Tag Archive | "Jason Hammel"

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If the season ended today, how much better off would the Orioles be for the future?

Posted on 22 July 2012 by Luke Jones

With Sunday’s 4-3 win over the Indians, the Orioles ended the weekend tied for the American League wild-card lead on the heels of a five-game winning streak in Minnesota and Cleveland.

As I’ve written many times over the last few months, the 2012 season has been a fun and romantic ride for Orioles fans stricken with suffering through listless summers toward losing season after losing season. The late-inning comebacks and unlikely heroes have left nearly everyone scratching their heads in disbelief as the numbers suggest they shouldn’t be nearly as prosperous as they’ve been.

Left for dead less than a week ago after falling to only two games above .500 for the first time since April, the resilient Orioles suddenly have a pulse again with an impressive turn through the current starting rotation that started with Tommy Hunter on Wednesday and ended Sunday with Zach Britton, who tossed six shutout innings to earn his first victory of the season.

The winning streak will inevitably turn up the volume on trade deadline discussion and the Orioles’ wild-card chances, but a much louder question has sounded in my head over the last month as we’ve watched the offense struggle and Brian Matusz, Jake Arrieta, and Hunter be demoted to Triple-A Norfolk.

If the season were to end today, how much better off would the Orioles be for the future than they were at the start of the 2012 campaign?

My answer — at least entering the final week of July — sounds like the ultimate wet blanket, especially when you remember where the Orioles currently sit in the standings after 95 games.

But truthfully, I’m not sure the club is markedly improved in terms of being able to compete long-term.

Yes, we can discuss the potential psychological breakthrough of ending a spell of 14 straight losing seasons and the effect it might have on potential free agents viewing Baltimore as a more viable destination, but that only matters if majority owner Peter Angelos and executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette make the financial commitment to capitalize in the offseason.

The bullpen has been outstanding with Jim Johnson leading the way to eliminate any doubts that may have lingered last offseason about his ability to close out victories. However, the collective performance of a bullpen from season to season is as dependable as the stock market, meaning the likelihood of getting the same outstanding performances from each Orioles reliever next year and beyond is highly unlikely.

Offensively speaking, center fielder Adam Jones is enjoying a career year and received a six-year contract to keep him in Baltimore, but his production since early June has leveled off, suggesting 2012 is a year of steady improvement for the 26-year-old rather than a quantum leap to MVP candidacy on an annual basis. Catcher Matt Wieters is having another good season in becoming one of the best catchers in baseball, but his offense hasn’t taken a step forward from his first All-Star campaign a year ago. Of course, that’s not a knock on either player as they’re the Orioles’ two most dependable run producers, but we already knew that entering the season.

Aside from the surprisingly versatile Chris Davis looking like a solid — but unspectacular — everyday player, some combination of injury, ineffectiveness, and poor defense has hamstrung every other regular in the Baltimore lineup. The club needs to address multiple positions in the offseason, with the corner infield positions, second base, and left field all included.

And that brings us to the starting pitching, the area in which the Orioles have been most disappointing beyond the surprising performances of newcomer Jason Hammel and Taiwanese rookie Wei-Yin Chen. The regression of Matusz and Arrieta has been discouraging at best and devastating at worst when considering the high expectations for each pitcher.

As encouraging as this last turn through the rotation as been, I’m not ready to sign off on Miguel Gonzalez, Chris Tillman, or Britton as mainstays of the rotation a month from now let alone a year from now.

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Andino latest to join growing Orioles’ infirmary report

Posted on 15 July 2012 by Luke Jones

After announcing pitcher Jason Hammel would undergo right knee surgery, the Orioles added another to their ever-increasing MASH unit when second baseman Robert Andino left Sunday’s game with a left shoulder injury.

