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Wieters feeling good after first game of rehab assignment

Posted on 27 May 2015 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — After appearing in his first game at Double-A Bowie since 2008, Orioles catcher Matt Wieters felt good a day after beginning his much-awaited minor-league rehab assignment.

Eligible to be activated from the 15-day disabled list on June 4, Wieters went 2-for-4 with a pair of singles and threw out a runner trying to steal second base in his first professional regular-season game since May 10, 2014. With the 29-year-old still only catching every other day, the Orioles hoped Wieters would feel good the morning after beginning his rehab stint.

“I felt good. I thought yesterday went well,” Wieters said. “I felt good when I woke up this morning. That’s the big thing. Hopefully, keep feeling like we did yesterday and we should be good to go.”

Wieters will once again catch for the Baysox on Thursday and Saturday before the Orioles then decide where he will continue his rehab assignment. Manager Buck Showalter said it was possible that Wieters could serve as the designated hitter at Bowie on days he wasn’t scheduled to catch, but the veteran suggested that he feels pretty good at the plate and took batting practice at Camden Yards before Wednesday’s game against Houston.

Barring any setbacks, Wieters is expected to be activated by the latter half of next week despite the fact that it will be a while before he’s ready to catch on consecutive days. With Caleb Joseph sporting a .274 average with four home runs and 18 RBIs entering Wednesday, the Orioles can live with the idea of Wieters not being ready to handle his normal workload.

With Wieters not even throwing on non-catching days yet, the Orioles may need to give stronger consideration to keeping a third catcher than most would have thought. That would figure to be Steve Clevenger, who would give the Orioles another left-handed bat off the bench and is capable of playing some infield in a pinch.

For now, Wieters can see the light at the end of the tunnel while acknowledging his return to the Orioles won’t be the end of his long recovery from Tommy John surgery.

“It’s all feel, and it’s going to be a slow process with it,” Wieters said. “I’ve sort of come to terms with that. It’s not going to come just like that — catching four, five days in a row. It’s all by feel. The ‘every other day’ thing feels good now, and as soon as that little bit of soreness that we do have in between [is gone], we’ll start by picking up a ball on the day after I catch and go from there.

“Every other day is better than not playing at all for me right now.”

Bundy MRI confirms tendinitis

Executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette said a magnetic resonance imaging exam on pitching prospect Dylan Bundy’s right shoulder confirmed the initial diagnosis of tendinitis.

Fortunately, there was no structural damage to the shoulder despite the MRI showing some inflammation. Duquette said Bundy has been prescribed rest as well as anti-inflammatory medication before the Orioles reevaluate when he’ll begin throwing again.

Bundy last pitched on May 21, a four-inning start that was his longest outing of the season as the organization was monitoring his innings in the early portion of the season. He is 0-3 with a 3.68 ERA and 25 strikeouts in 22 innings of work at Bowie.

Cuban left-hander Miranda signed

The Orioles officially announced the signing of Cuban left-handed pitcher Ariel Miranda on Wednesday.

The 25-year-old Miranda went 22-25 with a 3.78 ERA in seven seasons in the Cuban National Series. The plan is for him to report to Sarasota to get into better baseball shape before the organization assigns him to Bowie or Single-A Frederick, according to Duquette.

Wilson, Wright to start Thursday’s doubleheader

Showalter announced that right-hander Tyler Wilson will be called up as the Orioles’ 26th player for Thursday’s doubleheader and will start Game 1 against the Chicago White Sox.

Fellow rookie right-hander Mike Wright will start the nightcap of the single-admission twin bill beginning at 1:05 p.m.

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Counting down to Wieters return, Orioles add Clevenger to mix

Posted on 26 May 2015 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — On the same day Matt Wieters began a rehab assignment at Double-A Bowie, the Orioles recalled Pigtown native Steve Clevenger from Triple-A Norfolk and designated catcher Ryan Lavarnway for assignment.

