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Twelve Orioles thoughts following 8-4 loss to Houston

Posted on 28 May 2017 by Luke Jones

With the Orioles suffering their 13th loss in 16 games in an 8-4 final at Houston, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. You mean removing Ubaldo Jimenez from the starting rotation wasn’t going to cure the Orioles’ many problems? As manager Buck Showalter likes to say, this, too, shall pass, but that doesn’t make it any easier to watch until it does.

2. Alec Asher deserved an opportunity to start, but the 42 pitches he threw in the second inning alone were more than he’d thrown in any outing since May 7. His stuff and command weren’t close to being good enough against the red-hot Astros.

3. If you’re desperate for a silver lining, the Orioles took their first lead since Monday in the first inning. The drought felt like it had been that long, too.

4. After loading the bases with one out, the Orioles managed only one run in the third inning to take a short-lived 3-0 lead. This offense entered Sunday ranked 18th in the majors in runs per game and deserves as much blame as the pitching, at least relative to expectations.

5. Asher’s poor start only adds insult to the void now left in the bullpen that he’d filled quite nicely over the last few weeks. Then again, the Orioles haven’t had many late-inning leads to protect recently.

6. Jonathan Schoop is one of the few Baltimore regulars who hasn’t underachieved so far in 2017. His two-run home run in the first and RBI single in the second accounted for the Orioles’ only meaningful run production.

7. The pitch wasn’t quite as high as the one he hit off Washington’s Gio Gonzalez earlier this month, but Mark Trumbo hit a solo homer on one up around the letters from Astros reliever James Hoyt. That’s not easy to do.

8. Chris Davis isn’t the only one struggling right now, but he looks completely lost at the plate, swinging at pitches out of the zone and taking ones down the heart of the plate. He struck out three more times in the series finale, two of them looking.

9. Even with his good six-inning performance to preserve the rest of the bullpen, Jimenez pitching in relief now leaves the Orioles’ with a dead roster spot for at least the next couple games since you can’t option him to the minors. It’s just not sustainable.

10. Joey Rickard collected a single in the ninth inning, but he made an error in center field for the second straight day and now has a .617 on-base plus slugging percentage. He’s not offering much off the bench.

11. The current seven-game slide is the longest losing streak for the Orioles since 2011, the last time they had a losing season. You hope that’s not a sign of things to come, but this is easily their worst stretch since losing 12 of 13 in late August of 2015.

12. The Orioles aren’t as bad as they’ve looked over the last 2 1/2 weeks, but that 22-10 start is looking more and more miraculous as time passes. The starting pitching is bad and their long-standing strengths — the bullpen and the offense — have been very mediocre. That’s not a winning formula.

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Twelve Orioles thoughts following 4-3 loss to Minnesota

Posted on 24 May 2017 by Luke Jones

With the Orioles suffering a three-game sweep in a 4-3 loss to Minnesota, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. A team is never as bad as it looks in the midst of a losing streak, which is reassuring considering how ugly it’s been for the Orioles over this 3-10 stretch. I didn’t believe they were as good as their 22-10 start, but I’m not pushing the panic button, either.

2. Chris Tillman is typically a slow starter in his outings, but a 36-pitch first inning in which he allowed three runs was the last thing the Orioles needed. Similar to his first start of 2017, Tillman was consistently missing to his arm side early, and it cost him.

3. Tillman was eventually able to settle in and complete five innings after Jayson Aquino was warming up in both the first and second innings. The slider was particularly useful as he got five of his six swinging strikes with it. Still, the Orioles need better from him.

4. The pitching receives more attention, but the Orioles scored only five runs over the final 25 innings of the Twins series. With the current state of the pitching staff, it’s going to be very difficult to win if this offense can’t score at least five runs per game most nights.

5. J.J. Hardy’s third-inning home run broke a stretch of 21 consecutive Orioles hitters being retired dating back to the fifth inning of Tuesday’s 2-0 loss. The Twins pitched very well over the final two games, but there were far too many listless at-bats over that stretch.

