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Live from Camden Yards: Orange Crush chat at 7 as Orioles go for two straight over Red Sox

Posted on 27 April 2011 by Luke Jones

**Join us in the Orange Crush live chat at 7:00 as the Orioles play the second of a three-game set against the Boston Red Sox**

BALTIMORE — Looking for their second straight win against the consensus favorite in the American League East, most would love their chances sending their veteran ace to the hill.

However, taking a look at Jeremy Guthrie’s career numbers against the Red Sox and the Orioles’ attrition in his starts might cause you to rethink that philosophy. In 14 career starts against Boston, Guthrie is just 1-7 with a 4.95 earned run average. The 32-year-old has lost his last seven decisions and the Orioles have lost the last nine games Guthrie has started against the Red Sox.

Of course, consider the lineups the Orioles have trotted out there against Boston during Guthrie’s tenure in Baltimore before you write him off tonight.

Boston will give the ball to Josh Beckett, who will try to continue his success against the Orioles at Camden Yards. Beckett is 6-3 with a 3.53 ERA in 14 career starts against Baltimore, but his 5-2 mark with a 2.94 ERA in 10 starts in Baltimore is even more impressive.

It will be a tall order for the Orioles against the red-hot Beckett, but seeing Jon Lester and his 13-0 career record against the club looming on Thursday makes tonight’s challenge seem far more reasonable.

Brian Matusz will throw his first full bullpen session on Thursday before reporting to Sarasota this weekend. He is expected to pitch in at least one extended spring training game before departing on a minor league rehab assignment.

Injured reliever Chris Jakubauskas will also complete a bullpen session on Thursday.

Shortstop J.J. Hardy has experienced some soreness since resuming baseball activity, but it is not considering a major concern or anything abnormal. Hardy is eligible to come off the disabled list at any time, but his return is not imminent.

Here are tonight’s starting lineups:

Boston
CF Jacoby Ellsbury
2B Dustin Pedroia
1B Adrian Gonzalez
3B Kevin Youkilis
DH David Ortiz
RF J.D. Drew
SS Jed Lowrie
LF Carl Crawford
C Jason Varitek

SP Josh Beckett (2-1, 1.93 ERA)

Baltimore
2B Brian Roberts
RF Nick Markakis
1B Derrek Lee
DH Vladimir Guerrero
LF Luke Scott
CF Adam Jones
3B Mark Reynolds
C Matt Wieters
SS Robert Andino

SP Jeremy Guthrie (1-3, 3.12 ERA)

As we do for every weeknight home game, join us in the Orange Crush live chat beginning at 7:00. Talk about the game with us as an array of WNST.net personalities visit the cyber sports bar throughout the evening! Be sure to follow us on Twitter (@WNST) for the latest updates and analysis regarding the happenings from Oriole Park at Camden Yards!

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Orioles officially place Hardy on DL, recall Bergesen

Posted on 13 April 2011 by Luke Jones

In a move anticipated for a few days, the Orioles officially placed shortstop J.J. Hardy on the 15-day disabled list and recalled right-handed pitcher Brad Bergesen from Triple-A Norfolk prior to the start of the series opener with the New York Yankees on Wednesday night.

Hardy has gone to Sarasota to rehab a strained left oblique and the move is retroactive to April 10. The new shortstop was batting .200 with two runs batted in in six games this season.

Bergesen was optioned to Triple-A Norfolk last Saturday to clear room for the arrival of relief pitcher Chris Jakubauskas to aid a taxed bullpen last weekend. Originally slated to make the start against the Yankees on Wednesday before the rainout pushed Chris Tillman back a day, Bergesen is now slotted to make his second start of the season in Cleveland on Sunday.

The Orioles would benefit from an opportunity to use Bergesen out of the bullpen briefly on Wednesday or Thursday to prevent a 10-day stretch between outings before making the start against the Indians. Despite being optioned to the Tides, Bergesen never reported to Norfolk and remained with the team after making his only start of the season on April 6.

He allowed two earned runs in 3 2/3 innings of work in a loss to the Detroit Tigers at Camden Yards.

Be sure to follow us on Twitter (@WNST) for analysis throughout the Orioles’ abbreviated two-game set with the New York Yankees in the Bronx.

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Orioles bats fall silent in series loss to Rangers

Posted on 10 April 2011 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — The Orioles lineup started off with a bang against the Texas Rangers over the weekend, plating five runs in the first three innings of rookie Zach Britton’s masterful performance in the first game of a doubleheader Saturday, but quickly dissolved after that.