Looking for more offense as well as some versatility off the bench, the Orioles elected to bring up Clevenger, who has played first base, second base, and third base in addition to catching in his minor-league career and was hitting an impressive .352 with an .864 on-base plus slugging percentage in 91 at-bats for the Tides. Meanwhile, the 27-year-old Lavarnway was just 3-for-28 in sporadic playing time behind starter Caleb Joseph this season.

In Sunday’s loss to Miami, Lavarnway went 0-for-4 and left seven runners on base in his final three plate appearances.

The Orioles have challenged Clevenger to improve his defense, and manager Buck Showalter said the 29-year-old has done that, throwing out 32 percent of runners attempting to steal in the International League this season. Clevenger appeared in 35 games for the Orioles last season before being demoted in favor of Joseph and Nick Hundley when Wieters was lost for the season due to Tommy John surgery.

“I went down there on a mission,” Clevenger said. “Coming into spring training this year, I wanted to focus more on my catching and I tried to do that. I went down [to Norfolk] and played very well and just tried to concentrate on my catching and helping the pitchers do what they can do best and not worry about anything else. I was playing solid defense down there.”

The initial plan for Wieters is to have him catch every other day at Bowie — he could serve as the designated hitter on the non-catching days — with the goal of activating him when he becomes eligible on June 4. His return would likely push Clevenger back to Norfolk, but Showalter didn’t rule out the possibility of the club keeping three catchers since Clevenger does provide a left-handed bat off the bench with the ability to play other infield positions in a pinch.

The Orioles would like to keep Lavarnway in the organization, but they will gauge interest from other clubs before trying to pass him through waivers and outright him to Norfolk. The former Boston Red Sox product may decline a minor-league assignment and become a free agent, however.

Showalter acknowledged that Clevenger is probably better equipped to handle infrequent playing time, but the Norfolk coaching staff provided favorable reports about his defensive progress this season.

“I try to be blunt to a fault about what they need to do while they’re there,” Showalter said. “I talked about continuing to be engaged with the pitcher and catching and throwing. I said, ‘You’re going to be out of options next year, you’re going to control all this. Try to present yourself for us and everybody else in the game as good as possible. Go down there and lead the league in hitting.'”

Clevenger didn’t have enough plate appearances to qualify, but his average ranked second in the International League batting race at the time of his promotion.

Hardy returns to lineup

A day after being removed in the eighth inning of the series opener against Houston due to back stiffness, shortstop J.J. Hardy returned to the Orioles lineup Tuesday night.

The 32-year-old said he was feeling better and likely benefited from sleeping in his own bed after hypothesizing that a soft hotel mattress in Miami caused the problem over the weekend. Hardy spent the entire offseason focusing on strengthening his core in hopes of avoiding the nagging back spasms that limited him to just 141 games and nine home runs in 2014.

“It is definitely experience,” said Hardy about past problems giving him a good indicator. “When I first went through back issues, I didn’t know what to do, and now I feel like I have a pretty good handle on it. I think Buck definitely made the right decision, but I still wanted to stay in there [Monday].”

Bundy’s shoulder OK

After being scratched from Tuesday’s start at Bowie, pitching prospect Dylan Bundy’s shoulder examination went well with Showalter saying there were no structural concerns.

However, the 22-year-old told reporters in Bowie he planned to undergo a magnetic resonance imaging exam on his right shoulder on Wednesday just to be on the safe side. He was prescribed anti-inflammatory medicine for a mild case of shoulder tendinitis.

The 2011 first-round pick is 0-3 with a 3.68 ERA in eight starts (22 innings) for the Baysox this season.

Flaherty returning

Infielder Ryan Flaherty was leading off and playing second base for Norfolk on Tuesday as he continues his minor-league rehab assignment.

Serving two different stints on the 15-day disabled list for a lingering groin injury, Flaherty could rejoin the Orioles as early as Wednesday, according to Showalter. His return would leave the organization with an interesting roster decision as veteran Everth Cabrera is out of options and hitting just .205 this season.

