Tag Archive | "Jeremy Guthrie"

Five biggest Orioles surprises of first half

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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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Can the Orioles learn from the Rockies?

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Can the Orioles learn from the Rockies?

Posted on 28 June 2012 by James Finn

Sports is a world of copycats.  Success is often followed by competitors trying to emulate your formula for success.  2008, when Ronnie Brown and the Dolphins found success with the “Wildcat” offense, 31 other NFL teams were trying to figure out a way to work that into their plan.  Tony LaRussa is credited for creating the 9th inning “Closer” role, now standard for all teams.  Even with R.A.Dickey’s success with the knuckle-ball, I’ll bet dimes to dollars there is a former pitcher in his mid-40′s trying to learn that pitch, to maybe return to the league to collect his 300th win (I’m looking at you, Mussina). Imagine Basketball without a fast-break offense, Football without the Forward Pass. Tthe Mighty Ducks without the Flying V.  Maybe I’m getting carried away.

Truth be told, everyone is looking for something that works.  Those willing to be the scapegoat for something new toe the line of risk/reward.  And ultimately, if your new way works, expect someone else to steal your method for their own gain.

The Orioles and Rockies have a direct connection this season.  They traded away veteran hurler, and all around good guy, Jeremy Guthrie for Jason Hammel and Matt Lindstrom.  Then, earlier this month, acquired former Oriole Jamie Moyer after the Rockies put him on waivers.  The birds seem to be the winners in the trade, as Guthrie’s struggles have relegated him to the bullpen, while Hammel, despite last nights outing, has been a standout in the rotation, and Lindstron, prior to injury, had a microscopic 1.29 ERA out of the bullpen (he was reactivated yesterday afternoon). Moyer, after a trio of starts at Norfolk, was released, as there wasn’t room on the 25 man roster for him.

Perhaps the Orioles, and every team for that matter, should look a little closer at what the Colorado is doing with their pitching staff.

The Rockies have begun an experiment where they are working with a 4-man starting rotation. Granted, a 4-man rotation is not something new, as it was the standard will about the 1980′s. But their approach to carrying 4 starting pitchers is unique,  where each starter would be held to a strict 75 pitch count, after which, they would rely heavily on the Bullpen.  When they made this move on June 19th, the Starters were 3-30 with a 6.28 ERA, compared to the bullpen, with a 12-10 record , 4.00 ERA.

The execution behind this radical idea is that with the limited pitch count, the starter would have reduced wear-and-tear, and be able to go every 4th day.  Guthrie, always know as a pitcher who can eat a lot of innings, alongside Guillermo Moscoso, would come in for long-relief stints, keeping short relievers fresh.  The Rockies are 3-6 since announcing this change, and while it’s too soon to see the long term effects, you have to commend them for trying to salvage their season.

The Orioles, however, are statistically the best bullpen in baseball.  Johnson is unstoppable, Strop is a future big-name closer, and situational relievers O’day, Ayala, and whatever other moving pieces come in and out of the pen have just worked.  Rick Adair has done a stand-out job managing his boys this season. Our staring pitching, however, has been laughable at times. 3 of our starting pitchers from this season have ERAs in the bottom 5 of the AL.  With only 2 of our starters (Hammel and Chen) being consistently effective, maybe it’s time for Buck to think outside the box.

Should this method work, we could see Chen and Hammel take the bump every 50% of the time.  Sooner then later, we could have a healthy Zach Britton promoted to the 25-man roster. Arietta and Matusz have shown they can be effective early in games, but as picth counts escelate, the crumble quickly. Theoretically, a 75 pitch count should take a starter to the 5th inning, as 15 pitches per inning is optimal, 4 innings of relief is about on par with how our pitchers have worked this season.

Granted, the long term effects of this could be catastrophic.  Damaging our young arms with an untested experiment would not be a popular decision around town.  And all it could take is another Extra Inning game to throw everything out of whack. But what if it works?  What if all that thin air in Colorado cleared their minds, and allowed them to see the next evolution in the way pitching is done in the big leagues, and we jumped on the bandwagon too late. This could fail miserably, or, could be the greatest thing since the “Flying V”.

