Tag Archive | "Chris Tillman"

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Dear Zach Britton: We’ll forever salute you as Mister ‘What If?’ in Baltimore

Posted on 25 July 2018 by Nestor Aparicio

Dear Zach:

Your time has come to leave Angelos Island and trade in the orange and black for your most unlikely second MLB franchise – the Evil Empire and the pinstripes of the dreaded New York Yankees.

Instead of back in black, you’ll be back in blue next week.

Start spreading the news, you’re leaving today! And much like Manny Machado, this is very likely the road to City Y on the way to City X.

On the grandest stage and pitching into October – well, we think they’ll actually put you in the game in The Bronx – you’ll have a chance to throw your way back into something that looks like the contract you probably deserved after what you did here from 2014 through 2016.

I remember Don Stanhouse from my youth. I saw Gregg Olson drop deuces on 33rd Street into his prime. And I watched all of the rent-a-hats from Don Aase to Lee Smith to crazy-ass Randy Myers around here and you are the king of the firemen in the Charm City.

The closest thing I ever saw to Eckersley – and that’s high praise even if you’re not on the Red Sox charter!

No one ever did it better than you, Zach!

And I’m not holding my breathe to think we’ve ever going to see it again, late into summer nights, as Orioles fans with games on the line in money spots. The first thing we’ll need to see to ever replicate anything resembling you will be late-inning leads. And methinks there won’t be a lot of those in the pipeline in the coming years in Baltimore.

There are so many “what ifs?” around your dozen years with the Baltimore Orioles organization. I’m sure you were taking that all in – out in the bullpen for the final time on Tuesday night. Like Machado and Markakis and a few others of the modern era who “made it out” with big-time productivity and contracts with lots of zeroes, you remember the slums of Fort Lauderdale every spring and that time long ago when all the organization that drafted you did was finish in last place.

We do, too!

You were a part of changing that around here and we’ll forever salute you!

I remember your youth and promise. The whole Arrieta, Matusz, Tillman class of “growing the arms.” And now a decade later, we start to see the history of buying the bats.

Those of us who have been paying attention can easily piece together who is where, and why?

As much as the folks who watched you dazzle and become the most automatic finisher this side of the best of Eckersley in his prime, you will always be remembered – and tied to – Buck Showalter’s epic fail in Toronto in October 2016. It will forever be the black hole of modern day Orioles baseball – how a baseball genius left Ubaldo Jimenez on the hill and you in your prime on the pine at Skydome with the season on the line in extra innings.

As you kinda pointed out last week on your media exit tour, it’s still inexplicable and irreversible. It always will be, even for Buck.

It took the Baltimore Orioles 14 years to solve the Armando Benitez-Tony Fernandez bomb in 1997.

Who knows how long this current back in (the) black hole era will last? And who made who?

We’re just getting started around here with the coronation of Dillon Tate, Josh Rogers and Cody Carroll and the eight new baby Birds on the farm from this July haul and heist of the Dodgers and Yankees.

In the future, the Orioles will need dirty deeds done dirt cheap in the late innings.

Buck will fairly get his chunky and complex #DearOrioles letter later – and it certainly would be unfair to judge him solely on a pitch you never threw in Canada – but his story and yours are forever tied to Toronto and that fateful night. It’ll be the last time the Baltimore Orioles will have a chance to win a postseason MLB game for a long

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Orioles designate veteran pitcher Chris Tillman for assignment

Posted on 20 July 2018 by Luke Jones

The Orioles officially entered a rebuilding phase earlier this week by trading four-time All-Star infielder Manny Machado and have made another move reflecting their new direction.

Longtime starting pitcher Chris Tillman was designated for assignment on Friday, leaving the status of his major league career in doubt. Once an anchor of the starting rotation for three playoff-qualifying clubs in Baltimore, the 30-year-old right-hander has posted an 8.42 ERA since the start of the 2017 season and had been on the disabled list since May with a lower back strain. The organization hoped an extended minor-league rehab assignment might get Tillman back on track, but he pitched to an ugly 6.75 ERA in six starts among four different affiliates.

