Tag Archive | "delmon young"

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Five questions pondering Yanda, Matusz, others

Posted on 22 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 do you still enjoy seeing Marshal Yanda receive league-wide recognition? I’ve made no secret about my disdain for the annual NFL Network top 100 players list over the years, but I did enjoy seeing the four-time Pro Bowl guard appear 79th overall on this year’s version — even if he should be higher. Ozzie Newsome is in a tough spot with Yanda and Kelechi Osemele both scheduled to become free agents after the 2015 season. If you can only sign one — the Ravens believe young linemen John Urschel and Robert Myers could be starters in the near future — conventional wisdom might say to keep the younger Osemele, but would Baltimore really let the best guard in the NFL and one of the better players in franchise history leave? It isn’t an easy call as Yanda turns 31 in September, but his play has shown no signs of slowing down and he’s the leader of an offensive line that was very good in 2014.

2. Is it just me or do you think the Orioles regret not trading Brian Matusz in the spring? It’s been a difficult start for the lefty specialist, who sports a 3.77 ERA that doesn’t tell the story of just how ineffective he’s been. Matusz owns a 5.85 Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP) mark, is walking as many hitters per nine innings as he’s striking out (6.3), and has allowed an .864 on-base plus slugging percentage against right-handed hitters, which includes 10 walks in 41 plate appearances. After a two-hour rain delay on Thursday, Matusz entered to face a lineup that sported six left-handed hitters and could have given the Orioles a lift by handling a couple innings. Instead, he labored through a 39-pitch frame by giving up two runs, three hits, and a walk. Meanwhile, right-hander Ryan Webb sports a 1.42 ERA for Cleveland after the Orioles elected to jettison him at the start of the season.

3. Is it just me or are you interested to see how John Harbaugh handles the new extra-point rule? Despite expressing my skepticism over how much the changes will really impact the game, I am intrigued to see how the Ravens coach approaches the new rules from a strategic standpoint considering he hasn’t been afraid to go against the conventional — and ultraconservative — nature of many NFL coaches as we saw with his key decision to go for it on fourth down in his own territory in Miami last season. Speaking to reporters after delivering the commencement address at Stevenson University on Thursday, Harbaugh endorsed the changes and believes they will lead to more two-point conversions, particularly when weather conditions are harsh. Of course, it certainly helps that he has one of the best kickers in the league to handle what will now become 33-yard extra points.

4. Is it just me or does Buck Showalter need to rethink the heart of the order? No, this isn’t a rant about Chris Davis striking out way too much — you don’t need me to tell you that — but it’s a look at Delmon Young, who has hit fourth in nine of the Orioles’ last 13 games. On the surface, Young’s .287 average is respectable, but his .330 slugging percentage is lower than the likes of struggling hitters such as Alejandro De Aza and Steve Pearce. Young’s lack of patience at the plate isn’t helping with only a 2.1 percent walk rate. This isn’t supposed to be a knock on Young as much as it shows how underwhelming the Orioles have been at the corner outfield spots, which has forced him to become an everyday player. Young is a better fit as a part-time player and pinch hitter, but he’s already played more innings in the field in 2015 than he did all last season, something that isn’t helping the Baltimore defense, either.

5. Is it just me or should the Ravens take a suggestion or two from the Uni Watch assessment of their uniforms? I don’t shy away from being a uniform geek as I enjoy using the “#FashionTweets” hashtag on Twitter and I generally like the Ravens’ duds, but the subtle tweaks suggested by Paul Lukas wouldn’t be bad ideas. The black pants that have become a major part of home and away uniform combinations could use a purple and white stripe on the sides similar to what we saw in 1997 (see below) before the black pants disappeared for years. More than that, I’d like to see the Ravens bring back the black and purple striped sock design worn before changing to the current — and boring — solid black ones in 2004. I admire the organization for making few uniform changes since 1999, but a couple tweaks would freshen up the look, especially if they insist on wearing black pants so often.