Odds & ends

Rookie Mike Wright will start one game of Thursday’s doubleheader with the other starter being either Tyler Wilson or T.J. McFarland. Both had abbreviated outings for Norfolk this week with the possiblility of Thursday in mind.

No Orioles players were leading their positions in the first All-Star Game voting update released Tuesday, but Jones ranked fourth among American League outfielders. Manny Machado ranked fourth among AL third baseman while Joseph was fifth among AL catchers.

Former Orioles first baseman Calvin Pickering has been hired as the hitting coach for short-season Single-A Aberdeen.

Baltimore ranks first in the majors in outfield assists with 12. Delmon Young is tied for third in the American League with five while Adam Jones has three.

 

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Bundy, Harvey headline Orioles’ top 10 prospects list

Posted on 27 October 2014 by Luke Jones

With the 2014 season officially wrapping up in the next few days, Baseball America released the Orioles’ top 10 prospects list Monday with a familiar name once again at the top.

For the third straight year, pitching prospect Dylan Bundy was named the organization’s No. 1 prospect by the publication after the 21-year-old right-hander bounced back from last year’s Tommy John surgery. Bundy made nine starts split between short-season Single-A Aberdeen and Single-A Frederick, going 1-3 with a 3.27 ERA in 41 1/3 innings.

Bundy’s numbers were less impressive at Frederick as he posted a 4.78 ERA in six starts spanning 26 1/3 innings, but the Orioles were encouraged with his overall health despite a minor lat strain that brought his season to an end in mid-August. With a regular offseason ahead of him, Bundy is expected to compete for an opportunity to crack the Orioles’ pitching staff at some point during the 2015 season.

Another pitcher, 2013 first-round pick Hunter Harvey, was ranked as the Orioles’ No. 2 prospect after an impressive season at Single-A Delmarva in which he went 7-5 with a 3.18 ERA and 106 strikeouts in 17 starts covering 87 2/3 innings. A flexor mass strain cut the right-hander’s season short, but executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette has said the 19-year-old will not need surgery.

After making his major league debut in September, first baseman Christian Walker was the top position player on the Orioles’ list at the third spot and impressed with his 53 extra-base hits split between Double-A Bowie and Triple-A Norfolk that earned him the organization’s minor league player of the year award. The Orioles still want to see Walker improve more defensively, but his strides in 2014 have made him a candidate to potentially take over for Chris Davis if the first baseman departs as a free agent after next season.

Catcher Chance Sisco and outfielder Dariel Alvarez rounded out the top five as Sisco won the South Atlantic League batting title for Delmarva and Alvarez was named to the Futures Game. Alvarez, 25, has a chance to contribute for the Orioles in 2015 as he possesses strong defensive skills and stroked 55 extra-base hits split between Bowie and Norfolk this past season.

Below is the Orioles’ top 10 list released by Baseball America with the affiliate to which they’re projected to be assigned for the start of 2015:

1. RHP Dylan Bundy – Double-A Bowie
2. RHP Hunter Harvey – Single-A Frederick
3. 1B Christian Walker – Triple-A Norfolk
4. C Chance Sisco – Single-A Frederick
5. OF Dariel Alvarez – Triple-A Norfolk
6. RHP Zach Davies – Triple-A Norfolk
7. LHP Tim Berry – Triple-A Norfolk
8. RHP Mike Wright – Triple-A Norfolk
9. OF Mike Yastrzemski – Double-A Bowie
10. INF Jomar Reyes – Single-A Delmarva

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

Posted on 27 August 2014 by Luke Jones

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Machado surgery successful

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

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

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

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

Bundy ready for “normal” offseason

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

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

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

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

O’Day receives his due

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

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

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

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

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Glenn’s Drew’s Morning Dish: I probably shouldn’t, but I’d support bold Lester trade

Posted on 29 July 2014 by Glenn Clark

Drew’s Morning Dish is brought to you every day by Koons Baltimore Ford. Since they didn’t tell me otherwise Monday, I’ll assume Glenn’s Drew’s Morning Dish is also brought to you today by Koons Baltimore Ford-where I have bought something like five cars at this point.

