Tag Archive | "jonathan schoop"

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Schoop out indefinitely with partially-torn PCL, sprained MCL

Posted on 18 April 2015 by Luke Jones

The injury bug continues to bite the Orioles as second baseman Jonathan Schoop has been placed on the 15-day disabled list with a right knee injury suffered in Friday’s loss to Boston.

The 23-year-old suffered a partial tear of the posterior cruciate ligament and a mild sprain of the medial collateral ligament in his right knee when he tripped over first base running out a grounder. Fortunately, he did not suffer any damage to his anterior cruciate ligament.

Manager Buck Showalter told reporters in Boston that Schoop’s injury was not caused by the hard slide of Red Sox third baseman Pablo Sandoval trying to break up a double play in the second inning.

There is no timetable for Schoop’s return, but Showalter expressed optimism that the young infielder will return at some point this season. His injury will not require surgery and is apparently not as serious as the PCL tear suffered by veteran infielder Wilson Betemit in spring training two years ago. Betemit did not return until late August of that season and appeared in only six games before being released a few weeks later.

Schoop is expected to travel to Sarasota to begin rehabbing the injury. This is the third significant knee injury suffered by an Orioles infielder under age 24 in less than two years after third baseman Manny Machado suffered serious knee injuries in each of the last two seasons.

Infielder Jimmy Paredes was activated from the 15-day DL to take Schoop’s place on the 25-man roster. With Schoop joining shortstop J.J. Hardy on the DL, the Orioles’ decision to sign veteran infielder Everth Cabrera appears that much wiser less than two months later. Cabrera was starting at shortstop with Ryan Flaherty playing second base in Saturday’s game against the Red Sox.

The Orioles will clearly miss Schoop’s strong defense at second base, but his strong start offensively had fans salivating at his potential in his second full season as he was batting .259 with three home runs, seven RBIs, and a .940 on-base plus slugging percentage in 29 plate appearances.

 

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Five questions pondering Joseph, Garcia, others

Posted on 17 April 2015 by Luke Jones

Every Friday, I’ll ponder five topics related to the Orioles or Ravens (or a mix of both).

Five questions

1. Does Caleb Joseph make it easy to wait for Matt Wieters to take his time to return?
No, I don’t expect the former to continue hitting .375, but it’s difficult to argue how good his defense has been as Orioles pitching posted a 3.00 ERA with him behind the plate in 2014, he threw out 40 percent of runners trying to steal, and his pitch framing rates better than Wieters’ did in either of his his last two full seasons. The question isn’t whether Joseph is better than or as good as the pre-injury Wieters — he’s clearly not — but it remains to be seen if the post-surgery Wieters will be the same defensively and whether he’ll provide enough offense to justify being the undisputed starter if he’s a shell of his old self behind the plate.

2. Does Buck Showalter need to figure out exactly what he has with Jason Garcia sooner rather than later?
I know the Orioles love the Rule 5 pick’s arm and he has nice potential at age 22, but they can’t afford to carry him if it means they essentially have a 24-man roster. If his arm is special enough to warrant keeping him, he should be able to get some meaningful outs along the way. The early-season struggles of Tommy Hunter and and the rest of the bullpen have magnified the situation, of course, but Showalter needs to be able to use Garcia in some legitimate situations, especially if he’s not going to give the Orioles length in the same way that T.J. McFarland did as a Rule 5 pick in 2013.

3. Should third base coaches take more chances around baseball?
I thought about this at different times this winter after Kansas City elected not to send Alex Gordon home as the potential tying run in Game 7 of the World Series, and the question returns with Orioles third base coach Bobby Dickerson drawing the ire of fans with some questionable sends at the start of the season. Historically, a runner standing on third base with two outs will score only 27 percent of the time, but data shows only five percent of runners being sent home from second base on a single with two outs are thrown out at the plate. Yes, that success rate looks great, but how many potential runs are ultimately being stranded at third base to avoid the chance of a runner being thrown out in favor of the potentially lower-percentage chance of the next batter driving him in. Of course, there are many variables involved such as the speed of the runner, the location of the ball, and the arm strength of the fielder, but it’s still interesting to ponder how many potential runs are lost due to the fear of failure and the criticism that a third base coach can face.

4. Is the exuberant friendship between Manny Machado and Jonathan Schoop a joy to watch?
I first watched these two play together when they were at Single-A Frederick in 2011, and it’s scary to think how young both still are with so much untapped potential. Of course, scenes like this don’t hurt, either:

5. Do we still not appreciate Jim Palmer enough? The Hall of Fame pitcher celebrated the 50th anniversary of his major league debut Friday and he continues to remain a fixture on Orioles telecasts five decades later. As someone who only remembers Palmer the broadcaster, I marvel at his numbers, which included a period of nine times in 10 years from 1969-1978 in which he posted an ERA below 3.00 and at least 4.1 wins above replacement. His 211 complete games, 53 shutouts, and four seasons of 300 or more innings are numbers we don’t even see in video games today.