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BALTIMORE - DECEMBER 28:  Jamal Lewis #31 of the Baltimore Ravens leaves Dewayne Washington #20 of the Pittsburgh Steelers in his wake as he goes 26 yards for a first quarter touchdwon to give the Ravens a 7-0 lead over the Steelers during NFL action on December 28, 2003 at the M and T Bank Stadium in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

 

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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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Five things that can’t happen for 2015 Orioles

Posted on 03 April 2015 by Luke Jones

It’s funny how we annually try to pinpoint absolutes in assessing what must go right or what can’t go wrong for the Orioles to have a successful season.

There are very few absolutes on which you can count over the course of a 162-game schedule. Look no further than last year to realize just how true that can be.

You might have predicted last spring that nearly everything needed to go right for the Orioles to win their first American League East title in 17 years. Instead, they endured the absence of All-Star catcher Matt Wieters for most of the year, another season-ending knee injury to Gold Glove third baseman Manny Machado, and an abysmal campaign from 2013 home run king Chris Davis that ended with a 25-man suspension for Adderall use.

If given a preview of only those subplots last spring, you would have been more inclined to predict a 96-loss campaign as opposed to 96 victories and winning the division by a dozen games.

You just never know and that’s what makes it fun, as manager Buck Showalter would say.

With that reality in mind, below is a stab at five things that can’t happen for the Orioles in 2015 after we looked at what factors must go right on Thursday. In an effort to avoid being redundant in the wake of the first piece, I avoided the polar opposites of the factors already discussed.

1. The worm turns on the health of the pitching

In addition to recapturing the success from last season, Orioles pitching would desperately like to extend its run of good fortune in the health department as only four pitchers — Tommy Hunter, Bud Norris, Miguel Gonzalez, and Ubaldo Jimenez –visited the 15-day disabled list in 2014. Of those four, only Jimenez spent more than 18 days on the DL and there was plenty of external debate over the severity of his ankle injury as he was in the midst of a disappointing season.

Injuries are a part of the game and it’d be difficult for the Orioles to expect that same level of health, but you can only hope the baseball gods don’t decide to exact revenge in 2015. Baltimore was one of only 10 teams in the majors last year to have four pitchers make 25 or more starts while only two clubs — Kansas City and Washington — had five pitchers make 25 or more.

The odds are not in the Orioles’ favor to repeat last year’s injury-light run as any given club has a 65 percent likelihood of having two starters ailing at the same time at some point in a season, according to FanGraphs. That reality makes it clear why executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette was so hesitant to part with any of the club’s top six starters this winter.

While many focused on the misfortune of the injuries suffered by Wieters and Machado last season, the rotation and the bullpen were as healthy as you could have hoped for on the way to 96 wins.

2. Corner outfield spots become a wasteland

It’s been impossible to escape the lamenting over the departure of outfielders Nelson Cruz and Nick Markakis this offseason as the Orioles weren’t willing to invest the combined $101 million that the pair received elsewhere in free agency. The veterans accounted for a total of 207 starts at the corner outfield spots that others will need to assume in 2015.

No two individuals will be expected to fill their roles exclusively as some combination of Steve Pearce, Alejandro De Aza, Delmon Young, Travis Snider, David Lough, and possibly Nolan Reimold will receive early opportunities. Even if you thought Cruz and Markakis were overpaid, the Orioles still need to account for the 116 extra-base hits the two produced last year.

Of course, the club can reasonably expect better offensive returns from the likes of Davis, Machado, Wieters, and J.J. Hardy at their respective positions, but there’s a lot of unknown that Showalter will be facing in trying to pull the right strings with a cast of unproven or flawed characters flanking center fielder Adam Jones.

The Orioles don’t necessarily need the overwhelming success of platoons resembling the best days of John Lowenstein and Gary Roenicke, but poor production from the corner outfield spots is a recipe for a lineup likely struggling to score runs.

3. Matt Wieters is a shell of his old self defensively

There was a reason why I didn’t include Wieters having a bounce-back year as one of the things that must happen for the Orioles. The truth is they proved they could win without him last season.

Make no mistake, the Orioles would benefit from a better offensive catcher than Caleb Joseph, but a more uncomfortable proposition might be a Wieters behind the plate who is a shell of what he used to be defensively. If Wieters is fully cleared, Showalter will immediately reinstall him as the starter, but that doesn’t guarantee his defense will warrant him being the overwhelming regular, potentially creating an awkward situation.

