Tag Archive | "joe saunders"

With Saunders inked, would Orioles consider minor-league deal for Jim Johnson?

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With Saunders inked, would Orioles consider minor-league deal for Jim Johnson?

Posted on 01 August 2014 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — The Orioles added to their organizational pitching depth Friday by signing left-handed pitcher Joe Saunders to a minor-league deal, leading many to wonder whether former All-Star closer Jim Johnson could be the next former Baltimore pitcher to return to the organization.

After beginning the season in the Rangers’ starting rotation, Saunders was released twice in the month of July and went 0-5 with a 6.13 ERA in eight starts for Texas this season. After being released by the Rangers on July 4, Saunders signed a minor-league deal with the Royals and was let go earlier this week after posting a 6.75 ERA in four starts for Triple-A Omaha.

Of course, Saunders was acquired by the Orioles late in the 2012 season and went 3-3 with a 3.63 ERA in seven starts spanning 44 2/3 innings and was the winning pitcher in the inaugural American League Wild Card Game to send the Orioles to their first American League Division Series appearance since 1997. The 33-year-old went 11-16 with a 5.26 ERA in 32 starts for Seattle last season.

Realistically speaking, Saunders provides little more than some injury insurance as well as an option to pitch in long relief if he can work out the issues that have plagued him all season and prompted two other organizations to give up on him in the last month alone.

The more interesting question presented Friday came after the Oakland Athletics officially released Johnson, who pitched to a disastrous 7.14 ERA in 38 appearances and lost his closer job with his new — and now former — club at the beginning of the season. After Johnson collected a combined 101 saves for the Orioles in 2012 and 2013, executive vice president of baseball operations dealt him to Oakland for infielder Jemile Weeks and catcher David Freitas last winter.

Needless to say, the deal was an utter failure for Oakland while the Orioles haven’t really benefited with their return beyond saving the $10 million the 2012 All-Star selection was set to earn through arbitration in 2014. It’s clear that Johnson needed a change of scenery and a mental break at the very least, but would the Orioles consider bringing back the 31-year-old on a minor-league deal?

Manager Buck Showalter tried to dodge the question on Friday, but it’s no secret that Johnson was one of his favorites in Baltimore.

“We like Jimmy. He pitched real well for us here.” Showalter said. “He’s on his way to Sarasota. I know [pitching rehabilitation coordinator] Scotty McGregor is real close to him. If he becomes completely available, I’m sure a lot of people would have interest in him — including us.”

Showalter mentioning Johnson going to Sarasota was interesting considering it’s the club’s spring training home and the pitcher lives there, making it a compelling landing spot for him to clear his head and figure out his woes to get his career back on track.

Of course, the Orioles just acquired left-handed reliever Andrew Miller to sure up the back end of the bullpen and don’t have a pressing need, but Johnson’s track record wouldn’t make it a terrible idea to see if the organization can fix his problems — he averaged 5.1 walks per nine innings and posted a 2.06 WHIP in Oakland — and make him a middle relief option later this year or even next. Prior to this season, Johnson had pitched to an ERA under 3.00 in three consecutive seasons and was an above-average reliever in the AL for a number of years.

Just like the Saunders signing, a potential move to ink Johnson to a minor-league deal should be viewed with very little consequence and no serious expectations, but the familiar surroundings of the Orioles organization would seem to be a good fit if the reliever is to get his career back on track. Johnson was quite fond of his time in Baltimore and was quite emotional upon learning he had been traded last December.

Above all, it’s the kind of reclamation project that has Duquette and the Orioles written all over it, which would make his return not the least bit surprising.

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Orioles reportedly talking to left-handed starters Saunders, Capuano

Posted on 10 February 2014 by WNST Staff

With the start of spring training fast approaching, the Orioles continue their stated quest of adding a veteran starting pitcher and are reportedly looking at two veteran southpaws to potentially add to the mix.

Baltimore is talking to former Orioles starter Joe Saunders and journeyman Chris Capuano, according to Jon Morosi of FOX Sports. Saunders pitched with Seattle in 2013 — going 11-16 with a 5.26 earned run average — while the 35-year-old Capuano pitched to a 4-7 mark with a 4.26 ERA with the National League West champion Los Angeles Dodgers

“Chris is in excellent physical condition and his mound sessions are going extremely well,” Capuano’s agent Michael Moye told FOX Sports.