Adam Jones’ solo home run in the second inning of Saturday’s nightcap was the only run scored in the final 23 innings in the series loss to Texas as the Orioles fell 3-0 on Sunday afternoon.

The Orioles entered Sunday afternoon’s game tied for 10th in the American League in batting average (.220), 11th in on-base percentage (.281), and 10th in extra-base hits.

“I can speak for myself and Brian [Roberts] at the top of the order, I think we need to do a little better job getting on base,” right fielder Nick Markakis said. “We’ve been facing some tough pitching. Other than that, I think we’re pretty pleased with our record right now considering the way we’ve been swinging the bats, which says a lot about our pitching. We’ll get the bats going.”

Considering the offense was considered the team’s strength entering the season, it makes the Orioles’ 6-3 start that much more remarkable. However, the Baltimore bats will need to heat up this week as the Orioles head to the Bronx to take on the powerful Yankees for a three-game set.

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Texas starters Matt Harrison and Derek Holland combined to hold the Orioles to one run over 13 innings of work in the final two games while the Rangers bullpen pitched seven scoreless innings over the three-game series.

“You face good pitching, that’s usually what tends to happen,” said left fielder Luke Scott, who flied out to center as a pinch-hitter representing the tying run in the eighth. “When that happens, you just tip your cap. You look at your at-bats as, ‘Did we give at-bats away against tough pitching?’ And no, we didn’t. We battled, and when guys needed to make a good pitch for the other team, they made good pitches.”

Gutsy Guthrie

It’s been an unbelievable nine-day stretch for Jeremy Guthrie. The veteran pitcher started with a masterful eight-inning performance on Opening Day, spent two nights in the hospital earlier in the week, and finally returned to the mound at Oriole Park at Camden Yards for his first home start of the year on Sunday.

Despite feeling deprived of his normal energy while still recovering from a bout of pneumonia, Guthrie gave the Orioles six innings against the Rangers, allowing one run on four hits. His fastball sat in the 91-92 mph range for most of the afternoon, but the 32-year-old was unable to reach back for something extra on several different occasions.

“It was a battle the entire time,” Guthrie said. “Was fighting, trying to make better pitches and didn’t always do that. I was fortunate a lot on some of the outs that they didn’t hit it a lot further than they did.”

Despite several screaming outs in his six innings of work, the lone scoring blemish came in the fourth inning when Rangers third baseman Adrian Beltre homered into left-center to give Texas a 1-0 lead. Guthrie gave way after 84 pitches after feeling fatigued for much of the afternoon.

“I thought he gave us everything he had,” manager Buck Showalter said. “He was running out of gas there at the end. I was watching him when he backed up third on a fly ball for the last out. Gutty effort. [He] gave us a chance to win and you’ve got to have that with the pitching they run out there.”

The effort, however, was wasted as the Orioles couldn’t generate a single run of support as Guthrie fell to 1-1 on the season. He will next pitch on Saturday in Cleveland, with Monday’s off day providing an extra day of rest for the recovering pitcher.

“He threw great,” Markakis said. “You can’t ask for anything more from him. We couldn’t put up any runs for him, which as hitters is tough.”

Fox-hole at catcher

Spring training star Jake Fox made his second straight start on Sunday, but it came with the unconventional transition from catcher one night to left field the next. Showalter wants to get Fox’s bat in the lineup, but it poses a difficult problem when Matt Wieters is starting at catcher.

With no other backup catcher on the roster, the Orioles are left with a dangerous proposition when Fox is playing elsewhere in the field. In the unlikely scenario in which one of the two would be substituted and the other would have to leave the game, the Orioles would find themselves looking at another player on the roster as an emergency catcher.

Who it might be is anyone’s guess, including Showalter’s.

“[The emergency catcher] may not know it yet,” the manager quipped. “At one point, it was going to be [current Triple-A pitcher Rick] VandenHurk. That’d have been really tough. Take him out of the game pitching, put him behind the plate. Vandy was a catcher for three years, two years.”

Showalter pointed to the Detroit Tigers’ handling of Victor Martinez and Alex Avila as a similar situation. Ironically, the Orioles expressed interest in Martinez before the free-agent catcher signed with Detroit.