What are your thoughts?

@JamesTFinn

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Dämmerung

Posted on 13 May 2012 by Erich Hawbaker

Well, the Birds overcame a 7-1 deficit and came within an out of sweeping the Rays on Mothers’ Day 2012. Quite a different story than the infamous Mothers’ Day Massacre up in Boston a few years ago (in case you’ve forgotten that one, poor Jeremy Guthrie took a 5-0 shutout into the bottom of the 9th inning only get pulled from the game and watch the bullpen give up 6 runs; it was also the beginning of the end for Sam Perlozzo’s managerial career). But thusfar, this Orioles team has made it easier to put that one and the 13 others like it behind us.

If you had told me in March that the Orioles would ever be 10 games over .500 this year or would have the best bullpen ERA in baseball, I would ask you when the mother ship was going to pick you up. Is it really that hard to figure out? When you have good pitching, you can win most of the time. Of course, a potent offense doesn’t hurt either, but as we’ve seen plenty of times before, hitting alone isn’t enough when your pitchers can’t hold the lead.

And so, the big question inevitably becomes whether or not the O’s can keep this up all the way thru the season. Your guess is as good as mine. It’s the same kind of nervous optimism you get playing poker when you have pocket kings and an ace comes on the flop. From the beginning, I’ve been enough of a cynic to believe that this phenomenally hot start is going to cool off sooner or later. But at the same time, I can’t deny that being an Orioles fan right now is more fun than it’s been in over a decade. They’re getting the big hits when they need them. They’re playing good defense. And perhaps most importantly, they’re NEVER out of the game until the last out is recorded.

Only time will tell. But if current trends continue, the Orioles are on pace to win 96 games this year. Maybe, just maybe, the baseball gods are finally smiling on Baltimore again. Heaven knows we’ve waited and suffered long enough. But I’ve also heard it said that the devil’s greatest achievement is making people believe that he doesn’t exist. And, although it’s easy to forget right now, Peter G. Angelos is still running this show.

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Orioles still may have won out in Guthrie trade, but tough to see guys like this leave

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Orioles still may have won out in Guthrie trade, but tough to see guys like this leave

Posted on 26 April 2012 by WNST Audio

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Early return on Guthrie trade looking better than ever imagined for Orioles

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Early return on Guthrie trade looking better than ever imagined for Orioles

Posted on 26 April 2012 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — Even the most optimistic fans struggled with the Orioles’ decision to trade de facto ace Jeremy Guthrie to the Colorado Rockies for what looked like a slightly-younger journeyman starter and a decent reliever in the days leading to the start of spring training.

A trade should always fulfill some combination of three purposes — to get better, younger, or cheaper — and the return of Jason Hammel and Matt Lindstrom didn’t seem to fulfill any of those stipulations in an overwhelming capacity short of Hammel being a few years younger than Guthrie and the club gaining an extra year of control of a starting pitcher.

Needless to say after four starts — and it is only four starts — the addition of Hammel is looking like an impressive feather in the cap of executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette after an offseason that lacked a major splash and included plenty of curious moves.

Hammel was dominant once again on Wednesday, pitching seven shutout innings and striking out seven as the Orioles blanked the Toronto Blue Jays 3-0 to improve to 4-1 against the team who owned more wins against them in the last two seasons than any American League East foe. The 29-year-old set the tone for his impressive start by carrying a no-hitter into the eighth inning on the first Sunday of the season and has continued that success with a 1.73 earned run average in his first 26 innings with the Orioles.

“I continue to work hard and pay attention to the league,” said Hammel in trying to explain the improvement after posting a 4.76 ERA with the Rockies last season and a 4.81 mark the year before. “I’m still learning a new league and seeing what everybody else is doing.”

