Tag Archive | "J.J. Hardy"

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Hardy, Flaherty make it through first rehab game without issue

Posted on 04 May 2015 by Luke Jones

Receiving his first live-game action since injuring his left shoulder in late March, Orioles shortstop J.J. Hardy made it through the first game of a minor-league rehab assignment without issue on Monday.

The 32-year-old went 2-for-4 with a single and an RBI double in Double-A Bowie’s 8-0 win over Akron. Hardy and infielder Ryan Flaherty began a rehab assignment that could see both return by the weekend if all goes well. Flaherty went 1-for-4 with a double in the seventh inning.

Hardy played shortstop and batted third while Flaherty hit second and manned second base.

After both players exited the game at the end of seven innings, they reported no physical concerns to reporters, which is good news for an Orioles infield that’s been devastated by injuries at the beginning of the season. Hardy received a cortisone shot in his left shoulder on April 25 after he was continuing to feel slight discomfort at the end of his follow-through when swinging the bat.

It remains unclear how many rehab games Hardy will play before he’s deemed ready to be activated by the Orioles. Flaherty is eligible to return from the 15-day disabled list as soon as he becomes eligible to do so on Friday after he was sidelined with a mild groin injury in Toronto two weeks ago.

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Machado might be best fit in leadoff spot for Orioles

Posted on 04 May 2015 by Luke Jones

Amidst the weirdness of a “home” series in St. Petersburg this weekend, the Orioles trotted out a new leadoff hitter in a series win against the Tampa Bay Rays.

Third baseman Manny Machado batted first in wins on Saturday and Sunday, his first games in the top spot in the order since doing it twice in 2013. With both Alejandro De Aza (a .219 batting average) and Everth Cabrera (.221) struggling at the plate, the 22-year-old Machado might be the best option the Orioles have for the role after the offseason departure of Nick Markakis.

It’s clear that using Machado in the No. 1 spot is something that manager Buck Showalter has considered for a while after the young infielder served in that role a number of times in spring training. His current .250 average is largely a product of an 0-for-15 start to the 2015 season as he’s batted .308 with a .927 on-base plus slugging percentage since then.

A deeper look reveals Machado might be a better fit as a leadoff hitter than most would think. He has already laid down a couple impressive bunt singles this season and leads the club with three stolen bases without being caught yet, signs that his well-documented knee concerns are hopefully behind him for good.

The biggest factor working in Machado’s favor is his improved patience at the plate. The 2010 first-round pick leads the club with 11 walks and has increased his walk rate from 5.7 percent in 2014 to 13.3 percent of his plate appearances this year. Of course, that will likely level off some as the year continues, but there’s no doubt that he’s showing more willingness to draw the base on balls since walking only 29 times in 667 plate appearances in his first full year in the majors in 2013.

So far, Orioles leadoff hitters have posted a .703 OPS while drawing only six walks — two coming from Machado in the last two games — and striking out 22 times. That’s just not what you’re looking for from the top hitter in the order who will receive more opportunities than any other spot over 162 games.

Baltimore still hopes Machado will settle into a spot in the heart of the order in the long run, but he is probably their best option as the leadoff hitter for the time being. Yes, it’s unconventional, but Showalter proved he wasn’t afraid to go a different route when he slotted Markakis in the top spot a few years ago with positive results.

Cabrera not getting it done

Shortstop J.J. Hardy beginning a minor-league rehab assignment at Double-A Bowie on Monday is great news as it appears an All-Star player is on the verge of returning to the lineup.

The Orioles have survived without Hardy through the first month of the season, but there’s no doubting they’ll welcome his production at the shortstop position where they’ve received very little so far this season. Cabrera has been acceptable defensively (three errors in 76 chances), but his .481 OPS was the third worst in the majors among qualified hitters entering Monday.

With Hardy and fellow infielder Ryan Flaherty potentially returning by the weekend, the Orioles are faced with interesting decisions with the 25-man roster. Career minor-league infielder Rey Navarro figures to be optioned, but might we see Cabrera — who has an option remaining — sent to Triple-A Norfolk as well?

