Tag Archive | "J.J. Hardy"

Hardy, Jones, Markakis take home 2014 Gold Glove awards

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Hardy, Jones, Markakis take home 2014 Gold Glove awards

Posted on 04 November 2014 by Luke Jones

The Orioles were further recognized for their run of excellent defense over the last three years with shortstop J.J. Hardy and outfielders Adam Jones and Nick Markakis winning 2014 American League Gold Glove awards on Tuesday.

Hardy and Jones each won their third consecutive Rawlings fielding honors while Markakis won the second of his career and first since the 2011 season.

The Orioles and Kansas City Royals led the major leagues with three winners each in the 2014 season. Jones and Hardy are the first pair of teammates to win three consecutive Gold Gloves since Brett Boone and Ichiro Suzuki did it for the Seattle Mariners from 2002 through 2004.

Hardy joined Mark Belanger as only the second Orioles shortstop to win three straight Gold Gloves, but Belanger won six straight from 1973 through 1978. In 2014, the 32-year-old ranked seventh among all AL fielders in defensive wins above replacement (2.1) and ranked third among AL shortstops in fielding percentage (.978).

His three Gold Glove awards are second among active shortstops as only Philadelphia’s Jimmy Rollins (four) has more.

“This is a special award for me because of the fact that the opposing managers and coaches are the voters,” Hardy said in a statement released by the club. “Obviously, I have a lot of respect for them and their knowledge of the game. A lot of credit goes to [third-base coach] Bobby Dickerson, who puts in a lot of time and effort with us and puts us in a position to be successful.”

Jones led AL center fielders in games played (155) and ranked fourth in assists (seven) while posting a 0.8 dWAR. The 29-year-old won his first Gold Glove in 2009 and joins Paul Blair as the only Orioles outfielders to win at least four Gold Glove awards. Blair won seven straight from 1969 through 1975.

In 2014, Markakis led AL right fielders in games (147), putouts (295), and fielding percentage (1.000) while ranking second in assists (11). However, the veteran outfielder posted a -0.5 dWAR, which isn’t a great endorsement from a metric standpoint and could reflect his declining range.

Both Jones and Markakis offered credit to first-base coach Wayne Kirby for his work with the outfield.

“It is an individual award, but a lot of people contribute to it,” Markakis said. “Wayne Kirby is a great influence on the outfielders and does a great job preparing us and putting us in the right position to make plays.”

The Orioles have now won at least three Gold Gloves in three consecutive seasons for the third time in franchise history (1969-71 and 1973-76). All other major league clubs have combined for a total of three such streaks (St. Louis 2002-04, Philadelphia 1976-79, and Cincinnati 1974-77).

This year marks the 20th time the Orioles have had multiple Gold Glove winners in the same year and the 11th time in which the Orioles have had at least three Gold Glove winners in the same season. Seventeen different Orioles players have earned a total of 70 Gold Gloves since the award was created in 1957, the second-highest total for any team behind the St. Louis Cardinals (85).

The selection process is 75 percent votes submitted by managers and coaches and 25 percent defensive metrics. Manager and coaches may not vote for their own players and can only vote for the awards in their own league.

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Markakis, Jones, Hardy named Gold Glove finalists

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Markakis, Jones, Hardy named Gold Glove finalists

Posted on 23 October 2014 by Luke Jones

In what’s become an annual occurrence, the Orioles have multiple players vying for this year’s Rawlings Gold Glove awards.

Center fielder Adam Jones, right fielder Nick Markakis, and shortstop J.J. Hardy were all named finalists at their respective positions Thursday as the awards will be announced on Nov. 4 on ESPN2 at 7 p.m. with the ceremony to follow in New York on Nov. 7. The Orioles had six finalists last year, but the long-term absences of Manny Machado, Matt Wieters, and Chris Davis in 2014 led to their names being taken out of consideration.

