Tag Archive | "Dan Duquette"

Struggling Orioles reliever Hunter lands on DL with groin injury

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Struggling Orioles reliever Hunter lands on DL with groin injury

Posted on 22 May 2014 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — A week after surrendering the closer job due to his early-season struggles, Orioles relief pitcher Tommy Hunter was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a left groin strain.

The right-hander said he suffered the strain while throwing prior to Wednesday’s loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates. Hunter was unavailable on Wednesday night and was replaced on the 25-man roster by right-hander Preston Guilmet, who had a brief stint with the Orioles earlier this month before being optioned back to Triple-A Norfolk on May 13.

“Anytime you do anything to move it around, it’s going to be sore,” Hunter said prior to Thursday’s series opener against the Cleveland Indians. “I shut it down as soon as it happened, so I went in and got treatment and showed up today.”

Hunter has a history of groin issues that dates back to his days with the Texas Rangers as the 27-year-old had a stint on the DL that lasted two months, but manager Buck Showalter is optimistic that the club was being proactive in shutting down the struggling reliever immediately to allow him to return quickly.

Named the Baltimore closer at the end of spring training, Hunter has a 6.06 earned run average and was 11-for-14 in converting save opportunities, but consecutive blown saves last week prompted Showalter to remove the hard-throwing pitcher from the role. Left-hander Zach Britton has converted the only situation the Orioles have had since Hunter blew a save against the Detroit Tigers on May 13.

It remains unclear whether the reliever will remain with the club for the next road trip or travel to Sarasota to continue treatment and rehab for the injury. Hunter made it known that the groin strain was not what was causing his struggles over the first two months of the season as he’s posted a 1.84 WHIP (walks plus hits per inning pitched) in 19 appearances spanning 16 1/3 innings.

“There is really no excuses for those [games], sorry,” Hunter said. “If that is what everyone is fishing for. I apologize.”

The 26-year-old Guilmet has appeared in two games for the Orioles this season, striking out three without allowing a run in 1 2/3 innings. Showalter was hopeful that Guilmet could provide some length out of the bullpen if necessary after Chris Tillman was knocked out in the second inning of Wednesday’s game at Pittsburgh.

Davis healthy and expecting

First baseman Chris Davis hopes to build on the momentum of Tuesday night’s three-homer performance in Pittsburgh and says the strained oblique that landed him on the 15-day DL in late April is no longer a factor as he tries to bounce back from a slow start to the 2014 season.

The 2013 All-Star selection quipped that his left elbow was hurting after being hit by a pitch on Wednesday, but his oblique has held up well since returning from the DL on May 11.

“The first couple of games I came back, I don’t want to say it was stiff, but it was almost like it was rusty,” Davis said. “I hadn’t done anything for a couple of weeks. But it hasn’t bothered me. There were a couple times this last series when I took some hard check swings, but stopping [my swing] was something that killed me. I didn’t feel it, so it’s good to know that it is behind me.”

Davis’ wife, Jill, is expecting the couple’s first child and is scheduled to be induced on Sunday morning, meaning the Orioles are planning for Davis to miss games on Sunday and Monday before rejoining the club in Milwaukee. Of course, that timetable would change if she goes into labor prior to then, and Davis will be placed on the paternity list, which allows a player to be removed from the roster for up to three days.

Infielders Jemile Weeks and Steve Lombardozzi are considered the prime candidates to take Davis’ place on the roster.

Santana making more progress

Veteran left-hander Johan Santana continues to impress in his rehabilitation from shoulder surgery as he threw 58 pitches in a four-inning outing in an extended spring training game.

Santana allowed one run on a home run and his velocity was once again in the upper 80s as his fastball was clocked as high as 90 miles per hour. Santana is expected to pitch in one more extended spring game before being assigned to pitch for an affiliate.

After signing the former two-time American League Cy Young Award winner in early March, the Orioles estimated that Santana would need until early June to continue rehabbing his surgically-repaired left shoulder, a timetable that appears to be very accurate as he continues making progress and increasing his velocity.

More baby news

Executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette and his wife, Amy, welcomed a baby boy named Colt shortly after midnight on Thursday morning.

 

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Opening Day roster set after Sunday’s deadline

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Opening Day roster set after Sunday’s deadline

Posted on 29 March 2014 by Luke Jones

(Updated: 7:00 a.m. Monday)

The Orioles aren’t required to finalize their 25-man roster for the start of the regular season until Sunday at 3 p.m., but three more cuts were made to officially eliminate any remaining drama.

