisuke Matsuzaka who will be making his first start of the 2010 season.

Check out the final box score here and the pre-game notes below.

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**Join us right now in the Orange Crush chat as we’ll be talking baseball throughout the evening!**

Good evening and Happy Friday to you from the press box at Oriole Park at Camden Yards as we await the start of a three-game set between the Boston Red Sox (11-11) and the Baltimore Orioles (4-19).

Thankfully, the Yankees and their fans are long-gone, so the Orioles will again enjoy the benefits of a home—I’m sorry, I couldn’t even finish typing that. Walking into the ballpark this afternoon, the pink and green red and blue was prevalent as we can fully expect an overwhelming number of Boston fans to invade Camden Yards this weekend.

Shocking, I know.

Here are tonight’s starting lineups:

Boston
SS Marco Scutaro
2B Dustin Pedroia
C Victor Martinez
1B Kevin Youkilis
RF J.D. Drew
DH David Ortiz
3B Adrian Beltre
LF Jeremy Hermida
CF Darnell McDonald

SP John Lackey (2-1, 5.09 ERA)

Baltimore
CF Adam Jones
RF Nick Markakis
C Matt Wieters
3B Miguel Tejada
LF Luke Scott
2B Ty Wigginton
DH Rhyne Hughes
1B Garrett Atkins
SS Cesar Izturis

SP David Hernandez (0-3, 4.84 ERA)

As we do for every Orioles game, please join us in the Orange Crush chat at 7:00 p.m. to discuss tonight’s happenings from Camden Yards. For the quickest updates and analysis of tonight’s game, don’t forget to follow us on Twitter (@WNST).

Continue to check right here for more updates (time-stamped below) leading up to Hernandez’s first pitch at 7:05 p.m.

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6:35 p.m. — In a bit of good news—relatively speaking of course—the Orioles announced reliever Wilfrido Perez has cleared waivers and will be outrighted to Double-A Bowie. The 25-year-old lefty was designated for assignment when the club purchased the contract of Alfredo Simon on Tuesday afternoon.

Perez has shown promise in his brief career despite a 10.80 ERA in five appearances for the Baysox in 2010.

The Orioles will need to make another move tomorrow when Bergesen returns from the minor leagues to make the start. Matt Albers could be the guy to go, though he is out of options and would have to clear waivers before being sent to the minors.

Of course, it wouldn’t exactly be devastating to lose the right-handed reliever who currently sports a 7.36 ERA.

5:45 p.m. — Both of tonight’s starting pitchers made their last starts against the same opponent last weekend at Fenway Park.

John Lackey earned the victory in a 7-6 final last Saturday night and is now 9-3 with a 3.21 ERA in 13 career starts against the Orioles.

Hernandez picked up a no decision last Sunday in a game the Orioles won. Imagine that. He is 1-2 with a 5.40 ERA in five career starts against the Red Sox.

5:35 p.m. — Aside from another unacceptable takeover from the Bandwagon, the Orioles have lost seven straight games to Boston at Camden Yards. Everyone hates the annual takeovers, but at some point, you have to give fans a reason to want to come out to the ballpark and deal with Red Sox fans.

The Orioles’ performance certainly hasn’t done it.

5:25 p.m. — Tonight’s starting pitcher David Hernandez sports an ugly 0-3 record on the last day of April, but the young right-hander has not piched as poorly as his record indicates. As has been the case for the entire starting rotation—sans Brian Matusz until Thursday night—Hernandez has been the victim of shoddy run support.

The Orioles lineup has provided just 10 runs in his four starts with only two crossing the plate while Hernandez was still in the game. Even with a pedestrian 4.84 ERA, it’s clear he hasn’t received nearly enough support.

Keeping with starting pitcher news, Dave Trembley confirmed in his pre-game comments that Brad Bergesen would return from Triple-A Norfolk to make Saturday’s start against Daisuke Matsuzaka who himself will be making his first start of the 2010 season. Bergesen was originally scheduled to pitch for Norfolk tonight, but it wasn’t exactly a secret he would be getting the ball at Camden Yards on Saturday evening.

Trembley said Bergesen has made the necessary adjustments in his mechanics and pacing to return to the starting rotation despite only making one start for the Tides last weekend.

Regardless of how confident Trembley may be about Bergesen’s return, it’s hard to shake the image of Bergesen running off the mound in Seattle after a 2.2 inning performance in which he gave up seven runs (four earned). The lack of downward movement on his sinker was concerning enough, but his demeanor—one of the strengths of his rookie season—was alarming.

I still have a difficult time believing those issues are fixed in just an 11-day period, but we’ll see how he looks on Saturday night. If Bergesen struggles again, you really have to question the prudence of recalling the 24-year-old so soon when the club easily could have used Jason Berken for a spot start or two.

Of course, if Bergesen comes back and tosses a gem, all is well.

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Record-low crowd watches Orioles sink even lower

Posted on 12 April 2010 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — The Baltimore Orioles dropped another game 5-1 to the Tampa Bay Rays on Monday night at Oriole Park at Camden Yards, but fewer people watched it than any other in the history of the beautiful 19-year-old ballpark.

Oriole Park at Camden Yards

The picture, taken about 15 minutes before first pitch, says it all. Very few people entered the gates afterward as the the paid attendance of 9,129 was a record low, breaking the previous all-time low of 10,130 set on May 26, 2009 against the Toronto Blue Jays.

The number of actual people in the stands was far lower—probably around 4,000 by best estimation—but we’ve been through that discussion time and time again.

The excuses will start.

It’s April; the kids are in school.

The weather isn’t nice (It was only a frigid 66 degrees, after all).

Tampa Bay isn’t an attractive team to watch (It’s clear very few think the Orioles are either).

Did the small crowd bother the players?

“No, not at all,” said right fielder Nick Markakis. “We still have to go out and play. I could care less if there is nobody in the stands. You have to go out and play and can’t worry about that kind of stuff.”

Markakis’ words certainly don’t translate well to print, but I’ll give him a pass on this one. He lives in the community, is very charitable, and is clearly frustrated with the 1-6 start to the season. His underlying point was the need for the team to focus on improving and no other outside distractions.

A poor choice of words though.

Starter Jeremy Guthrie, who pitched well in a losing effort against Tampa Bay pitcher Matt Garza, took a more diplomatic approach in offering his thoughts about the crowd, citing the enthusiasm exhibited on Opening Day as proof that fans still care about the Orioles.

“I think if we do our part, [the attendance will] turn around.”

Quite frankly, the Orioles haven’t been a team worth forking over any amount of money for a ticket—plus the $2 day-of-game surcharge—in the first seven games of the season.

While Guthrie was strong for a second straight start to begin the season—pitching seven innings and giving up three earned runs—Garza silenced the Orioles bats over eight innings (allowing only a Felix Pie home run to lead off the bottom of the first) to pick up his second win of the season.

“He’s shown himself to be one of the better pitchers in the league,” said manager Dave Trembley.

Again, the Baltimore lineup was anemic, as the Orioles are now just 1-for-17 with runners in scoring position over their last three games and 9-for-57 (.158) for the season. The Orioles have scored three runs in their last three games. They’ve touched home plate in only two of their last 28 innings.