The Orioles found themselves without a backup to Wieters on Sunday when Scott hit for Fox in the bottom of the eighth when Texas closer Neftali Feliz entered the game with two men on base and a 3-0 lead.

“No, we’ve talked about that [emergency situation],” Showalter said. “It’s something we’ve got to be careful with.”

Fox’s struggles behind the plate continued Saturday night after allowing two stolen bases and catching a disastrous outing for Jake Arrieta, after which Showalter questioned the sequencing of pitches. Showalter made no secret this spring about Fox’s need to improve defensively if he is going to be a long-term solution as Wieters’ backup.

Last year’s backup Craig Tatum is currently catching at Triple-A Norfolk.

Short-stopped

With J.J. Hardy scheduled for an MRI and expected to be placed on the 15-day disabled list with a left oblique injury on Monday, the Orioles will rely on the combination of Cesar Izturis and Robert Andino while Hardy rehabs the injury at extended spring training in Sarasota.

“Izzy and Robert, both, present us with a good option,” Showalter said prior to Sunday’s game.

Defensively, yes, but the offensive implications are exactly why president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail pried away Hardy from the Minnesota Twins in the offseason. Baltimore shortstops hit just .236 with a .549 OPS in 2010, with Izturis receiving 142 starts at the position.

With Andino or Izturis manning the ninth spot in the order, it will likely create fewer RBI opportunities for Roberts, who is currently tied with third baseman Mark Reynolds for the team lead in runs batted in (eight).

Good starts not so rare

The final two losses to drop the Texas series take some of the air out of the Orioles’ sail, but a 6-3 record has Baltimore talking baseball with much excitement. Hyperbole and overreaction are synonymous with the first week of the baseball season, but it’s hard to blame fans for feeling enthused about a club with a reasonable chance to end the current streak of 13 consecutive losing seasons.

“We come out prepared everyday, play the game smart, play the game hard,” Scott said. “We’ve had some success up and down the lineup, and our pitching staff has done a great job for us. I think that’s where everything started. We’ve been getting good outings from our starters. The bullpen’s been coming in and giving us quality innings. It’s a good formula for success and hopefully we can continue that.”

However, with the Orioles heading to Yankee Stadium and following that with a three-game series in Cleveland against the red-hot Indians, optimism could come back down to earth in a hurry.

And it wouldn’t be that terribly different than a number of occasions over the last 13 years. For all the talk of this year being different, the Orioles are no strangers to strong starts.

Strong starts since 1997
1998 – 10-2 (finished 79-83)
2000 – 15-10 (finished 74-88)
2003 – 15-12 (finished 71-91)
2004 – 20-16 (finished 78-84)
2005 – 42-28 (finished 74-88)
2006 – 11-7 (finished 70-92)
2007 – 11-7 (finished 69-93)
2008 – 6-1 (finished 68-93)
2009 – 6-2 (finished 64-98)

Of course, most would correctly argue this year’s team has far more talent than those clubs of the past, but things can fall apart very quickly. In reality, many of the superlatives tossed around over the last nine days aren’t that terribly different than ones uttered in past seasons after strong starts.

The true test for gauging how much progress the Orioles have made will be watching them succeed in the middle portion of the season and, most importantly, seeing them play well in August and September when pitchers — especially young ones — tend to wear down.

Last season’s 34-23 finish under Showalter bodes well for this team’s chances, but it’s important for fans to brace themselves for struggles, especially in the starting rotation while the Orioles await Brian Matusz’s return in a few weeks.

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Orioles’ Britton conquers powerful Texas, Arrieta falters in doubleheader split

Posted on 09 April 2011 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — If you happened to watch the Texas Rangers’ pummeling of talented Orioles pitcher Jake Arrieta in the nightcap of Saturday’s doubleheader that was over after the Rangers’ six-run third inning, you can appreciate even more what rookie Zach Britton was able to do in his second big league start earlier in the afternoon.

Facing a lineup that had a staggering 32 extra-base hits and a .958 OPS in its first six games entering Saturday, Britton dominated the American League champions over 7 2/3 innings, allowing no runs and four hits to earn his second victory in a 5-0 win for the Orioles. Britton struck out two and walked three in his first start in Baltimore that was delayed a day due to Friday’s rain and became the first pitcher to beat the Rangers this season.

“He was very good,” manager Buck Showalter said. “It goes without saying. I think he had five hitters on to lead off innings, something like that. That’s the beauty of the ground ball. We actually had a chance to turn another [double play] behind him. He had good stuff, trusted it. Thought his secondary stuff was good too.”

