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Veteran pitchers Saunders, Meek become first September call-ups for Orioles

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Veteran pitchers Saunders, Meek become first September call-ups for Orioles

Posted on 01 September 2014 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — With the calendar turning to September, the Orioles wasted no time making their first call-ups for the expanded roster by summoning relief pitchers Joe Saunders and Evan Meek on Monday.

Baltimore selected Saunders’s contract while recalling Meek and right-handed pitcher Kevin Gausman, who started Monday’s series finale against the Minnesota Twins. Infielder Kelly Johnson also reported to the Orioles and was officially added to the roster after being acquired from the Boston Red Sox late Saturday night.

Beginning the season in the Texas Rangers’ rotation, Saunders was released twice in the month of July and went 0-5 with a 6.13 ERA in eight starts for Texas. Upon being released by the Ranger on July 4, Saunders signed a minor-league deal with the Kansas City Royals and was let go later in the month after posting a 6.75 ERA in four starts for Triple-A Omaha.

The 33-year-old Saunders posted a 1.50 ERA in 10 relief appearances for Triple-A Norfolk, holding left-handed hitters to a .211 average. Of course, Saunders was previously acquired by the Orioles late in the 2012 campaign and went 3-3 with a 3.63 ERA in seven starts spanning 44 2/3 innings. He was the winning pitcher in the inaugural American League Wild Card Game against Texas that sent the Orioles to their first AL Division Series appearance since 1997.

Manager Buck Showalter envisions Saunders serving a role similar in nature to the one held by T.J. McFarland for most of the season. After being temporarily optioned to the minors on Sunday, McFarland is expected to be recalled on Tuesday.

The 31-year-old Meek went 2-0 with 16 saves and a 1.94 ERA (in 39 games for the Tides this season, striking out 37 and walking only four. He appeared in 15 games for the Orioles earlier this season, posting a 7.47 ERA.

The Orioles are also expected to recall right-handed relief pitcher Ryan Webb and backup catcher Steve Clevenger on Tuesday. Webb has recently been dealing with shoulder fatigue and was given a few days to rest. He is expected to test the shoulder for the Tides on Monday before being recalled for the three-game series against the Cincinnati Reds.

Showalter said first baseman and outfielder Steve Pearce is feeling much better from the abdominal strain that sidelined him Friday night. The manager hopes he can give it “a test run” at some point during the Cincinnati series.

The organization also announced which minor-leaguer players would be attending the instructional camp in Sarasota that begins on Sept. 6. Outfielders Dariel Alvarez and Henry Urrutia, infielders Christian Walker and Buck Britton, catchers Michael Ohlman and Brian Ward, and pitchers Oliver Drake, Eddie Gamboa, Preston Guilmet, Brock Huntzinger, Chris Jones, Tyler Wilson, and Mike Wright will participate in workouts and remain ready in case there’s a need at the major-league level during the month of September.

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Yastrzemski hits for cycle to headline Orioles minor league recap – 7/5

Posted on 05 July 2014 by WNST Staff

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

-Catcher Steve Clevenger and Shortstop Jemile Weeks recorded two hits each, but the AAA Norfolk Tides fell 6-3 to Charlotte. Starter Nick Additon struggled, allowing four earned runs (eight hits, walk) over just 4.1 innings pitched. Evan Meek worked a scoreless inning in relief.

-Slugging first base prospect Christian Walker clubbed his 20th home run of the season for the AA Bowie Baysox in a 7-1 win over Akron. Leftfielder John Ruettiger added three hits (including a double) and scored three runs in the win.

-Centerfielder Mike Yastrzemski was the star of the night on the farm, becoming the first Frederick Keys player to hit for the cycle since 2005 as the high Single A team beat Lynchburg 17-3. The grandson of Red Sox Hall of Famer Carl Yastrzemski collected a second double, scored three runs and drove in five in the victory. Leftfielder Michael Burgess crushed two homers in the win as well.

