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Twelve Orioles thoughts following 6-5 loss at Detroit

Posted on 18 April 2018 by Luke Jones

With the Orioles suffering their fifth straight defeat in a 6-5 walk-off final at Detroit, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. Yes, it’s early, but the Orioles must play like a 90-win team the rest of the way just to get to 85 victories. To get to 90, they have to play like a 96-win team. Any realistic path to the postseason is already circling the drain because of this start.

2. Darren O’Day hadn’t pitched in a week, but he’s now given up a go-ahead home run in the eighth inning or later in two of his last three appearances. Not including the superb four-game set at Yankee Stadium, the Baltimore bullpen has a 5.32 ERA in 45 2/3 innings.

3. No, I wouldn’t have used Pedro Araujo for the bottom of the ninth inning, but the club’s most reliable reliever over the last seven years had just blown a two-run lead in the previous inning. Who exactly do you really trust that was still available?

4. My bigger problem with Showalter’s bullpen usage was not sticking with Richard Bleier longer after he needed only six pitches to record the last two outs of the seventh inning. The lefty has been the Orioles’ top reliever and owns a 0.71 ERA this season.

5. If you’re looking for a silver lining, the Orioles managed to score more than three runs for just the second time in eight games. They even played some effective small ball in the eighth with Craig Gentry’s bunt and Adam Jones’ sacrifice fly.

6. Entering the day with four career homers and a .568 career on-base plus slugging percentage, Luis Sardinas hitting a pinch-hit homer to tie the game in the ninth would have been a pretty special moment had the Orioles won. Instead, it was quickly forgotten.

7. Speaking of nondescript defensive-minded infielders, Engelb Vielma made one heck of an over-the-shoulder catch in the seventh inning to help keep the Orioles’ deficit to one run.

8. Kevin Gausman made mistakes to Jeimer Candelario and Miguel Cabrera for solo homers, but he was very solid over his six innings. His velocity improved as the game progressed as he started to consistently hit 94 miles per hour and was touching 95 and 96. He deserved better.

9. Gausman’s slider was also one of the better ones I’ve seen him throw. He only recorded three swinging strikes out of the 21 times he threw it, but he was able to induce quite a bit of harmless contact with it.

10. Caleb Joseph is now batting .081 with a .240 OPS. It’s time for Chance Sisco to start receiving more extensive playing time.

11. The players, Showalter, the coaches, the front office, and ownership all deserve significant blame for this 5-13 start threatening to ruin the season. That said, I’m not sure what the immediate answer is that isn’t just based in emotion. The trade deadline is more than three months away.

12. I couldn’t have been the only one thinking Machado hitting a walk-off homer is something the Orioles should probably get used to being on the wrong side of sooner than later anyway. Yeah, that was a low blow, but watching bad baseball on a daily basis is getting to me.

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Twelve Orioles thoughts following 5-2 win over Yankees

Posted on 06 April 2018 by Luke Jones

With the Orioles snapping their five-game losing streak with a 5-2 victory over the New York Yankees, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. The five runs plated in the seventh inning exceeded the club’s total in five of its first six games and came after the Orioles had only one baserunner in the previous five frames. It was a brutal opening week, but that was a good stop-the-bleeding win to begin the series.

2. After Orioles pitching surrendered an inexplicable 102 runs in 10 games at Yankee Stadium last season, Andrew Cashner set the tone with six strong innings as an Aaron Judge solo homer was the only blemish. It was the first quality start of the season from someone not named Dylan Bundy.

3. Cashner used five pitches effectively with his slider and changeup standing out in key spots. His declining strikeout rate was a major topic when he signed, but he’s struck out 10 in 11 innings. You’ll take that outing against the Yankees lineup any day of the week.

4. Adam Jones continued his hot start to the season with the big two-run homer off Masahiro Tanaka to give the Orioles the lead in the seventh. All three of his long balls in 2018 have given Baltimore a lead in the sixth inning or later.

5. Trey Mancini responded favorably to the leadoff spot with three hits, including a two-run single to right off Chad Green to extend the lead to 5-1. In a perfect world, you’d like to keep Mancini in more of a run-producing spot, but he’s the man for the job right now.

6. It was a cold night in the Bronx and Tanaka pitched well over the first six innings, but the Yankees starter still threw some hittable pitches that went unharmed until the seventh. Opposing pitchers continue to give Orioles hitters a heavy diet of off-speed and breaking stuff.