Last season, Joseph produced 1.5 defensive wins above replacement — a better mark than Wieters in either of his last two full seasons — and the Orioles allowed the eighth-lowest total of stolen bases in the majors. For a club that prides itself in controlling the opponent’s running game, Wieters’ defense is more important than his offense.

Yes, it’s important to have Wieters back, but him returning as a defensive liability while also remembering that his on-base plus slugging percentage steadily declined from 2011 through 2013 would be worrisome. With a small number of catchers having undergone Tommy John surgery at the major league level over the years, it’s impossible to truly know what to expect.

4. Injuries continue to zap J.J. Hardy of his power

A back injury that lingered for much of the 2014 season limited the three-time Gold Glove shortstop to just nine home runs and a .372 slugging percentage, which is what made the news of a shoulder injury last week disheartening for the 32-year-old.

Hardy isn’t expected to miss much time, but the Orioles are counting on him to be part of the equation to fill the power void left behind by Cruz. Before Hardy signed a three-year, $40 million contract last fall, the organization had to be expecting a return to power numbers similar to what he posted in his first three years in Baltimore.

Back and shoulder issues for a shortstop on the wrong side of 30 are worrisome, especially when you’re counting on Hardy to hit a few more out of the ballpark this season. His defense is his best asset, but the Orioles need more than that while paying him an average of just over $13 million per season over the next three years.

5. The underwhelming offseason and the reality of 11 pending free agents create a tight clubhouse

Several players made no secret about their disappointment in this past offseason in watching the departures of Markakis, Cruz, and lefty reliever Andrew Miller while seeing minimal additions for the 2015 season. Duquette has certainly earned the benefit of the doubt, but it’s human nature for veterans to be disappointed to see a longtime Oriole like Markakis depart.

On top of this, the club has 11 players currently slated to become free agents next offseason including position players such as Davis, Wieters, Pearce, De Aza, and Young and starting pitchers Norris and Wei-Yin Chen. That’s why many are viewing 2015 as the Orioles’ last chance to seriously contend for at least a couple years.

Showalter is as good as any manager in baseball in cultivating a loose clubhouse and strong player leadership remains despite Markakis’ departure, but it wouldn’t be a stretch to wonder if players might be too tight this season, especially if the club were to get off to a slow start.

And the memory of a disappointing four-game sweep in last year’s American League Championship Series could creep back into players’ psyche in the process.

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2015 Orioles preview: Delmon Young

Posted on 26 March 2015 by Luke Jones

With Opening Day less than two weeks away, we’ll take a look at a member of the 2015 Orioles every day as they try to defend their American League East title this season.

March 9 – Adam Jones
March 10 – Chris Tillman
March 11 – J.J. Hardy
March 12 – Zach Britton
March 13 – Chris Davis
March 14 – Wei-Yin Chen
March 15 – Jonathan Schoop
March 16 – Travis Snider
March 17 – Kevin Gausman
March 18 – Alejandro De Aza
March 19 – Tommy Hunter
March 20 – Manny Machado
March 21 – Brad Brach
March 22 – Steve Pearce
March 23 – Darren O’Day
March 24 – Caleb Joseph
March 25 – Wesley Wright

OF Delmon Young

Opening Day age: 29

Contract status: Will become a free agent after the 2015 season

Minor-league options remaining: None

2014 stats: .302/.337/.442, 7 HR, 30 RBI, 27 R, 2 SB, 255 PA

Why to be impressed: In addition to providing one of the most exciting moments in Camden Yards history in Game 2 of the American League Division Series, Young was one of the best pinch-hitters in the majors last year, going 10-for-20 during the regular season before delivering the fatal blow against Detroit. Though he’s been better against left-handed pitching in his career, Young’s .809 on-base plus slugging percentage against right-handers in 2014 could bode well for an increased role this year.

Why to be concerned: Manager Buck Showalter has spent a lot of time talking up Young’s defense in the outfield, but the defensive-minded Orioles would be wise leaving him in the primary roles of designated hitter and coming off the bench. Young’s career .742 OPS doesn’t play well as a full-time designated hitter or corner outfielder, so you wonder if an increased role this year will expose his deficiencies and prohibit him from duplicating the magic he seemed to find off the bench last year.