-Preparing to represent the Orioles in the MLB All-Star Futures Game, pitcher Hunter Harvey was strong again as the Single A Delmarva Shorebirds topped Lakewood 6-3. The former first round pick allowed just one earned run on five hits (three walks) and struck out eight over six innings for his sixth win of the season.

-Notre Dame basketball player Patrick Connaughton worked two perfect innings in his second career start as the rookie level Single A Aberdeen Ironbirds beat Brooklyn 18-2. First baseman Riley Palmer was just a home run short of a cycle himself, hitting three doubles, scoring three runs and adding three RBI in the win.

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Orioles select contract of Ramirez, option Meek to Norfolk

Posted on 30 June 2014 by WNST Staff

Orioles select contract of RHP Ramon Ramirez, option RHP Evan Meek to Triple-A Norfolk

The Orioles today announced that they have selected the contract OF RHP RAMON RAMIREZ from Triple-A Norfolk and optioned RHP EVAN MEEK to the Tides.

Ramirez, 32, has pitched 8.0 scoreless innings for the Tides in five relief appearances this season, striking out 14 without allowing a walk. He is 23-21 with a 3.42 ERA (433.2IP, 165ER) in 423 major league games over eight seasons with Colorado (2006-07), Kansas City (2008), Boston (2009-10), San Francisco (2010-11, ’13) and the Mets (2012).

Meek, 31, is 0-3 with a 7.47 ERA (15.2IP, 13ER) in 15 games for the Orioles this season.

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Norris officially sent to disabled list with right groin strain

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Norris officially sent to disabled list with right groin strain

Posted on 26 June 2014 by Luke Jones

(Updated: Friday at 12:05 p.m.)

BALTIMORE — After leaving his start with right groin discomfort last Saturday in New York, Orioles pitcher Bud Norris was officially placed on the 15-day disabled list prior to Friday’s doubleheader against the Tampa Bay Rays.

The right-hander underwent a magnetic resonance imaging exam on Thursday that revealed a strain that will force him to miss at least one start. Norris was still experiencing discomfort while completing a bullpen session on Wednesday that prompted the Orioles to recommend further testing. Norris is eligible to be activated from the DL on July 7.

“When [the doctors] said it was going to be four or five days before he can get on the hill again, waiting around isn’t very beneficial,” manager Buck Showalter said. “We feel confident that we can resolve it in the DL period.”

Showalter will not need another starter until Tuesday as Kevin Gausman was summoned to pitch the first game of Friday’s doubleheader against the Tampa Bay Rays with Chris Tillman starting the nightcap in Norris’ place. Because of Thursday’s off-day, the Orioles will send lefty Wei-Yin Chen to the hill on Saturday and right-hander Miguel Gonzalez on Sunday to conclude the four-game series. Ubaldo Jimenez will then pitch Monday’s series opener against the Texas Rangers on four days’ rest.

Gausman served as the club’s 26th man roster exemption for the day-night doubleheader and will be returned to Triple-A Norfolk after the game to fulfill his 10-day requirement in the minors. He is expected to be recalled in time to make his next start on Wednesday, but he is not an option to pitch on short rest for Tuesday’s game, according to Showalter.

The Orioles could look at current long reliever T.J. McFarland to make a spot start on Tuesday before settling into a five-man rotation with Gausman occupying Norris’ original slot.

“Right now, we’re probably looking for a break from the weather,” quipped Showalter, who added that newly-signed Norfolk lefty Randy Wolf isn’t ready to be an option for Tuesday. “We’ll be alright. We’ve got some good options.”

