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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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Live from Camden Yards: Reimold returns to lineup as Orioles go for sweep of Toronto

Posted on 26 April 2012 by WNST Staff

BALTIMORE — With Brian Matusz taking the hill and desperately needing a quality start to aid his confidence, the Orioles lineup will be closer to full strength as they look for the three-game sweep of the Toronto Blue Jays on Thursday.

After responding well to a batting practice session on Wednesday afternoon, left fielder Nolan Reimold returns to the leadoff spot after a four-game absence. Reimold remains tied for second on the club with five home runs and has homered in five of the last six games in which he’s played dating back to April 13.

“He’s going to give it a shot tonight,” manager Buck Showalter said. “He’s ready to go. See how that goes. He did a lot of work [Wednesday] and didn’t have any setbacks. I think we’ve done everything we can to go forward on that.”

Jim Johnson is improving and could be sent home from the hospital either late Thursday or early Friday morning. While Showalter could not specify a specific illness stemming from the bacterial issue, doctors have ruled out a number of more severe possibilities.

The Baltimore closer is now attempting to hold down solid food and has been hospitalized since Monday night with flu-like symptoms.

In his absence, 26-year-old Pedro Strop has converted saves in each of the last games but will likely be unavailable for the series finale. Showalter wouldn’t tip his hand regarding Strop or who he would use in a save situation on Thursday, but the most likely candidates would be Matt Lindstrom, Luis Ayala or even Troy Patton, depending on match-ups in the ninth inning.

“I do know what we’re going to do, but I kind of like having some bullets in the back,” Showalter said.

Second baseman Robert Andino will fly back to Baltimore on Friday morning and is expected to return to the lineup for the start of a three-game series with the Oakland Athletics this weekend.

Updating the Tsuyoshi Wada situation, the Japanese pitcher will fly to Los Angeles this weekend to get a second opinion on his injured elbow from Dr. Lewis Yocum. Wada revealed to reporters that Tommy John surgery is a possibility, confirming there is a tear in the elbow ligament.

Here are tonight’s lineups…

Toronto
SS Yunel Escobar
3B Brett Lawrie
RF Jose Bautista
1B Edwin Encarnacion
LF Eric Thames
DH Ben Francisco
CF Rajai Davis
C J.P. Arencibia
2B Omar Vizquel

SP Drew Hutchison (1-0, 8.44 ERA)

Baltimore
LF Nolan Reimold
SS J.J. Hardy
RF Nick Markakis
CF Adam Jones
C Matt Wieters
DH Chris Davis
3B Mark Reynolds
1B Nick Johnson
2B Ryan Flaherty

SP Brian Matusz (0-3, 7.98 ERA)

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Orioles closer Johnson remains hospitalized with bacterial issue

Posted on 25 April 2012 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — Though Pedro Strop passed his first test as the interim closer in a 2-1 victory over the Blue Jays on Tuesday night, the Orioles still anxiously await the return of Jim Johnson, who remains hospitalized with flu-like symptoms.

Doctors continue to run tests in trying to pinpoint the bacterial issue, so Johnson will be unavailable for the second straight night. Manager Buck Showalter revealed upwards of nine players are currently dealing with flu-related or upper respiratory issues stemming from a bug that swept through the Baltimore clubhouse in the latter portion of last week’s road trip.

Showalter has exchanged text messages with his closer but is more concerned with Johnson simply getting his body right before talking about when he will return to the mound.

“You’re talking about some things that you have to be careful with, but he’s in great hands — some of the best doctors in the world,” Showalter said. “At some point, he’ll rejoin us and then we’ll start talking about baseball.”

Nolan Reimold is out of the lineup for the fourth straight game but says his neck is improving after taking early batting practice on Wednesday afternoon. The left fielder is still experiencing stiffness in trying to move his head up and down, but his side-to-side movement has improved.

Second on the team with five home runs, Reimold is confident he will avoid the 15-day disabled list and return to the lineup sooner rather than later.