Of course, the 32-year-old Saunders earned local fame pitching for the Orioles in the latter stages of the 2012 season after he was acquired from the Arizona Diamondback on Aug. 26, 2012. The lefty was 3-3 with a 3.63 ERA in seven regular-season starts before earning the win in the inaugural 2012 AL Wild Card Game against the Texas Rangers, pitching 5 2/3 innings and allowing just one earned run.

Despite another solid outing in Game 4 of the Division Series, Saunders departed via free agency last winter by signing a one-year, $6.5 million contract with the Mariners.

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Ten Orioles thoughts with April in the books

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Ten Orioles thoughts with April in the books

Posted on 01 May 2013 by Luke Jones

With the Orioles concluding the opening month of the 2013 season by tying a franchise record with 16 wins in April, here are 10 thoughts to ponder as May begins:

1. Jason Hammel leads the club with four wins, but we’ve yet to see the 2012 version of the de facto ace show up this season. That’s not to say the right-hander hasn’t been one of the Orioles’ better starting pitchers, but the two-seam fastball that led to his renaissance last season hasn’t shown nearly the same bite through six starts this year. Despite a 3.79 earned run average, Hammel is averaging just 5.9 innings per start and his 5.3 strikeouts per nine innings is down dramatically from the 8.6 rate he held last season. Always possessing strong breaking stuff, Hammel needs to find a better feel for his two-seamer in order to make the rest of his repertoire more explosive. There was little debate that 2012 was a career season for Hammel prior to the knee surgery in July, but the Orioles didn’t actively pursue an impact starting pitcher with the thought — wise or not — that they had a pitcher with top-of-the rotation stuff. They’ll need better from Hammel over the next five months of the season.

2. Chris Davis’ historic opening-week start gained the most attention, but the free-swinging first baseman also collected 16 walks in April. His nine home runs have garnered plenty of press as opponents are pitching the left-handed slugger very carefully since the beginning of the season, but the walk totals have led many — including me — to praise Davis for an improved level of patience at the plate after he walked only 37 times during the 2012 season. However, the 27-year-old is seeing just 3.79 pitches per plate appearance after averaging 4.00 pitches per trip to the plate a year ago. Part of this can be explained by Davis’ strikeout rate decreasing (one every 3.5 at-bats compared to one per 3.0 at-bats last year), but it also indicates his walk numbers may not be sustained as his bat inevitably cools off at different points in the season. Regardless of just how much more patient Davis has become at the plate or not, it’s difficult to dispute how much of a force he’s become since the beginning of last season, making his acquisition in the Koji Uehara deal in 2011 a brilliant one by former president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail.

3. The decisions to let go of Mark Reynolds and Joe Saunders weren’t the problem, but electing not to replace them is looking more and more like a mistake. Anyone who expects the former Orioles first baseman to continue hitting .300 like he did in his first month with Cleveland will likely be disappointed, but his eight home runs would look very good in the Baltimore lineup right now. Considering Orioles designated hitters batted .144 and posted a .502 on-base plus slugging percentage in April, Reynolds occupying that role or first base — with Davis handling the other — would be a major boost to the lineup. Meanwhile, Saunders pitched a complete game against the Orioles on Monday night but has been abysmal away from Safeco Field (12.51 ERA) so far. As I said during the offseason, letting go of Reynolds and Saunders was fine if the intention was to upgrade each of their spots and executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette expressed the desire to acquire a middle-of-the-order bat and a veteran starting pitcher. However, neither of those goals were accomplished and that could continue to plague the Orioles throughout 2013.

4. Zach Britton turned in a poor 2013 debut, but his quick demotion sends the wrong message to the organization’s young pitchers. No one expected the 25-year-old left-hander to have a long leash given the higher expectations in Baltimore these days, but I can’t subscribe to the idea of sending down a pitcher who you hope will fit into your future after only one rough start. This creates the impression that young pitchers looking for their chance in Baltimore need to be perfect, which isn’t a mindset conducive to being successful. I also wonder what kind of message it sends to Norfolk manager Ron Johnson and pitching coach Mike Griffin, who gave their recommendation for Britton to be the next call-up after Josh Stinson’s failed start last week. A spot start for an organizational depth guy like Stinson or even a journeyman like Freddy Garcia is fine, but if the expectation all along was for Britton to only receive one chance, the club would have been better served leaving him in Norfolk and not messing with his head. Again, allowing six earned runs in six innings was far from acceptable, but it wasn’t the type of disastrous outing that warranted an immediate exit.