Must I go on?

Something needs to change quickly. From top to bottom—with a modest nod to Miguel Tejada and Matt Wieters—this lineup has been completely outmatched by numerous pitchers.

When asked about the possibility of shaking up the lineup, Trembley was receptive but offered nothing specific.

“Yeah, I probably should do something. Maybe just to show a different look.”

He’d better.

Whether he puts them in numerical order, alphabetical order, shortest-to-tallest, or takes a page from Billy Martin and draws names out of a hat, it HAS to be better than the look we’ve seen over these seven games.

Even using the already-low standards of the previous 12 seasons, it’s getting to be very difficult to watch.

All you have to do is look around at all the empty green seats.

Check out the final box score here.

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Good evening from Oriole Park at Camden Yards as the Orioles (1-5) prepare to take on the Tampa Bay Rays (3-3) in the first of a three-game set. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. with Jeremy Guthrie (0-1, 4.26) will take the hill against Tampa Bay starter Matt Garza (1-0, 1.13) in a rematch of the second game of the season in which Garza stifled the Orioles’ bats in a 4-3 Rays win.

The Orioles will try to rebound from a very disheartening three-game sweep at the hands of the Toronto Blue Jays in the first home series over the weekend. The Rays most recently lost two out of three to the New York Yankees at Tropicana Field, including CC Sabathia’s flirtation with a no-hitter on Saturday afternoon in a 10-0 Yankees victory.

In a move surprising no one (especially if you subscribe to the WNST Text Service), the Orioles placed Brian Roberts on the 15-day disabled list with an abdominal strain. The organization has recalled infielder Justin Turner from Triple-A Norfolk to take his spot on the 25-man roster.

In Dave Trembley’s pre-game comments, he would not commit to a set starter at second baseman but said Turner will provide depth. All indications point to a combination of Julio Lugo and Ty Wigginton receiving a bulk of the starts in lieu of Turner, a career .307 hitter in the minor leagues.

I’m not sure how this move helps Turner, and if the Orioles are so desperate to receive an offensive lift from Wigginton or Lugo, the team has bigger problems than we thought.

In what might be a piece of good news for Orioles fans (Hey, just being honest…), Mike Gonzalez will not be with the club until tomorrow as he is with his wife in Arizona awaiting the birth of his daughter. Gonzalez is expected back tomorrow, so there is no chance of a Gonzalez meltdown this evening.

Here are tonight’s starting lineups:

Tampa Bay
SS Jason Bartlett
LF Carl Crawford
RF Ben Zobrist
3B Evan Longoria
1B Carlos Pena
CF B.J. Upton
DH Pat Burrell
2B Reid Brignac
C Dioner Navarro

SP Matt Garza (1-0, 1.13 ERA)

Orioles
LF Felix Pie
CF Adam Jones
RF Nick Markakis
3B Miguel Tejada
C Matt Wieters
DH Luke Scott
1B Garrett Atkins
2B Julio Lugo
SS Cesar Izturis

SP Jeremy Guthrie (0-1, 4.26 ERA)

As always, please join us for our Orange Crust chat, hosted tonight by Bob Haynie and starting at 7:00 p.m. Remember to follow us on Twitter (@WNST) for the quickest updates from the ballpark.

Please check below for updates (time-stamped) leading up to the first pitch, after which I’ll be joining Bob and other WNST personalities in the chat room.

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6:25 p.m. — Here’s your strange stat of the evening. Tejada is 6-for-14 with a home run and six RBI batting with men on base and 0-for-11 with the bases empty.

At least he’s economical.

6:05 p.m. — Trembley said before the game that Roberts would not accompany the team on the upcoming West Coast trip and said the second baseman may received another epidural injection for the herniated disk in his lower pack (Updated: he has received a second epidural injection). Though Roberts is on the DL due to an abdominal strain, it’s clear the back is still very much a concern for the Orioles’ leadoff hitter.

Roberts is eligible to be activated on April 25, but it is unknown whether the second baseman will return on that date.

In his absence, Trembley mentioned Pie, Lugo, and Jones all as candidates for the top spot in the order as well as the light-hitting Izturis. Regardless of who it is, the Orioles will sorely miss Roberts’ plate discipline and tendency for two-baggers (56 last season).

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A forgettable opening week for the Orioles

Posted on 11 April 2010 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — What’s left to really say about such an awful week of baseball?

To their credit, the Orioles found a new way to cost themselves a ballgame Sunday afternoon when Miguel Tejada’s fielding miscue led to a Jose Bautista two-run homer with two outs in the eighth inning to push Toronto ahead 3-2. The Blue Jays added two more runs to complete a 5-2 win and a three-game sweep at Camden Yards.

Starting pitcher Kevin Millwood cruised through the first 7.2 innings of his start, looking every bit like the strong veteran presence the Orioles envisioned for the No. 1 spot in the rotation. However, Millwood unraveled after the error—the Orioles’ first of the season—and gave up back-to-back home runs to Bautista and Alex Gonzalez (who also went deep in the fourth).

“Millwood pitched a great game,” said manager Dave Trembley. “If we make the play in the eighth inning, he finishes it and completes the game, and we’re on our way and it doesn’t happen.”

Unfortunately, it’s happened all week as the Orioles now look at an ugly 1-5 record, only a shaky save conversion from Mike Gonzalez on Thursday night stands in the way of this team being 0-6.

Maybe we should be thanking him? Well, maybe not.

Failing to close games, not capitalizing with runners in scoring position, and now a critical error have been the difference between quite possibly a 4-2 record and their current 1-5 mark.

Therein lies the problem. Baseball is a game of inches. The difference between winning and losing can be minute in any single game, an idea the Orioles either haven’t understood or been able to capitalize on in the first week of the season.

The Orioles have scored two runs—both in the first inning of Sunday’s game—in their last 19 innings. They’re an abominable 9-for-54 (.167) with runners in scoring position this season.

Completely unacceptable.

We know how badly the new closer has struggled, and it now appears imminent that Brian Roberts is heading to the disabled list.

But what about the rest of the team?

Sure, the games have been close, but that doesn’t really matter.

By inches or not, the Orioles simply aren’t getting the job done. All you have to do is look at their record.

– This is the Orioles’ first 1-5 start since 2002. That team went on to have a 67-95 record, which included a 4-32 finish to the season.

– The Orioles have now allowed runs in the eight or ninth inning in all six games this year. They’ve allowed a total of 11 runs in the final two innings.

– The Blue Jays hit four home runs in Sunday’s victory over the Orioles. Sunday’s game marks the 11th time in Orioles history they’ve allowed seven or fewer hits with four or more of those being home runs.

The last time was September 28, 2009 against Tampa Bay.

– Nick Markakis drew a walk in his first at-bat in the first inning today, giving him nine for the season, more than anyone in the majors.

– Tejada’s error in the eighth inning opened the door for three Toronto runs. It was the first fielding error of the season for the Orioles, who were the next-to-last team in the majors to commit an error.