“I think we are being cautious,” Reimold said. “[The pain] was there when I played in Anaheim and then it just tightened up real bad after the game and the next morning. I think they want to make sure I’m right and can come back and remain back and not set myself back any further.”

Japanese pitcher Tsuyoshi Wada will receive a second opinion from Dr. Lewis Yocum regarding the ligament damage in his pitching elbow. Showalter confirmed the two options at this point of potentially resting and rehabbing the injury or undergoing a surgical procedure that would presumably end his season.

The Orioles manager had good news on left-handed pitcher Zach Britton, saying his rehab on the left shoulder is “right on schedule.” Britton is close to pitching bullpen sessions from the mound and has not experienced any setbacks since receiving platelet-rich plasma therapy in March.

Pitcher Jason Berken has been recalled from Triple-A Norfolk to take second baseman Robert Andino’s spot on the 25-man roster. As revealed on Tuesday, Andino has been placed on the paternity leave list to be with his wife as the couple gave birth to a daughter, Amarise Hazel, on Wednesday.

Andino joked with Showalter that the couple is now “three and out” after welcoming their third child and that he is planning to purchase a shotgun to keep the boys away since he now has a daughter. The second baseman also celebrated his 28th birthday on Wednesday.

Making three starts for the Tides, Berken would be on regular rest and is available to pitch multiple innings if needed over the next day or two before he presumably returns to Norfolk upon Andino’s return to the club.

“I’ll be in the pen,” said Berken, who credited a new commitment to his changeup in explaining his 0.60 earned run average in 15 innings at Norfolk. “I’m just here to pitch any time they need me, whether it’s one or five [innings].”

Catcher Taylor Teagarden remains in Sarasota and will receive a third epidural injection in his back. The organization hopes this will resolve the issue before needing to explore other treatment options.

Here are tonight’s lineups…

Toronto
SS Yunel Escobar
2B Kelly Johnson
RF Jose Bautista
1B Adam Lind
LF Eric Thames
3B Edwin Encarnacion
DH Brett Lawrie
CF Colby Rasmus
C J.P. Arencibia

SP Kyle Drabek (2-0, 2.00 ERA)

Baltimore
LF Endy Chavez
SS J.J. Hardy
RF Nick Markakis
CF Adam Jones
C Matt Wieters
1B Chris Davis
3B Wilson Betemit
DH Mark Reynolds
2B Ryan Flaherty

SP Jason Hammel (2-0, 2.37 ERA)

Follow WNST on Twitter for live updates and analysis throughout Wednesday’s game and visit the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault to hear more from Nolan Reimold, Jason Berken, and Buck Showalter here.

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Orioles banged up with Toronto in town

Posted on 24 April 2012 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — On the heels of an encouraging 6-4 road trip, manager Buck Showalter spent most of Tuesday’s pre-game press conference providing updates on a number of health concerns as the Orioles open a three-game series with the Toronto Blue Jays.

Left fielder Nolan Reimold is once again out as he continues to deal with neck spasms that forced him out of the final two games in Anaheim over the weekend. Manager Buck Showalter said the spasms affect the outfielder’s throwing more than his ability to swing the bat, leaving the door open for Reimold’s ability to pinch-hit with Toronto having three southpaws in the bullpen.

Showalter remains confident that Reimold will not need to go on the disabled list but admitted he hasn’t progressed as quickly as the club originally hoped. Endy Chavez will once again start in left and lead off for the Orioles in the first game of the series.

“Nolan is kind of day-to-day,” Showalter said. “He was in [Monday] for treatment. It’s getting a little better, little by little. The problem is playing has set him back. He’s OK for maybe half to three-fourths of the game and then as the game goes on, it gets worse. When you have that type of spasm, you also have a strain. We’re trying to resolve it completely so that the game doesn’t set him back to square one.”

Closer Jim Johnson is also doubtful to be available on Tuesday night after spending the night in the hospital with flu-like symptoms. Showalter said most of the club dealt with the virus in the final days of the 10-game road trip.