The right-hander had the reputation in the past for relying too much on his plus-slider and curveball but didn’t have enough trust in his fastball, which has consistently sat in the low 90s. An improved feel for a two-seamer has allowed Hammel to pitch down in the strike zone, inducing ground balls and keeping hitters off balance with outstanding movement.

Despite averaging just over six strikeouts per nine innings in his first six seasons, Hammel has struck out 25 batters in 26 innings, baffling hitters with a mix of five different pitches.

“He doesn’t get too far ahead of himself,” manager Buck Showalter said. “It’s kind of like being on the 16th hole and thinking about the 17th and 18th hole. He’s dwelling on what he’s playing. If something happens that means he’s got to face another hitter, he goes and gets it.

Though he struggled in his final two seasons with the Rockies, Hammel took away valuable lessons he’s now applying at homer-happy Camden Yards. With Wednesday’s win to improve his record to 3-0 on the season, Hammel has now allowed one earned run in 15 innings of work at his home ballpark.

“In Colorado, you’ve got to keep the ball down,” Hammel said. “Coming over here — another hitter’s park — the focus should be the bottom of the zone, anywhere you pitch. But I really, really started to put a lot of emphasis on making sure my misses are going to be down.”

Just over two months later, it’s fair to say the early return on the trade has favored the Orioles as Guthrie has stumbled out of the gate with a 5.92 ERA in his first four starts for the Rockies. On top of Hammel’s success, Lindstrom was a key part of Wednesday’s win with a dominant eighth inning in which he fanned Yunel Escobar and Jose Bautista.

Lindstrom has pitched 8 1/3 scoreless innings in seven relief appearances.

“So far, it’s good,” said Showalter about the trade. “Jeremy’s going to pitch really well over there. He already is. You hope it works out for both teams, so the next time you have something in mind, we [can] look at it as quality for quality.”

Considered a slightly-worse version of Guthrie by those trying to put a positive spin on an otherwise unpopular trade when it was first made, Hammel has easily been one of the best pitchers in the American League in April.

And while it’s unreasonable to expect him to continue pitching with the same success, perhaps the Orioles have spun a former diamond in the rough in Guthrie for another one.

“For a long time, it took me a while to build confidence,” Hammel said. “I got hit around a bit. Only when I started to care about being a pitcher did my confidence go up. Obviously, the results are showing. I’m not overconfident, but I know what I need to do to be successful.”

In his first month with his new team, whatever he’s doing differently is definitely working.

Visit the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault to hear more from Jason Hammel here.

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Arrieta eager to take next step in taking hill for Orioles on Opening Day

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Arrieta eager to take next step in taking hill for Orioles on Opening Day

Posted on 05 April 2012 by Luke Jones

Former major league manager Roger Craig said it best in describing starting pitchers taking the mound for their respective teams on Opening Day.

There are Opening Day pitchers and pitchers who start on Opening Day.

With all due respect to Jake Arrieta, most would say he’d fall into the latter category as he prepares to take the hill against the Minnesota Twins to begin the 2012 season on Friday. The 26-year-old started the home opener last year and now takes the next step after former No. 1 pitcher Jeremy Guthrie was dealt to the Colorado Rockies shortly before the start of spring training.

It’s an honor that Arrieta isn’t taking lightly, even with the Orioles expected to once again lag behind the rest of the American League East.

“To be the guy who represents the team as the Opening Day starter is a big deal,” Arrieta said. “I’m very appreciative of the opportunity, and I’m looking forward to setting the tone for the year.”

It’s a tone Arrieta hopes is drastically different from the end of last season when he missed the final two months due to elbow surgery. The right-hander arrived in Sarasota healthy and won the Opening Day competition put forth by manager Buck Showalter despite an up-and-down spring.

Arrieta pitched to a 6.14 earned run average in 14 2/3 Grapefruit League inning, which included two poor starts against the Pittsburgh Pirates. However, the most encouraging sign for the former TCU standout was pitching without pain in his right elbow for the first time in years. It resulted in a fastball that sat in the mid-90s and occasionally reached 97 miles per hour in a couple outings.

