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“Rounding the Bases” in Orioles’ 4-3 loss to Rangers

Posted on 21 June 2016 by Luke Jones

What went wrong in the Orioles’ 4-3 defeat to the Texas Rangers on Monday night?

In trying to identify the top three losing factors with the addition of home plate for any not-so-honorable mentions and other notes, we go around the bases after the 69th game of the 2016 season.

1st — On a night when the Orioles banged out 15 hits, the game turned when they squandered a bases-loaded, no-out situation in the third inning. Leading 3-0 and threatening to break the game open against Texas starter Derek Holland, Baltimore came away with nothing despite a Mark Trumbo walk and consecutive singles by Matt Wieters and Jonathan Schoop to start the inning. J.J. Hardy struck out on a pitch in the dirt and Nolan Reimold grounded into an inning-ending double play. It was all Rangers after that despite the opportunities being abundant for the Orioles, who left 12 runners on base and went 3-for-11 with runners in scoring position over the course of the night.

2nd — Kevin Gausman was carrying good stuff on Monday, but questionable choices in pitch selection and location doomed him in the deciding three-run fourth. It’s one thing to miss with location as the right-hander did on Ian Desmond’s long solo home run an inning earlier, but you have to question why Gausman continued to throw outside fastballs — and why Wieters continued calling for them — to No. 9 hitter Bobby Wilson without once challenging him inside. Despite getting ahead 0-2, Gausman couldn’t put the light-hitting catcher away and Wilson hit a sacrifice fly on the 10th pitch of the at-bat. Gausman followed that by throwing a hanging breaking ball to Shin-Soo Choo for the deciding two-run single after the lefty hitter hadn’t gotten around on his fastball all night. As was the case against Boston last week, Gausman’s stuff was too good to get such underwhelming results.

3rd — Despite Texas entering the night ranked 14th in the American League in bullpen ERA, the Orioles couldn’t get to Rangers relievers after knocking Holland out of the game in the fifth. Neither Shawn Tolleson nor Tony Barnette had pitched well of late, but the Orioles didn’t push a single runner into scoring position despite four hits against the pair in 3 2/3 innings. Ironically, Baltimore threatened against tough closer Sam Dyson by putting runners on the corners in the ninth, but Wieters struck out and Schoop grounded out to end the game with the tying run on third base.

Home — In addition to grounding into a double play with the bases loaded in the third, Reimold struck out twice with a runner on base and was thrown out at second on a failed hit-and-run. His lone hit of the night was a single to lead off the sixth. … Every Orioles starter collected at least one hit on the night. The 15 hits tied for their third-highest number of the season, but the three runs were their lowest total in a game in which they had collected at least 12 hits this season. … Dylan Bundy tossed three perfect innings with three strikeouts in relief of Gausman to save the rest of the bullpen. … Baltimore returns home to play its first interleague series of the year Tuesday with Tyler Wilson squaring off against San Diego’s Luis Perdomo.

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“Rounding the Bases” in Orioles’ 3-1 win over Yankees

Posted on 05 June 2016 by Luke Jones

Who stood out in the Orioles’ 3-1 win over the New York Yankees on Sunday?

In the spirit of hockey’s “three stars” system with the addition of home plate for honorable mentions and other notes, we go around the bases after the 55th game of the 2016 season.

1stMatt Wieters once again came up big in a late-game situation, grounding a 101 mph fastball from Aroldis Chapman into center field to plate the tying and go-ahead runs in the bottom of the eighth. Not only was Wieters pinch-hitting for just the third time this season, but he had quickly fallen behind 0-2 after failing to catch up to two straight 99 mph fastballs from the Yankees lefty. It was an impressive feat for the starting catcher as he shortened his stroke and delivered the first Baltimore runs of the afternoon. Wieters is now hitting .369 with a .967 on-base plus slugging percentage and 16 RBIs in his last 18 games.

2ndKevin Gausman didn’t record a single 1-2-3 inning and had many deep counts, but the Yankees were just 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position against him as the 25-year-old turned in the Orioles’ first quality start since Memorial Day. The right-hander scattered seven hits and two walks, but his most important work came in the fourth inning when he got Aaron Hicks to ground into a fielder’s choice and Jacoby Ellsbury to strike out with the bases loaded to maintain a 1-0 deficit. He would strike out five in six innings while throwing 104 pitches for his fifth quality start of the season.

