Tag Archive | "Jim Johnson"

What About Jim Johnson?

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What About Jim Johnson?

Posted on 31 July 2012 by Brett Dickinson

The trade deadline will pass and the Orioles will have only made a select few minor trades.  They have already brought in veteran depth with Jim Thome and Omar Quintanilla; never looks to be more than bench help for 2012.  These trades will definitely help the team for the rest of the season but nothing to change the course of the future.   Dan Duquette has stood strong, with his feet deeply planted in the ground about Dylan Bundy and Manny Machado are untouchable.  Adam Jones joined them in that non-movable class, with his mega contract.

Talks circle around Joe Blanton heading to Baltimore, but his contract is up after the season and he is nothing more than a veteran, back of the rotation, innings eater.  His impact will help a team like the O’s, because of their lack of experience and consistency but is not the star the fans in Baltimore have been clamoring for. 

But what’s the rush?  The Orioles are going to finish with their best season since their back to back playoff appearances in the 90’s.  If they finish out the season playing 500 ball, they will have their first winning record for everyone that has come up through the organization.  They also remain in a playoff hunt; trying to catch the A’s, who probably have even less talent than our Orioles.

So in the offseason, the front office will have plenty to work with.  They will have a winning team in a great season to sell to free agents and added revenue, if the fans continue to increase ticket sales for the next couple months and plenty of parts to consider moving.

If you have paid attention to my past articles, you will know my stance on Matt Wieters and why he should be moved.  He could bring back a mix of young talent and major league ready pitchers from teams like the Angels, Pirates or Dodgers.  But that isn’t the only All-Star the Orioles should move on from during the offseason.

What about Jim Johnson?  He is clearly having a career year, is one of the league leaders in saves and been the anchor to one of the best bullpen’s in the league.  But he has really struggled lately, giving up a couple hits last night versus the Yankees, enough to tug out our heart strings before eventually finishing the game off.   He had his worst appearance last Friday, allowing 6 runs to blow the save after a thrilling comeback by the O’s.  Did anyone really believe Johnson would perform this well this season?  Does anyone really believe he will consistently be dominant closer for the rest of his career?

Now it is probably to move Johnson before the deadline and he will not clear waivers to trade him in August but a move in the offseason should be possible.  Plenty of teams overpay for closers (just look at what Philadelphia gave Jonathon Papelbon last year), and Johnson now has an All-Star appearance to add to his resume.  Don’t get me wrong, I think Johnson is a good relief pitcher that would definitely help the team in the immediate future.  But I think the haul of players Baltimore would receive back for him will outperform anything Johnson can provide.

The other piece to the equation is Pedro Strop and his dominance in the “Set Up” role this year.  After a full year in the bigs, he could be ready to take over as the closer next season.  His stuff is definitely more similar to the average MLB closer than Johnson, and has the fiery mentality you also look for.  To a have a replacement like Strop, I think the Orioles could be satisfied in moving on from the Jim Johnson era in the back end of the bullpen; even if it only lasted one season

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jim johnson

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Five Question for the Orioles: Start of The Second Half Edition

Posted on 13 July 2012 by Big Chee

1.)    Who will carry this pitching staff through the dog days of summer?

Jason Hammel has undoubtedly been the best pitcher in the Orioles rotation in 2012. He leads the Orioles in wins at 8, ERA at 3.47, and strikeouts with 101. However, he has struggled in his last three starts, losing all three. And while a 3.47 ERA is not too shabby, not even a month ago on June 22nd, Hammel was sporting a 2.61 ERA. Wei-Yin Chen has been the team’s second best starter, with a 7-5 record and 3.93 ERA. However, just like Hammel, Chen has cooled off as we enter the second half of the season.  He has not won a decision since June 17th and he gave up a career high 3 HRs in his last start against lowly Seattle.

Hammel and Chen are both in their 20s and would benefit greatly from a veteran presence like a Ryan Dempster from Chicago. Even a James Shields of Tampa Bay, who is 30, has big game experience from pitching in the World Series and multiple playoff games. Baltimore would greatly benefit from having guys who have been in postseason contention battles leading their staff. Dempster is coming off the DL and James Shields has a sub-4 ERA throughout his career. Both names will be mentioned heavily come the trade deadline, and Baltimore should definitely be hitting the phones to see what they want.

