Tag Archive | "Jeremy Guthrie"

Former Oriole Guthrie apologizes for post-game shirt

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Former Oriole Guthrie apologizes for post-game shirt

Posted on 15 October 2014 by Luke Jones

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — On a day in which the Kansas City Royals were trying to officially advance to their first World Series in 29 years, Game 3 starter Jeremy Guthrie was apologizing to his former club.

The former Orioles pitcher issued an apology for wearing a post-game shirt stating, “These O’s Ain’t Royal,” adding that he made no connection with the play on words from the song “Loyal” by Chris Brown. Countless fans and members of the organization took exception to what was perceived as a sign of disrespect for a club that helped Guthrie revitalize his career when he arrived in Baltimore in 2007.

“Unfortunately for me, I used a lack of judgment in putting that shirt on after the game,” Guthrie said Wednesday afternoon. “Never changed, came in here, and wore it. What ensued was not what I intended. There was no intention to call the attention to the other team, friends, and former teammates, certainly not the organization and most definitely not their fans.”

Guthrie allowed one earned run and three hits over five innings in Game 3 as the Royals won 2-1 to take a 3-0 lead in the American League Championship Series. Guthrie said a few former teammates in the Orioles clubhouse reached out to him following the game to express they thought the shirt “was pretty low, a low blow, or inappropriate.”

In five seasons in Baltimore, Guthrie went 47-65 with a 4.12 ERA. He was traded to the Colorado Rockies in exchange for pitchers Jason Hammel and Matt Lindstrom before the start of spring training in 2012. However, Guthrie had remained a fan favorite in Baltimore over the last couple years prior to Tuesday night.

“Anyone and everyone that was offended, you’ll never see the shirt again,” Guthrie said. “The shirt was sent to me, and it will be sent to the garbage, because that’s probably where it belongs at this point. And I am willing to accept that. And any reaction that’s come my way, I understand it. I’ve accepted it. And I’ll move on.”

Perhaps the most damning fallout from Guthrie wearing the shirt was the amount of attention it received prior to the start of Game 4 as the Orioles try to become only the second team in major league history to erase an 0-3 deficit in a playoff series.

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Chen, Guthrie scheduled to start Game 3 of ALCS

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Chen, Guthrie scheduled to start Game 3 of ALCS

Posted on 11 October 2014 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — Trying to bounce back from their disappointing extra-inning loss in Game 1 of the American League Championship Series, the Orioles named tentative starters for Games 3 and 4 of the series to be played in Kansas City.

Manager Buck Showalter told reporters that lefty Wei-Yin Chen is scheduled to make the first start of the series at Kaufman Stadium where he’ll be opposed by former Orioles starting pitcher Jeremy Guthrie. Chen was roughed up in his only start of the postseason when he allowed five earned runs in 3 2/3 innings in his Game 2 start against the Detroit Tigers in the Division Series, a game the Orioles eventually won.

The Taiwanese lefty is 1-1 with a 4.17 ERA in six career starts covering 36 2/3 innings against Kansas City.

Guthrie will be making his postseason debut on Monday and hasn’t pitched since Sept. 26 when he tossed seven shutout innings against the Chicago White Sox. The 35-year-old went 13-111 with a 4.13 ERA in 32 starats this season and is 2-1 with a 2.67 ERA in four career starts spanning 27 innings against Baltimore.

In Game 4, Miguel Gonzalez is currently slated to take the ball for the Orioles against Kansas City lefty Jason Vargas as Royals lefty Danny Duffy will continue to work out of the bullpen after concerns with his mechanics during the month of September. Showalter confirmed Chen and Gonzalez would both be available in the bullpen for Game 2 as Bud Norris was making his second start of the playoffs.

Gonzalez threw a simulated game earlier this week, but the right-hander hasn’t pitched in a game since the regular-season finale on Sept. 28.

The Orioles entered Game 2 having not lost consecutive home games since June 28-29. They were 31-10 in their final 41 regular-season games at Oriole Park at Camden Yards this year. Of course, they fell to 2-1 in postseason home games after the 8-6 loss to the Royals on Friday night.