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Early thoughts on Orioles lineup

Posted on 16 April 2015 by Luke Jones

Providing the ever-popular caveat that “it’s still early” in making any observations, below are some thoughts on each regular member of the Orioles lineup — with an additional nod to Delmon Young coming off the bench — through the first nine games of the 2015 season.

While many are understandably pining for former Orioles slugger Nelson Cruz with him homering in five straight games, Baltimore leads the majors in home runs and has had few problems scoring runs so far.

Each player’s slash line, which includes batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage, is noted in parentheses.

1. Alejandro De Aza (.314/.333/.571)

The left fielder’s .905 on-base plus slugging percentage is impressive, but he’s walked only once and has struck out 13 times, second on the club to only Chris Davis. He is the most experienced option that Buck Showalter has for the leadoff spot and he’s seen 4.28 pitches per plate appearance so far this season (the major league average is 3.81), making you think he’ll begin to draw more free passes as the year goes on. The high volume of strikeouts (36.1 percent of plate appearances) sticks out, but De Aza’s 21.2 percent career strikeout rate makes you believe this is more an early-season aberration.

2. Steve Pearce (.161/.278/.355)

Drawing starts at four different spots already (first base, left field, right field, and designated hitter), Pearce looked like he was picking up where he left off in 2014 by hitting a home run in each of the first two games. Since then, however, it’s been a struggle as he’s been mired in a 2-for-26 slump with eight strikeouts over that time. Showalter gave Pearce the night off Wednesday, so hopefully that coupled with Thursday’s off-day will allow the 32-year-old to clear his head. The Orioles don’t expect him to repeat his .930 OPS from a year ago, but they are counting on him to provide above-average offense.

3. Chris Davis (.226/.273/.387)

The cries have already started for Davis to be lowered in the order as he’s struck out in 45.5 percent of his 2015 plate appearances, which is alarming even for the first baseman’s standards. That said, he’s still found a way to contribute offensively, including three RBIs in Wednesday night’s win. It’s difficult to know what to expect from Davis at this point, but Showalter will — and should — keep writing his name in the lineup. You can happily live with him striking out 30 percent of the time like he did in 2012 and 2013 if he hits 35 home runs, but his contact rate continues to trend in the wrong direction.

4. Adam Jones (.406/.459/.844)

The Orioles may need to drag Jones onto the plane to Boston as he just finished one of the best homestands of his career by going 12-for-21 with four home runs and nine RBIs while hitting safely in all six games. As Showalter noted, several of those big hits came on pitches outside the zone as Jones was completely locked in. We know the drill as Jones will go through stretches where he’s not producing and many will complain about him failing to draw walks and expanding the zone. You take the good with the bad, and Jones has certainly provided much more of the former with a 1.303 OPS.

5. Travis Snider (.333/.467/.500)

We haven’t seen Snider in the outfield since a critical three-run error against Toronto on Sunday, but he leads the club with six walks and a stout .467 on-base percentage so far. He won’t continue to draw walks in 20 percent of his plate appearances, but Snider does give the Orioles more patience in the lineup, which is something they’ve obviously lacked over the last few years. Even with the rough defensive day against the Blue Jays, the left-handed hitter has given the Orioles everything they could have asked for so far and should continue to see regular at-bats.

6. Manny Machado (.161/.250/.290)

A .161 average would suggest we should be asking what’s wrong with the young third baseman, but he’s hit a number of balls hard for which he didn’t receive a return. Machado connected on his first homer of the season in Wednesday’s win, but the part of his offensive approach that’s been most impressive has been the willingness to take pitches. Machado walked in just 4.1 percent of his 2013 plate appearances, increased that rate to 5.7 percent last year, and has drawn free passes in 11.1 percent of his trips to the plate in 2015. It’s only a matter of time before good at-bats produce good results.

7. Jonathan Schoop (.292/.346/.708)

Jones has been the Orioles’ best offensive player, but Schoop has taken the largest step forward so far as he’s second on the club in home runs (three) and RBIs (seven). He’s only drawn one walk, but his power has been impressive as four of his seven hits have gone for extra bases. Showalter complimented Schoop’s approach in his final at-bat Wednesday that followed his home run to jump-start the five-run sixth inning. He didn’t get a hit, but Schoop drove a ball hard to right-center that was flagged down by Jacoby Ellsbury. The second baseman has a long way to go, but he has scary potential at age 23.