2.)    Can Mark Reynolds be an effective hitter in this Orioles lineup?

The definition of effective for Mark Reynolds in comparison to other Major League hitters is much different. One can never expect that Reynolds will be a guy who gets on base, he has never hit above .280 in his entire career. Nor can one expect Mark to chill with the strikeouts either. Reynolds led the American League last year with 196 K’s, and that was only his 4th highest total of his career! And don’t even get started on Mark Reynolds and his horrific attempt at fielding. He led the majors in 2011 with 31 errors last year.

Mark Reynolds is an effective hitter when he is hitting home runs. In 2011, he was fourth in the majors with 37 HRs. Despite all of his faults, when he was on, he was not a guy you wanted to face if you were an opposing pitcher. If you follow Earl Weaver’s Three Keys to Winning Baseball: Pitching, Defense, and Three Run Homers, you know for sure Reynolds did not fall into the first two categories. But with two on and two out in the bottom of the ninth, Mark Reynolds is that power hitter that you want at the plate. That is, of course, when he is not mired in a 3 for 25 slump like he was during interleague play.

3.)    Will Brian Roberts have any effect on the Orioles chances of making a postseason run?

Love the Orioles or not, you have to feel for Brian Roberts. I get that he was mentioned in the Mitchell Report back in 2007, and admitted to taking a shot of steroids in 2003. The key is that he admitted he this occasion, unlike a certain pitcher from the Yankees who claims he never did while he was throwing 100 mph at 45 years old. Anyway , Roberts has played in just 115 games since the beginning of the 2010 season, and has missed almost 13 months while recovering from multiple concussions. He returned to the Orioles on June 12th, but was back on the DL not even a month later with a torn right hip muscle.

Now, the longtime leadoff 2B for the Orioles is weighing whether or not he should have surgery on the hip or rehab it on its. On one hand it would be great to see Roberts try and get back with the Orioles sooner than two months, if only to help them out defensively as they lead the MLB with 75 errors. On the other hand, if the Orioles are buyers at the deadline and find themselves in contention come September, how great would it be to have his leadership back in the clubhouse as the O’s make a playoff push?

4.)    Speaking of all this poor fielding, who can the O’s acquire now to help?

Did I mention Baltimore was dead last in fielding in Major League Baseball? If one could point a finger at the glaring hole in the infield for this problem, look no further than 3B. Not one of these guys has above average ability to play the hot corner: Robert Andino, Mark Reynolds, Chris Davis, Wilson Betemit or Ryan Flaherty. The Orioles are in a tie with Anaheim for the Wildcard, and pitching should not be the only area where the Orioles upgrade to make a legitimate run.

Two names come to mind that can immediately help Baltimore at 3B, without having to include Bundy, Machado or much else from the farm system. The first is Placido Polanco from the Philadelphia Phillies. A 36 year old playing for the last place, 13 games below .500 Phillies should come at a bargain for Baltimore. Polanco has won three gold gloves in the past five years, and has yet to make an error in 30 games at 3B with Philadelphia. His lifetime fielding percentages at 1B and 3B are the best in major league history. No, that is not a typo.

If Philadelphia decides they do not want to shop Polanco, the second team the Orioles  should call is San Diego to inquire about Chase Headley’s services. Headley is 28, eight years younger than Polanco, and possesses more ability to hit for power at this point of his career. Headley is an average defensive 3B, and unfortunately suffers from Mark Reynolds strikeout syndrome (He has twice in his career made more than 600 plate appearances, and in each of those seasons, he has struck out over 130 times). However, with San Diego not being competitive in 2012 and Headley heading into arbitration, his services would come at a bargain and he would at least push the guys who are already here in Baltimore.

5.)    Can the Bullpen perform as well as it did in the first half of the season?

