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Davis more than folk hero for Orioles in surprising 2012 season

Posted on 18 June 2012 by Luke Jones

Chris Davis might be the best example of what the 2012 Orioles are all about.

Entering the season with untapped potential and more failure than success at the big-league level, both Davis and the Orioles have blossomed in the first 2 1/2 months of the season, surpising critics and even the most optimistic fans in what’s been Baltimore’s best start since 2005.

The 26-year-old Davis has morphed into a fan favorite in his first full season with the Orioles, not only becoming one of the team’s most productive hitters but providing one of the craziest memories in club history when he pitched two innings to earn the win in a 17-inning marathon at Fenway Park on May 6.

Add a broken-bat home run against Pittsburgh last week and his first games in right field at the big-league level this past weekend in Atlanta and you have all the makings of a folk hero in Baltimore.

Much like the 39-27 Orioles, at times, it’s difficult to believe what you’re seeing when watching the designated hitter/first baseman/right fielder/pitching extraordinaire.

But there’s no understating how important Davis’ emergence has been this season, especially with stints on the disabled list by Nolan Reimold, Mark Reynolds, and Nick Markakis. Center fielder Adam Jones has emerged as a superstar by leading the Orioles in batting average, home runs, runs batted in, slugging percentage, and runs scored, but Davis ranks second or third in all five of those categories in becoming a legitimate middle-of-the-order threat in the lineup.

His 12 home runs and 60 strikeouts in 211 at-bats entering Monday night aren’t overly surprising given Davis’ reputation when the Orioles acquired him in the Koji Uehara trade last July, but his .294 average defies what we saw over his last three years in Texas where Davis went from looking like a future star in 2008 to a player fitting the mold of a “Quad-A” hitter before being dealt.

The raw power has never come into question — evident by his broken-bat homer to right field off Pittsburgh reliever Tommy Watson last Wednesday — as Davis hit 17 home runs and batted .285 in 295 at-bats during his rookie season with the Rangers in 2008. However, the left-handed slugger quickly earned the reputation of a hitter who struck out too much, didn’t walk enough, and struggled to handle plus-fastballs in the major leagues. Those flaws led his batting average to plummet to .238 in 2009 and .192 in 2010, causing Davis to bounce back and forth between the Rangers and Triple A in his final three years in Texas.

It was difficult to project Davis as anything more than a less-patient, less-powerful version of Reynolds entering the season, which didn’t speak highly for his potential when considering how flawed Reynolds is as a player.

In 2012, Davis hasn’t made any dramatic changes to his overall approach — 60 strikeouts to just 13 walks — but his improvement against plus-fastballs has led to the substantial increase in average. A career .204 hitter in 255 career at-bats against power pitchers (those in the top third in the league in strikeouts plus walks) entering 2012, Davis has handled them at a .286 rate in 42 at-bats this season.

Davis has also handled left-handed pitching at a far more successful clip, batting .327 in 53 plate appearances against southpaws in 2012 after hitting only .236 against lefties in 275 career at-bats entering 2012.

While his high strikeout and low walk totals aren’t indicative of a hitter that will continue to hover around the .300 mark, Davis has been a model of consistency through his first 57 games this season. Aside from an abysmal seven-game stretch in May in which he went 3-for-28 and struck out 14 times, the left-hander has consistently sat somewhere between .290 and .310 as we reach the final two weeks of June. His .355 batting average for balls put in play indicates Davis has been fortunate, but it’s actually lower than the .366 combined clip he posted last year for the Rangers and Orioles.

When seeing the ball well, Davis shows exceptional power to straightaway center and the opposite field has eight of his 12 home runs have traveled in either of those directions.

After Markakis was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a broken hamate bone, manager Buck Showalter turned to Davis to hold down the No. 3 spot in the order as the Orioles were depleted even further offensively. He’s hit only .206 in 34 at-bats batting third, but the lineup shift could present an interesting decision for Showalter when Markakis returns — projected to be some time during the next homestand, according to the right fielder.

Should Davis remain around the .300 mark, would you consider keeping him in the third spot and moving Markakis to the No. 2 slot? The move would allow Showalter to drop J.J. Hardy in the order, which would make sense with the shortstop hitting only .253 despite 11 home runs.

Whatever the Baltimore skipper decides, it’s a good problem to have.

For a team suffering its fair share of injuries and not receiving the same power numbers it enjoyed from Reynolds a season ago, Davis’ emergence has been one of the most pleasant surprises of the season.

His willingness to do whatever is asked of him reflects the spirit of the 2012 Orioles.

Need someone to pitch? Not a problem.

You want to put me in right field in a National League ballpark, even though I’ve never played there in the big leagues? Sure thing.

Whatever it takes to win.

Much like watching the Orioles, you keep waiting and wondering if it’s going to last, but Davis has given no indication of slowing down any time soon.