Baltimore announced pitchers Kevin Gausman and T.J. McFarland and infielder Jemile Weeks were being optioned to Triple-A Norfolk, meaning 32 players remained in major league spring training as of Saturday afternoon. However, the remaining seven reductions will come in the form of players being placed on the disabled list and the suspended list.

Of course, executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette will scan the waiver wire for potential upgrades, which explains why the Opening Day roster has yet to be announced.

Rookie infielder Jonathan Schoop has made the club and is expected to see time at third base against left-handed pitching and second base against right-handed starters. The short-term audition was largely made possible with All-Star third baseman Manny Machado still working his way back to full strength from offseason surgery. Schoop impressed manager Buck Showalter with a strong spring that included a .385 average with two home runs, five doubles, and eight runs batted in over 39 Grapefruit League at-bats.

Machado (knee), outfielders Nolan Reimold (neck) and Francisco Peguero (wrist), pitchers Johan Santana (shoulder) and Edgmer Escalona (shoulder), and Rule 5 selection Michael Almanzar (knee) are all heading to the disabled list while reliever Troy Patton will begin his 25-game suspension for amphetamine use, accounting for the remaining seven that must be trimmed from the active roster.

Two non-roster invitees have made the club as outfielder and designated hitter Delmon Young and right-handed pitcher Evan Meek will go north to Baltimore. To make room on the 40-man roster, the Orioles designated left-handed pitcher Mike Belfiore for assignment and Escalona was placed on the 60-day disabled list.

Here’s a look at where the roster now stands:

PITCHERS
RHP Chris Tillman
RHP Ubaldo Jimenez
LHP Wei-Yin Chen
RHP Miguel Gonzalez
RHP Bud Norris
RHP Tommy Hunter
RHP Darren O’Day
LHP Brian Matusz
RHP Ryan Webb
LHP Zach Britton
RHP Josh Stinson
RHP Evan Meek

CATCHERS
Matt Wieters
Steve Clevenger

INFIELDERS
Chris Davis
J.J. Hardy
Ryan Flaherty
Steve Lombardozzi
Jonathan Schoop

OUTFIELDERS
Adam Jones
Nick Markakis
David Lough
Nelson Cruz
Steve Pearce
Delmon Young

DISABLED LIST (will not count against 25-man roster)
3B Manny Machado (knee)
OF Nolan Reimold (neck)
OF Francisco Peguero (wrist)
LHP Johan Santana (shoulder)
RHP Edgmer Escalona (shoulder)
INF Michael Almanzar (knee)

SUSPENDED LIST (will not count against 25-man roster)
LHP Troy Patton

 

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Orioles roster taking shape in final days of spring training

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Orioles roster taking shape in final days of spring training

Posted on 26 March 2014 by Luke Jones

As the final days of the Grapefruit League wind down, the Orioles are narrowing their choices in shaping their 25-man roster that will take the field against the Boston Red Sox next Monday at Camden Yards.

Forty players remained in major league camp entering Wednesday’s split-squad doubleheader, but most destinations can already be projected as manager Buck Showalter and executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette decide who will come north for Opening Day. Baltimore optioned pitcher Steve Johnson and outfielder Henry Urrutia to Triple-A Norfolk and reassigned infielder Alexi Casilla and outfielder Quintin Berry to minor league camp prior to Wednesday evening’s game against Tampa Bay.

Of the 36 players left, at least five will begin the year on the disabled list as infielder Manny Machado (knee), outfielders Nolan Reimold (neck) and Francisco Peguero (wrist), and pitchers Johan Santana (shoulder) and Edgmer Escalona (shouldler) are still recovering from ailments. Rule 5 selection Michael Almanzar (knee) could join them, which would give the Orioles more time to decide on his future and whether they want to attempt to keep him on the 25-man roster as they did with pitcher T.J. McFarland and infielder Ryan Flaherty in the last two seasons.

Relief pitcher Troy Patton will begin serving his 25-game suspension for testing positive for amphetamine use and will not count against the Opening Day roster.

Showalter has already announced his Opening Day rotation with Chris Tillman, Ubaldo Jimenez, and Wei-Yin Chen going to the hill in the opening series and Miguel Gonzalez and Bud Norris making the following two starts in Detroit. This means McFarland and Kevin Gausman — who’s had a terrific spring and could beat down the door to the starting rotation sooner rather than later — will begin the year in Triple-A Norfolk’s starting rotation.

After that, it comes down to difficult decisions as the Orioles are expected to decide between Alfredo Aceves and Evan Meek for the final spot in the bullpen unless they decide to break camp with 13 pitchers on the Opening Day roster. The rest of the bullpen is projected to be filled out by Tommy Hunter, Darren O’Day, Brian Matusz, Ryan Webb, Josh Stinson, and Zach Britton.

