Tag Archive | "darren o’day"

Orioles temporarily option Chen to minors to add extra bat off bench

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Orioles temporarily option Chen to minors to add extra bat off bench

Posted on 27 August 2014 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — The Orioles furthered their reputation for manipulating their roster as much as any club in the majors by optioning left-handed starting pitcher Wei-Yin Chen to their Gulf Coast League affiliate and recalling catcher Steve Clevenger from Triple-A Norfolk on Wednesday.

The procedural move provides another left-handed bat off the bench for manager Buck Showalter, but Chen will be allowed to be recalled for his regular turn to pitch against the Minnesota Twins on Sunday. Since the Gulf Coast League completes its season on Thursday, the Taiwanese lefty would be eligible to return to the majors the following day and would not need to wait the normally-required 10-day minimum in the minors.

Clevenger was hitting .305 with two home runs and 30 runs batted in in 64 games for the Tides this season. He hit .240 in 26 games for the Orioles earlier this year. The Orioles have been playing with a three-man bench since recalling right-handed pitcher Miguel Gonzalez and designating infielder Cord Phelps for assignment in Chicago on Sunday.

“We’ve been playing short a position player for a while,” Showalter said. “We thought this was an opportunity to take care of that problem and give us a better chance to win tonight. That’s what it’s about. And a better chance to win tomorrow night.”

Not factoring in the decision after his second-shortest outing of the season in Tuesday’s 4-2 win, Chen will pitch on regular rest despite Showalter briefly considering waiting to recall Chen until Monday when major league rosters will expand. The Orioles will need to make a temporary 25-man roster move to make room for Chen on Sunday.

Chen leads the Orioles with 13 wins and has posted a 3.76 ERA in 25 starts this season. The 29-year-old has allowed 158 hits, struck out 109, and walked 28 in 148 1/3 innings.

With Kevin Gausman, Bud Norris, and Miguel Gonzalez also possessing minor-league options and scheduled to pitch on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, the Orioles may choose to send down other starting pitchers over the next few days should a need arise.

“We’ll consider anything that gives us a better chance to win the game that night and doesn’t jeopardize anything we’re doing in the future down the road,” Showalter said. “We’ll see what the game brings tonight. We’ll let each game dictate where we are and what our needs are.”

Machado surgery successful

Orioles third baseman Manny Machado underwent successful surgery to repair a partially-torn ligament in his right knee.

Machado traveled to Los Angeles Tuesday before Dr. Neal ElAttrache — who handled last year’s surgery on his left knee — completed the procedure early Wednesday morning. The 22-year-old is expected to remain in California for the next three weeks before either traveling to Sarasota to continue rehabbing or rejoining the Orioles for a while.

“Manny’s surgery went real well. That was good to hear,” Showalter said. “Doctors say everything went well [and] as expected, without mentioning the doctor’s name. They had a good [grasp on] what they thought was going to happen and what they thought they were going to find.”

The Orioles and Machado expect his surgically-repaired knee to be 100 percent and cleared before the start of spring training.

Bundy ready for “normal” offseason

Pitching prospect Dylan Bundy visited Showalter and the Orioles to discuss his offseason plan on Tuesday.

The 21-year-old right-hander has nearly recovered from the lat strain that landed him on the disabled list and prematurely ended his season pitching for Single-A Frederick. Bundy is expected to participate in the Orioles’ Sarasota minicamp in late January.

“The goal and the hope now for him is to have a normal offseason of a healthy pitcher,” Showalter said. “They talked about him ending the season active and marked as healthy just so he can start his offseason, which in some cases would be doing nothing for a while. I think that would be good for him.”

Bundy made his return in June from last year’s Tommy John surgery, going 1-3 with a 3.27 ERA in nine starts spanning 41 1/3 innings split between short-season Single-A Aberdeen and high Single-A Frederick.

O’Day receives his due

Right-handed relief pitcher Darren O’Day has been exceptional since arriving in Baltimore in 2012 and received some novel recognition with his own T-shirt (below) given to fans before Wednesday night’s game.

“I’m glad [he's] being recognized,” said Showalter, who wasn’t aware of the O’Day T-shirt prior to Wednesday. “If you just throw a blanket over all relief pitchers, you can make a case there’s nobody in baseball having a better year out of the bullpen than Darren O’Day. This year, it’s been left, right, switch-hitters, it doesn’t matter. Darren’s just been solid.

“When you get your ERA under 1.00 with those amount of appearances, you’re not sneaking up on anybody. They all know what he features; they all know what he’s trying to do.”