Andino injured himself diving for a grounder to his left in the sixth inning and will remain in Baltimore to undergo an MRI on Monday while the Orioles begin a four-game series in Minnesota. X-rays taken on Sunday were negative, and the Orioles will keep their fingers crossed that Andino’s injury is not serious.

“The trainers are telling me what [the doctors] said and what initially they think, but it’s just pure speculation until they get the pictures back,” manager Buck Showalter said. “I think we’ll be able to make a decision on it by Tuesday and where it could affect some roster things we have to do.”

The Orioles are already without second baseman Brian Roberts, who is on the 15-day disabled list and weighing having surgery on his injured hip that would likely end his season.

Andino remained optimistic following the 4-0 loss to the Tigers that he would only miss a short time and avoid the 15-day disabled list.

“For me, I don’t think I’ll go on the DL,” he said. “It should be like a few days, hopefully. For me to come out of the game, it’s got to be something. X-rays are negative. I have nothing torn, nothing separated. Just waiting for the MRI tomorrow and [I’ll] just go from there.”

With the Orioles having already sent down relief pitcher Steve Johnson to make room for Monday’s starter Chris Tillman and needing to make subsequent moves for pitcher Zach Britton on Tuesday and another starter on Wednesday, it will be difficult keeping Andino on the roster if he has to miss more than a day or two of action.

Ryan Flaherty took Andino’s place at second base on Sunday, and utility player Steve Tolleson would also figure to receive time at at the position in Andino’s absence.

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Orioles recall pitcher Steve Johnson to take Hammel’s roster spot

Posted on 15 July 2012 by WNST Staff

The Orioles Sunday announced that they have placed right-handed pitcher Jason Hammel on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to July 14, with a right knee injury and recalled right-hander Steve Johnson from Triple-A Norfolk.

In 18 starts for the Orioles, Hammel is 8-6 with a 3.54 ERA (109.1IP, 43ER).

Johnson, 24, was 3-6 with a 3.11 ERA (66.2IP, 23ER) in 15 games (20 starts) for the Tides. He was acquired by the Orioles with INF JOSH BELL on July 30, 2009 in exchange for left-handed pitcher George Sherrill.

Johnson was on the Orioles’ roster July 2-3 in Seattle, but did not appear in a game. He will be making his major league debut.

Steve, and his father, Dave, who pitched for the Orioles from 1989-91, will become the sixth father-son duo to play for the Orioles, joining Bob and Terry Kennedy, Don and Damon Buford, John O’Donoghue Sr. and John O’Donoghue Jr., Dave and Derrick May, and Tim Raines Sr. and Tim Raines Jr.

Johnson, a product of St. Paul’s School in Baltimore, will wear uniform No. 52.

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Hammel to undergo knee surgery, hopes to return in 3-4 weeks

Posted on 15 July 2012 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — Already admitting Saturday he was leaning toward having surgery on his sore right knee, Orioles pitcher Jason Hammel confirmed Sunday he would undergo a procedure to remove a piece of loose cartilage.

The right-hander was placed on the 15-day disabled list after the loose cartilage that’s bothered him all season moved into the joint while delivering a pitch in the fourth inning of Friday’s loss to the Detroit Tigers. Triple-A Norfolk pitcher Steve Johnson was recalled to take Hammel’s place on the 25-man roster prior to Sunday’s game.

“We’re going to go the surgery route,” said Hammel, who hopes to return in three to four weeks. “Obviously, it’s not what I want to do, but it’s what needs to be done. I can’t keep pitching on a bad leg and start doing things with my arm and hurting stuff there.”

Hammel is 8-6 with a 3.54 earned run average in 18 starts this season and has emerged as the club’s best starting pitcher after he was acquired from the Colorado Rockies in the Jeremy Guthrie trade shortly before the start of spring training.

While the 29-year-old hopes to return within a month, the Orioles want to be cautious in estimating when he’ll return to the mound. Manager Buck Showalter said Saturday that the surgery would likely allow Hammel to return by early September.