The much-heralded middle-infield competition is down to rookie Jonathan Schoop and Jemile Weeks, who was acquired in the offseason trade of Jim Johnson. With Flaherty expected to fill in for Machado at third base, Schoop would give the Orioles a right-handed bat to play third base against left-handed pitching, but the Orioles certainly don’t want the 22-year-old to be sitting on the bench if they decide the newly-acquired Steve Lombardozzi is going to be the starting second baseman for the time being. Showalter could elect to go with Schoop at second and Flaherty at third against right-handed starters with Schoop shifting to third and the switch-hitting Lombardozzi inserted at second base against southpaws.

Steve Clevenger has already won the backup catcher job, so that appeared to leave two more bench spots for the trio of Delmon Young, Steve Pearce, and Reimold before Thursday’s news of Reimold heading to the disabled list. Signed to a minor-league contract this winter, Young’s opt-out clause doesn’t go into effect until June 1 while Reimold and Pearce are both out of options.

Here is a look at the remaining 36 players in major league camp with a line going through names predicted to be left off the 25-man roster to begin the regular season:

PITCHERS
RHP Chris Tillman
RHP Ubaldo Jimenez
LHP Wei-Yin Chen
RHP Miguel Gonzalez
RHP Bud Norris
RHP Tommy Hunter
RHP Darren O’Day
LHP Brian Matusz
RHP Ryan Webb
LHP Zach Britton
RHP Josh Stinson
RHP Evan Meek
RHP Kevin Gausman
LHP T.J. McFarland
RHP Alfredo Aceves

CATCHERS
Matt Wieters
Steve Clevenger

INFIELDERS
Chris Davis
J.J. Hardy
Ryan Flaherty
Steve Lombardozzi
Jonathan Schoop
Jemile Weeks

OUTFIELDERS
Adam Jones
Nick Markakis
David Lough
Nelson Cruz
Steve Pearce
Delmon Young

DISABLED LIST (not counting against 25-man roster)
3B Manny Machado (knee)
OF Nolan Reimold (neck)
OF Francisco Peguero (wrist)
LHP Johan Santana (shoulder)
RHP Edgmer Escalona (shoulder)
INF Michael Almanzar (knee)

SUSPENDED LIST (not counting against 25-man roster)
LHP Troy Patton

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Looking at the Orioles’ non-roster invitees in Sarasota

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Looking at the Orioles’ non-roster invitees in Sarasota

Posted on 14 February 2014 by Luke Jones

The Orioles officially began spring training with their first official workout on Friday as they look for a number of answers over the next six weeks leading up to Opening Day on March 31.

After examining the players on the 40-man roster earlier in the week, it’s time to take a look at the 19 non-roster invitees who will join the club in Sarasota and try to leave the kind of impression with manager Buck Showalter and executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette that warrants a spot on the major league roster.

Few likely have a real chance of migrating to Baltimore in late March, but many will be looking for a spot in the minor-league system in hopes of getting the call to join the Orioles at some point this season.

PITCHERS (8)

RHP Alfredo Aceves
Opening Day age: 31
Musing: His experience pitching for both the Yankees and Red Sox over the last six years gives him a better chance than most non-roster arms to crack the Baltimore bullpen, but his personality clashes in Boston and a 1.73 WHIP last season are red flags that contrast his 3.69 career earned run average in the big leagues.

LHP Nick Additon
Opening Day age: 26
Musing: The southpaw spent the last seven years as a starter in the St. Louis Cardinals organization but has never pitched in the majors and signed as a minor-league free agent after posting a 4.10 ERA in 131 2/3 innings in Triple-A Memphis last season.

RHP Tim Alderson
Opening Day age: 25
Musing: A former first-round pick of the San Francisco Giants in 2007, Alderson was acquired from Pittsburgh in exchange for Russ Canzler last July and went 1-2 with a 6.27 ERA in 33 innings with Triple-A Norfolk to finish the 2013 season, primarily pitching in relief.

RHP Fabio Castillo
Opening Day age: 25
Musing: The Dominican minor-league free agent posted a 5.34 ERA in 89 1/3 innings starting and relieving for the Giants’ Double-A and Triple-A affiliates last season and will be entering his ninth season of professional baseball.

RHP Eddie Gamboa
Opening Day age: 29
Musing: After five previous seasons pitching in the Orioles system, he became a knuckleball hurler last year and was re-signed to a minor-league contract after going 6-11 with a 4.43 ERA in 25 starts split between Double-A Bowie and Norfolk.