The writing appeared to be on the wall last Sunday when scheduled starter Jimmy Yacabonis was scratched due to illness and the Orioles elected to pitch a bullpen game even though Tillman was on turn to pitch that same day. It’s unclear whether the veteran will accept an outright assignment with Triple-A Norfolk or will elect to become a free agent.

Tillman was having arguably his best season in 2016 and coming off a strong seven-inning victory in Oakland on Aug. 11 to lower his ERA to 3.46 when he began experiencing right shoulder discomfort and was placed on the DL soon thereafter. He returned to pitch a month later and put up respectable numbers the rest of the way and even started the American League Wild Card Game despite underwhelming velocity. The shoulder problem resurfaced that offseason, prompting a platelet-rich plasma injection and forcing him to miss the first month of the 2017 season.

He hasn’t been the same since the shoulder injury as the Orioles wrongly bet that his alarming 7.84 ERA in 93 innings in 2017 was an aberration and re-signed him to a one-year, $3 million contract in February. Tillman has repeatedly insisted his shoulder has felt good over the last two seasons, but his velocity and lower arm slot reflect a pitcher either lacking the same range of motion or compensating to avoid the previous pain. In seven starts this season, he was 1-5 with a 10.46 ERA while walking 5.7 batters and striking out only 4.4 per nine innings.

His final two ugly seasons shouldn’t diminish what Tillman accomplished for the Orioles, who acquired him and five-time All-Star center fielder Adam Jones from Seattle as part of the blockbuster Erik Bedard trade in 2008. After struggling in parts of his first three major league seasons, Tillman posted a 2.93 ERA in 15 starts in 2012 to help Baltimore qualify for the postseason for the first time since 1997. He followed that with back-to-back 200-inning campaigns, making the All-Star team in 2013 and anchoring a second-half rotation surge in 2014 that helped the Orioles win the AL East championship.

In 10 major league seasons, Tillman is 74-60 with a 4.57 ERA over 1,145 innings.

In other Friday roster news, the Orioles promoted infielder Renato Nunez from Norfolk. The 24-year-old has hit .167 in 72 major league plate appearances split between Texas and Oakland, but he owns a career .788 on-base plus slugging percentage in the minors. He was claimed off waivers from the Rangers in mid-May and was batting .289 with five home runs, 25 runs batted in, and an .804 OPS for the Tides.

Nunez was starting at third base against Toronto on Friday night with Tim Beckham now back at shortstop to replace the departed Machado.

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Twelve Orioles thoughts entering All-Star break

Posted on 16 July 2018 by Luke Jones

With the Orioles hitting the All-Star break an unthinkable 39 1/2 games out of first place in the American League East, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. Even with a victory in the final game before the All-Star break that featured contributions from Manny Machado and Adam Jones, the Orioles remain on pace to become the fifth major league team since 1901 to lose 115 games in a season. Infamy continues to chase them.

2. Baltimore hadn’t won on consecutive days at home since its season-best four-game winning streak from May 9-12, and it had also been three weeks since the club won consecutive games. Overshadowed by the frustration and anger of the season is how truly astonishing it’s all been.

3. Chris Tillman being bypassed in favor of a bullpen game Sunday should speak volumes about where he stands with his rehab assignment coming to an end. Not even a Jimmy Yacabonis illness could bring him back to the majors.

4. The question isn’t about whom to fire as much as determining who deserves to stick around for the pending rebuild. How do Buck Showalter and his coaching staff come back from such a historically poor season? What’s the justification for maintaining the status quo? It’s a tough sell.

5. Beyond trades involving pending free agents, a top second-half priority needs to be getting Jonathan Schoop and Trey Mancini on track. Both are too young and talented to have played like this. The Orioles need these two to be pillars around which to build or at least potential trade chips.

6. After being optioned to the minors for the second time in a month, Chance Sisco needs to be left alone for a while. I have doubts about what we’ve seen from him so far, but making him a regular on the Norfolk shuttle isn’t going to help matters.

7. I certainly wouldn’t give away Mychal Givens and his current 4.28 ERA, but the organization’s reluctance to trade him is too shortsighted. No one should be off the table when you’re facing a multiyear rebuild, especially factoring in the volatility of relievers.