I assume a good bit of Tuesday’s “D&L Window Tinting Morning Reaction” will surround the reaction Ray Rice received Monday night at the Ravens’ M&T Bank Stadium practice. I’ll make time for that conversation throughout the show-but more importantly I’ll note here I was pleased to not see the Ravens running back utilize his “flex” celebration at any point during the evening.

The “other” big story Tuesday will be the news that the Baltimore Orioles have contacted the Boston Red Sox about the potential to acquire starting pitcher Jon Lester. The news was reported by Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal and Jon Morosi and IMMEDIATELY becomes the most interesting trade target of the season (or at least since they were talking to the Chicago Cubs about Jeff Samardzija before the Oakland deal).

Unlike the other two starting pitchers the Birds have been positively connected to in the past week (AJ Burnett and Jorge De La Rosa), Lester represents something important-an actual upgrade. While the others would simply fall into the group of slightly above average starters the O’s already have five (six if you choose to count $50 million man Ubaldo Jimenez) of, the veteran left hander would immediately move to the top of the Baltimore rotation and would be slated to start Game 1 of a potential playoff series.

Lester has had an outstanding career including two World Series titles-but his 2014 season is shaping up to be his best. As he heads toward free agency, the 30 year old is 10-7 with a dazzling 2.52 ERA and sparkling 1.11 WHIP over 21 starts. It is logical that the Red Sox are listening to trade offers for him (and reportedly John Lackey as well) after dealing Jake Peavy to San Francisco over the weekend. After suffering a blowout loss Monday night, the Sox fell to 48-58 on the season and are 11 games back of the Orioles in last place in the AL East.

With free agency looming for the Red Sox, they find themselves in the enviable position of being able to potentially acquire young talent in exchange for Lester before Thursday’s non-waiver trade deadline and then ultimately end up re-signing him anyway during the offseason. The Orioles have done this in the past with SS Mike Bordick (netting them likely future team Hall of Famer Melvin Mora) and pitcher Sidney Ponson (netting them…nothing really).

It’s possible that as we near the deadline, the Sox could find themselves a little more willing to sell low knowing Lester can’t really help them the rest of the season. The more likely scenario is that the team will have no shortage of suitors and will be looking for even more to be willing to deal the three time All-Star within the division.

For the Orioles, a move to rent Lester could cost a package centered around top pitching prospects Dylan Bundy and/or Hunter Harvey. The most likely scenario would be that the team would not retain him moving forward and he would depart to a higher paying suitor (perhaps a return to Beantown) after the season.

So the question becomes simple-is it worth giving up a former first round pick (or more) to add one pitcher for the next two months.

My answer is that it might well be.

Like everyone else in this business, I can’t see the future. Perhaps the gal with three nipples from the movie “Mallrats” could tell us more about what Bundy/Harvey/Eduardo Rodriguez/Christian Walker/Dariel Alvarez/etc. are going to be in the future and what Lester will do for the next couple of months if he changes addresses. I can’t give you those answers. I can only tell you I’d be willing to take the risk.

(For the record, I wouldn’t even discuss Kevin Gausman in any trade. He’s far too important to the team’s chances of winning now. I would struggle to part with both Bundy and Harvey in a Lester trade and probably WOULDN’T be able to pull the trigger.)

Lester is the perfect prize to receive if you’re taking a chance at a World Series championship. He’s not in the middle of a disappointing season. There are no doubts about his ability to pitch against American League competition or in AL East ballparks. There are no doubts about how he’d handle high-pressure starts late in the season or potentially in the postseason.