6. After being aggressive early in the game, Chris Davis looked at three straight strikes with the tying run on second in the eighth. I’ve rarely harped on Davis’ strikeouts, but he’s now gone down looking a whopping 31 times this year, which is many more than anyone in the majors.

7. Jonathan Schoop hit his first home run since April 24 to make it a 4-3 game, but that came after he struck out with the bases loaded in the fourth. As Buck Showalter noted after the game, it’s home run or bust with this offense at the moment.

8. Jose Berrios gave up three solo shots over his 6 1/3 innings, but you can see why the Twins are so excited about the 22-year-old. That curveball was filthy while his two-seam fastball had sharp downward movement.

9. Despite doing a respectable job in the outfield so far, Trey Mancini looked the part of someone who’s never played there on Wednesday as he threw to the wrong base at one point and later misplayed a single into an extra base in the fifth. He’s still learning.

10. Alec Asher continued to draw praise from Showalter after two more scoreless innings, but you wonder if that outing took him out of play to start in place of Ubaldo Jimenez on Sunday. Besides Dylan Bundy, Asher has been Baltimore’s best pitching story so far.

11. I’m very reluctant to question a player’s concentration level or effort, but it was tough to watch Manny Machado’s play and body language over the last few days and not think that his slump at the plate is really wearing on him.

12. Even before Wednesday’s loss, Showalter complimented the Twins’ makeup as they continue to lead the AL Central. I still expect Cleveland to eventually take off to win that division, but let’s not forget the youthful Twins were 83-79 in 2015 before last year’s disastrous start from which they never recovered.

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Twelve Orioles thoughts following 14-7 loss to Minnesota

Posted on 23 May 2017 by Luke Jones

With the Orioles dropping their second straight game at home in a 14-7 loss to Minnesota, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. If Monday wasn’t the end for Ubaldo Jimenez, it’s feeling closer and closer based on Buck Showalter’s post-game remarks. He’s had nine lives because of his bulky contract, but that may no longer be able to save him. It’s nothing personal, but a sunk cost is a sunk cost.

2. The final five pitches of his outing resulted in three singles and a double. It was batting practice for the Twins the third time through the heart of the order.

3. Showalter didn’t rule out the possibility of Jimenez pitching in relief like he did in parts of 2014 and 2016, but the current state of the Orioles bullpen without closer Zach Britton makes it extremely difficult to carry a pitcher without options or an ability to contribute meaningfully.

4. Monday’s loss marked the fourth time in the last month that the Orioles have squandered a lead of five or more runs. For a club that’s frequently succeeded despite a small margin for error over the last few years, that’s unacceptable.

5. The Orioles won’t use it as an excuse, but the lineup went 2-for-14 with seven strikeouts in their four turns at the plate after the Twins tied the game in the fifth. Yes, they’re professionals, but the pitching staff continuing to blow so many sizable leads has to be deflating.

6. It’s a shame that Adam Jones becoming the all-time home run leader at Camden Yards didn’t come with a winning result. He passed Rafael Palmeiro with his 125th career long ball in the ballpark to give Baltimore a 5-0 lead in the second inning.

7. Tyler Wilson probably earned himself a trip back to Norfolk by allowing six runs (four earned) in 1 1/3 innings. Inheriting a bases-loaded, no-out situation in the fifth wasn’t fair, but the Orioles needed much better from him in the sixth inning of a 6-6 game.

8. Stefan Crichton’s balk to make it a 12-6 deficit in the sixth felt like an appropriate symbol of futility from the Orioles pitching staff on Monday.

9. Minnesota starter Kyle Gibson receiving the win despite allowing six earned runs in five innings is another example why a pitcher’s win-loss record is such a useless statistic compared to countless other measures of performance. Kill the win, please.

10. Jonathan Schoop’s sixth-inning error led to two unearned runs a day after his first-inning miscue opened the door for three unearned runs in Sunday’s 3-1 defeat. His defense hasn’t been as sharp this season as we’ve seen in the past, and he entered Monday at minus-three defensive runs saved.