His talent has never come into question despite a 4.88 career ERA in his first 40 major league starts where he compiled a 16-14 record.

“Jake’s always had great stuff,” catcher Matt Wieters said. “Now, it’s just a matter of him maturing and getting to where he can give us the best chance to win. I think Jake’s done a great job this offseason of really taking that No. 1 spot and really feeling like he can go out there and win every time out there.”

His command has plagued him throughout his career, as Arrieta has averaged 4.4 walks per nine innings pitched in the major leagues. Pitching into deep counts has often elevated his pitch count and forced early exits — even in games in which he was pitching well.

Arrieta struck out 12 and walked only four batters in his spring outings, an average of 2.45 per nine innings.

And his position players have taken notice, including Adam Jones who recalled Arrieta’s superb command in one of his poor outings this spring. The center fielder told him he wasn’t concerned with the results but liked what he saw from him on the mound.

“He was attacking the zone with all his pitches,” Jones said. “Most importantly, that’s what you want — somebody out there throwing strikes and using his defense. You’re going to get hit; that’s the name of the game. Somebody’s going to hit you — they’re going to hit you. If you go out there throwing strikes and not walking people and you let us play for you, that’s all we ask as position players.”

That new approach will enable the 6-foot-4 pitcher to get deeper into games and give his team a better chance to win after he posted a 10-8 record and a 5.05 ERA in 18 starts last season.

With the elbow surgery and discomfort behind him, the next phase of Arrieta’s career begins on Friday as he tries to take control of the top of the rotation.

And show everyone he’s an Opening Day pitcher, not the guy pitching on Opening Day.

Of all the Orioles’ young pitchers, Arrieta appears the most ready when it comes to demeanor and mental toughness, but going out and doing it is a different story.

“There’s really no nervousness,” Arrieta said. “I’m just ready for the moment.”

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Orioles’ Britton dealing with sore pitching shoulder

Posted on 15 February 2012 by Luke Jones

With pitchers and catchers set to report to Sarasota to begin spring training this weekend, the Orioles will be monitoring the health of perhaps their most promising young pitcher.

Speculation began Wednesday morning regarding the health of Britton’s left shoulder as he begins his second season in the big leagues. Former Orioles executive and MLB.com analyst Jim Duquette used his Twitter account to disclose that the left-handed pitcher would be limited at the start of spring training due to a lingering shoulder issue.

“We are currently monitoring Zach Britton,” executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette said in a team statement. “He has already reported to spring training and is scheduled to begin his throwing progression this Friday.”

Britton was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a left shoulder strain on Aug. 5 but returned Aug. 22, spending just over the minimum of 15 days out of action. The 24-year-old went 11-11 with a 4.61 earned run average in 154 1/3 innings over 28 starts. Upon his return to the active roster in late August, Britton made eight starts, finishing with a 5-2 record and a 4.47 ERA over that season-concluding stretch.

It’s premature to panic over Britton’s status, but it certainly isn’t an uplifting introduction to baseball season after a disheartening offseason of little activity in the way of acquiring major-league talent. The fact that Britton finished the season with no apparent limitations following the August bout on the disabled list makes this news even more perplexing, but it wouldn’t be the first time a pitcher potentially pitched through a lingering injury.

With the Orioles trading veteran mainstay Jeremy Guthrie to the Colorado Rockies last week, Britton was considered a strong candidate to start on Opening Day, but the questions now surrounding his health will put those aspirations on hold for now.

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BradyAnderson_display_image

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Orioles Warm Stove

Posted on 12 February 2012 by Tom Federline

Is the baseball stove even on? I know last week Dan Donesquat had my oven on fire. In the matter of a few days, I had heard the Orioles had hired Brady Anderson back (to teach how NOT to get caught?), let Jeremy Guthrie go (only reliable arm they had) and were talking to Manny ‘Steroid Hair” Ramirez for a comeback. After the Ramirez announcement – I tuned out. I actually turned off the radio when I heard ”Duquette talks with Ramirez.”  The first words out of my mouth were – are you kiddin’ me? Have to admit, I embellished that statement and even made myself laugh. Warm stove, hot stove, or no stove, just what is going on?

