Tag Archive | "freddy garcia"

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Orioles send veteran pitcher Garcia to Atlanta for cash considerations

Posted on 23 August 2013 by WNST Staff

Thought to be a candidate for a promotion when rosters expand on Sept. 1, right-handed pitcher Freddy Garcia was instead traded by the Orioles to the Atlanta Braves in exchange for cash considerations on Sunday.

Though not a member of the 40-man roster, Garcia was considered as a potential option when rosters expand next month, but manager Buck Showalter and executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette determined they would have enough alternatives in long relief and elected to send Garcia to a National League contender.

In 11 appearances (10 starts) for the Orioles earlier this year, Garcia was 3-5 with a 5.77 earned run average in 53 innings of work. He was designated for assignment on June 24 before eventually accepting a minor-league assignment with Triple-A Norfolk.

The 36-year-old Garcia was 8-3 with a 2.84 ERA in 13 starts for the Tides this season.

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Roberts likely to be activated over weekend against Yankees

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Roberts likely to be activated over weekend against Yankees

Posted on 27 June 2013 by Luke Jones

(This blog brought to you by Atlantic Remodeling. Visit www.atlanticremodeling.com to learn about their Red Cent Guarantee!)

BALTIMORE — After no setbacks and some impressive work in his brief rehabilitation stint with Triple-A Norfolk, Orioles second baseman Brian Roberts could make his 2013 home debut this weekend against the New York Yankees.

The 35-year-old was scheduled to play in two games with the Tides on Thursday night — likely serving as the designated hitter in the second one — and is likely to be activated from the 60-day disabled list at some point over the weekend, according to manager Buck Showalter. Roberts was 2-for-4 with a double and two runs scored in his first rehab game on Tuesday and walked twice on Wednesday before rain suspended the contest between Norfolk and Columbus.

“I think we have a good chance to see Brian over the weekend,” said manager Buck Showalter, who’s received favorable reports on Roberts’ baserunning and defense from Norfolk manager Ron Johnson. “He’s progressing well.”

The Orioles skipper confirmed what most assumed in terms of Roberts’ role upon returning to action for the first time since April 4. The longtime infielder will be the starting second baseman while the club reevaluate how to handle the roles of Ryan Flaherty and Alexi Casilla. The argument could be made to option Flaherty to Norfolk to allow him regular playing time while Casilla would remain in Baltimore, continuing to serve as the club’s utility infielder.

Casilla would have to give his permission to be optioned to the minors and is a speedy backup off the bench in late-inning situations as a pinch runner.

“We’ll spot [Roberts] here or there,” said Showalter, who added that the club has scenarios in which both Flaherty and Casilla remain on the 25-man roster as they were at the start of the season before Roberts’ injury. “[We view] Brian as the same way it was in the spring.”

Flaherty’s ability to play multiple infield positions as well as the corner outfield spots makes him more attractive as a bench piece should the Orioles want to keep him on the 25-man roster, but that would create a potential crunch once outfielder Nolan Reimold is expected to be activated from the DL sometime on the next road trip. That could push platoon DH Danny Valencia back to Norfolk.

For now, Reimold has extended his rehab assignment with Double-A Bowie — it can last up to 20 days but a player must approve it beyond 10 — though Showalter said he could rejoin the Orioles as early as the Chicago series next week. The 29-year-old is just 5-for-33 with 12 strikeouts in nine games with the Baysox.

“The good news is his leg feels really good,” Showalter said. “He’s not having any problems with the hamstring. It’s just getting comfortable at-bat wise.”

Veteran pitcher Freddy Garcia has elected to remain with the organization after weighing his options around the rest of the league over the last 72 hours. Technically, the 36-year-old opted out of his current contract, allowing the Orioles to sign him to a minor-league deal and assign him to Norfolk. This frees up a 40-man roster spot that will likely be used when Roberts is activated from the DL.

Showalter said the right-hander could be used in either a starting or relief role with the Tides, but it appears he will move into the Norfolk rotation for now.

“We were hoping he would [stay],” Showalter said. “It worked out good for both sides and presented some depth for us and we like the way Freddy’s handled himself professionally and pitching at times at both levels.”

The Orioles hadn’t named a starter for Friday’s game prior to the series finale against the Cleveland Indians on Thursday night. Showalter acknowledged rookie Kevin Gausman had a light workday earlier this week to account for him not pitching in a game since last Wednesday when he was still with Norfolk, but the manager still wouldn’t give the official word Thursday afternoon.

Lefty long man T.J. McFarland has also remained an option to make the start in the series opener against the Yankees, but Showalter appeared to tip his hand in reference to most media and fans assuming that Gausman would get the ball before ultimately tabbing McFarland as the stater after Thursday’s game.

“You guys know who’s pitching tomorrow,” the manager said coyly at the end of his pre-game media session.

In five starts with the Orioles this season, Gausman is 0-3 with a 7.66 earned run average but fared very well against Detroit and Boston in two of his last three starts prior to being optioned to Norfolk due to needs in the bullpen. He was recalled on Monday to serve as a long man in the bullpen but wasn’t needed in the first three games of the Cleveland series.