7. A bullpen that’s already carrying two Rule 5 picks and trying to survive without All-Star closer Zach Britton can hardly afford to have Mychal Givens struggling. The right-hander has now been scored upon in each of his last two outings to put further strain on the bullpen.

8. After cleaning up Givens’ mess in the seventh, Darren O’Day found trouble of his own an inning later by issuing a walk and hitting two batters before escaping unscathed. He sure seems to love pitching with the bases loaded, doesn’t he?

9. Brad Brach issued a walk before striking out Brandon Drury and Brett Gardner to collect the save. I do have reservations about Brach as a closer, but some of the reaction to his blown save on Opening Day was over the top. No current options are going to be Britton.

10. Chris Davis collected his second hit of the season in his final at-bat, but he looks lost at the plate right now. You expect him to strike out and to even be victimized by the shift, but he’s not making any hard contact, hitting a slew of weak grounders.

11. Colby Rasmus singled as part of the five-run seventh, but he’s looked as lost as Davis, striking out 11 times in 20 plate appearances. Rule 5 outfielder Anthony Santander did deliver an RBI double, but the Orioles need to start getting something from their veteran left-handed bats.

12. Before going hitless with two strikeouts, Manny Machado reiterated his desire to play shortstop beyond 2018 and took a dig at the New York media about the Aaron Judge tampering controversy. He’s not wrong, but I’m not sure that’s the best idea if he envisions wearing Yankee pinstripes.

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Rule 5 obsession again hurting Orioles’ chances to win

Posted on 04 April 2018 by Luke Jones

The Orioles do this to themselves.

Year after year, executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette champions the Rule 5 draft as a cheap way of acquiring young prospects. It sounds fine in theory in December and we hear the encouraging reviews of these players during spring training, but the Orioles inevitably find themselves in predicaments in which both their roster and their ability to compete are compromised during the season.

And for what?

The greatest Rule 5 success story of the Duquette era has been Ryan Flaherty, a versatile utility man who was worth a total of 1.6 wins above replacement over his six seasons with Baltimore. Carrying a position player has proven to be easier as the Orioles were able to qualify for the playoffs with Flaherty in 2012 and outfielder Joey Rickard in 2016, but does the upside of a Rule 5 pick really justify the roster headaches?

Was it worth it having T.J. McFarland hamstring the bullpen in 2013 and Jason Garcia clogging it up in 2015? McFarland at least made some useful contributions as a long reliever in 2014, but Garcia was never heard from again as he struggled at Double-A Bowie the following two years. Neither is with the organization anymore.

That brings us to the present with the Orioles not only trying to satisfy the remainder of outfielder Anthony Santander’s Rule 5 requirement from last season, but they’re currently carrying two Rule 5 pitchers in their bullpen.

Two.

A club that sported the worst starter ERA in the majors in 2017 and one that is without two-time All-Star closer Zach Britton for at least the first two months of the season thinks it’s a good idea to carry two pitchers who have little business being in the major leagues right now. And it took all of five games for this bizarre Rule 5 fascination to cost the Orioles a potential win.

Manager Buck Showalter shouldn’t be absolved for his decision-making in Tuesday’s 10-6 loss in Houston as he could have avoided using both Miguel Castro and Richard Bleier in Monday’s 6-1 defeat, but that only delays the inevitable as this type of scenario would have played out at some point very soon. When starters consistently fail to pitch deep into games, you’re not going to survive with what amounts to a five-man bullpen. Whether it was Tuesday night, Wednesday afternoon, or next week, Pedro Araujo and Nestor Cortes were going to find themselves pitching in a game with the outcome still in doubt.

Trying to hide one Rule 5 pick in the bullpen is difficult enough, but carrying two eliminates any margin for error as we saw when Mychal Givens allowed the go-ahead two-run home run to Josh Reddick in the sixth inning. Showalter removing starter Mike Wright was the right call after he’d given the Orioles a solid five innings and 82 pitches in his first competitive outing since March 22. Regardless of the result, you’d rather see Givens against the heart of the Astros order rather than Wright facing it a third time.

The likely plan was for Givens to pitch the sixth and seventh before turning to Darren O’Day and Brad Brach for the final two innings. Instead Givens’ struggles opened the door for both Araujo and Cortes to put the game out of reach. One could still argue using O’Day or Brach for the seventh inning, but Showalter has always been reluctant to use his top arms when the Orioles are trailing and such a strategy would have merely pushed the bullpen shortage to the following day.