O’Day is 4-1 with a 0.94 ERA in 57 2/3 innings of relief work, which includes 61 strikeouts and 16 walks.

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No easy answer for Orioles to solve closer dilemma

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No easy answer for Orioles to solve closer dilemma

Posted on 14 May 2014 by Luke Jones

The Orioles didn’t need a closer Wednesday afternoon as they were swept by the Detroit Tigers in a 7-5 final, but manager Buck Showalter offered few clues as to who might be taking the ball the next time his club has a save situation.

Struggling incumbent Tommy Hunter wasn’t ruled out by the Baltimore manager prior to the series finale against Detroit, but Showalter implied he would not receive the same leash as former Orioles closer Jim Johnson. Before being traded to Oakland over the winter, Johnson blew a career-high nine saves in 2013 but was only a year removed from an All-Star campaign in which he collected a franchise-record 51 saves for the playoff-bound Orioles.

“The difference between Tommy and Jimmy is, Jimmy had a track record,” said Showalter, alluding to the former entering the 2014 season with only four career saves. “Tommy does, too, in certain other things. So, there’s some unknown with where it is we’ll go with Tommy.”

Sporting a 6.60 earned run average and 1.87 WHIP (walks plus hits per inning pitched) so far this year, Hunter is on thin ice to put it mildly, but the Orioles knew this was a possibility when they elected not to sign an established closer after a two-year, $14 million agreement with Grant Balfour was scrapped due to a failed physical over the winter. The problem is figuring out where to turn next if three blown saves in 14 tries are enough in Showalter’s mind to demote Hunter from the role — at least temporarily.

Many have called for a closer-by-committee approach in which Showalter can play the matchups on any given night, but such a strategy only thrives with starting pitching that consistently works deep into games to leave some combination of the club’s top relievers available for the ninth inning and the opposing hitters it might bring. If the starting pitching is substandard,  a manager must then lean more on long and middle relief for the sixth, seventh, and eighth innings, decreasing the likelihood of even getting to the ninth inning with a narrow lead intact.

Of course, the possibility of an outside addition exists as the Orioles still sit in first place in the American League East, but here’s an assessment of the most likely alternatives currently on the 25-man roster who would be in line to receive the ball in the ninth inning instead of Hunter:

RHP Darren O’Day (0.60 ERA, two saves)
Case for: The veteran sidearm pitcher has the longest track record with Showalter and has averaged 8.0 strikeouts per nine innings in his career, proving he misses plenty of bats despite his unorthodox style and underwhelming velocity.
Case against: Left-handed hitters batted .309 against him last season and have posted a .300 average so far this year, making him an easy target for opposing managers to use left-handed pinch hitters in the ninth inning.
Is he a good option to try next? Maybe, but O’Day would need to recapture the success he had against lefties in 2012 when they hit only .205 against him.

LHP Zach Britton (0.84 ERA)
Case for: The 26-year-old’s sinker has been devastating against nearly everyone he’s faced as right-handed hitters are batting .167 and lefties only .156 against him in 21 1/3 innings this season.
Case against: The left-hander has only been a reliever for seven weeks, and moving him to a defined closer role would mean he would no longer be stretched out enough to be able to save the bullpen as he has on a number of occasions already this season.
Is he a good option to try next? Yes, he’s the perfect example of riding the hot hand even if you’re concerned about rattling his confidence for the remainder of the season if he fails in the role.

RHP Ryan Webb (3.94 ERA)
Case for: His career splits against left-handers (.284) and right-handers (.238) are balanced enough to suggest he might be able to handle regular appearances in the ninth, and his sinker also plays well at Camden Yards.
Case against: His lifetime 1.36 WHIP is on the high side and his career 6.4 strikeouts per nine innings isn’t ideal for the closer role where you typically want a pitcher to miss more bats.
Good option to try next? Yes, Webb’s splits aren’t dramatically skewed to one side of the plate or the other unlike other candidates currently in the bullpen, and he has more relief experience than most in the Baltimore bullpen.

LHP Brian Matusz (3.46 ERA)
Case for: Lefties hit only .168 against the southpaw in 2013 and his background being stretched out as a starter as recently as spring training suggests he may have the durability for a regular closer role.
Case against: His 1.77 WHIP so far this season is far too high, right-handed batters hit .302 against him last season, and he’s more valuable as a lefty specialist to use in a big spot against an imposing left-handed bat such as Boston’s David Ortiz.
Good option to try next? No, Matusz simply hasn’t been effective enough this season and right-handers feast on his stuff too often to take him out of his current specialist role.