RHP Brock Huntzinger
Opening Day age: 25
Musing: A 2007 third-round pick of the Red Sox, Huntzinger spent the last seven seasons pitching in the Boston organization and went 5-2 with a 1.83 ERA in 49 relief appearances split between the Double-A and Triple-A levels last year before signing with Baltimore as a minor-league free agent.

LHP Eduardo Rodriguez
Opening Day age: 20
Musing: The Venezuelan product is one of the top prospects in the Baltimore system and went an impressive 10-7 with a 3.41 ERA split between Single-A Frederick and Bowie last season, which has made him a target of other organizations in trade talks but a piece the Orioles don’t want to give up.

RHP Mike Wright
Opening Day age: 24
Musing: Named the Orioles’ minor league pitcher of the year last season, the 2011 third-round pick went 11-3 with a 3.11 ERA primarily with Bowie before a late-season promotion to Norfolk and has a reasonable chance to arrive in Baltimore at some point before the 2014 season comes to an end.

Continue to non-roster position players >>>>>

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Orioles spring training preview: 40 for 40

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Orioles spring training preview: 40 for 40

Posted on 10 February 2014 by Luke Jones

As Orioles pitchers and catchers prepare to hold their first workout in Sarasota on Friday, much of the attention will begin to shift from an abysmal offseason to the daily happenings of spring training.

Executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette and ownership have yet to deliver on stated goals of adding a veteran starting pitcher as well as significantly addressing a number of other needs, but the roster isn’t devoid of talent either as manager Buck Showalter attempts to guide the Orioles to their third consecutive winning season.

With 13 players out of options on the 40-man roster, Duquette and Showalter will face some difficult decisions while fans will justifiably continue to clamor for some impact additions between now and Opening Day.

Here’s a glance at the current 40-man roster — left-handed pitcher Troy Patton will not count during his 25-game suspension to begin the regular season — with a preview of non-roster spring training invitees coming later in the week:

PITCHERS (22)

LHP Mike Belfiore
Opening Day age: 25
Options remaining: two
Musing: The southpaw reliever had a few call-ups to Baltimore last season — appearing in one game — but his 1.441 WHIP at Triple-A Norfolk suggests he’ll start the season with the Tides once again.

LHP Tim Berry
Opening Day age: 23
Options remaining: three
Musing: Added to the 40-man roster after a strong 2013 campaign for Frederick, the 2009 50th-round pick can firmly put himself on the club’s radar if he can duplicate or better his 2013 ERA of 3.85 at Double-A Bowie.

RHP Brad Brach
Opening Day age: 27
Options remaining: one
Musing: Acquired from San Diego in exchange for Devin Jones, Brach has a career 3.70 ERA and has averaged 10.1 strikeouts per nine innings pitched in three major league seasons but might be squeezed out of the Baltimore bullpen to start the season since he has an option year remaining.

LHP Zach Britton
Opening Day age: 26
Options remaining: none
Musing: We’ll see if new pitching coach Dave Wallace can work any magic with Britton, who is coming off a poor 2013 season and no longer has age or options on his side in finally realizing his once-impressive potential.

RHP Dylan Bundy
Opening Day age: 21
Options remaining: two
Musing: His Tommy John surgery was one of the more disappointing developments of the 2013 season, but his rehabilitation progress suggests a late-season return to live-game action is realistic and he still has his entire career in front of him at such a young age.

LHP Wei-Yin Chen
Opening Day age: 28
Options remaining: three
Musing: Entering the final season of a three-year, $11.09 million contract that includes a team option for 2015, the Taiwanese southpaw can show the Orioles he’s capable of reaching another level after pitching to a solid 4.04 ERA in his first two seasons despite missing two months with an oblique injury in 2013.

LHP Kelvin De La Cruz
Opening Day age: 25
Options remaining: none
Musing: De La Cruz has never pitched in the majors and has control issues (4.7 walks per nine innings), but his strikeout numbers (11.3 per nine innings at Triple-A Albuquerque in 2013) are impressive and he’s had success against lefties, which made him a viable project in Duquette’s mind.

RHP Edgmer Escalona
Opening Day age: 27
Options remaining: none
Musing: The Rockies product posted ERAs of 6.04 and 5.67 in 2012 and 2013 respectively — making the Orioles’ interest in him puzzling — and he figures to face an uphill battle to carve out a spot in the Orioles bullpen but would likely clear waivers to be outrighted to Norfolk.

RHP Kevin Gausman
Opening Day age: 23
Options remaining: two
Musing: Vying for the fifth spot in the starting rotation after spending time in the bullpen during his rookie season, the 2012 first-round pick gained 12 pounds in the winter and hopes his developing slider has improved enough to land him a stable job with the major league club.