The Orioles will also be without starting second baseman Robert Andino following Tuesday’s game as he will fly to Miami to be with his wife for the birth of their third child on Wednesday. Andino will miss at least one game and possibly two before returning to the club later in the week.

With Andino going on the paternity leave list, the Orioles are allowed to add another player to the roster, which would likely be someone with the ability to play the outfield with Reimold’s short-term status up in the air. Matt Antonelli would be a possible candidate for the promotion from Triple-A Norfolk.

Japanese left-handed pitcher Tsuyoshi Wada underwent an MRA on his pitching elbow on Tuesday, but Showalter did not have the results from Dr. John Wilckens. The swelling in the arm has subsided, but the Orioles will wait to see if there is any structural damage after the pitcher’s rehabilitation program was shut down over the weekend.

Showalter didn’t offer anything new on Dontrelle Willis’ bizarre situation in which he left Triple-A Norfolk without permission, simply stating he expects the ordeal to be resolved and hopes Willis will ultimately remain with the organization.Willis has filed a grievance against the Orioles, claiming he received permission to leave from director of baseball administration Tripp Norton and that they are preventing him from signing with another organization.

One thing is clear: plenty of energy is being expended on a guy who’s won four games since the 2007 season.

Here are Tuesday night’s lineups:

Toronto
SS Yunel Escobar
2B Kelly Johnson
RF Jose Bautista
DH Edwin Encarnacion
1B Adam Lind
3B Brett Lawrie
CF Colby Rasmus
LF Marcus Thames
C Jeff Mathis

SP Henderson Alvarez (0-1, 4.66 ERA)

Baltimore
LF Endy Chavez
SS J.J. Hardy
RF Nick Markakis
CF Adam Jones
C Matt Wieters
1B Chris Davis
DH Wilson Betemit
3B Ryan Flaherty
2B Robert Andino

SP Tommy Hunter (1-1, 5.79 ERA)

Follow WNST on Twitter throughout the evening as I bring live updates from Oriole Park at Camden Yards and visit the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault to hear Buck Showalter’s pre-game press conference here.

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What would you do with Orioles reliever Kevin Gregg?

Posted on 16 April 2012 by Luke Jones

Simply asking the question will invite a myriad of responses ranging from a bucket of baseballs to a sampling of Old Bay — and hopefully nothing more malicious than those barbs — but I’m going to do it anyway.

What would you do with struggling Orioles pitcher Kevin Gregg if you were executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette and manager Buck Showalter?

His outing in Toronto on Sunday was particularly disastrous as Gregg entered in the sixth inning with a chance to keep the Orioles in a close 3-2 ballgame. Instead, he allowed the first six hitters he faced to reach, turning a one-run deficit into an 8-2 lead for the Blue Jays against what could only be described as a “B” lineup going to the plate for Baltimore.

Gregg has made it clear he’s unhappy with no longer being the closer, and Showalter doesn’t view the 33-year-old as one of his best options despite using him in a high-leverage situation with two runners on base that were left behind in the sixth by starter Brian Matusz on Sunday. New closer Jim Johnson, veterans Luis Ayala and Matt Lindstrom, and young Pedro Strop all appear to have leapfrogged Gregg in the manager’s late-inning hierarchy of trust, and Gregg’s 12.27 earned run average in his first 3 1/3 innings of work hasn’t done anything to change that notion.

It appears Gregg would benefit from a change of scenery after being booed by the home crowd during player introductions on Opening Day. There’s little point in debating the merits of former executive Andy MacPhail signing Gregg to a two-year, $10 million contract two offseasons ago to become the Orioles’ new closer. Everyone can see it was a poor decision, just as it was the year before when left-hander Michael Gonzalez was inked to a two-year, $12 contract.

