Tag Archive | "chicago"

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Sunday proved to be well worth wait for Orioles

Posted on 07 August 2016 by Luke Jones

The Orioles were the worst team in baseball when they selected Manny Machado with the third overall pick of the 2010 draft.

They were stuck in last place in the American League East a year later when they took Dylan Bundy fourth overall.

Both have experienced their trials — Bundy more so than Machado, of course — but it was gratifying to see the pair shine together in Sunday’s 10-2 win over the Chicago White Sox. It’s what Orioles fans only dreamed about five years ago, but the 23-year-old pitcher has finally joined the three-time All-Star third baseman in the major league spotlight.

Machado has provided plenty of highlights in his young career, but he became the first major leaguer to hit a home run in each of the first three innings of a game since Carl Reynolds in 1930. His seven RBIs were a career high and the highest single-game total from an Oriole since Nelson Cruz in 2014.

More importantly for the Orioles, it capped off a reawakening of the 24-year-old’s bat this weekend as he had hit .209 with a .621 on-base plus slugging percentage since the start of July before turning in a three-hit performance on Friday night. Much focus has fallen on the struggles of first baseman Chris Davis in recent weeks, but Machado is Baltimore’s best player and needs to play at a high level over the final eight weeks in the push for the division title.

Of course, Machado was most responsible for the breathing room afforded to Bundy on Sunday, but the young right-hander responded exactly as manager Buck Showalter wanted to see. Throwing a career-high 92 pitches, Bundy completed six strong innings and allowed just two runs while registering a career-high nine strikeouts in his fifth major league start.

His 14 swinging strikes were a career high as Bundy set the tone for the outing in the first inning with three swinging strikeouts — one each with his fastball, changeup, and curveball. He arguably had his best curve we’d seen all season — striking out three more with it — but the most encouraging part of his outing was seeing see him finish off Justin Morneau with a 95 mph fastball for a strikeout to end the sixth.

Everyone will continue crossing their fingers as hard as they can regarding his health, but Bundy only appears to be getting stronger in a starter role. His season strikeout rate is now 9.0 per nine innings after so much discussion centered around his inability to miss bats early in the year.

While Machado has been an established star for a couple years ago, Bundy has pitched a lot like one for over two months now, posting a 2.28 ERA over his last 47 1/3 innings dating back to May 27. It’s sure been fun watching him play catch-up after three injury-riddled seasons that threatened to derail his development.

Winning just their ninth road series of the season was more important to the Orioles than how the details played out on Sunday, but there was something special about seeing both Machado and Bundy shine together in the midst of a pennant race.

It was a reminder of how far the Orioles have come since the two were drafted a year apart.

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Orioles, Britton hoping he can avoid trip to disabled list

Posted on 01 May 2016 by Luke Jones

(Updated: 6:15 p.m.)

BALTIMORE — Despite using crutches to walk around the clubhouse on Sunday, Orioles closer Zach Britton told reporters he doesn’t expect to go on the 15-day disabled list with a sprained left ankle.

The 2015 All-Star selection was injured trying to field a bunt in the ninth inning of Saturday night’s 8-7 loss to the Chicago White Sox. Britton had to leave the game and was limping as he walked to the dugout with head athletic trainer Richie Bancells, but his prognosis hadn’t changed since initially being labeled as “day-to-day” a night earlier.

“Not much swelling. I think he’ll be a pitcher shortly — hopefully,” said manager Buck Showalter, who later revealed after Sunday’s game that Britton would undergo a precautionary magnetic resonance imaging exam on Monday. “It’s the left one. I actually kind of like that a little better than the right one. I’d rather have that one as opposed to the landing foot, but it was more like he kind of jammed the capsule in there a little bit as opposed to turning it. The lack of swelling kind of reiterated what Richie thought it was looking at the tape.”

It remains to be seen whom Showalter might use as his closer in Britton’s absence, and he was predictably tight-lipped about it when asked by reporters.