This may be one of the biggest questions the Orioles face heading into the back half of 2012, if only because it has been the most reliable department of their team throughout the first half. The Orioles lead the American League with a 2.75 ERA as well as hold the best record out of the pen with a 17-6 mark. All Star Jim Johnson has been one of the most reliable closers in baseball, converting 26 of 27 save opportunities with a 1.21 ERA and a 0.75 WHIP. Luis Ayala, Pedro Strop, and Darren O’Day all have sub-3 ERAs and have been very efficient in setting up Johnson before the 9th inning.

Heavy is the head that wears the crown and the Orioles own a daunting task to match their outstanding performance post-All Star break. If history is any indicator for Jim Johnson, than the chances of this bullpen holding up are not very strong. His ERA is 3.98 post All Star break, compared to 2.56 before the break in his career. In addition, it has been 22 years since an AL bullpen statistically threw as well as the Orioles have over a full season. Oakland had a combined 2.35 mark in 1990. Dan Duquette and Buck Showalter will be closely monitoring the bullpen to keep those guys fresh and productive down the stretch. Let’s see how they hold up.

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Verlander

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For Love of the Game – Afterthoughts on the Midsummer Classic

Posted on 11 July 2012 by hopebirchfield

Since the tragic fall of the Birdland Empire in 1996, the All-Star game has meant little more than some publicity for Orioles stars overshadowed by a losing ball club. Sure, it was always fun to see one of our disciples (Ripken, Roberts, Mora, and Batista to name a few) proudly displaying bird regalia, but the outcome did not really matter. Despite the recent slide of the Orioles and their subsequent drop in MLB power rankings, fans still hold on to hope that maybe the Orioles will be playoff contenders. With that new mentality, the All-Star game completely transforms from a “my bat is bigger than your bat” showdown of baseball’s elite to something that could give Baltimore home field advantage for the World Series.

To be clear, I do not think this is going to be relevant this year with an 11.8% POFF, but as Lloyd Christmas would say to ESPN, “So you’re telling me there’s a chance?”

On Tuesday night, the American League attempted to avoid their third straight loss to the National League at the Midsummer Classic in Kansas City. The lineup for the AL was so densely packed that powerhouse, David Ortiz, was batting 7th and it almost seemed a given that the AL would finally clinch a win. Though the National League had Sandoval, Chipper Jones and the ominous pitching of Cain and R.A. Dickey, the AL had Weaver and Verlander, the 2011 Cy Young and AL MVP Winner.

As the first inning began to unfold, I felt an unsettling wave of familiarity course through my body. Verlander was not on his game and was reminiscent of a hard-throwing Jake Arrieta. In only one inning of work, Verlander gave up four hits on five runs with two BBs and Ks. He struggled with runners on base, consecutively walking Beltran and Posey and then yielding a bases-loaded triple to Sandoval. After this bleak inning, a lot of people switched to regularly scheduled programming. I felt this was a bit premature because it was only the first inning. The AL had All-Star caliber bats (for the most part) and a five run deficit with such offensive talent as Jeter, Cano, Hamilton, Fielder and Ortiz was surely to be surpassed.

Though six hits were generated by the AL, they struggled with the all too familiar RISP woes and never capitalized with a run. Once the domineering pitching of the National League was realized and the lack of offense of the American League was apparent, I was done. I severed all emotional interest, channeled my inner child and simply watched the game. It was no longer about the final numbers, ERAs, WHIPs, etc. No, it was about watching some of baseball’s finest sizzle (or fizzle) and watching the soap opera of baseball unfold.

With a long history that could be considered a veritable sports epic, Chipper Jones would surely emerge as the hero. In the moments before the game, he delivered a speech to the National League that had quotes from “Major League” and valuable insight about the game. His amicability is was one of the reasons he is a household name and one of the reasons why people root for him to succeed. In his final year in baseball, fans of the Atlantic Braves and fans of baseball feverishly voted so Chipper Jones could end his career on a high point with an All-Star game nod. C. Jones first debuted with the Braves in 1993 and has received 8 overall nods to the All-Star Game with the first coming in 1996.