You just aren’t going to win with starters pitching only four or five innings and backing them up with only five relievers you trust. The math simply won’t add up as the cumulative impact of needing to cover 13 innings in the previous three blowout losses put the Orioles in bad position on Tuesday. Again, Showalter could have handled his bullpen differently the last two nights, but Araujo and Cortes are going to have to pitch when it matters from time to time if they’re to remain on the 25-man roster.

And that’s the major problem.

The Orioles deserve praise for stepping up to sign starting pitcher Alex Cobb in late March, but you can’t say you’re truly all in on 2018 with two Rule 5 picks straining your bullpen while you’re already trying to survive the absence of your best reliever. Such a path comes across as trying to prove you’re smarter than everyone else rather than doing what it takes to win.

And history suggests the long-term payoff with both Araujo and Cortes won’t be worth it anyway.

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Twelve Orioles thoughts entering 2018 season

Posted on 26 March 2018 by Luke Jones

With the Orioles about to begin the 2018 season, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. The Alex Cobb signing not only added much-needed teeth to a rotation that finished last in the majors in starter ERA in 2017, but it brings real hope for another fun season if several variables break the right way. That optimism simply wasn’t there a week ago.

2. Cobb’s addition was also a meaningful sign of commitment beyond 2018, something that had been lacking all winter. That’s important when the contracts of your general manager, manager, and several key players are all expiring after this season. I’m intrigued to see what happens next.

3. Cobb and Andrew Cashner hardly make the Baltimore rotation one to fear around baseball, but adding two ground-ball pitchers with a history of keeping the ball in the park certainly makes sense playing at homer-friendly Camden Yards.

4. Anger over how the Orioles have mishandled the Manny Machado situation is completely justified, but don’t let that totally ruin your enjoyment from watching him this season. He’s happy to finally be playing shortstop, and I’m curious to see how that impacts his performance on a daily basis.

5. Dylan Bundy fetching positive results in his final spring outing eased some concerns, but his Grapefruit League numbers were also poor last year. It’s good to see him finally making an Opening Day start after the expectations that have followed him from the moment he was drafted seven years ago.

6. I’d be more worked up about Chris Davis possibly leading off if the Orioles actually had an ideal candidate for that job, but there’s no understating how important it is for Davis to rebound from 2017 to improve the club’s outlook — this year and beyond.

7. I had no problem re-signing Chris Tillman as a fifth starter candidate, but you just can’t stick with him long if he looks like the 2017 version, especially with only a $3 million salary. An 8.03 ERA with eight walks and four strikeouts in 12 1/3 spring innings isn’t encouraging.

8. A reasonable expectation of catching duties — assuming good health — would be Caleb Joseph catching 60 percent of games and Chance Sisco handling the other 40 percent with some occasional designated hitter duties. Of course, growth behind the plate from Sisco could change that ratio.

9. This Q&A was a good look into the psyche of Kevin Gausman as this could be the “now or never” season for him to put it all together or simply remain an average — and frustratingly inconsistent — starter. He posted a 2.62 ERA in 113 1/3 innings with Joseph catching last year.

10. Danny Valencia provides a potent bat against lefty pitching, but a 33-year-old who’s registered minus-34 defensive runs saved at third base in his career and has no meaningful experience up the middle isn’t an appropriate utility infielder. This isn’t a well-constructed bench going into the season.

11. Darren O’Day struck out 10 and allowed only one run in seven spring innings. The 35-year-old providing the durability and consistency he did from 2012-15 would make this bullpen that much better trying to endure Zach Britton’s absence.

12. I don’t see how carrying the out-of-options Mike Wright and two Rule 5 pitchers, Nestor Cortes and Pedro Araujo, will be tenable. Even assuming one of the three goes when Cobb is activated, does the upside justify the lack of flexibility? The irrational Rule 5 fascination lives on.

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Twelve Orioles thoughts on start of spring training

Posted on 20 February 2018 by Luke Jones

With Orioles spring training underway and Grapefruit League action beginning later this week, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. After signing Andrew Cashner and Chris Tillman, the Orioles will have an estimated 2018 payroll of just south of $130 million after an Opening Day payroll of $164 million last season, according to Cot’s Baseball Contracts. Explain again why they’re not serious players for Lance Lynn or Alex Cobb?