2015 outlook: With the departures of Nelson Cruz and Nick Markakis, Young appears to be a good bet to easily surpass the 255 plate appearances he received a year ago. However, his history of struggling against right-handed pitching shouldn’t be ignored and that will impact his overall production. In 375 plate appearances, Young will hit somewhere around 10 homers while posting a decent, but unspectacular .755 OPS as the primary DH.

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Orioles bring back outfielder Delmon Young on one-year deal

Posted on 24 December 2014 by Luke Jones

The Orioles have made their biggest offseason move to date by agreeing to a one-year deal to bring back outfielder and pinch-hitter extraordinaire Delmon Young for the 2015 season.

The deal is reportedly worth $2.25 million guaranteed with incentives that could push the total value to $3 million. The 29-year-old reportedly had been seeking a two-year deal, but Young elected to remain with the Orioles, who took a chance on him after a tryout and minor-league deal last winter.

In 255 plate appearances, Young batted .302 with seven home runs, 30 runs batted in, 11 doubles, and a .779 on-base plus slugging percentage as part of the 2014 American League East champions. He thrived as a pinch-hitter in 2014, going 10-for-20 in the regular season and stroking the go-ahead three-run double in the eighth inning of Game 2 of the AL Division Series.

With Nelson Cruz departing via free agency earlier in the offseason, Young could see an increased role as the primary designated hitter and occasional outfielder in 2015. He has advanced to the playoffs in six straight seasons with four different clubs and went 2-for-9 with four RBIs against Detroit and Kansas City in the 2014 postseason.

In nine major league seasons, Young sports a .283 career average and a .742 OPS.

Baltimore will need to make room on the 40-man roster for Young after claiming catcher Ryan Lavarnway off waivers Tuesday and releasing outfielder Quintin Berry.

 

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Where does 2014 rank among Orioles’ most exciting seasons since 1983?

Posted on 18 October 2014 by Luke Jones

Though only a couple days have passed since the Orioles’ disappointing elimination from the American League Championship Series at the hands of the Kansas City Royals, we begin to reflect on what was an exceptional season that netted the franchise’s first AL East championship in 17 years.

The Orioles still have a long way to go to approach their glory days of 1966 through 1983, but two postseason appearances in the last three years represent a good start that fans hope will culminate with the franchise’s first World Series title in over 30 years before the current run is over. However, it’s difficult to argue you how special the 2014 season was in what’s been an underwhelming 31 years since Cal Ripken caught the final out of Game 5 of the 1983 Fall Classic.

Where does 2014 rank among the greatest Orioles seasons since 1983?

Below is a brief look at five candidates before you vote for your favorite in the poll. If you have a different season in mind, feel free to make your case in the comments section at the bottom of the page.

Which is your favorite season of Orioles baseball since 1983?

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1. 1989 “Why Not?” season
Skinny: After losing a major league record 21 straight games to begin the season and finishing a woeful 54-107 a year earlier, the 1989 Orioles spent a remarkable 119 days in first place and owned a 7 1/2 game lead in late July. The season was highlighted by a number of comeback wins and contributions from the unlikeliest of players. Though they fell short in their quest for the division title in the final weekend of the season in Toronto, the new-look Orioles of 1989 went down as one of the most surprising and exciting clubs in franchise history after having no expectations at the start of the season. 

2. 1996 Wild Card team
Skinny: After underachieving for much of the season under new manager Davey Johnson, the veteran-laden Orioles got hot down the stretch and went 37-22 over the final two months of the 1996 season to clinch their first wild card berth. Breaking the all-time record for most home runs by a team in a single year, four Orioles scored at least 100 runs, four drove in at least 100, and seven hit at least 20 homers. The 88-74 Orioles upset the heavily-favored defending AL champion Cleveland Indians in the Division Series before bowing out in the ALCS to the eventual World Series champion New York Yankees in six games.