5. It’s safe to say Nolan Reimold has yet to adjust to his new role as the club’s primary designated hitter. Reimold has two home runs, five RBIs, and a 1.029 OPS in 29 plate appearances as the club’s left fielder, but the 29-year-old has posted an ugly .477 OPS with one homer and two RBIs in 52 plate appearances while serving in the DH spot. The problem for Reimold is the remarkable play of Nate McLouth, who has been more productive at the plate and is better defensively in the outfield. Manager Buck Showalter can’t justify taking McLouth out of left field, so Reimold needs to adjust to his new role, which can be difficult for individuals accustomed to being in the game as a defensive player. The good news for Reimold is that he’s remained healthy after undergoing spinal fusion surgery last year, but the Orioles must get better production from the designated hitter or will need to begin looking at other options for the role. It’s fair to acknowledge he’s still regaining strength and is adjusting to not having quite as much range of motion in his neck after the surgery, but Reimold would be the first to tell you he needs to be better at the plate.

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Unforgettable series between Orioles, Yankees was destined for Game 5

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Unforgettable series between Orioles, Yankees was destined for Game 5

Posted on 12 October 2012 by Luke Jones

NEW YORK — After four nights of unforgettable postseason baseball, what more could you ask for than a Game 5 in the American League Division Series between the Orioles and Yankees?

Counted out by many after a crushing extra-inning loss in Game 3 Wednesday night, the Orioles and their ability to bounce back from defeat once again proved the naysayers wrong. Their 2-1 win over the New York Yankees in 13 innings Thursday night not only staved off elimination, but it was everything you could ask for in a playoff game.

When shortstop J.J. Hardy’s drive in the top of the 13th found the left-center gap to plate rookie Manny Machado, a collective sigh of relief was evident in the minds of Orioles hitters who had been held to only one run in their previous 19 innings.

“A little bit of everything, frustrated, fatigued,” Hardy said. “We had our back against the wall. It was win or go home, and we knew it. It was intense out there, and it was nice to come through there in the 13th.”

The Orioles and Yankees have played each other 22 times this season, with each club winning 11. New York has outscored Baltimore in those games by a narrow 103-101 margin.

Of the 43 innings played over the first four games, the clubs have been separated by more than one run at the conclusion of only two innings for the entire series.

The clubs have been tight all year, so why not leave it to a one-game scenario for the ultimate bragging rights and the ability to advance?

As bats on both sides have largely been dormant — and that’s putting it mildly — the pitching has dominated for each club. The series has supported the old adage that good pitching beats good hitting time and time again.

Friday’s series finale will feature Yankees ace CC Sabathia against Orioles starter Jason Hammel in a rematch of what we witnessed in Game 1. A trip to the AL Championship Series against the Detroit Tigers is on the line.

“As good a a team as they are, it’s an honor to be in Game 5 with them,” manager Buck Showalter said. “You knew all along that the road to where we want to try to get is going to have to pass through here. They deserve to be playing, having the home-field advantage. I don’t get too over-analytical about it. We come and compete.”

Several Orioles hitters acknowledged after Game 4 they’ve been pressing at the plate with runs at such a premium for each club. As a result, the averages have plummeted in each lineup as the struggles of Adam Jones and Matt Wieters have been matched by Robinson Cano, Alex Rodriguez, and Curtis Granderson.

Veteran Joe Saunders turned in a second straight strong performance in an elimination game on Thursday, but it was the bullpen that shined as it threw 7 1/3 innings of shutout ball. Pedro Strop, Tommy Hunter, and Luis Ayala made their postseason debuts after not pitching in over a week but contributed to the Orioles’ ability to keep the New York bats silent.

And it’s a good thing too as the Orioles finished 1-for-11 with runners in scoring position and found even fewer scoring opportunities against the New York bullpen later in the game.