The Minnesota Twins have yet to commit one this season.

– Gonzalez’s home run in the eighth inning gave him his seventh career multi-homer game and his first since May 7, 2007 against Houston when he was a member of the Cincinnati Reds.

– The Orioles will send Jeremy Guthrie (0-1, 4.26) to the hill to start a three-game set with the Tampa Bay Rays at Camden Yards at 7:05 p.m. on Monday night. Matt Garza, who dominated the Orioles last week at Tropicana Field, takes the mound for the Rays.

Check out the final box score here.

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Good afternoon and Happy Sunday as we’re set for the finale against the Toronto Blue Jays here at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. First pitch is scheduled for 1:35 p.m.

The Orioles will attempt to rebound from a 3-0 shutout, as Blue Jays lefty Dana Eveland stifled the Baltimore lineup for 7.1 innings for the Toronto bullpen polished off the shutout. Kevin Millwood will take the hill for the Orioles in his second start of the season. In his Opening Night start in Tampa Bay, Millwood pitched five innings, giving up two runs while scattering nine hits.

Here are today’s lineups:

Toronto
RF Jose Bautista
SS Alex Gonzalez
DH Adam Lind
CF Vernon Wells
1B Lyle Overbay
C John Buck
3B Edwin Encarnacion
LF Travis Snider
2B John McDonald

SP Shaun Marcum (0-0, 3.86 ERA)

Orioles
LF Felix Pie
CF Adam Jones
RF Nick Markakis
3B Miguel Tejada
DH Luke Scott
C Matt Wieters
1B Ty Wigginton
2B Julio Lugo
SS Cesar Izturis

SP Kevin Millwood (0-0, 3.60 ERA)

Don’t forget to join us for a special Orioles/Masters final round edition of the Orange Crust chat, hosted today by Nestor Aparicio and Drew Forrester. For the quickest updates, please follow us on Twitter (@WNST). I’ll be providing pre-game updates right here (time-stamped below) leading up to first pitch.

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1:29 p.m. — A few final notes before I head over to the Orange Crush chat:

Markakis is 9-for-18 with five home runs and six RBI in his career against Toronto starter Shaun Marcum. Tejada is 6-for-13 with three home runs and seven RBI against the right-hander.

And if you’re desperately searching for a positive on the Orioles at this point, they and the Minnesota Twins are the only teams in baseball with a field error.

Does that make you feel better? Yeah, I didn’t think so.

12:35 p.m. — Reports are circulating from MASN that infielder Justin Turner is being summoned from Norfolk, a good indication that Roberts will be placed on the 15-day disabled list. Turner is already on the 40-man roster, so no corresponding move would be needed in that regard.

Trembley would most likely use Lugo as his primary option at second base, but Turner, 25, is a career .307 hitter in the minor leagues. It would definitely be nice to give the infielder a look, as he would have a much better chance of fitting into the team’s long-term plans than Lugo.

12:15 p.m. — To say the Orioles’ start is disappointing would be an understatement, but their performance against Toronto this weekend is especially troubling. Playing without arguably their best player Aaron Hill (36 home runs and 108 RBI last year), the Blue Jays are a win away from completing a sweet at Camden Yards. Toronto was 1-8 in Baltimore last year.

With such a tough schedule on the horizon—not to mention the sheer reality of playing in the AL East—the Blue Jays are a team the Orioles SHOULD beat. Based on this series and the two teams’ respective starts through five games, perhaps preseason prognosticators were selling Toronto short by picking them as the consensus last-place team in the division.

Of course, we’re only five games deep into the season.

12:00 p.m. — With Roberts still out of the lineup with an abdominal strain, Dave Trembley will use Pie in the leadoff spot this afternoon. The outfielder has been battling a sore throwing shoulder, but the Orioles skipper had previously said he would return to the lineup this weekend. While he’s certainly not your prototypical leadoff man, Pie is a far more attractive option at the top of the order than Lugo.

Roberts is still day-to-day, but the Orioles could decide to place him on the disabled list after reevaluating him. Of course, any move would be retroactive, but Trembley does not want to play with a short bench for an extended period of time.

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Orioles’ early-season slumber could lead to nightmarish awakening

Posted on 10 April 2010 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — Dave Trembley and the Orioles continue to repeat the same cliches.

It’s early.

There are 162 games in the season.

It’s a marathon, not a sprint.

And they’re still right on all accounts, but with each passing loss, the frustration is beginning to show. It was a very somber clubhouse following Toronto’s 3-0 win on Saturday night, and while everyone continues to say the right things, it’s clear this team desperately needs a lift.

David Hernandez continued the same pattern of his fellow starters—sans Brad Bergesen—the first time through the rotation: good, but not great. The 24-year-old right-hander pitched six solid innings, giving up two runs, striking out five and walking four. The problem is Hernandez could have been perfect over nine innings and still wouldn’t have been in line for a victory.

“Hernandez went out there and threw a good game,” said centerfielder Adam Jones. “We put up
a doughnut for him. We didn’t really go out there and swing the bats the way we normally do.”

Toronto starter Dana Eveland stifled the Baltimore lineup over 7.1 innings, surrendering just five hits. The same lefty that posted a 7.16 ERA last season in Oakland—a pitcher’s haven—shut out the Orioles at Camden Yards, picking up his second career win against the team in the process.

In 14.1 career innings against the Orioles, Eveland has not allowed a run while surrendering just eight hits.

While Mike Gonzalez’s struggles have grabbed the early headlines, the Orioles’ inability to capitalize with runners in scoring position is a bigger reason why this team stands at 1-4 and needs a victory on Sunday to avoid a sweep in their first home series.

The Orioles hitters are just 8 for 46 with runners in scoring position, a .174 batting average. Last year, the Orioles finished second in the American League with a .284 average in that category. The opportunities were few and far between against Eveland, but it doesn’t take a math major to see an 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position won’t get it done against anyone.

“We haven’t gotten big hits when we needed them,” Trembley said. “And some games that we obviously could’ve won, we haven’t won them.”

The loss of Brian Roberts—who is day-to-day with an abdominal strain and did not play in Saturday night’s loss—sets a trickle-down effect on a lineup already lacking a genuine cleanup hitter in the middle of the order. Julio Lugo or Felix Pie or Cesar Izturis cannot bring what Roberts brings to the lead-off spot. You simply don’t replace 56 doubles no matter who you put at the top.

It’s too early to panic or call for anyone’s head (even Gonzalez’s), but this is the supposed easy part of a brutal April and early May schedule in which the Orioles play 16 games before their first day off and 21 of their first 28 against the American League East. With the expected dominance at the top of the division from New York, Boston, and Tampa Bay, aren’t the Orioles supposed to beat the Blue Jays, a team picked to finish last in the division?

Following Sunday’s finale against the Jays and a three-game set against the Rays, the Orioles travel to the West Coast for seven games against Oakland and Seattle, never an easy task.

But wait, it gets worse.

After finally getting their first day off on April 22, the Orioles then begin a stretch of 12 consecutive games against the Red Sox and Yankees. Baltimore went 7-29 against the two baseball powers in 2009.