8. In his first 23 games since returning from his benching, Chris Davis has batted .176 with five home runs, a .245 on-base percentage, and a .388 slugging percentage. That actually represents improvement, too. He sits at minus-2.5 wins above replacement, according to Baseball Reference.

9. The Orioles entered the break last in the majors at minus-87 defensive runs saved, and the cause isn’t players being out of position as Showalter suggested this past week. Players with more speed and better defensive skills are needed rather than a surplus of designated hitters with gloves.

10. An addition to begin changing that narrative would be Cedric Mullins, who entered Monday sporting an .820 on-base plus slugging percentage for Triple-A Norfolk. It’s time to start seeing what the 23-year-old center fielder can do in the majors.

11. Brooks Robinson being hired as a special assistant is a great move, but I can’t stop thinking about how long overdue it is. This is something that should have happened from the moment “Mr. Oriole” left the broadcast booth 25 years ago. Better late than never though.

12. Now, is there any chance John and Lou Angelos can do something about THIS?

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Crunch time rapidly approaching for Orioles’ free-agent-to-be trade chips

Posted on 26 June 2018 by Luke Jones

At a time when pennant races are still taking shape and a number of teams are still determining whether they’re contenders or pretenders or buyers or sellers, the clock has long been ticking for the Orioles.

The objective is obvious with the only question related to the standings now being whether Baltimore can regroup enough to avoid its first 100-loss season in 30 years. On Tuesday, the non-waiver trade deadline will be exactly five weeks away, and the Orioles have yet to move a single trade chip.

Crunch time is rapidly approaching.

We can debate how extensive the expected rebuild should be and which players under club control beyond 2018 should also be on the table, but every pending free agent on the roster should be on the move for anything resembling a reasonable return in the coming weeks. Anything less torpedoes the Orioles further into the abyss they’re already facing.

Below is a look at where each of their pending free agents stands a little over a month before the deadline:

SS Manny Machado
2018 salary: $16 million

What to like: The 25-year-old is having a career year at the plate and is a top 10 offensive player in baseball, making him a very attractive addition to any contender aiming to upgrade the left side of its infield or to add a premium bat to the lineup. He’s on pace to set career bests in home runs, runs batted in, batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, walk rate, and strikeout rate.

What not to like: The eyeball test on Machado playing shortstop has been iffy, and the defensive metrics are even worse as he ranks last among major league shortstops in defensive runs saved. This will likely be a bigger topic of discussion for his free agency, but any contender coveting his bat will need to acknowledge that he doesn’t offer the same defensive value at his new position as he did at third base.

Outlook: Teams value young players and prospects more than ever, so expecting a lucrative return for a rental — even one as great as Machado — is unrealistic. However, the Orioles should still be able to fetch some good pieces for the best player available on the market. Several teams will be interested, but Baltimore must be careful not to play its hand too strongly as it wouldn’t be the first time other clubs could grow tired of glacial-pace negotiations and indecisiveness. The organization can’t afford to mess this up more than it already has by not dealing him sooner or signing him to a long-term extension.

CF Adam Jones
2018 salary: $17.333 million

What to like: The 32-year-old is on pace to eclipse the 20-homer mark for the eighth consecutive season and enters Tuesday’s action hitting .290, which would be the highest mark of his career. A clubhouse leader with an above-average bat and playoff experience would be valuable to an ascending club making its first run at a playoff spot or looking to get to the next level.

What not to like: His defense has been debated for years, but the time has come for Jones to move to a corner outfield spot as he ranks next to last among major league center fielders in defensive runs saved and doesn’t cover enough ground anymore. His 2.8 percent walk rate is the second lowest of his career and his .320 batting average on balls in play suggest some regression at the plate the rest of the way.

Outlook: More than with any other potential chip, Jones should be handled delicately as he has meant so much to this city over the last decade and holds a full no-trade clause as a 10-and-5 player. The five-time All-Star selection deserves to play for a contender if he wishes, but his remaining salary and defensive concerns could be sticking points for potential suitors. There should be a reasonable deal out there that can fetch the Orioles a piece or two and provide Jones a chance to win a World Series, but open communication will be key here and that’s not a strength of the organization.