2. We scoff whenever a free agent says it’s not about the money, but I believe free-agent-to-be Adam Jones when he said the chance to win will be more important than compensation. The 32-year-old obviously won’t play for nothing, but a ring is very important to him.

3. That said, how the Padres perform in 2018 would be an interesting variable to throw into the Jones mix after they signed Eric Hosmer. They have one of baseball’s top farm systems, so perhaps the San Diego native would be intrigued about going home if the Padres show they’re ascending.

4. Not that Tim Beckham has had any leverage in the matter, but I’m impressed with the way he’s handled himself in the wake of Manny Machado moving to shortstop. Showing he can be a solid third baseman would only enhance his value moving forward.

5. Dylan Bundy astutely noted at FanFest that he got away from his curveball and changeup too much down the stretch as he posted a 7.53 ERA in his three September starts. His 2017 workload was a major topic of discussion, so you pray that he has a healthy spring.

6. Chris Davis knows he needs to be more aggressive. His contact and chase rates have held fairly steady since 2014, but he swung at a career-low 60.0 percent of pitches in the zone last year, down from 64.1 percent in 2016 and 72.2 percent in 2015. That’s a disturbing trend.

7. One of Baltimore’s more cerebral players, Mark Trumbo said he was probably too caught up in swing analytics last year. He denied any negative impact from serving as the designated hitter so frequently, but that role sure provides a lot of time to overthink struggles at the plate.

8. A healthy Darren O’Day would go a long way in the bullpen’s effort to endure the extended absence of Zach Britton. Little went right for the Orioles last September, but the 35-year-old quietly posted a 0.96 ERA with 24 strikeouts over his last 18 2/3 innings of the season.

9. If the best Dan Duquette can do in adding a lefty-hitting outfielder is 32-year-old journeyman Alex Presley, the Orioles need to give Austin Hays every opportunity to show he can be an everyday player and this year’s version of Trey Mancini despite lacking the same minor-league seasoning.

10. There’s much evidence supporting concerns about Cashner, but citing his 42-64 career record pitching mostly for bad teams tells us very little about his performance. Pitcher win-loss records are baseball tradition, but they should induce an eye-roll if used in attempts at meaningful analysis.

11. I’m skeptical just how much baseball’s new initiatives to improve pace of play will move the meter, but limiting the number of mound visits is long overdue. You’d think some pitchers and catchers had never met before with how frequently they congregate.

12. Many of the spring training caps introduced around baseball in recent years have been cringe-worthy, but I do like this year’s Orioles version. It was a smart call taking the logo from the deer hunter caps used for “Players Weekend” last summer.

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Report: Angelos gives Duquette approval to shop certain Orioles

Posted on 18 July 2017 by Luke Jones

The Orioles are apparently open for business with the non-waiver trade deadline less than two weeks away.

According to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports, owner Peter Angelos has given his approval to executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette to pursue trades for Baltimore’s top bullpen arms as well as veteran outfielder Seth Smith. That list of relievers includes former All-Star selections Zach Britton, Darren O’Day, and Brad Brach.

The Orioles are not entertaining offers for three-time All-Star third baseman Manny Machado or five-time All-Star center fielder Adam Jones at this time.

Of the aforementioned names now on the trading block, Britton would provide the most value as long as he continues to show no lingering effects from the left forearm strain that cost him more than two months of action. Under club control through next season, the 2016 American League Reliever of the Year winner has allowed two earned runs and six hits in five innings of work since being activated from the disabled list on July 5.

Brach would also figure to bring a good return as he is making just $3.05 million in 2017 and will not hit free agency until after next season. He has done an adequate job filling in for Britton in the closer role this season, collecting a career-high 16 saves in 20 chances.

O’Day’s value would be more questionable as he is only in the second season of a four-year, $31 million contract signed two winters ago. The 34-year-old has dealt with right shoulder issues over the last calendar year and is still owed $9 million in both the 2018 and 2019 campaigns.

Smith will become a free agent at the end of this season and wouldn’t figure to fetch much more than a marginal piece in a trade. The Orioles would also be looking to move outfielder Hyun Soo Kim and catcher Welington Castillo, who both can become free agents at the end of 2017.