Right-handed relief pitcher Evan Meek was recalled from Triple-A Norfolk to take Norris’ place and serve as an extra arm in the bullpen for the twin bill. Meek is 2-0 with three saves and a 2.79 ERA in 17 games for the Tides and has gone 0-2 with a 6.39 ERA in 13 appearances for the Orioles this season

With third baseman Manny Machado’s looming suspension, the Orioles must play a man down in his absence and cannot use his spot on the roster, which led to them recalling Meek to use Norris’ roster slot for the time being with that spot expected to eventually address Machado’s absence. When a decision is made on Machado, the club will add an extra infielder — presumably in place of Meek or another reliever — and Jemile Weeks will likely be recalled as he traveled to Baltimore on Thursday night.

Though Norris isn’t expected to be sidelined for long, the news is a tough break for the 29-year-old as he’s been the club’s most consistent starting pitcher this season. In 14 starts, Norris owns a 7-5 record with a 3.62 ERA in 87 innings and has struck out 60 while walking 28 batters.

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Orioles activate Hunter from DL, option Meek to Norfolk

Posted on 08 June 2014 by WNST Staff

PRESS RELEASE

The Orioles announced Sunday that they have reinstated right-handed pitcher Tommy Hunter from the 15-day disabled list and optioned right-handed pitcher Evan Meek to Triple-A Norfolk.

Hunter, 27, was placed on the 15-day DL retroactive to May 21 with a left groin strain. He has gone 1-1 with 11 saves and a 6.06 ERA (16.1IP, 11ER) in 19 games for the Orioles.

Meek, 31, is 0-2 with a 6.39 ERA (12.2IP, 9ER) in 13 games for the Orioles this season.

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Orioles place Gonzalez on DL, summon Gausman to start on Saturday

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Orioles place Gonzalez on DL, summon Gausman to start on Saturday

Posted on 06 June 2014 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — After making it through the first two months of the season with their Opening Day rotation making all but one start, the Orioles placed starting pitcher Miguel Gonzalez on the 15-day disabled list with a strained right oblique on Friday.

Right-handed pitcher Kevin Gausman has been summoned to make the start against the Oakland Athletics on Saturday but will not be activated for the series opener. The Orioles also optioned right-handed relief pitcher Preston Guilmet to Triple-A Norfolk, recalled left-handed pitcher Tim Berry from Double-A Bowie, and selected the contract of right-handed pitcher Evan Meek from Triple-A Norfolk.

To make room for Meek on the 40-man roster, the Orioles transferred Rule 5 infielder Michael Almanzar (knee) to the 60-day disabled list.

Manager Buck Showalter expressed optimism that Gonzalez’s time on the disabled list will be minimal as he could begin a minor-league rehab assignment at Bowie or Single-A Frederick as early as the middle of next week, putting him in line to return as early as his first day of eligibility on June 15. Gonzalez expressed optimism on Friday afternoon that he would still be able to make Saturday’s start, but Showalter did not want to risk him going to the hill and experiencing an issue with the oblique strain, leaving the Orioles in a dangerous position with their bullpen.

“No one wants to be on the DL, but you’ve got to think about it in the long run,” Gonzalez said prior to the news becoming official. “You don’t want to go out there and hurt yourself and be out for 2 1/2 months and miss all that time. You don’t want to do that.”

Gonzalez’s stint on the DL is retroactive to May 31 as he started against the Houston Astros last Friday. The 30-year-old right-hander is 3-4 with a 4.17 earned run average in 58 1/3 innings this season and had registered four straight quality starts prior to waking up with pain in his right side earlier this week.

Gausman will be making his second start of the season for the Orioles after being tagged for five earned runs in four innings in a spot start against the Detroit Tigers on May 14. Showalter expressed hope that the 2012 first-round pick would make it difficult on the Orioles to decide on his fate once Gonzalez is ready to be activated later this month.

In 10 starts for Norfolk this season, Gausman is 1-3 with a 2.98 ERA and has struck out 44 batters and walked 18 in 42 1/3 innings.

Berry and Meek were summoned to provide extra help in the bullpen after starter Chris Tillman was knocked out in the second inning of Thursday’s 8-6 loss to the Texans Rangers. The Orioles would then option Berry back to Bowie to make room for Gausman to start on Saturday if all goes to plan.