The selection process is roughly 75 percent votes submitted by managers and coaches and 25 percent defensive metrics. Manager and coaches may not vote for their own players and can only vote for the awards in their own league.

A three-time Gold Glove winner, Jones was named a finalist along with Boston’s Jackie Bradley Jr. and Chicago’s Adam Eaton in the American League. The 29-year-old made six errors and had seven assists while accumulating 0.8 defensive wins above replacement (dWAR) this season. In contrast, Bradley committed one error and had 13 assists while posting a 2.0 dWAR, and Eaton committed four errors and had nine assists with a 1.8 dWAR.

The 2011 Gold Glove winner, Markakis will compete with fellow right field finalists Kole Calhoun of Los Angeles and Kevin Kiermaier of Tampa Bay. Markakis did not commit an error all season while collecting 11 outfield assists. However, he posted a -0.5 dWAR, which isn’t a great endorsement from a metric standpoint and could reflect his declining range.

Calhoun had one error and nine assists with a -0.1 dWAR while Kiermaier committed six errors and had five assists while posting a 1.6 dWAR.

The two-time defending Gold Glove winner at shortstop, Hardy will compete with Kansas City’s Alcides Escobar and Chicago’s Alexei Ramirez for the honor. The 32-year-old committed 13 errors while posting a 2.2 dWAR. Escobar made 16 errors and had a 0.7 dWAR while Ramirez had 15 miscues and a 0.7 dWAR.

Seventeen different Orioles players have earned a total of 67 Gold Gloves since the award was created in 1957, the highest total of any AL team and second most behind the St. Louis Cardinals’ 84.

Here is the full list of AL Gold Glove finalists:

C: Alex Avila, Yan Gomes, Salvador Perez
1B: Miguel Cabrera, Eric Hosmer, Albert Pujols
2B: Robinson Cano, Ian Kinsler, Dustin Pedroia
SS: Alcides Escobar, J.J. Hardy, Alexei Ramirez
3B: Adrian Beltre, Josh Donaldson, Kyle Seager
LF: Michael Brantley, Yoenis Cespedes, Alex Gordon
CF: Jackie Bradley Jr., Adam Eaton, Adam Jones
RF: Kole Calhoun, Kevin Kiermaier, Nick Markakis,

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Cruz on Royals: “They’re coming back” to Camden Yards

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Cruz on Royals: “They’re coming back” to Camden Yards

Posted on 13 October 2014 by Luke Jones

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — After two days of hearing questions about the inflammatory comments made by Kansas City Royals outfielder Jarrod Dyson, Orioles slugger Nelson Cruz finally bit just a little after downplaying any significance of the bulletin board material.

Dyson said after Game 2 of the American League Championship Series that he didn’t expect to return to Oriole Park at Camden Yards later in the series and that Orioles players didn’t believe they would, either. A day later during the teams’ workout at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, the reserve outfielder — who’s 0-for-2 attempting to steal bases over the first two games of the series — questioned how much fight the Orioles might have left.

Cruz was asked Monday whether he expected the series to return to Baltimore later this week, and the 34-year-old took the opportunity to finally take a veiled shot at Dyson.

“Oh yeah, ” said Cruz as he cracked a smile. “They’re coming back, too.”

To this point, the designated hitter has allowed his bat to do the talking in the playoffs as he’s hit .476 with two home runs and seven runs batted in over 22 plate appearances this October.

In 39 career postseason games, Cruz has hit an incredible 16 home runs and batted .306 with a 1.059 on-base plus slugging percentage. The veteran said the Orioles aren’t concerned with how anyone outside their clubhouse feels about their chances with a 2-0 deficit in the best-of-seven series, and they’re eager to prove it upon getting back on the field after Monday’s Game 3 postponement.

“There’s going to be talk. You can’t help it,” Cruz said. “There’s going to be talk, but you stay in the present and focus on whatever you need to focus on and whatever you can control.”