3rdFrancisco Pena was at Triple-A Norfolk with a total of seven major league plate appearances under his belt a week ago, but the reserve catcher picked up a huge single off Chapman to load the bases and give Wieters a chance as a pinch hitter with two outs in the eighth. He also got a great read on Wieters’ single to advance to third, which allowed him to score on Yankees center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury’s errant throw. Son of Yankees first base coach and former major league catcher Tony Pena, the 26-year-old also walked in the third and singled in the fifth in a 2-for-3 performance.

HomeT.J. McFarland pitched two scoreless innings to not only keep the Orioles in the game, but the lefty also helped preserve an overworked bullpen that’s without the services of the injured Darren O’Day. For his efforts, McFarland picked up his first win of the season. … Zach Britton pitched a 1-2-3 ninth inning for his 17th save in 17 tries and extended his scoreless streak to 13 games covering 14 1/3 innings. … The Orioles improved to 2-20 when trailing at the end of seven innings and handed the Yankees their first defeat of the year when ahead at the end of seven. … Right-hander Mike Wright will start the opener of a three-game set with the Kansas City Royals, who will send lefty Danny Duffy to the hill on Monday night.

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“Rounding the Bases” in Orioles’ 6-2 loss to Red Sox

Posted on 01 June 2016 by Luke Jones

What went wrong in the Orioles’ 6-2 defeat to the Boston Red Sox on Tuesday night?

In trying to identify the top three losing factors with the addition of home plate for any not-so-honorable mentions and other notes, we go around the bases after the 50th game of the 2016 season.

1st — Red Sox right fielder Mookie Betts’ three-homer night started off with two poorly-located Kevin Gausman fastballs in the first two innings. Betts wasted little time giving Boston a 1-0 lead as he hit a low 93 mph fastball that leaked back over the heart of the plate. His second long ball was even more costly as catcher Matt Wieters set up low and away and Gausman’s 95 mph heater ran up and in before Betts muscled it off the bottom of the left-field foul pole for a three-run shot and a 5-0 lead in the second inning. Those drives along with Dustin Pedroia’s first-inning homer provided all the damage Boston would need as Gausman would then settle down to pitch better over his final four innings despite allowing three homers — the second straight start in which he’s allowed that many — and throwing first-pitch strikes to just nine of the 26 batters he faced.

2nd — Former Baltimore prospect Eduardo Rodriguez was solid in his 2016 debut, but the Orioles bats were unproductive and impatient once again. Baltimore went 1-for-7 with runners in scoring position and failed to draw a walk in a game for just the fourth time all season. The frustrating approach was never more apparent than in the sixth when Manny Machado led off with a first-pitch double before Chris Davis, Mark Trumbo, and Matt Wieters were retired on seven pitches — and the trio swung at all of them. If you want to have a good chance against the dangerous Boston lineup, your own offense needs more than four runs over the first two games of a series.

3rdThe best offense in the majors out-“Orioled” the Orioles for the second straight game with a total of four home runs. Betts hit his third homer of the night in the seventh inning off Dylan Bundy to extend the lead to 6-2 while the Orioles hit a few balls well with little to show for them. Filling in for Jackie Bradley Jr. in center field, Chris Young took away a potential two-run shot off the bat of Machado in the third when he made a leaping catch at the left-center wall. In the series’ first two games, the Red Sox homered seven times while Baltimore was without a home run.

Home — A long Chris Davis blast down the right-field line stood as foul after a replay angle that could have apparently overturned the call came too late. Manager Buck Showalter said the shot made it clear that the ball was fair and would have made it a 6-4 game in the bottom of the eighth, but other camera angles available to the New York headquarters during the review were inconclusive. … Gausman gave up a season-high five earned runs and matched a career high in throwing 113 pitches. … Davis, Trumbo, Wieters, and Jonathan Schoop combined to go 0-for-16 with seven strikeouts. … Adam Jones’s single in the first inning moved him past Melvin Mora for sole possession of 11th place on the Orioles’ all-time hits list. … In the sixth, Gausman committed the eighth error by Orioles pitchers this season after the staff committed a total of 10 in 2015. … The Orioles have now lost seven of their last nine games and 10 of their last 15. … Mike Wright will go to the hill on Wednesday night while Boston will start right-hander Joe Kelly.