Pitching prospect Dylan Bundy underwent Tommy John surgery in Florida at 1:30 p.m. on Thursday, but Showalter hadn’t received an update when he spoke with reporters. The surgery was performed by renowned orthopedist Dr. James Andrews.

Cuban outfielder Henry Urrutia was promoted from Bowie to Norfolk on Thursday, a day after being named to the MLB Futures Game at Citi Field during the All-Star break. He is hitting .365 with seven homers, 37 RBIs, and a .983 OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage) and his defense in the outfield is improving drastically, according to Showalter.

The 26-year-old hadn’t played competitive baseball over the last couple years as he defected from Cuba but was named an Eastern League All-Star as many within the organization think he could present himself as a real option for the major-league roster before season’s end.

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Gausman recalled by Orioles to serve in relief role for now

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Gausman recalled by Orioles to serve in relief role for now

Posted on 24 June 2013 by Luke Jones

(This blog brought to you by Atlantic Remodeling. Visit www.atlanticremodeling.com to learn about their Red Cent Guarantee!)

BALTIMORE — The same need that led to rookie pitcher Kevin Gausman’s departure less than two weeks ago has now brought him back to the Orioles for the time being.

Following Freddy Garcia’s short outing against the red-hot Toronto Blue Jays and long man T.J. McFarland’s 4 1/3 innings of work on Sunday that left manager Buck Showalter without the necessary length in the bullpen, the Orioles elected to option Garcia to Triple-A Norfolk — the 36-year-old has 72 hours to accept the assignment or become a free agent — and to recall the 2012 first-round pick to serve in a relief role.

“[Garcia] can stay with us and go to Triple A or [try to go to another team],” Showalter said. “I’m hoping he stays. He’s done some good things for us. He’s had his challenges, but he came and did as advertised.”

The Orioles will need a starter for Friday’s series opener against the New York Yankees, and Gausman appears to be the primary candidate if he doesn’t need to be stretched out over the first two games of the Cleveland series.

McFarland will be unavailable for at least the first game of the Cleveland series and likely the second, meaning Zach Britton and Chris Tillman will need to pitch effectively in order to keep Gausman in line to pitch on Friday night. An inning or two of work wouldn’t be out of the question considering Gausman hasn’t pitched in a game since last Wednesday, but a longer outing than that likely takes him out of the running for a start this time through the rotation.

Gausman made one start for Triple-A Norfolk, allowing seven earned runs and 10 hits in six innings of work. However, the right-hander said he spent the outing working on a few new tricks, including moving over to the third-base side of the rubber against left-handed hitters.

Of course, he left Baltimore with a good taste in his mouth after allowing just two earned runs in 5 1/3 innings in an extra-inning game the Orioles eventually won on June 13. Showalter said at the time that Gausman’s demotion was solely about needing an extra reliever in the bullpen after a 13-inning game.

“I left on a good note. I had a good meeting with Buck and [pitching coach Rick Adair] when I left,” Gausman said prior to Monday’s game. “They told me [at the time] they needed an arm and you have some things you need to work on.”

Gausman is 0-3 with a 7.66 ERA in five starts for Baltimore this season but pitched well in two of his last three starts with that success coming against two first-place clubs in Detroit and Boston.

The Orioles manager acknowledged that he would have preferred leaving Gausman at Norfolk a little longer to work with Tides pitching coach Mike Griffin, but Garcia’s stint that lasted only 2 1/3 innings made it necessary to add another arm to the bullpen and Gausman was the only man available for the job. Should the Orioles need to use Gausman for extensive work on Monday or Tuesday, McFarland becomes a stronger candidate to make Friday’s start against New York, according to Showalter.

“How we pitch as starters dictates a majority of these moves, not only by the length you get but by how [you] pitch,” Showalter said. “Same thing with every team. The team that consistently goes deep into ballgames with their starters, they play in October. It’s as simple as that.”

Asked about the status of Japanese lefty Tsuyoshi Wada after he allowed two earned runs in five innings of work for Norfolk on Sunday, Showalter labeled Wada’s last two outings as “competitive” but added that the 32-year-old wasn’t ready to be considered a candidate for Friday’s start in Baltimore.

In other rotation news, left-hander Wei-Yin Chen threw a four-inning simulated game in Sarasota on Monday without any setbacks as he moves closer to his return to action. The plan is for Chen to complete a workday in Baltimore this week before starting a minor-league rehab assignment on Saturday that would likely last a minimum of five innings.

Depending on how he feels after that first start, Chen could be activated from the 15-day disabled list as early as next week, which would put him in line to make two starts for the Orioles before the All-Star break. Chen hasn’t pitched since May 12 after suffering a strained right oblique.

“We’ll see how Rick and everybody feels after his workday and after — hopefully — a rehab start,” Showalter said. “We’ve got three clubs who are home. He’ll do that at either Norfolk, Bowie, or [Single-A] Frederick. I’d like to see him get through the work here and the workday before we get a feel for how he does the next time out in the uncontrolled environment.”

Second baseman Brian Roberts (right hamstring surgery) will begin his rehab assignment with Norfolk on Tuesday, and Showalter said he will lean heavily on the 35-year-old infielder to determine when he’s ready to be activated. The assignment will last a minimum of three games but could go longer if necessary, according to the manager.