Who should be next in line for the closer job? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

 

 

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Positive signs all around for the O’s

Posted on 03 July 2013 by jeffreygilley

The Orioles earned their 48th win of the season tonight with a 4-2 win over the Chicago White Sox. Tonight’s game was a complete 180 from last night’s 5-2 loss. Tomorrow, the teams will square off at 2:10 p.m. to determine the winner of the series.

Tonight’s game was filled with positive signs. Scott Feldman made his Orioles debut and was as advertised. Feldman went six innings while giving up two earned runs and six hits. Feldman will be able to eat up more innings but the fact that he was thrown into the fire and performed well was impressive to me.

As always, the bullpen was stellar. Darren O’Day, Tommy Hunter, and Jim Johnson pitched one inning a piece and gave up just one combined hit through the three remaining innings.

How could there be an Orioles blog without mentioning Chris Davis? The man is crazy good. We are truly watching one of the greatest regular seasons in baseball history! Davis scored a run, knocked in three more, and is now hitting for an average of .331.

Davis has hit nine RBI in his last four games which date back to June 29 against the New York Yankees. Davis’s stats will continue on their record pace and could even improve. If Brian Roberts can be productive at the bottom of the order, he will act as another lead off man which in turn will put more men on base for the offense.

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Your Monday Reality Check: Unlike would-be assailants, Buck rises above fray

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Your Monday Reality Check: Unlike would-be assailants, Buck rises above fray

Posted on 24 June 2013 by Glenn Clark

There are a few of you who I’m assuming were forced to find a new baseball team to root for Sunday night.

Actually, I’m probably speaking to a smaller audience as many of you jumped ship to become fans of the Boston Red Sox or New York Yankees or Washington Nationals or some other team.

No? So you’re telling me you don’t know ANYONE who posted something on Saturday night saying something along the lines of “If the Orioles don’t put one in Jose Bautista’s ear Sunday I’ll lose all respect for Buck Showalter and stop rooting for them”?

I’m not talking about a large group of people who suggested they would swear off the team. There were certainly a few, and many more who suggested they would lose respect for the skipper even if they didn’t stop rooting for the team.

The Baltimore Orioles were swept by the Toronto Blue Jays this weekend, a disappointing series outcome even against a red hot Jays team that has now won 11 straight games. In Saturday’s 4-2 loss, Jose Bautista hit a tie-breaking two run bomb in the 8th inning. As he rounded third base, Bautista offered the following gesture to Birds reliever Darren O’Day…

It was immediately pointed out by many that O’Day had been a bit animated himself Friday night when he recorded a big seventh inning strikeout of Bautista in the Birds’ 7-6 loss. However quite a few Birds fans (clearly frustrated by seeing the bullpen falter for the second consecutive evening) took to social media to suggest Bautista’s gesture fell into the area of baseball’s “unwritten rules” and meant an O’s pitcher might need to go head hunting Sunday.

I immediately responded to those thoughts with a post at the WNST.net Facebook page Saturday afternoon…

I would share the responses to my post, but they aren’t particularly family friendly. I mean, am I even allowed to share “Go Fist Yourself” as one particularly deranged commenter suggested I do?

Multiple posts suggested I was unaware of baseball’s “unwritten rules” and therefore incapable of doing my job. Those people (of course) couldn’t be further from being accurate. Not only am I aware of the “unwritten rules”, I through a high-five the day Maxim shredded them because I know them well enough to absolutely detest them.

(Continued on Page 2…)

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Strop’s collapse exposes concerning truth about Orioles bullpen

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Strop’s collapse exposes concerning truth about Orioles bullpen

Posted on 12 June 2013 by Luke Jones

(This blog brought to you by Atlantic Remodeling. Visit www.atlanticremodeling.com to learn about their Red Cent Guarantee!)

BALTIMORE — It’s only getting worse for Orioles relief pitcher Pedro Strop.

Fresh off a stint on the 15-day disabled list with what was labeled a lower back strain — many have drawn their owns conclusions on the injury — Strop displayed the same form seen over the first two months of the season Wednesday as he allowed four earned runs and saw his ERA balloon to 7.58 while retiring just one batter in the seventh inning. The implosion turned what was a 4-2 Orioles lead into an eventual 9-5 loss to the Los Angeles Angels.

Despite a fastball that reaches the upper 90s and a slider with good movement that enabled him to serve as an elite member of the Baltimore bullpen through the first 4 1/2 months of the 2012 season, Strop is looking more and more like a pitcher whose time with the Orioles is running out.

“Not good,” Strop said in an interview with MASN before leaving the clubhouse as the rest of the media talked to manager Buck Showalter. “Only thing I can say. I couldn’t do the job.”