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Twelve Orioles thoughts following 3-1 win over Toronto

Posted on 27 June 2017 by Luke Jones

With the Orioles winning their third straight game in a 3-1 final over the Toronto Blue Jays, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. The Orioles jumped ahead early with Mark Trumbo’s two-run double with two outs in the first, but Adam Jones drawing a walk after falling behind 0-2 was the biggest at-bat of the inning. It was an impressive way to finish an eight-pitch battle with Joe Biagini.

2. Kevin Gausman showed good fastball command low in the strike zone as he pitched 5 1/3 innings to collect his first victory since May 31. You’d like to see him get deeper into the game, but he was able to build on encouraging signs from his last outing.

3. His command was shaky early in the game, but double plays in the first and second innings went a long way in allowing Gausman to settle down. He retired eight in a row after the twin killing in the second.

4. Toronto made some loud contact in the fourth, but Gausman dotted a 3-2 fastball at the bottom of the zone to strike out Josh Donaldson looking. That was one of his best pitches of the night.

5. Despite the Blue Jays featuring seven right-handed bats in their starting lineup, Gausman continued to use his split-changeup as his go-to secondary pitch and didn’t throw a single slider, according to Statcast. That’s an interesting development.

6. Thanks to the off-day, Buck Showalter was able to deploy his bullpen earlier than normal as Gausman was pulled after 99 pitches with a one-out jam in the sixth. That’s the kind of bullpen chain the Orioles have too frequently lacked over Zach Britton’s absence.

7. Mychal Givens was wild in the sixth, but he got Kendrys Morales to expand the zone for a strikeout to leave the bases loaded and then calmed down to toss a perfect seventh. His ability to pitch more than one inning as been huge all season for an undermanned bullpen.

8. The last seven weeks of Orioles baseball haven’t been easy, but watching Jonathan Schoop continue to grow as an offensive force has been fun. His two-out hits in the first and third started both of Baltimore’s scoring rallies on Tuesday.

9. I’ll never grow tired of watching encounters between Darren O’Day and Jose Bautista. The veteran reliever came out on top this time and has looked sharp in three scoreless innings since returning from the disabled list Friday night.

10. Brad Brach allowed a two-out home run to Troy Tulowitzki in the ninth, the first run he’d allowed since May 16. Other than his struggles from late April through early May, he’s done a commendable job filling in for Britton.

11. Hyun Soo Kim drew two walks, but he’s only 7-for-31 without an extra-base hit since the Chris Davis injury more than two weeks ago that led to more playing time for the left fielder. His season on-base plus slugging percentage is just .620.

12. The Orioles were one strike away from pitching a shutout four days after tying the major league record for allowing five or more runs in their 20th consecutive game. Baseball’s funny.

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O’Day, Britton take positive steps in their anticipated returns

Posted on 21 June 2017 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — Former All-Star relievers Zach Britton and Darren O’Day have taken important steps to make their respective returns to the Orioles from the disabled list.

O’Day’s activation could occur as soon as Friday after the right-hander successfully completed a simulated game on Wednesday. The 34-year-old hasn’t pitched since June 6 while dealing with a right shoulder strain, the same ailment that cost him more than a month late last season.

Meanwhile, Britton pitched in his first minor-league rehab game Tuesday and is eligible to return to the Orioles as soon as July 4 after he was recently placed on the 60-day DL, a procedural move that cleared a 40-man roster spot for outfielder Craig Gentry. The two-time All-Star closer and 2016 American League Reliever of the Year hasn’t pitched since the recurrence of a left forearm strain in early May, but he tossed a scoreless inning with a strikeout and a walk for short-season Single-A Aberdeen.

The southpaw will continue his rehab assignment at Single-A Delmarva with scheduled appearances on Thursday and Saturday.

“As I go forward, it’s about commanding my sinker and throwing other pitches and getting back and actually executing pitches,” said Britton, who compared Tuesday’s outing to the first appearance a pitcher makes in Grapefruit League action. “Maybe you look at the results a little bit more as we go forward, but it was a big step yesterday. And I feel good coming in today, which is only positive.”

Manager Buck Showalter hasn’t enjoyed a fully-healthy bullpen since mid-April and has attempted to proceed through the late innings in recent weeks with only two established relievers — Brad Brach and Mychal Givens — from last year’s group that ranked among the best in the majors. In addition to going 47-for-47 in save opportunities and posting a microscopic 0.54 ERA last season, Britton was worth 4.3 wins above replacement and led all major league pitchers in win probability added (WPA), measures of just how critical he is to Baltimore’s success.