A 50th-round pick in the 2009 draft, the 23-year-old Berry landed firmly on the Orioles’ prospect radar after a 3.85 ERA at Single-A Frederick last year and was added to the 40-man roster in the offseason. He is 3-3 with a 4.12 ERA in 11 starts for Bowie this season.

In other injury-related news, right-handed pitcher Tommy Hunter (groin) will make a rehab appearance for Single-A Delmarva on Saturday and could be activated from the disabled list as early as Sunday.

During his outing in Sarasota on Friday, veteran left-handed pitcher Johan Santana was struck by a line drive and felt something in his Achilles tendon while trying to field the ball, causing him to leave the game. The 35-year-old was still being examined when Showalter met with local reporters on Friday afternoon.

Santana was expected to be assigned to a minor-league affiliate for his next outing as he is moving closer to an expected debut in Baltimore later this month, so it remains to be seen if those plans will now need to be altered.

 

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Orioles recall Brach, send Meek back down to Norfolk

Posted on 16 May 2014 by WNST Staff

PRESS RELEASE

The Orioles announced Friday that they have recalled right-handed pitcher Brad Brach from Triple-A Norfolk and designated right-handed pitcher Evan Meek for assignment off of the 25-man roster.

Brach, 28, has gone 3-1 with a 3.26 ERA (19.1IP, 7ER), five walks and 38 strikeouts in 15 appearances for the Tides. He appeared in two games for the Orioles earlier this season.

Meek, 31, was recalled yesterday. He has gone 0-1 with a 6.94 ERA (11.2IP, 9ER) in 12 appearances for the Orioles earlier this season.

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Gausman sent back to Triple-A Norfolk to make room for Meek

Posted on 15 May 2014 by Luke Jones

Kevin Gausman’s first run with the Orioles in the 2014 season ended just over 24 hours after it began.

The 23-year-old right-hander was optioned to Triple-A Norfolk to make room for right-handed reliever Evan Meek as Baltimore was preparing to begin a four-game series against the Kansas City Royals on Thursday.

Pitching on three days’ rest and less than two weeks removed from being diagnosed with a bout of pneumonia, Gausman struggled in his 2014 debut against the Detroit Tigers, surrendering five earned runs in four innings of work as the Orioles were swept in a 7-5 final on Wednesday afternoon. Though the 2012 first-round pick had posted a 2.08 earned run average in his six starts for the Tides, the decision to recall him after such a tumultuous two weeks was questionable at best as he hadn’t gotten back in the normal routine of a starting pitcher.

Manager Buck Showalter shared the desire to give left-hander Wei-Yin Chen an extra day of rest — and hinted that he didn’t want the lefty pitching against a Detroit lineup that’s mostly right-handed — and didn’t want to start Miguel Gonzalez on three days’ rest, prompting his temporary move to the bullpen for this turn through the rotation. It’s assumed that Gonzalez will now return to his spot in the rotation temporarily seized by Gausman.

Meek made the Orioles’ Opening Day club after being invited to spring training as a non-roster player and got off to a strong start before running into struggles in late April. The former 2010 All-Star selection had a 6.94 ERA in 11 2/3 inning for the Orioles and will likely find himself in more low-pressure situations than he did earlier in the season.

The 31-year-old allowed four earned runs over 6 1/3 innings spanning five appearances for the Tides.

 

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Orioles recall Brach as fresh bullpen arm for Minnesota series

Posted on 02 May 2014 by WNST Staff

PRESS RELEASE

The Orioles announced Friday that they have recalled right-handed pitcher Brad Brach from Triple-A Norfolk.

Brach, 28, was 2-1 with a 4.85 ERA (13.0IP, 7ER) in 12 games for the Tides. He will wear number 35.

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Orioles clear first hurdle of ninth-inning experiment to start 2014

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Orioles clear first hurdle of ninth-inning experiment to start 2014

Posted on 31 March 2014 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — The first trial of the great experiment that is the ninth inning was a success in the Orioles’ season-opening win over the Boston Red Sox on Monday.