3. 1997 wire-to-wire AL East champions
Skinny: Unlike the previous year, the 1997 Orioles started fast and never looked back on the way to becoming the sixth team in major league history to stay in first place from Opening Day through the end of the regular season. Their 98 wins were their most since winning the World Series in 1983 and the Orioles appeared on their way to their first pennant in 14 years before Cleveland exacted revenge for the previous year by stunning Baltimore in the ALCS in six games. As if the defeat weren’t painful enough, the following season would begin a dubious streak of 14 consecutive losing seasons. 

4. 2012 Wild Card team
Skinny: Manager Buck Showalter had begun changing the losing culture of the organization from the time he arrived two years earlier, but the results on the field didn’t match it until 2012 when the underdog Orioles won 93 games and hung tough with the first-place Yankees throughout the month of September. Settling for a wild card berth, the Orioles bested the Texas Rangers in the first Wild Card Game to advance to the Division Series where Camden Yards witnessed its first postseason games in 15 years. In a very competitive and entertaining series, the Orioles fell in five games to the Yankees, but the season signaled the end of Baltimore’s extended stay in the baseball doldrums.

5. 2014 AL East champions
Skinny: Despite losing All-Star players Matt Wieters, Manny Machado, and Chris Davis for extended periods of the season, the Orioles ran away with the AL East by a staggering 12 games. Baltimore clinched and celebrated its first division title in 17 years at Camden Yards before sweeping the Division Series against the Detroit Tigers and besting the last three Cy Young Award winners to do it. The series also brought arguably the most exciting in-game moment in the history of Camden Yards when pinch-hitter Delmon Young smacked a go-ahead three-run double in the eighth inning to win Game 2. The sweep at the hands of the Kansas City Royals in the ALCS was painful, but the disappointment didn’t erase the memory of a remarkable run.

 

 

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Young’s simple approach nets huge dividends for Orioles in dramatic Game 2 win

Posted on 03 October 2014 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — Following one of the most dramatic moments in the history of Oriole Park at Camden Yards, Delmon Young appeared to be the only one who didn’t view his three-run double as anything special after the Orioles’ 7-6 win over the Detroit Tigers on Friday afternoon.

Asked how it felt to hear the roar of the crowd after he connected on a liner down the left-field line off Joakim Soria and what it meant to lift his club to a dramatic comeback victory to take a 2-0 lead in the American League Division Series, Young was short and unemotional with his answers as if he didn’t understand why such a fuss was being made. Of course, it wasn’t the first time Young has delivered in October as it was just a few years ago that he hit eight home runs over two postseason runs with the same team he put on the brink of elimination Friday afternoon.

“Just like winning a ballgame,” said Young about how he felt as just a trace of a half-smile briefly came across his face. “I was trying to do my job and win a game. You don’t want to go to Detroit [tied] 1-1 when they have [David] Price going and [Rick] Porcello going and they have an opportunity to clinch up there.”

The coming days will determine where Young’s hit might ultimately rank in club history, but the 29-year-old’s bases-clearing double has at least given him folk-hero status in a 22-year history of Camden Yards that doesn’t include a long list of great on-field results.

It all started quietly enough with the Orioles signing Young to a minor-league deal following a tryout at their January minicamp in Sarasota. His career appeared at a crossroads after a mediocre season with Detroit in 2012 and a disappointing campaign split between Philadelphia and Tampa Bay a year ago.

But the Orioles only envisioned a platoon role for him against left-handed pitching, and manager Buck Showalter quipped after Friday’s game that no one was smart enough to anticipate Young’s 10-for-20 mark as a pinch-hitter in 2014, providing timely hits throughout a 96-win campaign even after stretches when he’d sit on the bench for days at a time.

“He’s always been a good hitter,” said shortstop J.J. Hardy, who scored the go-ahead run on Young’s double and played with him in Minnesota in 2010. “But pinch-hitting, we look at each other in the dugout after he gets a big hit and we’re like, ‘How does he do that after not seeing a live pitch for five or six days and then just come in and hit a pitch like that down the line?’ It’s unbelievable.”

Young shrugged when asked how he’s been able to come through off the bench in the late innings so often, calling it good fortune and stating that it’s a matter of simply being ready whenever Showalter calls his name. Now with his fifth different club in the last four years, the journeyman almost made it sound as simple as rolling out of bed to step to the plate before returning to a state of relaxation after getting the job done.