In nine innings this season, Britton has a 1.00 ERA with seven strikeouts, four walks, and 12 hits allowed. He converted all five of his save opportunities before initially going to the DL on Easter Sunday.

“His face and just his whole demeanor getting that first [rehab outing] behind him is better,” Showalter said. “It’s not anxiety, but just anticipation. He’s kind of in the groove.”

Britton saw a familiar face with the IronBirds Tuesday as former Orioles pitcher Mark Hendrickson was making his debut as their pitching coach. The two played together in Baltimore in Britton’s 2011 rookie season.

It was also the first time Britton had made an Opening Day start since he was still in the minor leagues.

“We were both nervous. It was his coaching debut,” Britton said. “I was like, ‘This could either go really bad or really good for you, right?’ And he was like, ‘Yeah, please don’t do anything stupid.’ It was a cool moment to be part of that with him.”

NOTES: Injured first baseman Chris Davis received two platelet-rich plasma injections in an effort to speed up the healing of his strained right oblique. He is not expected to return until after the All-Star break. … Catcher Welington Castillo was out of the lineup Wednesday with a sore right shoulder after being hit there by a foul tip on Monday. Showalter said he was likely still available to come off the bench if needed.

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Hardy sidelined at least 4-6 weeks with right wrist fracture

Posted on 19 June 2017 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — Orioles shortstop J.J. Hardy is expected to miss at least four to six weeks after suffering a non-displaced fracture of his right wrist in Sunday’s win over St. Louis.

The 34-year-old underwent a CT scan Monday, but the injury will not require surgery. Hardy was hit by a 93 mph fastball from Cardinals starter Lance Lynn in the fourth inning and left the game before his next at-bat two innings later.

The Orioles selected the contract of veteran infielder Paul Janish from Triple-A Norfolk to take Hardy’s place on the 25-man roster.

This marks the second year in a row in which Hardy will miss extended time because of a broken bone. He suffered a hairline fracture when he fouled a ball off his left foot last May, an injury that sidelined him for just over six weeks.

“I felt like I was making strides getting out of the little funk I was in and then this happens,” said Hardy, who is batting a career-low .211 this season. “It’s just frustrating. I’d never broken a bone in my life until last year and now this.”

Hardy owns the second-worst on-base plus slugging percentage (.556) among all qualified major league hitters this season, but he said he had recently made some adjustments at the plate with hitting coach Scott Coolbaugh and had been 7-for-23 with four doubles over his last seven games. He is in the final season of a three-year, $40 million contract.

Manager Buck Showalter said veteran Ruben Tejada will receive the bulk of the opportunities at shortstop in Hardy’s absence. Once the starting shortstop of the New York Mets, Tejada, 27, is a .252 career hitter with a .647 OPS in 2,284 career plate appearances over eight major league seasons.

Third baseman Manny Machado moving over to his natural shortstop position is not a consideration at this point. Showalter would prefer leaving the rest of the infield intact and expressed belief that it was “taxing” for Machado to move back and forth between the two positions in Hardy’s absence last year.

Despite Hardy no longer bringing the offensive value he offered in his first three seasons with the Orioles from 2011-2013, his teammates and coaches have regularly spoken about the veteran infielder’s intangibles and on-field leadership over the years.

“He’s always separating offense from defense and always [handling] coverages on stolen bases, hit-and-runs, relays,” Showalter said. “He’s kind of like the quarterback of the infield so to speak. There’s a lot of things that people miss that he brings. There’s just a real calmness with everybody. He makes everybody click a little bit better.

“He’s driven in some big runs for us. I know it hasn’t been offensively what he wants it to be or he’s capable of. But he still had some big hits through that. There are a lot of things you miss with him that you can’t quantify.”

According to Baseball Reference, Hardy has been worth minus-0.6 wins above replacement, another indicator of how dramatic his struggles at the plate have been this season. He has been worth one defensive run saved and owns a 0.4 defensive WAR.

In other injury-related news, closer Zach Britton was scheduled to begin his minor-league rehab assignment at short-season Single-A Aberdeen on Monday, but that’s been rescheduled for Tuesday because of inclement weather. The two-time All-Star selection has been on the disabled list with the recurrence of a left forearm strain since early May.

Right-handed reliever Darren O’Day had a successful mound session Monday and will pitch in a simulated game on Wednesday. If that goes well, O’Day could be activated from the DL as soon as Friday. He has been out since the first week of June with a right shoulder strain.

