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Orioles recall Flaherty, option Navarro to Triple-A Norfolk

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Orioles recall Flaherty, option Navarro to Triple-A Norfolk

Posted on 29 May 2013 by Luke Jones

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BALTIMORE — It just wouldn’t be the Orioles if they went too many days without making a roster move as second baseman Ryan Flaherty was recalled from Triple-A Norfolk prior to Wednesday’s game against Washington.

The decision raised more than a few eyebrows as the club optioned infielder Yamaico Navarro and his .286 average to Triple-A Norfolk in favor of Flaherty, who was hitting .133 when he was sent to the minors on May 18. Manager Buck Showalter hopes the brief stint with the Tides provided the necessary confidence boost to the 26-year-old infielder after he clubbed two home runs and hit .265 in 34 at-bats over the last eight games. Flaherty posted multi-hit games in four of the eight contests he played at Triple A.

Reports from Norfolk manager Ron Johnson and his staff said Flaherty was handling the breaking ball much better than he was upon being demoted, but Showalter acknowledged you never know whether that will continue to apply at the next level. Critics will certainly question whether eight minor-league contests were truly enough to fix Flaherty’s ailments, but the second baseman told reporters he thought the opportunity to make adjustments in a pressure-free environment helped significantly.

Showalter said at the time of his demotion that the hope was for Flaherty to “get his legs back under him” with the Tides.

“We know the stuff is a little better here,” Showalter said. “He’s handled the breaking ball a little better. We’ll see how it plays. The good thing about him is he’s defending. We just wanted to see him get some good at-bats. It’s what was needed at the time. I hope he benefited from it.”

In his eight games with the Orioles, Navarro has shown potential at the plate but has been erratic in the field, making a few nice plays mixed in with two errors at second base. Showalter and the Orioles clearly value defense to complement a struggling pitching staff that includes several ground-ball pitchers.

The club would be more inclined to give veteran Alexi Casilla more opportunities at second base due to his strong defense, but his .183 average hasn’t exactly screamed for more playing time and the organization sees more upside with Flaherty at the plate. Showalter said the switch-hitting Casilla will continue to be in the mix, likely receiving starts against left-handed pitchers as he was doing before Flaherty’s demotion.

“[Flaherty] understands this is not an open-ended ticket,” Showalter said. “Play better. The one thing I want to see is him be a consistent force for us defensively.”

In other news, pitching prospect Dylan Bundy has a followup appointment with Dr. James Andrews regarding his right forearm and elbow. Bundy received a platelet-rich plasma injection a month ago and has a full range of motion with the elbow after rest. Showalter told reporters the 20-year-old pitcher hasn’t experienced any pain in the last week, signs indicating he could begin throwing very soon.

“I think that’s the final thing for [Dr. Andrews] to sign off on,” Showalter said.

Infield prospect Jonathan Schoop received a second opinion on the stress fracture in his lower back on Wednesday that provided a slightly more optimistic prognosis of four weeks of rest. The hope is that the 21-year-old could be back playing in five to six weeks, which would have him back in action at around the All-Star break.

Reliever Pedro Strop completed a unique workout at his old position of shortstop Wednesday afternoon in an effort for the pitcher to refine as well as repeat his throwing motion. The struggling reliever was placed on the 15-day disabled list over the weekend with what was listed as a lower back strain, an ailment many have viewed as a veiled excuse to allow the club to work on Strop’s 6.11 earned run average and failures on the mound.

The move does not signal a position change for Strop, who broke into professional baseball as a shortstop but hit .207 in 633 plate appearances in the minors.

Starting pitcher Wei-Yin Chen continues to improve from a strained right oblique, but the lefty isn’t pain-free just yet, according to Showalter.

Injured infielders Brian Roberts and Wilson Betemit are each hitting off a tee and throwing as they continue their respective rehabs in Sarasota.

Catcher Taylor Teagarden caught seven innings in an extended spring game on Wednesday and could be sent out on a minor-league rehab assignment as early as Thursday.