Meanwhile, outfielder Nolan Reimold (right hamstring) will continue his rehab assignment with Double-A Bowie as both he and the organization decided it was best for him to receive some more at-bats with the Baysox. He is just 2-for-21 with with three RBIs and eight strikeouts in six games since beginning his stint at Double A last week.

Right-handed pitcher Dylan Bundy still isn’t throwing off a mound but has progressed to throwing from 120 feet as he continues his progression. Showalter said the 2011 first-round pick continues to feel good with his throwing after he was shut down with right forearm discomfort earlier this season.

In order to provide better protection for first baseman Chris Davis in the lineup as well as to alleviate pressure on the struggling Matt Wieters, shortstop J.J. Hardy was moved up to the sixth spot in the order and the Orioles catcher was placed in the No. 7 slot. In 276 plate appearances this season, Wieters is hitting just .229 with nine home runs and 37 RBIs.

This year’s first-round pick, Hunter Harvey, was at the ballpark Monday to meet with the organization and take his physical after agreeing to terms on a deal late last week. The 18-year-old was the 22nd overall pick of the draft and is the son of former major league closer Bryan Harvey.

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Garcia’s miserable June putting Orioles rotation in bigger bind

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Garcia’s miserable June putting Orioles rotation in bigger bind

Posted on 23 June 2013 by Luke Jones

(This blog brought to you by Atlantic Remodeling. Visit www.atlanticremodeling.com to learn about their Red Cent Guarantee!)

Many celebrated the official start of summer over the weekend, but Orioles pitcher Freddy Garcia must wish the calendar had never turned over from May to June.

His horrendous outing in a 13-5 loss to Toronto on Sunday was his third start of the month in which he allowed five or more runs and left his record for June at 1-3 with a 10.19 earned run average covering four starts and one relief appearance. In 17 2/3 innings this month, Garcia has allowed nine home runs.

Garcia lasted just 2 1/3 innings on Sunday as he gave up seven earned runs before giving way to long reliever T.J. McFarland.

It was May 30 when Garcia turned in his best outing of the year with eight shutout innings in a 2-0 win over the Washington Nationals, but his body of work ever since has been nightmarish for the Orioles, who are already dealing with their fifth starter job being in flux. Left-hander Zach Britton will receive Monday’s start against the Cleveland Indians, but his standing in the rotation is tenuous at best after he earned his first win in 5 1/3 innings of work in Detroit last week.

How much longer can the Orioles afford to go with Garcia? His leash wasn’t exactly long when he was pitching at his best last month, but manager Buck Showalter and executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette may not find a better immediate option to allow Sunday to be the last start made by the 36-year-old.

The good news is left-hander Wei-Yin Chen is scheduled to pitch in a simulated game on Monday, which will allow him to potentially begin a minor-league rehab assignment next weekend. The bad news is that means Chen won’t be ready to make his potential return to the Orioles until the first week of July at the earliest and that’s only assuming the 27-year-old won’t experience any hiccups between now and then. Chen has been sidelined since May 12 with a strained right oblique.

Of course, rookie Kevin Gausman’s name will be mentioned, but his first start for Triple-A Norfolk in which he allowed seven earned runs in six innings didn’t make an emphatic statement for him to be brought back to the majors immediately as most assumed he would. It would be surprising not to see the 22-year-old in Baltimore sooner rather than later, but Showalter also expressed a desire for Gausman to work on some mechanical issues with Tides pitching coach Mike Griffin when he was sent down earlier this month.

Japanese left-hander Tsuyoshi Wada started for Norfolk on Sunday, allowing two earned runs in five innings of work, but have two solid starts against Triple-A hitters erased the memory of his immense struggles during his rehab assignment that forced the Orioles to convince Wada to give his consent to be optioned to the minors? Wada walked two and struck out none on his way to throwing 91 pitches in completing only five innings in a 4-3 loss to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on Sunday.

There appear to be no other current options at Norfolk that make sense.

Jair Jurrjens? He has a 5.60 ERA in three starts this month.

Josh Stinson? His 4.74 ERA in 12 Triple-A starts this season isn’t the answer.

Steve Johnson remains in Sarasota as he recovers from a strained left oblique and just began a throwing progression.

Looking back at the big-league roster, there’s always McFarland, whose name has come up as a starting candidate on a few occasions this year. However, the Orioles have refrained from removing the Rule 5 selection from his long-relief role to this point. The 24-year-old lefty gave up five earned runs in 4 1/3 innings on Sunday, but he’s pitched respectably over the course of his rookie season.

Beyond that and focusing on the big picture of contending in the American League East, the Orioles are in search of starting pitching help as names such as Miami’s Ricky Nolasco, Houston’s Bud Norris, Minnesota’s Mike Pelfrey, and even former Oriole Joe Saunders have been thrown out there as potential targets. However, these opposing clubs are fully aware that the Orioles need rotation help and it would be unwise to overpay for marginal pitching talent more than a month away from the trade deadline.

Regardless of whether it’s Monday or two weeks from now, it appears Garcia’s time is running out with the Orioles, which isn’t very surprising when remembering how he was available at the end of spring training on a minor-league deal.

But it doesn’t ease the Orioles’ starting pitching headaches for the immediate future.

