Tag Archive | "kevin gausman"

Gausman to make 2014 Orioles debut on Wednesday

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Gausman to make 2014 Orioles debut on Wednesday

Posted on 13 May 2014 by Luke Jones

(Updated: 5:30 p.m.)

BALTIMORE — The Orioles announced right-hander Kevin Gausman will make his 2014 season debut in a start against the Detroit Tigers on Wednesday.

The news comes as a surprise considering Gausman was dealing with a bout of pneumonia less than two weeks ago and made his most recent start for Triple-A Norfolk on Saturday, meaning the 23-year-old will be working on just three days’ rest. Gausman is scheduled to be opposed by former American League Cy Young Award winner Justin Verlander on Wednesday afternoon.

“I threw kind of a shorter bullpen two days ago,” Gausman said. “I feel good. I feel good physically. I had a little bit of sickness there for a little bit, but [it] ended up being nothing too serious. Just happy to be feeling healthy, 100 percent, and feeling great.”

The Orioles had originally listed Wei-Yin Chen as Wednesday’s starter as it was his regular turn in the rotation, but manager Buck Showalter preferred giving the Taiwanese southpaw an extra day and implied that he didn’t want to use the lefty against a Detroit lineup dominated by right-handed hitting. Chen will start the opener of a four-game set against the Kansas City Royals on Thursday night.

Gausman threw a season-high 77 pitches in 4 2/3 shutout innings at Indianapolis Saturday night as the Orioles have been limiting his innings in hopes of keeping the 2012 first-round pick fully available late in the season. Considering he will be working on short rest and hasn’t been fully stretched out this season, Gausman will unquestionably be on a limited pitch count with Miguel Gonzalez available in long relief.

“I feel good about all my pitches,” said Gausman, who feels he would be fine to throw 90 to 100 pitches against Detroit. “It was just good to get out there especially after being on the [minor-league disabled list]. That was my first time being on the DL. It’s kind of frustrating to be around baseball all day and not play.”

In six starts for the Tides this season, Gausman is 0-1 with a 2.08 earned run average and has struck out 26 and walked 14 in 26 innings of work. The right-hander missed nearly two weeks of action with what was initially diagnosed with an intercostal strain before it was determined he was suffering from pneumonia.

Gausman appeared in 20 games and made five starts for the Orioles last year, going 3-5 with a 5.66 ERA in 47 2/3 innings. However, he completed the best start of his career against Detroit last season when he allowed one run and five hits in six innings on June 2, 2013.

Chris Tillman is tentatively penciled in to pitch on Friday, but he’s been dealing with some groin soreness and Showalter wanted to make sure he made it through his bullpen session before declaring him ready to go. The Orioles are also waiting to hear about any potential discipline handed down from Major League Baseball for Saturday’s starter Bud Norris after his incident with Torii Hunter on Monday.

Gonzalez would be the prime choice to fill in for either Tillman or Norris if necessary.

“It kind of fits best for our club and some of the situations that changed over the last couple of days that we needed to be prepared for down the road,” said Showalter about Gausman’s promotion. “Obviously, some guys pitch better with extra rest and some guys don’t. Kevin, because of some of his inactivity down below and where they’ve shortened him up, his innings management is in good shape right now as we sit here in the middle of May.”

In injury news, Showalter said Norfolk outfielder Henry Urrutia’s sports hernia surgery was successful as he’ll need six to eight weeks to fully recover.

Right-handed pitcher Dylan Bundy threw live batting practice for the first time since Tommy John surgery on Tuesday. The 2011 first-round pick threw 20 pitches and reached 93 miles per hour with his fastball.

Outfielder Nolan Reimold is now participating in all baseball-related activities and is getting closer to becoming an option again for the 25-man roster. He is currently on the 60-day disabled list as he continues to work his way back from a second spinal fusion surgery and is eligible to come off the DL on May 29.

Left-handed pitcher Johan Santana (shoulder) will pitch in his next extended spring training game on Friday. Young lefty Eduardo Rodriguez will pitch four innings Wednesday in Sarasota as he’s currently on the minor-league DL with a knee injury.

Rule 5 selection Michael Almanzar will have a doctor appointment regarding his knee later this week.

Veteran relief pitcher Luis Ayala was assigned to Double-A Bowie.

 

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Gausman won’t be summoned to join Orioles’ overworked bullpen

Posted on 02 May 2014 by Luke Jones

After sweeping a Thursday doubleheader against the Pittsburgh Pirates in which four relievers pitched in both games, the Orioles will bring a new bullpen arm to Minnesota on Friday.

However, it won’t be top pitching prospect Kevin Gausman as manager Buck Showalter revealed the right-hander will be scratched from Friday’s start for Triple-A Norfolk due to an intercostal strain. The 23-year-old could be going to the minor league disabled list while the Orioles will look elsewhere for fresh bullpen help for a three-game series against the Minnesota Twins.