Perhaps Showalter has experimented with Steve Pearce at second base this past weekend to determine whether he could be reliable enough to go with the combination of Hardy, Flaherty, and Pearce at the middle infield spots with Flaherty able to play either second base or shortstop. It would help solve — at least temporarily — a roster crunch that exists with other fringe position players such as David Lough not having any minor-league options.

Snider vs. Markakis

While no one doubted the Orioles would miss Nelson Cruz’s bat — he’s already hit 13 home runs for Seattle to lead the majors — the debate over Markakis’ departure was more interesting as most acknowledged he was already on the decline before undergoing offseason neck surgery.

In Atlanta, Markakis is hitting .292 and has drawn walks in 14.4 percent of his plate appearances, the highest walk rate of his career. However, the 31-year-old right fielder has collected just three extra-base hits — all of them doubles — and is slugging just .326 with a .720 OPS.

Travis Snider, who has seen the most time in right field for the Orioles so far, has batted .281 while posting a .773 OPS and is tied for third on the club with eight walks. Of course, Snider has struggled in the outfield with several gaffes in the early going, which you wouldn’t have seen from Markakis.

Could the Orioles use Markakis in the leadoff spot right now? Sure, but his numbers so far in 2015 don’t exactly suggest the Braves are getting the bang for their buck after awarding the former Oriole a four-year, $44 million contract. Meanwhile, Snider is making just $2.1 million and doesn’t become a free agent until after the 2016 season.

Gonzalez quietly on tear

He’s always among the first names observers talk about trying to replace, but Miguel Gonzalez continues to get the job done for the Orioles after pitching 7 2/3 shutout innings to earn his third win of 2015 in Saturday’s 4-0 final.

In the last calendar year, the 30-year-old right-hander has posted a 2.71 ERA over 159 2/3 regular-season innings. Entering Sunday, his 2.31 ERA since last year’s All-Star break was third in the American League (minimum 15 starts) behind Houston’s Dallas Keuchel (2.00) and Seattle’s Felix Hernandez (2.07).

He rarely wows you with his stuff, but Gonzalez has been as reliable as anyone for the Orioles since 2012 and is off to another good start with a 2.59 ERA this season.

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Hardy, Flaherty to begin rehab assignments Monday

Posted on 03 May 2015 by Luke Jones

The Orioles are moving closer to a healthier infield as manager Buck Showalter revealed J.J. Hardy and Ryan Flaherty are set to begin a rehab assignment Monday.

The pair will report to Double-A Bowie and could be ready to rejoin the Orioles this weekend in New York. Hardy has been sidelined with a left shoulder strain since late March while Flaherty (groin strain) is eligible to return from the 15-day disabled list as early as Friday.

Showalter said the Orioles will play it by ear with Hardy, who hasn’t received any live-game action since the Grapefruit League schedule, but his return will help solidify an infield that’s turned to the likes of Everth Cabrera, Rey Navarro, and even Steve Pearce at the middle infield positions. Flaherty ran the bases at Tropicana Field prior to Sunday’s finale without any reported concerns.

How the Orioles will handle their 25-man roster when Hardy and Flaherty are activated remains to be seen. Navarro possesses minor-league options and is a logical choice to be sent out, but the other move would be more complicated. David Lough and Jimmy Paredes are both out of options, but the latter has emerged as the everyday designated hitter over the last two weeks.

The Orioles could give up on Rule 5 pick Jason Garcia, but going with an 11-man pitching staff would only be a short-term fix.

Would Showalter continue the Pearce experiment at second base and choose to option Cabrera or Flaherty to Triple-A Norfolk? The veteran super utility player has survived thus far at his new position, but he has only been tested there for a couple games.

It should be interesting.

In other injury-related news, Matt Wieters continues to catch in extended spring training games every other day in Sarasota, but there is still no timetable for him to begin a rehab assignment with a minor-league affiliate. The three-time All-Star selection told reporters in St. Petersburg that recovery from soreness between games is still an issue.

Wieters is two weeks away from the 11-month mark from undergoing Tommy John surgery on June 17, 2014.

Left-handed relief pitcher Wesley Wright (left trapezius strain) is scheduled to pitch in his first extended spring game on May 19, according to Showalter.