RHP Miguel Gonzalez
Opening Day age: 29
Options remaining: two
Musing: His stamina often comes into question with only a 170-pound frame, but Gonzalez has gone 20-12 with a 3.58 in 43 starts in his first two seasons and doesn’t get nearly enough credit for the stability he’s added to the starting rotation after being one of the best stories of the surprising 2012 playoff season.

RHP Liam Hendriks
Opening Day age: 25
Options remaining: one
Musing: The Australian was selected off waivers in December and figures to be a good bet for Norfolk’s starting rotation in 2014 after posting a 6.06 ERA and making 28 starts for the Minnesota Twins over the last three seasons.

RHP Tommy Hunter
Opening Day age: 27
Options remaining: none
Musing: The favorite to be the new closer, Hunter has the makeup for the ninth, but a tendency to give up the long ball (11 in 86 1/3 innings in 2013) and shaky numbers against left-handed hitters (.294 against him last year) won’t make Showalter comfortable until Hunter proves himself in his new role.

RHP Steve Johnson
Opening Day age: 26
Options remaining: one
Musing: An injury-plagued 2013 was a lost season for the local product, but Johnson remains a candidate for the fifth starter job and has averaged 11 strikeouts per nine innings pitched in 54 major league innings despite underwhelming velocity that often leaves critics doubting him.

LHP Chris Jones
Opening Day age: 25
Options remaining: three
Musing: Acquired from Atlanta in the Luis Ayala trade early last season, Jones went 4-4 with a 2.67 ERA in 31 appearances with Norfolk and is a name to keep an eye on if the Orioles need left-handed bullpen help later in the season.

LHP Brian Matusz
Opening Day age: 27
Options remaining: none
Musing: The 2008 first-round pick still has visions of starting in the big leagues, but it appears that ship has sailed as he’s found a niche as a situational reliever and will be even more valuable with Patton suspended for the first 25 games of the season.

LHP T.J. McFarland
Opening Day age: 24
Options remaining: three
Musing: After being stashed in the bullpen as a Rule 5 pick last year, McFarland figures to be a member of Norfolk’s rotation where he can continue to develop and hopefully justify the Orioles’ choice to hinder their roster flexibility last season.

RHP Bud Norris
Opening Day age: 29
Options remaining: three
Musing: His control issues and 4.80 ERA were a disappointment upon being acquired from Houston last July, but Norris is an excellent bet to win a starting rotation spot and has a career 4.36 ERA in five major league seasons.

RHP Darren O’Day
Opening Day age: 31
Options remaining: player permission only
Musing: The bullpen struggled down the stretch last year with O’Day limited to just two appearances from Aug. 29 through Sept. 18 while dealing with numbness in two fingers, so his return to full strength is critical for a group already needing to fill the void of departed closer Jim Johnson.

LHP Troy Patton
Opening Day age: 28
Options remaining: none
Musing: His suspension for Adderall use would likely have him on shaky footing had it not been for the solid 3.70 ERA he posted last season, but Patton must deal with the reality of how he’ll prepare for the season with Showalter already saying he won’t pitch in many spring games.

RHP Josh Stinson
Opening Day age: 26
Options remaining: none
Musing: Liked by Showalter, Stinson will compete to win a long-relief spot in the bullpen and pitched very well in that capacity late last season, posting a 0.79 ERA in 11 1/3 innings of relief after a less-than-impressive spot start made early in 2013.

RHP Chris Tillman
Opening Day age: 25
Options remaining: none
Musing: The 2013 All-Star righty became the ace of the staff last season and was very consistent after a rocky April, but his next goal will be to pitch deeper into games all season like he did late in the year when he completed seven or more innings in six of his final eight starts.

RHP Ryan Webb
Opening Day age: 28
Options remaining: one
Musing: Webb being the Orioles’ best free-agent signing to this point speaks volumes about a miserable winter, but he’s the dark-horse candidate to close out games — if Hunter falters — due to his impressive splits against right-handed and lefty hitters (both hit .244 against him in 2013).

Continue to next page for position players >>>>>

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You can’t possibly be surprised the Orioles signed Delmon Young

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You can’t possibly be surprised the Orioles signed Delmon Young

Posted on 14 January 2014 by Drew Forrester

If ever a player was a natural signing for the Orioles, it’s Delmon Young.

Honestly, once I looked over his career yesterday, I couldn’t help but think, “what took them so long?”

Young was a former #1 draft pick of the Tampa Bay (Devil) Rays who was going to be the next great thing.  He could do it all — back then.  Baseball people like to identify players with the “tools” they possess…hitting, hitting for power, fielding, running, etc. They’re then known as 3-tool, 4-tool, 5-tool, etc.  With Young, they once thought they had a 7-tool player.