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Knowing he needed to eat up innings with the Orioles facing a doubleheader with an already-taxed bullpen, Britton used his heavy sinker to the tune of 16 groundball outs, including three double plays, and allowed only one batter to reach third base before being lifted with two outs in the eighth. It was a good thing too, as Arrieta lasted only 3 1/3 innings and allowed eight runs in the second game before giving way to the bullpen in a 13-1 drubbing.

“It doesn’t really matter who we’re facing,” said Britton when asked about facing such a formidable lineup. “My job today was to go out there and give us a lot of innings because we had a doubleheader. To save the bullpen, my job going in was to go as deep as I can and that’s what my mindset was.”

The Baltimore bats certainly did their part in his start, staking the rookie to a 5-0 lead in the first three innings, but Britton’s mindset didn’t change as it does with many young pitchers. He continued attacking Texas hitters, forcing grounder after grounder to keep his infield active throughout the afternoon.

“It’s the same thing,” Britton said. “We’re ahead in the game. My job’s to go in there and pump strikes, make them put the ball in play. And I can get our team back in the dugout as quickly as possible.”

However, the lefty wasn’t perfect as he walked the leadoff hitter three times, a dangerous proposition for any pitcher yet alone one making his second big league start. His leadoff walk to Nelson Cruz in his final inning of work ultimately led to his departure prior to the end of the eighth inning. Despite a rousing standing ovation from an appreciative Camden Yards crowd, Britton was not pleased with how his afternoon ended, offering an impressive glimpse into his competitive nature.

“I wanted to stay out there obviously, but I walked Cruz and that kills you,” Britton said. “You know walks are going to kill you, get your pitch count up. I knew why I was [coming] out, but I would’ve liked to finish it, but it was a good call.”

As the final arrival of the much-hyped cavalry of young pitchers talked about for the last few years, it’s hard not to be excited about his performance after two starts. Britton has pitched to a 2-0 record with a 0.66 earned run average over 13 2/3 innings. However, you get the sense Britton isn’t satisfied yet and that he’s only scratching the surface of his immense talent.

His hard sinking fastball regularly hit 92-93 mph on the radar gun Saturday, and several four-seam fastballs reached the 95-96 range. Left-handed pitchers with that kind of velocity just don’t come around very often.

Britton will inevitably struggle at some point as teams begin to see more tape on him, which will force him to make adjustments as any player does at this level. However, it will be hard to doubt his ability to do it when the time comes.

“He’s got good stuff,” outfielder Adam Jones said. “It’s the second start in the big leagues. Ask me about July. A lot of video’s going to get out on him, and he’s going to have to make those adjustments. But he’s got electric stuff.

Listening to Britton talk about his impressive performance against one of the best lineups in baseball while emphasizing the things on which he needs to improve, it’s understandable why so many have whispered what he might become down the road with the psyche to supplement the physical tools.

An ace.

“I’m happy we won,” Britton said. “I think we showed that we can compete with a good team. We played really good baseball, and that’s what this team’s all about is playing good baseball. What I did was just icing on the cake.”

NOTES: J.J. Hardy returned to the lineup in the nightcap of the doubleheader, but left after his first at-bat in the second inning with a strained left oblique, an injury that will likely land him on the 15-day disabled list. Hardy had missed two straight games with the injury. “It sucks. I mean, I came in today feeling like everything was gone. It was nothing. Took some swings in the cage, felt like it was gone. Then took that first swing in the game, and it just kind of grabbed on me.” … Jeremy Guthrie will return to the mound Sunday after a bout with pneumonia earlier this week. He has not pitched since the season-opening win on April 1. … Arrieta allowed a career-high eight runs on Saturday night. … Nick Markakis has reached based safely in all eight games this season. The Orioles right fielder homered in the first game and walked in the nightcap to extend his streak. … The Orioles conclude their six-game homestand on Sunday afternoon as Guthrie goes to the hill against Derek Holland in the rubber game of a three-game set.

Visit the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault to hear from Zach Britton, Jake Arrieta, Buck Showalter, Adam Jones, Brian Roberts, J.J. Hardy, and Chris Jakubauskas.