LHP Zach Britton
2018 salary: $12 million

What to like: Britton is only two years removed from arguably the greatest season ever for a relief pitcher and remains a premium commodity as a hard-throwing left-handed reliever. His 136 saves entering Tuesday’s action should look appealing to any contender looking for a closer or to add an experienced ninth-inning arm as part of a committee approach dictated by matchups.

What not to like: Coming back from the torn Achilles tendon is one thing, but Britton’s average fastball velocity (93.8 miles per hour) is down more than two miles per hour from 2017 (96.1) when he dealt with a forearm issue for a large chunk of the season. He’s also issued nearly a walk per inning since making his 2018 season debut two weeks ago.

Outlook: You hate to draw too many conclusions based on Britton’s first seven appearances of 2018, but a small sample size is all you have to go on with the deadline a little over a month away and you’re discussing a pitcher who’s missed sizable portions of the last two seasons. When you match that with his hefty salary, the Orioles need to see Britton get on a hot streak over the next few weeks to increase his trade value from anything more than a salary dump or a middling minor-leaguer or two. The Orioles really missed the boat not cashing in on what was some great value two winters ago.

RHP Brad Brach
2018 salary: $5.165 million

What to like: The right-hander is averaging just under 10 strikeouts per nine innings and is only two years removed from his 2016 All-Star campaign in which he posted a tiny 2.05 ERA. Brach has also converted 26 saves over the last two seasons filling in for Britton.

What not to like: The 32-year-old is averaging five walks per nine innings and has posted an ordinary 3.86 ERA in his first 32 appearances of the 2018 season. Even when he’s put zeroes on the scoreboard, the outings have been shaky as he’s posted a career-worst 1.75 WHIP (walks and hits per inning pitched).

Outlook: There figures to be no shortage of right-handed relievers available at the deadline, making you wonder how much Brach can improve his value between now and the end of July. There should be a taker or two for his services, but this is another situation in which the Orioles didn’t sell high and are now looking at a deal more closely resembling a salary dump than anything of great value in return.

INF Danny Valencia
2018 salary: $1.2 million

What to like: Valencia has been one of the few bright spots of 2018 with a solid .280 average and .791 on-base plus slugging percentage and has played more than anticipated because of injuries. Long considered a platoon bat against left-handed pitchers, the 33-year-old has hit right-handers just as effectively.

What not to like: Even with his balanced splits this season, Valencia remains below average defensively and ideally serves as a designated hitter or first baseman, limiting his appeal to contenders.

Outlook: Tim Beckham’s return figures to limit opportunities for Valencia, which isn’t ideal when you have thoughts of moving him in a trade. His affordable salary and consistency at the plate this season could fetch the Orioles something, but this isn’t a trade commodity that’s moving the meter in any way.

Other pending free agents: OF Colby Rasmus, OF Craig Gentry, SP Chris Tillman
Outlook: These three are more likely to be designated for assignment than to find any club interested in their services the rest of the way.

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Twelve Orioles thoughts following Memorial Day checkpoint

Posted on 29 May 2018 by Luke Jones

With one-third of the Orioles’ 2018 season officially in the books after the 6-0 loss to Washington on Monday, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. The Orioles reached the much-discussed Memorial Day checkpoint sitting at 20 games below .500 and 20 games out of first place in the American League East. I’d say an extension to Flag Day probably isn’t necessary to determine how this organization needs to proceed.

2. Since plating 17 runs on Mother’s Day, the Baltimore lineup has scored three or fewer in 11 of 13 games. Pitching woes and bad defense haven’t surprised me, but I never expected the offense to be this consistently bad, ranking last in the AL in runs scored per game (3.83).

3. I’m unsure how good the likes of Cedric Mullins, DJ Stewart, and Austin Hays will be in the majors, but watching some of the outfield combinations used by Buck Showalter in recent weeks is tiresome. I suppose a 111-loss pace reflects the amount of dead weight on the current roster.