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Hardy shut down for three days after receiving injection

Posted on 26 April 2015 by Luke Jones

Updated: 12:25 p.m.

BALTIMORE — After a report had suggested J.J. Hardy might begin a rehab assignment at Triple-A Norfolk as early as Saturday, the Orioles shortstop instead returned to Baltimore to receive a cortisone injection in his left shoulder.

Manager Buck Showalter told reporters after Saturday’s 5-4 win over Boston that Hardy would be shut down for three days after receiving the injection. The Orioles think the shot can alleviate the slight pain Hardy is still feeling in extending his left shoulder through the follow-through of his swing.

“We hope. We’re just trying to give it some help getting that last little discomfort out of there,” Showalter said prior to Sunday’s series finale. “We almost did it three or four days ago, but J.J. thought it was really progressing and thought it might leave while he was in Norfolk. I’m hoping this is the last step [before rehab].”

With the Orioles playing on the road last week, Hardy was working out in Norfolk and had taken live batting practice on Thursday and Friday. Showalter said Friday that the Orioles were hoping Hardy would make it through the sessions without any discomfort, signaling he would be ready to begin a rehab assignment.

Showalter estimated that Hardy would likely only need to play in three or four minor-league games before being activated. The 32-year-old strained his left shoulder in a Grapefruit League game on March 27. He has since been joined on the 15-day disabled list by middle infielders Jonathan Schoop (right knee) and Ryan Flaherty (groin).

Filling in for Hardy has been veteran Everth Cabrera, who is hitting .224 with a .466 on-base plus slugging percentage this season.

In other injury-related news, Showalter said catcher Matt Wieters is still scheduled to catch four or five innings in an extended spring training game in Sarasota on Monday.

Left-handed relief pitcher Wesley Wright (left trapezius strain) is scheduled to begin throwing in Sarasota this week.

Top pitching prospect Hunter Harvey is scheduled to throw a 25-pitch bullpen session on Wednesday. The 2013 first-round pick has been on the minor-league disabled list since suffering a fractured right fibula in late March.

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Jones, Orioles don No. 42 jerseys for Jackie Robinson Day

Posted on 15 April 2015 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — Taking part in his eighth Jackie Robinson Day at the major league level, Orioles center fielder Adam Jones still cherishes the opportunity to wear the iconic No. 42 jersey.

On Wednesday, Major League Baseball celebrated the 68th anniversary of the former Brooklyn Dodgers infielder breaking the color barrier. Just like the Orioles and the opposing New York Yankees, all uniformed personnel around the majors wore Robinson’s jersey number.

“It’s awesome. It’s bringing unity to the game,” Jones said. “This game has extreme reach due to some bravery by Jackie back in those heydays of the [1940s]. As you see in our society, racism is still there, obviously, in bigger scales than the sport of baseball. Baseball is something that unites anyone. It doesn’t matter what you are: black, white, or indifferent. It unites us as you can see how our game is very international and our clubhouse is international. This is one thing that brings us together, and that’s sports.”

Jones spent the morning as part of the panel evaluating a “self-expression” contest with the Westport Homes Boys & Girls Club. Members were challenged to express their thoughts creatively through a speech, poem, art, or skit about Robinson’s values for success, which included “citizenship, commitment, courage, determination, excellence, integrity, justice, persistence, and teamwork.”

The anniversary of Robinson’s first game in the majors always sparks discussion about the waning popularity of baseball among African-American youth, but Jones doesn’t view himself as an ambassador to simply grow the sport’s popularity. He credited the ongoing efforts of groups such as Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) program, but he’s more concerned with young people just finding positive ways to spend their time.

Jones has spent time and resources over the last several years to assist the Boys & Girls Clubs of Metropolitan Baltimore with him and the Orioles donating more than $100,000 toward the improvement of the Brooklyn O’Malley Boys & Girls Club Technology and Learning Center and the remodeling of the teen center at the Boys & Girls Club, Westport/Winans Homes Center.

“I’ve even told my nephews, ‘You don’t necessarily have to play baseball,'” said Jones, citing how so many different sports are available for youth to play today. “I’m not trying to get all African Americans to play baseball. I’m trying to get them to do something productive with themselves. Playing a sport is something that bonds you and creates so many lifetime bonds with people that you never would have had if you don’t play sports.”

