Posted on 05 October 2015 by WNST Staff
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Posted on 21 August 2015 by Nestor Aparicio
Cleveland – If most stadiums in the 1990s were knockoffs of Camden Yards, this Cleveland model is most closely re-constructed in Philadelphia and Washington. They’ve ripped out a bunch of seats in the upper reaches of right field and they’ve added a garden feel to centerfield. The left field bleachers are still kinda intimidating and cool. And the third base club level still looks like a clubhouse at a horse racing track. In the end, there’s very little that’s memorable about this place but it’s still a nice place to watch a baseball game and a big upgrade over The Mistake on The Lake. Now, if Lebron James could only hit a baseball…
On Sept. 8-9-10, I will be releasing an extensive essay documenting my 30-30 MLB #GiveASpit journey of 2015. You can read it and all of my work here: http://wnst.net/author/nestoraparicio/
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Posted on 29 June 2015 by Luke Jones
BALTIMORE — The Orioles pitched two shutouts, their top six relievers threw a combined 18 pitches, and Adam Jones finally made his return to the lineup on Sunday.
The Buck Showalter garden gnome giveaway was a huge hit.
— Luke Jones (@BaltimoreLuke) June 29, 2015
And, oh yeah, the Orioles found themselves back in first place in the American League East for the first time since April 19.
Cleveland manager Terry Francona might have been asking himself why he waited until the ninth inning of Game 2 to get ejected after his team’s abysmal day, but the Orioles couldn’t have asked for a better doubleheader. In tossing shutouts in both games of the twin bill — a 4-0 win in the opener and an 8-0 final for the nightcap — the Orioles did something they hadn’t accomplished since Sept. 6, 1974 when they twice blanked the Indians in a doubleheader at old Cleveland Stadium.
“It was big. It was a good day,” said Game 2 winner Chris Tillman, who pitched a much-needed seven shutout innings to help his own psyche after Ubaldo Jimenez tossed eight scoreless frames in the opener. “Ubaldo went out and did an outstanding job. There was a lot of offense today in both games. It was really fun to watch.”
On the same day they won the 5,000th game in club history, the Orioles came out of the weekend only reinforcing what many have begun thinking more and more over the last four weeks. They’re looking like a first-place club and woke up Monday morning in that very position, percentage points ahead of the Tampa Bay Rays in a division where four clubs are currently separated by one game.
It’s a different season and a different club, but you couldn’t help but notice that the Orioles seized first place for good on July 3 last season. The similarities are there with an excellent defense, a stellar bullpen, and a revitalized offense hitting home runs, but even the starting pitching got into the act after struggling in recent weeks by allowing just two earned runs in 21 innings of work against the Indians.
Right now, the AL East is far from the poor division it looked to be six weeks ago as three clubs — Baltimore, Tampa Bay, and New York — would have qualified for the playoffs if the season had ended on Sunday. Whether the Orioles will follow the same script of 2014 remains to be seen, but 18 wins in 23 games to move to the top of the division would have any club feeling good about itself.
“It’s a return for that, but it can be very fleeting,” Showalter said. “The only thing I look at is the loss column now and then. I don’t pay much attention to the other part of it.
“See if you can stay engaged and have a chance to roll the dice in September. That’s what it’s about. Position yourself to be in it in September and play meaningful games when the leaves start turning. It’s not that complicated.”
Continuing to win at a .783 clip as they have for more than three weeks isn’t sustainable, but the Orioles learned last year that it doesn’t take prolonged winning streaks to pull away from the pack if you consistently win series. If you combine the four games — two home and two away — against Philadelphia, Baltimore has now secured seven consecutive series wins.
Unlike the Orioles clubs from a few years ago, this group of players has the experience of bouncing back — like when they were six games below .500 earlier this month — that brings confidence the rest of the way. They know it won’t be this easy over the final three months of the season, and Showalter makes sure his players are prepared for that reality, never wanting them to be too high or too low after any result.
“We have the ups and downs,” said third baseman Manny Machado, who hit his career-high 15th homer on Sunday and continues sprinting toward superstar status a week shy of his 23rd birthday. “We started off a little slow. We had players injured, and we’re just getting back into it. Everybody’s starting to get healthy. This is just the midway point.
“There’s a lot more baseball ahead, a lot more slumps, a lot more games lost coming ahead, but we’ve got to stay focused and stay with the mindset that we have.”
The Orioles know they aren’t perfect.
Showalter and executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette are still sifting through a crowded corner outfield situation that will likely require parting ways with one or two options. As a whole, the group has been more productive in June, but the Orioles have to hope they’ll make the right decisions and the remaining pieces will continue getting the job done.
Tillman’s strong performance on Sunday was a step in the right direction as he and Bud Norris still have a long way to go to quell concerns over their immense struggles in the first half of 2015.
But these issues don’t feel insurmountable and certainly aren’t any worse than the weaknesses the other AL East contenders are facing. Even in winning 96 games and the club’s first division title in 17 years last year, the Orioles had their flaws.