The Orioles aren’t hiding from Strop’s problems, evident by their decision to place him on the DL and circumvent the reality of the right-hander being out of options. Manager Buck Showalter and pitching coach Rick Adair used the 15-day period as a way for Strop to work on his mechanics in hopes of improving his command after he walked 14 batters in 17 2/3 innings through his first 22 appearances.

However, the organization decided not to send Strop on a minor-league rehab assignment that could have lasted up to 30 days and would have allowed him to continue working on adjustments to his mechanics while rebuilding his confidence against minor-league hitters. There was some thought of that possibility before last week’s oblique injury to Steve Johnson, which prompted the club to activate Strop instead of looking to Triple-A Norfolk for another option.

Even before Wednesday’s implosion, it was perplexing to see the Orioles forgo that strategy with nearly everyone concluding his DL stint was more about ineffectiveness than any legitimate health concern.

It’s understandable to not want to give up on a talented 28-year-old who only became a pitcher in 2006 after beginning his professional career as a shortstop. Executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette knows at least a few clubs would take a chance on Strop should he be placed on waivers in hopes of getting him to the minor leagues, but the Orioles are also a contending club in the American League East that needs production from every player on the 25-man roster.

“He’s just not getting results,” Showalter said. “He understands it. Nobody cares more about pitching well for this team than Pete.”

It’s easy to criticize Showalter for turning to the volatile Strop after starter Jason Hammel allowed a single to Alberto Callaspo and walked Brad Hawpe on four pitches to begin the seventh inning, but a quick inventory of the bullpen made it easy to see Showalter’s options were limited at best as he acknowledged “two or three” relievers were unavailable without revealing names. Closer Jim Johnson had pitched in three straight games and Tommy Hunter had thrown a total of 51 pitches on Sunday and Monday.

Showalter wouldn’t reveal his late-inning plans when asked, but that presumably left Darren O’Day available for the ninth inning and lefty Brian Matusz to pitch the eighth. As a result, Showalter faced the prospects of sending a tiring Hammel out for the seventh with 94 pitches under his belt and having Strop and lefty Troy Patton — who’s also struggled this season — as his options if the starter ran into trouble. Showalter was rolling the dice for a quick inning by Hammel, but the right-hander was obviously gassed before being replaced by Strop.

Perhaps the Orioles manager could have resisted the urge to use Hammel — who wasn’t exactly dominating hitters despite a statistically-effective outing through six innings — with the thought of a fresh inning with the bases empty being more conducive to Strop having success, but that’s looking with 20-20 hindsight. The reality is Showalter didn’t have great choices at his disposal in the seventh.

“I was hoping [Hammel] could get us through seven, but it wasn’t there,” Showalter said. “That’s kind of where we were. We keep a pretty good log on innings pitched and [pitchers warming up in the bullpen], and I’m not going to put anybody in harm’s way.”

The real issue with the Orioles bullpen is more concerning than the individual struggles of Strop. Beyond the reliable quartet of Johnson, O’Day, Matusz, and Hunter, the Orioles have three other pitchers in the bullpen — Strop, Patton, and Rule 5 selection T.J. McFarland — that they can’t really trust in important situations. All have long-term potential to varying degrees, but none can be moved off the 25-man roster without significant risk of losing them.

In fairness, McFarland has pitched respectably as a long reliever in blowout situations, but that’s a role typically held by a pitcher who can easily be moved on and off the roster to address a club’s needs at a given point in the season. It’s a major reason why we saw the one-and-done approach applied with several ineffective starting pitchers earlier in the season and it has further hamstrung the roster flexibility that Showalter and Duquette enjoy having.

The Orioles’ problems in middle relief have led to a heavier dependence on their best relievers, which jeopardizes the club’s long-term viability for the second half of the season. It’s not uncommon for even the best teams in baseball to have shaky options beyond the top three or four pitchers in the bullpen, but the keystone of the Orioles’ 2012 success included the effectiveness of middle relievers like Luis Ayala and Patton in the sixth and seventh innings that spared other late-inning options on occasion.

Baltimore needs improvement from its middle relievers or starting pitching — preferably both — to improve its chances in a tight division in which fourth-place Tampa Bay trailed first-place Boston by only four games entering play on Wednesday.

“We can’t pitch the same guys every night,” he said. “It just doesn’t work, and [Strop] was one of those guys for us last year and has been at times this year, and we hope that he will again. He pitched well and got physically fine and had a couple really good outings, as you saw. It just wasn’t there for him today.”