As the Orioles prepared to conclude a four-game set with Chicago, Showalter acknowledged there were a “couple” relief pitchers he wouldn’t use on Sunday, adding more intrigue to the possibility of a save situation. Having pitched in three of the last four games and throwing 35 pitches over the last two nights, primary setup man Darren O’Day was likely to be unavailable on Sunday. Givens also pitched in two of the first three games of the series and tossed a combined 50 pitches in those outings, leaving his status for the series finale in question.

The Orioles will be off on Monday, which will give Britton another day to recover and Showalter an opportunity to better set up his bullpen for a three-game series with the New York Yankees.

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Fowler spurns Orioles to re-sign with Cubs

Posted on 25 February 2016 by Luke Jones

Less than two days after the Orioles reportedly agreed to terms on a three-year contract with Dexter Fowler, the veteran outfielder surprisingly re-signed with the Chicago Cubs on Thursday.

It was believed that the Orioles had a $35 million agreement with the 29-year-old outfielder, but multiple outlets have reported that Fowler wanted an opt-out after the first year and the Orioles balked at giving up the 28th overall pick of the June draft for potentially only one season of service. The Cubs announced a one-year deal for a reported $8 million salary for 2016 with a $9 million mutual option for 2017 that includes a $5 million buyout, giving Fowler $13 million guaranteed for his return to Chicago.

Fowler told reporters in Arizona that he never agreed to a deal with Baltimore despite local and national reporters saying an agreement was in place on Tuesday night. Adam Jones was even quoted in Sarasota on Wednesday saying that he had communicated with Fowler and the switch-hitting outfielder had said he was excited to join the Orioles.

Executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette said in Sarasota that there was not an agreement due to Fowler insisting on an opt-out clause. On Thursday, Fowler said his heart was with Chicago and he is taking less guaranteed money to stay there.

Fowler’s agent, Casey Close, issued a statement Tuesday night in which he blasted both the Orioles and media for “recklessly spreading rumors” about an agreement. However, it remains unclear why Close elected to remain silent for such a long period of time and didn’t simply reach out to reporters or use social media to declare the reports as premature or completely false on Tuesday night.

Of course, the news of Fowler’s signing came less than 24 hours after the Orioles restructured a deal with starting pitcher Yovani Gallardo after concerns arose about his physical. That has understandably led some to believe the delay could have facilitated Fowler’s return to the Cubs, who won 97 games and advanced to the NL Championship Series last year.

While it’s understandable not being keen on the idea of forfeiting a pick for what could be a one-year deal, the Orioles are once again left with a shaky corner outfield situation and few options remaining this late in February. And they will not have Fowler’s .363 career on-base percentage at the top of the lineup.

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Potential rotation option for Orioles finds work elsewhere

Posted on 09 February 2016 by Luke Jones

Still uncomfortably thin in their starting rotation, the Orioles watched another veteran free-agent option find a home elsewhere on Tuesday.

The Chicago White Sox agreed to a one-year, $3 million contract with right-handed pitcher Mat Latos as the 28-year-old will try to rebuild his value after a disastrous 2015 campaign. The Orioles had reportedly shown some interest in the longtime National League pitcher this offseason, but free agent Yovani Gallardo has been linked to the club more frequently.

Though considered by many to be a handful from an attitude standpoint, Latos owns a career 3.51 ERA in seven major league seasons and is only a year removed from a 3.25 mark in 2014. A lingering knee problem contributed to the worst season of his career in 2015 as Latos posted a 4.95 ERA split among Miami, the Los Angeles Dodgers, and the Los Angeles Angels.

His low base salary with the White Sox could lead one to believe Latos isn’t fully healthy and may not have even passed the Orioles’ rigorous physical exam. Of course, a one-year pillow contract pitching at Oriole Park at Camden Yards may not have been too appealing for a pitcher competing in a new league in 2016, either.

If those weren’t major factors, you have to wonder why the Orioles wouldn’t have shown more interest in a still-young starting pitcher who owns a strong track record and comes at a very low cost. Of course, this signing makes a marriage between the Orioles and Gallardo even more logical with the start of spring training less than two weeks away.