The day brings special meaning for manager Buck Showalter as he remembers stories from his former minor league pitching coach Russ Meyer, who played with Robinson from 1953-1955. The late Meyer recalled to Showalter the great courage and dignity Robinson possessed both on and off the field.

The celebration is also a reminder of baseball’s ugly history in which African Americans waited for decades to prove they belonged in the majors.

“It makes me proud that we are having this special day,” Showalter said. “It doesn’t make me particularly proud when you think about how long it took.”

Hardy takes batting practice for first time

Orioles shortstop J.J. Hardy reached the final hurdle before going on a minor-league rehab assignment after taking batting practice for the first time since injuring his left shoulder on April 27.

Hardy took 18 swings in live batting practice on Wednesday and is expected to hit again at Camden Yards on Thursday before potentially going on a rehab assignment to Double-A Bowie. But that all depends on how the left shoulder responds as he has still experienced a “little catch” at the very end of his follow-through.

The 32-year-old infielder says it’s been tricky differentiating soreness related to the shoulder strain from normal soreness that comes from not swinging a bat for an extended period of time.

Hoping to be playing with Bowie as early as Friday, Hardy doesn’t anticipating needing many at-bats in order to get ready to rejoin the Orioles since he was healthy for most of spring training.

Pearce, Davis scuffling

After a red-hot start to the season that included two home runs in his first two games, Steve Pearce was out of Wednesday’s lineup while mired in a 2-for-26 slump that includes eight strikeouts over that time.

Pearce has already played both corner outfield spots and first base as well as serve as the designated hitter in the Orioles lineup this season, but he started a game on the bench for the first time since last year.

The right-handed hitter isn’t the only one struggling at the plate as first baseman Chris Davis has only one hit in his last 14 at-bats and has struck out nine times over that stretch. He was dropped to sixth in the order against Yankees lefty CC Sabathia on Tuesday, but he batted fifth on Wednesday night.

Injury updates

Catcher Matt Wieters (right elbow) threw from 120 feet, caught three bullpen sessions as well as the starting pitcher, and had five at-bats in a simulated game in Sarasota on Wednesday.

Utility player Jimmy Paredes (lower back) played right field in an extended spring game in Sarasota and will now travel back to Baltimore. He is expected to meet with Showalter and take batting practice at Camden Yards on Thursday and could report to Bowie later that evening or by Friday to begin a rehab assignment.

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Orioles place left-handed reliever Wright on DL

Posted on 11 April 2015 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — Faced with a crowded bullpen to begin the 2015 season, the Orioles will now have that problem alleviated in a way they didn’t anticipate.

Left-handed pitcher Wesley Wright has been placed on the 15-day disabled list with a left trapezius strain. The reliever disclosed the injury after pitching 1 1/3 innings in Friday’s 12-5 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays.

“After we see the [doctor], we’ll know what the next step will be,” said Wright, who revealed Friday that he’s been dealing with the issue for a few days. “I’m hoping that it’s something that can get taken care of kind of quickly and hopefully I can be back on the field soon. It wasn’t worse, so I’ll take that aspect of it. I knew the way I felt yesterday, it was going to take something dramatic for me to feel a lot better this morning. When I woke up, I felt basically the same.”

In two appearances, Wright has allowed one earned run and two hits in 1 2/3 innings with his new club.

It remains unclear how long Wright will be sidelined, but the Orioles recalled pitcher Eddie Gamboa from Triple-A Norfolk to take his place in the bullpen just in time for Saturday’s game. Outfielder David Lough (hamstring) is expected to be activated from the DL in the coming days, but the Orioles intend to send him on a brief minor-league rehab assignment with Single-A Frederick beginning Sunday.

Unlike other options on the 40-man roster who had pitched in the last day or two, Gamboa is fresh and can provide the Orioles with length in the bullpen for however long he remains in Baltimore. The 30-year-old knuckleballer is scheduled to start for the Tides on Monday, but that will depend on whether manager Buck Showalter will need to use him over the next couple days.