“It depends on who you talk to,” manager Buck Showalter said. “I’m not going to throw a blanket over [Hammel’s estimate of three to four weeks], a wet blanket. You can’t really tell until once you get in there and see if exactly what you thinks there is there.”

The surgery will be performed by team orthopedist Dr. John Wilckens at Johns Hopkins Hospital on Monday.

With Hammel now on the disabled list, the Orioles are down to just one starter from their Opening Day rotation. Though Showalter would love to see his top starter return as soon as possible, he’ll prepare for more pessimistic scenarios and will hope to be surprised along the way.

“I think it’s smart for me personally to plan that way,” Showalter said. “If you get your birthday present early, [great]. I’d rather look at the worst case. I think I’ll have a better feel for it when Dr. Wilckens gets out of there and sees what he found.”

NOTES: Showalter confirmed Triple-A Norfolk pitcher Zach Britton will make the start in Minnesota on Tuesday. Wednesday’s starter remains in question, but Showalter ruled out left-hander Brian Matusz, who will pitch for Norfolk on Sunday. Right-hander Tommy Hunter would be pitching on regular rest on Wednesday and has emerged as the leading candidate to start in Hammel’s place against the Twins. If Johnson is not used in long relief in the series finale against Detroit, he could also be a candidate to start in Minnesota.

Visit the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault to hear more from Hammel and Showalter HERE.

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Hammel leaning toward knee surgery to have loose cartilage removed

Posted on 14 July 2012 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — After undergoing an MRI that revealed the loose cartilage in his right knee has moved to a more uncomfortable place, Orioles pitcher Jason Hammel appears to be leaning toward having surgery.

No decision will be made until Sunday, but all signs point to the 29-year-old being placed on the 15-day disabled list. Hammel could elect to rest the knee in hopes that the loose cartilage will move away from the joint, which is causing him more pain than where the cartilage rested before. The MRI did not reveal any new structural damage from what he’s already been dealing with throughout the season.

“At this point, it’s kind of like a thing where you’re done dealing with it,” Hammel said. “I don’t know yet.”

Manager Buck Showalter estimated a surgical procedure would leave Hammel with a projected return in early September. His loss will further decimate a starting rotation that’s seen three of its Opening Day members sent to Triple-A Norfolk in the last two weeks.

Hammel said the knee had felt much better in recent weeks, especially after coming back from the All-Star break for a team workout on Thursday. However, he felt the cartilage move delivering a 1-2 pitch to Brennan Boesch in the top of the fourth inning of Friday night’s loss.

“It’s got to be soon because I don’t want to miss too much time,” Hammel said. “It’s a pretty simple procedure to go in there — it’d just be a regular scope. I could let it rest and I’d miss a little bit of time that way, but I think it’d be better to kind of just get it taken care of.”

With Hammel likely going to the disabled list on Sunday, the Orioles could elect to call up another bullpen arm after the entire bullpen sans Luis Ayala — who pitched 1 1/3 innings on Friday — worked in the 13-inning win over the Tigers on Saturday night.

The right-hander has been the club’s best starter in his first season in Baltimore, going 8-6 with a 3.54 earned run average in 18 starts. Hammel was one of five finalists for the American League’s “Final Vote” spot for the 2012 All-Star Game.

The latest development with Hammel will force the Orioles to continue making roster moves as Chris Tillman is scheduled to be recalled to pitch in Minnesota on Monday. The club will also need starting pitchers for Tuesday and Wednesday, with Zach Britton and Brian Matuz the likely candidates for those assignments.

“We’re going to have to make room for Tillman on Monday,” Showalter said. “The options are dwindling because [Jason] Berken pitched for [Triple-A Norfolk on Saturday].”

Reliever Steve Johnson is on the 40-man roster and hasn’t pitched since July 8, making him a strong candidate to be recalled temporarily to take Hammel’s spot on Sunday and give the Orioles an extra arm in the bullpen.