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Tillman continues to thrive on road with another victory

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Tillman continues to thrive on road with another victory

Posted on 19 June 2013 by Luke Jones

(This blog brought to you by Atlantic Remodeling. Visit www.atlanticremodeling.com to learn about their Red Cent Guarantee!)

Orioles pitcher Chris Tillman wasn’t carrying his good stuff during his start on Wednesday, but a familiar pattern developed in his five innings of work before Baltimore blew the game wide open in a 13-3 win in Detroit.

As has been the case several times this season, Tillman struggled early as he threw 47 pitches through the first two innings before settling in to pitch more effectively. The 25-year-old told reporters after the game in Detroit that he lacked any feel for his pitches for most of the afternoon as he was pulled in the sixth inning after giving up a leadoff single and a walk to start the inning.

T.J. McFarland came on and allowed a two-run double — with both runs being charged to the starting pitcher — but it didn’t spoil the fact that Tillman once again gave the Orioles a great chance to win despite not being on top of his game. Tillman allowed three earned runs and seven hits in his five innings while walking three and striking out one.

In 15 starts this season, Tillman is 8-2 with a 3.71 earned run average and has struck out 69 while walking 32 in 87 1/3 innings. He’s allowed 83 hits and 16 home runs, the latter ironically being a career-high total.

It’s a stark contrast from a couple years ago when it seemed Tillman was only capable of being successful on the mound when all of his pitches were clicking for him. At that point in his career, Tillman appeared to lack the ability to cope and regroup when things weren’t going his way and he’s credited his maturity as well as a few adjustments made to his delivery last year for the career turnaround.

Tillman appeared to be trying to largely get by with his fastball against the Tigers, but there have also been plenty of times when he’s used his cutter effectively when his fastball wasn’t going where he needed it to. It’s been a nice development for a pitcher often criticized earlier in his career for throwing a four-seamer that didn’t have enough movement.

He improved to 6-0 on the road and has allowed only 13 earned runs in 42 1/3 innings (2.76 ERA) away from Oriole Park at Camden Yards this season. The right-hander is 2-2 with a 4.60 ERA in eight starts spanning 45 innings at home.

Dating back to July 4 of last year, Tillman is 17-5 with a 3.32 ERA in 173 1/3 innings covering 30 starts. He’s arguably become the club’s most reliable member of the Orioles rotation and will consistently provide a solid-to-good outing just about every trip to the mound.

It’s remarkable to think that Tillman was barely on the club’s radar at this time a year ago, but he’s now become a pitcher you generally feel good every time he goes to the mound.

Gausman roughed up in Triple-A debut

Manager Buck Showalter warned last week that the return of right-hander Kevin Gausman immediately after the 10-day waiting period wasn’t guaranteed and the 22-year-old’s Triple-A debut didn’t exactly make a statement on Wednesday that his return should be imminent.

Pitching in the opener of a doubleheader for the Tides, Gausman allowed seven earned runs and 10 hits in six innings as he took the loss in an 8-1 loss to Indianapolis. He struck out four and walked one while throwing 90 pitches, 59 of them strikes.

Gausman allowed a three-run homer in the sixth inning and also uncorked a wild pitch in the disappointing outing.

While acknowledging that Gausman was optioned to Triple A out of necessity after a 13-inning win over Boston in which the Orioles wore out their bullpen, Showalter acknowledged that the demotion would also give Gausman a chance to take a deep breath and make a few mechanical adjustments with Norfolk pitching coach Mike Griffin.

“I didn’t tell him, promise him [he'd be brought back immediately],” Showalter said last Friday. “I made sure he understood he could conceivably stay there the rest of the year. It’s all in his hands. We have other people we like, too.”

Gausman would be eligible to be recalled to Baltimore as early as Monday after the 10-day waiting period expires, but left-hander Zach Britton made his own statement for remaining in the rotation after a solid outing against the Tigers on Tuesday. Britton allowed one earned run in 5 1/3 innings to earn his first win of the season.

As for the rotation plans in Toronto this weekend, Jason Hammel will make his return to the hill on Friday, which will be his first start since last Wednesday after he dealt with the effects of a nasty stomach bug over the last week. A returning Miguel Gonzalez will start on Saturday and is expected back with the Orioles on Thursday night after his wife gave birth to their daughter Monday night.

Showalter hasn’t announced a starter for the series finale on Sunday, but he mentioned Britton and Freddy Garcia as the primed candidates. Garcia pitched a scoreless inning in relief on Wednesday afternoon.

Better pitching of late

Despite scoring a season-high 13 runs in Wednesday’s win over the Tigers to take two out of three and complete the season series against Detroit with a 4-2 record, the Orioles received another solid pitching performance against one of the most formidable lineups in the league.

It continued a recent trend in which the Orioles have received improved starting pitching and the bullpen has continued to thrive in the late innings. Baltimore has allowed 3.6 runs per game over their last 10 contests against the Los Angeles Angels, Boston Red Sox, and Detroit, going 7-3 over that stretch against three potent offenses.

The Orioles also made a major statement over the last week in taking three of four against Boston and winning the three-game series over the Tigers. This season, Baltimore is 12-5 against Boston, Detroit, and Oakland, the three first-place clubs in the American League right now.

As Nuke LaLoosh of “Bull Durham” would say, that’s what you call announcing your presence with authority.