In the 6th inning, pinch-hitter, Chipper Jones walked to the plate and was greeted by the best reception of the evening. As his name was announced, the sold-out crowd rose to their feet, cheering for a living legend that was a shoo-in for Cooperstown. C. Jones is not known for his speed but he ran as though his career relied on. At 40 years old, he dug hard and managed to reach first base on a ball that rolled into to right field. It was one of the moments that remind you why baseball is the greatest sport ever played. Chipper was ecstatic and all smiles as a stadium with no personal vestige in him erupted. For a moment, it was his moment to shine, and the simple beauty of watching was more emotional than anything a Hollywood blockbuster could provide.

In the eighth inning, Orioles’ fans that had “stayed the course” and watched a game that was very reminiscent of several recent Orioles games were rewarded with a glimpse of orange. The middle was completely represented by the birds with A. Jones in center and Johnson bringing the heat down the middle to the familiar glove of Matt Wieters. Though Wieters and Jones did nothing offensively, the bottom of the 7th was dominated by an Orioles presence. The NL was shutout in a1-2-3 inning that gave Jones a fly ball and registered a K for Johnson.

Most All-Star games receive a lot of criticism. Many call them antiquated and no longer needed. But often people forget that sometimes it is not about who wins or loses, but the moments that will go down in history. Moments like watching Chipper Jones do his best Jake Taylor impression when digging to first, or watching the Orioles completely take up the middle of the field are reason enough to keep these love letters to childhood.

 

 

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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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monday morning

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This Year, We All Should Embrace The Mid-Summer Classic

Posted on 09 July 2012 by Big Chee

It is Monday Morning. If you are like me on the first day of the work week you are probably trying to ease the depressing realization that the weekend is over and you have the five day grind ahead of you. For me at the 9-5 desk job I am spending the first hour(s) of my day meticulously analyzing my fantasy baseball team and catching up on sports stories I might have missed during the pregame Friday & Saturday night.

The anxiety could be even higher this week, and I may have to spend the beginning of my day reading about how bath salts turn humans into zombies and why Scientology ruined the marriage between Katie Holmes and Tom Cruise. Baseball is at its All-Star Break. Wimbledon is over. The Olympics have yet to begin in London. Football, basketball, and hockey have yet to begin. Might I actually have to start “working”? Ugh, this could get brutal. I better drink another Espresso double shot. Embrace yourselves everyone; we are about to experience the worst sports week of the year.

I mention the All-Star Break for baseball, for the past ten years I have taken a dissenting attitude towards MLB’s mid-summer event. That differs in my apathetic stance towards the Pro Bowl, NHL & NBA All-Star Games, where I can watch the highlights on SportsCenter and live with myself.  In 2002, Bud Selig and the MLBPA transformed the event from casual to competitive. I used to hate it. It baffled me that home field advantage in the World Series was indicated by which All-Star Team’s pitchers brought their best stuff during the one inning each of them would get on the mound. It drove me nuts that traditional cellar dwellers like the Royals, Pirates and Orioles (sorry everyone) had at least one player on the All-Star Team, even though there was a better shot of Anna Kournikova coming out of retirement to beat Serena Williams to win the Wimbledon than any of those teams winning the Fall Classic.

This year, I have decided to cave in and embrace the All-Star Game, and I suggest all of you fellow sports fanatics do the same. This year, forget about them ludicrous reasons I mentioned in the previous paragraphs. If you love sports, chances are you are someone who craves competitiveness in sports and life alike. Plus this week, you don’t really have a choice, right? The 4th of July relaxed attitude around your office is over. Daily stresses are back and we are on the full five day work week again.

If you are a Baltimore Orioles Fan, as most of you reading on WNST.net probably are, this is the first time in more than a decade that this game has some real meaning to it. Let’s call a spade a spade, does anyone reading truly believe that the O’s are ready to make a push to play in the World Series? I did not think so. However, heading into the All Star Break, Baltimore is six games back of the Yankees, six games above .500. If the season ended now, the first year of expanded playoffs would open with Baltimore at the Los Angeles Angels for the one-game AL wild card. The guys representing the resurgent O’s this year in Kansas City, Matt Wieters, Adam Jones and Jim Johnson, make up a trio that marks the first time since 2005 that the Orioles have sent multiple players to the All Star Game.