11. The replay angles weren’t perfect on Brian Dozier’s leadoff double in the third inning, but how the powers that be in New York couldn’t use those shots in concert to determine the ball was clearly foul is baffling.

12. On a personal note, after missing the weekend series against Toronto because of a wedding, I couldn’t help but watch Monday’s performance and wish my sister could just get married all over again. That was brutal.

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Twelve Orioles thoughts following 4-0 win over White Sox

Posted on 07 May 2017 by Luke Jones

With the Orioles completing a three-game sweep in a 4-0 victory over the Chicago White Sox, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. No one quite knew what to expect from Chris Tillman after he gave up four home runs in his last rehab start pitching for Triple-A Norfolk, but everyone invested in the Orioles would have gladly taken the five shutout innings he threw in his season debut.

2. Perhaps we shouldn’t have been surprised given his history of first-inning struggles, but seven straight balls and two walks to open the game made you wonder if Tillman would make it out of the first. Despite quite a few deep counts, he walked only one more after those first two.

3. Tillman’s fastball velocity wasn’t his best, but he comfortably sat at 90 mph and went no lower than 88, which is good enough for him to succeed. He also threw good secondary pitches, inducing all eight of his swinging strikes with those over the course of his outing.

4. The results were good to see, but how Tillman feels Monday and Tuesday is more important than anything occurring in his first start. He and the training staff have put a great deal of work into strengthening his right shoulder, so you hope that pays off.

5. The Baltimore lineup didn’t square up many against White Sox lefty starter Jose Quintana, but it was important to get Tillman an early lead after he escaped a bases-loaded jam in the first. An early 4-0 lead probably had Chicago thinking about getting out of town more than anything else.

6. Drawing the walk clearly isn’t a big part of the Orioles offense, but Adam Jones and Manny Machado came around to score after reaching on free passes in the first. You’d like to see a few more of those every now and then.

7. After homering off a right-hander the night before, Trey Mancini continues to make a strong bid to become an everyday player with a 3-for-4 performance that included a two-out RBI single in the first. His average now sits at .297 as he continues to maximize his chances.

8. Alec Asher was two outs away from the unorthodox three-inning-plus save before being lifted in favor of Brad Brach, but he did a superb job giving the bullpen a breather. His 2.55 ERA in 17 2/3 innings between starting and relief hasn’t gone unnoticed.

9. Francisco Pena said he’ll be OK for the start of the Washington series after his right thumb and much of his right arm cramped up in the eighth. If not, the Orioles will have an interesting decision on their hands with starting catcher Welington Castillo already on the disabled list.

10. The Orioles are 20-10 despite Tillman and Zach Britton missing significant time, Kevin Gausman struggling mightily, and Mark Trumbo slugging .314 with only two home runs so far. Just like Buck Showalter and Dan Duquette drew it up, right?

11. Jonathan Schoop missed his second straight game after being hit on the hand by a pitch in Friday’s win. The timing isn’t ideal with him swinging the bat so well and having reached base in 22 straight games, but Showalter hopes to have him back for the Nationals series.

12. Sunday marked the 2,000th game in the history of Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Needless to say, the last six seasons have been far more enjoyable than much of the park’s history. The Orioles are now 11-3 at home in 2017.

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Britton admits returning too soon, will see specialist for forearm

Posted on 06 May 2017 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — A day after waking up with the recurrence of a left forearm strain, Orioles closer Zach Britton acknowledged that he probably tried to return to the mound too soon.

The two-time All-Star reliever was placed on the 10-day disabled list less than a week after being activated from his first stint. It remains unclear how long he’ll be sidelined after missing more than two weeks with the initial injury, but he and the club will be even more careful this time around.

“I think the doctors and the trainers wanted me to kind of be a little bit more cautious with it at the time — maybe take another week,” Britton said. “But I felt pretty good and wanted to come back to the team. I was kind of over sitting on the bench watching games, so I felt like I was in a good enough position to come back. Obviously, I wasn’t.”