Am I quick on the trigger with my play on the O’s new GM’s name, Dan Donesquat? I attempted an Opening Day line-up and realized there really was no apparent DH. The former Boston BlowSox GM has made some moves, so he has done…………….. something. The O’s have 40 some guys claiming to be pitchers. I guess he is banking on fresh new arms, the farm system to pick up the slack and surprises galore. So let’s just say, it “appears” as if our new GM has done squat. I’m an O’s fan. I have orange kool-aid year round in my kitchen cabinets. But haven’t the orange faithful been down this road way to many times?

Brady is coming back! Director of Player Developement and Conditioning. Here I go again – Are you kiddin’ me? (laugh). So now the boys can learn how to take steroids, pay the right testing lab and NOT get caught. I was a Brady Anderson fan. It’s a shame he earned his way to get thrown in with 75% of all the other steroid using athletes in the 90′s.  Are the O’s resurging with the leagues oldest lead-off hitter? The O’s need one.

 

Wait a minute Donesquat I get it – so when you sign Ramirez and thank him for putting you on the map back in Boston – he will be the antithesis to Brady on steroid use. Ramirez can teach how to get caught on juice when you get greedy. Or will Ramirez be here to teach hair care? Maybe Ramirez will be the DH? Ok, I have to stop. No steroid hair.

Jeremy Guthrie gone. I get he is coming up on the last year of his contract. Had another “hard luck” year. A little arm soreness, a friend of the long ball, age, need to change the gaurd, etc. Who was the O’s “go to” guy these last few years? Who ate up innings with “quality starts”? Who was the only guy on that pitching staff, you could say when it was his turn in the starting rotation, “At least we have a shot tonight?” I guess you are a gambling man Dan Donesquat. We are anxious to see. And good ole Jeremy Guthrie, my advice to you is, you’re just “Gonna Walk and Don’t Look Back” – (Peter Tosh and Mic Jagger – great duet). Good luck in Rockies land, you deserve it.

Opening Day line-up (proposed as of today): 1. Robert Andino – 2b (Roberts is done). 2. J.J. Hardy – SS (Thanks you Andy Didfail). 3. Adam Jones – CF (our hope). 4. Chris Davis – (Designated Hitter – found ‘em). 5. Nolan Reimaold – RF (please make it this year). 6. Matt Weiters – C (solid). 7. Wilson Betemit – 3b (Dan Duquette safety). 8. Mark Reynolds – 1b (will he top 200 K’s this year). Endy Chavez – RF (who?). Opening Day Starter – Jake Arietta (our hope). I also heard we got a Tippy Martinez clone in this Tsuyoshi Wada (who?) Injured Reserve – Nick Markakis Future HOF (1/3 of year),  Brian Roberts (indefinite /let go?).

Injured Reserve – Markakis’ abdominal surgery may be more than he bargained for. Hopefully not. Last year Ryan Zimmerman from the Washington Nationals, had a similar injury and played in 101 games. Grant it, on a different timetable. Zimmerman probably coasted during the 2011 off-season and spring training, then became injured beginning of April. We take our stomach muscles and knees for granted. Brain Roberts is a mess. A self inflicted bat to the head, a head first slide into first? What aren’t they telling us?

It finally turned cold. I need something on the stove and in the fireplace to keep me warm, preferably hot. It sure isn’t the Orioles. Actually, the nut ball fan that I am, I believe the O’s have a good base. I thought they did last year and the year before that and the year before that. I would love to take back my nickname for the new O’s GM and praise his rolling of the dice. But the story is all to familiar. We all know the trouble starts at the top with Mr. Please Free the Birds Angelos. Maybe Dan’s hands are tied. Maybe Dan was just tired of being re-tired. Maybe Baltimore O’s fans are due for a few surprises. Maybe I’ve already started drinking to much orange kool-aid.