“It’s pretty cool,” Jones said of the group the Orioles will send to Kansas City. “For the last seven years, it’s been one player. You have to win to get more than one player nowadays. Representing the Baltimore Orioles, it’s a tremendous accomplishment for us as a team, also.”

Wieters, who was the Orioles’ representative in last year’s All-Star Game also added, “It makes it even more fun that you get to share something with your teammates that you’re battling the whole year with.”

Comparing baseball’s All Star Game to the other major sports in the United States, one cannot forget the fact that just because it is an exhibition game, the play of the field does not change. For example, in the NBA’s ASG, there is little to no defense played. There is an open lane almost every time when either squad comes down the court. While alley oops and monster dunks are cool, when it occurs every possession, it can get old very quickly. In baseball, the matchups do not change. When Clayton Kershaw comes to the mound and faces Adam Jones, do you think he is going to toss a 75 mph meatball for Adam Jones to crank towards the fences? Not a chance. He is going to bring it just like he would during a regular start for the Dodgers.

I mention those All-Stars facing each other as just one example of a potential matchup that makes for a great watch. How about the 23 year old phenom Steven Strasburg going head to head with legend Derek Jeter who is 15 years his senior? How cool would it be to see RA Dickey, the arguable front runner for NL Cy Young, tossing his knuckleball and trying to fool slugger Josh Hamilton? And 2012 will be the last All Star Appearance for eight time all star and surefire Hall of Famer Chipper Jones, who is retiring after this season. It will certainly be weird without him in Atlanta next season that is for sure.

Back in February of this year, I explained to Mike Huber on XTSR Towson Radio why I believed that the second calendar month was the worst sports month of the year. The football season was over. Pitchers and catchers report in the middle of the month, but baseball was still months away from beginning. Basketball, both college and professional, was still in their respective regular seasons. Same applies to hockey.  Not to mention on the East Coast, February is typically a cold, dark month (but after this torturous heat wave, I sure would not mind a 35 degree day.) Now we approach arguably the worst sports week, not entire month, of the year. I hope my words give you something to look forward to when it’s quitting time on Tuesday.

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Playoffs?!

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Playoffs?!

Posted on 05 July 2012 by ryanhiken

The Orioles are currently 44-37 at the halfway mark of the season.  They are on pace for their best season in 15 years.  However, this isn’t the best start to a season they have had in the last 15 years.  In 2005, the Orioles were 47-40 at the all-star break.  The Orioles have one more series before the all star break.  They begin a four game series with the Los Angeles Angels tonight in Los Angeles.  The Orioles are currently a half game back of the Angels for the first wild card spot in the American League.  This year, Major League Baseball will be adding a 5th playoff team.  The first wildcard team will be hosting a one game playoff with the 5th place team.  This series would be a preview of the one game playoff if the season were to end today.

This is about the time of year when most Oriole fans begin to write them off.  This is the mentality that the average Orioles fan has.  This is unfortunate, because this years team is different from the others.  This team has legitimate star players in Matt Wieters, J.J. Hardy, Adam Jones and Nick Markakis.  The pitching staff isn’t perfect, but they have a legitimate starter in Jason Hammel and an all-star closing pitcher in Jim Johnson.  This is a formula for success, along with the leadership of Buck Showalter, the Oriole’s veteran manager.

This upcoming series will tell us a lot about this current Oriole team.  A couple of games ago the Orioles were struggling, but they went into Seattle and won 2 out of 3 games.  They probably should have swept the series, but unfortunate errors cost them the game Monday night.  The Angels began the season slow with a 7-14 record.  Since then, the Angels are 38-22 and have been one of the best teams in baseball.  The Orioles have been excellent this year, but have a combined record of 5-12 against the American League elite of NY Yankees, Texas Rangers and LA Angels.

I believe the Orioles are good, but I don’t believe they are elite.  Many people have been asking me if I think they will make the playoffs.  I think they will, because I think they haven’t played their best baseball yet.  They have been very successful against their competition outside of the elite teams.  I don’t believe they are going to surpass the Yankees and take the division, but I believe they will make the playoffs.  Therefore, I expect the Orioles to play in the inaugural one game wildcard playoff.  I think this would be incredible, especially if the Orioles could host the game.  The Orioles haven’t played a meaningful game in  Baltimore since 1997, I think its about time.  Fans need to get on the bandwagon now, before its too late.  Believe in this team, don’t write them off and go out to the games and support the team.