According to Britton, his Friday evening MRI showed similar results to the initial one taken last month, but he will fly to Los Angeles to visit esteemed sports orthopedist Dr. Neal ElAttrache on Monday afternoon to get a better idea on a timetable for his return. ElAttrache performed both of third baseman Manny Machado’s knee surgeries a few years back.

Team orthopedist Dr. Michael Jacobs is also sending images of the pitcher’s forearm to the esteemed Dr. James Andrews for feedback.

Britton and the Orioles have repeatedly said there is no concern about the health of his left elbow as the location of the discomfort in his forearm is closer to his wrist.

“Thankfully, it’s the same issue. It’s not anything else with the elbow,” Britton said. “It’s just muscle, which is great because it’s going to heal. Ligaments and tendons, normally, you have to manage it and hope that nothing serious happens. But for muscle, they say it’s going to heal. It’s just a matter of time. I guess if there’s any positive, that’s it.”

After being activated from the DL on Tuesday, Britton threw two scoreless innings in the Boston series, but he was not getting the normal movement on his sinker, a sign that all was not right with his forearm. The lefty didn’t start feeling the discomfort again until Friday morning.

“I didn’t think that was going to happen, especially so soon after coming back,” Britton said. “I knew I wasn’t back with like extension or finish with my pitches all the way. Talking with Caleb, it seemed like after my pitch count got around 10, the ball started flattening out a little bit more. For something that happens so natural for me to sink the ball, when that’s not happening, it’s not like I’m manipulating the ball to do something.

“If something that I do is so natural and I’m having a hard time doing it, I want to get that issue fixed, so I can get back and do what I do well. I can’t help the team if I don’t do what I do well.”

To take Britton’s place on the 25-man roster, the Orioles recalled right-handed pitcher Alec Asher.

NOTES: Second baseman Jonathan Schoop was out of Saturday’s lineup after being hit in the hand by a pitch in Friday’s game. X-rays were negative, but he did experience some swelling, prompting manager Buck Showalter to sit him in favor of utility man Ryan Flaherty. The 25-year-old had played in 190 consecutive games, the second-longest active streak in the majors. … Starting pitcher Wade Miley expects to make his next start despite leaving Friday’s game with a left wrist contusion from a line drive in the first inning. … Right-handed pitcher Gabriel Ynoa (right hamstring strain) was also placed on the DL, which allowed the Orioles to recall right-handed pitcher Logan Verrett before the 10-day minimum requirement. Ynoa likely would have been optioned back to Triple-A Norfolk anyway after throwing 101 pitches in emergency relief on Friday. … The Orioles traded right-handed pitcher Damien Magnifico to the Los Angeles Angels in exchange for right-handed pitcher Jordan Kipper on Saturday. Magnifico had been designated for assignment on Tuesday.

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Twelve Orioles thoughts following 7-4 win over Yankees

Posted on 30 April 2017 by Luke Jones

With the Orioles avoiding a three-game sweep in a 7-4 win over the New York Yankees in 11 innings, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. In what was sure to be one of the strangest games of the entire season, the Orioles battled back to salvage a win in what was a pretty miserable series. I’d imagine that Buck Showalter and his club couldn’t have been happier to leave the Bronx on Sunday evening.

2. The game would have ended in the 10th inning had Welington Castillo not made a terrific short-hop pick on J.J. Hardy’s throw to the plate for a force. Castillo added to that effort with three hits and an RBI single to give the Orioles more breathing room in the 11th.

3. If someone had told you Friday afternoon that Logan Verrett would be pitching in the 10th inning on Sunday, you’d guess that the series didn’t go well, but the right-hander did great work despite his mental gaffe on Brett Gardner’s bunt. He pitched two scoreless frames to collect the win.

4. The Orioles bullpen had done superb work in Zach Britton’s absence prior to this weekend, but Darren O’Day joined Brad Brach in blowing consecutive save chances against the Yankees. Fortunately, the All-Star closer is expected to be activated this week.