4. Continuing to bat Chris Davis fifth or sixth is even worse.

5. Alex Cobb turned in his longest start of the season Monday, but he was plagued by a 42-pitch third inning that didn’t feature a single swing and miss. He has the worst swinging-strike percentage among pitchers completing 40 innings. His split-changeup still hasn’t returned since Tommy John surgery.

6. Davis’ performance has helped mask the struggles of Jonathan Schoop, who owns a .667 on-base plus slugging percentage and a walk rate on par with his first two seasons. The oblique strain didn’t help, but this isn’t ideal for someone needing to be re-signed or traded in the near future.

7. Many were pointing to Richard Bleier as a possible candidate to represent the Orioles at the All-Star Game if Manny Machado were to be traded before then. A 5.23 ERA in May and opponents batting .438 against him this month have certainly cooled that possibility.

8. Trey Mancini is batting .203 with a .632 OPS since banging his knee against the brick wall on April 20. He hasn’t used the knee as an excuse, but he’s hitting too many balls on the ground and his defense has taken a substantial step back from last year.

9. Concerns about Andrew Cashner being able to miss bats have been quelled by him averaging 8.1 strikeouts per nine innings, but his previously-stellar ground-ball rate has plummeted to a career-worst 37.8 percent and he’s allowed 11 homers in 60 1/3 innings. That hasn’t been a good trade-off.

10. How big has the long-ball problem been for the rotation? Dylan Bundy, Kevin Gausman, Cashner, and Cobb all rank among the top 30 for worst homer rates in the majors among those completing at least 40 innings. Chris Tillman would also be on that list if he had enough innings.

11. This past weekend marked the six-year anniversary of Adam Jones inking his $85.5 million contract that was a winner for both sides. It represented happier times when a competitive window was just opening and the Orioles had the vision and urgency to lock up a 26-year-old entering his prime.

12. I’m unmoved about in-season firings in what’s already a lost year, but how refreshing would it be for a member of the Angelos family to speak about this being unacceptable, to vow changes, and to lay out some semblance of a vision? Is that really too much to ask?

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Twelve Orioles thoughts following doubleheader split with Tampa Bay

Posted on 12 May 2018 by Luke Jones

With the Orioles splitting their twin bill with the Tampa Bay Rays on Saturday, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. Baltimore saw its four-game winning streak snapped in the nightcap, but this week has been a decent diversion from how poor the 2018 season has been. Even if the Orioles had won the second game, they still would have been on pace to lose 110 games. Instead, it’s 114.

2. The story of the day was David Hess, who shook off an early three-run homer to win his major league debut and register a quality start over six innings, equaling the total number from Chris Tillman and Mike Wright in their combined nine starts this season. He deserves another start.

3. Hess used all four of his pitches effectively and recorded five of his seven swinging strikes on his slider. Scouts have said he lacks a dominant pitch, but many believe the right-hander is a legitimate major league pitcher, either as a starter or a reliever.

4. Pitching on short rest wasn’t ideal, but Hess had the benefit of being promoted to work in a starting role. Hopping on the Norfolk train as a long reliever isn’t easy when youngsters are typically rewarded for pitching well by immediately being optioned right back to the minors.

5. Manny Machado and Jonathan Schoop hit back-to-back home runs on consecutive pitches in the third inning of the first game, the Orioles’ first back-to-back homers of the season. Machado had homered in three straight games before the nightcap while Schoop clubbed two homers on Saturday. Fun to watch.

6. Schoop’s second home run was the 92nd of his career, tying him with Brian Roberts for the most homers by a second baseman in Orioles history. This is your latest reminder that he becomes a free agent at the end of next season.

7. Watching Hess followed by Tanner Scott and Mychal Givens to close out the victory was a reminder that the cupboard isn’t entirely bare for the Orioles despite a very unsettling future. It’s easy envisioning Scott and Givens leading the back end of the bullpen in the coming years.

8. Who didn’t expect catcher Chance Sisco’s first major league stolen base to be a swipe of home? Seth Smith had Baltimore’s last steal of home prior to Saturday. A pair of speed demons right there.