Come September, when the Orioles are hosting the first ever one game wildcard playoff, its going to be the hardest ticket in town to get in the last 15 years.  The Orioles need to win at least two games in this series to guarantee their best winning percentage before the all-star break since the 1997 season, when they lost in the ALCS to the Cleveland Indians.  If the Orioles can manage to do this, I think it says a lot about them as a team.  If they get swept I think that will also say a lot about them.  That is why I believe this series is so important.

It is important to head into the all-star break with momentum, now is a great time to do so, and make a statement to the rest of the league.  The Orioles are a good team, they will remain competitive for the rest of the season and they are not to be messed with.  The Orioles have the 2nd best winning percentage in the MLB in one run games with a record of 15-6.  The Orioles are also one of two teams to have a winning record and a negative run differential.  This just goes to show, the Orioles are a tough, gritty and nasty baseball team.  I wish the Orioles the best of luck this weekend in Los Angeles, watch the games, root for your home team and let the chips fall where they may.  I know there is a lot of baseball left to be played, but I think we will know where the Orioles stand come Monday.

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Your Monday Reality Check-What a difference a week makes?

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Your Monday Reality Check-What a difference a week makes?

Posted on 11 June 2012 by Glenn Clark

Perhaps you’re not familiar with WNST.net MLB analyst Allen McCallum. Allen was once the Ballpark Reporter at WNST, covering the Baltimore Orioles on a daily basis. He’s remained with us in the years since then, appearing once a week in studio (currently with Thyrl Nelson on “The Mobtown Sports Beat”) to talk Major League Baseball and Baltimore Orioles.

Allen is a really good dude, but is decidedly un-American in my book. You see, Allen doesn’t like football. I don’t understand it either, trust me. I have every reason to believe he celebrates the 4th of July and enjoys a good slice of Apple Pie, but he loves baseball and just doesn’t care about our national pastime.

Despite this obvious flaw, I’ve maintained a level of friendship and (as much as is possible for someone who I have to imagine may be a communist) respect for Allen. I don’t dislike him, I just don’t understand how someone like him can exist in this country. You see, football is our beautiful game. It’s a game fathers play in the backyard with sons. Baseball is okay when there aren’t real sports to watch, but is clearly inferior to football in every way.

I’m kidding. Well I’m kidding a LITTLE bit anyway.

The reason my lede is about our resident purveyor of Orange Kool-Aid is because Allen likes to make a point during the course of baseball season that is relevant to both sports. As Birds fans have a tendency to freak out over the results of a couple of games (or one game…or a couple of innings…or a single at-bat), Allen likes to send out a reminder that “this isn’t football. There’s 162 games to be played.”

It hasn’t always been good news in Charm City that the O’s have to play 162 games, but the point he makes is relevant. During Ravens season we tend to overreact to one particular game, but we do that knowing that one game reflects roughly six percent of the season. While a NFL team can certainly recover from a stretch of two or three bad games, a bad streak can quickly spiral into killing a quarter of a football season. At the same time, a bad streak of three or four games during baseball season does not even represent the same six percent of the season that one football game represents.

Let me try to step away from math for a second. A single football game is more significant than a single baseball game. But you already knew that.

Seven days ago (which as I type this would have been June 4), there was reason for great concern amongst Baltimore baseball fans. After getting off to a 27-14 start, the Birds were mired in a streak that saw them drop 10 of 13 games. Sitting at 30-24, the Birds had appeared to already be well into their annual “June swoon” and seemed destined to find themselves on their way to the cellar of the AL East.

But something funny happened in the six games that followed. Instead of continuing their free fall, the Birds stabilized. They won two of three against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park, then returned home to take two dramatic extra inning contests against the Philadelphia Phillies at Oriole Park at Camden Yards in front of thousands of stunned supporters who had made their way down I-95 from The City of Brotherly Love.

(Continued on Page 2….)

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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

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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

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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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