Right-hander Evan Meek was optioned to Norfolk following the second game of the doubleheader, but a corresponding roster move wasn’t immediately announced.

Bullpen options to be considered include Norfolk’s Preston Guilmet and Suk-min Yoon and Double-A Bowie’s Tim Berry since all three pitchers are already on the 40-man roster. But it’s possible the Orioles could select the contract of a pitcher who isn’t currently on the 40-man roster, according to Showalter.

“We’re talking about it. Contemplating who and what,” Showalter said. “Gausman was scheduled to pitch [Friday], but he’s got an injury right now and it looks like he’s going to be scratched from his start [Friday]. I was looking during the game at who had pitched in that game tonight and their history. We carry a card around with all the Double-A and Triple-A pitching, so there are three or four options there if we need and then you have to talk about how. We’ll see.”

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Seven Orioles players to watch closely during spring training

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Seven Orioles players to watch closely during spring training

Posted on 11 February 2014 by Luke Jones

The start of spring training will inevitably bring a new batch of clichéd stories about players being in the best shape of their lives or feeling poised for career seasons, but the Orioles will need several players to emerge from the shadows to continue the momentum started over the last two seasons.

After a disappointing offseason that has featured no impact signings or significant acquisitions at this late stage, manager Buck Showalter must look from within the current roster for solutions to hopefully bring the Orioles a third consecutive winning season, a modest achievement they haven’t realized in 20 years (1992 through 1994).

The Orioles face uncertainty in the starting rotation and in the back end of the bullpen as well as at second base, designated hitter, and left field, making this spring’s workouts in Sarasota as important as any in recent memory. However, most answers won’t truly come until the regular season when Baltimore is thrown back into the reality of competing in the heavyweight American League East.

Here are seven players (with their 2013 stats noted in parentheses) to watch closely over the next six weeks before the Orioles break camp ahead of Opening Day on March 31:

7. 2B Ryan Flaherty (.221, 10 HR, 27 RBI, .683 OPS)

The opinions on the 27-year-old Flaherty have been polarizing in his brief major league career with plenty of good (16 home runs in 438 plate appearances and strong defense) and bad (a 12-for-90 start to 2013 that landed him at Triple-A Norfolk in May) over the last two years. However, the former Rule 5 pick appears to be the favorite to replace Brian Roberts as the starting second baseman and hit .276 with an impressive .812 OPS in 156 at-bats after being recalled from the Tides in late May. As we saw early last season, Flaherty’s defense alone gives him a long leash in Showalter’s eyes, but the Orioles hope he finally finds consistency at the plate with no established veteran in the mix as a serious threat.

6. OF/DH Henry Urrutia (.276, 0 HR, 2 RBI, .586 OPS)

The Cuban defector was the toast of the Orioles’ farm system last season as he raked at both Double-A Bowie and Triple-A Norfolk — hitting .347 with 31 extra-base hits between the two levels — before being called up to the majors in late July. All but one of Urrutia’s 16 hits with the Orioles were singles, but far too many have written off the 27-year-old while overlooking how tumultuous the last couple years were for him in simply trying to get to the United States, let alone immediately thrive in professional baseball. There’s no question that Urrutia needs to hit for more power to stick, but nearly 20 extra pounds and a full offseason to hone his craft make this spring an interesting one for him as the Orioles are still unsettled at the designated hitter spot.

5. LHP Zach Britton (2-3, 4.95 ERA, 1.725 WHIP)

This year is likely to be Britton’s last chance with the Orioles as he’s out of options and coming off his second consecutive underwhelming season in which he pitched poorly in 40 major league innings and posted an unimpressive 4.27 ERA at Norfolk. Britton walked too many hitters and didn’t miss enough bats (striking out just 4.1 per nine innings), but the fifth starter job is open for now and the fact that other contenders such as Kevin Gausman and Steve Johnson have remaining options gives the 26-year-old lefty a slight edge in the race. His 5-1 start as a rookie in 2011 feels like an eternity ago, but Britton has no better chance but this spring to show Showalter and new pitching coach Dave Wallace that he’s finally figured everything out.

4. OF/DH Delmon Young (.260, 11 HR, 38 RBI, .715 OPS combined with Philadelphia and Tampa Bay)

One of the few players the Orioles signed this offseason who has significant major league experience, the 28-year-old Young agreed to a minor-league contract with an invitation to spring training and figures to have a good chance to make the club as the right-handed designated hitter. He carries off-field baggage to go along with uneven performance over the last three years, but the No. 1 overall pick of the 2003 draft is a career .303 hitter with an .812 OPS against left-handed pitchers in his career. It was only 2010 when Young had a career season by hitting .298 with 21 homers and 112 RBIs, but the Orioles simply hope he can be part of the answer in a possible DH platoon situation.