Most players have taken the high road in responding to Dyson’s confidence, but manager Buck Showalter and a couple others have taken a different approach in agreeing that the Royals have a right to feel good about themselves after winning two games at Camden Yards.

But that doesn’t mean the Orioles haven’t made a mental note as the series is now scheduled to resume on Tuesday night. And you do wonder why a player who’s had such a small role in his club’s success in Game 1 and 2 would find the need to act as the Royals’ spokesman.

“He’s trying to get his team jacked up. It is what it is,” closer Zach Britton said. “They should be confident. They played some good games, but we’re not going to let what he says dictate the way we go out and play, and we understand that.”

Gausman embracing relief role with eye on future

With Monday’s rainout, the Orioles hope to potentially find themselves planning for who might start a deciding Game 7 with the teams now set to potentially play five straight days.

That responsibility could ultimately fall on normal No. 5 starter Kevin Gausman, who’s worked exclusively out of the bullpen to this point in October. In two appearances spanning 5 1/3 innings — one outing each against Detroit and Kansas City — Gausman has allowed only one earned run and four hits while striking out six and walking two.

“I hope that we’re back here next year and the near future, and hopefully, I’m starting one of these games,” Gausman said. “That’s what I would like, obviously, in the future. But anytime you have success in the postseason, it definitely helps not only yourself but your confidence level and it says a lot about your career.”

Gausman has proven to be a valuable piece out of the bullpen after he got his feet wet in that capacity as a rookie last year. In his 15 relief appearances a year ago, the 2012 first-round pick pitched to a 3.52 ERA and struck out 11.3 batters per nine innings.

Showalter hasn’t shied away from using Gausman as more than just a long man out of the bullpen as he was trusted to keep the Orioles close in Game 2 of the AL Division Series, allowing his offense to eventually stage the comeback win. The 23-year-old was then used in Game 1 of the ALCS to keep the Orioles within one run as they tied the score while he was still in the game.

“It’s not so weird for me,” said Gausman about once again having a relief role after starting all season. “I feel like if we put any other starter down in the bullpen, it might take him a little while to get used to it. When I was told I was going out there, I wasn’t mad or upset. I just kind of took it as a challenge, and I think it’s really fun coming out of the bullpen. That’s when you have your best stuff, and you get to kind of showcase [it].”

Duquette wheeling and meal-ing

Executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette expressed confidence Monday that his club would be ready to play whenever the weather would allow the series to resume.

But he may have offered the line of the day when a reporter asked if he planned on signing anyone else to a contract extension to provide some material for media on a slow news day after Monday’s postponement.

“I’m going to sign the room service [bill] at the hotel,” he said.

Duquette signed shortstop J.J. Hardy to a three-year, $40 million extension with a vested option last Thursday.

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Orioles sign shortstop Hardy to three-year extension

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Orioles sign shortstop Hardy to three-year extension

Posted on 09 October 2014 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — On the eve of their first appearance in the American League Championship Series in 17 years, the Orioles didn’t wait to wait any longer to lock up shortstop J.J. Hardy to a three-year extension to keep him in Baltimore beyond this October.

The Orioles announced a new contract with the 32-year-old infielder Thursday evening. The deal is for three years with an option and worth upward of $40 million, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports.

“I knew that I liked it here, I knew that I liked playing with all my teammates,” Hardy said. “The whole coaching staff, I enjoyed playing for them. I believe that Dan [Duquette], Buck [Showalter], and the Angelos family, they’re all going to continue doing everything they possibly can to make this organization better. Bottom line [is] it comes down to winning, and I think we’ve got a good thing here.”

Hardy has spent the last four years in Baltimore and was in the final season of a three-year, $22.5 million extension signed during the 2011 campaign, his first with the Orioles after he was acquired in a trade with the Minnesota Twins on Dec. 9, 2010. The two-time Gold Glove winner was expected to draw heavy interest from other clubs this winter with the New York Yankees topping the list as they look to replace the retired Derek Jeter.