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Laboring Orioles trying to shorten chain to late innings

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Laboring Orioles trying to shorten chain to late innings

Posted on 20 May 2013 by Luke Jones

(This blog brought to you by Atlantic Remodeling. Visit www.atlanticremodeling.com to learn about their Red Cent Guarantee!)

BALTIMORE — Trying to stop a five-game losing streak on Monday with the surging New York Yankees coming to town for a three-game series isn’t the easiest of chores, but the Orioles know it begins with their starting pitching to right themselves in the American League East.

Every starter not named Chris Tillman is either injured or struggling, but the Orioles must find a way to shorten the chain to the end of the game, evident by the heavy workloads of their top relief pitchers and back-to-back blown saves by closer Jim Johnson. Baltimore entered Monday’s game with the 25th-ranked starting earned run average (4.90) in the majors and had averaged just 5.64 innings per start. In comparison, the St. Louis Cardinals have the best starting ERA (2.63) in baseball and average 6.43 innings per outing.

The starting pitching needs to improve for a club with postseason aspirations and intentions of preserving its biggest asset — the bullpen — for the entire season.

“That falls underneath the ‘Capt. Obvious’ thing,’” manager Buck Showalter said. “It’s one thing to identify it; it’s how you do it. Pitch better.”

As of now, the Orioles have few answers with Tillman the only reliable commodity currently in the rotation. Right-hander Miguel Gonzalez returns Tuesday from a stint on the 15-day disabled list due to a blister on his right thumb, but lefty Wei-Yin Chen will just be leaving for Sarasota on Tuesday to begin his rehabilitation. Showalter didn’t paint a rosy picture on Monday that Chen would be returning in a timely fashion.

Stricken with a Grade 2 right oblique strain, Chen is at least a week away from picking up a baseball as his type of injury is a tricky one from which to recover. Setbacks are frequent with oblique injuries as you never really know how well a pitcher is recovering before he starts trying to throw again.

“I couldn’t tell you that he’s making any great progress,” Showalter said. “He’s still sore, but he’s doing some things as far as sleeping through the night and rolling over where it’s not bothering him like it was. But I don’t think there’s some definitive date. There’s an unknown to it.”

When Chen and Gonzalez dealing with injuries this month, the Orioles have been forced to turn to veteran Freddy Garcia and former Atlanta pitcher Jair Jurrjens to stabilize the back end of the rotation. Speculation persists that Garcia could be reaching the end of his run with the Orioles after turning in poor outings against Kansas City and San Diego to follow up his surprising debut in Anaheim at the beginning of the month.

Jurrjens figures to receive at least a couple more starts after allowing four earned runs in five innings in his 2013 debut against Tampa Bay over the weekend, but the Orioles appear close to moving on in their quest for rotation stability.

Recalled over the weekend to serve as an extra arm in the bullpen, Jake Arrieta is not in line to receive a start and could be optioned to Triple-A Norfolk to make room for Gonzalez on Tuesday. However, another pitcher in the Baltimore bullpen could be next in line for a shot in the rotation.

Left-hander T.J. McFarland turned in a scoreless performance over 2 1/3 innings to keep the Orioles within two runs of the Rays on Sunday, and Showalter acknowledged prior to the start of the Yankees series that the 23-year-old Rule 5 selection has been considered as a starting option.

“He was impressive again yesterday,” Showalter said. “I’m real proud of our scouting department. So far, so good with him. He’s a guy we’ve thought about starting, too, but right now it’s Freddy and Jair.”

McFarland has a 2.61 ERA in 20 2/3 innings over 10 appearances. The lefty has allowed 23 hits, struck out 22, and walked seven coming out of the bullpen.

Gonzalez chomping at bit

The Orioles will welcome the Tuesday return of Gonzalez, who hasn’t pitched since leaving his start in Anaheim early with a blister on his thumb on May 3.

Sporting a 2-2 record with a 4.58 ERA in six starts this season, a healthy Gonzalez would help soothe the rotation concerns if he can look more like the pitcher who went 9-4 with a 3.25 ERA in 18 games (15 starts) last season. The 28-year-old threw briefly on Sunday just to work on the spin of his curveball and feels confident after throwing roughly 80 pitches in completing a simulated game on Friday.

“I’ve been telling the guys it was frustrating not being able to be out there because of a blister,” Gonzalez said. “You know, it’s not an injury, but you just have to wait and heal.”

The right-hander said he shouldn’t be limited to any limited pitch count and would be able to throw 100 or more pitches if necessary on Tuesday night.

Hardy moving up

Shortstop J.J. Hardy saw his 13-game hitting streak come to an end on Sunday, but his .360 average that includes five home runs and 10 RBIs since May 3 hasn’t gone unnoticed.

Hardy was elevated to the No. 3 spot in the order against left-hander CC Sabathia on Monday night, but that was also the result of his numbers against the burly Yankees starter. The 30-year-old entered the game with a .321 career average against Sabathia with one homer and five RBIs.

Showalter was looking for any edge he could get against Sabathia, who held a 10-3 career mark with a 3.38 ERA in 15 career games at Camden Yards prior to Monday’s game.

“It’s hard to find anybody that’s had some success against certain guys,” Showalter said. “This just fits a little bit better for us [Monday night].”