3. LF David Lough (.286, 5 HR, 33 RBI, .724 OPS with Kansas City)

The Orioles spent much of the winter talking up Lough’s potential and there’s no doubting his above-average defensive ability, but whether he can handle the starting job in left field remains to be seen. A younger and cheaper version of Nate McLouth, Lough slugged a decent .413 but walked only 10 times in 335 plate appearances with the Royals last season, which isn’t something you’d like to see given the Orioles’ poor on-base percentage as a team in 2013. The 28-year-old hit .292 against southpaw pitchers last season, which bodes well for his chances to play every day, but the Orioles really would have benefited from a substantial upgrade at the position instead of a poor man’s version of McLouth, who wasn’t exactly a world-beater in 2013.

2. 3B Manny Machado (.283, 14 HR, 71 RBI, .746 OPS)

It remains to be seen how much the 21-year-old will play this spring — if at all — as he continues his rehabilitation from knee surgery, but his recovery is critical to not just the 2014 season but the future of the franchise. The Orioles need to be careful in easing Machado back to baseball, but it will be interesting to see if the winter disrupts his progress as a player after some of his flaws at the plate were exposed late last season. As good as he is at such a young age, Machado needs to show more patience at the plate (only 38 walks in 912 career plate appearances) and hit only .239 in the final three months of last season, making his late-season knee injury that much more frustrating in robbing him of the ability to simply hone his craft this winter.

1. RHP Kevin Gausman (3-5, 5.66 ERA, 1.343 WHIP)

For all the discussion about the Orioles failing to land an established veteran starter to anchor the rotation, the 2012 first-round pick taking a giant step forward would be a major shot in the arm to the back end of the rotation. Gausman’s blazing fastball and split-change are plus pitches, but the 23-year-old needs a better feel for a third pitch to give himself the best chance to succeed as a starter. Regardless of where he’s playing, Gausman needs to be pitching every fifth day to develop and should not be in the bullpen as he was in the second half last season. Baltimore hopes that some added bulk to his 6-foot-3 frame will put the righty over the top physically and allow him to put things together quickly at the major league level.

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D&L Window Tinting Morning Reaction Tuesday Top 7 Local Sports Figures to Watch in 2014

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D&L Window Tinting Morning Reaction Tuesday Top 7 Local Sports Figures to Watch in 2014

Posted on 07 January 2014 by Luke Jones

In honor of the first Tuesday Top 7 of 2014, Drew Forrester and Luke Jones of The D&L Window Tinting Morning Reaction selected their top seven local sports figures to watch in 2014.

Some of the names are predictable while others may just be establishing themselves on the local sports scene, but each is worth following closely in 2014 for different reasons.

To listen to Jones’ full explanation for his list, click HERE. Forrester’s breakdown of his seven names can be found HERE.

Luke Jones’ Top 7 Local Sports Figures to Watch in 2014 …

7. Towson running back and NFL Draft prospect Terrance West
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Skinny: Not only will the FCS record-breaking back be drafted, but it will be fun to watch his progress and to see how his skills translate to the next level.

6. Maryland wide receiver Stefon Diggs
diggs
Skinny: Questions will linger about the Terps’ ability to compete in the Big Ten, but a breakout 2014 campaign would likely have the offensive playmaker thinking carefully about the NFL.

5. Orioles pitcher Kevin Gausman
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Skinny: Assuming the Orioles’ offseason continues at its current pace, the 23-year-old right-hander’s development will be critical in determining whether the club remains in contention.

4. Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs
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Skinny: The 2011 Defensive Player of the Year may have already played his final game in Baltimore if he’s not willing to adjust his $12.4 million salary cap number for the 2014 season.

3. Orioles third baseman Manny Machado
machado
Skinny: Coming off knee surgery and entering just his second full season in the majors, the 21-year-old will be counted on to not only be healthy but to take his already-impressive game to the next level.

2. Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco
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Skinny: The spotlight on the Super Bowl XLVII Most Valuable Player will be brighter than ever after a disappointing 2013 season and considering his cap number balloons to $14.8 million in 2014.

1. Orioles manager Buck Showalter
buck
Skinny: After two poor offseasons in a row, does the Baltimore skipper reach his breaking point with an organization lacking the commitment to build on its recent success?

CONTINUE FOR DREW FORRESTER’S TOP 7 LOCAL SPORTS FIGURES TO WATCH IN 2014 >>>>>

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Inspired by Kevin Gausman, want to see the worst athletic competition of all time?

Posted on 17 August 2013 by Glenn Clark

Baltimore Orioles P Kevin Gausman appeared on “The Handoff” with Thyrl Nelson and I recently on AM1570 WNST.net. Thyrl has become a bit obsessed with bullpen games since Blue Jays P (and former Maryland standout) Brett Cecil told us about games he learned from Mariano Rivera at the All-Star Game.

The game he taught us involved gum and a cup. It was exactly as poor as I thought it would be. Either the game stinks or we stink. Perhaps both.