Many point to Gregg’s $5.8 million salary as the reason why he will remain in Baltimore, but the money is already committed whether you keep him around or not. If the Orioles no longer view Gregg as one of their seven best relievers, there is little argument to continue what’s become an ugly situation for what used to be a solid-enough relief pitcher. With potential long-relief man Tsuyoshi Wada working his way back from an elbow injury and lefty Zach Phillips waiting at Triple-A Norfolk, there are options at Duquette’s disposal to replace Gregg if the Orioles choose that course of action.

Ultimately, it’s not Gregg’s fault the Orioles overvalued a reliever with decent save totals but lacking the peripheral numbers — his walks and hits per inning pitched had increased four straight years prior to coming to Baltimore — to justify a $10 million contract.

But the club is now faced with the question of what to do with the disenchanted reliever, who has done himself no favors in making excuses for his struggles and recently admitting to being tired in a two-inning stint against the Yankees last week.

Releasing him might satisfy a fan base out for metaphorical blood, but it leaves the Orioles on the hook for his entire salary with no chance of any type of return.

His trade value is lower now than it’s ever been despite the San Francisco Giants potentially looking for a late-inning reliever after learning that closer Brian Wilson will undergo Tommy John surgery and miss the rest of the season. Even finding a team to take Gregg would be a challenge at this point, let alone trying to get something of value in return or to entice an organization to pay a significant portion of his remaining salary.

Perhaps the best move is to wait as the Orioles did with Gonzalez a year ago. Through the first two months of the 2011 season, the southpaw had a 7.79 ERA and appeared destined to be released after an ugly start to the year. However, Showalter and the Orioles stuck with him — picking their spots to use him in mop-up roles for a significant portion of time — and Gonzalez eventually began pitching more like the guy the club envisioned when signing him, posting a 2.17 ERA in his final three months with the Orioles.

As a result, the Orioles were able to trade him to the Texas Rangers for Strop at the end of August. The hard-throwing, 26-year-old Strop now appears to be a potential late-inning option moving forward.

So, before completely writing him off and cutting ties with Gregg, Duquette should take a long look at what happened last year.

History may not repeat itself and the Orioles may not be able to get anything for Gregg between now and the trade deadline, but the slim possibility is enough reason to stash him away in the bullpen for a little longer. There’s no reason to make a bad investment worse simply because it makes you feel better at the time.

The Orioles can only hope Gregg somehow straightens himself out in the coming days and weeks.

For the sanity of all parties involved.

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Live from Camden Yards: Orioles welcome Minnesota to town on Opening Day

Posted on 06 April 2012 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — Happy Opening Day as the Orioles begin the 2012 season by welcoming the Minnesota Twins to town.

With plenty planned for the 20th anniversary of the first Opening Day at Oriole Park at Camden Yards, there is sure to be a buzz in the air in what continues to be an event in Baltimore despite tempered expectations for the season. The battery that started the 1992 opener, pitcher Rick Sutcliffe and catcher Chris Hoiles, will handle the ceremonial first pitch.

After undergoing abdominal surgery in early January, right fielder Nick Markakis says he is healthy and ready to go for the start of the season. The 28-year-old was limited to just 24 spring at-bats but stated earlier in the spring he needed fewer than that to be ready for the regular season.

“Physically, I think I’m about as good as I can be right now,” Markakis said. It’s just a matter of getting out and playing. All the rehab and hard work in spring training is behind me and now I can focus on the season.”

While Markakis said he never doubted whether he would be ready for Opening Day, manager Buck Showalter felt uneasy after seeing how limited his No. 3 hitter was in the first week to 10 days of spring training.

Showalter also confirmed right-hander Jim Johnson will be his closer with Kevin Gregg settling into a less-defined late-inning role.

As anticipated, left fielder Nolan Reimold will begin the season as the Orioles’ leadoff hitter despite hardly looking like a conventional option. Entering his fourth season, Reimold is eager for the opportunity and wants to capitalize on what looks like a more defined role in the regular lineup than last year.