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Thoughts about Orioles’ weekend series in Anaheim

Posted on 22 May 2016 by Luke Jones

Sunday’s 10-2 loss shouldn’t spoil a series victory for the Orioles as they took two out of three from the Los Angeles Angels to begin their longest road trip of the season to this point.

The weekend was highlighted by Matt Wieters’ dramatic three-run home run in the top of the ninth inning to erase a 1-0 deficit and give Baltimore a 3-1 win on Saturday night. The blow came on Wieters’ 30th birthday and continued a strong month for the veteran catcher in which he’s hit .372 with three homers, eight RBIs, and a 1.038 OPS.

It was another game that had a 2014 feel to it in the sense that the Orioles came away with one they had little business winning after Matt Shoemaker had dominated them. And it’s the kind of win you remember fondly if they’re still in the thick of the race in September.

Even with the lopsided loss in the series finale, the Orioles went into the off-day holding the best record in the American League and leading the East by percentage points over the Boston Red Sox.

** Ubaldo Jimenez continued a nightmare month on Sunday by allowing six earned runs in 5 2/3 innings, lifting his season ERA to 6.04 and his May ERA to 7.81 in 27 2/3 innings.

It’s been an extended period of struggles for the right-hander dating back to the second half of last season. Since holding an impressive 2.81 ERA at the 2015 All-Star break, Jimenez has pitched to a 5.79 mark in his last 135 1/3 innings of regular-season work.

The frustration over Jimenez’s performance is obvious, but the problem is that the Orioles aren’t exactly bursting at the seams with alternatives — at least until Yovani Gallardo is ready to return next month. Despite the cries of some fans, the organization just isn’t releasing a pitcher in the third year of a four-year, $50 million contract, especially when Jimenez is capable of getting on a roll in which he pitches at a high level.

Manager Buck Showalter reiterated after Sunday’s game that the Orioles aren’t at a point where Jimenez’s rotation spot is in jeopardy, but something may have to give sooner rather than later if his May struggles continue into June.

** Mike Scioscia was rightfully upset with home plate umpire Dale Scott over a pair of awful strike calls in the ninth inning on Saturday, but I’m still scratching my head about the Angels manager removing Shoemaker after just 95 pitches.

There was no reason to think the starter couldn’t have at least finished the eighth after striking out 12 over 7 1/3 innings. Perhaps the baseball gods agreed considering how the ninth inning played out.

** If you’re looking for the latest reason why the win stat means little for starting pitchers, look no further than Kevin Gausman, who has zero in six starts despite a tidy 2.70 ERA.

On Saturday, the 25-year-old showed his best fastball velocity since his season debut and got stronger as the game went on despite no run support from the Orioles lineup. The wins will come, but the important news is that Gausman is healthy and pitching effectively.

** Joey Rickard stole second base in the first inning of Sunday’s game, giving the Orioles just their sixth stolen base of the season.

Entering Sunday, 32 players in the majors had more steals than the entire Orioles club. Of course, Baltimore leading the majors in homers has a lot to do with the reluctance to run.

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Starting pitching passing the test for Orioles so far

Posted on 12 May 2016 by Luke Jones

The home runs hog the spotlight, but another encouraging development has sparked the Orioles to a season-best eight games above .500 as they began a seven-game homestand on Thursday night.

We figured that Buck Showalter’s club would hit the long ball and runs would be aplenty in 2016, but what about the starting pitching?

While the offense hit an impressive 13 home runs over a four-game winning streak, the rotation quietly turned in four consecutive quality starts for the first time in 2016. In fact, the Orioles have recorded 11 quality starts in their last 14 games since the return of Kevin Gausman on April 25 after registering just three in their first 18 games.

The 9-5 stretch has elevated Baltimore to seventh in the AL in starter ERA at 4.28.

Certainly not great, but good enough with a terrific bullpen backing up the rotation. The Kansas City Royals showed last year that you don’t need excellent starting pitching to contend as they finished 12th in starter ERA and pitched the fewest starter innings in the AL before ultimately winning the World Series.