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Showalter leaving door open for ninth-inning options besides Johnson

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Showalter leaving door open for ninth-inning options besides Johnson

Posted on 16 August 2013 by Luke Jones

(This blog brought to you by Atlantic Remodeling. Visit www.atlanticremodeling.com to learn about their Red Cent Guarantee!)

BALTIMORE — With the Orioles returning home following a deflating three-game sweep at the hands of the Arizona Diamondbacks, the question on everyone’s mind was who would take the ball in the ninth inning for manager Buck Showalter.

Having blown his last three save opportunities to run his total to a league-worst nine for the season, closer Jim Johnson told reporters in the Orioles clubhouse that he remains confident and that Showalter continues to express confidence in him. And while it’s true that the Baltimore manager maintained Friday that Johnson was still the best option on the team, he also provided himself wiggle room to make a change if he feels it to be necessary.

“I think we have a lot of options and he’s one of them,” Showalter said. “We’re lucky to have all those options. Different guys have failure. I know the finality of it and I know the questions should and need to be asked and it’s frustrating for Jimmy and me. I’m frustrated for him. There’s some things we haven’t done in other innings, too, but I understand the finality of that inning.”

Johnson still leads the majors with 39 saves, but the embattled right-hander is just 9-for-16 in one-run saves as many have pointed to the Orioles’ horrendous 56-9 mark when leading after eight innings and an underwhelming 14-21 record in one-run games after going a remarkable 29-9 in contests decided by one run last year. Those ugly realities have led most to the conclusion that the Orioles need to make a change at the closer spot — at least temporarily.

Showalter has repeatedly expressed his confidence in Johnson this year — including when the 30-year-old reliever blew four of five save chances in late May — but that loyalty is now appearing to contradict the ultimate goal of winning enough games to qualify for postseason play. If Showalter is planning a change, it comes as no surprise that he isn’t broadcasting that for both competitive reasons and respect for the 2012 All-Star closer.

Some have suggested even just giving Johnson a mental and physical respite for a number of days to see if that straightens him out for the stretch run, but the club has already tried to do that at a couple points this season, according to Showalter. If the next save opportunity comes Friday or later this weekend or even next week, the Orioles aren’t tipping their hand whether it will once again be Johnson or somebody else trotting to the hill in the ninth inning.

“If we decide to do that, there’s not going to be some big announcement,” Showalter said. “It will be something I’ve talked to people about and you’ll probably know about it when the gate opens. There are a lot of things that have to be done for us to get 27 outs before they score more runs than we do.”

Even Showalter’s biggest supporters have questioned the sanity of continuing to use Johnson in the ninth inning, a reality not lost on the manager as the Orioles start an important nine-game homestand to take them to the final days of August.

He’s very aware that the Orioles have lost some games that they shouldn’t have won, but Showalter’s intense loyalty to his players that is typically viewed as his greatest strength looks much more like a weakness at this point.

“I’m a fan, too. I get frustrated. We’re all fans of the Orioles,” Showalter said. “I’m a fan of the Orioles and I want us to win. If there are adjustments that need to be made along the way, I understand the sense of urgency with 42 games [left]. But I also know we’re still in a position to do what we set out to do this season and we won’t give in.”

No timetable for Adair’s return to club

As the organization did in announced Rick Adair’s personal leave of absence on Friday morning, Showalter remained respectful of his privacy and would not divulge any details about the circumstances with which the pitching coach is dealing.

Bullpen coach Bill Castro will assume the duties of pitching coach while former Orioles left-hander and minor-league instructor Scott McGregor will serve as the interim bullpen coach. Castro has major league experience as a pitching coach after previously serving in that capacity with the Milwaukee Brewers as recently as 2009.

Many reacted to the news by immediately speculating that this was a polite way to dismiss Adair, but the Orioles have been emphatic that the reason for the leave of absence isn’t related to his job performance. We could eventually learn there is more to this story, but it’s also important to remember coaches and players are also human beings with everyday trials just like anyone else.

“We all have some things in our lives we need to take care of that are more important than this, believe it or not,” Showalter said. “We’re just fortunate to be in an organization that is willing to do those things, and we’re fortunate to have people like Billy and Scott that can make it seamless. It has nothing to do with the job Rick is doing. Rick’s been doing a good job. Just some challenges we all have that we need to take some time and take care of.”

Showalter held a team meeting Friday afternoon to inform them of the shuffling along the coaching ranks and to address any rumors that might hear about Adair’s absence. Castro met with Orioles pitchers individually prior to the series opener against Colorado.

Gausman dealing with arm soreness

After top pitching prospect Dylan Bundy underwent Tommy John surgery earlier in the season, the last thing Orioles fans wanted to hear Friday was that 2012 first-round pick Kevin Gausman was skipped in the Triple-A Norfolk rotation with some soreness in his right arm.