It didn’t work out that way, of course, which is why he signed a minor league deal with the Orioles yesterday.

A player who once commanded a salary of nearly $7 million a year, Young is the perfect off-season catch for the Birds based mainly on the salary he’ll require in ’14 when he makes the team.  Last year, he made $750,000 in a split season with Philadelphia and Tampa Bay.  That means he should come in at under $1 million for the Birds.

Young also some brings some extra baggage with him when he arrives in Sarasota next month.  Back in 2006, Young was suspended from minor league baseball for 50 games after throwing a bat at an umpire during an on-field incident.  Two seasons ago while playing with the Tigers, Young was involved in a hate-crime after a conflict with patrons of a New York bar/restaurant.  He was accused of shouting anti-Semitic slurs to a group of people while he was intoxicated, later pleaded guilty, and performed 10 hours of community service.

That, of course, is in the past.

And the world is literally his oyster here in Baltimore, where Dan Duquette and the Orioles have been pursuing a right handed bat all off-season but couldn’t convince one of the quality free agents to take $800,000 for the season.

If Delmon Young stays healthy and keeps his nose clean — and just makes occasional contact in spring training – it’s likely he’ll show up on March 31 and be part of the opening day twenty five who make the trip down the orange carpet from centerfield to second base in pre-game ceremonies.

It’s not the kind of signing any of us wanted, but it’s most certainly the kind of signing we all knew we’d see.  Duquette tried a similar tact with Travis Ishikawa last winter and he turned into what we all expected — a dud.  We jokingly refer to it around here as “dumpster diving”, the on-going search for a needle in a haystack.

Delmon Young is certainly in the haystack.  A once decent player with a solid pedigree, down on his luck after a handful of unproductive years, willing to play for baseball’s version of Ramen Noodles — that’s the sort of reclamation project Dan Duquette believes in.

And that’s what we get these days in Baltimore.

That said — he IS right handed.  It’s a start, at least.

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Orioles bring back 2B Casilla on minor league deal

Posted on 11 January 2014 by WNST Staff

The Baltimore Orioles agreed to a minor league deal with their own free agent 2B Alexi Casilla Friday, giving the veteran infielder an invite to Major League Spring Training.

Casilla played 62 games with the Birds last season, batting .214/.268/.295. He added a home run and 10 RBI and stole nine bases in 11 attempts.

Casilla is expected to compete with Ryan Flaherty, Jemile Weeks (acquired from the Oakland Athletics in the Jim Johnson trade this offseason) and Jonathan Schoop for both the starting second base job and any potential playing time beyond that.

O’s GM Dan Duquette told MASNSports.com “Alexi is a skilled player. He’s a good defender. He’s very good at second base and he’s good at short. He’s a switch-hitter and he’s a talented basestealer. And he brings a lot of energy to the team. And he understands his role.”

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How are the Ravens and Orioles different?  You’ll see today at 10:00 am

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How are the Ravens and Orioles different? You’ll see today at 10:00 am

Posted on 08 January 2014 by Drew Forrester

Of all the days that separate the two professional sports teams in Baltimore, today is the one that stands out the most.

No games get played.

No one wins.  No one loses.

No players signed.  No money spent.

Today is the day that tells you everything you need to know about the Ravens — and at the same time, reminds you of what you already knew about the Orioles.

Some might also consider that today shows why one of the teams is a perennial winner and the other isn’t.

This morning at 10:00 am, the football team will hold its annual “State of the Ravens” press conference at their facility in Owings Mills.  They don’t do this occasionally.  They don’t do it only after a successful season.  Since Steve Bisciotti assumed full control of the team, they’ve hosted this event every year a week or two after the season concludes.

It’s called, in a word, “accountability”.

The Ravens ooze it.

The Orioles need a transfusion of it.

The only person who faces the media regularly for the Orioles is Buck Showalter, and that’s typically only in pre-game or post-game form.  Buck hasn’t had any sort of pre-season en-masse sitdown with the Baltimore media since he took the job and, likewise, hasn’t had a post-season presser for the media in town to pepper him with questions about the season.  That said, I bet you anything you want that Showalter would gladly sit down with the media if presented the option of doing so without the natural interference provided by the stuffed suits at OPACY.

Dan Duquette hasn’t had a press conference – other than when he was hired – in…well…ummm…forever.

Hilarious, right?

Repeat this to yourself at least once to completely absorb the amazing lack of responsibility on behalf of Orioles management: Dan Duquette is entering his third season with the Orioles and he’s never, once, faced the Baltimore press corps for a “bring it on” press conference where we’re all allowed to ask questions about the way the baseball franchise is run.

Go ahead, read that again.  Unreal.  Right?