Visit the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault to hear more from Jason Hammel about his right knee injury right here.

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Unconventional turns ugly for Orioles’ second-half start

Posted on 14 July 2012 by Luke Jones

Friday night looked like a good opportunity for the Orioles to get back on track to begin the second half of their season.

Staff ace Jason Hammel was taking the hill against Detroit’s Doug Fister, who entered the night having surrendered 18 earned runs in his last 14 1/3 innings of work for the Tigers.

Right fielder Nick Markakis was returning to the lineup for the first time since late May, assuming the leadoff spot for the first time in his big-league career in an effort to boost the club’s abysmal .246 on-base percentage in the top spot this season. Regaining one of its best hitters looked like the perfect tonic for an offense that scored only 61 runs in its final 22 games before the All-Star break.

His return moved Chris Davis to left field for the first time in the major leagues, giving the club its optimal offense as the roster is presently constructed.

It looked unconventional, but maybe that was exactly what the Orioles needed to climb out of a 6-13 rut and start the second half on a high note.

Instead, the recent stretch turned even uglier with the sight of Hammel walking off the field with a right knee injury in the top of the fourth inning. The 29-year-old has dealt with soreness in that same knee for much of the season, but concern was apparent following the game in the quietest clubhouse reporters had witnessed all season.

“It took a little air out of the game,” said manager Buck Showalter while trying to remain optimistic. “One of our better pitchers had to leave early on. We had gotten back into it at 2-1 and it looked like he was going to settle in and keep us in the game.”

The Orioles (45-41) lost 7-2 to fall to just four games above the .500 mark for the first time since April 27, but a Saturday MRI on Hammel’s right knee will tell far more about the club’s second-half fate than a series-opening loss to the Tigers. Already having demoted three-fifths of the starting rotation to Triple-A Norfolk prior to the break, losing Hammel for an extended period would be a crippling blow to a club already desperate to add quality starting pitching.

Offensively, Baltimore looked as anemic as it did in the final month of the first half, making Fister look like an ace over seven innings in which he allowed three hits and struck out eight. No player exemplifies the Orioles’ struggles at the plate more than shortstop J.J. Hardy, who is now hitless in his last 23 at-bats and 18-for-130 (a .129 average) since June 6.

But Hardy is just one of many failing to get the job done at the plate.

“You want to start off [the second half] with some momentum,” Davis said. “Being at home, these are games we have to win. If we want to be serious about being a playoff team, we’ve got to win games at home, especially when we have our ace on the mound. Obviously, he left early on, but we’ve got to do a better job scoring runs.”

While Showalter waits for his offense to show signs of life — hopefully in a hurry — the Orioles will be on pins and needles waiting to hear Hammel’s fate. The pitcher did not have swelling in the knee after exiting and said through a team official he didn’t hear a pop or sound suggesting a tear when he injured himself delivering a 1-2 pitch to Brennan Boesch.

The Orioles are still saying the right things about refraining from panic, but human nature suggests it’s an impossibility at this point.

“Because of the way [Hammel’s] performed, I don’t want to throw dirt over him right now,” Showalter said. “We’re hoping that we hear something good. Our trainers and medical people have done a great job, along with Hamm. I see all the work he does between starts to keep it under control, and I’ll trust him. We’ll make a good decision, probably in the next day or so.”

Hearing Showalter speak of the air coming out of the game after Hammel’s injury and following it up with a metaphor about not wanting to throw dirt on a coffin tells you the struggles and frustration are even weighing on his mind at this point. His expressed optimism wasn’t very convincing and understandably so.

Are the Orioles now circling the drain with the potential loss of their best starting pitcher on top of the rotation struggles they were already experiencing?

Maybe not, but it’s sure feeling that way.

The Orioles need to reverse their fortunes in a hurry, but you wonder how they can if faced with a potential loss as crushing as this.