“Pitchers have been making their pitches,” Hardy said. “Maybe we’re all trying to do too much. There hasn’t been a whole lot of opportunities to score runs, so when there are those opportunities, I think we’re trying a little bit too hard.”

Regardless of what happens on Friday, the Orioles once again displayed the toughness and tenacity necessary to go deep into the postseason, even if their talent in other areas may eventually prevent them from fulfilling their World Series dreams.

After a 93-win season, a Wild Card Game victory, and one of the biggest turnarounds in club history, the Orioles now found themselves in a winner-take-all elimination game against the Yankees, the franchise that’s become the focal point of frustration for clubs such as Baltimore who haven’t been able to compete for a variety of reasons over the years.

Friday isn’t about payroll or prior playoff experience.

It comes down to one game.

Whether you’re 42-year-old Jim Thome or the 20-year-old Machado still establishing himself in the big leagues, what more could you have dreamed about for this club and this season?

“It’s been a great experience,” Machado said. “I can’t ask for any better. I’ve got a great group of guys here, a great team. It’s the best experience I’ve had playing baseball.”

I suspect it ranks right up there for Orioles fans watching the experience unfold.

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Hammel to start potential Game 5 and other Game 4 pre-game notes

Posted on 10 October 2012 by Luke Jones

(Update: Joe Saunders was named the Game 4 starter following the 3-2 loss to the Yankees on Wednesday night.)

NEW YORK — As the Orioles prepared to play Game 3 of the American League Division Series against the New York Yankees on Wednesday night, their starting pitcher for Game 4 remained a mystery.

Manager Buck Showalter will wait until after Game 3 to decide between left-hander Joe Saunders and right-hander Chris Tillman to make Thursday’s start at Yankee Stadium. Saunders would be working on five days’ rest while Tillman hasn’t pitched since last Wednesday against Tampa Bay in the final game of the regular season.

“We were kind of hoping you would tell us,” said Saunders, drawing laughter from the media gathered prior to Game 3. “Because we don’t know yet. Whoever it is, me or Chris, we’re going to go out there and do our job.”

To the surprise of nearly everyone outside the organization, Saunders pitched 5 2/3 innings of one-run ball against the Texas Rangers in the AL Wild Card game last Friday to help land the Orioles in the Division Series. Saunders made one start against the Yankees in the regular season, allowing two earned runs in 5 1/3 innings of work at Camden Yards on Sept. 8.

In six career starts against New York, the 31-year-old Saunders is 3-1 with a 5.82 earned run average in 34 innings.

Along with Game 3 starter Miguel Gonzalez, Tillman was one of the biggest surprises of the second half and finished the regular season with a 9-3 record and a 2.93 ERA.

In two starts against the Yankees this season, Tillman was 1-0 with a 6.75 ERA in eight innings of work. His start at Yankee Stadium on Sept. 2 was cut short after three innings due to elbow stiffness.

Most consider Tillman to be the favorite to receive the ball as long as neither pitcher is required to pitch in relief behind Gonzalez on Wednesday night. However, the challenge of facing lefties such as Robinson Cano and Curtis Granderson make the lefty Saunders a more appealing option despite his overall numbers being inferior to Tillman’s this season.

“I think you’ve just got to treat it like any other start,” Tillman said. “You can’t put too much pressure on yourself. It’s not fair to yourself [and] not fair to the team.”

In other news, Jason Hammel will receive the ball for Game 5 against Yankees left-hander CC Sabathia if necessary on Friday. The two faced off in Game 1, which resulted in a 7-2 win for New York.

Showalter was asked about the decision in August to move left-hander Brian Matusz to the bullpen, who provided a major lift in the absence of then-injured southpaw Troy Patton and with the struggles of power arm Pedro Strop. The Baltimore manager revealed Matusz will likely return to a starting role upon reporting to spring training in Sarasota next February.

“Compared to the options we had and the trade market and some other things, we thought Brian could do as well if not better than some of the others coming in,” Showalter said about the decision. “Brian will more than likely go into the spring as a starter and then we think he can go back and do this [if needed] but he needs to get his innings. It was also a carrot for him to come back to the big leagues, so there was a lot of want-to there.”