This, of course, is in direct contrast to the Ravens, who will welcome any and all media members into their house today and allow questions to be thrown at Bisciotti, Team President Dick Cass, General Manager Ozzie Newsome and Head Coach John Harbaugh.

None of the questions will be dodged, unless some goof in the room says something like, “Yeah, this is for Ozzie.  Are you guys interested in trading for Justin Blackmon of the Jaguars?  He’s really good you know.”  Ozzie, of course, can’t answer any question about a player currently under contract with another team.  But he’ll answer any other REAL questions thrown his way today.

There’s no list of “off-limits-topics” distributed beforehand.  And, unlike the Orioles, who specialize in not allowing their critics to question them, the Ravens don’t “hand-pick” who is allowed in the room and who asks questions and who doesn’t.

The Orioles are so afraid of their critics they take away their press credentials and display a picture of the suspect at the main entrance behind home plate the same way the FBI posts pictures of their Most Wanted List in post offices.

The Ravens say, “Come on in, everyone, and ask whatever you want.”

The Orioles say, “You — you, right there.  You can come in.  You, though, you can’t come in.”

Accountability.  It’s what fuels today’s “State of the Ravens” gathering.

As long time Ravens P.R. Vice President Kevin Byrne said to me once, “We like this sort of review.  We appreciate the questions and the challenges.  We constantly evaluate ourselves.  We’re not worried about having people ask us why we do what we do.”

After the press conference, all four of the men will routinely hang around for some “off-the-record” discussions in the event you wanted to press an issue that was touched upon during the “open” portion of the event.

Yes, it’s true.  Steve Bisciotti simply stands in the corner and you ask him whatever you want.  One year, I asked him, simply, “How much money did the team make this past season?”  And, he stood right there and answered it.

Can you imagine asking Peter Angelos that question?

Wait — can you imagine Peter making himself AVAILABLE, first of all?  Then, what if that question got posed to him?  You can only imagine the result.

(Please see next page)

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Let’s hope David Lough knows how to play “Crocodile Rock”

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Let’s hope David Lough knows how to play “Crocodile Rock”

Posted on 19 December 2013 by Drew Forrester

Give Dan Duquette credit.

Prior to last week’s Winter Meetings in Florida, Duquette pledged he was on the look-out for several things, one of those being a left-handed bat.

He made good on that promise yesterday.

It wasn’t quite the Shin-Soo Choo holiday gift we were all hoping for; instead it was a guy who has 400 career at bats in the major leagues.

The acquisition of David Lough on Wednesday wasn’t a “horrible move”.  For starters, the departure of Danny Valencia isn’t going to cost the Orioles a half dozen wins or anything, but they will need to replace his bat against left handed pitching.  Valencia was virtually one dimensional.  He was bat only, although his glove could fill-in for a day or two if one of the infielders had to take a day or two off.

Lough is what the experts call a “plus defender”, which is usually a way of saying a guy is really, really good defensively — and that makes up for the fact he’s not all that good at the plate.

Here’s what David Lough is — and here’s why the move is a typical Orioles maneuver.

He’s basically a cheaper version of Nate McLouth.

McLouth might be a tad more effective with the lumber in his hands.  Lough has a better arm in the outfield and is a little more versatile positionally.  They both have decent speed.  McLouth probably hits a couple of more home runs per-season than Lough, and his plate discipline is better.

McLouth, though, makes $5 million per-year.

Lough makes $500,000.

Checkmate.

It’s basically a lateral move that saves the Orioles $4.5 million.

Now, please understand this:  If I thought the Orioles were taking that $4.5 million and doing “something” with it, I’d probably be much more excited about the move.

If they were working on a deal for, let’s say, David Price from Tampa Bay, and they were going to use that $4.5 million in part to pay him the $16-18 million he’s going to command in 2014, I’d be doing cartwheels.

David Price is a game changer.

They’re not getting David Price, of course.  The Orioles wouldn’t pay a pitcher $18 million if Walter Johnson came back from the dead and said, “I have three great years left, give me $54 million and let’s go beat the Yankees and Red Sox.”

If I thought the Orioles were taking that $4.5 million and putting it in a hedge fund somewhere along with all that MASN money they’ve been hoarding in an attempt to make a boatload of cash to hand over to Chris Davis sometime over the next 12 months, I’d say, “OK, you gotta give a little to get a lot…I understand that way of thinking.”

But, that’s not what they’re doing.  If Chris Davis puts up something in the neighborhood of 50 HR, 120 RBI again, he’ll be on the verge of becoming one of those $150 million/7 year baseball players and that immediately takes him OUT of Baltimore and in either Boston, New York, Detroit or Seattle.