Minor-league additions

According to Baseball America, the Orioles signed catcher Ronny Paulino and right-handed pitcher Austin Urban to minor-league contracts.

Paulino was released by the Seattle Mariners on March 30 while the Chicago Cubs released Urban on March 12.

Of course, the 32-year-old Paulino served as the Orioles’ backup catcher for a good portion of the first half of last season, hitting .254 in 63 at-bats and appearing in 20 games.

 

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Orioles have no choice but to circle back patiently with starting options

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Orioles have no choice but to circle back patiently with starting options

Posted on 19 May 2013 by Luke Jones

(This blog brought to you by Atlantic Remodeling. Visit www.atlanticremodeling.com to learn about their Red Cent Guarantee!)

It’s never a good idea to definitively assess any team in the midst of its worst stretch of the season in the same way that you shouldn’t ignore weaknesses while enjoying the prosperous times.

With the Orioles suffering their first four-game losing streak of the season and surrendering a staggering 30 runs and 45 hits over their last three games, it’s easy to panic over such an ugly stretch of baseball. Early questions over starting pitching have transformed into serious concerns as the club has endured the losses of Wei-Yin Chen and Miguel Gonzalez to the disabled list and the recent struggles of Opening Day starter Jason Hammel while attempting to piece together the back end of the rotation.

The poor starting pitching has placed even more reliance on the bullpen as the Orioles have seen All-Star closer Jim Johnson blow consecutive saves this week. Showalter insists the bullpen hasn’t been overworked and is very meticulous with everything from innings pitched down to the number of times a reliever even gets up to throw during games, but that won’t remain the case if the poor performance of the starting pitching continues into the summer.

Chen is sidelined indefinitely with the always-unpredictable strained oblique injury, meaning Chris Tillman is the only starter on which manager Buck Showalter can currently rely as Orioles starting pitching has allowed 32 earned runs in 39 1/3 innings — a 7.32 earned run average — over the last eight games. The club hopes the 2012 version of Gonzalez will surface beginning with his scheduled return on Tuesday and that Hammel will find the proper release point to improve his fastball command after a miserable recent stretch.

Beyond those concerns, the picture becomes even more frightening with the final two spots in the rotation. Yes, it’s easy to look back at the offseason and criticize executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette for not acquiring any impact starters — I shared that very sentiment at the start of spring training and again at the beginning of the season — but Duquette and Showalter also expressed great faith in their internal options.

Now, one time through a lineup of “second-tier” starters that includes Jake Arrieta, Zach Britton, Steve Johnson, Freddy Garcia, Jair Jurrjens, and Josh Stinson, only Arrieta and Garcia have received more than one start to this point. Arrieta doesn’t really fall into the same category as the others after beginning the season as the fifth starter, and a strong debut in Anaheim bought the 36-year-old Garcia two more starts that have been underwhelming at best.

Understanding that even the brightest pitchers in the game will have a handful of less-than-stellar outings over the course of a season, is a one-start audition really the best way to determine if a pitcher can be an asset for the major league rotation?

Make no mistake, gone are the days when a young prospect such as Brian Matusz will be afforded the opportunity to accumulate a 10.69 ERA in 12 starts as he did over two different stints in the 2011 season. Higher expectations are here to stay and competition is paramount with Duquette and Showalter as they look beyond the 25-man roster while viewing Triple-A Norfolk and Double-A Bowie as essential partners in fielding a competitive club in the American League East.

However, the problem with higher expectations is the emphasis it places on smaller sample sizes when trying to evaluate. And you wonder if the possibility of such a short audition for the likes of Britton and Johnson creates too much of a mindset of looking over your shoulder and trying to be too perfect. It also devalues their minor-league performances that earn them their chance in the first place.

Showalter acknowledged this weekend most of these immediate demotions couldn’t have been avoided due to the strain placed on the bullpen as a direct result of the short outings. There is plenty of merit to that explanation, but at some point, the Orioles need to find the proper balance between having higher expectations and exercising the faith expressed this offseason in their internal options by showing just a bit more — brace yourself for that all-too-familiar word — patience.

No one is endorsing that Britton or Johnson or whichever pitcher sitting at the top of the totem pole for the next chance automatically receives six weeks’ worth of starts in the big leagues, but a reasonable opportunity of three or four starts might be more conducive to the potentially fragile psyche of a young pitcher. Fringe pitchers such as these certainly need to feel urgency playing for a contending club, but trying to be too perfect in fear of being sent down isn’t setting them up with the mindset for success, either.

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Garcia promoted, reliever Clark designated for assignment

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Garcia promoted, reliever Clark designated for assignment

Posted on 04 May 2013 by Luke Jones

After Josh Stinson and Zach Britton failed in their recent bids to secure the Orioles’ fifth starter spot, veteran right-hander Freddy Garcia is the next up for an opportunity Saturday in Anaheim.

As expected, the Orioles selected the contract of the 15-year veteran to make Saturday’s start against the Los Angeles Angels and designated right-handed pitcher Zach Clark for assignment to make room on the 25-man and 40-man rosters. The Orioles had recalled Clark to provide an extra arm in their overworked bullpen after Britton was ineffective in Monday’s start in Seattle and was optioned to Triple-A Norfolk.