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Hammel leaves Friday’s start early with knee injury

Posted on 13 July 2012 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — Making the first start of the second half for the Orioles on Friday, Jason Hammel left the game in the top of the fourth inning with a right knee injury.

Hammel appeared to land awkwardly after delivering a 1-2 pitch to Brennan Boesch. After throwing a couple practice pitches and being examined by the training staff and manager Buck Showalter, Hammel walked gingerly to the dugout and was replaced by reliever Luis Ayala. He will be evaluated further on Saturday, the club announced.

The right-hander has dealt with right knee soreness for most of the season despite being the Orioles’ best starting pitcher. He entered the night with an 8-5 record and a 3.47 earned run average.

According to Hammel’s brother Bill, the 29-year-old felt as though something popped in his right knee but was not experiencing much swelling in the later innings of the game. The pitcher will undergo an MRI tomorrow.

Hammel and Saturday’s starter Wei-Yin Chen are the only current members of the starting rotation left from the beginning of the season after Jake Arrieta, Brian Matusz, and Tommy Hunter were optioned to Triple-A Norfolk before the All-Star break.

Given the Orioles’ starting pitching woes for much of the season, Friday’s development could be a disastrous blow to the club’s wild-card hopes should Hammel miss significant time with the injury.

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Five biggest Orioles surprises of first half

Posted on 10 July 2012 by Luke Jones

With the Orioles limping into the All-Star break after losing 13 of their last 19 games and failing to score a run in their last 22 innings, it’s becoming difficult to celebrate a remarkable start for a club from which so little was expected.

Although nearly everyone predicted Baltimore would suffer through its 15th straight losing season, the Orioles weren’t below the .500 mark at any point during the first half and haven’t dropped lower than third in the American League East, where they have just one finish higher than fourth place — third in 2004 — since 1997.

Sunday’s loss in Anaheim dropped them to a season-high seven games behind first place, but the Orioles spent 53 days in first over the course of the first half of the season. When you consider the Orioles spent a total of 37 days in first place in the previous five seasons combined — none of those outside the month of April — you’ll forgive fans for taking enjoyment despite the club’s struggles over the last few weeks.

Much focus has shifted to the biggest disappointments of the first half (I’ll cover those later this week) with the Orioles falling back to earth recently, but there have been plenty of individual surprises through the first 85 games of the season.

Here are my top five individual surprises of the Orioles’ first half:

Honorable mention: Brian Roberts’ return from concussion-related symptoms, Chris Davis, Darren O’Day

5. Troy Patton

The left-hander entered spring training out of options and knowing his future in Baltimore was in doubt before pitching 10 1/3 scoreless innings in Grapefruit League play to make the 25-man roster. Patton began the season as the only southpaw in the bullpen and has earned manager Buck Showalter’s trust in using him in late-inning situations.

Patton has a 3.46 earned run average to go along with a 1.00 WHIP (walks and hits per inning pitched) in 39 innings this season. Left-handed hitters have batted just .194 against him while right-handers aren’t much better at .233.

His versatility as a former starter has allowed Showalter to use him in longer stretches occasionally — he has five appearances of two innings or more — but Patton has made regular appearances in the seventh and eight innings of close games as a key contributor for the American League’s best bullpen (2.75 ERA).

4. Adam Jones

The All-Star center fielder got off to the best start of his career and looked like a league MVP candidate through the first two months of the season, hitting .314 with 16 home runs and 34 runs batted in over the first 51 games of the season. The fast start not only led Jones to be named to his second All-Star team but prompted the club to sign him to a six-year, $85.5 million contract in late May to keep him in Baltimore through the 2018 season.

While Jones has cooled considerably in June and July — he’s hitting .252 with four homers and 10 RBIs in his last 34 games — while battling two sore wrists, the center fielder’s willingness to commit to the Orioles for the long haul was a major win for an organization trying to escape the shadow of 14 straight losing seasons. The 26-year-old has also established himself as a leader in the clubhouse and a favorite of Showalter.