End on a positive - The cartoon bird is back! And I do like the 20 years at Camden Yards site, here’s the link http://orioles.mlb.com/bal/camdenyards20/index.jsp .  

D.I.Y.

Fedman

 

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With Guthrie gone from rotation, Britton ready to step up for Orioles

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With Guthrie gone from rotation, Britton ready to step up for Orioles

Posted on 06 February 2012 by Luke Jones

The news of the Orioles dealing veteran pitcher Jeremy Guthrie to Colorado for pitchers Jason Hammel and Matt Lindstrom has predictably been met with lukewarm reaction.

Executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette traded the only mainstay of the Baltimore rotation over the last five years for a 29-year-old starter who was moved to the Rockies bullpen late last season and a soon-to-be 32-year-old reliever. Not only did the Orioles fail to add a potential prospect for the future — they do gain an extra year of control with Hammel over Guthrie, who will become a free agent after the 2012 season — but the trade cannot even be qualified as a salary dump with the two newcomers set to make a combined $8.35 million in 2012.

As perplexing as the move is in terms of short-term loss and minimal long-term gain, the Orioles are now looking at a starting rotation without the veteran leadership or innings the hard-luck Guthrie provided. Though Hammel threw 170 1/3 innings for the Rockies in 2011, left-hander Zach Britton logged the most innings of any returning Orioles pitcher after the 24-year-old completed 154 1/3 innings in his rookie season.

With Guthrie having thrown 200 or more innings in each of the last three seasons, the Orioles will need their young arms and newcomers to emerge quickly to prevent the bullpen from being overworked as it has seemingly every summer for the last decade-plus of baseball.

“It’s just another sign that the young guys have to step up,” Britton said to WNST.net on Monday. “We’ve got to look to each other. There’s not that veteran presence anymore in the rotation, so it’s time for us to step up and somebody step up to be a leader.”

The Orioles can only hope Britton is able to assume an increased role to help fill the void left behind by the durable Guthrie. The club would have faced major question marks in the starting rotation even if Guthrie had been retained, but it’s now anyone’s guess who will even take the ball for manager Buck Showalter on Opening Day let alone which pitchers will grab the fourth and fifth slots in the starting rotation.

Showing impressive poise and maturity in his rookie season, Britton sees no reason why young pitchers such as himself and Jake Arrieta or veteran additions like Hammel or Taiwanese southpaw Wei-Yin Chen shouldn’t be aiming to take the hill on the first day of the regular season.

“To what we have on the roster right now, I think that should be the goal for everybody,” Britton said. “It’s definitely my goal to go in there and pitch well and that’d be nice to get that Opening Day nod.”

Considered a long shot for the starting rotation entering spring training a year ago, Britton may now represent the surest candidate the Orioles possess among a collection of unproven young arms, journeymen, and two additions from the Far East.

However, it’s difficult to overlook Britton’s demotion to the minor leagues last July while maintaining confidence that the left-hander is ready to become the Orioles’ de facto ace. After starting his first season with a 7-3 record and a 2.35 earned run average over his first 10 starts, Britton finished the year with an 11-11 record and a 4.61 ERA while often struggling with command of his four pitches.

“I made the adjustments toward the end that I needed to — maybe not as quickly or as well as I should have – but I think that’s progress for me,” said Britton, who finished with 97 strikeouts against 62 walks last season. “At least I made the adjustments and didn’t just keep sticking to what I was doing that wasn’t working.”

After a year of encountering — and sometimes getting knocked around by — the imposing lineups of the American League East, Britton feels more comfortable as he prepares for his second season in the big leagues and better understands the level of focus and performance needed to be successful.

While choosing not to focus on wins and other statistics out of his control, Britton is keeping it simple when it comes to expectations for 2012, but reaching his goals would be a welcome sight for a rotation with far more question marks than exclamation points as spring training quickly approaches.