Perhaps even more encouraging than the Orioles’ starter ERA is the fact that they rank third in the AL in starter fielding independent pitching (FIP) at 3.74, suggesting the peripherals have been better than the results. Starters have allowed a league-low 16 home runs, rank 10th in strikeouts, and have issued the fifth-fewest walks among AL clubs. This is marked improvement from a year ago when the rotation surrendered the second-most homers, finished 10th in strikeouts, and issued the sixth-highest total of walks in the AL.

Yes, the Orioles have pitched in cool and damp conditions to aid in their efforts to prevent the long ball, but the weather hasn’t stopped their lineup from leading the league in home runs.

Leading the way for the rotation have been Chris Tillman and Gausman, who have accounted for seven of the Orioles’ 14 quality starts to begin the season.

Through the first 5 1/2 weeks of the season, Tillman has not only bounced back from a forgettable 2015 season, but the right-hander has been better than ever. Even more impressive than a tidy 3.05 ERA through seven starts has been his ability to miss bats as he’s struck out 9.4 batters per nine innings, a significant improvement from his 6.8 career average.

The increased use of his slider has been the difference for the 28-year-old as he’s thrown it 16.2 percent of the time, up from just 7.2 percent a year ago. He’s gotten more strikeouts and a higher swinging strike percentage with his slider than any other pitch in 2016.

Despite beginning the year on the disabled list with shoulder tendinitis, Gausman has looked the part of a top-half-of-the-rotation starter through his first four outings, posting a 2.16 ERA and striking out 8.3 and walking just 1.8 per nine innings. The Orioles talked all offseason about the need for the 25-year-old to take a big step forward to help them contend, and his start to the season has been encouraging.

Perhaps more important than the results is the fact that his velocity is in line with where it was two years ago, indicating that the health of his shoulder hasn’t been a major concern. The improvement of his breaking ball has also added another dimension to his repertoire.

The rest of the rotation has been more uncertain, but it’s still allowed the Orioles to compete.

As we’ve come to expect, Ubaldo Jimenez has been hot and cold with a couple exceptional starts and some ugly ones in which he’s struggled to throw strikes, netting him a 4.54 ERA entering Thursday.

Mike Wright’s 5.83 ERA is ugly, but he sports a 4.10 FIP and opponents have a .356 batting average on balls in play, signs of hope that his results could improve with better fortune moving forward.

Tyler Wilson has been the most pleasant surprise as he sports a rock-solid 3.57 ERA as a starter. His stuff doesn’t wow you and he’s struck out just 4.4 batters per nine innings, but he doesn’t issue many walks and has limited home runs, allowing his defense to be a bigger factor in his success. Whether he can sustain that level of success remains to be seen.

Veteran Yovani Gallardo is set to begin a throwing program and has reported improvement with the strength of his right shoulder. The Orioles certainly aren’t ready to give up on the free-agent acquisition despite a concerning start to the season in which he was struggling just to reach the high 80s with his fastball before being placed on the DL on April 23.

The 30-year-old’s return isn’t imminent, but he would potentially give Showalter another viable option should Wright be unable to straighten himself out or if opposing lineups begin catching up to Wilson.

No, the parts aren’t all pretty, but the sum has contributed to an impressive 20-12 start.

The Orioles don’t really need exceptional starting pitching as they entered Thursday ranked third in the AL in runs scored per game (4.625) and first in bullpen ERA (2.33). They just need their rotation to rank in the middle of the pack to contend in the AL East.

Not great, but just good enough.

And that’s exactly what the Orioles have gotten so far.

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“Rounding the Bases” in Orioles’ 5-3 win over Minnesota

Posted on 11 May 2016 by Luke Jones

Who stood out in the Orioles’ 5-3 win over the Minnesota Twins on Tuesday night?

In the spirit of hockey’s “three stars” system with the addition of home plate for honorable mentions and other notes, we go around the bases after the 31st game of the 2016 season.

1stAdam Jones has had a difficult start to 2016, but he turned in his best game of the season and did it in a way that will quell concerns about whether he’s over the rib injury suffered in the opening week. First, he ended a 3-for-27 slump by clobbering a 443-foot home run on a hanging curve from Twins starter Jose Berrios in the fifth to extended the Orioles’ advantage to 3-1. Then, he was able to get on top of a high 95 mph fastball from Kevin Jepsen in the top of the ninth to line the game-winning two-run single to left. It’s only one game and Jones will need to build on it with his average still sitting at just .210, but those two feats leave reason to believe he is getting healthy. And if he’s right physically, Jones is bound to heat up sooner rather than later.