If they were spending some of that $4.5 million they were saving on the likes of a “real” left-handed hitter like Shin-Soo Choo and making Lough their 4th outfielder – a la Chris Dickerson, say – I’d be very comfortable with that kind of move.

Instead, here’s what happens to that $4.5 million they saved on McLouth:  They’ll take that money they saved by flipping McLouth for Lough – in essence – and simply say, “That’s how you build a good team in a limited market.”

I hope David Lough works out.

As it stands now, it would appear the Orioles have four left-fielder types, none of which are even close to being “a sure thing”.  Nolan Reimold=suspect. Francisco Peguero=suspect.  Steve Pearce=suspect.  Lough=suspect.

They need Lough to come through, since I think we all know the chances of any of the other three breaking through with some sort of magical, career year are relatively slim.

Then again, this is what Duquette does best.  He plucks piano movers away from teams, hands them the notes to Elton John’s Greatest Hits, and effectively says, “I know you’ve only moved pianos your whole life.  But I was hoping you might be able to play Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting.”

Duquette tries to make piano movers into piano players.

The great teams simply hire piano players to do that.

 

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Anyone have a place in Aruba and a hammock for Dan Duquette?

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Anyone have a place in Aruba and a hammock for Dan Duquette?

Posted on 18 December 2013 by Drew Forrester

I’m sure Dan Duquette needs a nap now after that flurry of activity over the last week or so of the hot stove season.

Last Friday, the Birds snatched away some guy named Mike something-or-other from the Red Sox in the Rule 5 draft.  He’ll need to hang around all year – like Flaherty (’12) and McFarland (’13) did – on the 25-man roster or else be offered back to Boston.  I’m sure Buck Showalter is just thrilled with only having a 24-man club to work with from April until September 1.

Yesterday, Duquette filled a hole he created two weeks ago when he brought Grant Balfour into the fold for two years to serve as the team’s closer.

Poor Dan.  He probably needs a massage and a follow-up appointment to make sure he’s not overheated.

So, it’s nearly Christmas.  The “new year” is just around the corner.  January quickly turns into February around here, particularly when the days and weeks are filled with furious discussion about the Ravens and their next playoff game.  Before you know it, the players start flowing into Sarasota for spring training.

In other words — the baseball season will be here soon.

Where are all the players who will help the Orioles win in 2014?

Balfour will help, we all assume.  Yes, he’s 36.  Yes, his numbers away from Oakland Coliseum spiked a bit, as expected.  And, yes, he’ll be closing games against the likes of the Red Sox and Yankees instead of the Mariners and Astros.  That said, Balfour is a much better option than Tommy Hunter would have been for the upcoming season.

So, we’ll check off on Balfour.

Next?

Ryan Flaherty and perhaps some guy you’ve never heard of named Jemile Weeks will likely compete for the starting second base job.  If Jonathan Schoop can get healthy and stay that way, he might get his hands dirty at 2B as well.  Make no mistake about it, though, this isn’t necessarily a position of strength for the Birds heading into 2014, despite the fact I personally believe Flaherty has the tools to be a “decent” everyday player.

Duquette publicly stated his off-season efforts would focus on a left-handed bat (a real one, presumably) and a left-fielder (again, I’m figuring he wanted a real one) to help produce more runs with players who understand the value of on-base percentage.

Nothing’s been done there yet.  On either account.

Yes, yes, yes, I know, the off-season haul DID include the signing of Francisco Peguero, a cast-off for the Giants who scorched the National League with a .200 batting average in his 35 career games over there.

Oh, and Nolan Reimold is back.

There’s no left-handed bat yet.

Plenty were available, but all of them make too much money for the Orioles in this “limited market” they supposedly occupy.

Are you ready for the return of Luke Scott?

You better be.

So, the off-season rolls on in Baltimore the way it usually does.  With promises, hopes and expectations — and nothing much to show for it once the presents have been unwrapped and the sunshine of Florida beckons in the not-so-distant-future.

Ticket prices increased, though.  And, the Orioles got about $30 million more in TV money to spend on players this year.  They’re not spending it, mind you, but they have it at their disposal.  So, they have that going for them, which is nice.

Things could change over the next 4-6 weeks.  Duquette could make a trade of some sort that fills one or two of the needs he stressed he was trying to fill earlier this month.  A free-agent still hanging around without a team might wind up saying “yes” to the Orioles in the days before spring training begins.

Yes, things COULD change.

But, they won’t.

Some things never change with the Orioles.

They aren’t willing to do what it takes to be a championship organization.

A fact, they’ve been proving – again – over the last six weeks since free agency began and teams who are trying to win took steps to do just that.

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