NOTES: The Orioles were 6-3 in the Bronx this season, outscoring the Yankees by a 49-32 margin. … Their six wins in New York were their highest season total since winning eight in 1976. Baltimore won all three series in Yankee Stadium in the same year for the first time since 1976. … Making their third appearance in the ALDS, the Orioles are 3-1 on the road with two of those wins coming in Seattle in 1997 and one in Cleveland in 1996. The Orioles won each of those series. … Center fielder Adam Jones was announced as a candidate for the 2012 Hank Aaron Award on Wednesday afternoon. It recognizes the top offensive performers in each league. Fan voting opened at MLB.com Wednesday and runs through Oct. 16. Winners will be announced during the World Series.

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Orioles embrace underdog role like few teams ever have

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Orioles embrace underdog role like few teams ever have

Posted on 06 October 2012 by Luke Jones

You’d think we would have learned our lesson after 162 games, but the Orioles opened our eyes once again on Friday night.

With few giving them a chance after a deflating series at Tampa Bay that forced them to go to Arlington for the first ever wild card play-in game, the Orioles knocked off the Texas Rangers to advance to the American League Division Series.

We assumed the task was too much for the Orioles to top the two-time defending American League champions after they went 2-5 against the Rangers and were outscored 56-24 in the season series. It didn’t matter that Texas had lost nine of its last 13 games or that Baltimore held the best road record in the American League. The epitaphs had already been written and recited by many over the last two days leading up to Friday’s first pitch.

Manager Buck Showalter’s decision to give the ball to left-hander Joe Saunders was met with more than a few raised eyebrows considering the soft-tossing veteran was 0-6 with a 9.38 earned run average in six career starts at Rangers Ballpark before Friday night. Even those defending the decision assumed a brief outing for Saunders before a 10-man bullpen would match up the rest of the way.

The middle-of-the-road starter couldn’t possibly contain the powerful Rangers bats, could he?

Saunders did just that, using effective off-speed stuff to pitch 5 2/3 innings of one-run ball before turning it over to the bullpen, the group most responsible for landing the Orioles in the postseason for the first time since 1997.

Arguably the player of the game, reliever Darren O’Day was brilliant over two innings of work to bridge the gap to the late innings. New lefty specialist Brian Matusz blew away Josh Hamilton on three pitches to end the eighth with the slugger representing the tying run. And, finally, Jim Johnson closed the door on the Rangers’ season and sent the Orioles back to Baltimore for the ALDS.

The Baltimore bats were far from fertile but did just enough against Texas starter Yu Darvish to give Saunders and the bullpen a slim lead.

Left fielder Nate McLouth drove in two runs and scored another to lead the offensive attack, J.J. Hardy and Adam Jones each knocked in one, and rookie Manny Machado tacked on an insurance run in the top of the ninth with a run-scoring single.

And as McLouth squeezed the final out in left to seal a 5-1 win, there was Showalter watching from the dugout as his players celebrated their unlikeliest feat to date in a season full of head-shaking wonder. At this point, you wonder just how unlikely the Orioles viewed it as they didn’t blink in a place that’s been a house of horror for them in recent years.

Why do we still doubt them?

The response was lukewarm in late August when executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette brought Saunders to Baltimore in exchange for reliever Matt Lindstrom. It wasn’t the impact move for a starting pitcher the Orioles desperately needed to push the Orioles over the hump in their playoff push.

Considered washed up and simply hoping for another chance in the big leagues while playing for Triple-A Norfolk only two months ago, McLouth was summoned to Baltimore as many laughed and rolled their eyes. Those same people then cringed when the thumb injury to Nick Markakis forced him to assume the leadoff spot duties.

Critics said 20-year-old Manny Machado wasn’t ready for the big leagues and certainly couldn’t handle playing third base after playing only two games at the position in his brief minor league career.

O’Day was a castoff from the Rangers who many thought didn’t even deserve a roster spot at the start of the season after being injured for much of spring training. Matusz endured one of the worst seasons in major league history a year ago and was demoted again earlier this season before ultimately being sent to the bullpen.

Yet, the moves worked and those individuals figured heavily into the Orioles’ first postseason win since 1997.