Bullpens are typically quite fluid over the course of a season, but the Orioles currently have just two pitchers (Matusz and O’Day) with remaining minor-league options and they obviously aren’t going anywhere. That means time is running out for Strop — you can say the same for Patton — to right himself after roughly four months of struggles going back to last year’s regular season.

The talent is there, but the Orioles need last year’s effectiveness to resurface.

They don’t have the flexibility to wait much longer.

 

 

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Orioles Relievers In Need of Relief

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Orioles Relievers In Need of Relief

Posted on 21 May 2013 by Thyrl Nelson

There are lots of theories about what’s been wrong with Jim Johnson over the last week or so. The analysis (or over-analysis) of baseball can lead us down a lot of different roads, seeking an explanation for why the bottom has dropped out so dramatically on the Orioles’ closer. Sometimes that analysis might lead us to overlook the easiest of answers, but sometimes the easiest answers are the right ones.

The inability of the Orioles starting rotation to simply eat innings has been an issue all season. Now it seems that issue could be taking its toll on the bullpen.

 

It’s not as if last year the O’s did a much better job of covering innings with their starters, but what they were able to do was better hide their issues with a steady stream of arms passing through the revolving door between the big club and its minor league affiliates.

 

This year with fewer players having options remaining, the Orioles have to be more creative with their roster shuffling or risk losing players with promise to the waiver wire when sending them back and forth between the minors and the big club.

 

Last year the Orioles found themselves on the bad side of the run differential equation too. As a result many cast the team as lucky, and deemed their success unsustainable. While they indeed may have been lucky, it was that luck that in large part made them sustainable.

 

This year’s Orioles have a fantastic offense, and are sitting on the right side of the run differential, but they haven’t been able to come up with blowout wins. The blowout losses that fed last season’s run differential debate are gone as well, which hasn’t provided the team with the “luxury” of rolling out the B-bullpen and living to fight another day. As a result, the 3 arms in the bullpen that the O’s seem to trust are being used at an alarming, and likely unsustainable, rate.

 

Jim Johnson

 

Last year Johnson pitched in 71 games in the regular season. That’s 43.8% of the team’s 162.He pitched in 63 wins (67.7%) and only 8 losses (11.5%).

So far this season, Johnson has pitched in half of the team’s 44 games. He’s been in 73.9% of Orioles wins, and also in 23.8% of their losses.

He’s on pace to pitch an incredible 81 games.

 

Darren O’Day

 

In 2012 O’Day pitched in 69 games. That’s 42.5% of the Orioles total. He threw in 48 wins (51.6%) and 21 losses (30.4%).

So far in 2013, he’s thrown in 21 games or 47.7% of the teams total. . He’s been used in 15 wins (65.2%) and 6 losses (28.5%).

O’Day is on pace to pitch in 77 games.

 

Brian Matusz (relief only)

 

Matusz became a member of the Orioles bullpen on 8/24/12, and appeared in 18 games. That’s 47.3% of the 38 games he was available for. He threw in 14 wins (56.5%) and 4 losses (30.4%).

So far in 2013 Matusz has thrown in 21 games or 47.7%. He’s been in for 13 wins (56.5%) and 8 losses (38%).

Matusz is also on a 77 game pace.

 

The absence of Luis Ayala, the ineffectiveness of Pedro Strop, the inconsistency of Troy Patton and Tommy Hunter, and the inexperience of TJ McFarland has left Matusz, O’Day and Johnson to pick up most of the bullpen load when the Orioles are winning. The inability of the starters to pitch deep into games has left more innings to be picked up. And the lack of blowouts, for or against the Orioles, have led those 3 to be used in many more losses than they were last season too.

 

*Of last year’s 1483 innings pitched by the Orioles, 545.1 were covered by the bullpen. That’s 36.6%.

Of this year’s 385 innings pitched by the Orioles, the pen has covered 142.1. That’s 36.9%, or not much of a difference.

If there is a difference it’s that 60 of the Orioles bullpen innings last season were in extra frames. That’s 11%. This year 6 of the pen’s innings have been in extras. That’s just 4%.

In innings 1-9, the bullpen covered 34% in 2012 and is covering 37% of those innings in 2013.

 

All of this makes Buck Showalter’s decision to pull Freddy Garcia after just 66 pitches on Monday that much more curious as it led to 5 relievers and 76 pitches to cover innings 7-10.