The current contenders for the No. 5 spot in the Baltimore starting rotation include Vance Worley, Odrisamer Despaigne, Mike Wright, and Tyler Wilson.

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Clausen claimed by Ravens to back up Schaub at quarterback

Posted on 24 November 2015 by Luke Jones

Needing a backup quarterback for new starter Matt Schaub, the Ravens were awarded veteran Jimmy Clausen off waivers from the Chicago Bears on Tuesday.

The injured Joe Flacco (knee) was officially placed on injured reserve to make room on the 53-man roster for the 28-year-old Clausen, who now reunites with former Chicago head coach and current Ravens offensive coordinator Marc Trestman. The 2010 second-round pick from Notre Dame had spent the last two seasons with the Bears after beginning his career with the Carolina Panthers.

Trying to add a No. 2 quarterback on short notice, the Ravens preferred someone with knowledge of Trestman’s offensive system, which would accelerate the learning curve with only several days to get ready for Monday night’s game in Cleveland.

“I think that would be a plus if we had that guy available,” said head coach John Harbaugh about the search for a new backup quarterback on Monday. “Someone who has some experience would be a plus.”

The 6-foot-2, 210-pound Clausen has played in 19 games (12 starts) in his six-year career with most of that coming in his rookie season with Carolina. He has completed 53.2 percent of his passes for 1,965 yards, five touchdowns, and 11 interceptions in his career.

On Monday, Schaub will become the first player other than Flacco to start at quarterback for the Ravens in a regular-season game since Troy Smith on Dec. 30, 2007. Counting the postseason, Flacco had started 137 consecutive games for the Ravens.

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MLB 2015 Postseason

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Mike Harmon’s impression on the Cubs NLDS victory

Posted on 14 October 2015 by WNST Staff

MLB 2015 Postseason

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Apr 5, 2013; Baltimore, MD, USA; Baltimore Orioles starting pitcher Jake Arrieta (34) pitches in the third inning against the Minnesota Twins on Opening Day at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Mandatory Credit: Joy R. Absalon-USA TODAY Sports

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Looking back at Arrieta’s Orioles departure

Posted on 31 August 2015 by Luke Jones

Hindsight is always crystal clear and it takes no baseball genius to see that the Orioles trading Jake Arrieta to the Chicago Cubs looks like a terrible decision two years later.

But as Orioles fans wondered what might have been Sunday night as Arrieta pitched a no-hitter in Chavez Ravine — his league-leading 17th win of the season — many of those same individuals screamed for the organization to give up on the right-hander in 2013 when he sported a 5.46 career ERA in parts of four seasons in Baltimore. In trading Arrieta and erratic relief pitcher Pedro Strop, the Orioles picked up starting pitcher Scott Feldman (and catcher Steve Clevenger) to help in a push for a second straight playoff appearance that ultimately fell short.

Though executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette fetched an underwhelming return for two flawed pitchers who still possessed plenty of upside and have gone on to have much success in Chicago, the big-picture concern is the Orioles’ longstanding inability to develop young pitching as Arrieta is just one in a long list of talented prospects not to pan out in Baltimore for a variety of reasons.

But that isn’t even the part of the equation that stings the most when you look back at the circumstances of the time. Despite electric stuff that Arrieta flashed on more than one occasion, the 27-year-old made just six career appearances with the Orioles out of the bullpen. There’s no disputing that he didn’t belong in the rotation with a 7.23 ERA in 2013, but why didn’t the Orioles move an arm such as his to the bullpen in a long relief role on at least a temporary basis?

Because the Orioles had Rule 5 pick T.J. McFarland stuck there.

If McFarland would have at least developed into a solid No. 4 or No. 5 starter by this point, everyone would still second-guess the Arrieta deal, but at least you could say the Orioles had brought another viable starter into the picture. Instead, the 26-year-old lefty is plugging away in a very similar role two years later and hasn’t been a real difference-maker.