9. With Buck Showalter wanting to avoid using Richard Bleier and Miguel Castro and having used Givens and Scott in Game 1, the lack of bullpen depth was painfully exposed as Jimmy Yacabonis, Pedro Araujo, and Mike Wright combined to allow six runs, seven walks, and a hit batter. Yuck.

10. Saturday was underwhelming for Alex Cobb, who allowed three earned runs, two homers, and seven hits in 5 2/3 innings. In fairness, he had retired seven straight and was settling in at just 69 pitches before a lengthy rain delay brought his night to a premature end.

11. The Rule 5 pick Araujo has been scored upon in five straight outings, walking three and plunking another while recording two outs Saturday. I’ve stated my disdain for the Rule 5 draft obsession repeatedly, but you might as well keep him when you’re already 16 games below .500 in mid-May.

12. An offense that plated 26 runs in the previous three games had one hit through five innings of the nightcap and failed to take advantage of runners on second and third with no outs in the sixth, managing only one more run and leaving the tying run on third.

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Orioles send struggling Tillman to 10-day disabled list

Posted on 11 May 2018 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — Struggling Orioles pitcher Chris Tillman will not make his next start.

When — or if — he makes another remains to be seen after he was placed on the 10-day disabled list Friday with what was officially called a lower back strain. Right-handed pitcher Jimmy Yacabonis was recalled from Triple-A Norfolk to take his place on the 25-man roster and provide an extra arm for an overworked bullpen.

“He was in an MRI tube for quite a while today,” said manager Buck Showalter after Friday’s 9-4 win over Tampa Bay. “I know what some of the findings were, but the DL obviously was needed.”

After failing to make it out of the second inning in his second straight start on Thursday, Tillman saw his season ERA climb to an unseemly 10.46, leaving many to call for the Orioles to part ways with the veteran who hasn’t been effective since 2016. The 30-year-old has pitched to a nightmarish 8.42 ERA in 119 2/3 innings since the start of last season, making him easily the worst in baseball among pitchers completing at least 100 innings over that time frame.

After becoming just the eighth pitcher since 1929 to produce a season ERA of 7.50 or higher with at least 90 innings of work in 2017, Tillman remained on the free-agent market until late February when Baltimore re-signed him to a one-year, $3 million contract that included incentives. The Orioles had hoped Tillman would regain his pre-2017 form when he served as the de facto ace for the starting rotation and posted a solid 3.81 ERA from 2012-16, but he’s been even worse this season, allowing at least four runs in all but one of his seven starts.

Tillman’s problems began with a shoulder injury that landed him on the DL in August of 2016. He was able to return for the final few weeks of that season, but the issue returned that offseason, disrupting his spring preparations and putting him on the DL to begin 2017.

The DL move will understandably be met with great skepticism — especially after Tillman declared himself healthy in his post-game interview on Thursday — but the maneuver does allow the club to remove him from the starting rotation and potentially send him on an extended minor-league rehab assignment before determining the next step. The Orioles would remain on the hook for his 2018 salary if they were to release him.

Tillman becomes the seventh Orioles player currently on the DL, joining relief pitchers Zach Britton (Achilles tendon) and Darren O’Day, infielders Tim Beckham (core muscle surgery) and Luis Sardinas (back), outfielder Colby Rasmus (hip), and starting pitcher Gabriel Ynoa (shoulder). Second baseman Jonathan Schoop and outfielder Mark Trumbo recently returned from the DL.

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Twelve Orioles thoughts following 11-6 win over Kansas City

Posted on 11 May 2018 by Luke Jones

With the Orioles winning just their third series of the season in an 11-6 win over Kansas City, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. The Orioles won two straight for the first time in over a month and the second time all season. The 11 runs scored marked a season high as they went 6-for-7 with runners in scoring position. It took six weeks, but Baltimore finally cracked double-digit wins. It hasn’t been fun.

2. The victory doesn’t mask the hard truth about Chris Tillman, who failed to get out of the second inning for the second straight start and owns a 10.46 season ERA. Whether he simply can’t do it physically anymore or the organization has no idea how to “fix” him, it’s over.

