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Orioles part ways with veteran outfielder Young

Posted on 01 July 2015 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — No longer able to endure a well-documented roster crunch, the Orioles designated outfielder Delmon Young for assignment prior to Wednesday’s game against Texas.

Baltimore needed a fresh arm in the bullpen and recalled right-handed pitcher Tyler Wilson to take Young’s spot on the 25-man roster. With the recent promotions of Chris Parmelee and Nolan Reimold, the 29-year-old Young’s playing time had dwindled with just 17 plate appearances since June 13.

“They’re all difficult,” said executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette about the decision to part ways with the veteran. “We wrestle with these decisions and hash them out and go back and forth, and we try to develop more options for the team to keep all the players in the organization. We couldn’t come up with a solution to this roster move because we didn’t have the flexibility on our roster that we’ve had in the past.”

Young provided arguably the most exciting moment in the history of Orioles Park at Camden Yards last fall with a three-run double in the eighth inning of Game 2 of the American League Division Series, sparking his club to a 7-6 victory and eventual sweep of the Detroit Tigers. However, the outfielder struggled with more extensive playing time this season, hitting .270 with just two home runs and a .628 on-base plus slugging percentage in 180 plate appearances.

With the Orioles employing a number of outfielders serving in part-time roles, Young didn’t offer as much versatility with declining power and limited defensive ability. The emergence of Jimmy Paredes this season has taken away a large number of at-bats at the designated hitter spot that the Orioles projected Young to receive at the beginning of the season.

The roster pains aren’t over for the Orioles as they must make room for right-hander Kevin Gausman to make Thursday’s start and second baseman Jonathan Schoop will finish his rehab assignment over the next few days. Manager Buck Showalter said outfielder Nolan Reimold will go on paternity leave next week, which would temporarily open a a roster spot.

“There’s not a right decision there. Nobody is trying to present it as such,” said Showalter of Young’s departure. “We’ve got good quality people, and you reach a point where you can’t keep them all. Unfortunately, we’re probably not done. It tugs at your chest.”

After being signed to a minor-league deal two offseasons ago, Young thrived in a part-time role in 2014, hitting .302 with seven homers and a .779 OPS. The first overall pick of the 2003 amateur draft was Baltimore’s best pinch hitter, going 10-for-20 in the regular season before delivering his pinch-hit two-bagger off Detroit right-hander Joakim Soria in the ALDS.

The offseason departure of slugger Nelson Cruz figured to create more opportunities for Young, who signed a one-year, $2.25 million deal over the winter to remain with the Orioles.

Duquette will now have 10 days to try to work out a trade for Young, a realistic chore considering he was able to deal Alejandro De Aza to the Boston Red Sox last month. Duquette told reporters prior to Wednesday’s game that he had already engaged in trade discussions with other clubs about Young but hadn’t gotten close to making a deal prior to Wednesday’s designation.

“Delmon is a qualified major league hitter,” Duquette said. “Hopefully, we’ll be able to find a [landing] spot for him in a few days.”

Many fans will remember Young fondly for his heroics last October, but he isn’t the first Oriole to be let go shortly after a pinnacle playoff moment. Outfielder Tito Landrum hit the game-winning homer in Game 4 of the 1983 AL Championship Series before being traded the following spring.

 

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Orioles facing difficult roster decisions this week

Posted on 22 June 2015 by Luke Jones

Despite playing their best baseball of the season over the last two weeks, the Orioles know a roster crunch is coming that will force difficult decisions to be made in the coming days.

Not only are pitchers Miguel Gonzalez and Wei-Yin Chen expected to return to the starting rotation this week, but the Orioles could welcome back second baseman Jonathan Schoop after he began a rehab assignment over the weekend. The current roster consists of 14 position players, three starting pitchers, and eight relievers. One roster spot will be taken care of by optioning either Oliver Drake or Mychal Givens back to the minors, but what executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette and manager Buck Showalter plan to do beyond that is anyone’s guess.

Of their current position players on the roster, only Caleb Joseph, Manny Machado, and Ryan Flaherty have minor-league options, illustrating how little flexibility the Orioles have. Machado and Joseph clearly aren’t going anywhere while optioning Flaherty to make room for Schoop would leave Steve Pearce as the closest remaining piece resembling a utility infielder.

The Orioles are too crowded in the outfield, but barring a trade or an injury sending a player to the disabled list, they’ll have no choice but to possibly lose two players by designating them for assignment.