“The two main goals for me are just to be healthy the whole season and get over that 200-inning mark,” said Britton, who believes the remaining stats will take care of themselves should those scenarios come to fruition. “I think that’s a huge barometer of how well you’re throwing. If you can throw 200 innings in a season, you’re doing something right.”

With Guthrie no longer around to mentor the younger pitchers on the roster, Britton said they will lean on each other for support and pointed to his spirited relationship with Arrieta, who hopes to rebound from a season cut short due to elbow surgery.

The two are close in the clubhouse and are constantly competing, whether on the diamond or in the weight room.

“He has a good outing, I want to go out there and top that; I have a good outing, he wants to go out and top that,” Britton said. “You always have that competition where if you have a bad outing, we’re ragging on each other a little bit. It’s good to have that.”

After trading away their safest commodity in the starting rotation, the Orioles can only pray that competition goes a long way in 2012.

To hear the entire interview with Britton, visit the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault right here.

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Saying Good-Bye to 46…Again

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Saying Good-Bye to 46…Again

Posted on 06 February 2012 by Thyrl Nelson

Having had just a few hours to digest the Jeremy Guthrie trade made by the Orioles today, a few quick thoughts and some perspective come to mind:

First is the simple fact that they had to do it. When given a chance at the open market, many had come to believe (myself included) that Guthrie would charge out the door. There simply seemed to be too much proverbial water under that bridge to get past, from arbitration stare-downs to the $100k or so the Orioles took from him a few years ago to the simple notion that continued losing had simply worn on Guthrie, his departure at his first opportunity at least seemed likely. While the Orioles could have (and may have) made overtures to lock him up long-term before he was afforded that opportunity one thing seems clear, every team in baseball could use Jeremy Guthrie and as his stats tend to reflect, despite his skills on the mound, he’s no more valuable to the Orioles than to any other franchise especially one with a real chance at winning, in fact you could argue he’s been less valuable to the O’s than he would have been to a potential contender.

 

While it’s arguable that they didn’t get enough in return for Guthrie, if the alternative was losing him for nothing, then anything in return is okay. While useful, Guthrie doesn’t have mortgage the franchise type value, and if free agency is eminent for him anyway, teams seemed at this point contented to wait it out for another year. If indeed the Rockies allow him to reach free agency, the Orioles will have as good a chance at getting him back as they would have anyway, and in this an otherwise lost season already the team can use his spot in the rotation to sort through the myriad of unproven pitchers brought in this off-season.

 

The Guthrie move also gives cause for us to reflect once again on the life and legacy of Mike Flanagan. First is the fact that getting Guthrie, for nothing, is one of the last and best moves made by Mike Flanagan during his Orioles front-office tenure. And second as a poignant reminder of the toll losing has taken on this team and this town and this family. And who could forget the class with which Guthrie represented Flanagan’s own jersey number both before and after his untimely passing?

 

Finally, here’s some perspective on Guthrie’s stats as an Oriole. While he never would have been recognized as a top-10 pitcher in the AL East with names like Beckett and Halladay and Price and Shields and Lester and Sabathia and a myriad of others at the forefront of the conversation, he probably should have been. In addition to consistently ranking among the AL East’s best in WHIP and ERA while struggling in the wins column, the impressive list of aforementioned pitchers all had the benefit of 18 games per season against the Orioles and all were spared the difficulties of facing their own lineups. Considering all of that digest these quick rankings:

 

2007: Record – 7-5, WHIP – 1.21 (4th in AL East), ERA – 3.70 (4th in AL East)

*Erik Bedard led AL East in WHIP and ERA in 2007 (13-5)

 

2008 – Record 10-12, WHIP – 1.23 (6th in AL East), ERA – 3.63 (7th in AL East)

 

2009 – Record 10-17, WHIP – 1.42 (10th in AL East), ERA – 5.04 (10th in AL East)

 

2010 – Record 11-14, WHIP – 1.16 (2nd in AL East), ERA – 3.83 (7th in AL East)

 

2011 – Record 9-17, WHIP – 1.34 (9th in AL East), ERA – 4.33 (11th in AL East)

 

 

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