In 847 career plate appearances, Reimold owns a .328 on-base percentage — a number the Orioles would like to see increase if he’s going to remain atop the order.

“The goal’s always to get on base; the goal’s always to get hits” Reimold said about his new spot in the order. “In that aspect, nothing really changes.”

Here are today’s lineups:

Minnesota
CF Denard Span
SS Jamey Carroll
C Joe Mauer
DH Justin Morneau
LF Josh Willingham
RF Ryan Doumit
3B Danny Valencia
1B Chris Parmelee
2B Alexi Casilla

RHP Carl Pavano

Baltimore
LF Nolan Reimold
SS J.J. Hardy
RF Nick Markakis
CF Adam Jones
C Matt Wieters
DH Wilson Betemit
3B Mark Reynolds
1B Chris Davis
2B Robert Andino

RHP Jake Arrieta

Follow @WNST on Twitter for the latest for Camden Yards and be sure to visit the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault to hear from Buck Showalter, Nolan Reimold, and Nick Markakis prior to this afternoon’s game right here.

 

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Orioles Announce Free Exhibition in Sarasota April 3

Posted on 31 January 2012 by WNST Staff

ORIOLES TO PLAY EXHIBITION GAME AGAINST

STATE COLLEGE OF FLORIDA ON APRIL 3

            The Orioles today announced that they have reached an agreement with State College of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota (SCF) Manatees Baseball, to play an exhibition game at Ed Smith Stadium on Tuesday, April 3 at 1:05 p.m. There will be no admission charge to attend the game, with the exception of reserved tickets near the SCF dugout which will be sold by the college with proceeds supporting Manatees athletics.  Tickets can be reserved through the SCF athletic department at 941-752-5261.

Formerly known as Manatee Community College, the institution has enjoyed a rich athletic tradition throughout their 54 year history. The baseball program has produced over 185 professional baseball players and over 350 players have gone on to four year universities. Legendary coach Tim Hill Sr., only the second baseball coach in school history, is in his 32nd and last year as head coach of the team.

“The State College of Florida is extremely grateful to the Orioles for enabling us to continue our tradition of facing a major league team,” said State College of Florida Athletic Director Matthew Ennis. “The game means so much to our school and the surrounding community and our players are thrilled for the opportunity to play at Ed Smith Stadium.”

Current Orioles pitcher JIM JOHNSON is a student at State College of Florida, taking online classes to complete his Liberal Arts degree.

For the last 12 years the school played an annual exhibition game against the Pittsburgh Pirates, the only junior college in the nation to play a major league team in spring training. The game against the Orioles will allow the State College of Florida to continue this tradition.

–orioles—

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Gregg nearly blows game, then refuses to talk about it

Posted on 14 August 2011 by Peter Dilutis

BALTIMORE – The Orioles took an 8-1 lead into the 9th inning Sunday at Camden Yards, but that didn’t stop me from asking WNST’s Twitter followers if seven runs was enough for Kevin Gregg as he made his way through the centerfield bullpen gate.

Turns out, Kevin Gregg couldn’t record one out in the 9th, facing six batters while allowing four hits and two walks.

With the score at 8-4 with the bases loaded and no outs, Jim Johnson came into the game and retired the side on 10 pitches. The O’s would go on to win 8-5, with Jim Johnson earning his second save of the season.

The O’s lead was a running joke in the pressbox today, with reporters wondering how many runs the Birds would have to score in order to enter the 9th with a comfortable cushion. The ninth inning felt a bit like the twilight zone until Jim Johnson was summoned to restore the order.

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Following the game, Kevin Gregg refused to speak to reporters, commenting that he is always available to speak and wondering why the Baltimore media wanted to talk to him today. Gregg pointed out that the team won, that there are many positives to take away from the game, and that we should instead focus on those story-lines. Gregg seemed rather irritated and was clearly in a foul mood.

Personally, I feel the O’s should have a public relations seminar with their players, as this is not the first time this has happened this season. Towards the end of July, Jeremy Guthrie was very short with reporters who were questioning him about that potentially being his last start as an Oriole at Camden Yards.