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Live from Camden Yards: Roberts returns to lineup, Bergesen optioned to Norfolk

Posted on 09 April 2011 by Luke Jones

**Join us in a special makeup edition of the Orange Crush live chat at 4:30 this afternoon as the Orioles send Zach Britton to the hill in his home debut against the Texas Rangers for the first game of a twin bill***

BALTIMORE — The rains have subsided, but the news keeps pouring in regarding the Orioles’ tenuous roster situation prior to today’s doubleheader with the Texas Rangers.

Second baseman Brian Roberts is in the starting lineup for Game 1 after being taken to the hospital with stomach pain Friday night. Doctors did not give a formal diagnosis, but ruled out any chance of appendicitis.

“Everything’s fine,” Roberts said. “I hadn’t been feeling great for a couple days, and the doctors, a little while before [Friday’s scheduled game], wanted me to get checked out.”

Shortstop J.J. Hardy will not start in the first game of the doubleheader, but he is expected to play in the nightcap, according to manager Buck Showalter.

The Orioles’ pitching concerns sparked a noteworthy change Saturday afternoon after a few days of speculation. Starting pitcher Brad Bergesen has been optioned to Triple-A Norfolk, and the Orioles have selected the contract of right-handed pitcher Chris Jakubauskas from Norfolk. Jakubauskas will be used in an emergency situation if needed during the twin bill and is in line to make Sunday’s start with Jeremy Guthrie being pushed back to Tuesday.

Bergesen declined comment on the demotion as he was exiting the Baltimore clubhouse.

“It’s time for [Bergesen] to get down there and get his feet back down on the ground,” said Showalter, alluding to his infrequent work at the end of spring training and the first week of the regular season.

Bergesen struggled in his first start Wednesday, allowing two earned runs in 3 2/3 innings against the Tigers before being lifted after 89 pitches.

Jakubauskas not only brings a name that’s difficult to spell, but was the logical choice considering he will work on regular rest after being slated to pitch for the Tides on Sunday. He also has options remaining, meaning the Orioles can send him back to the minors without exposing him to waivers. Having an empty spot on the 40-man roster, the Orioles did not have to remove anyone to call up Jakubauskas.

The right-hander appeared in five games for the Orioles this spring, allowing no runs and four hits in 6 1/3 innings. He’s pitched in 36 career games in the majors with the Seattle Mariners and Pittsburgh Pirates, going 6-8 with a 5.48 ERA in 93 2/3 innings. He will wear No. 55.

“I’m fresh and ready to go,” Jakubauskas said. “If I get in there tonight, great. If I get in there tomorrow and start [in place of Guthrie], perfect. I’m just looking to get in there and get the first one out of the way.”

He figures to remain with the big club for awhile as Bergesen would not be eligible to be recalled for a minimum of 10 days unless the Orioles place someone on the 15-day disabled list.

Coming off a 9-5 victory over the Tigers on Thursday, Baltimore (5-1) sends rookie Zach Britton to the mound for his home debut against Rangers veteran Colby Lewis, who returned from two years in Japan to go 12-13 with a 3.72 ERA in 2010.

Here are this afternoon’s starting lineups:

Texas
2B Ian Kinsler
SS Elvis Andrus
LF Josh Hamilton
3B Adrian Beltre
DH Michael Young
RF Nelson Cruz
1B Mike Napoli
C Yorvit Torrealba
CF Julio Borbon

SP Colby Lewis (1-0, 4.50)

Baltimore
2B Brian Roberts
RF Nick Markakis
1B Derrek Lee
RF Vladimir Guerrero
LF Luke Scott
CF Adam Jones
3B Mark Reynolds
C Matt Wieters
SS Cesar Izturis

SP Zach Britton (1-0, 1.50 ERA)

With last night’s game being postponed, we open up the Orange Crush live chat for a special Saturday afternoon edition. Talk about the game with us as an array of WNST.net personalities visit the cyber sports bar throughout the afternoon! Be sure to follow us on Twitter (@WNST) for the latest updates and analysis regarding today’s straight doubleheader at Oriole Park at Camden Yards!

Visit the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault to hear from Roberts, Showalter, and Jakubauskas prior to the start of Saturday’s doubleheader with the Texas Rangers.

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Roberts’ stomach ailment the latest addition to Orioles’ MASH unit

Posted on 08 April 2011 by Luke Jones

When it rains, it pours.

Only it has nothing to do with the day-long rain that postponed the Orioles’ series opener against the Texas Rangers on Friday night.