Many have questioned the Orioles’ strange obsession with the Rule 5 draft and you can’t help but wonder if maybe — just maybe — Arrieta would have eventually figured it out after some time in the bullpen to either become a successful starter or at least move into a meaningful bullpen role in a way similar to All-Star closer Zach Britton. Maybe such a strategy would have only been delaying an inevitable release or a different trade down the line, but it would have been another avenue to explore with an untapped talent.

Instead, the organization viewed McFarland as the preferable option moving forward, which makes you doubt its talent evaluation in addition to the ability to develop pitchers.

A change of scenery ultimately worked perfectly for Arrieta as he’s blossomed into one of the best pitchers in baseball this year. No one would have reasonably bet on him finding this dramatic level of success when he was traded, but it’s disappointing that the organization preferred to trade him in order to rent an average starting pitcher — Feldman was never going to substantially move the meter in a playoff race — and to keep a lesser Rule 5 arm in a bullpen role perfectly suited for Arrieta at the time.

It isn’t so terrible that the Orioles gave up on Arrieta after 358 major league innings consisting of more hair-pulling frustration than success. Already 27 at the time, Arrieta may have never figured it out in Baltimore.

But what stings is the organization trading him away for little upside in return and without exhausting every avenue to try to make it work.

 

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MLB #GiveASpit Ballpark Ranking: No. 12 Chicago White Sox

Posted on 29 August 2015 by Nestor Aparicio

Chicago White Sox – They’ve tried a few times to make this place more comfortable since it was outdated from the moment it opened. It always gets compared to Wrigley Field because it’s 11.4 miles away. When I was syndicated at the turn of the century and had many occasions to attend them both, and I always preferred Comiskey (or U.S. Cellular Field or whatever they’re calling it these days) and this tour did nothing to change that. The food is better. They have elotes. The fans are more legitimate and not a bunch of drunk frat idiots. It’s better equipped to handle people at every turn. There are many more quality seats close to the field. When I’m in Chicago, this is where I prefer to go to watch baseball.

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MLB #GiveASpit Ballpark Ranking: No. 13 Wrigley Field

Posted on 28 August 2015 by Nestor Aparicio

Wrigley Field – Sure, there’s the old world charm about the home of the Chicago Cubs. Yes, it was built a hundred years ago. But every time I think about going to a game at Wrigley Field it’s one giant pain in the ass. The parking. The people. The place is built about five times smaller than it should be. One bonus: it has troughs, which makes it legit. But, unless you buy a seat in the bleachers (and those seats are always premium priced) you can’t even visit to take a picture. The place really smacks of corporate greed and has for most of my lifetime. The team always sucks (except when Jake Arrieta is involved). The food and choices suck. The scoreboards are still so antiquated as to be confusing. Seriously, I put it even a little higher on this list than I thought it deserves to be because my wife likes it but I think the place mostly sucks. It’s a great throwback experience. They’ve done a nice job of keeping it clean but it’s such a tourist trap of a place for my tastes. Sure, you gotta go and I get that. But I’m glad my team doesn’t play there and that I don’t have to get scalped for a C-minus experience every time I visit. I’m not planning on going back anytime soon and I don’t feel like I’m missing much. It’s a far better place on TV.

But, you still gotta go and see it.

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A memorable day we hope never happens again

Posted on 29 April 2015 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — Accompanied by the punchlines and photos on social media was a sadness as a recording of the national anthem played at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on Wednesday afternoon.

As if the sight of an empty ballpark moments before the start of an Orioles game wasn’t strange enough, it had just hit me that we wouldn’t hear the customary “O!” that we’ve come to expect at any major sporting event in Baltimore over the years. Out-of-towners don’t get it and even some within the community don’t care for the practice, but there are few things more “Baltimore” than our own Star-Spangled Banner trademark you’ll even hear when fans follow the Orioles or Ravens on the road.