While the Orioles remain focused on advancing to their first World Series in 31 years, the Hardy signing crosses one item off the list of offseason priorities that still includes the impending free agency of outfielders Nick Markakis and Nelson Cruz as well as lefty reliever Andrew Miller.

“Why not now really?” said Duquette when asked about the unusual timing of the shortstop’s extension. “When we looked at the market, we thought the best chance to sign J.J. was before he went to free agency, because he’s distinguished himself as one of the top shortstops in the league, and J.J. let us know that he wanted to continue his career here in Baltimore.”

Battling back issues at two different points this season, Hardy hit .268 with nine home runs and 52 runs batted in over 141 games. The shortstop slugged 22 or more homers in each of his first three seasons with the Orioles and acknowledged his back issues impacted his swing, which likely explains the drop in power.

But Hardy’s value extends beyond his own defensive ability and power at the plate as manager Buck Showalter has credited the shortstop for playing a major role in the development of injured third baseman Manny Machado and rookie second baseman Jonathan Schoop. Baltimore has possessed one of the best defensive infields in all of baseball over the last three seasons as Hardy’s experience and baseball intelligence has helped with the positioning of fielders.

“I hope J.J. ends his career here,” Showalter said. “It makes us a better club. He’s been solid. You’re always looking for things you can count on, and you never take for granted what J.J. brings. It’s so hard to do. I’ve said it before, [but] I think he’s flashy in his own way because he’s not looking for attention. His biggest thing he wants to get out of a day’s work is a win.”

According to FOX Sports, the Orioles are also pushing to complete a contract extension with Cruz, who led the club with a career-high 40 homers and was named Most Valuable Oriole by the local media. However, Duquette said his focus remains on Game 1 of the ALCS when asked if he was working on extensions with any of the Orioles’ other scheduled free agents.

Markakis said Thursday he was unaware of any contract discussions between the Orioles and his agent.

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

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

Posted on 03 October 2014 by Luke Jones

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Orioles hoping to have Hardy back in lineup by Friday

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Orioles hoping to have Hardy back in lineup by Friday

Posted on 10 September 2014 by Luke Jones

The Orioles hope the favorable results of a magnetic resonance imaging exam will lead to shortstop J.J. Hardy’s return to the lineup as early as Friday when they welcome the New York Yankees to Camden Yards for a day-night doubleheader.

Manager Buck Showalter told reporters in Boston that Hardy met with Dr. Michael Jacobs and received a cortisone injection in the sacroiliac joint in his lower back on Tuesday. It’s similar to the treatment Hardy received in April when he experienced spasms that caused his back to lock up, and the MRI results showed no changes or structural concerns, according to the Baltimore skipper.

The injection typically requires 48 hours to take effect, which would presumably have Hardy ready to go by Friday in Showalter’s mind. Of course, the Orioles have taken great caution with their Gold Glove shortstop as a 10-game lead in the American League East entering Wednesday allows them to do.

Hardy originally experienced a lower back spasm that forced him out of a game on Sept. 1. After returning to the lineup for three contests last week, Hardy hasn’t played since last Friday as he continues to experience soreness. The 32-year-old missed six games in early April due to lower back spasms that were more severe than what he experienced last week.

In 480 at-bats this season, Hardy is hitting .281 with nine home runs, 26 doubles, and 52 runs batted in.

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Hardy to undergo MRI in Baltimore on Tuesday

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Hardy to undergo MRI in Baltimore on Tuesday

Posted on 08 September 2014 by Luke Jones

Dealing with a lingering back issue for over a week, Orioles shortstop J.J. Hardy will fly back to Baltimore to undergo a magnetic resonance imaging exam on Tuesday morning.

The 32-year-old was not in Monday’s lineup for the opener of a three-game set against the Boston Red Sox and hasn’t played since Friday’s contest against the Tampa Bay Rays. Hardy originally left last Monday’s game against the Minnesota Twins due to a lower back spasm and has played in only one game since then.