There’s another name to add to the Orioles’ ever-growing infirmary report with the startling news of Brian Roberts being taken to a local hospital because of stomach pains. Roberts would have been the second starting infielder in as many days — the other being J.J. Hardy due to a ribcage injury on Thursday — to become a late scratch had the weather not forced a cancellation in what was supposed to be rookie Zach Britton’s home debut.

Roberts’ status for Saturday’s straight doubleheader is unknown, and Hardy was not going to be in the lineup for the second straight night Friday. Both Hardy and manager Buck Showalter said the shortstop’s status is day-to-day, and a trip to the 15-day disabled list does not appear to be necessary, but it’s hard to feel encouraged about anything given the recent chain of events in Baltimore.

If Roberts and Hardy are unavailable, the Orioles would be forced to go with the double-play combination of Robert Andino and Cesar Izturis.

This comes immediately after the return of left fielder Luke Scott who missed three games this week after going down with a groin injury last Saturday in Tampa Bay.

Roberts with stomach pain? Jeremy Guthrie with pneumonia? Brian Matusz going on the disabled list before even throwing a pitch in the 2011 season?

What’s next? Showalter tripping on the dugout steps making a pitching change?

The positive vibes of a 5-1 start only go so far before taking a look at the current state of the roster.

With Britton pitching the first game Saturday against Colby Lewis and Jake Arrieta taking the hill against Matt Harrison in the nightcap, the Orioles are desperately looking for two deep outings to save a tired bullpen that managed to receive a night off due to the rain. A heavy workload in the twin bill would place the bullpen in an even more vulnerable position than it was entering Friday. Troy Patton has been put on alert for a promotion, but the left-hander isn’t eligible to be recalled until Sunday due to the rule forbidding players on the 40-man roster to be recalled until 10 days into the regular season.

To further complicate the pitching situation, Guthrie’s status remains up in the air after he threw a successful bullpen session Friday. It’s unknown whether he’ll make his start Sunday as he continues to regain stamina after being hospitalized earlier this week.

If Guthrie is unable to go, the Orioles will likely turn to Norfolk pitcher Chris Jakubauskas to take the hill in his place. Who he replaces on the 25-man roster is anyone’s guess.

What a mess.

And with the powerful Texas lineup getting an extra night’s rest in rainy Baltimore Friday night, things could get ugly very quickly this weekend against the 6-0 Rangers.

Hold on tight.

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Orioles-Rangers postponed, will play doubleheader Saturday

Posted on 08 April 2011 by Luke Jones

(Updated 9:50 p.m.) — Tonight’s game has been postponed and will be made up as part of a straight doubleheader beginning at 4:35 p.m. on Saturday afternoon. Be sure to follow us on Twitter (@WNST) for the latest updates and analysis from Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

Here’s the official press release regarding the cancellation and ticket exchanges:

Tonight’s game between the Orioles and Texas Rangers has been postponed due to rain. The teams will play a single-admission doubleheader tomorrow beginning at 4:35 p.m.

Tickets for tonight’s game may be exchanged for seats of equal value for tomorrow’s doubleheader or any remaining non-prime home game during the 2011 season, subject to availability. Ticket exchanges must be made by May 31. Student Night tickets may be exchanged for tomorrow’s game or any other non-prime Friday home game during the 2011 season.

Tickets for tomorrow’s game will be valid for both games of the doubleheader.

Original ticket purchasers residing outside a 75-mile radius of Camden Yards may request a refund because of the postponement. Refund requests must be submitted in writing along with the original tickets and mailed via certified mail by May 31 to:

Baltimore Orioles
Attention: April 8 Rainout
333 West Camden Street
Baltimore, MD 21201

BALTIMORE — With the Rangers coming to town for the opener of a three-game set at 7:05, Camden Yards would certainly benefit from the dry Texas heat this evening as rain has fallen in the area all day. The Orioles are hoping to get this one in, but the tarp remains on the field less than an hour before gametime.

Coming off a 9-5 victory over the Tigers on Thursday, Baltimore (5-1) sends rookie Zach Britton to the mound for his home debut against Rangers veteran Colby Lewis, who returned from two years in Japan to go 12-13 with a 3.72 ERA in 2010.

Shortstop J.J. Hardy is out of the lineup again as he continues to deal with a left ribcage injury that forced him out of Thursday’s game only minutes before first pitch. Hardy is not expected to go on the 15-day disabled list at this point, according to manager Buck Showalter.