So when you see a 1-4 record that should be 3-2, you only need to look ahead to see why this team needs to be concerned. If the Baltimore bats don’t awaken from their early-season snooze, the results will resemble a nightmare later this month.

It’s probably not the time for a players-only meeting or for Trembley to ream out the team behind closed doors, but it is time to stop hitting the snooze bar and finally wake up for the 2010 season.

It’s cost them at least two or three games already, a margin of error they simply cannot afford in this division.

Rise and shine, guys, or you’ll have a nightmare to deal with very quickly.

– Matt Wieters threw out Jose Bautista trying to steal in the top of the third inning for the third out. The second-year catcher has now thrown out four of five attempted base stealers this season.

– The Blue Jays hit five doubles in Saturday’s game, a season high allowed by the Orioles.

– With Toronto scoring on a Adam Lind RBI double, the orioles have now allowed at least one run in the eighth inning or later in every game this season.

– The 3-0 loss was the first game this season in which the outcome was decided by more than one run.

– The paid attendance was 21,148 after setting an Opening Day attendance record yesterday.

Check out the final box score here.

_____________________________________________________

Good evening from Oriole Park at Camden Yards as the Orioles are set to take on the Toronto Blue Jays in the second of a three-game set at 7:05 p.m.

Dave Trembley just spoke to the media and told reporters Brian Roberts will not play tonight after suffering an abdominal strain in the first inning of yesterday’s 7-6 loss. Roberts injured himself stealing second base and came out of the game after scoring a few moments later.

Julio Lugo will start at second base in his place and will lead off for the Orioles.

The other piece of significant news is the status of closer Mike Gonzalez. Trembley and Rick Kranitz spent much of last night and this morning studying tape of Gonzalez with the Atlanta Braves last year and have discovered some mechanical issues. The lefty is throwing from a different arm angle and falling off the mound much sooner than he did last season, according to Trembley.

Gonzalez will not be the closer this evening, due in part to the amount of work he received in the first four games and his mechanics. The struggling pitcher will work on his mechanics with Kranitz in the bullpen, but Trembley also said this wouldn’t prohibit him from being used in save situations while he works with the pitching coach.

The manager would not reveal who he would use in a save situation tonight and then went on to say he would never reveal who is available or unavailable to pitch before a game. That’s funny, because Trembley said yesterday that situational lefty Will Ohman would be unavailable for Opening Day, but I digress.

So for those of you dreading another Gonzalez appearance, you at least have a one-night reprieve.

Here is tonight’s lineup for the Orioles:

2B Julio Lugo
CF Adam Jones
RF Nick Markakis
3B Miguel Tejada
DH Garrett Atkins
C Matt Wieters
LF Nolan Reimold
1B Ty Wigginton
SS Cesar Izturis

SP David Hernandez (4-10, 5.42 ERA)

And for Toronto:

2B Mike McCoy
RF Jose Bautista
DH Adam Lind
CF Vernon Wells
1B Lyle Overbay
3B Edwin Encarnacion
SS Alex Gonzalez
LF Travis Snider
C Jose Molina

SP Dana Eveland (2009 stats with Oakland: 2-4, 7.16 ERA)

Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter (@WNST) for the quickest updates throughout the evening and please join us in our Orange Crush chat, the newest way to watch a game in town!

Check back for updates (time-stamped) leading up to the first pitch when I’ll be shifting over to the Orange Crush chat.

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6:55 p.m. — Adam Jones just received his 2009 Gold Glove award and gave a big hug to coach John Shelby in the process. Congratulations to Mr. Jones.

I’m still not convinced Jones was very deserving of the award, but any positive recognition for the Orioles cannot be taken for granted.

5:50 p.m. — While most attention centers around the health of Roberts and the status of Gonzalez, we’ll get our first look at right-hander David Hernandez tonight. The 25-year-old won the fifth starter spot, beating out top prospect Chris Tillman in spring training.

Of course, Hernandez got his feet wet at the big-league level last season, going 4-10 with a 5.42 ERA in 19 starts. The soon-to-be 25-year-old has a power fastball and showed much better commander of his slider in the spring. After walking 46 batters in 101.1 innings in his rookie season, Hernandez walked just three batters in 15 spring innings, a major factor in nailing down the final spot in the rotation.

Many still feel Hernandez is best suited for a late-innings role in the bullpen due to command issues and questions of how deep he can go into a game, but now is the time to figure out whether or not he can be a middle to back-of-the-rotation starter before you slide him to a relief role.

As for Tillman, hopes are still high, but he’ll have to wait it out in Norfolk.

5:30 p.m. — Following up on the Gonzalez news, Trembley brought up the early-season struggles of George Sherrill last season when the closer was temporarily stripped of exclusive closer duties after blowing his second save in three chances against Toronto on May 2. At the time, Sherrill was 4-for-6 in save opportunities with a 5.06 ERA.

After May 2 and until being traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers, Sherrill was 16-for-17 in save chances with a 1.47 ERA.

While certainly a far cry from Gonzalez’s struggles in his first three appearances, every closer struggles from time to time—even Mariano Rivera or Jonathan Papelbon—but those struggles will clearly stand out on a new team during the first week of the season.

Does that mean Gonzalez will eventually straighten himself out? No, but it’s far too soon to give up on the guy entirely.

At the very least, it’s encouraging that the coaching staff has discovered flaws in his mechanics, if they have indeed found them and it isn’t a front to buy some time for the left-hander.

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Orioles, Gonzalez again snatch defeat from the jaws of victory

Posted on 09 April 2010 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — The good vibes of Opening Day and the first week of the season are one of the few occasions when Orioles fans are typically allowed to feel good.

Spring is in the air, the Orioles are back in town, and the standings look a little better—at least for now.

However, as Mike Gonzalez walked off the mound following another terrible performance and his second blown save in three chances, optimism quickly transformed into ugly frustration as Baltimore fans pounded the left-hander with a chorus of boos only reserved for former Ravens quarterback Kyle Boller in recent Baltimore sports history.

It was a troubling display from the home crowd, regardless of how lousy Gonzalez has been in his first week as an Oriole. Twelve years of losing will do that to you.

The Orioles and Gonzalez have to be looking at themselves with utter disbelief. A team fully expecting—or at least saying so anyway—to be improved now finds itself with a 1-3 record when it very well should be 3-1, or could be 4-0.

But they’re not, and therein lies the rub with the fans at Camden Yards.

Couple that with the comments made by general manager Andy MacPhail to USA Today about competing in the American League East, and this season already feels just like the previous 12.

So much for feeling positive on Opening Day.

Gonzalez continues to claim he isn’t injured, and it’s a matter of simply trying too hard. At this point, Orioles fans might prefer he not have the chance to try at all.

Whatever the case, it’s hard to recall a newcomer with relatively high expectations that struggled as much as Gonzalez has in his first three appearances. You almost had to feel for the guy as Dave Trembley pulled him from the game after Jose Bautista hit the go-ahead sacrifice fly, essentially throwing Gonzalez to the wolves and exposing him to the jeers of an angry crowd.