It was just the latest reminder of how far from ideal the concept of playing a baseball game without fans truly was, but that’s when I heard the faint but audible “O!” from a few dozen fans standing beyond the left-center gate. The sound warmed the heart in a week filled with much tension and sadness in the city of Baltimore, and it suddenly made more sense for the Orioles to be playing a game at home before embarking on what will now be a nine-game road trip.

“Oh, they were heard,” said a smiling Buck Showalter when asked about those fans cheering from afar during an 8-2 win over the Chicago White Sox.

Of course, the Orioles returning to the field is of little consequence compared to the real problems our city is facing and will continue to deal with in the coming hours, days, and weeks. The decision not to allocate the law-enforcement officials required for a regular game was a wise one, but the quiet atmosphere was a reminder of just how important fans are to the product.

As one of the select few able to watch the game in person, I enjoyed the previously-unheard sounds of Jimmy Paredes sliding into third base or first base coach Wayne Kirby calling for Delmon Young to run out a popup, but the atmosphere reminded of a junior varsity baseball game without the pings of aluminum bats. It may have been a day that made major league history, but we can only hope it never happens again as we look ahead to the return of both the Orioles and fans to Camden Yards on May 11.

“It’s something that we hopefully don’t take for granted,” said catcher Caleb Joseph, who jokingly pretended to high-five fans and sign autographs before the game. “Days like today definitely remind you if it weren’t for them, we wouldn’t have jobs. Hopefully, everything can be resolved as quickly as possible.”

A game being played without any fans wasn’t what anyone truly wanted, but if it represented baby steps toward some normalcy, we’ll take it. After watching so many parts of the city burn on Monday night, just seeing baseball being played at Camden Yards again was movement in the right direction.

For those watching on television or listening on the radio on a weekday afternoon, the surreal game at least provided a temporary distraction.

“They’re always watching. You all know that,” said center fielder Adam Jones, acknowledging more fans viewing on television than those attending any game under regular circumstances. “Cameras are always on. It was good to come out and get six [runs] in the first [and] get a stronghold off a good pitcher.”

The day was helped by the Orioles rolling over starter Jeff Samardzija and the White Sox to win their third consecutive game. While players were quick to note the insignificance of winning a baseball game in the city’s current climate, you still sensed their purpose of wanting to do something positive for fans despite their inability to attend the game.

Of course, the run of baseball-related distractions and sacrifice isn’t over for the Orioles as they’ll now play a “home” series — with home uniforms and all — against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg this weekend. But leaving town on a winning note helps.

“You tried to stay focused on the competition and us trying to get where we want to be at the end of the season,” Showalter said. “But I also talked to [players] about the people who are going to be sitting around our city watching this game. How many things have really gone on normal here in the last few days in our society?”

Yes, the perception of playing in an empty stadium was less than appealing, but it beat the alternative of canceling a third consecutive game at an abandoned Camden Yards. If it served as even a few minutes of leisure from the tension that currently exists in our city, the unorthodox measure was worth it.

There are much bigger issues at work in Baltimore — ones that won’t be solved overnight — but to hear cheers from those fans standing beyond the gates was a reminder of just how important something so unimportant can be. It isn’t a coincidence that we’ve occasionally heard the “Seven Nation Army” chants from protesters over the last couple days, either.

Sports have brought and will continue to bring us together, which is why I look forward to once again seeing a packed Camden Yards — hopefully as early as May 11.

“The last 72 hours I think in this city have been tumultuous, to say the least,” Jones said. “We’ve seen good, we’ve seen bad, we’ve seen ugly. We’ve seen our games canceled, postponed, relocated, a lot of families relocated.

“It’s a city that’s hurting, and a city that needs its heads to stand up, step up, and help the ones that are hurting. It’s not an easy time right now for anybody. It doesn’t matter what race you are. It’s a tough time for the city of Baltimore.”

One day at a time.

As unusual and less than perfect Wednesday’s game was, it was comforting to have a diversion.

It was good to hear that familiar “O!” in the distance.

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