5. The Yankees handling an 11th-inning rundown like a Little League team allowed the third run of the inning to score. After what happened in the ninth, the Orioles needed all the scoring they could get to make Verrett’s job easier.

6. Joey Rickard’s stolen base was the pivotal moment in the 11th and the third of the game for the Orioles, the first time they’ve swiped that many in a single contest since Aug. 19, 2015. As former Kansas City nemesis Jarrod Dyson once said, “That’s what speed do.”

7. You won’t find too many pitching lines weirder than what Wade Miley produced as he gave up only two runs in five innings despite allowing a whopping 13 baserunners. His escape acts in the second, third, and fourth innings kept the Orioles in the ballgame.

8. Walks continue to be an issue for Miley and the Orioles staff as he walked at least five for the third time in five starts and Darren O’Day walked two in a brutal ninth. Baltimore is walking 4.2 batters per nine innings this season, up from 3.4 in 2016.

9. Before the blown save and extra-inning theatrics, Jonathan Schoop had been the player of the game for the Orioles with the go-ahead RBI double in the sixth and a sensational defensive play in the seventh. His .538 slugging percentage is tops among Orioles everyday players.

10. He hasn’t been asked to pitch the ninth inning, but Mychal Givens has been the MVP of the bullpen while Britton has been sidelined. Asked to pitch more than one inning again on Sunday, the right-hander pitched two scoreless to lower his season ERA to 1.29.

11. I don’t recall watching a game in which a pitcher threw an inning, moved to another position, and then returned to the mound like Bryan Mitchell did for the Yankees. It was creative maneuvering by Joe Girardi, but Mitchell gave up three in the 11th inning to take the loss.

12. After Mark Trumbo drove in the go-ahead run in the 11th and hit a grand slam on Friday night, the Orioles can only hope that he’s finally getting the bat going after a difficult start to 2017.

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Twelve Orioles thoughts following 6-3 win over Tampa Bay

Posted on 25 April 2017 by Luke Jones

With the Orioles hitting three home runs in a 6-3 win over Tampa Bay, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. Buck Showalter rarely makes much out of a single win or loss over a 162-game season, but he expressed great pride over his club’s effort on a night when the weather was miserable and no more than a few thousand people were at the ballpark.

2. Adam Jones led that effort with a 3-for-3 performance, which included the game-winning two-run shot in the seventh. He entered the game 4-for-32 in his career against Chris Archer, but he exacted some revenge. His dependability in all conditions is rare and not lost on Showalter or his teammates.

3. Archer hadn’t allowed a home run to the first 130 batters he’d faced in 2017 before the Orioles clubbed three long balls in a five-hitter span in the sixth and seventh innings. That’s the definition of an outing crumbling quickly.

4. Ubaldo Jimenez throwing more balls than strikes and issuing five walks in 3 1/3 innings told the story of his abysmal start. Shane Peterson’s two-run double in the fourth appeared to be foul, but that can’t excuse Jimenez’s inability to build on his strong start in Cincinnati last week.

5. Jimenez was saved from further damage by Vidal Nuno, who struck out both Corey Dickerson and Kevin Kiermaier looking to leave the bases loaded in the fourth. The lefty long man pitched 2 2/3 scoreless innings and did a superb job keeping the Orioles in the game.

6. A combined 12 walks between the teams made for a difficult product to watch. During one stretch in the third and fourth innings, eight of nine Rays hitters and five out of six Orioles didn’t even put the ball in play as strikeouts and walks dominated the action.

7. It’s no secret that starts have been sporadic for Hyun Soo Kim due to the high number of opposing lefty starters, but he took advantage of his first start since last Thursday, drawing a walk in the fourth and hitting the first homer of the night off Archer.

8. Jonathan Schoop has been on the back end of all three pairs of back-to-back homers hit by the Orioles this season. There’s nothing meaningful to take away from that, but it’s an interesting coincidence nonetheless. He continues to hit after a rough opening week.