While I wondered if the Rangers could get off the mat after collapsing in the final two weeks of the regular season and losing their grasp on the AL West title, the Orioles emphatically delivered the knockout blow to their 2012 season. Perhaps the Rangers were the better team and would have prevailed in a longer season, but the Orioles were the better team on Friday and that’s all that matters.

Yes, this perfect group of imperfect players comprised of holdovers used to losing, career minor leaguers, has-beens, never-will-bes, and baby-faced rookies may look like a jumbled mess of individual parts, but the unconventional concoction made by Showalter and Duquette is now 11 wins away from a World Series title.

Suggesting that possibility still sounds preposterous, doesn’t it? I thought so.

They’ll undoubtedly be tabbed as the underdogs against the AL East champion Yankees, a team they tied 9-9 in the season series.

But that underdog label doesn’t bother the Orioles. They’ve heard it all year and they’ll just keep playing with their house money, proving more and more people wrong in the process.

We’ll keep waiting for that bankroll to expire while Showalter’s club continues one of the most remarkable baseball stories we’ve seen in a long time for at least another postseason series.

We don’t know when it will come to an end, but few teams have ever embraced the underdog role with such vigor.

And they’ll keep reminding you why you shouldn’t doubt them.

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Saunders Was Not the Best Option

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Saunders Was Not the Best Option

Posted on 05 October 2012 by Brett Dickinson

Tonight, the Orioles take on the Rangers in Arlington for their first playoff game since 1997. Buck announced his starter half way through the day on Thursday, as Joe Saunders takes the mound, in a win or go home matchup versus a team that has back-to-back World Series appearances.
This is all information that everyone from Southern, PA. to the Eastern Shore already know. But most do not know what kind of record the Orioles starter has going into this game at Rangers Ballpark. Though he has not pitched in Texas this season for Baltimore, he did spend the beginning of his career with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Southern California, West Coast, Wichita (sorry went off on a tangent there). Six times Saunders has headed to Arlington with the ball in his hand, his record: 0-6, 9.38 ERA.

Now the options are limited for this game and Saunders does have the most (aka the only) playoff experience of any starting pitcher on the roster, but this could one of the few mistakes Buck has made all season (and it could be a huge one). The Orioles really can only look to a couple pitchers for this game, as Chen pitched Monday and has struggled the last month. Gonzalez has come up big in big games all season, but pitched Tuesday and they haven’t thrown him out there on short rest at all in his rookie campaign. Tillman is out, pitching Wednesday night (where he did not look good at all) and Hammel is just coming off the DL, so Buck cannot risk his season on a balky knee.

So the Orioles are left with Joe Saunders or Steve Johnson; not the best way to go into what could be the last game of the season. Most would look at Saunders stats noted earlier and think Johnson was the no-brainer, but he has knee issues himself and is another guy they limited all season long as a rookie. But there is one more idea, a rare occurrence in MLB, but does happen several times each season; a bullpen game.

Everyone knows the bullpen has been not only the most consistent, but strongest part of this roster, virtually dominant all season. With the amount of young arms they have moved from starters, these kids can throw their arms out for two innings in the most important game for Baltimore in a decade and a half. Hunter has reached 100mph on the gun since moving to the bullpen, while Arrieta and Matusz have been definitively better not starting games and Johnson may be able to go if only asked to hold down the first inning or two. Add on guys like Patton, O’Day and Ayala, who have been nothing short of spectacular all season, and the bullpen has the best chance to win this game.

If those seven pitchers get through seven, with the lead or keeping it close, Bird land will be in good shape for some Orioles Magic. With the back end solidified by Jim Johnson, who in all reality could give Buck two innings if needed, a close game is a win for the O’s (especially if you look at the statistics or have just paid attention to this team this year). For those worried about wearing everyone out, any pitcher out their will only go once in three days, as the first game of the divisional round will not be until Sunday.

So only time will tell whether Buck has made the only major mistake of the season but this could be costly one.

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Orioles pick Saunders to start Wild Card game against Texas

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Orioles pick Saunders to start Wild Card game against Texas

Posted on 04 October 2012 by Luke Jones

A day before playing their first postseason game in 15 years, the Orioles have decided on left-hander Joe Saunders to make the start against the Texas Rangers in Arlington.