Below is a look at the candidates in danger of losing their roster spots and a chance to vote in our poll to determine who should go with Gonzalez, Chen, and potentially Schoop all returning to the 25-man roster this week:

If the Orioles must part ways with two of the following, who would you pick?

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David Lough
Age: 29
Contract status: Under club control through the 2019 season
Argument for: Lough is arguably the second-best defensive outfielder on the club behind Adam Jones and has been used as a late-inning defensive replacement and pinch runner.
Case against: The left-handed hitter has never developed at the plate and currently sports a .605 on-base plus slugging percentage while showing little ability to use his speed to consistently steal bases.

Chris Parmelee
Age: 27
Contract status: Under club control through the 2018 season
Argument for: The 2006 first-round pick’s strong numbers at Triple-A Norfolk immediately carried over to the tune of three homers in his first two games with the Orioles last week.
Case against: The owner of an underwhelming .720 OPS in 923 major league plate appearances, Parmelee is 1-for-12 since going 5-for-7 with three homers to begin his run with the Orioles.

Steve Pearce
Age: 32
Contract status: Free agent after the season
Argument for: His ability to play four different positions brings needed versatility and his 2014 success (.930 OPS) is far more than most of the other candidates have ever accomplished in the majors.
Case against: Pearce has struggled to overcome a poor start and has seen his playing time dwindle, a sign that Showalter either has lost faith in him or is simply trying to evaluate his less-familiar pieces.

Nolan Reimold
Age: 31
Contract status: Free agent after the season
Argument for: Reimold has played good defense, shown speed, and displayed the plate discipline and power that once had the Orioles very excited about his potential to be an everyday player.
Case against: Even his biggest supporters have a tough time feeling confident that he’ll finally remain healthy, making you take pause before jettisoning other players off the roster in order to keep him.

Travis Snider
Age: 27
Contract status: Under club control through the 2016 season
Argument for: His .349 on-base percentage is second on the club behind only Manny Machado among regulars, and his defense has actually been solid since some early-season issues in right field.
Case against: The lefty hitter hasn’t shown nearly as much power as the Orioles would like to see, and he goes through prolonged stretches where he struggles to make good contact.

Delmon Young
Age: 29
Contract status: Free agent after the season
Argument for: The .271 batter is 3-for-9 as a pinch hitter after going 10-for-20 in that department a year ago and is among the American League leaders with eight outfield assists.
Case against: The veteran doesn’t inspire confidence in the field and is slugging just .343 with four walks to give him a .634 OPS, which is comparable to the likes of Pearce and ex-Oriole Alejandro De Aza.

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Jones sits out Tuesday’s game with shoulder issue

Posted on 17 June 2015 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — You wouldn’t know it by simply viewing the final score, but the Orioles were without their best player in Tuesday’s 19-3 win over the Philadelphia Phillies.

Center fielder Adam Jones was out of the lineup with a right shoulder injury suffered when the 29-year-old was diving headfirst for a ball late in Monday’s 4-0 victory. Manager Buck Showalter said Jones underwent a magnetic resonance imaging exam, but it didn’t reveal anything too concerning moving forward.

“Everything is serious when Adam Jones misses a game, but nothing structurally that he shouldn’t be able to come back from,” Showalter said. “The question is when, whether it’s tomorrow or the next day or in Toronto. But I feel confident it will be one of those three days.”

David Lough took over in center field and hit one of eight Orioles home runs to set a new single-game franchise record on Tuesday. The 29-year-old Jones missed only his third contest of the season as Baltimore wrapped up a 7-1 homestand to climb to two games above .500 for the first time since April 19.

Jones sat out two games in late May after spraining his ankle in the first game of a doubleheader against the Chicago White Sox on May 29, but Showalter said the All-Star center fielder is dealing with other ailments that warranted a respite on Tuesday.

“He’s got a banged-up toe from jamming it and he fouled a bunch of balls off [it], and he’s also got that ankle that he turned,” Showalter said. “It might be a good time to let him take a little blow. Anytime Adam talks about it and doesn’t fight it, you better multiply it times two. He talked to me earlier in the day after lunch about how he was feeling, so we were able to get ahead of it.”

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Orioles preparing to call up Parmelee from Triple-A Norfolk

Posted on 15 June 2015 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — Mulling ways to improve their corner outfield situation, the Orioles are preparing to select the contract of Chris Parmelee from Triple-A Norfolk as early as Tuesday.