In 2014, Gamboa went a combined 5-7 with a 3.81 ERA in 108 2/3 innings split between Norfolk and Double-A Bowie. He has never appeared in the majors in his seven-year professional career.

Left-handed pitcher T.J. McFarland could have been recalled as he was the scheduled starter for Norfolk on Saturday, but the Orioles prefer giving him some regular work in Triple A to begin the season. Right-hander Mike Wright remains on the club’s radar, but he started for Norfolk on Friday and touched 99 miles per hour at one point, according to Showalter.

In other injury-related news, catcher Matt Wieters (elbow tendinitis) took batting practice from both sides of the plate in Sarasota on Saturday. He is expected to throw from 120 feet and catch batting practice on Sunday.

“That was all encouraging to hear,” Showalter said. “We’ll see how he feels tomorrow, but that’s kind of moving [forward] a little bit.”

Shortstop J.J. Hardy continues to progress but is feeling slight discomfort in his left shoulder at the very end of his follow through when swinging. Showalter doesn’t want him to be thinking about that when he’s hitting, which means the Orioles won’t rush him to go on a rehab assignment until he’s fully ready.

“I want to get it right the first time. I don’t want him to feel like he has to rush,” Showalter said. “It’s like Matt — I want to get it right the first time and not have to look back and worry about it. But I like where he is with it right now.”

Infielder Jimmy Paredes (lower back) is expected to play in an extended spring training game on Monday. If that goes well, he could go on a minor-league rehab assignment in Frederick next week.

Pitching prospect Hunter Harvey (broken fibula) completed two sets of 25 throws from 60 feet on Saturday. He hasn’t pitched since he was struck in the ankle with a comebacker in minor-league spring training late last month.

Below are Saturday night’s lineups:

TORONTO
SS Jose Reyes
CF Dalton Pompey
RF Jose Bautista
DH Edwin Encarnacion
3B Josh Donaldson
C Russell Martin
1B Justin Smoak
LF Kevin Pillar
2B Devon Travis

SP Aaron Sanchez (2014 stats: 2-2, 1.09 ERA)

BALTIMORE
LF Alejandro De Aza
RF Steve Pearce
1B Chris Davis
CF Adam Jones
DH Travis Snider
3B Manny Machado
2B Jonathan Schoop
SS Everth Cabrera
C Caleb Joseph

SP Ubaldo Jimenez (2014 stats: 6-9, 4.81 ERA)

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Hardy still taking it slow with left shoulder

Posted on 10 April 2015 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — Beginning their 24th season at Oriole Park at Camden Yards, the Orioles hope the weather will cooperate as they host the Toronto Blue Jays in their home opener on Friday afternoon.

An overcast setting accompanied by a forecast of afternoon thunderstorms provided the topic of conversation, but the Orioles hope to continue their run of success in home openers at Camden Yards as they are 17-6 since 1992. Baltimore owns a 41-20 combined record in home openers dating back to 1954.

Though currently on the 15-day disabled list after suffering a left shoulder strain in late March, shortstop J.J. Hardy continues to make progress as the club hopes to send him on a minor-league rehabilitation assignment next week. On Thursday, Hardy took swings with a fungo bat and expressed no major concerns to reporters the following morning. The plan is for Hardy to swing once again on Friday — potentially with his regular bat or even hitting off a tee.

This is considered the final hurdle as his shoulder has responded well to all other baseball-related activity.

“We still have to take it day by day and see how I feel,” Hardy said. “We’re not putting a time limit on it, because it puts more pressure on it. It’s definitely getting better.”

Outfielder David Lough (left hamstring) is expected to play in an intrasquad game in Sarasota on Friday. Manager Buck Showalter said the plan is to send Lough to Single-A Frederick for a rehab assignment as early as Saturday, but the Orioles have left open the possibility of activating him from the DL this weekend.