He’s nothing more than an opportunity to put a historically good lefty at the top of your rotation as you try to separate yourself in a division that isn’t going quitting (the Blue Jays pulled to within 2.5 games by beating Boston Monday night). He further represents an opportunity to better set up against the likes of the Athletics, Tigers and Angels in a potential playoff series.

It comes with a hefty price and may or may not truly be realistic, but Lester is exactly what the O’s need at this point to truly bolster themselves for a playoff run.

I don’t know how we’d view a deal like this in five years, but for Tuesday-it’s a deal I’d be willing to make.

-G

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Bundy, E. Rodriguez headline Orioles minor league recap – 7/4

Posted on 04 July 2014 by WNST Staff

Here’s what happened down in the Orioles’ farm system on Friday…

-Catcher Steve Clevenger continued to swing a hot bat for the AAA Norfolk Tides. The Pigtown native went 2-4 with a home run and a double while adding two RBI and two runs scores to lift the Tides to a 7-2 win over Charlotte. Steve Lombardozzi went 2-5 with a double and three RBI while Buck Britton went 4-5 with a double, RBI and run scored.

-Already on his way to representing the O’s in this year’s All-Star Futures Game, Bowie Baysox OF Dariel Alvarez added to his totals Friday night. The centerfielder went 2-4 with a home run, four RBI and a walk in a 5-2 win for the AA Bowie Baysox over Akron. Pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez did not factor in the decision after allowing just one earned run (five hits, two walks, seven strikeouts) over six innings.

-Former first round pick Dylan Bundy continued his rehab from Tommy John surgery by making his first start for the high Single A Frederick Keys. Bundy did not factor in the decision, allowing three earned runs (four hits, two walks, three strikeouts) over just 4.2 innings in a 8-4 loss at Lynchburg.

-Designated Hitter Chance Sisco continued a big season at the plate, going 3-5 with a home run, four RBI and three runs scored as the Single A Delmarva Shorebirds crushed Lakewood 17-5. Sisco is now hitting .338/.405/.462 with four homers, 17 doubles and 39 RBI in 63 games this season.

-Mets pitcher Dillon Gee’s rehab assignment was spoiled by the rookie level Single A Aberdeen Ironbirds, who picked up a 3-2 win over the Brooklyn Cyclones. It was only the third win of the season for the Ironbirds, who were struck out 10 times by the fifth year MLB starter over six innings.

-Baltimore native Steve Johnson is scheduled to pitch two innings for the Gulf Coast League Orioles team Sunday on a rehab assignment, according to multiple reports.

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Bundy to make next start for Single-A Frederick

Posted on 28 June 2014 by Luke Jones

As pitching prospect Dylan Bundy celebrated the anniversary of his Tommy John surgery with another successful outing for short-season Single-A Aberdeen Friday night, the Orioles announced where he’ll go next in continuing his injury rehab assignment.

Bundy will move up to the Carolina League to start for Single-A Frederick against Salem on Thursday after making three starts for the IronBirds. The 21-year-old went 0-1 with a 0.60 ERA in 15 innings, striking out 22 and walking three while allowing just 10 hits.

The organization was expected to move him to a higher level after he pitched five shutout innings against Hudson Valley on Friday, striking out seven and walking two. Reports indicated a better curveball and fastball velocity sitting 90 to 94 miles per hour in Friday’s start.

Thursday’s start will take place at Harry Grove Stadium in Frederick.

Baltimore also announced that Rule 5 selection Michael Almanzar will continue his injury rehab assignment at Triple-A Norfolk. However, executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette indicated Saturday that the corner infielder will only remain with the organization once his assignment is over if they can work out a deal with the Boston Red Sox, his former club.

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Bundy allows only one run in return to mound

Posted on 15 June 2014 by Luke Jones

Less than a year removed from undergoing Tommy John surgery, top Orioles prospect Dylan Bundy made his return to competitive baseball in pitching five strong innings for short-season Single-A Aberdeen on Sunday.

The 21-year-old right-hander allowed one earned run and five hits while throwing 65 pitches for the IronBirds at Hudson Valley. Bundy struck out six and walked none in his first minor-league start since Sept. 25, 2012.