The 2006 first-round pick of the Minnesota Twins joined the Orioles in Baltimore prior to the series opener against the Philadelphia Phillies, but manager Buck Showalter confirmed he would not be activated for Monday’s game. Parmelee had a June 15 opt-out clause in the minor-league contract he signed with the club in the offseason and had already extended it once earlier this season.

Seeing time at both corner outfield spots as well as at first base with the Tides, the 27-year-old was hitting .316 with six home runs, 32 RBIs, 13 doubles, and an .826 on-base plus slugging percentage in 265 plate appearances this season. Parmelee was a career .249 hitter with 24 homers, 85 RBIs, and a .709 OPS in 901 plate appearances for the Twins over four major league seasons.

“We like him. He’s having as good of a year as anybody in Triple A for our team and for the other teams,” Showalter said. “He’s played the outfield well and first base. He can do a lot of things.”

Parmelee was in the clubhouse and took batting practice, but he was not permitted to be in the dugout during Monday’s game.

The Orioles hope he can offer some offensive production from the left side of the plate that they haven’t received from lefty outfielders Travis Snider and David Lough so far this season. It will be interesting to see how the club makes room for him on the 25-man roster since Snider, Lough, and Steve Pearce are all out of minor-league options.

Parmelee hopes the success he had in the International League will translate to helping the Orioles continue their recent winning ways.

“I’m just trying to stay as consistent as possible,” Parmelee said. “It goes from the routine in the cage and coming out and running every day and having a routine and staying with it. Staying positive is one of the most important things. The decision was made, and I’m happy to be here.”

Schoop back in Baltimore

Returning from a lengthy stint at extended spring training in Sarasota, second baseman Jonathan Schoop was back on the field at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on Monday afternoon, fielding grounders and taking batting practice.

Schoop has been sidelined with a right knee injury for the last two months, but he is currently scheduled to begin a minor-league rehab assignment at Double-A Bowie on Friday.

“That was encouraging. That was fun to watch,” said Showalter of Schoop’s on-field workout. “He looks good. He should. He was pretty excited to get out of [Florida].”

Schoop has received plenty of at-bats in extended spring games, but the last hurdle to clear for the 23-year-old was decelerating when running, according to Showalter. The infielder hadn’t been playing the field in those extended spring games, but vice president of baseball operations Brady Anderson traveled to Sarasota last week to work out Schoop to gauge where he was from a physical standpoint.

Simply rejoining his teammates in Baltimore and knowing he’ll be traveling with them to Philadelphia later this week has Schoop excited about his pending return. Showalter has stressed that the Orioles will be cautious in making sure the young infielder is completely ready before activating him from the disabled list.

“I want to play. I feel strong and I’m not thinking about [the knee],” Schoop said. “I feel stronger than before.”

Machado named AL Player of the Week

Third baseman Manny Machado was named American League Player of the Week from June 8-14 while helping the Orioles to a season-high six-game winning streak.

The 22-year-old collected four multi-hit games and batted .458 (11-for-24) with two homers, five RBIs, and a 1.269 OPS. Machado entered Monday’s game sporting an eight-game hitting streak.

“It feels good. It was a good week for the team and it was mostly a team thing,” said Machado of the award. “The team was playing well and we were all hitting well. If it wasn’t for my teammates and my guys being on base, I wouldn’t have been here.”

W. Wright to begin rehab assignment

Left-handed relief pitcher Wesley Wright will begin a minor-league rehab assignment on Tuesday and is scheduled to pitch one inning for Triple-A Norfolk.

The 30-year-old has been on the disabled list with a left trapezius strain since the first week of the regular season.

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Jones remains sidelined with mild ankle sprain

Posted on 30 May 2015 by Luke Jones

(Updated: Sunday 11:45 a.m.)

BALTIMORE — Adam Jones was out of the lineup for a second straight day as the Orioles prepared to play the series finale against Tampa Bay on Sunday.

The center fielder turned his left ankle sliding into home plate in Game 2 of Thursday’s doubleheader with the Chicago White Sox. Jones did not leave that game and went 0-for-4 in Friday’s win over Tampa Bay, but Buck Showalter gave the 29-year-old his first day off of the 2015 season on Saturday afternoon.

The manager revealed that an X-ray and magnetic resonance imaging exam revealed only a mild sprain of Jones’ ankle, adding that he’s considered “day to day.” Jones was missing from the lineup for a second straight day on Sunday — the first time he hadn’t started consecutive games since September 2011 — but Showalter said the ankle was improving and the Orioles are not considering the 15-day disabled list as a possibility at this time.