He is the clear choice for the team MVP for the first half of the season, and the Orioles will need Jones to get hot again to help jump-start an offense that’s struggled mightily over the last month. His .289 average, 20 home runs, and 44 RBIs lead the club.

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Orioles Well-represented in All-Star Game

Posted on 01 July 2012 by Luke Jones

Off to their best start in seven years, the Orioles will send  three players to the 2012 Major League Baseball All-Star Game on July 10, with a chance at a fourth.

Closer Jim Johnson, center fielder Adam Jones and catcher Matt Wieters were selected as reserves to play in the 83rd edition of the Midsummer Classic at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City. It’s the first time since 2005 the Orioles have received multiple All-Star Game selections.

Jones and Wieters were selected as reserves.

In his first full season as the Baltimore closer, Johnson has been one of the best in baseball as his 23 saves are tied for the major-league lead. The 29-year-old has blown only one save all season and has already set a career high in saves, more than doubling the 21 career saves he had prior to the 2012 season.

Johnson has only allowed five earned runs in 34 2/3 innings pitched this season, good for a 1.30 earned run average.

He is the first Orioles pitcher to be selected to the All-Star Game since George Sherrill was chosen for the 2008 All-Star Game at old Yankee Stadium.

Though narrowly missing being voted in as a starting outfielder, Jones was the most deserving of the Orioles’ selections as he’s enjoying the finest season of his seven-year career. The 26-year-old leads Baltimore in batting average (.300), home runs (19), runs batted in (41), runs (51), on-base percentage (.343), and slugging percentage (.554) and was rewarded for his tremendous play with a six-year, $85.5 million contract in late May to remain with the Orioles through the 2018 season.

Jones had a career-long 20-game hitting streak in May and became the first player since Mark McGwire in 1988 to homer in the 15th inning or later twice in the same season when he hit game-winning home runs in Boston and Kansas City in the month of May.

This is Jones’ second All-Star selection after he was selected as a representative in the 2009 All-Star Game played in St. Louis.

Named the club’s most valuable player last season, Jones is poised to break the career highs he set in 2011  with 151 games, 26 doubles, 25 home runs, 83 RBI, 12 stolen bases, 53 extra-base hits, and .466 slugging percentage.

Selected as an All-Star catcher for the second straight year, Wieters is hitting .249 with 11 home runs and 38 RBI. Though his seven errors have already surpassed the five he committed all last season, the 26-year-old has thrown out 36 percent of runners trying to steal this season.

Wieters hit his first career grand slam and tied a career high with five RBI in a win over the Chicago White Sox on April 16.

He is the first Baltimore player to be selected to consecutive All-Star Games since shortstop Miguel Tejada was chosen to play in three straight from 2004 through 2006.

The Orioles and their fans have a chance to send a fourth representative to Kansas City with P Jason Hammel a part of the five-man “Fan Vote.”

Hammel is up against Royals closer Jonathan Broxton, Angels closer Ernesto Frieri, White Sox starter Jake Peavy, and Rangers pitcher Yu Darvish.

Acquired in the Jeremy Guthrie trade that was met with much scrutiny, Hammel has emerged as the club’s best starting pitcher in 2012, going 8-3 with a 3.29 ERA in 15 starts. The right-hander has struck out 89 batters while walking 32 in 93 innings this season.

Hammel set the tone for his surprising season by carrying a no-hitter into the eighth inning of his Orioles debut in a win over the Minnesota Twins on April 8. He pitched a one-hit shutout against Atlanta on June 16 and followed that outing by allowing one unearned run in eight innings of work in a win against Washington on June 22.

Hammel may have lost a last-second push to the All-Star team. In his last start against the Los Angeles Angels, he only lasted 3 1/3 innings while allowing eight earned runs.

WNST’s Ryan Chell contributed to this report.

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