The 2011 first-round pick underwent surgery performed by renowned orthopedist Dr. James Andrews on June 27, 2013 and had pitched in a few extended spring training games in Sarasota before being assigned to Aberdeen for a minor-league rehab assignment. The current plan is for Bundy to pitch at least two more times for the IronBirds before likely being activated from the disabled list to pitch for Double-A Bowie.

Bundy’s fastball was hitting 93 to 94 miles per hour on the radar gun in his last couple outings in Sarasota as his velocity continues to climb.

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Buying high on Samardzija unlikely to bring desired payoff

Posted on 28 May 2014 by Luke Jones

The Orioles need better starting pitching and they need an ace if they truly want to compete for a World Series title.

That cry has been uttered by fans and media alike for the better part of two years — even longer if you prefer going back to the free-agent departure of Mike Mussina after the 2000 season — as the rotation has mostly been comprised of arms with the ability of No. 3, No. 4, and No. 5 starters who have often struggled to pitch deep into games, leaving the bullpen overworked and eventually worn out.

It comes as no surprise to see the reaction to a CBS Chicago report suggesting the Orioles are the “leading team of interest” in Cubs starting pitcher Jeff Samardzija, who currently sports a miniscule 1.68 earned run average through his first 11 starts of the 2014 season. That mark is second in the majors despite the 29-year-old being limited to a 1-4 record pitching for the woeful Cubs.

There’s no disputing Samardzija being a talented pitcher as he would be a clear upgrade in the starting rotation, but he’s also expected to be one of the top commodities available on the open market this summer. And that’s why it’s a dangerous proposition to bid on a solid pitcher who’s having a career season if you’re the Orioles or any club hot after his services.

As desperate as the Orioles should be for better starting pitching with their best competitive window closing after the 2015 season when Matt Wieters and Chris Davis are both scheduled to become free agents, Samardzija needs to be viewed for who he really is and not what the Orioles want him to be. The right-hander is off to an unbelievable start, but his 3.90 career ERA and 4.34 ERA pitching in the National League Central only last year suggest he isn’t much more than a solid upgrade and is not someone worth gutting a top-heavy minor-league system to acquire.

In other words, the Orioles wouldn’t be getting a David Price or a Cliff Lee in adding the 6-foot-5 right-hander to the starting rotation. And pitching in the American League East is a different story than the National League.

The Cubs are undoubtedly looking for a king’s ransom in exchange for Samardzija’s services, and there will be plenty of clubs looking to acquire him, which will further drive up the price. Should the Orioles be willing to part with some combination of top pitching prospects Kevin Gausman, Dylan Bundy, Hunter Harvey, and Eduardo Rodriguez in order to land him?

It’s true that the Orioles have far too often been disappointed in waiting for a slew of top prospects to realize their potential in recent years, but that doesn’t mean executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette should willingly fork over what few minor-league pieces he has for what history suggests is an improvement but not a dynamic difference-maker to put the Orioles over the top. It will ultimately come down to Chicago’s asking price and how many teams are sold on Samardzija’s start in 2014 and the idea of him truly being an ace.

Is Samardzija — who is eligible for free agency after the 2015 season — worth the combination of Rodriguez and 21-year-old second baseman Jonathan Schoop or the package of one of Gausman, Bundy, or Harvey and a lower-level prospect? Perhaps, but if other clubs are willing to exceed that kind of a deal, the Orioles must remember that Samardzija’s 66 career starts prior to 2014 suggest he’s not even as good as Ubaldo Jimenez.

Despite his tiny ERA, Samardzija is averaging 7.7 strikeouts per nine innings in 2014 — actually down from his career average of 8.5 — and a .269 batting average on balls in play against him provides statistical evidence suggesting he won’t sustain his incredible start, which even the layman would predict anyway.