But teammates know better, applauding his preparation and ability to do something that even many of the most-skilled hitters in the game struggle with.

“It’s the hardest job in sports, being a pinch-hitter,” said first baseman Steve Pearce, who’s filled a similar role to Young’s in past seasons and is a career .190 pinch-hitter in 88 plate appearances. “You’re going up there cold; you haven’t seen any pitching. Bullpen pitching [is] even tougher. That’s why he’s so good. He keeps everything simple. He doesn’t read into anything. He just goes up there and hits, and he does a good job of that.”

Showalter said Young is one of those players that allows a manager to rest his head on his pillow when thinking about using him, because he’s always going to be ready. Young has rewarded that faith with big hits throughout the season.

But none were as dramatic as his game-winner on Friday, putting the Orioles in position to advance to the AL Championship Series with just one more win over the Tigers.

“We don’t know if magic is the word to use,” said Young about the Orioles scoring 12 eighth-inning runs in the first two games of the series. “We’re just trying to beat a very good ball club in Detroit.”

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Hardy moving closer to return to Orioles lineup

Posted on 08 April 2014 by Luke Jones

The Orioles lineup finally broke out in a 14-5 win on Tuesday and received good news about the status of shortstop J.J. Hardy.

Though the 31-year-old was sidelined for the fourth time in five games while dealing with lower back spasms, manager Buck Showalter said prior to Tuesday’s game that Hardy would have been available to come off the bench if necessary. Of course, the convincing win over the New York Yankees made Hardy’s use unnecessary as the Orioles provided more than enough offense to support a shaky outing from starter Wei-Yin Chen.

“A lot better, much more available,” Showalter told reporters of Hardy’s status prior to Tuesday’s win. “I’m optimistic he’d be an option [Tuesday]. We’ll see how the rest of the day goes. I wouldn’t have said that [Monday]. He’s improved, very close to being ready to start. … You can tell just by his face. So that’s good.”

With All-Star third baseman Manny Machado still on the 15-day disabled list while recovering from offseason knee surgery, the Orioles have been without a pair of Gold Glove defenders on the left side of the infield.

Left with a short bench, Showalter has been forced to use Ryan Flaherty, Steve Lombardozzi, and Jonathan Schoop at three infield positions, but the trio combined to go 8-for-15 with four runs scored on Tuesday to ease concerns about the bottom of the order.

With the Orioles scheduled to play a night game Thursday to conclude their three-game set with New York before an off-day, Showalter could elect to keep Hardy on the bench for one more game to be on the safe side before the Orioles return to Camden Yards to begin a six-game homestand.

Chen struggles again

Lost in the offensive explosion occurring in Tuesday’s win was another lackluster effort by Chen, who earned the win despite allowing four earned runs and nine hits in five innings of work.

In two starts, Chen has allowed eight earned runs and 21 hits over 10 2/3 innings. The Taiwanese lefty has yet to issue a walk this season, but he’s often been up in the strike zone while catching too much of the plate.

The Yankees and Red Sox did have their share of hits that weren’t exactly clobbered against Chen — suggesting he’s been unlucky on top of his overall ineffectiveness — but his start to the 2014 season continues a disturbing trend from the end of last season. Over his last nine starts dating back to Aug. 27, 2013, Chen has allowed 72 hits over 46 innings of work while posting a 6.65 earned run average and a 1.85 WHIP (walks plus hits per innings pitched).

Of course, Chen’s track record over the first two-plus seasons of his career suggests he’s much better than what he’s shown recently, but his lack of command within the strike zone has been alarming.

Bats finally wake up

After being held to just 22 runs in their first seven contests, the Orioles plated 14 runs and bashed 20 hits to quell premature panic about the offense. The last time the Orioles collected 20 hits was May 10, 2011.

All nine starters collected at least one hit and all but one (Matt Wieters) had multi-hit games. Wieters, Adam Jones, and Delmon Young each hit home runs to match the Orioles’ total of three long balls in the first seven contests of the year.

Wieters and Young each collected three runs batted in against Yankees pitching.

 

 

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Looking at the Orioles’ non-roster invitees in Sarasota

Posted on 14 February 2014 by Luke Jones

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

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

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

PITCHERS (8)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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