Here are the Game 2 lineups:

KANSAS CITY
SS Alcides Escobar
RF Nori Aoki
CF Lorenzo Cain
1B Eric Hosmer
DH Billy Butler
LF Alex Gordon
C Salvador Perez
2B Omar Infante
3B Mike Moustakas

SP Yordano Ventura (14-10, 3.20 ERA)

BALTIMORE
RF Nick Markakis
LF Alejandro De Aza
CF Adam Jones
DH Nelson Cruz
1B Steve Pearce
SS J.J. Hardy
3B Ryan Flaherty
C Caleb Joseph
2B Jonathan Schoop

SP Bud Norris (15-8, 3.65 ERA)

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Ten talking points for Orioles-Royals ALCS matchup

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Ten talking points for Orioles-Royals ALCS matchup

Posted on 08 October 2014 by Luke Jones

As the Orioles prepare to play the Kansas City Royals for the first time ever in the postseason and for the right to advance to their first World Series in 31 years, here are 10 talking points to break down their meeting in the American League Championship Series beginning Friday night:

1. It isn’t Eddie Murray vs. George Brett, but the tradition of yesteryear in each city makes this series a blast.

Yes, it’s been three decades since either the Orioles or Royals found themselves playing in the Fall Classic, but that’s what makes this series so much fun as younger baseball fan will be exposed to the history of each franchise. From 1973 through 1985, Baltimore and Kansas City combined to win two World Series titles, four AL pennants, and 10 division championships and were regarded as two of the model franchises in the major leagues. This history may not mean much to the current players or have any impact on the play on the field, but the fans’ thirst for a World Series will be palpable at both Kauffman Stadium and Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

2. You won’t find more contrasting offensive styles with the stakes so high.

It’s thunder against lightning as the Orioles led the major leagues with 211 home runs while the Royals stole more bases (153) than any of the 29 other clubs. Meanwhile, Baltimore stole the fewest number of bases (44) in the big leagues and Kansas City ranked 30th with only 95 home runs. Five Royals players hit double digits in swiped bags while the Orioles’ leader in the category was David Lough with eight. Seven Orioles hit 12 or more homers — Manny Machado and Chris Davis will not play in this series — compared to just three for Kansas City. Despite their contrasting styles, the Orioles finished the regular season ranked sixth in the AL in runs with 705 compared to Kansas City coming in ninth with 651. Baltimore has the better offense over the long haul, but the Royals will try to turn a short series into a 100-meter dash while the Orioles emphasize their advantage in the shot put.

3. The Royals stack up more favorably to the Baltimore defense that Detroit did.

The Orioles still have the edge in the field, but Kansas City has a number of Gold Glove-caliber players including catcher Salvador Perez and outfielders Alex Gordon and Lorenzo Cain. The Orioles rank third in the AL in BaseballReference.com’s defensive efficiency statistic while the Royals came in sixth in the regular season. Baltimore made the third-fewest number of errors (87) in the AL this season while Kansas City ranked 10th with 104. Both clubs made sparkling plays in the Division Series and rely on their defense to make a difference in close games.

4. Scoring early will be a high priority for both clubs.

Unlike the luxury the Orioles had against Detroit in the Division Series, they cannot expect to wait out starting pitchers for scoring opportunities in the late inning against the Royals, whose trio of Greg Holland, Wade Davis, and Kelvin Herrera might be even better than their own triumvirate of Zach Britton, Andrew Miller, and Darren O’Day. The Orioles’ 3.10 bullpen ERA ranked third in the AL while Kansas City’s 3.30 mark ranked fifth, which will cause both lineups to feel the urgency to break through prior to the sixth inning. Even with so many other great names in each bullpen, the wild cards could be right-hander Kevin Gausman and Kansas City lefty Brandon Finnegan, who made a major impact in the Wild Card Game after only being drafted in the first round out of Texas Christian a few months ago.