Baltimore skipper Buck Showalter had mentioned left-hander Joe Saunders and rookie right-hander Steve Johnson as top candidates but decided to go with the former as Johnson deals with a sore knee. Saunders will be on regular rest and has more experience pitching in big games. The Orioles will undoubtedly lean heavily on a deep and well-rested bullpen, meaning Saunders will have a short leash against a powerful lineup.

Though he did not face Texas in the 2012 regular season, Saunders is 0-6 with a 9.38 ERA in six career starts in Arlington.

The 31-year-old has been effective since his first start with the Orioles in late August. In his last six starts, Saunders has posted a 3-2 record with a 2.75 ERA in 39 1/3 innings.

Rangers manager Ron Washington has already announced Japanese rookie Yu Darvish will take the ball against the Orioles. Darvish finished his first major league season at 16-9 with a 3.90 earned run average. He struck out 221 batters and walked 89 in 29 starts covering 191 1/3 innings.

In five September starts, Darvish was 3-0 with a 2.21 ERA in 36 2/3 innings and collected 39 strikeouts and seven walks.

The Orioles did not face Darvish in the regular season.

Texas owned the best record in the American League for much of the season but dropped nine of their last 13 games to lose the AL West to the Oakland Athletics in their final game of the season Wednesday. The Orioles owned the top road record (46-35) in the league.

Playing in the first ever AL Wild Card play-in game, the Orioles and Rangers each finished with a 93-69 record, but Texas was awarded the home-field advantage due to their 5-2 record over Baltimore during the regular season. The game will begin at 8:37 p.m. at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.

The winner of Friday’s game will go on to play the top-seed New York Yankees in the American League Division Series. That series would begin on Sunday, with the Yankees traveling to the play-in game winner’s ballpark for Games 1 and 2.

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After fighting all year long, Orioles’ extra wait to clinch very fitting

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After fighting all year long, Orioles’ extra wait to clinch very fitting

Posted on 30 September 2012 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — It was unlike any scene we’ve ever witnessed as the Orioles remained on the field after the final out of their 6-3 win over the Boston Red Sox Sunday.

An outpouring of raw emotion that better belonged in a storybook or movie script as fans applauded their efforts and hoped for a post-game celebration.

Joining most of the 41,257 spectators who remained in the ballpark in the moments following the game, players and coaches became fans themselves as they watched the top of the ninth inning of the Angels-Rangers game on the video board at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. The Orioles hoped to celebrate the guarantee of a postseason berth with their home fans on their home field, but the Angels’ dramatic comeback victory against Texas closer Joe Nathan ended those thoughts as the club walked off the diamond with mild disappointment.

The standing ovation they received while walking to the dugout felt like the perfect ending for an imperfect finish to the day. Everything started so promising for the Orioles, who held up their end of the bargain by completing a three-game sweep of Boston. But as they’ve learned all season long, little comes easy as the teams they needed to lose didn’t on Sunday afternoon.

Entering the day tied for first place with the Orioles, the Yankees bounced back from an early deficit to win in Toronto. The Angels’ win in the first game of a doubleheader in Arlington kept the Orioles’ magic number at one for clinching a postseason berth as they boarded a plane to St. Petersburg for the final three-game series of the regular season.

The Orioles would finally clinch their first postseason berth since 1997 late Sunday evening as the Angels dropped the second game of the doubleheader in Arlington.

“It would have been a neat moment to share had it worked out, but you can’t really expect anybody to lose,” left fielder Nate McLouth said. “You’ve got to kind of take care of your business, but it was nice to kind of wave goodbye to the fans. It would have been neat to have clinched right there, but it was kind of a cool moment, anyway.”

There was nothing phony about the on-field viewing party as the Orioles planned to watch the conclusion of the Angels game together and thought it appropriate to watch with the fans. Players and fans hung with every pitch before Torii Hunter’s two-run double with two outs sent players toward the clubhouse and fans toward the exits for an anticlimactic finish to an incredible scene.

As special as it would have been to see the Orioles clinch at home and celebrate on the field at Camden Yards, you’re reminded of what this club is all about. Scratching and clawing their way to victories in 28 one-run games and 16 straight extra-inning games over the course of the season, there’s something fitting about the Orioles — and their long-suffering fans — having to wait just a bit longer to secure their first postseason spot in 15 years.