In other injury-related news, Jeremy Guthrie’s bullpen session in the indoor tunnel went well earlier this afternoon, but the Orioles will hold off on making an announcement regarding his status for Sunday. If Guthrie is unable to make the start, he would likely be pushed back to Tuesday’s game against the Yankees in the Bronx. Of course, if Guthrie’s stamina isn’t where it needs to be — anyone who’s ever had pneumonia can empathize — the disabled list could be an option and would be retroactive to April 2.

More concerning than anything for the first-place Orioles is the current state of the rotation and bullpen. With Josh Rupe and Jeremy Accardo each expected to be unavailable for tonight’s game, the Birds may be forced to make a roster move for another bullpen arm.

But who goes in return?

The Orioles would have likely elected to go with a short bench under normal conditions, but Felix Pie, Robert Andino, and Jake Fox are all out of options. They could also elect to temporarily send down a starting pitcher such as Chris Tillman or Brad Bergesen, but any player optioned to the minor leagues must remain there for 10 days unless recalled due to an injury.

Talk about robbing Peter to pay Paul.

Here are tonight’s starting lineups:

Texas
2B Ian Kinsler
SS Elvis Andrus
LF Josh Hamilton
3B Adrian Beltre
DH Michael Young
RF Nelson Cruz
1B Mike Napoli
C Yorvit Torrealba
CF Julio Borbon

SP Colby Lewis (1-0, 4.50)

Baltimore
2B Brian Roberts
RF Nick Markakis
1B Derrek Lee
RF Vladimir Guerrero
LF Luke Scott
CF Adam Jones
3B Mark Reynolds
C Matt Wieters
SS Cesar Izturis

SP Zach Britton (1-0, 1.50 ERA)

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Orioles hit and walk way to 9-5 victory over Tigers

Posted on 08 April 2011 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — This one had a little bit of everything for the Orioles.

Two different lineup changes before the game even started.

An unconventional 8-9 putout in the fourth inning that really wasn’t an out at all.

Five extra-base hits and seven walks for the offense, two areas in which the Orioles had languished in the season’s first five games.

Three separate comebacks.

But most importantly, a second series win in the opening week of the season after a 9-5 victory over the Detroit Tigers on Thursday. Lest we forget, the Orioles didn’t earn their first series win until May 2 last year and their second until May 13.

Who knows how long this fast start will continue — remember the Texas Rangers are coming to town for a three-game set before the Orioles head to the Bronx to take on the Yankees — but it’s sure been a lot of fun, hasn’t it? A five-game lead over the Red Sox and the Rays might not mean much in April, but it’s a lot better than trailing by five games right out of the gate.

After doing just enough to get by but failing to overwhelm opponents during their 4-0 start, the lineup busted out Thursday with Adam Jones and Mark Reynolds knocking in three runs apiece and Vladimir Guerrero hitting his first home run of the season. It was a good thing too, as Chris Tillman struggled in 4 2/3 innings in a second straight lackluster start for the Baltimore rotation.

With the Orioles currently missing three projected members of the starting rotation, they’ll need potent bats to stick with two of the most prolific offenses in the game over their next six games. But they hadn’t been very potent in terms of power, or simply getting on base, in the first five games of the season. The Orioles had just 11 extra-base hits entering the night before collecting five against Tigers pitching, including home runs by Guerrero and Jones and a two-run double by Reynolds.

They hadn’t been patient either, collecting just eight free passes in five games before drawing seven walks against Detroit pitching.

It was an impressive display of power and patience as every starter except Brian Roberts — who collected two hits anyway — either homered or walked to send the Orioles to their biggest run output of the young season.

The Orioles’ offensive explosion occurred despite the late scratch of shortstop J.J. Hardy, who is dealing with a lower left rib cage injury. Cesar Izturis took his place in a move that wasn’t announced until the Orioles had taken the field to warm up for the top of the first inning. Left fielder Luke Scott was a late addition to the lineup after he proved to be fit to play after a successful batting practice session.

Even the light-hitting Izturis felt the hitting bug, collecting a run-scoring single as part of the Orioles’ pivotal five-run seventh inning that transformed the Tigers’ 5-4 lead into a 9-5 victory to move the Orioles to 5-1 and all alone atop the AL East.

Hardy spoke to reporters following the game, saying he felt minimal pain when swinging hard during batting practice. It was ultimately manager Buck Showalter’s decision to keep him out of the lineup on a chilly night at Camden Yards. Hardy does not believe the injury is serious but wanted to see how it responds on Friday before committing to an immediate return to the lineup.