5. The spotlight will be much brighter on Adam Jones to produce in this series.

It’s cruel to judge any player on a sample size of only 37 at-bats, but the Orioles center fielder has amassed only four hits in his postseason career and will feel the heat if his bat doesn’t wake up in the ALCS. Being an aggressive hitter throughout his career, Jones must fight the urge to over-swing, especially when he has opportunities to drive in runs. The 29-year-old singled and walked in his final two plate appearances of the ALDS, which the Orioles hope are signs of better things to come this October for a player who’s meant so much to the club’s success over the last three years. Nelson Cruz carried the Orioles in the ALDS, but Jones waking up would make them even more difficult to beat in a best-of-seven series.

6. The Orioles are better equipped to handle Kansas City’s jackrabbits on the base paths.

The Royals are an incredible 12-for-13 attempting to steal in the postseason, which has certainly provided Buck Showalter with some restless nights this week. However, the Orioles will have more success in slowing Kansas City runners than either Oakland or the Angels because of their focus on slowing an opposing club’s running game. Baltimore ranked sixth in the AL by throwing out 28 percent of runners attempting to steal, but the fact that they faced the fourth-fewest number of stolen base attempts is a reflection of how well pitchers hold runners and how quick they are to the plate to help catchers Caleb Joseph and Nick Hundley. Of the two, Joseph is more adept at gunning down runners (a 40 percent success rate to Hundley’s 19 percent), so it will be interesting to see how much more Showalter might lean on the younger catcher in this series after Hundley started two of the three ALDS games.

7. Former Oriole starter Jeremy Guthrie pitching against his former club in the ALCS will be somewhat surreal.

With apologies to Baltimore reserve Jimmy Paredes, Guthrie is the most intriguing name to face his former team in this series and had the misfortune of being dealt away from the Orioles just before their resurgence in 2012. The classy right-hander has found a home with the Royals where he’s continued to be a solid member of the rotation and has been rewarded with a taste of the postseason after pitching respectably on some otherwise awful Orioles clubs from 2007 through 2011. Though Guthrie probably wouldn’t be slated to start before Game 4 unless the Royals elect to go with Danny Duffy in the rotation and put him in the bullpen, it will be interesting to see the Orioles face the 35-year-old, who acts as a symbol of the club’s past as they seek their first AL pennant in 31 years.

8. Neither club received enough credit for its starting pitching during the regular season.

The Orioles and Royals are known for their stout bullpens, but their rotations have been very effective despite lacking big names. The projected Game 1 starters, Chris Tillman and James Shields, are two of the better pitchers in the AL — the latter for a longer period of time — but each has just one All-Star appearance to his name. Baltimore’s starter ERA of 3.61 ranked just a hair below the Royals’ fourth-ranked 3.60 mark in the AL. The strong bullpens for both sides decrease the chances of any starter pitching particularly deep into games, but there’s no reason to think either side will have problems in this department.

9. This series may feature the two best relievers in baseball right now — and neither are closers.

While Britton and Holland have been two of the best ninth-inning men in baseball in 2014, Miller and Davis are the scariest weapons in their respective bullpens as they combined to strike out 212 hitters in 134 1/3 innings during the regular season. Miller’s ERA was 1.35 in 23 regular-season appearances for the Orioles after being dealt by Boston while Davis posted a 1.00 ERA in 71 appearances for Kansas City this year. Showalter has already demonstrated he’s not afraid to use Miller for more than one inning in the postseason while Davis was a starter as recently as last season, making you think he can be stretched out as well. Regardless of who ends up winning this series, it would be shocking if Miller and Davis aren’t the busiest bullpen arms in the best-of-seven showdown.

10. Buck Showalter has a sizable advantage over Ned Yost on this stage.

The strong sentiment shared among many around baseball is that the Royals have won in spite of their manager, who prefers the small-ball tactics detested by sabermetricians. Meanwhile, Showalter often speaks of his preference to not waste his offense’s 27 outs per game and rarely calls for sacrifice bunts and other tactics such as the hit and run. You do wonder if the Orioles’ strong bullpen will press Yost to lean even more on manufacturing runs than he normally does, but Showalter is more likely to stay the course with his lineup — even against the Royals’ stingy relievers. As for bullpen management, the skipper who is more willing to break the standard thinking of when to use his relievers will give his team the edge. Showalter is the superior tactician and has already shown his willingness to stretch his best relievers during the Division Series.

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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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