Utility infielder Ryan Flaherty (right shoulder) experienced a setback throwing from more than 60 feet in Sarasota on Monday. He had felt no discomfort in previous throwing sessions from up to 60 feet, but this development obviously means his return is not imminent.

Right-handed pitcher Mike Wright will travel to Sarasota to continue rehabbing his right shoulder Tuesday. First baseman Chris Davis (strained right oblique) will remain with the club and travel with the Orioles for this weekend’s series against Tampa Bay before reporting to Sarasota next week.

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Orioles continue shuffling bullpen due to injuries, ineffectiveness

Posted on 16 June 2017 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — The Orioles continued to shuffle their bullpen due to injury and ineffectiveness Friday by placing right-handed pitcher Mike Wright on the 15-day disabled list and optioning right-hander Jimmy Yacabonis to Triple-A Norfolk.

Manager Buck Showalter revealed Thursday that Wright began experiencing right shoulder discomfort during his outing against the Chicago White Sox on Wednesday and was unavailable. Wright, 27, underwent an MRI on Friday as the Orioles were considering giving him a cortisone injection for right shoulder bursitis.

Wright had pitched to a 5.56 ERA, but he had also struck out 14 batters in 11 1/3 innings since being recalled from Norfolk late last month.

Yacabonis had posted a 0.90 ERA for the Tides this season to earn a promotion to the majors last weekend, but he struggled mightily with his command, walking six batters in just 3 1/3 innings. The Orioles optioned the 25-year-old to Norfolk after Thursday’s loss in which he walked three of the four hitters he faced, but they had not made an immediate announcement.

To take their spots on the 25-man roster, the Orioles recalled right-handed pitcher Gabriel Ynoa and lefty Vidal Nuno. Ynoa pitched six shutout innings of emergency relief for the Orioles on May 5, but he owned a 6.93 ERA for the Tides. Nuno has allowed nine earned runs in 12 innings with Baltimore this season and has pitched to a 3.00 ERA at Norfolk.

With two-time All-Star closer Zach Britton (left forearm) and 2015 All-Star setup man Darren O’Day (right shoulder) both on the DL, the Orioles have been shorthanded in the bullpen. The lopsided nature of their current struggles has largely made that a moot point, of course, but Showalter has essentially been able to trust only right-handers Brad Brach and Mychal Givens and lefty Richard Bleier recently.

In an effort to stabilize the bullpen, Showalter announced that veteran Ubaldo Jimenez will start against St. Louis on Sunday while Alec Asher will return to a relief role. Sporting a 5.05 ERA overall, Asher has pitched to a 1.62 ERA in 16 2/3 innings out of the bullpen this season. Meanwhile, Jimenez has posted a 4.32 ERA in relief this season, but his inability to bounce back quickly after outings has left the bullpen undermanned for days at a time.

Having begun the season in the Orioles rotation, Jimenez sported a 7.17 ERA after a poor start against Minnesota on May 22 and was sent to the bullpen after that. The 33-year-old is in the final season of a four-year, $50 million contract that’s been nothing short of disappointing.

“Ubaldo’s responded well to some time in the bullpen [in the past],” Showalter said. “We’ll see if that happens again. We really want to try to see if we can kind of solidify the bullpen a little bit as far as some of the movement there. ‘Ash’ did a good job for us there and presented himself well as a starter sometimes, but I think it’s as much because of Ubaldo. He pitches and [then] needs three or four days off; it really put us in a tough spot in the bullpen. It’s as much for the bullpen as it is for Ubaldo.”

In positive bullpen-related news, Britton has returned to Baltimore from Sarasota and is set to begin his minor-league rehab assignment at short-season Single-A Aberdeen on Monday. He will then continue with two outings for Single-A Delmarva.

Britton will not be activated before the end of June as the Orioles will continue to be cautious with his recovery from a left forearm strain that’s already included one setback in early May. That occurred just a few days after he was reinstated from his first DL stint.

“We’re starting to get more definitive [with his return],” Showalter said. “I think probably after the second Delmarva appearance, we’ll get a real definitive idea if that all goes well. He feels good. You can tell by talking to him that he feels good about where he is.”

O’Day threw off flat ground on Thursday and felt good, but he is not expected to return until next week at the earliest, according to the Orioles manager.

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