And he just might be realizing the potential so many saw in him when he first arrived in the big leagues.






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I thought Buck Showalter didn’t care about the save rule?

Posted on 17 June 2011 by Peter Dilutis

“Believe me, I know the save rule and, quite frankly, it doesn’t carry much weight with me. I like the win rule a little better.”

Buck Showalter spoke those words following the Orioles’ August 3, 2010 win over the Angels. Buck let Mike Gonzalez pitch the final 1.2 innings of that game in a save situation even though he was not the closer.

At the time, it was so refreshing to hear that from Buck. It seemed that Buck would do his own thinking rather than simply push buttons at the end of games when making bullpen decisions. Buck appeared to be an outside the box, free thinker, and for a guy like me who despises set ideas and lazy-thinking managers, I was excited to have him in Baltimore.

When the Orioles signed Kevin Gregg prior to the 2011 season, I was a bit puzzled. A big reason why the Orioles had so much success under Buck in the second half of 2010 was because Koji Uehara was made the closer. He would go on to convert 13 of 15 save chances, and Koji finished 2010 with a 2.43 ERA, .81 WHIP, and 55 K’s in 44 innings while issuing only 5 walks all season.

I understood that Koji was a huge injury risk, and was unlikely to make it through 2011 without making at least one trip to the disabled list. However, if both pitchers are healthy, there is no doubt that Koji Uehara is the better pitcher. To me, that means Koji should pitch in the most critical, highest leverage situations.

Keep in mind, that doesn’t always mean the 9th inning. If the Orioles are playing against Boston with Pedroia, Youkilis, and Ortiz due up in the 8th inning, then I would likely summon Koji to get through the 8th, and if he could not go another inning, I would then go to Gregg in the 9th for the save.

I said the same thing when the Orioles flip-flopped B.J. Ryan and Jorge Julio in 2005. So often, it would be a close game in the 7th or 8th, only to see Julio blow the game open in the most crucial situations all because Lee Mazzilli was saving his closer, B.J. Ryan, for the 9th.

Back to Kevin Gregg…This guy has racked up the saves throughout his career, but other than that, he has been the definition of an average to slightly above average reliever. He has a career ERA of 3.99 and WHIP of 1.34, compared to Koji’s career 3.33 ERA and 1.06 WHIP (which is inflated from when he was a starter in 2009).

Yes, including 2011, Gregg has saved 133 games the past five seasons, but he has also blown 30 save opportunities over that same time period, which translates to an approximate 77% success rate. Those aren’t very good numbers for a closer, and they clearly aren’t good enough numbers to make him the clear choice in the 9th over Koji.

One thing I will concede is that if both Koji and Gregg are going to pitch in a close game, it doesn’t make that big of a difference what inning they pitch in. If Gregg is going to suck on any given night, he is likely going to suck whether he pitches the 8th or 9th inning.

However, when both of them are available in the 9th inning of a save situation, there is no reason why Buck Showalter should choose Kevin Gregg over Koji Uehara.

He did last Saturday against Tampa Bay when the Orioles were one inning away from taking the series against the Rays, while also getting back to the treasured .500 mark. They were both available, and Buck chose Gregg, even with his dreadful WHIP and walk numbers thus far in 2011. Gregg blew the game, and the loss started a four game slide for the O’s.

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Some rambling Orioles observations ….

Posted on 11 March 2011 by Rex Snider

As we approach another weekend, we’re also seeing the second week of Spring Training action coming to an end.  Can we really predict what lies ahead for the 2011 Orioles, based on a couple weeks worth of exhibition baseball?


That depends …..


I’m certainly not willing to get overexcited about the prospective successes of Jake Fox (although, I like him), Nolan Reimold and Ryan Drese on the heels of competition against lineups concocted of mixed Major League talent and “camp bodies”.


But, I think some discernable conclusions can be made on what we’ve observed, since the birds landed in Sarasota, a month ago …..


  Brian Roberts is by all means the figurative piece to this Orioles lineup.  It’s much more vulnerable without him.  The O’s had a winning record when Roberts played; 30-29 (with him) and 36-67 (without him), in 2010.  While most of Roberts’ games occurred after Buck Showalter took over, just remember the manager doesn’t play the game.


So, how important is a true leadoff hitter?  Just look at the Red Sox, without Jacoby Ellsbury, in last year’s lineup.  Does the optimism surrounding this Orioles team really weigh heavily on the health of Brian Roberts’ back?  In a word …. YES.


  Vladimir Guerrero has made a career on being a “bad ball hitter.”  If you have any questions regarding this phrase, just watch last night’s homer against the Pirates – low and away …. and he launched a bomb to leftfield.  He’s gonna have a nice summer …..