Signed to a minor-league deal only days before the start of the season, Garcia has made five starts for the Tides and sports a 4-0 record with a 2.67 earned run average spanning 33 2/3 innings. He has struck out 21 and walked only two while surrendering 31 hits over those starts.

He will wear No. 38.

After learning earlier this week that Garcia had agreed to extend his opt-out clause from five minor-league starts to May 14, it became clear the Orioles were seriously considering the two-time All-Star pitcher for a promotion. Garcia has completed eight innings in each of his last starts and pitched on Sunday, allowing two earned runs and striking out five in a win over Toledo.

Garcia spent the last two seasons with the New York Yankees, making 42 starts and going 19-14 with a 4.29 ERA over that time. However, the native Venezuelan struggled in the Bronx last season with a 5.20 ERA and was sent to the bullpen at two different points. He didn’t pitch in the postseason for the Yankees.

In his career, Garcia has spent time with Seattle (1999-2004), the Chicago White Sox (2004-2006 and 2009-2010), Philadelphia (2007), Detroit (2008), and the Yankees (2011-12). His 152 career victories rank ninth among active pitchers, and he has the most wins for any Venezuelan-born pitcher in baseball history. He has gone 6-3 with a 3.28 ERA in 10 career postseason starts, including seven shutout innings in clinching Game 4 of the 2005 World Series for the White Sox.

It remains to be seen whether Garcia’s impressive numbers at Norfolk will translate to major league success, so the Orioles hope he can provide much-needed innings on Saturday as they wrap up an 11-game West Coast trip. It’s unknown whether the club will provide the right-hander a longer leash than provided to Stinson or Britton, but the club will continue to monitor what’s happening at Triple A.

Should Garcia falter, right-handers Steve Johnson and Jair Jurrjens would figure to be the next pitchers deserving of an opportunity for the spot originally held by Jake Arrieta at the start of the season. Johnson was activated from the 15-day disabled list earlier this week after making two rehab starts while Jurrjens has a 3-1 record with a 2.56 ERA in six starts for the Tides. Jurrjens has his own opt-out clause that allows him to become a free agent should he not be in Baltimore by June 15.

The club could also look to Rule 5 selection T.J. McFarland, who has pitched well out of the bullpen in a long-relief role so far this season.

Clark, a UMBC product, appeared in one game for the Orioles, making his major league debut in Seattle on Wednesday. The 29-year-old allowed three earned runs in 1 2/3 innings and would figure to have a good chance of passing through waivers and being outrighted to Norfolk.

In other roster news, catcher Luis Exposito has cleared waivers and been outrighted to Triple A.

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Familiar predicament emerging in back end of Orioles rotation

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Familiar predicament emerging in back end of Orioles rotation

Posted on 24 April 2013 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — The writing was on the wall for the Orioles after starting pitcher Jake Arrieta’s early struggles made it apparent he wasn’t going to stick in Baltimore.

As was the case for large portions of last season, the rotation carousel is in full motion as right-hander Josh Stinson was the first to receive an opportunity just a few weeks after being claimed off waivers from the Oakland Athletics. The 25-year-old had gone through that process two other times in the last year, giving off the impression that he’s talented enough to want but not good enough to keep for the long haul.

Manager Buck Showalter chose Stinson over other candidates Zach Britton and Freddy Garcia — citing positive reviews from Triple-A Norfolk manager Ron Johnson and Tides pitching coach Mike Griffin — and was asked whether this was a one-shot opportunity for the right-hander or if he would receive an extended look spanning a few starts. The Baltimore skipper’s response was familiar, especially when remembering the Orioles used 12 different starting pitchers last season.

“I’m looking at it as, ‘We’ll see,’” Showalter said. “Ask me after Wednesday if it was one shot. Would you like to have [only] one shot in the big leagues? I hope not. I hope he pitches well and he pitches again Monday in Seattle.”

It didn’t happen as Stinson was immediately optioned back to Triple-A Norfolk following the 6-5 extra-inning loss to Toronto to end a 6-3 homestand. Stinson showed a few impressive breaking pitches at different points but allowed four home runs and was lifted in the sixth inning. Another opportunity in Baltimore could lie ahead, but it’s clear Stinson will have to work his way back up the pecking order to do so.

Next man up to the plate — or to the hill, in this case.

As for Monday’s start, the Orioles will likely be looking at the same candidates they did this time around as these decisions are often based strongly on the timing of the start and how it coincides with the schedule of the Norfolk rotation. The club will call up an extra arm to pitch out of the bullpen for the next few days, but Mike Belfiore, their only reliever at Norfolk who is currently on the 40-man roster aside from Alex Burnett, hasn’t pitched well to begin the season. Burnett was optioned on Wednesday and isn’t allowed to be recalled for 10 days unless he is replacing a player sent to the disabled list.

Considering they’d only be bringing up a reliever for a few days, the Orioles would like to avoid making a 40-man roster move if possible.

The Orioles could also elect to simply recall Britton or select the contract of fellow Norfolk starter Jair Jurrjens and give that pitcher a couple innings on either Thursday or Friday, which would prevent an additional roster move and serve as a vessel to adjust their scheduled day to start to fall on Monday in Seattle. Garcia pitched on Tuesday night and would be going on only one extra day of rest if he’s deemed the guy for Monday, but he wouldn’t provide the same flexibility to pitch out of the bullpen for at least an additional day.