Showalter made it clear that this isn’t considered to be anything serious, but the club also presented a similar prognosis when Bundy first complained of forearm discomfort. Of course, pitchers frequently deal with sore or tired arms and it doesn’t mean Gausman is facing any type of long-term issue at this time, but it will be something the Orioles will monitor for the time being.

“He feels good. He’s not happy about not pitching, but just had a little soreness,” Showalter said. “[It will] probably be the last time he ever tells us about it. That’s usually how it goes. They don’t seem alarmed about it. There was some give and take about whether they were even going to do it.”

The good news is that Showalter acknowledged the extra rest would benefit Gausman in terms of his workload and referred to the likely scenario of Gausman helping out the major league club in September and beyond.

Gausman last pitched on Aug. 8 when he allowed two earned runs in five innings of work for the Tides.

Changing it up

For the second time over the last week, Showalter flipped first baseman Chris Davis and right fielder Nick Markakis in the batting order as Davis was hitting third and Markakis fifth in Friday’s lineup against the Colorado Rockies.

Showalter admitted there were a variety of reasons for making the change, ranging from a desire to get Davis more at-bats to simply wanting to shake things up in hopes of jump-starting the offense. With both Davis and Markakis swinging from the left side, the change keeps the lineup in order in terms of making it difficult for a bullpen to match up in the late innings as Showalter frequently alternates right-handers and left-handers.

“Nick doesn’t care if he hits ninth, first, second, third, twelfth. He would probably have a problem with hitting twelfth,” Showalter quipped. “It’s just something we feel like is a good approach for today. We’ll see where it takes us.”

While Davis is in the midst of an MVP-caliber year, Markakis’ .282 batting average, .335 on-base percentage, and .372 slugging percentage are all career lows, making an easy argument against the right fielder remaining in the No. 3 slot in the lineup. It will also be interesting to see what it means for Davis with Adam Jones hitting directly behind him in the order compared to either Matt Wieters or J.J. Hardy as we’ve seen for most of the season.

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Hammel not answering call in Orioles rotation

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Hammel not answering call in Orioles rotation

Posted on 13 July 2013 by Luke Jones

(This blog brought to you by Atlantic Remodeling. Visit www.atlanticremodeling.com to learn about their Red Cent Guarantee!)

BALTIMORE — Orioles manager Buck Showalter expressed confidence that Jason Hammel’s best games still lie ahead in the second half after Saturday’s 7-3 loss to Toronto.

And it’s a good thing too, because the struggling starting pitcher didn’t sound like he had much in himself after allowing six earned runs in six-plus innings to the Blue Jays. After plunking No. 9 hitter Emilio Bonifacio and walking Jose Reyes to begin the seventh inning, Hammel was lifted by Showalter to watch those runners eventually score, raising his earned run average to 5.24 on the season.

“I hate seeing him come out every time in the seventh inning when we’ve had a lead and I’ve given it back,” said Hammel, referring to the 3-2 lead he relinquished an inning earlier by giving up four straight singles with two outs. “I’ve got to hand the ball over to him and today was no different. I was very frustrated, actually kind of spiked it into his hand. I was a little [ticked] off. It’s frustrating.”

Winless since May 27 and unable to build on three straight quality starts from Wei-Yin Chen, Miguel Gonzalez, and Chris Tillman heading into Saturday, Hammel appears to be the weakest link in the rotation despite receiving the Opening Day start less than four months ago. He fell to 7-6 on the season and now has a 6.65 ERA in eight home starts (46 innings) this season. Only two of those have been quality starts as his frustration boiled over following Saturday’s loss.

His 2012 first half in which he was an American League finalist for the All-Star Game’s final fan vote must feel like a distant memory for the 30-year-old right-hander, who’s status in the starting rotation has to be in question for the second half. The heavy-hitting Blue Jays were all over him early, evident by Edwin Encarnacion’s two-run homer in the first inning. To Hammel’s credit, he rebounded to throw four straight scoreless frames before once again running into trouble at the end of the day.

“Unacceptable. Far too many baserunners, getting behind hitters,” Hammel said. “[That's a] fastball-hitting club that I’m feeding fastballs. It’s easy to hit when you know what is coming. I’m not throwing sliders for strikes, not throwing curveballs where I want them. Changeup is nonexistent. I’m beating myself right now.”

The biggest downfall for Hammel in 2013 has been his inability to duplicate the success he enjoyed with his two-seam fastball a year ago when he was able to frequently induce grounders and mix in his breaking stuff to overpower hitters. In 20 starts in 2012 — Hammel missed most of the second half after undergoing right knee surgery in July — he went 8-6 with a 3.43 ERA and posted career bests with 8.6 strikeouts per nine innings and a 1.24 WHIP (walks plus hits per innings pitched).