 

For all of the talk of which Orioles the Orioles could least afford to lose, Matusz, Johnson and O’Day should probably be on the list ahead of Matt Wieters, Manny Machado, Adam Jones, Chris Davis or anyone else. More concerning it seems only a matter of time before one or more of these guys’ workloads cost them their health,

 

Last but not least, while no one is Mariano Rivera, it’s kind of interesting that baseball’s greatest closer has only pitched in 70 or more games 3 times in his career. In 2001 Rivera pitched 71 times and famously blew the World Series against the Diamondbacks. In 2004 her pitched in 74 games and then blew 3 post-season saves. And in 2005 he pitched 71 times and had 2 appearances in an unremarkable post season.

 

If the great Mariano was made mortal in seasons with 70 or more appearances, how much of Jim Johnson’s post-season struggles could we attribute to overuse? What might happen on his way to 81 appearances this season?

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What’s next for Jim Johnson and the ninth inning?

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What’s next for Jim Johnson and the ninth inning?

Posted on 21 May 2013 by Luke Jones

(This blog brought to you by Atlantic Remodeling. Visit www.atlanticremodeling.com to learn about their Red Cent Guarantee!)

If you weren’t already concerned after consecutive blown saves last week, it’s difficult not be pushing the panic button after Orioles closer Jim Johnson failed to protect another ninth-inning lead in a deflating 6-4 loss to the New York Yankees on Monday night.

In a week’s time, Johnson went from holding a franchise-record 35 consecutive save conversions to facing questions over whether manager Buck Showalter needs to look elsewhere in the ninth inning after three consecutive blown saves. Of course, the current six-game losing streak isn’t making things any easier as the Orioles have now dropped to 23-21 in the American League East.

Johnson has blown as many saves over the last seven days as he did in the entire 2012 season, so what do you do if you have a lead in the ninth inning the next time out? The Baltimore skipper was asked whether he’d hesitate to go to the 2012 All-Star reliever in the next save situation and his answer wasn’t surprising.

“Come back tomorrow and watch it again,” Showalter said.

Showalter clearly needed to offer unwavering support and by no means should the Orioles bury the right-handed reliever who played a critical role in their first postseason appearance in 15 years last season, but you wonder if a temporary adjustment needs to be made in how the club views the ninth inning. The location of Johnson’s pitches has been a major concern as his normally-dominating sinker that typically induces plenty of ground balls has too often been left up in the strike zone.

Johnson acknowledged he’s been working to make a few adjustments in his delivery, which has looked rushed and has given off the appearance that he’s overthrowing at different times over his last three outings.

“First, [I'm adjusting] a little bit of mechanics,” said Johnson, whose earned run average has ballooned from 0.95 to 4.22 over the three-game period. “Obviously, I’m not getting the ball where I need it to be. I’ve watched a lot of tape, and we’re working on certain things. Staying tall over the rubber a little longer. I’ll figure it out. There is no other option.”

To suggest Johnson should lose the job entirely would be an absurd tactic after he converted 51 of 54 opportunities to set a franchise record last season. Beyond that, Johnson has been a mainstay in the Orioles bullpen since 2008 except for a 2010 campaign partially derailed by an elbow injury.

It’s very possible we’ll look back at this current three-game stretch as an aberration, which is supported by the fact that Johnson reeled off 14 straight saves to begin the season and put the bad taste of a difficult 2012 postseason behind him.

However, closing out ballgames in the major leagues is a difficult task and history shows countless relievers having brilliant stretches as closers that couldn’t be sustained over multiple seasons. It’s also fair to point out that Johnson’s style of pitching to contact is unconventional compared to most strikeout-minded closers and would suggest his unbelievable 2012 campaign might be difficult to repeat when so many balls are put in play.

Truthfully, Johnson hasn’t held the closer role for such a long period that would deem him untouchable no matter how prolonged the struggles might be.

Some will point to Johnson’s heavy workload — he’s appeared in 22 of the Orioles’ 44 games this season — and suggest a mental and physical respite could be the perfect elixir while providing him with time to work on his mechanics in side sessions. However, any attempt to do so would put even more strain on Darren O’Day and Brian Matusz, the club’s other primary late-inning options.

“We are not worried about Jim,” catcher Matt Wieters said. “We need to play better as a team. Once Jim gets rolling again, he will be [fine]. The whole team is not playing well right now, and there were things we could have done earlier in the game to give him a two or three-run cushion.”

The Orioles have no choice but to keep their faith in Johnson for the long haul, but in the meantime, it may not hurt to temporarily return to the mantra that Showalter used upon arriving in Baltimore in 2010. Famously proclaiming he was more interested in the win rule than the save rule, the manager could look more closely at opposing hitters due up in the ninth inning and match up a bit more using O’Day and Matusz in addition to Johnson.