Right-hander Steve Johnson would earn strong consideration for the start under normal circumstances, but he just started a rehab assignment in Triple A on Wednesday, allowing four earned runs in five innings of work against Charlotte.

The options are there, but finding a good one is the real challenge. If any of these pitchers were proven solutions, they’d likely already be part of the Baltimore rotation or pitching elsewhere in the big leagues.

Despite the improved stability of the starting rotation entering spring training, you knew the Orioles would find themselves in this spot sooner rather than later. Their best hope is that one of the many candidates they have in the farm system can emerge in the way Miguel Gonzalez and Chris Tillman did last year.

Until then, let the plethora of roster moves begin.

End of extras streak

An incredible stretch of 17 consecutive wins in extra-inning games in the regular season came to an end on Wednesday as closer Jim Johnson walked in the go-ahead run in the 11th inning.

It was the third straight day Johnson had pitched, but his outing started strongly enough by recording three straight outs. With two outs in the 11th, he allowed two soft singles and plunked Brett Lawrie before completely losing his command and walking Maicer Izturis on four pitches to force in Toronto’s sixth run.

Some questioned whether Showalter should have sent Johnson to the mound, but the reliever had experience pitching on three straight days — doing it on a couple occasions last year — and his previous pitch counts (14 on Monday and 13 on Tuesday) were reasonable enough to put him in the game in an extra-inning situation. Perhaps Showalter is only guilty of not having Brian Matusz ready to go sooner than he did when Johnson ran into trouble.

Regardless of Wednesday’s disappointment, the streak is a reflection of the outstanding bullpen work this club has received for more than a year. Many will focus on the All-Star performance of Johnson as well as setup men such as Darren O’Day and Brian Matusz, but a variety of contributors — from long relievers to current first baseman Chris Davis — have taken the hill in extra innings and performed at a high level since last April.

The 17-game winning streak in extra frames — which didn’t include their 12-inning loss to the New York Yankees in last year’s American League Division Series — left them tied with the 1949 Cleveland Indians for the second-longest run in major league history.

Setting up for the ninth

Johnson leads the major leagues with 66 saves since Sept. 7, 2011, but he can thank O’Day and Matusz — particularly the former — for playing such pivotal roles in getting him there.

O’Day is 2-0 with a 0.36 earned run average covering his last 23 appearances (including the postseason) that spanned 25 innings. The Orioles were 19-4 in those 23 games. Opponents are hitting just .111 (9-for-81) with one home run and eight singles over that stretch.

Those numbers are a major reason why the Orioles awarded O’Day with a two-year, $5.8 million contract in the offseason.

Matusz has also thrived in a relief role since being recalled last August, excelling when it comes to cleaning up messes created by his teammates.

The left-hander relieved Johnson in the 11th and retired Rajai Davis to strand the bases loaded and leave the Orioles trailing by only one. Remarkably, he hasn’t allowed an inherited runner to score since moving to the bullpen last August. He’s stranded 10 inherited runners on base this year and has prevented all 24 inherited runners he’s encountered since the start of the 2012 season from scoring.

Many — including me — wondered whether the Orioles were making the right decision in immediately sending Matusz back to the bullpen after failing to earn a starting job in spring training. With the overall uncertainty in the back end of the rotation, it seemed wise to keep Matusz stretched out in case you needed him as a starter, but it’s difficult to argue with the overwhelming results in his late-inning role.

Odds & ends

Showalter clarified that right-hander Dylan Bundy will not see Dr. James Andrews until next Monday. The 20-year-old will be examined by team orthopedic Dr. James Wilckens in Baltimore on Thursday. He examined Bundy back on April 2 and the initial MRI came back clean in regards to his right elbow. … The Orioles bullpen threw 9 2/3 scoreless innings in the series before Johnson issued the two-out, bases-loaded walk in the 11th inning to break a 5-5 tie. … The four homers allowed by Stinson were the most ever surrendered by a pitcher making his club debut. The last Baltimore starter to give up four home runs in an outing was Jason Hammel against Toronto on May 30, 2012. … Center fielder Adam Jones went 1-for-5 and has reached base safely in 20 of the club’s 21 games to begin the 2013 season. He has at least one hit in 19 of those contests. … The Orioles are now 4-4 in one-run games after finishing with an incredible 29-9 record in that department last season.

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Orioles sign veteran pitcher Garcia to minor-league deal

Posted on 29 March 2013 by WNST Staff

PRESS RELEASE

The Orioles announced Friday that they have signed right-handed pitcher Freddy Garcia to a minor league contract.

In his 14-year major league career, Garcia, 36, is 152-101 with a 4.15 ERA (2,183.2IP, 1,006ER). He was an American League All-Star with Seattle in 2001 and 2002 and finished second in Rookie of The Year balloting in 1999, when he went 17-8 with a 4.07 ERA (201.1IP, 91ER) in 33 starts for Seattle.

Over the last two seasons with the New York Yankees, Garcia was 19-14 with a 4.29 ERA (254.0IP, 121ER) in 56 games (42 starts).

Garcia’s 152 career wins are the most by a Venezuelan-born pitcher in major league history.

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