9. Seeing Showalter use his bullpen without Zach Britton is hardly ideal for the Orioles, but it’s been fun as he once again unleashed Mychal Givens for multiple innings like he did against Boston over the weekend. He’s becoming an even more dangerous — and much-needed — weapon.

10. It was another rough night at the plate for Mark Trumbo, who left four men on base in his first two at-bats. He’s started fast most of his career, but that certainly hasn’t been the case in 2017.

11. The crowd at Camden Yards was very small but spirited on Monday. I was particularly amused by the group of fans who heckled Rays hitters by slowly chanting their names à la the classic Darryl Strawberry taunt. If you’re going to brave the elements, why not have some fun?

12. News of Boston pitcher Matt Barnes’ four-game suspension broke shortly before the game. Based on precedent, it’s what I expected. I fear it’s going to take a serious injury occurring for Major League Baseball to ever crack down on the pathetic act of intentionally throwing a baseball at a hitter.

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Twelve Orioles thoughts following 2-1 loss to Toronto

Posted on 15 April 2017 by Luke Jones

With the Orioles falling 2-1 on a walk-off home run from Kendrys Morales on Saturday, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. You won’t find a worse breaking ball than the one Tyler Wilson threw to Morales. Since Brad Brach warmed up in the top half of the inning, I was surprised to see Wilson still out there, but Brach was only available to close, according to Buck Showalter.

2. Marco Estrada labored early for the Blue Jays, but the starter gave the Orioles lineup fits with his changeup over seven shutout innings. Baltimore consistently has problems against pitchers who are more about finesse and changing speeds than velocity.

3. You never want to lose, but the performance of Alec Asher in his Orioles debut was an encouraging development for the big picture. Showalter couldn’t have asked for more from the former Philadelphia hurler, who was only acquired late in spring training.

4. Asher threw an impressive breaking ball to get some big outs when he needed them. He’s not going to overpower you with the two-seam fastball, so he needs his secondary stuff in order to compete.

5. The right-hander left a few too many fastballs up in the zone early as he benefited from some good defense behind him. The transition from the four-seam fastball to the two-seamer last year has paid dividends, but Asher clearly wants to live lower in the zone moving forward.

6. Asher certainly earned another opportunity as the fifth starter, but it’s fair to wonder how much of his success was the result of a Toronto offense that’s been woeful so far in 2017.

7. The Orioles certainly wasted early chances against Estrada, leaving five runners on over the first three innings. They went 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position on Saturday.

8. Jonathan Schoop missed a golden opportunity to double off Jose Bautista with two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning. I’m still not sure what happened there as Darwin Barney then picked up the go-ahead RBI single off Donnie Hart two pitches later.

9. Adam Jones made a strong throw to the plate on Barney’s run-scoring hit to almost nail Bautista, but the one-bounce throw skipped away from Welington Castillo. The Orioles likely would have gotten a cleaner hop if that game were being played on grass instead of turf.

10. Craig Gentry showed in the ninth why the Orioles like him, stealing second and tagging up on a fly ball to go to third before scoring on Schoop’s game-tying sacrifice fly. His speed is an asset if he can hit a little bit, but that’s a big question right now.

11. You could tell by Mark Trumbo’s reaction that he missed a very hittable pitch from Estrada as he flied out to end the top of the third with two runners on. He was 0-for-4 and doesn’t have an extra-base hit since his walk-off homer and double on Opening Day.

12. Seeing all uniformed personnel wearing No. 42 on Jackie Robinson Day has become one of my favorite traditions in recent years. The importance of this man to both baseball and America needs to be celebrated and remembered.

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Twelve Orioles thoughts following 8-1 loss to Boston

Posted on 12 April 2017 by Luke Jones

With the Orioles surrendering a total of six runs in the seventh and eighth innings of an 8-1 loss to Boston, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. Infield defense is one of the Orioles’ greatest strengths, making J.J. Hardy’s error on what should have been an inning-ending double play in the seventh so surprising. What followed after that was downright brutal. Kicking the ball around to give the Red Sox lineup extra outs is begging for doom.