The injuries keep piling up, but the Orioles have overcome — and thrived — against early adversity in the opening week of the season.

Instead of making excuses, or lamenting over who’s not able to play on any given night, the Orioles continue to get the job done since Showalter took over in early August of last season.

It’s sure been a fun ride so far.

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Live from Camden Yards: An Opening Day edition of the Orange Crush at 3!

Posted on 04 April 2011 by Luke Jones

***Join us in the Orange Crush live chat beginning at 3:00 as the Orioles take on the Detroit Tigers in the home opener!***

BALTIMORE – Fresh off a sweep to begin the season in Tampa Bay, the 3-0 Orioles return home for Opening Day to take on the Detroit Tigers (1-2) and to begin the 20th season at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

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Jake Arrieta takes the hill hoping to continue the pitching success from the weekend — specifically with the starters — after allowing only three runs in three games. Manager Buck Showalter downplayed the overall significance of the hot start but acknowledged the benefit of a good start for a young team short on winning experience.

“It’s certainly not a bad thing,” Showalter said. “I don’t think anybody will have higher expectations than, hopefully, our players have of themselves and them as a group.”

However, all is not rosy on Opening Day as Jeremy Guthrie has been hospitalized with the flu. His fever spiked overnight and underwent tests on Monday morning to determine the nature of the illness, according to Showalter. Brad Bergesen would start in his place on Wednesday should Guthrie be unable to go.

“We’ll see what the next couple days bring,” Showalter said. “We’ll probably make a decision on that [Tuesday].”

It’s not exactly the news Orioles fans wanted to hear after Brian Matusz was placed on the disabled list over the weekend and veteran Justin Duchscherer continues to work his way back from back and hip issues on the 15-day DL.

In other injury news, Showalter said Luke Scott (groin) would be available this afternoon, but the manager’s preference is to rest his regular left fielder until Wednesday in “a perfect world” scenario. Felie Pie will start in Scott’s place.

Here are this afternoon’s starting lineups:

Detroit
CF Austin Jackson
2B Will Rhymes
RF Magglio Ordonez
1B Miguel Cabrera
DH Victor Martinez
LF Brennan Boesch
SS Jhonny Peralta
C Alex Avila
3B Brandon Inge

SP Rick Porcello

Orioles
2B Brian Roberts
RF Nick Markakis
1B Derrek Lee
DH Vladimir Guerrero
C Matt Wieters
CF Adam Jones
3B Mark Reynolds
LF Felix Pie
SS J.J. Hardy

SP Jake Arrieta

As we do for each weekday home game, please join us in the Orange Crush live chat beginning at 3:00 as the Orioles look for their first 4-0 start since 1997. Drew Forrester and an array of WNST.net personalities will be chatting and offering their thoughts on the red-hot Orioles. Remember to follow us on Twitter (@WNST) for the latest news and analysis from Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

Visit the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault to hear from Showalter, Jake Fox, J.J. Hardy, Mark Reynolds, and Chris Tillman as we welcome the Orioles back to Baltimore on a beautiful April afternoon!

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Are Orioles fans seeing that “MIRAGE” again …..

Posted on 05 January 2011 by Rex Snider

With the holidays firmly planted among recent memories, we’re embarking on new beginnings for an array of differing causes. Our vacation calendars and taxable earnings totals are among slates that are wiped clean.

It’s January, which means the Baltimore Ravens are preparing for the most intense stretch of the season …. ACC basketball is becoming meaningful …. and Major League Baseball is disclosing the list of their latest immortals.

Hearing Roberto Alomar’s name mentioned as a Hall Of Famer will be a gratifying moment for many of Baltimore’s baseball fans. But, to be honest, those who love the O’s have much bigger things in mind.

Ushering in a new year means we’re just weeks away from Spring Training …. and a brand new world of renewed optimism. I understand the positive outlook and in some ways, I think the Orioles have improved the ballclub.

That said, after a few dozen phone calls in the past week, I fear Orioles fans are on the brink of falling into a conspicuous trap of recent past campaigns …..

That’s right, call it drinking kool-aid, believing in miracles or perennial hope. But, optimism always runs rampant before baseball season begins.

The truth is the Orioles are comprised of many IFS …..

If this …..

If that …..

If …. If …. If …..

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