Those numbers prompted Showalter to give Hammel the ball in Game 1 of the American League Division Series despite the fact that he made only three regular-season starts after the All-Star break. Showalter hoped Hammel would be their de facto ace in 2013 by awarding him the start on Opening Day, but he hasn’t looked the part sans a handful of outings this season.

Without the two-seamer being a consistent factor this year, Hammel’s pitches have been consistently up in the zone as he’s allowed 19 home runs in his 19 starts this season, just two shy of his career-worst total of 21 in 2011.

“He’s pitched some good games. You can go back through that,” Showalter said. “There are some things that didn’t work out. But I think it bodes well for the rest of the season because he’s capable of better and I think his best games are ahead of him.”

As much as the Orioles hoped last season was a renaissance for Hammel after underwhelming runs with Tampa Bay and Colorado, his numbers this season are more reflective of his pre-2012 statistics when he occasionally bounced back and forth between the starting rotation and bullpen with his former clubs. His current ERA and home run totals are higher than his career numbers (4.80 ERA and 1.5 homers per nine innings entering Saturday), but his current WHIP (1.44) and strikeouts per nine innings (6.3) are nearly identical to his career numbers (1.43 and 6.6).

Much to the organization’s chagrin after failing to acquire a veteran starting pitcher in the offseason, it appears Hammel’s 2012 season was the outlier and his performance this season is simply returning to the norm. That revelation makes it no easier for any of the involved parties, however, in the midst of a pennant race.

“This first half, honestly, is unacceptable for me,” said Hammel, who plans to get away from baseball over the All-Star break to clear his mind and believes he’s been trying too hard to make adjustments between starts. “I’m better than this and it’s on my shoulders. It’s on nobody else. It’s fixable. It’s just I’ve got to get out of my own way.”

Hammel doesn’t appear to be in immediate danger of losing his spot in the rotation, but beyond the top three of Gonzalez, Chen, and Tillman, the Orioles must find more consistency from the back end of the rotation, which includes the newly-acquired Scott Feldman. Otherwise, Showalter and executive vice president Dan Duquette will have no choice but to revisit the possibility of rookie Kevin Gausman or another option such as Steve Johnson receiving another shot while continuing to explore the possibility of another trade.

The timing of Hammel’s struggles couldn’t be worse for him personally as he is scheduled to become a free agent after the season. While some encouraged the Orioles to sign Hammel to an extension last winter, his future with the organization beyond the next few months now appears in doubt due to his performance this season.

For now, the Orioles continue to express confidence in Hammel, who threw first-pitch strikes to just 13 of the 28 hitters he faced in Saturday’s loss. But that confidence can only go so far in the second half in a very tight AL East race.

“I think it’s just you’ve got to get ahead of guys,” said first baseman Chris Davis, who clubbed his major league-leading 36th home run of the year Saturday. “I think Ham is obviously a guy who has really good stuff if he can go out there and get ahead of guys. If you put the [count in his favor], I think he’s successful.”

The Orioles keep waiting — perhaps only hoping at this point? — for last year’s Hammel to suddenly appear. But after 19 starts of results more closely mirroring the rest of his career, you wonder how much longer they can wait before looking elsewhere.

Even Hammel acknowledged as much on Saturday.

“I know these guys are pulling for me,” Hammel said. “I do believe the best days are ahead, but it’s got to happen fast if we want to make this a championship season. I’m a big part of it and I have to get it right.”

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Pondering second-half roles for Britton, Gausman, S. Johnson

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Pondering second-half roles for Britton, Gausman, S. Johnson

Posted on 10 July 2013 by Luke Jones

(This blog brought to you by Atlantic Remodeling. Visit www.atlanticremodeling.com to learn about their Red Cent Guarantee!)

BALTIMORE — After optioning pitchers Zach Britton and Kevin Gausman to Triple-A Norfolk after Tuesday’s game, the Orioles are now faced with the interesting question of how each will fit into their plans in the second half of the season.

The return of left-hander Wei-Yin Chen after nearly two months takes away a spot in the starting rotation and hopefully provides more stability than the Orioles have enjoyed since the start of the season. The starting five of Chen, Chris Tillman, Miguel Gonzalez, Jason Hammel, and Scott Feldman doesn’t appear to have any candidates dangerously close to being removed from the rotation, so the question of what to potentially do with Britton and Gausman becomes more interesting.

Josh Stinson’s promotion to the Baltimore bullpen wouldn’t figure to be a long-term solution, but the right-hander provides length that Britton nor Gausman would have been able to offer for at least a couple days. As a result, the two will complete a workday in Norfolk before split pitching duties in Sunday’s game before the International League has its own All-Star break next week.

Though manager Buck Showalter said Tuesday that Gausman working out of the bullpen was a positive in terms of further acclimating himself to playing in the big leagues, the infrequent work he received was a major drawback as opposed to him pitching every fifth day in either Baltimore or Norfolk. Should a need arise due to injury or ineffectiveness, you’d expect Gausman to be near the top of the list of candidates to crack the rotation in the second half.