“I think more than anything right now I just have some built up energy. I want to go out there and get it done,” Gonzalez said after the loss.

Dave Trembley was clearly irritated with his closer’s performance but appears committed to sticking with him in the ninth inning for now. The manager reiterated the frustration of failing to close another game that was theirs for the taking.

“You should win this game today, and we didn’t do it,” he said. “The game is ruined because we don’t close it out.”

As frustrated as fans might be, we’re still in the middle of the first week of a 162-game marathon. Every team in the big leagues, from the Yankees down to the Nationals, will lose three out of four at least a few times this season.

Still, the way in which they’ve lost has destroyed optimism in even the most apologetic of fans. And it only figures to get worse with the always-challenging west-coast trip and 12-straight games against the Yankees and Red Sox looming over the next few weeks.

Gonzalez and the Orioles still have plenty of time to right the ship and start playing better baseball to avoid the 90-plus loss plateau, but they better start very soon.

It might only be four games, but it’s already feeling just like the last 12 years.

– Brian Roberts left the game in the top of the second inning with a strained abdominal muscle. The Orioles second baseman was injured stealing second base and came out of the game after scoring on a Miguel Tejada single.

Trembley had no update on Roberts’ status for Saturday night’s game.

– In his return to Baltimore after spending two seasons with the Houston Astros, Miguel Tejada drove in four runs on Friday, his first four-plus RBI game since July 28, 2009. Tejada’s two-run homer in the fifth inning tied the game at 5-5.

“I’m honored to come back here and try to do the job for the fans,” he said.

It was Tejada’s first home run as an Oriole since September 21, 2007.

– Brad Bergesen was not sharp in his 2010 debut, giving up five earned runs and eight hits in 4.2 innings and becoming the first Baltimore starter to not get out of the fifth inning.

“Bergesen didn’t have a lot of sink [on his pitches],” Trembley said. “I thought his tempo was really slow today.”

– The Orioles have now allowed at least one run in the eighth inning or later in each of their four games this season, giving up a total of six runs in that span. It was also the third game in which they gave up the tying or go-ahead run in those innings.

– With Friday’s loss, the Orioles fell to 37-20 overall and 13-6 at Oriole Park at Camden yards in home openers. This was the first ever home opener against the Blue Jays.

– Today’s paid attendance was 48,891, which set a new record for an Orioles Opening Day crowd, surpassing the 48,607 mark set against the Yankees last season.

– The Orioles will send David Hernandez to the mound against Dana Eveland on Saturday night at 7:05 p.m. Check back right here at WNST.net for all of your Orioles coverage this season.

Check out the final box score here.

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Good afternoon from Oriole Park at Camden Yards! It’s Opening Day (the home variety anyway), and the Orioles (1-2) are set to take on the Toronto Blue Jays (2-1) at 3:05 p.m.

Here is the starting lineup for the Orioles this afternoon:

2B Brian Roberts
CF Adam Jones
RF Nick Markakis
3B Miguel Tejada
LF Luke Scott
C Matt Wieters
DH Nolan Reimold
1B Garrett Atkins
SS Cesar Izturis

SP Brad Bergesen (2009 stats: 7-5, 3.43 ERA)

And for the Toronto Blue Jays:

RF Jose Bautista
SS Alex Gonzalez
DH Adam Lind
CF Vernon Wells
1B Lyle Overbay
C John Buck
3B Edwin Encarnacion
LF Travis Snider
2B John McDonald

SP Brandon Morrow (2009 stats with Seattle: 2-4, 4.39 ERA)

I’ll be providing updates and tidbits throughout the afternoon leading up to the first pitch at 3:05. Just scroll below the break for the latest updates (time-stamped for your convenience). Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter (@WNST) for the quickest updates and join us in the Orange Crush chat, hosted by Nestor Aparicio!

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3:54 p.m. — Our Orange Crust chat is in full force, but just wanted to pass along some injury news. Brian Roberts left the game in the top of the second inning with a strained abdominal muscle.

Just when it looked like the second baseman was getting into the swing of the regular season, he comes down with another injury.

Tough news for the Orioles.

2:40 p.m. — Opening Day festivities are underway and not surprisingly, Cito Gaston received an unfriendly welcome. It’s hard to believe the 1993 Mike Mussina All-Star Game snub was 17 years ago.

Don’t forget to join us in the Orange Crust Chat during the game. Nestor Aparicio will be your host, and I will be chiming in with in-game thoughts throughout the afternoon.

And remember to follow us on Twitter (@WNST) for musings and analysis as well.

2:15 p.m. — The Orioles and Blue Jays split their 18 games in 2009. Baltimore was 8-1 at Camden Yards and 1-8 at Rogers Centre. Pretty interesting breakdown right there.

With the Yankees, Red Sox, and Rays expected to be three of the best teams in the American League, the Orioles must take care of business against Toronto this season if they hope to approach the .500 mark. We continue to hear the Orioles are an improved team—and they are on paper—so they need to beat up on the rebuilding Jays.

2:05 p.m. — Matt Wieters is clearly off to the best start of any Oriole regular, and it’s clear Trembley and pitching coach Rick Kranitz have more confidence in the second-year catcher to handle the pitching staff, leading to the decision to keep Craig Tatum as the backup catcher in lieu of veteran Chad Moeller.

Wieters is now calling pitches on his own, and Trembley credited the tutelage of Gregg Zaun and Moeller to prepare the young catcher for that responsibility.

“It’s helped him a lot with the experience he got last year,” he said.

In just three games, Wieters is hitting .500 with a home run and two RBI, including the game-tying single in last night’s big four-run sixth inning. He also became the first catcher in club history to open the season with three consecutive multi-hit games.

1:55 p.m. — As we inch closer to the pre-game festivities, we begin to turn our attention to the Toronto Blue Jays. Most preseason prognosticators have picked the Orioles ahead of the Blue Jays in the American League East, but of course, both teams are considered afterthoughts after the Yankees, Red Sox, and Rays.

The Blue Jays, managed by Cito Gaston, won their opening series of the season against the Rangers in Texas. Toronto earned the series win with a 3-1 comeback victory yesterday.

Brandon Morrow takes the hill for the Jays in his first start since being acquired from the Seattle Mariners in the off-season. The 25-year-old right-hander shuttled back and forth from the starting rotation and the bullpen in Seattle, but it appears Toronto is committed to making him a starting pitcher. He will be on an 85-pitch limit in today’s game, according to Gaston.

You may remember Morrow’s name in the Erik Bedard trade discussions a couple years ago before Andy MacPhail settled for a package of Adam Jones, Chris Tillman, George Sherrill, and two others.

1:05 p.m. — Despite a tough turnaround after playing the series finale against Tampa Bay last night, Baltimore’s Opening Day starter shouldn’t have any issue with fatigue. Bergesen flew home early to prepare for this afternoon’s start against the Blue Jays.

While some fans have debated whether Brian Matusz should have received the nod for the home opener, Trembley never considered it, telling the media he told Bergesen three months ago that he’d be getting the ball today.

Of course, those plans became uncertain after Bergesen famously injured his pitching shoulder filming a MASN commercial in the off-season.