For example, the first four hitters due up in the ninth inning of Monday’s game were left-handed, which suggests that could have been a time to allow the lefty specialist Matusz to start the inning with Johnson warming in the bullpen and ready to enter against any right-handed pinch-hitters.

Such a strategy wouldn’t need to be permanent but would take some of the ninth-inning burden off the 29-year-old until he’s once again confident in his mechanics and pitch location. Or, perhaps it’s as simple as the Orioles benefiting from a couple blowout games — preferably on the winning end, of course — in which the reliever could enter in a low-pressure situation to do some fine-tuning on the mound.

But a luxury such as that is difficult to plan for in the midst of the Orioles’ longest losing streak in almost a year.

“Three of [the losses] are my fault,” Johnson said. “The other guys do their job. If I do mine, we’re not standing here. I think everyone is doing a great job. I’m not pulling my weight, but I’ll figure it out.”

Regardless of how the ninth inning is handled in the immediate future, the Orioles need Johnson to figure it out.

And quickly.

 

 

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Orioles, O’Day agree to two-year deal to avoid arbitration

Posted on 10 February 2013 by WNST Staff

The Orioles reached terms on a two-year agreement with relief pitcher Darren O’Day to avoid arbitration.

According to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com, the deal is worth $5.8 million and includes a club option for the 2015 season worth $4.25 million and comes with a $400,000 buyout. O’Day was the Orioles’ only remaining arbitration-eligible remaining without a contract for the 2013 season.

O’Day emerged as one of the most effective members of the Baltimore bullpen last season, posting a 2.28 earned run average in 67 innings of work. O’Day also pitched seven shutout innings in the postseason.

The Orioles claimed O’Day off waivers from the Texas Rangers on Nov. 2, 2011. The submarine-style pitcher made $1.35 million last season.

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I just took a vicious gut punch and can’t wait to do it again

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I just took a vicious gut punch and can’t wait to do it again

Posted on 08 October 2012 by Glenn Clark

There is no 15-7-0 this week. I’m a man with priorities.

My priorities Sunday were quite simple. I wanted to get through pre-game and post-game shows, enjoy a Ravens win and get to Oriole Park at Camden Yards as quickly as possible to watch a playoff game with my family.

At the end of the night, those priorities were realities even if the day didn’t play out exactly the way we had hoped it would.

Sunday night was everything baseball in Baltimore should be. It was an incredible gathering of friends and family for a vitally important civic event in a town where family names have baseball connections. We’re familiar with these types of nights in Baltimore, we just know them as “football games”. We’ve waited not so patiently for another one on the baseball diamond for a decade and a half.

It finally came Sunday night and it was absolutely as intense and electric and meaningful as any lifelong (or even Johnny-come-lately) Baltimore Orioles fan could have imagined it would be.

You know what’s amazing? I stood in the outfield for two hours during a rain delay and never heard a single complaint. Not about the lines for beer, not about the weather itself, not about the massive crowds making it difficult to maneuver or find space to stand comfortably.

Hell, we had waited 15 years. What’s another couple of hours?

After the New York Yankees were introduced to a less than partial crowd, there was a break before introducing the home team to their fans. The break might have been mere seconds, but it felt like time stood still. I remember the first time being alone with a girl at 16 years old, but I don’t remember my anticipation ever being as great as it was in those moments. The opportunity to show appreciation for ending one of the most miserable runs a fan base has experienced was a moment not soon to be forgotten.

That moment was followed up by a ceremonial first pitch thrown by Perry Hall High School shooting victim Daniel Borowy and guidance counselor Jesse Wasmer, the man who stepped in and defined heroism in fending off the shooter that August morning. As a PHHS grad who has remained very close to the school in recent years (and who both went to school with and grew up down the street from Jesse to boot), I will admit that I lost it a bit during the moment. Even those without Gators ties could certainly revel in the significance of the occasion. THIS is truly a representation of what Orioles baseball should be. The most important things happening in our community should be tied to, recognized by and celebrated with the franchise that has remained in our city since 1954.

This was a moment that far transcended sports.

As Game 1 of the ALDS went along, it felt like every pitch was the most important ever thrown in the history of the sport. Each tantalizing inch around the plate was crucial, with fans hanging on every centimeter afforded to CC Sabathia but taken away from Jason Hammel. When the Birds were able to break through and plate two runs off the bat of Nate McLouth in the 3rd inning the staff at OPACY could have set off actual fireworks and they might have gone unnoticed by a crowd that could only be described as bat-sh*t bonkers.