The thought of Gausman serving in a relief role late in the season is an intriguing one with his tremendous velocity, but it makes more sense for him to pitch regularly and to continue to develop his secondary pitches at Triple A instead of serving in long relief for the Orioles with just under half of the season remaining.

What to do with Britton is a much more interesting case as I broke down his shortcomings following last night’s game. It appears that his best chance for making a contribution to the 2013 Orioles would be as a reliever, but finding a spot for him appears tricky at the moment.

The club already has T.J. McFarland as a long reliever and you wouldn’t expect a second left-hander in that role to be a great fit. Brian Matusz and Troy Patton are also in the bullpen, so carrying a third middle reliever or specialist from the left side doesn’t sound ideal either. For what it’s worth in a small sample size this season, lefties are hitting .325 in 45 plate appearances against Britton while right-handed hitters own a .292 average in 109 plate appearances.

As for the spot currently being held by Stinson in the bullpen, right-hander Steve Johnson would appear to be a good option after the break as he was essentially serving in that role while former Oriole Pedro Strop was on the disabled list earlier this season. Johnson threw off the mound for the first time in Sarasota on Monday and will throw live batting practice on Thursday.

Johnson would be a great fit as a right-hander who can provide length — unlike Strop, which made it virtually impossible to continue to hide his struggles in the bullpen prior to last week’s trade — as well as the ability to contribute in the later innings when necessary. While the club is remaining cautious with his recovery from a strained left oblique, it wouldn’t be farfetched to see Johnson in the bullpen shortly after the second half begins.

In other injury-related news, infield prospect Jonathan Schoop will begin a minor-league rehab assignment with the Gulf Coast League Orioles. It had previously been thought that Schoop would complete his stint with Aberdeen before returning to Triple-A Norfolk, but the club will instead keep him in Florida.

Outfielder Steve Pearce underwent an MRA on his left wrist in Sarasota to check for any structural damage as progress has been slow for his recovery. On the DL since June 21, Pearce’s right wrist is feeling better, but he’s been unable to increase his activity level because of continuing discomfort in the other wrist.

Showalter acknowledged lefty Tsuyoshi Wada was someone the club briefly considered before recalling Stinson for Gausman’s vacated spot, but the Orioles would like to see Wada continue to make progress with the Tides. Asked about his potential second-half role with the club, the Orioles manager said Wada wouldn’t appear to be a candidate for a relief role, making his timetable for a potential major league debut cloudier.

Wada has allowed two or fewer runs in each of his last four starts, but the organization feels it’s best for him to continue to pitch every five days instead of in the long-relief role that Stinson will serve over the remainder of the homestand. It also made sense for the right-hander Stinson to be available to back up the lefty Chen on Wednesday night and the Orioles already have McFarland in that role from the left side.

Infielder Wilson Betemit continues to make slow progress and participate in baseball-related activities “as tolerated” while recovering from the torn PCL in his right knee suffered during spring training. Showalter remains optimistic that Betemit will be able to contribute at some point in the second half, but there is no firm timetable for the veteran to even participate in sim games let alone project a return date to Baltimore.

Reserve outfielder Chris Dickson was scheduled to serve as the designated hitter in Wednesday’s game but was a late scratch as Nolan Reimold replaced him in the lineup. No immediate reason was given prior to the third game of a four-game set with the Texas Rangers.

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Britton’s struggles, rotation crunch lead to latest demotion

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Britton’s struggles, rotation crunch lead to latest demotion

Posted on 10 July 2013 by Luke Jones

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BALTIMORE — Zach Britton knew his time with the Orioles was likely up for the time being following his Tuesday start, but his performance against the Texas Rangers didn’t make the decision very difficult in an 8-4 loss.

He and rookie right-hander Kevin Gausman were optioned to Triple-A Norfolk following the game, creating roster space for the returning Wei-Yin Chen and likely another pitcher to work out of the bullpen on Wednesday night. Britton allowed eight hits and walked three while surrendered five runs in his five innings of work before giving way to Gausman in the sixth inning. The latter allowed two earned runs in 1 2/3 innings and threw 36 pitches, meaning he likely would have been unavailable for the next game or two if the Orioles had elected to keep him in Baltimore.

Britton is 2-3 with a 4.76 earned run average in six starts this yeaer while Gausman is 1-3 with a 6.21 ERA in nine appearances, five of them starts.

Though Britton’s final results in his previous three starts were acceptable, Tuesday saw the continuation of a disturbing trend for the 25-year-old as he again struggled immensely going through the opposing lineup a third time. The fatal blow was a three-run homer from Adrian Beltre in the fifth that followed two walks — one to No. 9 hitter Leonys Martin and the other to rookie shortstop Jurickson Profar — and two singles earlier in the inning. The sequence transformed a 2-1 lead at the start of the fifth into a 5-2 deficit the Orioles’ struggling offense would not overcome.