“He really caught up in a hurry,” Trembley said. “I think he’s the right guy to represent us on Opening Day.”

12:35 p.m. — The Orioles are currently taking batting practice, and the Opening Day festivities are scheduled to begin at 2:30 p.m.

Manager Dave Trembley said in his pre-game press conference that Felix Pie is closer to returning to the lineup after battling a tender throwing shoulder in the opening series in Tampa Bay.

“He’ll play in this series, and you’ll see him start in this series.”

Trembley also mentioned in his pre-game presser that closer Mike Gonzalez will be available today if needed despite throwing 26 pitches—only 12 of them for strikes—in last night’s nerve-wracking 5-4 victory at Tropicana Field.

The skipper also mentioned he preferred to rest situational lefty Will Ohman after the newcomer saw action in all three games of the Tampa series. The other left-hander in the pen, Mark Hendrickson, has yet to throw a pitch this season.

In injury-related news, Trembley had no update on the status of Koji Uehara who is on the disabled list (hamstring) and still in Florida at extended spring training. It is believed that Uehara has not thrown off a mound, so it doesn’t appear his return is imminent.

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Orioles let first one slip away to Tampa Bay 4-3

Posted on 06 April 2010 by Luke Jones

The Orioles’ two biggest pitching acquisitions insisted they would answer the bell for the regular season after struggling in the spring.

One did while the other could not as new closer Mike Gonzalez surrendered a two-run single to Carl Crawford in the bottom of the ninth, and the Orioles fell to the Tampa Bay Rays on Opening Night at Tropicana Field, 4-3.

Kevin Millwood wasn’t brilliant but was certainly good enough in his Orioles debut, pitching five-plus innings and giving up two earned runs before leaving the game in the sixth with a 3-2 lead. The 35-year-old scattered nine hits but struck out five in his seventh career Opening Day start.

The Orioles appeared poised to start the season on a positive note behind Millwood and three solo home runs from Adam Jones, Luke Scott, and Matt Wieters. And despite lingering questions about the bullpen, Matt Albers, Will Ohman, and Jim Johnson tossed three outstanding innings of relief, putting the Orioles in prime position to win their opener before Gonzalez took the hill in the ninth.

It promptly fell apart from there as the 31-year-old could record only one out and loaded the bases before Crawford singled down the right-field line to win it for Tampa Bay.

After battling a stiff back and downplaying the significance of his decreased velocity in the spring, Gonzalez received his first save opportunity of the season—and a chance to silence any doubters—but couldn’t deliver. The velocity may have been there, but the command and results were not. It couldn’t have been a worse debut after Andy MacPhail signed him to a two-year, $12 million deal in December.

In Gonzalez’s defense, the Orioles had opportunities to add to the lead but went 1 for 12 with runners in scoring position, including stranding runners at 2nd and 3rd with none out in the fourth when Rays starter James Shields retired Garrett Atkins, Cesar Izturis, and Brian Roberts. Baltimore left 10 men on base in the game.

Simply put, it was the type of game good ball clubs win—the kind the Orioles haven’t won nearly enough of in the last decade. The Orioles were better than the Rays for eight and a half innings, but they couldn’t put them away despite several opportunities.

So they lost.

Of course, as disappointing as it might seem, this IS only the first of 162 games. Perhaps Gonzalez will save 35 games this season, and this will only be one of a few blips on the radar for the new closer. Maybe Jeremy Guthrie and Brian Matusz toss gems the next two nights and the Orioles still take the opening series of the season.

On the other hand, it’s impossible to ignore the sense of déjà vu seeping into our collective consciences. That “here we go again” mentality has been burned into our collective sports souls over the last 12 years. Time for year 13.

Win or lose, everything is magnified on Opening Day, especially when you’re coming off 12 straight losing seasons and looking for a shred of optimism on Day 1.

A win on Tuesday night wouldn’t have turned the Orioles into an instant contender or changed anyone’s mind about their fortunes in 2010.

But—for one night anyway—it sure would have felt nice.

**Check out the box score right here, and don’t forget to join us every night for our Orange Chat, the newest way to watch the game and interact with your favorite WNST personalities!**

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RAVENS, RANTS & RANKINGS – week 4

Posted on 08 October 2009 by kevinpb

Ravens

Patriots 27 – Ravens 21. The sky is not falling, everybody relax. The Ravens are 3-1 and still in first place with a big showdown with the surprising Cincinnati Bengals coming up this Sunday at home..

Offensively the Ravens got better as the game went on. I thought or biggest advantage on the Patriots would be on the offensive line and I thought they would run the ball more then they did. It makes sense that an effective running game would help control the clock and help stifle the Patriots offense in the process. The Patriots defensive line gave us fits early, but we did wear them down in the second half. We still didn’t run the ball enough throughout the game. The Ravens need to do whatever they need to so that Ray Rice has the ball in his hands 20-25 times a game, whether it be by run or throwing him the ball. He is electric. It is quite clear that Harbaugh and Cameron has complete confidence in Joe Flacco throwing the ball early and often. I like the idea of opening the offense up and I think the confidence in Flacco is warranted, but I feel that ball control would have been a more prudent approach on this afternoon. As of this writing it appears that Jared Gaither is going to be OK and will be back sooner then later. That is terrific news. I heard on the radio, that Mark Clayton was 1 of only 2 NFL receivers not to drop a pass in 2008. He picked a heck of a time to drop his first one in 2 years.

Defensively, the Ravens stopped the run as they always do, but if they did not get pressure on Tom Brady they usually paid the price. The coverage was inconsistent to say the least. On the Randy Moss touchdown, Dominique Foxworth has got to understand with the safety blitz he needs to stay up on Moss and look for the quick pass. Brady basically threw the ball up in the air and Moss was not challenged at all on the catch. For most of the day the Ravens bracketed Moss under and over with the safety and he was not a factor. Wes Welker hurt the Ravens on crossing patterns, and the backs gashed the Ravens on check downs and dump offs. Dawan Landry struggled mightily covering the tight end and slot receivers. He has to be able to cover the tight end better. Both Foxworth and Washington cannot tackle. Their idea of making a tackle is throwing their shoulders at the legs of the ball carrier. I can think of three separate occasions when if either corner would have made the first tackle they would have forced the Patriots to punt. The pass rush was inconsistent but they did succeed in making Brady move in the pocket. Suggs sack and strip of the football was a thing of beauty and completely changed the momentum of the game. Has anybody seen Ed Reed?

Special teams has covered well the lat 2 weeks, but we are sorely lacking on our return game. Chris Carr has not worked out. In the preseason, it was clear that Carr was the choice because the Ravens were more comfortable with his ball handling and ball security, but if he is going to put the ball on the ground, let’s go with the more dynamic Ladarius Webb.