8. Everth Cabrera (.269/.310/.269)

Cabrera has filled in nicely for Gold Glove shortstop J.J. Hardy by playing strong defense and offering a few singles here and there at the plate. The interesting question will be what the Orioles decide to do with Cabrera and utility player Ryan Flaherty once Hardy is ready to return to his starting role. Cabrera has been solid at shortstop and provides speed, but he hasn’t played any other positions and we know Flaherty can play good defense at more than one spot. Of course, both players have options, making this a good problem to have once Hardy is ready to be activated from the disabled list.

9. Caleb Joseph (.375/.444/.542)

It remains unknown when Matt Wieters will be ready to return, but Joseph has held his own in the three-time All-Star catcher’s absence and even picked up the Orioles’ first triple of the season. He is 0-for-4 throwing out runners trying to steal, but his 40 percent success rate from last season proved he can do the job defensively. The offense has been a nice development after Joseph posted a .618 OPS as a rookie. Showalter reminded reporters this week that the 28-year-old had a career .753 OPS in the minors, suggesting the Orioles might be able to expect a little more from him with the bat this year.

PH – Delmon Young (.333/.375/.333)

Young hasn’t played as much as some might have expected so far, but he recaptured his 2014 magic coming off the bench with a pinch-hit RBI single in the Orioles’ comeback win over the Yankees on Wednesday night. The 29-year-old will receive plenty of opportunities as the DH against left-handed pitching and the occasional start in the outfield, but Showalter loves having his bat as a weapon off the bench. The likes of De Aza, Snider, and Pearce producing in regular roles for this club will allow that to continue to happen.

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2015 Orioles preview: Jonathan Schoop

Posted on 15 March 2015 by Luke Jones

With Opening Day just over three weeks away, we’ll take a look at a member of the 2015 Orioles every day as they try to defend their American League East title this season.

March 9 – Adam Jones
March 10 – Chris Tillman
March 11 – J.J. Hardy
March 12 – Zach Britton
March 13 – Chris Davis
March 14 – Wei-Yin Chen

2B Jonathan Schoop

Opening Day age: 23

Contract status: Under club control through the 2019 season

Minor-league options remaining: Two

2014 stats: .209/.244/.354, 16 HR, 45 RBI, 48 R, 2 SB, 481 PA

Why to be impressed: The Curacao native is the best example of how much manager Buck Showalter values defense as Schoop ranked fourth among major league second basemen in runs saved in 2014 and consistently remained in the lineup despite a .598 OPS. His 16 homers reflect how much raw power he possesses despite just 289 career plate appearances at the Triple-A level.

Why to be concerned: Schoop walked only 13 times in 481 plate appearances, a lower walk percentage than even Adam Jones. His defense will help keep him in the starting lineup, but the Orioles simply need more production from Schoop at the plate to help offset the offseason losses of Nelson Cruz and Nick Markakis in the everyday lineup.

2015 outlook: His minor-league résumé suggests Schoop can be more patient at the plate than he was in his rookie season, but his low walk total will continue to limit his overall ceiling. Schoop hitting 15 to 20 homers wouldn’t appear to be out of the question and if he can elevate his OPS into the .675 range, he will establish himself as a starting second baseman in the American League moving forward, especially if he continues to play above-average defense.

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Cabrera offers different skill set to second base mix

Posted on 25 February 2015 by Luke Jones

SARASOTA, Fla. — After several days of anticipation as he finally resolved a lingering legal issue, infielder Everth Cabrera has officially joined the Orioles.

What the organization gets from the former San Diego Padres shortstop is anyone’s guess as the 28-year-old went from being an All-Star selection in 2013 to being suspended 50 games for the Biogenesis later that year and followed that disappointment with an injury-riddled campaign in which he was limited to 90 games in 2014. Cabrera hit only .232 with a .572 on-base plug slugging percentage last season, but his 99 stolen bases over the last three years provide some appeal for a club that ranked last in the majors in that department a season ago.

Signing the Nicaraguan infielder to a one-year, $2.4 million contract, the Orioles like his upside that is accompanied by a remaining minor-league option.

“He’s young, he’s hungry, he made the All Star team in 2013,” executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette said. “He can play a premium, skilled defensive position. He’s a switch hitter. He’s an outstanding baserunner and a premium base stealer. He’s got a lot of assets that can help the ball club and I’m sure we will find some good spots for him to help us win some ballgames.”