“He woke up this morning sore [with] a little swelling. I kind of take it out of his hands,” Showalter said on Saturday. “I’m not saying he couldn’t ‘Kirk Gibson’ sometime today, but I’ve been looking for a spot to give him a day anyway. He’s one of those guys that you just don’t ask. You just have to do it, so today’s the day.”

Jones is hitting .304 with six home runs, 26 RBIs, and an .800 on-base plus slugging percentage, but the right-hander has struggled in the month of May, batting .239 with one homer and a .556 OPS. The four-time All-Star selection is just 7-for-41 with no extra-base hits over his last 10 games.

David Lough has started in center field in Jones’ place.

For good reason, the Orioles are optimistic that Jones will not be out of the lineup for long since he only missed a total of five games over the previous three seasons. Appearing in 159 games last year, Jones did not sit out any contests until September when the club was already assured of its first American League East championship since 1997. The last game that Jones missed for the Orioles fell on Sept. 26 in Toronto.

Just because Showalter appreciates Jones’ durability doesn’t mean the Baltimore skipper wasn’t assuming that he’d be ready to play after only one day off.

“I’m not going to be that assured of it [or] cavalier about it,” Showalter said. “We’ll see what [Sunday] brings. Short turnaround today. Anytime Adam even admits to a little soreness, you can probably multiply it times two. Adam plays a very physical game, which lends more credence to how remarkable his availability is. You get to know players and if he even brings something up, you know it’s something you should pay attention to.”

NOTES: Still on the 15-day disabled list after a bout of bronchitis, right-hander Bud Norris will make a final rehab start at Triple-A Norfolk on Tuesday. Showalter said again on Saturday that the plan is for Norris to rejoin the starting rotation when he’s activated, but “things change from day-to-day according to the needs of our club.” Baltimore will not use a six-man rotation to accommodate both Norris and rookie Mike Wright as starters. … Showalter said Rule 5 pick Jason Garcia is progressing well from right shoulder tendinitis as he continues to work out in Sarasota. The right-handed relief pitcher was placed on the DL retroactive to May 11. … With Friday’s win over the Rays, Showalter passed Hall of Famer Whitey Herzog for sole possession of 35th place on the all-time managerial wins list with 1,282. The 2-1 walk-off victory was also Showalter’s 400th as manager of the Orioles. … After refusing an outright to Triple-A Norfolk and electing free agency, catcher Ryan Lavarnway has signed a minor-league deal with the Atlanta Braves.

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Wieters set to return next Friday in Cleveland

Posted on 29 May 2015 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — Matt Wieters hasn’t played in a game for the Orioles in over a year, but the veteran catcher has finally learned when he’ll make his 2015 season debut.

Manager Buck Showalter announced the 29-year-old will return to the major league lineup next Friday in Cleveland after undergoing Tommy John surgery on June 17, 2014. Currently catching every other day, Wieters began his minor league rehab assignment at Double-A Bowie on Monday and is 2-for-9 with one RBI in his first two games and also threw out the only runner who attempted to steal a base.

“I’m not going to jinx it. I’ve already talked about it more than I should,” said Showalter about how much he’s looking forward to Wieters returning. “You can tell Matt feels good. I watched the last two innings last night and I called him on the way home. You can just tell in his voice and in his body language that he’s real close.”

Wieters will once again catch for Bowie on Saturday before playing at Single-A Frederick on Monday and Triple-A Norfolk on Wednesday before joining the Orioles on their road trip. The three-time All-Star selection hasn’t caught for Baltimore since May 4 of last season and last played in a game for the Orioles serving as the designated hitter on May 10, 2014.

Despite the fact that Wieters hasn’t yet begun throwing on non-catching days, Showalter said the Orioles would not be required to carry a third catcher unless they want to when he’s activated next Friday. There had been some thought that the club might need to keep both Caleb Joseph and Steve Clevenger if Wieters wouldn’t be able to catch on consecutive days because of a potential injury to the other catcher. Showalter said he’s spoken to Wieters about that scenario and he’s prepared to catch a second straight game if something would happen to Joseph.

Friday marked the six-year anniversary of Wieters’ major league debut as he is now in his final year of club control before he can become a free agent this offseason.

Gausman looking forward to Norfolk

Right-hander pitcher Kevin Gausman threw 32 pitches to live hitters at Camden Yards on Friday and is expected to start at either Norfolk or Frederick on June 6.