2ndManny Machado went 3-for-3 and hit his club-leading 10th homer of the season to give the Orioles the lead in the top of the fifth. The ultimate sign of respect came in the ninth when Jepsen pitched around the red-hot Machado to face Jones, who was able to make the Twins reliever pay. Machado reached base all five times he went to the plate and now sports a .365 average to go along with a .424 on-base percentage. He continues to be the biggest reason why the Orioles are off to a 19-12 start.

3rdKevin Gausman threw a hanging breaking ball that Trevor Plouffe knocked out of the park for the game-tying two-run homer in the bottom of the sixth, but the 25-year-old was otherwise good on Tuesday. He struck out a season-high nine batters over his six innings and showed the ability to reach back for fastballs touching 97 and 98 mph when he needed to. His 111 pitches were two shy of his career high, but he he was still carrying excellent velocity late in the outing, a good sign with his right shoulder.

HomeJoey Rickard made the Orioles’ two-out rally in the ninth possible as he was behind 1-2 to Jepsen and worked the count full before lining a double off the base of the left-field wall. He eventually scored the go-ahead run on Jones’ single. … Brad Brach, Darren O’Day, and Zach Britton combined for three scoreless innings, allowing one hit and striking out three. O’Day earned the win while Britton picked up his eighth save of the season. … Chris Davis collected three hits to raise his season average to .217 while Matt Wieters had an RBI single and another hit to elevate his average to .227. … Jonathan Schoop’s 11-game hitting streak came to an end. … Tyler Wilson goes to the hill on Wednesday afternoon while veteran Phil Hughes will start for Minnesota.

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“Rounding the Bases” in Orioles’ 1-0 win over Yankees

Posted on 06 May 2016 by Luke Jones

Who stood out in the Orioles’ 1-0 win over the New York Yankees in 10 innings on Thursday night?

In the spirit of hockey’s “three stars” system with the addition of home plate for honorable mentions and other notes, we go around the bases after the 27th game of the 2016 season.

1stKevin Gausman was brilliant in the best start of his career as he tossed eight shutout innings — matching his longest start in the majors — and retired 23 of the 26 hitters he faced in a throwback duel with Yankees ace Masahiro Tanaka. The 25-year-old right-hander masterfully used his split-changeup against a lineup featuring seven hitters from the left side of the plate, and all four of his strikeouts came on that pitch. In a game in which Gausman’s fastball velocity wasn’t great early, he relied more on his two-seam fastball to induce 10 grounders. However, his velocity improved as the game progressed and his fastball was hitting the mid-90s in his final inning of work. Gausman said after the game that he feels more comfortable than ever this season and is no longer questioning his ability to succeed in the majors. His game score of 80 was the highest of his career and he lowered his season ERA to 1.42, more evidence that the young starter is feeling at peace in the major league rotation. The win is an overrated and antiquated stat for pitchers, but it was a shame that Gausman didn’t walk away with one after that effort.

2ndPedro Alvarez owned a career .201 average and a .596 on-base plus slugging percentage in his career against left-handed pitching, but the former Pittsburgh Pirate provided the game-winning sacrifice fly off Yankees closer Andrew Miller to plate the winning run in the 10th. You could argue that Buck Showalter should have used Nolan Reimold as a pinch hitter for Alvarez instead of as a pinch runner for Hyun Soo Kim at third base, but it worked out for the Orioles manager and his club.

3rdZach Britton pitched for the first time since injuring his left ankle on Saturday and impressively struck out the side after a rocky start in the top of the 10th in which he walked the leadoff hitter. His command was erratic as he threw six straight balls to begin the inning, but Britton was able to whiff Mark Teixiera, Carlos Beltran, and Dustin Ackley to retire the side.