2. Lost in the ugliness of the last few innings was the fact that the Baltimore lineup has scored just twice in its last 16 innings. One run at Fenway Park isn’t going to cut it.

3. The final line for Darren O’Day doesn’t reflect him looking better than he did in his first two outings. He induced what should have been an easy double play and a pop fly that should have been caught. Few survive when they have to get five outs in an inning.

4. Dylan Bundy wasn’t carrying stuff or command as dominant as we saw against Toronto, but he gave his club a good chance to win over 6 1/3 innings. He didn’t miss many bats with just nine swinging strikes, but he still turned in a quality start against a superb lineup.

5. Considering how much he labored without a single 1-2-3 inning on the night, Bundy throwing a career-high 106 pitches against a club that led the majors in scoring last year reflects how much confidence manager Buck Showalter has in the 24-year-old.

6. Tuesday marked the latest example of Orioles hitters faltering against left-handed pitching. Baltimore was one of the worst teams in baseball against southpaws last year, a trend that can’t continue in 2017.

7. Give Drew Pomeranz credit for those struggles as he turned in a strong performance after an unsettling spring. The Red Sox lefty’s fastball velocity was strong early, and he did a good job pitching inside against right-handed hitters.

8. Their defensive mistakes in the seventh stood out, but Hardy and Schoop are each hitting .105 through the first six games and aren’t offering much at the bottom of the order thus far.

9. Welington Castillo had two hits and threw out Hanley Ramirez trying to steal, but his baserunning cost the Orioles a run in the second inning and hurt them again in the seventh. The Orioles lack speed, but they have to take extra bases when presented the opportunity.

10. His strong spring earned him a roster spot, but Craig Gentry being in the leadoff spot against a lefty is a tough sell for me. There may not be a natural fit with Joey Rickard sidelined, but I’d still go with virtually anyone else at the top of the order.

11. Trey Mancini did a respectable job playing left field in front of the Green Monster on Tuesday and showed why you like having his bat in the lineup against a lefty when he put a charge into one for a double to deep right-center in the second.

12. Despite Mancini’s potential, Hyun Soo Kim seemed to be a good candidate to hit for him with runners at the corners and no outs in the seventh and right-hander Heath Hembree pitching. The Orioles needed a good at-bat there, and Kim’s approach is one of the best on the club

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2017 Orioles preview: Jonathan Schoop

Posted on 14 March 2017 by Luke Jones

With Opening Day less than three weeks away, we’ll take a look at a member of the 2017 Orioles every day as they try to return to the postseason for the fourth time in six years.

Manny Machado
Kevin Gausman
Adam Jones
Darren O’Day
Seth Smith
Mike Wright
Caleb Joseph
Donnie Hart

2B Jonathan Schoop

Opening Day age: 25

Contract status: Under club control through the 2019 season

2016 stats: .267/.298/.454, 25 HR, 82 RBI, 82 R, 1 SB, 647 PA

Why to be impressed: In addition to hitting 25 long balls for the first time, Schoop increased his walk rate and lowered his strikeout rate, which are improvements an aggressive hitter needs to make in his mid-20s. His .688 on-base plus slugging percentage against left-handers in 2016 doesn’t sound like much, but it represented major improvement from his .573 mark against southpaws the previous year.

Why to be concerned: After posting an .847 OPS in the first half of 2016, Schoop slumped after the All-Star break with a .643 mark and batted just .196 in the final month of the season, perhaps an effect of playing all 162 games. He still only walked 3.2 percent of the time in 2016, which is 2.6 percent worse than even Adam Jones and illustrates how much his impatience limits his ceiling as a hitter.

2017 outlook: Schoop is often overlooked because of the remarkable development of Manny Machado, but he’s come a long way over his three full major league seasons and can still get better if he improves his plate discipline and contact rate. Manager Buck Showalter should try to give Schoop an occasional day off in an effort to avoid the second-half swoon he experienced last season.

Not-so-scientific projections for 2017: .274/.314/.474, 29 HR, 85 RBI, 88 R, 2 SB, 623 PA

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