Placed on the 15-day disabled list with right shoulder tendinitis on May 8, Gausman will throw a bullpen session on Sunday and a two-inning simulated game in Houston on Tuesday before being sent to the minors. The Orioles are in the process of once again stretching out the 24-year-old as a starter, who threw all of his pitches against a group of hitters that included Wieters and Clevenger on Friday afternoon.

“No fatigue and I don’t feel anything in my shoulder,” said Gausman, who acknowledged the recovery process being slower than he initially anticipated. “The biggest thing was just getting out there and getting guys in the box and seeing how my body was going to react. But everything felt good. Now, it’s just going forward.”

With rookie Mike Wright currently pitching well in the Baltimore rotation, Showalter is pondering the next step for right-hander Bud Norris, who is on the DL while recovering from bronchitis. Norris’ obvious struggles dating back to the spring as well as Wright’s effectiveness will make for an interesting decision.

And that’s not even counting what to do with Gausman once he’s stretched out as a starter in the coming weeks.

“I haven’t talked to [Dave Wallace], but I did kind of hear from the trainers,” said Showalter about Gausman’s session on Friday. “He feels good. I know Kevin thinks we’re being a little overcautious with it. He wants to pitch now, but it’ll happen and be here sooner than you think.”

Lough receives consecutive starts

The decision to part ways with outfielder Alejandro De Aza has created more opportunities for the little-used David Lough, who started consecutive games Thursday and Friday for the first time since June 9-10 of last season.

Lough has primarily served as a late-inning defensive replacement and pinch runner in his two seasons with the Orioles, but the lack of production from the corner outfield spots makes it fair to ask whether the 29-year-old should receive an extended look. He’s hitting .278 with one home run, two RBIs, and a .694 on-base plus slugging percentage in 41 plate appearances this season.

“It’s not what I usually get, but I’m definitely trying to take advantage of it and do what I can to help out,” Lough said prior to starting Friday’s series opener against Tampa Bay. “It’s as hard as anyone could imagine, believe me. Getting a couple starts and then going to the bench for five or six days can be really tough. It’s a tough job, but I’ve kind of embraced it. I try to go out there when I do get my chance and try to help out as much as possible.”

Odds & ends

Showalter decided against bringing up a reliever for Friday’s game, saying that all members of the bullpen were available but there were a few he’d like to stay away from if possible.

Minor-league catcher Jonah Heim will undergo surgery after injury his foot at Single-A Delmarva.

The appeal hearing for left-hander Brian Matusz’s eight-game suspension is scheduled for Wednesday. The Orioles would not be allowed to replace him on the roster while he serves any potential suspension.

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Five questions pondering Machado, Harbaugh, Lough, others

Posted on 29 May 2015 by Luke Jones

Every Friday, I’ll ponder five topics related to the Orioles or Ravens (or a mix of both).

Five questions …

1. Is it just me or does Manny Machado need to be careful not to develop a reputation as a hothead with umpires? The talented 22-year-old was ejected in the eighth inning of Thursday’s doubleheader after throwing his bat down in disgust upon being called out on a check-swing attempt. Machado said he wasn’t concerned about already having three career ejections, stating that “there’s going to be more where that came from.” Of course, this comes a year after the infamous bat-throwing incident that fetched him a five-game suspension and drew the ire of teammates and fans. The sky’s the limit for Machado, but there has to be some concern about his tendency to lose his temper, which includes him often throwing his helmet or bat after unsuccessful trips at the plate. With situations like this, I’m often reminded of Cal Ripken telling the story of how veteran teammate Ken Singleton once scolded him as a rookie for throwing his helmet, simply saying, “We don’t do that here.” Perhaps someone needs to have that conversation with Machado if it hasn’t happened already.

2. Is it just me or did John Harbaugh react too harshly to questions on Thursday about another offensive coordinator impacting Joe Flacco? The Ravens coach was in no mood to address queries about having his fourth coordinator in four years, going on the defensive and saying it was “irrelevant” and a non-story the media was trying to create. Anyone paying attention over the last few years understands the circumstances that led to coordinator changes and wouldn’t criticize the Ravens for any of them, but it clearly is a challenge for a franchise quarterback and an offense to experience that much change in a short period of time. It’s a testament to Flacco that he’s worked so well with so many different coaches and it’s a credit to the organization for finding individuals who have made enough of an impact in Baltimore to earn head coaching gigs elsewhere. The Ravens feel confident that success will continue under a talented offensive mind in Marc Trestman, so I’m not sure why the head coach took such exception to being asked about another change.