It’s tough to ignore the similarities with 2014, even down to the contributions from unexpected sources such as Jimmy Paredes, Chaz Roe, and Chris Parmelee a year after Steve Pearce, Brad Brach, and Caleb Joseph emerged from the shadows.
“This team tries as much as we can not to think about last year,” said Chris Davis, who hit his club-leading 16th homer on Sunday night. “It was obviously a great year, but it’s over with. You have to turn the page and focus on what’s at hand. I think we’re proud of the way we’re playing right now and battling these last few days and playing with somewhat of a short roster.
“Guys have stepped up and have done a great job.”
And the Orioles have stepped to the top of the AL East as a result.
Posted on 27 June 2015 by Luke Jones
If anyone benefited from Saturday’s postponement due to heavy rain, it was Orioles closer Zach Britton.
Second in the American League behind only Minnesota’s Glen Perkins with 22 saves, Britton pitched for the fifth time in seven days Friday to preserve a 4-3 win over the Cleveland Indians. As the Orioles have played their best baseball of the season with 16 wins in their last 21 games, Britton has earned the save in nine of those victories.
“Sometimes, his performance gets taken for granted,” manager Buck Showalter said. “It’s really hard to do what Zach’s doing.”
While no Oriole currently leads his position in AL All-Star voting, Britton’s performance all but demands an invitation to Cincinnati on July 14 at this point. If selected by Kansas City manager Ned Yost, Britton would become the 10th Orioles closer since 1979 to be named to the All-Star Game.
The lefty has pitched more innings (32 2/3) than any AL reliever with more than five saves and is 22-for-23 in save chances with his only blemish coming on April 25 when suspect defense contributed to a blown save in a game the Orioles won in extra innings. His ERA of 1.93 and 10.2 strikeouts per nine innings — he struck out just 7.3 per nine in 2014 — have squashed any lingering doubts that Britton could repeat what he did last season.
After transitioning from starter to long reliever to first-time closer last year, Britton has been asked to carry a heavier workload in his second year as the Orioles’ ninth-inning man. In an era when most closers are only asked to pitch one inning, Britton converted the two four-out saves of his career earlier this season and has twice secured five-out saves this month.
It’s no wonder Showalter made a point to recognize Britton’s heavy workload on Friday night after his fifth save in a week.
“It’s difficult. You physically have to make sure that you’re OK to go — you’re doing stuff in the gym or maintenance,” Britton said. “These are things that I’m learning. Last year, I don’t know if I had that many appearances in that [few] days. It’s just little things I’m learning, but it’s kind of the job title. I’m just adjusting to it.”
Because he doesn’t shy away from pitching to contact, the Orioles closer will go through spells in which he puts runners on base like he has in recent outings. Of his nine saves in the month of June, Britton has allowed at least one batter to reach eight times, but he continues to get that all-important 27th out to preserve victories.
As we saw in the clinching Game 3 of last year’s AL Division Series, Britton escaping trouble is typically only a ground ball away. On Friday, he worked around a leadoff single to convert his 18th consecutive save opportunity, matching his best stretch of 2014.
“It’s not always easy I guess,” Britton said. “The last couple, I’ve had some guys on and had to work out of it a little bit. The hitters up here are so good, and guys are starting to get aggressive on that sinker, so it is just about execution on that first hitter. The last couple times, it just hasn’t been there. It’s not easy; I learned that last year you go through times where you have guys on every time out there. It’s the times where things aren’t going your way all the time that you just got to battle.
“I’m just making pitches when those guys get on and getting out of those jams. I think the big thing is I know I’m one pitch away from getting that double-play ball.”
It may not be easy, but Britton has made it look that way, leaving him more than deserving of a trip to the All-Star Game.
Posted on 27 June 2015 by Luke Jones
(Updated: 3:55 p.m.)
Scheduled to give away the much-anticipated Buck Showalter garden gnome on Saturday night, the Orioles postponed the second contest of a three-game set with the Cleveland Indians because of heavy rain in the Baltimore area.
The game will be made up as part of a split-admission doubleheader on Sunday with Saturday’s tickets being honored for the nightcap scheduled for 7:05 p.m. The original 1:35 p.m. game scheduled for Sunday will go on as planned.
After previously indicating Kevin Gausman could start one of the doubleheader games, the Orioles will instead send Ubaldo Jimenez to the hill for Game 1 while Chris Tillman will pitch the nightcap. It’s expected that Baltimore will recall an extra reliever to boost its current six-man bullpen for Sunday.
Because they have no more off-days until July 9, the Orioles would need an extra starting pitcher against Texas on Thursday. Gausman was scheduled to pitch for Triple-A Norfolk on Saturday, which would have put him on schedule for a possible start in Baltimore on Thursday, but the Tides also postponed their game, pushing the right-hander’s start to Sunday.
For those wondering, the Showalter gnome will still be given away before the second game to the first 25,000 fans 15 years old and over. The Orioles will announce the time that gates will open for the second game at the conclusion of the opener on Sunday afternoon. The gates open for Game 1 at 11:30 a.m.