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Orioles embrace underdog role like few teams ever have

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Orioles embrace underdog role like few teams ever have

Posted on 06 October 2012 by Luke Jones

You’d think we would have learned our lesson after 162 games, but the Orioles opened our eyes once again on Friday night.

With few giving them a chance after a deflating series at Tampa Bay that forced them to go to Arlington for the first ever wild card play-in game, the Orioles knocked off the Texas Rangers to advance to the American League Division Series.

We assumed the task was too much for the Orioles to top the two-time defending American League champions after they went 2-5 against the Rangers and were outscored 56-24 in the season series. It didn’t matter that Texas had lost nine of its last 13 games or that Baltimore held the best road record in the American League. The epitaphs had already been written and recited by many over the last two days leading up to Friday’s first pitch.

Manager Buck Showalter’s decision to give the ball to left-hander Joe Saunders was met with more than a few raised eyebrows considering the soft-tossing veteran was 0-6 with a 9.38 earned run average in six career starts at Rangers Ballpark before Friday night. Even those defending the decision assumed a brief outing for Saunders before a 10-man bullpen would match up the rest of the way.

The middle-of-the-road starter couldn’t possibly contain the powerful Rangers bats, could he?

Saunders did just that, using effective off-speed stuff to pitch 5 2/3 innings of one-run ball before turning it over to the bullpen, the group most responsible for landing the Orioles in the postseason for the first time since 1997.

Arguably the player of the game, reliever Darren O’Day was brilliant over two innings of work to bridge the gap to the late innings. New lefty specialist Brian Matusz blew away Josh Hamilton on three pitches to end the eighth with the slugger representing the tying run. And, finally, Jim Johnson closed the door on the Rangers’ season and sent the Orioles back to Baltimore for the ALDS.

The Baltimore bats were far from fertile but did just enough against Texas starter Yu Darvish to give Saunders and the bullpen a slim lead.

Left fielder Nate McLouth drove in two runs and scored another to lead the offensive attack, J.J. Hardy and Adam Jones each knocked in one, and rookie Manny Machado tacked on an insurance run in the top of the ninth with a run-scoring single.

And as McLouth squeezed the final out in left to seal a 5-1 win, there was Showalter watching from the dugout as his players celebrated their unlikeliest feat to date in a season full of head-shaking wonder. At this point, you wonder just how unlikely the Orioles viewed it as they didn’t blink in a place that’s been a house of horror for them in recent years.

Why do we still doubt them?

The response was lukewarm in late August when executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette brought Saunders to Baltimore in exchange for reliever Matt Lindstrom. It wasn’t the impact move for a starting pitcher the Orioles desperately needed to push the Orioles over the hump in their playoff push.

Considered washed up and simply hoping for another chance in the big leagues while playing for Triple-A Norfolk only two months ago, McLouth was summoned to Baltimore as many laughed and rolled their eyes. Those same people then cringed when the thumb injury to Nick Markakis forced him to assume the leadoff spot duties.

Critics said 20-year-old Manny Machado wasn’t ready for the big leagues and certainly couldn’t handle playing third base after playing only two games at the position in his brief minor league career.

O’Day was a castoff from the Rangers who many thought didn’t even deserve a roster spot at the start of the season after being injured for much of spring training. Matusz endured one of the worst seasons in major league history a year ago and was demoted again earlier this season before ultimately being sent to the bullpen.

Yet, the moves worked and those individuals figured heavily into the Orioles’ first postseason win since 1997.

While I wondered if the Rangers could get off the mat after collapsing in the final two weeks of the regular season and losing their grasp on the AL West title, the Orioles emphatically delivered the knockout blow to their 2012 season. Perhaps the Rangers were the better team and would have prevailed in a longer season, but the Orioles were the better team on Friday and that’s all that matters.

Yes, this perfect group of imperfect players comprised of holdovers used to losing, career minor leaguers, has-beens, never-will-bes, and baby-faced rookies may look like a jumbled mess of individual parts, but the unconventional concoction made by Showalter and Duquette is now 11 wins away from a World Series title.

Suggesting that possibility still sounds preposterous, doesn’t it? I thought so.

They’ll undoubtedly be tabbed as the underdogs against the AL East champion Yankees, a team they tied 9-9 in the season series.

But that underdog label doesn’t bother the Orioles. They’ve heard it all year and they’ll just keep playing with their house money, proving more and more people wrong in the process.

We’ll keep waiting for that bankroll to expire while Showalter’s club continues one of the most remarkable baseball stories we’ve seen in a long time for at least another postseason series.

We don’t know when it will come to an end, but few teams have ever embraced the underdog role with such vigor.

And they’ll keep reminding you why you shouldn’t doubt them.

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