“It definitely was a little awkward because everything was kind of working [our] way, but we’ve had to fight for everything this year,” closer Jim Johnson said. “With the way that game finished up, this [race] is going to come down to the wire. Look at how last year finished; it was ‘March Madness’ in September. This game’s crazy. You never know what’s going to happen, and that’s the way this team’s been fighting all year.”

For manager Buck Showalter, the post-game scene was a reminder of just how far the Orioles have come since he arrived in Baltimore late in the 2010 season. He’s continually preached the need to win back fans by putting forth a product they’ll want to see over and over.

The Orioles have done that and then some — even if the crowds haven’t always reflected that — but the manager isn’t interested in taking any of the credit. Showalter wants the focus on his players, even if we all know how big a part he’s played in restoring that pride in the organization.

“I spent more time watching the players and their reactions,” Showalter said. “As I’ve gotten older, I try to really step back and take in a moment. I took a couple of scans around behind me in the stands. We want to keep that. That’s our responsibility. It’s our responsibility to play good enough baseball and conduct ourselves in a way that people want to come back and see what’s going on here with our team.”

The post-game clubhouse was what you’d expect as plastic tarps were folded up on top of lockers for a champagne celebration that wasn’t to be. To call it a letdown would be an overstatement with players aware they would clinch a postseason berth late Sunday evening if the Angels dropped the second game of the twin bill against the Rangers.

To clinch at home would have been exciting, but to clinch anywhere is what’s really important. And the Orioles were so close, they could taste it before departing for their series against the Rays..

“Who cares? If you’re in, you’re in,” said center fielder Adam Jones about not being able to clinch a spot at Camden Yards. “Nobody cares. I don’t care. You can do it home, road. We can clinch on the plane. We’re going to party somewhere.”

If Sunday was the final day of baseball at Camden Yards this season, the spontaneity of that scene between fans and players will go down as one of the most memorable moments in the history of the franchise.

And it was just the latest example of how far the Orioles have come by owning a Sunday in late September — even if the Ravens weren’t playing this weekend.

The Orioles hope they haven’t seen the last of Camden Yards this season, but the next few days will determine their fate.

“Hopefully, we can bring them something fun,” said Johnson, who’s noticed fans becoming more and more involved without being prompted by the scoreboard or public address system. “They’re into the game. They understand the situations, they stand up by themselves, they start their own chants, they’re into it. It puts more pressure on the other team, but it also gives you a little boost of adrenaline at the same time. If you can harness that, that’s a huge advantage.”

It’s an advantage the Orioles haven’t had — or needed to have — in a very long time.

And we’ll have to wait a little longer to see if they can take advantage of it in October.

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Orioles acquire starting pitcher Saunders from Arizona

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Orioles acquire starting pitcher Saunders from Arizona

Posted on 26 August 2012 by Luke Jones

After showing interest at different times going back to last winter, the Orioles have acquired left-handed pitcher Joe Saunders from the Arizona Diamondbacks to aid in their playoff push.

Also receiving cash in the deal, the club has agreed to send right-handed reliever Matt Lindstrom and a player to be named later to the Diamondbacks.

The 31-year-old Saunders is 6-10 with a 4.22 earned run average over 21 starts this season. In 130 innings of work, Saunders has struck out 89 and walked 31 while allowing 17 home runs.

Saunders is 75-62 with a 4.17 ERA in eight major league seasons with the Los Angeles Angels and Diamondbacks.

Lindstrom was acquired along with starting pitcher Jason Hammel in the Jeremy Guthrie trade in early February. He was 1-0 with a 2.72 ERA in 36 1/3 innings of work this season despite being sidelined in early May with a finger injury that would keep him out for six weeks.

Saunders’ numbers aren’t exactly overwhelming, but he does bring a veteran presence to the mix as the Orioles try to continue the push for their first postseason appearance in 15 years. Lindstrom pitched well for the club, but he had largely become an afterthought in high-leverage situations after returning from the disabled list in June, making him expendable.

The Orioles also announced prior to Sunday’s game that right-handed pitcher Jake Arrieta has been recalled from Triple-A Norfolk.

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