The Orioles passed along additional ticket information to fans in a team release:
Fans unable to attend the makeup game can exchange their tickets for any remaining home game this season on a “dollar-for-dollar” basis. All exchanges are subject to availability and must be completed by August 31. Complimentary tickets are non-exchangeable. StubHub tickets are also non-exchangeable, but may be resold on StubHub until 7:00 p.m. on June 28. Prepaid parking permits dated for June 27 are valid only for the 7:05 p.m. makeup game on June 28.
Ticket exchanges can be performed at the Box Office or submitted in writing along with the original tickets and mailed via certified mail by August 31, 2015 to:
Attention: June 27 Rainout
333 West Camden Street
Baltimore, MD 21201
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Posted on 29 May 2015 by Luke Jones
BALTIMORE — Matt Wieters hasn’t played in a game for the Orioles in over a year, but the veteran catcher has finally learned when he’ll make his 2015 season debut.
Manager Buck Showalter announced the 29-year-old will return to the major league lineup next Friday in Cleveland after undergoing Tommy John surgery on June 17, 2014. Currently catching every other day, Wieters began his minor league rehab assignment at Double-A Bowie on Monday and is 2-for-9 with one RBI in his first two games and also threw out the only runner who attempted to steal a base.
“I’m not going to jinx it. I’ve already talked about it more than I should,” said Showalter about how much he’s looking forward to Wieters returning. “You can tell Matt feels good. I watched the last two innings last night and I called him on the way home. You can just tell in his voice and in his body language that he’s real close.”
Wieters will once again catch for Bowie on Saturday before playing at Single-A Frederick on Monday and Triple-A Norfolk on Wednesday before joining the Orioles on their road trip. The three-time All-Star selection hasn’t caught for Baltimore since May 4 of last season and last played in a game for the Orioles serving as the designated hitter on May 10, 2014.
Despite the fact that Wieters hasn’t yet begun throwing on non-catching days, Showalter said the Orioles would not be required to carry a third catcher unless they want to when he’s activated next Friday. There had been some thought that the club might need to keep both Caleb Joseph and Steve Clevenger if Wieters wouldn’t be able to catch on consecutive days because of a potential injury to the other catcher. Showalter said he’s spoken to Wieters about that scenario and he’s prepared to catch a second straight game if something would happen to Joseph.
Friday marked the six-year anniversary of Wieters’ major league debut as he is now in his final year of club control before he can become a free agent this offseason.
Gausman looking forward to Norfolk
Right-hander pitcher Kevin Gausman threw 32 pitches to live hitters at Camden Yards on Friday and is expected to start at either Norfolk or Frederick on June 6.
Placed on the 15-day disabled list with right shoulder tendinitis on May 8, Gausman will throw a bullpen session on Sunday and a two-inning simulated game in Houston on Tuesday before being sent to the minors. The Orioles are in the process of once again stretching out the 24-year-old as a starter, who threw all of his pitches against a group of hitters that included Wieters and Clevenger on Friday afternoon.
“No fatigue and I don’t feel anything in my shoulder,” said Gausman, who acknowledged the recovery process being slower than he initially anticipated. “The biggest thing was just getting out there and getting guys in the box and seeing how my body was going to react. But everything felt good. Now, it’s just going forward.”
With rookie Mike Wright currently pitching well in the Baltimore rotation, Showalter is pondering the next step for right-hander Bud Norris, who is on the DL while recovering from bronchitis. Norris’ obvious struggles dating back to the spring as well as Wright’s effectiveness will make for an interesting decision.
And that’s not even counting what to do with Gausman once he’s stretched out as a starter in the coming weeks.
“I haven’t talked to [Dave Wallace], but I did kind of hear from the trainers,” said Showalter about Gausman’s session on Friday. “He feels good. I know Kevin thinks we’re being a little overcautious with it. He wants to pitch now, but it’ll happen and be here sooner than you think.”
Lough receives consecutive starts
The decision to part ways with outfielder Alejandro De Aza has created more opportunities for the little-used David Lough, who started consecutive games Thursday and Friday for the first time since June 9-10 of last season.
Lough has primarily served as a late-inning defensive replacement and pinch runner in his two seasons with the Orioles, but the lack of production from the corner outfield spots makes it fair to ask whether the 29-year-old should receive an extended look. He’s hitting .278 with one home run, two RBIs, and a .694 on-base plus slugging percentage in 41 plate appearances this season.
“It’s not what I usually get, but I’m definitely trying to take advantage of it and do what I can to help out,” Lough said prior to starting Friday’s series opener against Tampa Bay. “It’s as hard as anyone could imagine, believe me. Getting a couple starts and then going to the bench for five or six days can be really tough. It’s a tough job, but I’ve kind of embraced it. I try to go out there when I do get my chance and try to help out as much as possible.”
Odds & ends
Showalter decided against bringing up a reliever for Friday’s game, saying that all members of the bullpen were available but there were a few he’d like to stay away from if possible.
Minor-league catcher Jonah Heim will undergo surgery after injury his foot at Single-A Delmarva.
The appeal hearing for left-hander Brian Matusz’s eight-game suspension is scheduled for Wednesday. The Orioles would not be allowed to replace him on the roster while he serves any potential suspension.
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