3. Is it just me or is now the time to give David Lough an extended look in the outfield? With Alejandro De Aza designated for assignment on Wednesday, it creates more opportunities for other Orioles outfielders, but Lough has received far fewer chances than Delmon Young, Travis Snider, and Steve Pearce this season. He hasn’t started consecutive games all year, but Lough does provide strong defense and speed, two assets the other outfielders who currently aren’t thriving at the plate lack. Truthfully, I don’t think Lough is an everyday player, but it can’t be easy to produce when you receive roughly one start per week and feel like you have to get three hits are you’ll be right back on the bench the next night. It might not be a bad idea for manager Buck Showalter to start Lough every day — at least against right-handed starters — for two or three weeks for a final assessment to determine whether he can be a starting player. If he doesn’t take advantage, the Orioles shouldn’t hesitate to move on from Lough if they want to explore other options in the outfield.

4. Is it just me or is criticism for established NFL veterans skipping voluntary organized team activities absurd? Yes, rookies and veterans on shaky footing are only hurting themselves by skipping OTAs, but entrenched veterans should not feel obligated to attend voluntary workouts. Denver Broncos left tackle Ryan Clady was the latest to suffer a season-ending knee injury in a voluntary workout this week. I realize injuries can happen at any point, but why put yourself in harm’s way if you don’t feel the need to? This notion would be much different if NFL players had guaranteed contracts, but do you think the Broncos will hesitate cutting Clady next year when he’s coming off a major knee injury and is scheduled to make $9.5 million if they feel it will help their salary cap situation? Loyalty is a two-way street, but NFL teams typically take up the entire road in these matters. Of course, players can’t do anything about the lack of guaranteed contracts until it’s time for the next collective bargaining agreement, but that doesn’t mean they need to show up for voluntary workouts.

5. Is it just me or are the Orioles benefiting from their best pitching depth in a long time? Not that they were all great in Thursday’s doubleheader, but rookies Tyler Wilson, Mike Wright, and Oliver Drake combined to pitch 12 of the 18 innings as the Orioles split with the Chicago White Sox. With all attention paid to the Orioles’ top six starting candidates and a crowded veteran bullpen this spring, it’s been refreshing to see pitchers come up from Triple-A Norfolk while Bud Norris and Kevin Gausman are currently on the 15-day disabled list. With Norris, Wei-Yin Chen, Darren O’Day, and Tommy Hunter all scheduled to become free agents this offseason, the Orioles will likely have some opportunities available in both the rotation and bullpen for 2016, and that doesn’t seem like a bad thing with the contributions they’ve received from young pitchers so far. Of course, it’s also worth noting that pitching prospect Dylan Bundy will be out of options next year and will need to be on the 25-man roster, giving the Orioles more incentive to want to see him in Baltimore at some point later this season. Bundy is currently dealing with right shoulder tendinitis.

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Jones not receiving much help in Orioles outfield

Posted on 18 May 2015 by Luke Jones

Arguably off to the best start of his major league career, Orioles center fielder Adam Jones rarely knows who will be playing to his left or right on any given night.

That unrest at the corner outfield spots has been one of the Orioles’ biggest problems through the first six weeks of the 2015 season as the quintet of Delmon Young, Alejandro De Aza, Travis Snider, Steve Pearce, and David Lough haven’t met expectations. After the offseason departures of Nelson Cruz and Nick Markakis, the Orioles planned to mix and match their options in left and right depending on opposing pitchers and whoever might be swinging a hot bat at any given time.

Instead, it’s been no man’s land, leaving manager Buck Showalter searching for any production he can find. Entering Monday, Orioles left fielders have hit only .208 with a putrid .593 on-base plus slugging percentage. Right field has looked good from a batting average standpoint (.301), but that traditional power spot has provided only one home run and a .397 slugging percentage.

Playing more regularly than last season, Young has hit .292, but he has just four extra-base hits and an anemic .337 slugging percentage, making him less than desirable as a choice for the cleanup spot where he’s often appeared. His defense has been better than expected in right field, but Young rarely makes you feel comfortable watching him roam the outfield.

De Aza is second on the club with 27 strikeouts and has relinquished his role as the regular leadoff hitter against right-handed pitching due to a .209 average and just four walks in 92 plate appearances. His defense has also been inconsistent as he’s misjudged balls and occasionally thrown to the wrong base.

Snider was decent with the bat early and currently sports a .700 OPS, but his defensive lapses in April clearly led to him falling out of favor with Showalter. The former Pittsburgh Pirate has started just seven games in May.