It’s a difficult call as the Orioles appeared to signal during spring training that they’re finally “going for it” after investing $50 million in Jimenez and signing slugger Nelson Cruz to a one-year, $8 million contract. Throwing money at free-agent commodities is one thing, but giving up young and cheap talent in a farm system needing more depth is a dangerous proposition if you’re not overwhelmed with what you’re getting in return.

The Orioles know their best window for competing is closing with Cruz, J.J. Hardy, and Nick Markakis set to become free agents after this season and Davis and Wieters the year after. If there were ever a time for the Orioles to pull the trigger on a blockbuster deal, it’s now, particularly with the AL East looking very average.

But is the Chicago pitcher the right target?

Samardzija would improve the rotation, but whether the Orioles would be so much better with him that Duquette should pony up a couple of his top pitching prospects is open for debate.

And the history before the first two months of 2014 suggests the answer is probably not.

 

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Machado approaching final hurdles before rehab assignment

Posted on 14 April 2014 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — Manager Buck Showalter has a date in mind for when we might see third baseman Manny Machado back in the Orioles lineup but isn’t ready to share it just yet.

The 21-year-old took another significant step toward his return on Monday as he began sprinting, running at full speed six times from 90 feet at the club’s spring training facility in Sarasota. Machado also had four at-bats in a simulated game in addition to the sprinting.

Machado will sprint from 180 feet Tuesday before attempting to clear the last major hurdle of running the bases this week.

Should the All-Star third baseman respond favorably to that task, he is expected to play in at least two or three extended spring training before beginning a rehab assignment that can last up to 20 days for a position player on the major league disabled list. Such a schedule would make a return to the Orioles possible by late April or — more realistically — early May even though Showalter hinted that Machado may not need the full 20 days of minor-league games to get ready after taking part in baseball-related activity to varying degrees since late January.

“Manny’s feeling good. Hopefully, he’ll feel as well tomorrow as he did today,” said Showalter, who exchanged text messages with Machado and spoke with minor league medical coordinator Dave Walker on Monday. “He’s been down this road enough that he knows. He wants to get it right the first time. He’s got a lot of good people around him who won’t let him get ahead of himself. The things they’re putting him through, it’s going to be pretty obvious if he can do them, he’s ready to go.”

The Orioles have used the combination of Ryan Flaherty and rookie Jonathan Schoop at third base in Machado’s absence this season. All three errors committed by Baltimore have come at third base where Schoop committed two miscues in Friday’s 2-0 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays.

While the organization continues to be conservative with Machado, Monday’s developments certainly presented some light at the end of the tunnel that’s remained somewhat ambiguous since the infielder complained of soreness from scar tissue that forced him to stop running in mid-March. Of course, the Orioles will at least hold their breath as Machado tries to cut around the bases this week, which is what he struggled with during spring training.

“As Dave said today, ‘He’s got a good face going right now,'” Showalter said. “We all know what he’s talking about.”

In other injury-related news from Sarasota, pitching prospect Dylan Bundy threw 35 pitches from the mound and mixed in some changeups to go with his fastball for the first time on Monday. Bundy is expected to begin throwing curveballs later this week.

Outfielder Nolan Reimold continues to receive treatment on his surgically-repaired neck but is still not taking part in any baseball-related activity after being moved to the 60-day disabled list earlier this month.

Here are Monday’s lineups:

TAMPA BAY
2B Ben Zobrist
CF Desmond Jennings
DH Logan Forsythe
3B Evan Longoria
RF Wil Myers
1B James Loney
LF Brandon Guyer
SS Yunel Escobar
C Ryan Hanigan

SP Chris Archer (1-0, 1.38 ERA)

BALTIMORE
RF Nick Markakis
DH Nelson Cruz
1B Chris Davis
CF Adam Jones
C Matt Wieters
LF David Lough
SS J.J. Hardy
2B Steve Lombardozzi
3B Ryan Flaherty

SP Wei-Yin Chen (1-1, 6.75 ERA)

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