How Cabrera will fit into the picture remains to be seen. Starting second baseman Jonathan Schoop and utility infielder Ryan Flaherty appeared to be virtual locks for roster spots entering spring training, but Cabrera provides an element of speed that the other two don’t possess.

Considered the second baseman of the future by many, the 23-year-old Schoop posted a .598 OPS and walked only 13 times in 481 plate appearances during his rookie season. It’s possible that Cabrera might push Schoop for the starting job, but a more likely outcome would be him winning the utility infielder job from Flaherty.

After accepting a plea deal that included a fine, community service, and probation stemming from a resisting arrest charge last fall, Cabrera will now focus on proving the Orioles were wise to take a chance on him after two tumultuous seasons.

“I always think every spring training that I’ve got to compete,” said Cabrera, who spent much of the winter strengthening his hamstrings after injuries took their toll last year. “I don’t care where they’re going to put me. I’m going to play hard, and I’m going to compete every single day when they give me the opportunity to play.”

Cabrera will be busy this season getting acclimated to multiple infield positions after spending his entire career at shortstop for the Padres. He’s appeared in just 12 games at second base and only one at third base in his six-year major league career.

Manager Buck Showalter will give Cabrera every opportunity to prove himself to be worthy of a roster spot this spring, but he acknowledges not being overly familiar with the National League West in terms of evaluating the division’s talent. His speed on the bases is an obvious asset, but Cabrera will need to prove himself defensively before Showalter strongly considers using him in place of Schoop at second or designates him the primary utility man over Flaherty.

Keeping Schoop, Flaherty, and Cabrera on the 25-man roster appears to be unlikely, making the veteran’s signing an intriguing storyline to monitor this spring.

“He’s been doing a lot of work and had a very diligent offseason. I think the timing’s good with him,” said Showalter, who admitted Cabrera resolving his legal issues was a “prerequisite” to completing a deal. “This guy a lot of people considered one of the better infielders in the National League a couple years ago.

“We’ll see where the need is of the club and see if he can fit the need. He gives us some flexibility.”

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Who will be the Orioles’ breakout performer in 2015?

Posted on 05 February 2015 by Luke Jones

With Orioles closer Zach Britton agreeing to a $3.2 million contract on Wednesday, it was a reminder of just how far the left-hander has come over the last 12 months.

The sinkerballer entered last year’s spring training out of minor-league options and not even assured of a roster spot, but the 27-year-old instead emerged to become one of the best closers in the American League. Britton wasn’t the only breakout performer for the 2014 AL East champions as journeyman Steve Pearce hit 21 home runs and posted a hefty .930 on-base plus slugging percentage, but the Orioles will be looking for at least one or two players to emerge unexpectedly if they’re to advance to the playoffs for the third time in four years.

Who will be a breakout performer for the Orioles in 2015? (choose up to two)

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With that in mind, below are six candidates who could fit that description of “breakout performer” in 2015:

RHP Kevin Gausman
Skinny: The 24-year-old did a fine job establishing himself as a legitimate major league starter last year by going 7-7 with a 3.57 ERA in 20 starts, but executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette is predicting Gausman to take a major leap in 2015, which would have him vying for the top spot in the rotation along with Chris Tillman. The 2012 first-round pick’s high-90s fastball and split-fingered changeup are nasty pitches, but further developing his circle change or slider would make the 6-foot-3 right-hander downright scary. After pitching 166 2/3 innings including the minors and the postseason last year, Gausman could still face a slight issue with an innings limit, but that would mean he’s having great success in the rotation.

2B Jonathan Schoop
Skinny: The Curacao native played Gold Glove-caliber defense as a rookie, which is why he stayed in the lineup despite a .209 average and a .598 on-base plus slugging percentage. Schoop showed promising power with his 16 home runs, but his plate discipline (13 walks in 481 plate appearances) must improve to make him a more dangerous offensive option. Considering he had only 270 at-bats at Triple-A Norfolk in 2013, Schoop’s offensive struggles weren’t surprising, but his .191 average in the second half was lower than his .221 mark in the first half. Beyond the natural progression of a young player, the Orioles hope his .749 OPS in August and improved patience in the playoffs (three walks in 24 plate appearances) were signs of better things to come.

OF Travis Snider
Skinny: The Orioles didn’t give up much for the 27-year-old outfielder, but they hope his strong second half for Pittsburgh in 2014 is evidence that things have finally clicked for the 2006 first-round selection after years of disappointment. Considered a solid fielder, Snider hit .288 with nine home runs and posted an .880 OPS in 188 plate appearances in the second half to help the Pirates to a postseason appearance. A left-handed hitter with power potential profiles well playing his home game at Camden Yards, and it appears likely that manager Buck Showalter will give Snider every opportunity to win the starting right field job. If the 2014 version of Snider comes to Baltimore, it would go a long way in easing the pain from the departure of Nick Markakis.