Despite a dramatic walk-off homer against Boston on April 25, Lough has done nothing else to present himself as a player who should receive more playing time since returning from the 15-day disabled list.

And though he’s been reinvented as a second baseman this month due to a rash of injuries at the position, Pearce has failed to approach the same stratosphere of his 2014 success as he’s hitting just .188 on the season. A .208 batting average on balls put in play indicates Pearce has hit into tough luck, but that can’t completely make up for below-replacement level numbers from a veteran hitter who posted a .930 OPS a season ago.

Beyond searching for a time machine to travel back to the offseason, what can the Orioles do?

The organization has long-term visions of making current designated hitter Jimmy Paredes a corner outfielder, but much of that work will need to be done next offseason and moving him now would likely only shift one of the struggling outfielders to the DH role anyway.

Mentioned in the spring as possibilities to make contributions in the Orioles outfield at some point this season, Nolan Reimold is hitting just .238 and Dariel Alvarez is batting .240 at Triple-A Norfolk.

Beyond the possibility of a trade — which appears to be an eventual necessity at this point — the Orioles might be inclined to take a look at Chris Parmelee, a 2006 first-round pick of the Minnesota Twins who signed as a minor-league free agent in the offseason. The 27-year-old is only a career .249 hitter in 901 major league plate appearances, but he has raked for the Tides in 2015, hitting .338 and posting a .904 OPS with three homers, 11 doubles, 22 RBIs, and 21 walks in 139 at-bats.

Parmelee has experience playing the corner outfield spots as well as first base in the majors, and executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette said over the weekend that he’s someone on the Orioles’ radar as a potential call-up. Of course, no one can view Parmelee as a long-term solution, but perhaps it’s time for Baltimore to shake up the current outfield roster with some different competition in hopes of sparking more production.

Regardless of how they proceed, the Orioles cannot continue to receive such little production from two positions traditionally viewed as run-producing spots.

One of the biggest questions entering the season would be how the corner outfield spots would shake out with Markakis and Cruz no longer options to flank Jones.

So far, the plan has been nothing short of a colossal disappointment.

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Orioles feeling better after regrouping against Boston

Posted on 26 April 2015 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — You often hope a dramatic moment like David Lough’s walk-off homer against Boston on Saturday night will be the sign of better fortunes to come.

It helped the Orioles snap a five-game losing streak and sent fans home happy after a tense day in downtown Baltimore, but “magical” occurrences like this can be found in virtually any season with most being of little consequence in the scope of a 162-game schedule. That’s what made Sunday’s demolition of the Red Sox that much more encouraging.

Manager Buck Showalter often quotes the late Earl Weaver’s philosophy of momentum being as good as the next day’s starting pitcher, and Bud Norris delivered with 6 2/3 strong innings despite his nightmarish beginning to the 2015 season. Of course, he received plenty of support as the Orioles lineup matched its highest run total since April 19, 2006.

“It was one we kind of needed,” said right fielder Delmon Young, who drove in five runs in Sunday’s 18-7 final. “We’ve been playing sloppy baseball for about a week or so. Good to get out of the rut. We had been swinging the bats well, [but] just hadn’t been playing on the defensive side well. And Bud pitched a strong game.”

The Orioles played sound defense — something that shouldn’t be taken for granted of late — and Norris quieted questions about his status in the starting rotation for the time being by holding the Red Sox scoreless until surrendering a three-run home run to Pablo Sandoval with two outs in the seventh inning. Norris lowered his ERA from 17.42 to 12.18 in his first four starts covering 17 innings.

It was his outing that was the most encouraging development of the afternoon despite the Orioles collecting 20 hits in a game for the first time in over a year.

“Bud, without a doubt,” said Showalter when asked if he placed more importance on the performance of his starting pitcher or the offense. “That’s the Bud that pitched well for us last year. This guy won 15 games last year, and he was in attack mode today. He got a little tired there at the end. Threw a lot of strike ones. He was around the zone the whole day. Bud was good.”

Norris showed improved fastball command in allowing seven hits and three earned runs while walking three and striking out two to help the Orioles win their third series of the season. His six clean innings were more than his total number of clean frames (five) in his first three outings combined.

After completing six innings just four times in their first 16 games, Orioles starters are on a mini-roll with Miguel Gonzalez, Wei-Yin Chen, and Norris each turning in six or more innings over the weekend. But Norris needed a good outing more than any pitcher on the roster after a rough spring and two of the worst starts of his major league career coming in his first three outings of 2015.