Final thoughts on the game, the Ravens made mental and physical mistakes all day long and still had a chance to win the game at the end. As we were discussing in the final moments of the game, it would have been nice for Joe Flacco to get that signature come from behind win against a real tough team; but it was not to be. I don’t give to much credence to the thought that the roughing penalties killed the Ravens. We got a roughing call in much the same manner when Flacco was hit on one occasion. The calls that killed me were the interference calls, one on Derrick Mason and one on Chris Carr that were just terrible calls! The defensive call was a third down play that extended a Patriots drive. The offensive call stalled a critical Ravens drive.

Rants

College Football Officials or Major League Umpires? It is getting harder to tell the difference. In the LSU-Georgia game this past weekend, the officials had a bearing on the outcome of the game. Georgia scored late on a touchdown pass to AJ Greene to go ahead and he was promptly penalized for excessive celebration. The penalty was assessed on the kick off which led to great field position for LSU who then scored to go ahead. Charles Scott ran 33 yards for a score and was penalized for excessive celebration. And as you might have guessed, this was penalized on the ensuing kick off which led to good field position. Now Georgia did not score, and I really have no vested interest in who one this game; but my concern was the penalties and why they were called. AJ Greene did not approach anyone on the other team, and only celebrated with his teammates. Charles Scott just raised his fingers to the sky and bumped his chest. As touchdown celebrations go these days they were very tame. I detest the “look at me” celebrations on the football field and support penalties for those in excess, but in this case the referees changed the course of this game. For a minute I forgot that I was watching a college football game, and thought I was watching a Major League Baseball game.

Heisman Trophy – Most experts would rank the Heisman Trophy finalists as Tim Tebow, Colt McCoy and Jahvid Best. I think a fourth name needs to be added to the mix, Jimmy Clausen. There is no question that Clausen plays for the weakest team of the bunch (even though Notre Dame is 4-1), but his numbers are off the charts. This year Clausen has a 4-1 record. He is 100-148 passing for 1544yds with 12 touchdowns and only 2 interceptions. His quarterback rating is 179.25. His completion percentage is 67.5%. In his last 3 games he has led the Fighting Irish on late drives that have positioned the team to win. The golden boys of the 2009 quarterback class are commonly thought to be, Tim Tebow, Sam Bradford and Colt McCoy, but ask NFL talent evaluators and they rave about Clausen and Jake Locker of Washington. Of course both Clausen and Locker are juniors

I smell Pay per View – Braylon Edwards and LeBron James put them in the Octagon or put them in the ring, I don’t care, can you imagine the buy rate on that one. I think I should get a percentage since it is my idea.

So that is what Major League Baseball is suppose to be like – It wasn’t a classically played baseball game, but for sheer drama, excitement and finality it was a classic baseball game. The Minnesota Twins beat the Detroit Tigers in 12 innings for the right to face the Yankees in the playoffs. Both teams left everything on the field. As the game wore on the intensity picked up and the Metrodome was electric. It was clear that the players on the field were giving it everything they had. God, I miss good baseball! With that being said…

An open letter to Andy McPhail – Here is how you make the Orioles relevant again; I don’t want the credit, I just want good baseball. First the good, you know the Orioles get beat up pretty good and in most cases it is well deserved, so let’s give them a little credit. They have the best young pitching I have seen in this organization since I was a little kid, and that is a long time ago. Barring injury, Matusz is going to be a top of the rotation guy for a long time. Bergesen was a pleasant surprise. He is the poster boy for the old Oriole mantra, “work fast, change speeds and throw strikes.” Tillman has shown enough that I think he is going to be an effective starter in this rotation for some time. I can’t get passed the fact that the first time I saw him he reminded me so much of Jim Palmer it was scary. I am not trying to put that type of expectation on him, but his physical presence on the mound and his delivery are very similar. Jeremy Guthrie had a bad year, but he is not the only one. I don’t think that his contract issues and the World Baseball Classic did him any favors. So there is 4 fifths of your rotation; and that leaves one spot open in the rotation. While I think Matusz is going to be a stud, I don’t think it is fair to saddle him with that expectation this early. So it is time to sign a front of the rotation guy. The best pitcher out there is John Lackey. Call his agent the moment the Angels are done playing, don’t skimp on the money and bring him to Baltimore. With the rotation set, that leaves us with a woeful bullpen. Let’s face it, as a whole they were God awful. Mark Hendrickson was a real pleasant surprise in the pen and once through a batting order he was very effective. Koji Uehara showed flashes and previously made his living as a reliever. I don’t think he is strong enough to start for a full year, so move him to his comfortable role in the pen. With those two you have your left handed relievers taken care of, in addition to the fact that both can spot start if you need an emergency starter.
Jim Johnson returns to being one of the best set up men as he did for the previous 2 years. Cla Meredith is effective as a side arm situational reliever. Kam Mickolio shows tons of promise and pitched well when used correctly. but he is not yet ready to be a closer. Danys Baez, Matt Albers, Brian Bass and the rest of those cast of characters need to go.
The only spot open is closer. The guy they ought to give the first shot to close is David Hernandez. I like Hernandez, he throws a hard and heavy ball, and he has a bulldog mentality. Next year is the perfect year to try and invent yourself a closer. There is no pressure to win and if we show improvement then it is a win-win situation for all involved. If the team exceeds expectations and you want to make a move you can always make a trade before the deadline.
Offensively, there are a lot of very nice pieces. Up the middle they are solid with Weiters behind the plate, Roberts and Izturis at the middle infield positions and Jones in centerfield. Weiters is getting better behind the plate and he was our hottest hitter in the last month. He will have a monster year in 2010. Roberts in a really good lead off hitter and Izturis is the best defensive shortstop we have had around here is a while, plus his speed and bat in the 9 hole was a pleasant surprise. Adam Jones is a mercurial talent and one of these years will be his breakout year. The corner outfielders with Markakis and Reimold are very capably manned. Nolan Reimold was such a great find. I hope Reimold continues to improve on his play and Markakis is as steady as can be. So the only positions we have open are 1st base and 3rd base. Offensively we are in desperate need of a home run hitter. At third base, we need to move past Melvin Mora. The player they need to sign is Chone Figgins. Now he is not a power hitter but he is an excellent defensive 3rd baseman. He also hits for a high average and is a disruptive force on the base paths. I can’t imagine the chaos that Roberts and Figgins can cause at the top of the Oriole lineup. So the only thing missing is a big time power hitter. The one guy that they should pursue; and in fact, should have signed him last year, is only 50 miles down the road. The Washington Nationals are quietly shopping him around. Go get Adam Dunn. The guy hits 40 home runs a year and drives in 100. He is not a great outfielder or 1st baseman, but we don’t currently have a first baseman of that caliber anyway. I don’t see the downside here. You let him play half the time in the field and DH the rest of the week. He is a proven commodity who has a nasty streak. He is perfect for what this team needs. Ladies and Gentleman if I was the general manager of the Baltimore Orioles below would be the 2010 version.