OF David Lough
Skinny: Many wrote off the speedy outfielder after he hit only .159 in the first two months of 2014, but Lough quietly batted .337 over his final 99 plate appearances, which obviously came sparingly over the final four months. The 29-year-old will be right in the mix with the likes of Snider, Alejandro De Aza, Steve Pearce, and Delmon Young for a corner outfield job this spring, and his speed gives an added dimension that the roster sorely lacks. No one questions his ability in the field as he was regularly a late-inning defensive replacement last year and manager Buck Showalter places a high premium on defense, giving Lough an edge over his competitors if he can prove his strong second half at the plate was a sign of his true ability and not just an aberration.

OF Dariel Alvarez
Skinny: The 26-year-old Cuban native has been discussed a great deal by the Orioles this offseason as the organization raves about his strong throwing arm in the outfield. He walked only 21 times in 564 plate appearances split between Double-A Bowie and Norfolk, but Alvarez showed good power with his 55 extra-base hits in the process of being named to the 2014 MLB Futures Game. Outsiders aren’t as high on Alvarez as a major league prospect as the organization is — his advanced age is a factor — so it will be interesting to see how quickly he might receive an opportunity in the majors should the projected cast of corner outfielders fail to get the job done.

RHP Mike Wright
Skinny: The 6-foot-6 right-hander is all but certain to begin the year at Triple-A Norfolk, but Wright has been regularly mentioned by Showalter over the last year or two as a pitching prospect to watch. The 2011 third-round pick struggled at Norfolk for much of last season until his final seven starts when he posted a 0.95 ERA in 47 2/3 innings. Wright possesses a low-90s sinker along with a solid slider and a changeup, a repertoire that makes him a fringe starting candidate who is probably better suited to pitch out of the bullpen in the majors. The Orioles wouldn’t appear to have a relief role for him going into the season, but he’s a darkhorse candidate to get the call should the 25-man roster suffer injuries in the rotation or the bullpen in 2015.

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Waiting the hardest part for Orioles’ slumbering offense

Posted on 19 May 2014 by Luke Jones

Memorial Day is rapidly approaching, which brings the unofficial end of the mantra uttered countless times to explain an Orioles offense that continues to sputter over the first seven weeks of the 2014 season.

“It’s still early” doesn’t fly anymore as the season has passed the quarter pole and Baltimore ranks 13th in runs, 12th in on-base percentage, ninth in home runs, and eighth in slugging percentage in the American League. Of course, the Orioles’ free-swinging tendencies and 10th-ranked on-base percentage from a season ago made it clear that the lineup had its flaws, but no one could forecast such a dramatic power outage from a club that led the majors in long balls and was fourth in the AL in runs during the 2013 season.

Save for free-agent acquisition Nelson Cruz, whose 12 home runs are twice the output of any other player on the roster, the Orioles’ power outage has been felt up and down the lineup.

Chris Davis has only three home runs in 30 games after hitting a club-record 53 a season ago. Since returning from a strained oblique on May 11, the first baseman is hitting just .179 and has been out in front of nearly everything, evident by his four groundouts to the right side in Sunday’s loss to Kansas City, instead of waiting to drive the ball the other way like he does when at his best.

J.J. Hardy is without a long ball after hitting 77 in his first three seasons in Baltimore. Early-season back and hamstring issues appear to be in the rear-view mirror, but the All-Star shortstop has yet to find his usual power stroke.

Manny Machado still hasn’t hit a double — he hit a league-leading 51 last year — and has only one home run in his first 73 plate appearances after starting the season on the 15-day disabled list and completing his recovery from offseason knee surgery. The 21-year-old deserves the benefit of the doubt after a seven-month recovery from last September’s injury, but his .240 average in the second half last year reminds us that the third baseman is far from a finished product even when healthy.

Injuries have impacted all three, but the likes of Adam Jones and Nick Markakis have also tailed off in the power department in comparison to their career averages. Of course, the order hasn’t been helped by the elbow injury to catcher Matt Wieters, who was off to the best offensivee start of his career prior to being placed on the disabled list earlier this month.

So, what is manager Buck Showalter to do?

Short of taking a closer look at alternative options at second base, catcher, and left field (or designated hitter if the Orioles elect to have Cruz play in the outfield), there isn’t much to be done except continuing to run the aforementioned players out there on a daily basis.