HomeJonathan Schoop had a multi-hit game, and it was his single that advanced Kim to third base with no outs in the bottom of the 10th. The second baseman extended his hitting streak to eight games. … Kim went 1-for-3 with a walk and has hit safely in six of his seven games this season. … The Orioles won two out of three from the Yankees despite scoring only five runs in the series and suffering through 21 straight innings without scoring a run until Reimold scored the winning run on Thursday night. They earned their third walk-off win of 2016 and are now 2-0 in extra innings this season. … Ubaldo Jimenez goes to the hill on Friday as Baltimore begins a three-game series with the Oakland Athletics, who will start ex-Orioles lefty Rich Hill.

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“Rounding the Bases” in Orioles’ 2-0 loss to Tampa Bay

Posted on 25 April 2016 by Luke Jones

What went wrong in the Orioles’ 2-0 defeat to the Tampa Bay Rays on Monday night?

In trying to identify the top three losing factors with the addition of home plate for any not-so-honorable mentions and other notes, we go around the bases after the 18th game of the 2016 season.

1st — It was only a matter of time before Rays ace Chris Archer bounced back from a horrendous start to his season, but the Orioles were shut out for the first time all season and extended their scoreless streak to 17 innings. And it’s a shame because they received a more-than-acceptable performance with only two runs allowed by Orioles pitching. Entering the night with a 7.32 ERA, Archer did a superb job commanding his changeup and slider to complement his mid-90s fastball, but the Orioles managed just five hits and didn’t have a single batter reach against the Rays bullpen. The lone offensive highlights of the night were provided by Pedro Alvarez, who collected two doubles as he tries to bounce back from a horrendous start. No other Baltimore hitter reached second base, however.

2nd — Kevin Gausman deserved a better fate, but his struggles after failing to get the call on a 3-2 slider to Steven Souza proved to be the difference in the fifth. The Orioles had to be pleased with what they saw from the 25-year-old in his season debut following a stint on the disabled list, but the terrific breaking ball he displayed over the first four innings vanished after the walk to Souza and he worked into too many deep counts and struggled to put hitters away the rest of the inning. The pitch he’d ultimately like to have back was the 3-2 fastball catching too much of the plate that Rays catcher Curt Casali lined down the left-field line to plate Souza for the first run of the game. The 32-pitch fifth brought a premature end to his outing and he probably ran out of a gas trying to keep up with a terrific pitcher on the opposing side, but Gausman removed much doubt about the health of his right shoulder by using a fastball in the mid-to-high 90s and a sharp breaking ball to strike out seven in five innings. He just didn’t get any help from his offense.

3rd — In his second appearance since coming off the DL, Brian Matusz walked the two left-handed hitters he faced and loaded the bases in the sixth. If the lefty specialist isn’t going to get lefty bats out, his place in the bullpen becomes tenuous at best as he doesn’t offer as much length as other pitchers. Yes, it was Vance Worley who clipped Casali’s jersey with a pitch to force in the second Tampa Bay run, but Matusz was the one who created the mess that led to a 2-0 deficit.

Home — The Orioles didn’t have many opportunities, but Jonathan Schoop, Joey Rickard, and Manny Machado combined to go 0-for-4 with runners in scoring position. … Chris Davis was 0-for-4 with three strikeouts. … Despite hitting Casali to force in a run, Worley pitched 2 1/3 scoreless innings for Baltimore to save the rest of the bullpen. … Adam Jones grimaced after swinging at the second strike in his final at-bat and was captured by MASN cameras talking to trainer Richie Bancells in the dugout after he grounded out in the ninth inning. … Ubaldo Jimenez goes to the hill on Tuesday night and will be opposed by Tampa Bay right-hander Jake Odorizzi.

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Orioles surprisingly option Flaherty to make room for Gausman

Posted on 25 April 2016 by Luke Jones

Needing to make room to activate starting pitcher Kevin Gausman from the disabled list for Monday’s game, the Orioles surprisingly optioned utility infielder Ryan Flaherty to Triple-A Norfolk.

The move leaves Baltimore with a three-man bench, but it’s a reflection of the lack of innings manager Buck Showalter has received from his starting rotation, putting a heavier-than-normal workload on the bullpen through the first three weeks of the season. Most had expected the Orioles to option a relief pitcher such as lefty T.J. McFarland or right-hander Mychal Givens to make room for Gausman.

Despite residing in first place in the AL East, the Orioles entered Monday ranked next to last in the AL in starter ERA and had pitched fewer starter innings than any club in baseball.