Below are the lineups for the home opener:

TORONTO
SS Jose Reyes
CF Dalton Pompey
RF Jose Bautista
DH Edwin Encarnacion
3B Josh Donaldson
C Dioner Navarro
1B Justin Smoak
LF Kevin Pillar
2B Devon Travis

SP Mark Buehrle (2014 stats: 13-10, 3.39 ERA, 1.36 WHIP)

BALTIMORE
SS Everth Cabrera
LF Steve Pearce
CF Adam Jones
1B Chris Davis
DH Delmon Young
3B Manny Machado
RF Travis Snider
2B Jonathan Schoop
C Caleb Joseph

SP Bud Norris (2014 stats: 15-8, 3.65 ERA, 1.22 WHIP)

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Five things that can’t happen for 2015 Orioles

Posted on 03 April 2015 by Luke Jones

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. The worm turns on the health of the pitching

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

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

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

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

2. Corner outfield spots become a wasteland

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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2015 Orioles preview: Everth Cabrera

Posted on 30 March 2015 by Luke Jones

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

March 9 – Adam Jones
March 10 – Chris Tillman
March 11 – J.J. Hardy
March 12 – Zach Britton
March 13 – Chris Davis
March 14 – Wei-Yin Chen
March 15 – Jonathan Schoop
March 16 – Travis Snider
March 17 – Kevin Gausman
March 18 – Alejandro De Aza
March 19 – Tommy Hunter
March 20 – Manny Machado
March 21 – Brad Brach
March 22 – Steve Pearce
March 23 – Darren O’Day
March 24 – Caleb Joseph
March 25 – Wesley Wright
March 26 – Delmon Young
March 27 – Miguel Gonzalez
March 28 – Ryan Flaherty
March 29 – Ubaldo Jimenez

INF Everth Cabrera

Opening Day age: 28

Contract status: Under contract through the 2016 season

Minor-league options remaining: One

2014 stats (with San Diego): .232/.272/.300, 3 HR, 20 RBI, 36 R, 18 SB, 391 PA

Why to be impressed: Before the Biogenesis scandal in 2013, Cabrera was in the midst of a superb season in which he posted a .736 on-base plus slugging percentage and was named to his first All-Star Game. Cabrera has stolen 99 bases in 300 games over the last three seasons, bringing some much-needed speed to the Baltimore roster for the 2015 season.

Why to be concerned: Beyond the 50-game suspension in 2013, Cabrera has dealt with a number of injuries and was limited to just 90 games a year ago. When he did play, the switch-hitting infielder posted an anemic .572 OPS and collected only 17 extra-base hits in 391 plate appearances. Manager Buck Showalter would like to see the veteran shortstop become a utility player, but he has all of 12 career games at second base and just one at third base.

2015 outlook: With J.J. Hardy expected to begin the season on the 15-day disabled list, Cabrera is now all but guaranteed to make the 25-man roster and should have an opportunity to see time at shortstop along with Ryan Flaherty. His speed and defense can be assets to the roster, but he will need to show he’s more like the player he was in 2013 than last year in order to stick on the roster once Hardy returns. If he’s healthy, a .640 OPS seems reasonable along with 15 stolen bases in a part-time role.

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Hardy likely to begin season on 15-day disabled list

Posted on 30 March 2015 by Luke Jones

It appears the Orioles will be without a second former All-Star selection for Opening Day as shortstop J.J. Hardy is likely to go to the 15-day disabled list with a left shoulder injury.

A magnetic resonance angiogram Monday showed a subscapularis strain that is expected to keep the 32-year-old sidelined from baseball activities for 10 days, according to manager Buck Showalter. However, the injury is not expected to keep the three-time Gold Glove winner out for long as he could return shortly after his first day of eligibility on April 11.

The veteran infielder injured his left shoulder diving for a ground ball on Friday, but told reporters Monday morning that he was feeling much better and hoped to be ready for the season opener.

Hardy is the second starting position player who won’t be ready for the start of the year as it remains unclear when catcher Matt Wieters will be ready to return to action after he was shut down with right elbow tendinitis on March 18.

With Hardy unavailable for the start of the season, the Orioles will likely keep both Ryan Flaherty and Everth Cabrera on the 25-man roster as either would be an option to fill in at shortstop. It was previously believed that only one would have a spot on the roster to begin the season.

In 30 at-bats this spring, Hardy was hitting .233 with two doubles and three runs batted in.

 

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