For some perspective, Davis hit only five homers through May 19 of the 2012 season before ultimately hitting 33, a reminder that a hot stretch or two would put any of these players back on a favorable pace in the power department. In Davis’ case, reaching 53 home runs was always going to be extremely difficult, but he’s still more than capable of posting big numbers in 2014 despite the slow start.

The club’s poor on-base percentage and inability to work counts are valid criticisms and a conscious effort should be made to enhance those areas, but only marginal improvement should be expected when you’re talking about veteran hitters who’ve carried a given approach — flawed as it may be — throughout their careers. Free swingers don’t suddenly transform themselves into selective hitters at the big-league level unless you want to stunt their biggest strengths in the process.

If Showalter wants to change the mindset of veterans who might be pressing, a shakeup of the order might be a simple way to rejuvenate a group clearly capable of much better. Here’s only one example of what could be done:

RF Markakis
DH Cruz
1B Davis
CF Jones
LF Delmon Young/Steve Pearce
C Steve Clevenger
3B Machado
SS Hardy
2B Jonathan Schoop

Such an order would provide Davis with a better on-base percentage option in front of him while also taking some pressure off Machado as he tries to get his 2014 season on track. Showalter also prefers keeping his lineup balanced with right-handed and left-handed hitters to make it more difficult for opposing managers to match up with their bullpen arms late in games.

This alignment would call for Young or Pearce to be in the lineup regularly, which is preferred if the Orioles are to continue carrying both on the 25-man roster. Neither has played much since Davis’ return from the DL.

Are those suggested changes dramatic? Of course not, but there is only so much you can try as a manager when so many core members of your lineup are sputtering. Staying the course sounds cliched, but it’s the only real choice in trusting that proven track records will ultimately prevail over the results of the first 42 games of the season — as concerning as they might be.

Hitting the “Lough” point

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Lombardozzi squeezed out of infield picture with Machado’s return

Posted on 01 May 2014 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — The Orioles had a decision to make about the state of their infield with the much-anticipated return of third baseman Manny Machado, and Steve Lombardozzi ended up being the odd man out on Thursday.

Despite hitting .292 in 72 at-bats, the 25-year-old infielder was optioned to Triple-A Norfolk to make room for Machado on the 25-man roster, raising a few eyebrows among fans who expected the light-hitting Ryan Flaherty or the recently-recalled Jemile Weeks to be demoted. As is typically the case when faced with these decisions, manager Buck Showalter and executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette sided with the stronger defensive player.

Weeks provides an element of speed that the Orioles are taking advantage of for the time being.

“I think where we are as a club and what are needs are going to be with Manny coming back, just initially [Jemile] might fit us a tad better, but we’ll see,” Showalter said. “But that’s a good tough decision. Two switch-hitting middle infielders.”

With Machado and shortstop J.J. Hardy coming off injuries and the first base position in flux with Chris Davis on the disabled list, versatility is a must off the bench and Flaherty has the ability to play quality defense at all four infield positions. Lombardozzi appeared in 19 games this season at second base but did not play another position as there are questions about his arm strength to play on the left side of the infield.

Of course, the Orioles could revisit the decision if Hardy and Machado play a couple weeks without any injury concerns, which would decrease the urgency for having Flaherty at their immediate disposal off the bench.

For what it’s worth, Lombardozzi’s career .638 on-base plus slugging percentage is only slightly higher than Flaherty’s .636. Of course, the latter is off to a poor start at the plate for the second year in a row and is hitting just .188.

Veteran Steve Pearce was officially back in the Orioles clubhouse Thursday and made the start at first base in Game 1 of the doubleheader against the Pittsburgh Pirates. While right fielder Nick Markakis and Flaherty could still factor into the puzzle at first base, Pearce figures to receive an extensive opportunity as he’s played 94 games at the position in the major leagues.

“Stevie’s been hitting, he’s stayed active during the time,” said Showalter, referencing the fact that Pearce was designated for assignment on April 22. “I don’t think he ever left Baltimore.”

Machado did not start in the opening game of the doubleheader as Showalter and the 21-year-old both agreed it would be too aggressive to try to play 18 innings in his 2014 season debut. The Baltimore manager didn’t want Machado playing in Game 1 and sitting around all evening before coming off the bench to play in the late innings if necessary.

The third baseman said he didn’t do anything special over the last three days other than his normal in-season workouts and admitted he would feel some nerves before taking the field in Game 2. Showalter quipped that Thursday night would be Machado’s Opening Day after the All-Star break, referencing the club’s three straight days off because of inclement weather.

“It’s actually been kind of good for him to take his breath and get settled here in the locker room instead of traveling back and forth to Frederick,” Showalter said. “There’s nobody more excited today than Manny.”