While the move leaves Showalter with an eight-man bullpen of Zach Britton, Darren O’Day, Brad Brach, Dylan Bundy, Brian Matusz, Vance Worley, Givens, and McFarland, the Orioles are now without a versatile utility infielder on the bench, which could lead to some interesting alignments in the event of an in-game injury. Without Flaherty, the Orioles would still have experienced short-term replacements at every infield position except second base behind starter Jonathan Schoop. An injury to Schoop could lead J.J. Hardy to shift to second, Manny Machado to move to short, Chris Davis to move to third, and either Pedro Alvarez or Mark Trumbo to play first base.

Flaherty was off to a 2-for-10 start with five strikeouts in his 11 plate appearances, but it appears this move was motivated by the concerns with the starting rotation. Of course, how long the Orioles will go with such a roster alignment remains to be seen.

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“Rounding the Bases” in Orioles’ 6-1 loss to Kansas City

Posted on 24 April 2016 by Luke Jones

What went wrong in the Orioles’ 6-1 defeat to the Kansas City Royals on Sunday afternoon?

In trying to identify the top three losing factors with the addition of home plate for any not-so-honorable mentions and other notes, we go around the bases after the 17th game of the 2016 season.

1st — The Orioles managed just one hit in Yordano Ventura’s final six innings of work after grabbing an early 1-0 lead. The Kansas City right-hander threw 28 pitches in an opening inning that included a Mark Trumbo RBI single, but the Orioles made Ventura throw a total of 25 in the next three frames and pushed only one runner into scoring position after the first. The lineup simply couldn’t handle Ventura’s effective off-speed stuff to go along with his fastball and were retired in order a total of six times on Sunday afternoon. You knew it wouldn’t be an easy day against the talented 24-year-old, but the inability to even make him work set up the Orioles for a long day at Kauffman Stadium.

2nd — After pitching well through six innings, Mike Wright couldn’t handle a long leash in the seventh and suffered his second loss. It’s a shame that many will look at the final numbers and just assume that the Orioles right-hander was lousy, but Wright effectively mixed in his off-speed and breaking stuff to compete against a lineup that included five lefty bats. That said, he left a 92 mph sinker up and over the outer half of the plate on Alex Gordon’s fourth-inning homer and hung a curve on Eric Hosmer’s long ball in the sixth, showing lefties are still problematic for him. To be clear, Wright doesn’t receive a pass as he entered the seventh at only 87 pitches, but Buck Showalter could have had a reliever loosening in a 2-1 game as the inning began. Even if it had been a clean inning, you wouldn’t have loved the Orioles’ chances with Kelvin Herrera and Wade Davis looming in a 2-1 game, which could explain why Showalter tried to push it a little more than normal with Wright instead of going to the bullpen at the first sign of trouble. Right or wrong, that’s a choice that sometimes needs to be made when thinking of the long-term status of a bullpen that’s working behind a poor starting rotation in 2016.

3rd — You never know if the seventh would have been different for Wright if not for Chris Davis’ misplay of a Gordon chopper down the first-base line to open the inning. The Orioles made a handful of shaky plays defensively like the Royals did in Saturday night’s contest, but Davis would be the first to tell you that he should have turned that into the first out — even if catcher Caleb Joseph thought the ball was foul. Instead, it opened the floodgates to transform a close game into a blowout. Yes, Wright needs to be able to shake it off and not give up doubles to two of the next three hitters, but Baltimore’s stellar defense can’t bend like that when you’re asking a young starter to work into the seventh inning of a one-run game.

Home — Dylan Bundy wasn’t able to keep the Orioles in it after the deficit had grown to 4-1 in the seventh. He allowed three of the first four hitters he faced to reach as the Royals busted it wide open with a five-run advantage and allowed two more hitters to reach in the eighth. … Manny Machado saw his 16-game hitting streak come to an end as he went 0-for-3 with a walk and two strikeouts. Only Davey Johnson had a longer hitting streak (17 games) to begin a season in Orioles history. … Pedro Alvarez went 0-for-3 and is now hitting .108 to begin the season. … Trumbo collected his club-leading 16th RBI, but all have amazingly come on the road. … Kevin Gausman will be activated from the 15-day disabled list to make his 2016 debut against Tampa Bay ace Chris Archer on Monday night.

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