3. Tillman has now allowed four earned runs or more in 17 of his 26 starts since the start of last season. You can’t keep pointing to outliers like his seven shutout innings against Detroit last month while ignoring an 8.79 ERA in 114 2/3 innings over the last calendar year.

4. I have no idea whether the likes of David Hess or Tim Melville will succeed at the next level, but their numbers at Triple-A Norfolk warrant an opportunity. With this club already out of contention in mid-May, there’s no point continuing to go down this road with Tillman.

5. If it’s not someone from Norfolk, Miguel Castro stated his case for a starting opportunity with 4 2/3 scoreless innings against the Royals, lowering his season ERA to 3.55. He threw 65 pitches and could slide into Tillman’s turn in the rotation if you want to take that route.

6. Trey Mancini hit his fourth homer of 2018 and tied career highs with three hits and three runs. He’s had a tough time at the plate since hurting his knee last month, so it was encouraging to see him break out with two extra-base hits to the opposite field.

7. Adam Jones is now 9-for-21 with two homers since moving into the No. 2 spot in the order during the West Coast trip. The veteran center fielder is still hitting just .258, but you much prefer seeing him in the second spot over Jace Peterson or Craig Gentry.

8. Both Mancini and Jones being a triple away from becoming the fifth Oriole to hit for the cycle made me wonder what Felix Pie is up to these days. He batted .286 in the Mexican Pacific Winter League this past offseason.

9. Manny Machado continues to rake as he clubbed his 10th long ball of the season and reached base three other times. He’s now batting .350 with a .439 on-base percentage. He continues to do his part in keeping his trade value as high as possible.

10. Jonathan Schoop dropped a throw at second on a potential double play for the second straight night in the second inning, but the Royals inexplicably dropped a sacrifice bunt right after that. Giving a struggling starting pitcher an out in that situation was baffling.

11. Tanner Scott was terrific over two innings, striking out four and getting eight swinging strikes on 31 pitches. He averaged 97.1 miles per hour on his fastball with a very good slider. The Orioles need a fresh bullpen arm, but he deserves to stay in Baltimore for the time being.

12. Darren O’Day said he hyperextended his elbow when someone accidentally collided with him as he stretched in the bullpen. The injury isn’t considered serious, but it reiterates how bizarre this season has been in addition to being terrible. It’s his fourth trip to the disabled list in three seasons.

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Twelve Orioles thoughts following 4-0 loss to Cleveland

Posted on 21 April 2018 by Luke Jones

With the Orioles being shut out at home for the second time this season in a 4-0 loss to Cleveland, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. The absence of Trey Mancini didn’t bode well for an offense that was already struggling and without Jonathan Schoop, so the end result wasn’t exactly shocking. Baltimore has now been held to three or fewer runs in 14 of 21 games this season.

2. Indians starter Mike Clevinger had a good 2017 campaign, but he had logged seven or more innings in just three of his 34 career starts before his first career shutout. Give the 27-year-old credit, but this has been an all-too-familiar pattern for the 2018 Orioles.

3. The bar is extremely low, but Chris Tillman showed some improvement in giving the Orioles a chance to win by completing six innings for the first time since July 17 of last season. He managed only four swinging strikes, but he threw some decent breaking pitches and struck out five.

4. Despite a low pitch count, Tillman’s stamina came into question beginning in the fourth inning as his velocity dipped. He gave up solo home runs on poorly-located fastballs clocked at 86, 86, and 87 miles per hour. That’s just not going to get the job done.

5. With the middle of the Cleveland order coming up a third time, Buck Showalter could have gone to the bullpen after five and allowed Tillman to leave on a high note. That said, he had just recorded his first 1-2-3 frame and was at only 63 pitches. I understand it.

6. I’m sure Saturday’s performance bought Tillman another start, but I’ve said before the problem is this feels close to his ceiling at this point. Allowing four earned runs over six innings — a 6.00 ERA — lowered his season mark by more than two full runs.

7. Many have questioned Chance Sisco’s throwing ability at the major league level, but he became the first Orioles catcher since Matt Wieters in 2012 to gun down three runners attempting to steal in a game. He’s now thrown out seven of 11 trying to swipe a bag this season.