Hardy told reporters in Boston that he is still dealing with soreness despite not experiencing further spasms. He added that he would likely try to play under different circumstances, alluding to the Orioles enjoying a 9 1/2 game lead in the American League East entering Monday.

The veteran took part in some baseball activities earlier in the day in Boston before discussing the idea of undergoing an MRI with manager Buck Showalter. The Orioles remain hopeful that he’ll return to the lineup for Friday’s doubleheader against the New York Yankees at Camden Yards.

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Hardy out of Tuesday’s lineup, four more added to Orioles’ expanded roster

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Hardy out of Tuesday’s lineup, four more added to Orioles’ expanded roster

Posted on 02 September 2014 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — The Orioles began a three-game interleague series with the Cincinnati Reds without the starting shortstop in the starting lineup Tuesday.

After leaving Monday’s loss to the Minnesota Twins with back spasms, J.J. Hardy was on the bench as manager Buck Showalter wanted to give the veteran infielder an extra day to rest. Hardy told reporters following Monday’s game that the spasm did not cause his back to lock up like the one in April that forced him to miss five games.

Infielder Ryan Flaherty was starting at shortstop in place of Hardy against the Reds.

The Orioles continued their roster expansion Tuesday by recalling pitchers T.J. McFarland and Ryan Webb and catcher Steve Clevenger and selecting the contract of Triple-A Norfolk outfielder Quintin Berry. Showalter told reporters prior to Tuesday’s game that he doesn’t anticipate adding any other players unless injuries dictate a need.

While McFarland and Clevenger were recently on the roster before temporarily being optioned, Webb is making his return to the Orioles bullpen for the first time since being optioned on Aug. 1. The acquisition of left-handed pitcher Andrew Miller at the non-waiver trade deadline pushed Webb to the minor leagues where he posted a 4.76 ERA in 11 1/3 innings for the Tides. In 42 2/3 innings for the Orioles this season, the 28-year-old has pitched to a 3.80 ERA.

Berry will provide the Orioles another speedy option off the bench as he batted .285 with 25 stolen bases in 31 attempts in 112 games for Norfolk this season. Including the postseason, Berry is 29-for-29 stealing bases in his major league career, which includes stops in Detroit and Boston.

In order to make room for Berry on the 40-man roster, the Orioles placed third baseman Manny Machado on the 60-day disabled list. The 22-year-old Gold Glove winner underwent season-ending knee surgery last week.

In other injury-related news, first baseman and outfielder Steve Pearce continues to improve after suffering an abdominal strain last week. The Orioles and Pearce are hopeful that he’ll be ready to return this weekend against the Tampa Bay Rays in St. Petersburg.

After tweaking his leg on his final pitch against the Twins on Monday afternoon, Miller is day to day and may have just experienced a cramp, according to Showalter.

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Hardy leaves Monday’s game with light back spasms

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Hardy leaves Monday’s game with light back spasms

Posted on 01 September 2014 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — Shortstop J.J. Hardy lefty Monday’s game with some light back spasms in the eighth inning of the Orioles’ 6-4 loss to the Minnesota Twins.

Hardy went 0-for-3 with two strikeouts and was replaced by utility infielder Ryan Flaherty after he came around to score on catcher Nick Hundley’s three-run homer to tie the game in the bottom of the seventh. After missing five games earlier in April due to a similar ailment, Hardy did not seem overly concerned following the game and told reporters he expected to be in the lineup when the Orioles welcome the Cincinnati Reds to Camden Yards on Tuesday night.

“Earlier this year, it started with spasms, but then it completely locked up on me and I missed a week,” Hardy said. “It didn’t lock up on me [this time], so I think it’s just some light spasms. It’s probably a good thing that I got out of there.”