Manager Buck Showalter sent new closer Tommy Hunter to the mound with a 2-1 lead and the 27-year-old eventually shut the door on the defending World Series champions despite some nervous moments along the way. There will be other uneasy times as a club with postseason aspirations tries to fill the void of Jim Johnson’s 101 saves over the last two years with a bullpen that had just 13 combined major league saves entering Monday.

The Orioles can add one more to that total as Hunter worked around a leadoff hit by pitch and a one-out single before retiring designated hitter David Ortiz — gulp — on a fly out to left and right fielder Jackie Bradley, Jr. on a called strike three to send the Orioles to their 11th victory in their last 14 season openers. It took Hunter 22 pitches to get three outs, but there was no better way to acclimate him than against an offense notorious for wearing out pitchers with foul balls and deep counts.

So far, so good.

“That was fun. Hopefully, it’s like that a lot more,” Hunter said. “I had to earn it. That is a way of life in baseball. A one-run game to start the season off against the defending world champs. Here we are.”

Hunter passed his first test and showed the bulldog toughness you often find in successful closers, but there’s no telling whether his propensity for giving up the long ball or struggles against left-handed batters will ultimately lead to his undoing as the Orioles’ ninth-inning man. As Showalter said prior to Monday’s game, the hard-throwing right-hander is merely the first to receive the opportunity to do the job with the likes of Darren O’Day and Ryan Webb waiting in the wings if he falters.

In fact, the first glimpse at the rest of the bullpen was interesting as Showalter turned to left-hander Zach Britton for two strong innings in which he enticed six ground-ball outs. The Baltimore manager then surprisingly handed the ball to newcomer Evan Meek — a non-roster invitee to spring training — to begin the eighth before the former Pittsburgh Pirates reliever walked two batters and forced Showalter to bring in lefty specialist Brian Matusz for the final out of the inning.

Meek had pitched nine scoreless innings in Grapefruit League play to make the club out of spring training, but Showalter’s confidence in a pitcher who spent the entire 2013 campaign in the minor leagues was surprising with O’Day and Webb available.

“It’s not easy,” said Showalter of his bullpen’s four shutout innings. “It’s not always going to look aesthetically pleasing, but it’s a hard thing to do. And you’re playing the world champions and there’s a fine margin for error, whether it be Zach Britton or Evan Meek or Brian Matusz.”

Perhaps his eighth-inning use of Meek was a sign that the Orioles manager himself is still trying to gain a feel for a bullpen that lacks the experienced late-inning man on which you can depend. Baltimore tried to address that need in its pursuit of veteran closer Grant Balfour this winter, but when that deal was squashed, executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette decided against throwing money at a veteran reliever with gaudy save totals.

That decision likely made it possible for the Orioles to sign left fielder and designated hitter Nelson Cruz — the offensive hero of Monday’s win with his seventh-inning home run — and starting pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez, but it remains to be seen whether the ninth inning becomes the Orioles’ Achilles heel in their quest to advance to the playoffs for the second time in three years. Deciding to jettison Johnson and his nine blown saves from a year ago was one thing, but leaving such inexperience in the closer role appears to be a treacherous path.

Of course, the club the Orioles defeated showed it can be done as Koji Uehara eventually settled into the ninth inning last year to save 21 games on Boston’s path to the title, but even the 38-year-old Japanese pitcher entered 2013 with 14 career saves, the same number the Orioles’ entire bullpen had at the close of business on Monday.

The first venture with Hunter was a success, but there must be more before anyone will rest easy in the ninth.

“I’d like to say they’ll get easier, but they won’t,” Showalter said. “One-run leads in the American League East — home or away — are hard to finish. You know you’re going to get everybody’s best shot. We gave it ours, and we were fortunate to come out with one more run than they did and 27 outs.”

 

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