The Orioles will activate left-handed relief pitcher Troy Patton after the first game of the doubleheader, meaning they will need to make a roster move before the nightcap. Showalter acknowledged having a roster move in mind and an intention to keep the roster at 12 pitchers, but that was dependent on how the pitching staff made it through the opening game.

Candidates to be sent out included long reliever Josh Stinson — who would need to be designated for assignment — and fellow reliever Evan Meek, who has an option remaining.

In injury-related news, veteran left-hander Johan Santana was able to touch 86 to 87 miles per hour on a few occasions while pitching in a simulated game in Sarasota on Monday. Trying to make a comeback from shoulder surgery, Santana’s velocity has steadily increased since he was signed in the spring.

Outfielder Nolan Reimold took batting practice Wednesday in Sarasota as he continues to rehab his surgically-repaired neck on the 60-day disabled list.

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Schoop should stick with Orioles in wake of Davis injury

Posted on 28 April 2014 by Luke Jones

It all appeared to be coming together as third baseman Manny Machado started his rehab assignment and the Orioles anticipated having their full lineup together for the first time all season.

Of course, a left oblique strain suffered by Chris Davis has delayed that vision indefinitely, but Machado is expected to return this week, instantly boosting the infield defense as well as helping an offense now devoid of Davis’ Herculean power. Even with the All-Star third baseman’s return, the injury to Davis forces manager Buck Showalter and executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette to alter the way in which they view the starting lineup.

Even if Nick Markakis proves capable of handling the defensive duties of first base — his errant throw on a rundown play led to a run in Sunday’s loss to Kansas City — he’s a significant downgrade offensively just like any realistic replacement would be. It’s why the Orioles may need to take chances elsewhere in trying to make up for Davis’ absence.

In addition to Nelson Cruz filling a full-time outfield role with Markakis in the infield, the Orioles would be wise to continue playing Jonathan Schoop at second base after Machado officially returns. His future appeared to be the club’s biggest roster decision a few days ago as the argument could be made that Schoop needs more seasoning and both Steve Lombardozzi and Ryan Flaherty are stronger defensive players.

But when missing a player of Davis’ ability, the Orioles would benefit from Schoop’s offensive upside while also remembering he’s handled 30 chances at second base without an error. The 22-year-old has struggled bouncing back and forth between second and third base due to the Orioles’ injury-related needs in the first month of the season, but his four errors have all come while playing the hot corner.

“He’s going to turn the double play well above average with arm strength,” said Showalter when asked to assess Schoop’s play at second base. “That’s one thing that steps out at you. He could profile down the road as an offensive run producer that can play the middle infield. We’ll see. I feel confident that Jonathan is going to be as good as he’s capable of being. That’s what makes me feel good about him.”

Truthfully, his offensive numbers don’t overwhelm you as Schoop is hitting just .241 and has struck out 26 times in his first 82 plate appearances as major league pitchers continue to challenge him with breaking balls, but his numbers dwarf Flaherty’s paltry .188 average and he has more power (.405 slugging percentage) than Lombardozzi (.333), who appears best suited for a utility role.

We’ve seen with Showalter’s patient handling of Flaherty that defense can trump offensive production with the rest of the lineup so dangerous, but the Orioles must be more judicious in that approach with Davis missing from the order. Schoop has given no reason to indicate he can’t play a solid second base — the position at which he had the most experience in the minor leagues — and is fifth on the club in total bases and first in doubles.

The rockets he hit in New York and Toronto earlier this month for his two home runs show what kind of power potential he brings to the table. It’d be interesting to see what he can do without the unrest of switching positions on a regular basis weight on his mind.

“You can be in the big leagues 10 years and it’s never going to be easy, but I think the game’s slowing down a little bit,” Schoop said. “I’ve still got to get better. In situations, I’ve got to think what I’m going to do before the ball comes to me. I’ve got to get better.”

A few days ago, it would have been easy for the Orioles to send Schoop to Triple-A Norfolk and settle on the strong defensive platoon of Flaherty and Lombardozzi at second base while watching the rest of the lineup wreak havoc on opposing pitchers. But with Davis sidelined and his teammates trying to pick up the slack, the second base position needs to provide some of the offensive lifting.

While far from a finished product, the Curacao native has shown more than enough flashes for the Orioles to take a chance that he’ll be up to the task.

“I’m glad he’s on our side. He’s got a chance to be a pretty good one,” Showalter said. “But we’ll see where he settles out and see how things go with Manny in the next few days.”