Reporters have a job to do just as the players do. Gregg’s near meltdown is frankly one of the bigger story-lines to take out of the game today. He has constantly struggled out of the bullpen this season and has not been the pitcher the O’s were hoping he would be. Gregg also has struggled in non-save situations this season, and we (the media) wanted to talk to him about that fact.

Just as Gregg didn’t do his job today, we weren’t allowed to do our job either. It’s one thing for the Orioles to be losers on the field, but it’s another for them to be classless off the field. This type of behavior shouldn’t be tolerated in the locker-room.

If Gregg would have saved a playoff game, I bet he would have happily talked with reporters.

He should have spoken to us today as well.

In actual on-field news, Jo-Jo Reyes pitched very well, going 6 innings while allowing 4 hits, 1ER, and 2BB while striking out four Tigers.

Buck Showalter talked about Reyes’ next start, so it is assumed that he will be making his next scheduled start next week.

Nick Markakis drove in four runs today, with two of his RBI’s coming in the first inning on his 12th home run of the season. With the hit, Markakis extended his consecutive series with a hit streak to 178 straight series.’

That’s the recap for today. For me, while attempting not to beat a dead horse, I’m disappointed in Kevin Gregg. I really am. I lost some respect for him today.

Players don’t run from success, so they shouldn’t run from failure.

At least the Ravens are back…

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In night of firsts, Orioles hope 4-1 win over Boston leads to brighter days

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In night of firsts, Orioles hope 4-1 win over Boston leads to brighter days

Posted on 27 April 2011 by Luke Jones

In their first game against the Red Sox in the 2011 season, the Orioles collected their first win over Boston, a 4-1 victory in which rookie left-hander Zach Britton was impressive yet again.

It was the Orioles’ first series-opening win since beginning the season with three consecutive victories in series openers on their way to a 6-1 start.

Britton became the first rookie starter in franchise history to win four games in the month of April, becoming just the fifth American League rookie since 1980 to win four by the end of the season’s opening month.

Kevin Gregg recorded his first save that didn’t require an Orioles outfielder crashing into the fence to record the final out with runners on base. The closer retired the Red Sox in order to earn his third save of the season and keep fans’ blood pressure at a tranquil level.

And the Baltimore offense, a group that’s struggled mightily through the season’s first three weeks, became the first lineup to score more than two runs against a Red Sox starting pitcher in Boston’s last 10 games, a period in which starters had posted a 0.88 earned run average in 61 1/3 innings over nine games. It was the Red Sox’ best nine-game stretch of starting pitching since July 1918 when Babe Ruth anchored their starting rotation.

Though hardly an offensive explosion, the Orioles collected 12 hits and three sacrifice flies to send Clay Buchholz to his third loss of the season. Prior to Tuesday night, the 26-year-old had allowed only one run in 28 innings of work in his last four starts against the Orioles.

In an all-around fun night at Camden Yards for the 18,938 fans not rooting for the Red Sox, Britton was once again the star, failing to blink in his first career start against one of the two big boys in the American League East. The left-hander allowed one earned run over six innings, surrendering five hits while walking two and striking out two.

Britton began the month of April expecting to pitch for Triple-A Norfolk, the result of a business decision by the organization to delay starting his service time. He finishes the month 4-1 with a 2.84 earned run average, having pitched six innings or more in each of his five starts.

Time will tell whether Britton’s hot start is the first chapter of a brilliant career, only a flash in the pan, or somewhere in the middle, but it’s hard not to be impressed with the results, the talent, and what the 23-year-old possesses between the ears — and elsewhere, according to his teammates.

“He’s got a pair,” said outfielder Adam Jones about the rookie’s intestinal fortitude. “Every time he walks out on that mound, he goes out there and gives it his all, and that’s really all you can ask.”