8. Tanner Scott allowed one hit and struck out one in two scoreless frames. Despite little experience above the Double-A level and well-documented control issues, the hard-throwing lefty has presented himself well in two major league appearances this season.

9. Saturday was the fifth time in eight games at Camden Yards in which the Orioles have failed to record a hit through the first three innings. They’re begging to put themselves in an early hole with that formula.

10. I’m guessing Showalter wasn’t daydreaming about an April 21 lineup featuring Craig Gentry, Pedro Alvarez, Luis Sardinas, and Anthony Santander over the winter. Then again, established bats aren’t producing either.

11. Santander has shown some promise, but he’s batting .170 and his on-base plus slugging percentage has dipped to .497. His Rule 5 requirement will be satisfied next month, which will allow him to return to the minors. The right field problem will remain, however.

12. The Indians offense has been nearly as bad as the Orioles so far, but Cleveland is allowing nearly half as many runs per game. Elite pitching always gives you a chance.

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Twelve Orioles thoughts following 3-1 loss to Boston

Posted on 15 April 2018 by Luke Jones

With the Orioles suffering their third straight defeat in a 3-1 final against the Boston Red Sox, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. The Orioles led 1-0 three batters into the game and didn’t score again as the bottom six lineup spots were 0-for-20 with one walk and 12 strikeouts. No one expects 10 runs per game with the tough schedule and cold weather they’ve endured in April, but this is ridiculous.

2. Sixteen games into the season, three regulars against right-handed starters — Manny Machado, Trey Mancini, and Pedro Alvarez — have swung the bat well. Two part-timers — Chance Sisco and Craig Gentry — have been OK. The overall performance of everyone else has ranged from poor to below-replacement level.

3. In the four games in which Dylan Bundy has started, he’s posted a 1.40 ERA while the Orioles have scored a total of seven runs. To channel Gisele Bundchen, he can’t pitch the ball and hit the ball. If only he were Shohei Ohtani.

4. Bundy recorded five of his six strikeouts on his slider and has now gotten a swing and miss on 35.3 percent of his sliders this season. That’s up from 24.4 percent last year. Impressive.

5. It’s tough to pitch when you have to get five outs in the sixth inning of a tie game. Maybe it wasn’t a great idea to cut payroll by 10 percent without bothering to acquire a real utility infielder. Danny Valencia’s career minus-36 defensive runs saved aren’t a secret.

6. Until this season, the infield had done a good job masking the Orioles’ overall defensive decline since 2014 when they led the American League in defensive runs saved. Baltimore entered Sunday 12th in the AL in DRS and has finished 11th or 12th every season since its division title campaign.

7. I’ve been a Caleb Joseph guy, but he really needs to start hitting. His defense is his strength, but a .286 on-base plus slugging percentage is unacceptable with Sisco behind him. He needs to produce in the neighborhood of what he offered last year (.700 OPS) or 2015 (.693).

8. Richard Bleier pitching 2 1/3 scoreless innings isn’t shocking, but registering two strikeouts is rare after having only three in his first 9 2/3 innings of 2018 and striking out only 3.7 per nine frames last season. The lefty sinkerballer is a fascinating contrast to the strikeout-heavy relievers of today.

9. Even before Monday’s postponement, the Orioles were listing Chris Tillman’s turn in the rotation as TBD for the Detroit series. I expect him to receive a few more opportunities, but that’s still pretty telling. Then again, an 8.28 ERA since the start of last year says it all.

10. Jonathan Schoop expressed hope Sunday that he’d only be on the disabled list for the minimum 10 days before returning. I admire his desire, but oblique injuries can linger all season if not handled carefully. I expect the training staff to protect the All-Star second baseman from himself if necessary.

11. Alex Cobb had an awful debut, but overreaction has been silly. There’s much over which to be concerned, but declaring someone who signed less than four weeks ago a bust is a bit much. That said, Baltimore is already running out of time for Cobb to get up to speed.

12. We’re only 10 percent of the way through the schedule, but Sunday was only the third of 11 losses in which the margin of defeat was three runs or fewer, reflecting the struggle to even be all that competitive. It’s going to start getting late very early if this continues.

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