Hardy wondered if the heat finally hitting Baltimore over the weekend had a part in the spasms occurring. The infielder estimated he lost six or seven pounds from perspiring during Sunday’s game.

Manager Buck Showalter wanted to play it safe with his Gold Glove shortstop and described Hardy as “day to day” following the game.

“He kind of wanted to continue, but I didn’t want to take a chance of him getting any worse,” Showalter said. “I’m hoping it was just a sticky, hot day, and it caught up with him a little bit. I just wanted to be on the safe side and see what tomorrow brings. His last at-bat, I noticed he looked a little different. He said it had just tightened up on him a little bit.”

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Tillman quietly pitching like ace all summer for first-place Orioles

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Tillman quietly pitching like ace all summer for first-place Orioles

Posted on 26 August 2014 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — Five home runs and a sparkling defensive play by Adam Jones understandably drew the attention in the Orioles’ 9-1 win over Tampa Bay to snap a three-game losing streak Monday, but it’s been one of those seasons for starting pitcher Chris Tillman.

Improving his record to 11-5 and improving his streak of consecutive starts allowing three or fewer earned runs to 15, Tillman hasn’t received the same accolades he did a year ago when he was named to his first All-Star team. The 26-year-old doesn’t light up a box score with gaudy strikeout numbers, but his results have been consistent throughout the summer for the first-place Orioles.

“It comes back to being confident in my delivery,” said Tillman, who allowed one unearned run and three hits in seven innings against the Rays. “When you trust your delivery, you are not afraid to throw any pitch in any count.”

It was less than three months ago when Tillman’s mechanics were failing him as his early-inning woes knocked him out of games, making many wonder whether his impressive 16-win season from a year ago was more aberration than breakthrough. Following a disastrous one-inning start against Texas on June 5 — the second time in four outings in which he’d been chased before recording an out in the second inning — Tillman’s ERA had ballooned to 5.20, a mark higher than even that of the maligned Ubaldo Jimenez.

Whether it was finally getting over a nagging groin issue or simply working on repeating his delivery with pitching coach Dave Wallace, Tillman has been a different pitcher ever since while posting a 2.15 ERA in his last 100 2/3 innings spanning 15 starts. Only twice over the last 15 starts has Tillman failed to complete at least six innings, and the Orioles have gone 10-5 when Tillman has taken the hill over that stretch.

On Monday, Tillman lowered his season ERA to 3.41 and improved to 2-0 with a 1.71 ERA in three starts spanning 21 innings against the Rays in 2014.

“One of the keys is you see him carry a crisp fastball early in the game,” manager Buck Showalter said. “He’s had that for a while now — knock on wood. That’s usually an indicator. And the curveball is of use to him. He can get it in there.”

After so much discussion about Oakland acquiring Jon Lester and Detroit trading for David Price while the Orioles did not add a top-of-the-rotation pitcher, Tillman’s 2.15 ERA over his last 15 starts — close to a half season — stacks up favorably to Price (2.08 in 117 innings) and Lester (1.89 in 104 2/3 innings) over their last 15 outings split between their former and current clubs.

Tillman’s inconsistent start to the season forced him to play catchup for much of the summer, but there should be no debating who would take the ball for Showalter in Game 1 of a playoff series. That wasn’t the case three months ago when some clamored for Tillman to be placed on the disabled list or even to be sent to the bullpen to straighten out his woes.

Of course, the tall right-hander hasn’t been alone as the Baltimore pitching staff has sometimes carried an uneven offense that entered Monday ranking last in the American League in batting average (.231) and on-base percentage (.284) since the All-Star break while still leading the majors in home runs. But Tillman has been at the head of the class in a rotation that may not scare you in the same way that Oakland’s or Detroit’s does, but it’s a group that continues to produce results just like Tillman did Monday night.

“Every fifth day, all our pitchers have been good,” shortstop J.J. Hardy said. “But every fifth day when he takes the mound, we feel like we have a great chance to win.”

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