It wasn’t a perfect outing as Britton’s pitch count caught up with him — as is often the case against the patient Boston lineup — but the sinkerball pitcher induced 10 ground ball outs compared to six in the air. His only blemish came in the fourth inning when he allowed Dustin Pedroia to steal third base before cleanup hitter Kevin Youkilis hit a sacrifice fly to drive in the only Boston run.

After years of watching young Baltimore pitchers wilt in their first meeting with the Red Sox or Yankees, Britton displayed the same composure he’s held since making his major league debut in Tampa Bay on April 3.

“I really don’t get that nervous out there,” Britton said. “I don’t know what it is. It’s not that I have a huge ego or anything. I just don’t get nervous out there. I have a lot of confidence that I can get out of jams and if I’m out there getting all worried, I think the situations blow up. I try to take my time and take a couple breaths and get after it.”

It was a much-needed performance for a club struggling to score runs. Despite collecting 12 hits on the night, the Orioles also left 11 men on base as Buchholz battled through 6 2/3 innings before giving way to the Red Sox bullpen. Jones hit two sacrifice flies while Derrek Lee and Vladimir Guerrero combined for five hits in nine at-bats in what’s hopefully a sign of better things to come for the Orioles’ two biggest offseason acquisitions.

The bats will need to stay warm as the Orioles face Josh Beckett and Jon Lester in the final two games of the three-game set. Aiming to win their first series since April 4-7, the Orioles’ ability to get the first one out of the way makes it a far more reasonable task.

“We’re a hit away from opening it up a little bit, but Buchholz is pretty good,” said manager Buck Showalter of the team’s offensive output. “So is Beckett and so is Lester and so is [John] Lackey and [Daisuke] Matsuzaka. It’s the big leagues, so you’ve got to give them credit, too. But we scored a run to get up early.”

Jumping on teams early is exactly what the Orioles haven’t been able to do as they entered Tuesday’s game having lost 11 of 13 games.

But after a quality night of baseball, the Orioles hope Tuesday’s victory over the Red Sox is the first step in recapturing the early-season mojo wiped away by two difficult weeks of baseball.

Visit the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault to hear from Zach Britton, Adam Jones, Buck Showalter, Derrek Lee, and Matt Wieters following the Orioles’ 4-1 win over the Boston Red Sox.

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Orioles roster moves: Gonzalez back, Patton promoted (and demoted)

Posted on 21 July 2010 by Luke Jones

With the bullpen completely spent after extensive work in the last three games, the Orioles needed immediate relief help.

The Orioles announced a series of roster moves prior to Wednesday’s game against the Tampa Bay Rays. Lefty reliever Mike Gonzalez has been reinstated from the 60-day disabled list, left-handed pitcher Troy Patton has been recalled from Triple-A Norfolk, and third baseman Josh Bell has been optioned to the Tides. To make room for Gonzalez on the 40-man roster, Jim Johnson has been moved from the 15-day disabled list to the 60-day disabled list.

Gonzalez was placed on the disabled list on April 10 with a strained left shoulder. At the time of his injury, Gonzalez had recorded one save in three appearances, much to fans’ chagrin.

Patton was 6-9 with a 4.91 ERA in 18 starts for Norfolk this season. He posted a 3.44 ERA over his last nine outings for Norfolk. This will be Patton’s first stint in the big leagues since 2007. Patton’s stay with the Orioles could be brief, as Kevin Millwood is expected to return from the disabled list to make the start on Thursday night. Patton will wear uniform No. 54.

Bell batted .263 (6-19) in six games for the Orioles and had been rotting away on the bench in his latest stint with Baltimore.

Johnson has been on the disabled list since May 28 with right elbow inflammation. He was 1-1 with one save and a 6.52 ERA in 10 games for the Orioles.

UPDATE: As expected, the Orioles optioned Patton back to Norfolk following Wednesday’s 5-4 loss to the Rays. Kevin Millwood will be activated Thursday to make the start in the first of a four-game set against the Minnesota Twins.

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