“It feels really good, to be honest, just to prove to these guys that I’m here to help out again,” Norris said. “These guys know who I am. We’re trying to find our stride. We have a good group in this clubhouse, and we’re excited with the year to go.”

Yes, the Orioles regrouped nicely this weekend to calm some nerves after a 7-10 start and their ugly five-game slide. Still dealing with injuries, they need to see their pitching step up and the defense to stabilize with some new pieces until the likes of J.J. Hardy and Matt Wieters are able to return.

The offense is certainly doing its part, entering Sunday ranking sixth in the majors in runs scored and taking over the major-league lead with its highest run total in almost a decade.

Fans will hope Lough’s walk-off homer and a drubbing of the Red Sox on Sunday are the catalysts for a hot streak to even out the early struggles, but the next indicator comes against the Chicago White Sox with Ubaldo Jimenez taking the hill against Hector Noesi on Monday night.

“Momentum stops once you go to sleep,” Young said. “It’s a new pitcher, a new day.”

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Lough activated from DL, Gamboa optioned back to Norfolk

Posted on 13 April 2015 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — After dealing with a crowded bullpen, an injury, and pitching struggles over the first week of the season, Orioles manager Buck Showalter finally has his four-man bench.

Prior to the series opener against the New York Yankees, outfielder David Lough (left hamstring) was activated from the 15-day disabled list while right-handed pitcher Eddie Gamboa was optioned back to Triple-A Norfolk in time to make his start for the Tides Monday night. The Orioles had began the season with 13 pitchers, but the left trapezius injury suffered by lefty reliever Wesley Wright officially sent him to the DL on Saturday.

The club summoned Gamboa to the majors after Bud Norris lasted just three innings in the 12-5 loss in the home opener to Toronto on Friday, but he did not appear in a game. Lough will bring speed and strong defense to the outfield picture, adding more versatility that Showalter appreciates in the late innings.

On Sunday, the Orioles had Delmon Young, Caleb Joseph, and a less-than-100-percent Jonathan Schoop on the bench, which provided few options in the latter stages of a close game.

“You don’t want to have to make two moves to make one move with a three-man bench, which is what we would have to do,” Showalter said. “Now, we have some flexibility there if our pitching can cooperate a little bit and stay a little more conventional. It helps us a lot, especially in that 7-8-9 area [of the lineup]. It’s a guy that can run, pinch-hit, and defend without having to make two moves for one and burn two players.”

Lough went 5-for-27 with two stolen bases in Grapefruit League play after posting a .694 on-base plus slugging percentage in his first season in Baltimore. Despite a rough start in his first two months with the Orioles, Lough hit .337 with four home runs, 13 RBIs, and a .959 OPS over 99 plate appearances from June 1 until the end of the regular season.

In other injury-related news, Schoop is back in the lineup after taking off Sunday with some quadriceps soreness, a move that was more precautionary than any real concern.

Catcher Matt Wieters (right elbow tendinitis) took live batting practice Monday in Sarasota and is expected to serve as the designated hitter in an extended spring training game on Tuesday.

Wright underwent a magnetic resonance imaging exam Monday, but Showalter hadn’t received the results when he spoke to media three hours before the game.

Utility player Jimmy Paredes (lower back) went 1-for-4 and played nine innings split between left and right field in an extended spring game on Monday. He will play again on Tuesday and Wednesday before potentially going on a minor-league rehab assignment.

Pitching prospect Hunter Harvey threw once again on Monday as he continues his recovery from a fractured right fibula.

Pitching coach Dave Wallace was away from the club to attend a funeral on Monday. Bullpen coach Dom Chiti will be in the dugout while Ramon Martinez fills in as the bullpen coach in the series opener against the Yankees. Wallace is expected back by Tuesday.

Below are Monday night’s lineups:

NEW YORK
CF Jacoby Ellsbury
LF Brett Gardner
DH Carlos Beltran
1B Mark Teixeira
3B Alex Rodgriguez
RF Chris Young
C John Ryan Murphy
SS Did Gregorius
2B Gregorio Petit

SP Michael Pineda (0-0, 3.00 ERA, 1.17 WHIP)

BALTIMORE
LF Alejandro De Aza
RF Steve Pearce
1B Chris Davis
CF Adam Jones
DH Travis Snider
3B Manny Machado
2B Jonathan Schoop
SS Everth Cabrera
C Caleb Joseph

SP Wei-Yin Chen (0-0, 6.23 ERA, 1.39 WHIP)
 

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