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How to be a Baltimore Sports Fan: Issue One

Posted on 23 April 2014 by WNST Staff

Baltimore sports fans are irrational, unrealistic, unforgiving, and hard-to-fool.  Baltimore sports fans are unlike any other sports fans, because they’re–as Toyota used to say–“simply the best.”

Every Wednesday, over the next 40-years or so, I’m going to author a semi-regular feature entitled “How to be a Baltimore Sports Fan.”  The idea behind this stems back to a conversation I had with some college students during my time as an English professor at a local community college.

The conversation went something like this:

Me:  “This season might be another ‘Why Not’ year.”

Student #1:  “Why not what?”

Me:  The “Why Not” season in 1989; the year the O’s went from worst to ‘almost’ first.

Student #2:  I was born in 1992.

Me:  Don’t you know any Baltimore history?

Student #3:  Ain’t this English class?

Me:  It is.  But you’re clearly struggling with speaking the Queen’s language–and you’re from Baltimore.

Student #3:  How you know dat?

Me:  I can tell by your accent.  I’m from Dundalk.  I could pick out a Bal-murr accent halfway around the world in a room full of people screaming Chinese expletives.

Alas, it’s this conversation that has sparked this column.  Some people–local youth, sheltered stepchildren, non-local-Ivy-Leaguers-of-the-“local media”–need some help on understanding what it means to be a Baltimore sports fan.

Without further ado.

How to be a Baltimore Sports Fan…

#1 Be Irrational: Fire Dave Wallace and release the entire starting rotation.

Miguel Gonzalez went five-and-two-thirds last night.  Wei Yin Chen went five the night before.  Ubaldo Jimenez hurled five-and-a-third on Sunday.  All three pitchers topped the 100 pitch mark.  It’s impossible, yes impossible, to win more than you lose when your starting rotation consistently throws a full-game worth of pitches at the half-way point in the game.

Show me a team who has a rotation that consistently gives way in the 6th and I’ll show you a sub-.500 record.

Perhaps we’re starting to see why Dave Wallace has been away from the Major Leagues since 2007.  Even though he’s still been around baseball, you have to wonder if his tactics and his style are working, some seven years later.

Think about it, what were you doing seven years ago?  Me, I was finishing college and chasing girls around Canton and Fed Hill.  If my wife ditched me tomorrow and I jumped right back into the bar scene, I’d be as effective as water-logged firewood.

 

#2 Be Unrealistic: The Wizards are 2-0 in the NBA Playoffs, build an arena and give Baltimore the ball!

The Wizards look legit.

Down in the fourth-quarter of both games in Chicago, the Wiz–coincidentally, that’s my name too–have come out on top and carry a 2-0 series lead back to the Mid-Atlantic region–Baltimore sports fans refuse to use the word that describes the area in which Congress meets to discuss their vacation plans and fantasy football teams.

All this Wizards’ success means that Baltimore should definitely build a new arena and focus on attracting an NBA team.

 

#3 Be Unforgiving:  Jonathan Schoop doesn’t belong in the Big Leagues.

He can hit.  He’s got some talent.  But he doesn’t understand the game of baseball and desperately needs to return to a slower-pace at Norfolk.

 

#4 Be Hard-To-Fool:  The Ravens aren’t looking for character guys, they’re looking for cheap talent.

Like it or not, the Baltimore Ravens have shifted their focus.  There was a time when the organization steered clear of troubled players–think of all the receivers they passed on during a time when the roster was devoid of anyone with play-making ability.  Brandon Marshall was a head-case, Chad Ochocinco-Martinez-Wong-Abdullah-Kazamakos-Johnson-Smith was a jerk, and so on.

If the flirtation with Rolando McClain proved anything, it’s that the Ravens have given in when it comes to looking past a players’ off-the-field issues or personal flaws.

Maybe it’s just the state of the NFL and society, but if you told me that this organization would have allowed itself to be yo-yoed around and attached to the negative press that Rolando McClain created, I’d have bet you’d first see Peter Angelos doing the Wild Bill O-R-I-O-L-E-S cheer atop the Orioles’ dugout in game seven of the World Series.

 

#5 Be The Best:  Ubaldo Jimenez needs some love.

This Friday night, in Baltimore, Jimenez will make his fifth start as an Oriole.  It’ll come against a spry and aggressive Kansas City lineup.  He’s ranged from horrendous to decent thus far.  If you’re at the Yard on Friday night, get behind Baltimore’s $50Million man.  Give him some love.

But if he gets chased after giving up more than five runs in less than five innings, boo him like he’s the lovechild of Billy Cundiff and Mark Teixeira

 

 

 

 

 

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