Outfielder Nolan Reimold continues to rehab his right hamstring and told reporters that he’s spent some of his time rehabbing at Johns Hopkins Hospital. The 29-year-old says he is now running but not at full speed just yet. The timetable for his return remains unknown, but Reimold said it “won’t be forever.”

Not exactly much clarity in that statement.

Showalter also echoed what he said following Tuesday’s loss in Washington that rookie Kevin Gausman will once again start for the Orioles on Sunday against the Detroit Tigers.

“He’s a mature guy,” Showalter said. “He’s going to seek his level. There’s a process. Talent plays. If you’re good enough, you can’t hide it.”

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Chen making slow progress on road back from oblique injury

Posted on 28 May 2013 by Luke Jones

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WASHINGTON — As rookie right-hander Kevin Gausman was making his second major league start on Tuesday night, the Orioles continue to wait patiently on the recovery of left-hander Wei-Yin Chen.

Chen was eligible to return from the 15-day disabled list on Tuesday, but the Taiwanese southpaw has yet to pick up a baseball as he rehabs a strained right oblique injury in Sarasota. The 27-year-old exited his start in Minnesota on May 12 after throwing five shutout innings and was officially placed on the disabled list two days later.

Oblique injuries are problematic with a high rate of setbacks because it’s difficult for training staffs to determine whether the muscle has truly healed until the player begins throwing again. Manager Buck Showalter and Chen both expressed the need to be cautious to make sure the lefty is healthy for the duration of the season.

“There’s a little progress, but not anything big,” Showalter said. “Little by little. It’s so hard to handicap that, but he’s doing OK.”

Chen is 3-3 with a 3.04 earned run average in eight starts covering 47 1/3 innings this season and had been the club’s most consistent starter at the time of the injury.

In other injury-related news, second baseman Brian Roberts has begun hitting off a tee and is on schedule for the projected six-week recovery laid out after he underwent surgery on his right hamstring nearly three weeks ago.

“He’s on schedule,” Showalter said. “He started increasing his baseball activities, his tee work, and soft toss, and he felt fine. I know him, he wants it to happen tomorrow, but I don’t think it’s ‘if,’ it’s ‘when’ with Brian.”

Infielder Wilson Betemit has finally begun some baseball-related activity as he is now playing catch and could continue to increase his level of activity. He has been sidelined since March with a Grade 2/3 PCL tear in his right knee and originally expressed hope that he would return in eight weeks.

With the Orioles struggling to find production at the designated hitter spot for much of the season, Betemit would be an ideal option against right-handed pitching after batting .302 and posting an .859 on-base plus slugging percentage against right-handed hurlers last season.

“Wilson’s a little bit of a forgotten guy in this [lineup],” Showalter said. “He did a lot of good things for us last year and we’re looking forward to getting him back.”

Backup catcher Taylor Teagarden (left thumb) caught five innings in an extended spring game on Monday and could be ready to go on a minor-league rehab assignment within the next few days. He will catch once again on Wednesday after serving as the DH in Tuesday’s extended spring training contest.

Infield prospect Jonathan Schoop will get a second opinion on his lower back in California on Wednesday after executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette revealed last week that the 21-year-old is dealing with a stress fracture in his back. That type of injury would likely keep Schoop sidelined until after the All-Star break, according to the initial prognosis.

 

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Infield prospect Schoop sidelined with stress fracture in back

Posted on 22 May 2013 by Luke Jones

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A day on which most discussion centered around the promotion of top pitching prospect Kevin Gausman, the Orioles received some discouraging news about their top positional prospect as infielder Jonathan Schoop will be sidelined indefinitely with a back injury.

Sidelined since May 12, Schoop is dealing with a stress fracture in his lower back, according to executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette. The 21-year-old could be sidelined six to eight weeks and will seek a second opinion.

Promoted to Triple-A Norfolk this season, the organization’s 2011 minor league player of the year was hitting .268 with three home runs and 18 RBIs in 34 games despite a slow start with the Tides. Schoop has the ability to play three infield positions and was splitting time between shortstop and second base.