The opposition is batting .455 (15-for-33) with a homer, three doubles, and eight walks the third trip through the order against the southpaw, which explains why Britton hasn’t been able to complete six innings in four of his six starts with Baltimore this season. It’s natural for a pitcher to labor more later in the game as the pitch count increases and the opponent has seen him a few times, but such drastic decline in performance isn’t indicative of a pitcher that will have prolonged success as a starter.

Britton has also struggled to miss bats as he failed to record a strikeout Tuesday and has just 12 in 34 innings of work with the Orioles this season. A sinkerballer like Britton can typically get by with fewer strikeouts when he’s inducing groundball outs, but an anemic rate of 3.18 strikeouts per nine innings pitched means too many balls are being put in play, increasing the probability that some will find holes in any defense over time. Of course, it certainly didn’t help that Britton threw two poor pitches to Beltre on each of his two home runs, eliminating any possible excuse of it being bad luck.

For now, both Britton and Gausman are expected to rejoin Norfolk’s starting rotation, but it remains to be seen who will be accompanying Chen to the 25-man roster for Wednesday’s game. After Tuesday’s game, manager Buck Showalter alluded to the possibility of wanting another arm in the bullpen, presumably with some length.

Japanese lefty Tsuyoshi Wada is scheduled to start for the Tides on Thursday and right-hander Josh Stinson last pitched for Norfolk on Saturday, meaning both would likely be available in some capacity for a long-relief role on Wednesday. Both pitchers are also on the 40-man roster, which factors heavily considering this could just be a short-term move to take the club into the All-Star break.

(Update: Stinson has been recalled to pitch out of the bullpen.)

Chen will make his first start since May 12 on Wednesday and will also attempt to give the Orioles a much-needed lift after losses in five of their last six games.

Roberts, Reimold struggling in respective returns

Since their return from the disabled last week, Brian Roberts and Nolan Reimold have gone a combined 7-for-42, leading some to wonder if their presence has sent the Orioles into their current tailspin.

It’s true that neither has performed well in a small sample size of at-bats, but this theory is too simplistic and places too much blame on two easy targets due to their well-chronicled injury problems. To suggest Roberts and Reimold are the reason the Orioles suddenly can’t win provides an excuse for the rest of the lineup’s struggles and also discredits the mental toughness this club has shown over the last two seasons.

The Orioles are 3-for-19 with runners in scoring position in the Texas series and are hitting .138 (8-for-58) in that department over their last nine games. The individual struggles of Roberts and Reimold only account for a small piece of those overall failures.

First baseman Chris Davis has one hit in his last 21 at-bats to go along with 12 strikeouts.

Center fielder Adam Jones is 8-for-37 over the last nine games.

Matt Wieters is 6-for-26 and J.J. Hardy is 5-for-33 since June 30.

The point is few hitters in the order are clicking at the moment, making it unfair to single out two players coming off extended absences as the reason for the club’s struggles over the last 10 days. If Roberts were suddenly inserted in the No. 2 spot in the order and caused dramatic changes with other spots, I’d be more willing to listen to the argument. If any other player had provided consistent production at the designated hitter spot over the first three months of the season, the argument against Reimold would have more merit.

But neither of those points can be made. Roberts’ return has forced a hot-hitting Ryan Flaherty out of the lineup, but the latter’s regular role was chastised for the first 2 1/2 months of the season and Showalter has shown a willingness to find creative ways to give Flaherty at-bats. The Orioles won plenty over the first three months of the season despite little production at second base.

Roberts and Reimold will both need to produce sooner rather than later like anyone else — I’ve shared my doubts about each player — but a sample size of less than two weeks is premature to make any rash decisions. And it’s a major stretch to conclude the correlation between their returns and the Orioles’ current struggles is anything more than coincidental.

Fans’ frustration over their inability to stay on the field over the last few years is completely understandable, but there’s no evidence within the clubhouse that either player’s return has suddenly created a dark cloud over the club.

As Showalter often likes to say, the solution is for everyone to play better than they have to start the month of July, particularly the players on which the Orioles have leaned most heavily this season.

Little worry over Davis in the Derby

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Orioles option Britton, Gausman to Triple-A Norfolk

Posted on 09 July 2013 by WNST Staff

PRESS RELEASE

The Orioles announced after Tuesday’s game that they have optioned left-handed pitcher Zach Britton and right-handed pitcher Kevin Gausman to Triple-A Norfolk.

Britton, 25, is 2-3 with a 4.76 ERA (34.0IP, 18ER) in six starts for the Orioles this season. He started tonight’s game and took the loss, allowing 5 earned runs in 5.0 innings.

Gausman, 22, is 1-3 with a 6.21 ERA (33.1IP, 23ER) in nine games (five starts) for the O’s this season.

Corresponding roster moves will be announced before Wednesday’s game.

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