Batting Lineup

1. Brian Roberts – 2B
2. Chone Figgins – 3B
3. Nick Markakis – RF RESERVES:
4. Adam Dunn – 1B/DH Felix Pie, Ty Wigginton,
5. Adam Jones – CF Robert Andino, Chad Moeller
6. Matt Weiters – C
7. Nolan Reimold – LF
8. Luke Scott – DH
9. Cesar Izturis – SS

Pitchers

John Lackey – SP Mark Hendrickson – RP
Brian Matusz – SP Koji Uehara – RP
Jeremy Guthrie – SP Jim Johnson – RP
Brad Bergesen – SP Kam Mickolio – RP
Chris Tillman – SP Cla Meredith – RP
Jason Birken – RP
David Hernandez – Closer

The only two things left are finances and field management. Let’s take the easy one first, finances. Committing to Lackey, Figgins and Dunn would take money. Dunn already is under contract, and if my numbers are right, he makes somewhere in the neighborhood of 10 million a year. With the shedding of the contracts of Melvin Mora, Danys Baez and Aubrey Huff that should clear roughly 20 -22 million per year. So making a quick calculation we would still be 12 million to the good after adding Dunn’s contract. Considering that we will have to over pay to sign both Lackey and Figgins we should figure on committing 27-30 million in additional payroll to sign both players. Again after applying the additional 12 million in savings, this would mean that we would only add approximately 15-18 million in gross payroll. Increasing our payroll by 18 million from 2009 to 2010 and adding 3 impact players is a bargain.

I have to admit I am all over the map with regards to Dave Trembley. The Orioles wasted no time in committing to bring him back in 2010. I sometimes scratch my head at his in game moves, but it appears he has the support of the players and he has admirably steered this organization through its most turbulent era. He is rock steady and a real company man. He has taken enough bullets for the organization and always comes back for more. It is amazing to me that this man did not completely wig out during this past season. To make all the changes I have outlined above would require some stability at the top. It will also take some time for the new parts to gel. Having veteran stewardship will help the new pieces gel, plus for all he has put up with he deserves the chance to compete on a more even playing field. Basically by bringing Tembley back so quickly, McPhail has taken a mulligan for the 2009 season.

Ok, now I have that off my chest, on to the NFL Power Rankings.

Rankings

1. New York Giants – meet the new boss, same as the old boss… But if Eli is hurt how long will this last.
2. New Orleans Saints – Darren Sharper is doing his best Ed Reed impersonation, or maybe that is Ed Reed, because he hasn’t registered on the Ravens field yet.
3. Minnesota Vikings – Tick…they have been impressive, tick…the defense is tough, tick…Petersen is a beast, tick…when will Brett blow up.
4. Indianapolis Colts – Peyton v. Eli in the Superbowl, what would be the over –under on Manning commercials.
5. Denver Broncos – I still don’t believe they are this good, but hey you have to give then there do.
6. New England Patriots – someone is going to have to put a stake through their heart. Still a good football team.
7. Baltimore Ravens – We didn’t expect them to go 16-0 did we? Big game this week against Bengals.
8. Philadelphia Eagles – McNabb comes back, can he be much better then Kolb the last 2 games?
9. Chicago Bears – Cutler is paying dividends. By the end of the year this might be a real tough team.
10. San Francisco 49ers – I think this team is really underrated. Singletary has made them a good team.
11. New York Jets – Sanchez hit a little bump in the road, let’s see if they can right the ship this week.
12. Cincinnati Bengals – I would feel a lot better about this team if they didn’t almost choke it up against Cleveland last week.
13. Pittsburgh Steelers – Got a big win against the Chargers, it appears Polumalo is coming back. They might be ready to go on a run.
14. Atlanta Falcons – coming off a bye, let’s see if they get back to winning after New England set back.
15. Green Bay Packers – walked into a buzz saw on Monday night. That offensive line might get Aaron Rodgers killed.
16. San Diego Chargers – GM calls the team soft…is there a Norv Turner watch in San Diego.
17. Jacksonville Jaguars – very impressive win against the Titans. Gerard’s best game in 2 years.
18. Houston Texans – Maybe they are beginning to turn the corner, still not sold on Schaub however.
19. Tennessee Titans – It is hard to believe that they are this bad a football team.
20. Arizona Cardinals – they have done nothing to warrant being ranked this high but still a lot of talent. Is Warner done?
21. Seattle Seahawks – Losing Hasselback has kind of derailed them. Still think they are better then their ranking shows.
22. Dallas Cowboys – Wade Phillips is in trouble, the Cowboys are soft.
23. Miami Dolphins – I route for Chad Pennington, but let’s see if Chad Henne is ready to step up.
24. Washington Redskins – think Jim Zorn is feeling any pressure? What the heck are they hiring Sherm Lewis to do?
25. Buffalo Bills – When does T.O. explode. He must feel like he is in Siberia playing for the Bills.
26. Detroit Lions- played Bears tough for a half. They were making strides, let’s hope Stafford does not miss much time.
27. Oakland Raiders – they wouldn’t be bad if their quarterback could make a play.
28. Carolina Panthers – hard to understand why they are winless. They have talent, John Fox is a decent coach, where is the weak link?
29. Kansas City Chiefs – tied for last place
30. St. Louis Rams – tied for last place.
31. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – tied for last place
32. Cleveland Browns – Eric Mangini is determined to completely destroy this team.

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Who is this Oscar Salazar guy?

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Who is this Oscar Salazar guy?

Posted on 13 July 2009 by Marco Romanell

Orioles fans probably wouldn’t recognize Oscar Salazar if they saw him in public, but his play has them starting to take notice. Salazar led the Orioles to a rare Sunday victory by hitting his second homer of the season and left fans asking ” who is this Salazar guy? He is pretty good.”

After signing as an amateur free agent in 1994 with the Athletics, Salazar did not make his major league debut until eight years later with the Tigers. In 2002 he played three games and hit .190 with a homer and one RBI. After toiling around the farm systems of the Angels, Royals and Angels and making stops in Italy and Mexico, Salazar signed with the Orioles in 2007.

Salazar made his return to the majors on June 10th of last year but only played sparingly before being sent back to Bowie. At age 30, it looked like Salazar would be a life long major leaguer until being recalled this season.  With the way he is currently, it looks like he wants to stay.

With a .419 batting average, two home runs and six RBI’s, Salazar has been more then just a “fill in” player whose only contribution is to give a rest to the everyday players. Given his success thus far this season and his perseverance and personality Salazar has quickly become a fan favorite. He now has fans, including me, wanting to see more of him.

While his versatility and bat are intriguing, many people believe that his defense is suspect and that would hurt the Orioles if he played every day. There is no question that Melvin Mora is one of the best defensive 3rd baseman in baseball, but I think Salazar would be a serviceable defensive third baseman if he were to replace Mora. The ability to play every infield position is what makes Salazar a valuable commodity to the Orioles and is likely the reason he did not get sent down when Cesar Izturis came off the DL.

When I first heard that the Orioles had called him up from Norfolk I questioned why they decided to bring up a 30 year old journeyman. However, I am now on the Oscar Salazar bandwagon. I now get excited every time he is in the game and I expect him to produce more often then not despite the situation. What a difference a few weeks make.

Salazar’s play has made fans go from saying ” who is this guy? to ” man, this Salazar guy is pretty good”.

So who is Oscar Salazar? He may just be the Orioles future 3rd baseman.  And I am perfectly fine with that.

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