With the Orioles struggling to receive any offensive production from the second base spot this season, many speculated that Schoop could have received a summer promotion similar to the way Manny Machado provided a boost to the club in last August last season. Instead, the organization will simply focus on getting the Curacao native healthy before he returns to the Norfolk lineup.

Since optioning the struggling Ryan Flaherty to Norfolk last weekend, the Orioles have used a platoon of Yamaico Navarro and Alexi Casilla at second base. Through the first 45 games of the season, Baltimore second basemen were hitting .200 with two homers, seven RBIs, and a .561 on-base plus slugging percentage.

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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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Britton, two others optioned to Triple-A Norfolk

Posted on 23 March 2013 by WNST Staff

The Orioles announced Saturday that they have optioned left-handed pitcher Zach Britton and infielders Jonathan Schoop and Yamaico Navaroo to Triple-A Norfolk and have reassigned right-handed pitcher Daniel McCutchen to minor league camp.

In five spring appearances covering 10 1/3 innings, Britton posted a 6.10 earned run average with four walks and seven strikeouts. He allowed 13 hits and two home runs as he struggled to command his two-seam fastball.

Schoop played for the Netherlands in the World Baseball Classic and had a home run and four runs batted in in six spring at-bats with the Orioles.

With this latest assignment, the Orioles have 40 players remaining at major league spring training, including 11 non-roster invitees.

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Joe Blanton?  That’s it, huh?  Joe Blanton?

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Joe Blanton? That’s it, huh? Joe Blanton?

Posted on 31 July 2012 by Drew Forrester

If the reports are true and the Orioles have zeroed in on Phillies pitcher Joe Blanton as their final trade-deadline piece, I have one word for Dan Duquette:

Make that two words:  No thanks.

Joe Blanton, really?

That’s Duquette’s big move at the 11th hour?

As Denzel said to Ethan Hawke in Training Day, “This s**t’s chess, it ain’t checkers…”

Bringing in Joe Blanton is checkers.

You’d be better off just going with Miguel Gonzalez or some other dude from Norfolk who might parlay a major league cup of coffee into a few wins in August and September.

Reports out of Philadelphia yesterday indicated the Phillies asked the Orioles for minor league prospect Jonathan Schoop and for the Birds to pay the remaining $3 million of Blanton’s 2012 salary.  The Orioles, predictably, have balked at paying the money.

There hasn’t been any indication that the Orioles have agreed to sending Schoop to Philly, but if they do – for Blanton – they’re completely nuts.

Schoop as part of a deal to bring in Cliff Lee?  Yes, that’s fine.

Schoop for Blanton?

I’d hope Duquette isn’t that gullible.

The Orioles already have Joe Blanton.  His name is Tommy Hunter.  If Duquette’s goal is to add another pitcher who will give up a couple of home runs and surrender 5 earned runs in 6.2 innings of work, then Blanton is a perfect fit.  But if Duquette really thinks a starting pitcher can take them over the top and into September as a real player in the playoff race, I’d hope he banks on someone other than Joe Blanton to get it done.

I’m all for the Orioles adding players at the deadline, by the way.  Read that again before you whine and complain in the comments section about how “even when they add a player like Blanton, you find a way to complain, Drew.”  Here goes, again:  I’m all for the Orioles adding players at the deadline.

I just want them to add good players.

And I am not interested in renting those players if, instead, I can be a buyer and have someone in the fold in 2013 and beyond.

I’d rather see the Orioles buy then rent.

The Justin Upton rumors were intriguing to me because a player like that is only made available on rare occasions.  And I’d even be willing to give up a high prospect or two or three to get him because he plays every day.  I wouldn’t rule out taking on a Cliff Lee, either, if he would be willing to come to Baltimore, but on the whole I’ll take a field player over a pitcher every day.

I’d much prefer the Orioles be buyers rather than renters. I’d like for the team to get better, now, and be better heading into next spring.  That’s what happens when you buy.

But if they’re going to rent, I hope the Orioles get the 3-bedroom condo with the view of the Inner Harbor.

Don’t bring in the basement level 1-bedroom studio that faces the ice machine and the back entrance to the garage.

Come on Dan, the Harbor is beautiful this time of year.

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