  I never, EVER profess to know more than the very men who’ve made their life working in the game of baseball.  But, I questioned bringing back Koji Uehara, specifically due to his fragile injury concerns.  So, while I’m disappointed that he’s sidelined, I’m not surprised.


  According to USA Today, 7 of the Top-10 amateur prospects are pitchers.  The Orioles have the 4th overall selection, in the June draft.  With a minor league system desperately in need of positional depth, I’ve got a very uneasy feeling …..


  If you could nominate one person to throw out the ceremonial first pitch in the home opener, on April 4th, who would it be?  I think it’s an easy choice – just pick a random KID and make their day.  No more dignitaries or so-called celebs.  Give the ball to a kid …..



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Koji Back With O’s For 2011, Hardy On The Way?

Posted on 09 December 2010 by Jay Trucker

Would your boss be satisfied if you called out 50% of the time?

Apparently, the O’s were happy to bring back Koji Uehara, 35, for a 3rd season despite the Japanese former All Star’s penchant for fatigue-related sick days.

To be fair, Uehara’s first two seasons in MLB varied widely. Signed to much fanfare before the 2009 season, Uehara came to Baltimore to start games. Beset by injury, Uehara and the club quickly realized that his days of starting were behind him. Also, humidity is really not his thing.

In 2010, Uehara was an effective reliever, saving 13 games and finishing the year with a 2.86 ERA.  He can be an important piece to the back end of the bullpen if he can manage to stay upright.

The club was uncharacteristically quick in re-signing Uehara, perhaps because they are dealing so much relief pitching this offseason. They shipped David Hernandez and Kam Mickolio to Arizona for Mark Reynolds earlier in the week and appear poised to deal more pitching to improve their infield.

Speaking of…

According to CBS Sports, the O’s are set to announce a trade of minor leading pitchers James Hoey and Brett Jacobsen to Minnesota in exchange for infielders J.J. Hardy and Brenddan Harris.

O’s GM Andy MacPhail seems to have finalized this deal late last night, well after the sweater vest crowd usually nods off for the evening. Look for an announcement after the Rule V draft today, unless Peter Angelos decides to nix it on a whimsy.

Hardy, 27, is the centerpiece of the trade. His OPS is 100 points better than light-batted Cesar Izturis. Hardy has two more years of arbitration eligibility before becoming a free agent.

Harris, 29, struggled in limited appearances last season, but he’s a career .260 hitter with a .318 OBP. Harris has played every position around the diamond, including 218 games at shortstop.

It looks like Robert Andino will have to find another club for which he can ride the express to and from AAA to the bigs.

An infield of Reynolds, Hardy, Roberts, and Anyone But Atkins won’t win the AL East, but it represents a steady improvement from last season.

My vote would be for the O’s to bring in Paul Bunyan-esque Jim Thome to DH. Thome was good for 25 dingers in only 276 at bats last year. Let’s see what he has left at age 39 and give guys like Markakis and Reynolds some real lineup protection. My two cents.

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Orioles Interested in Japanese Shortstop

Posted on 13 October 2010 by Jay Trucker

According to MASN’s Roch Kubatko, the Orioles are interested in Japanese shortstop Hiroyuka Nakajima, 28. Nakajima plays for the Seibu Lions, for whom he’s hit between 20 and 22 home runs the last three seasons. Of course, the fence is 250 from the plate in Seibu.

Just kidding, it’s 275 feet.

Anyway, according to Fangraph’s Nakajima’s immigration to the U.S. is anything but a done deal as the Lions hope to retain his services. Even if he is posted, the Orioles would have to outbid other interested MLB teams. They have only successfully done so once before, landing Koji Uehara’s services by offering the opportunity to start.

We all know how that story ended.

Nakajima is an interesting idea for the shortstop position. As it stands feeble-batting Cesar Izturis stands a good chance of returning to man the middle infield and bottom of the batting order.

The Lions will begin negotiating with Nakajima on October 20th.

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O’s can’t sweep, but they win the war

Posted on 09 September 2010 by Domenic Vadala

Over Labor Day weekend the Orioles took two-of-three from Tampa, which probably made the Yankees smile. While they beat the O’s in walkoff fashion in yesterday’s series finale, they weren’t smiling anymore. After winning the Tampa series at home, the Orioles steamrolled into Yankee Stadium in the Bronx to rain on the Yankees’ parade. The problem with how this series went down is that the Yankees won the finale, and did so in dramatic fashion. So in a way it almost feels like the Orioles lost the series due to the order of the events. Nevertheless, the Orioles got excellent starting pitching in this series, much as they’ve done throughout Buck Showalter’s tenure as manager. One stat that jumped out at me during yesterday’s game was that during the Orioles’ recent four-game winning streak, they hit .406 with runners in scoring position. Wasn’t that a sore spot overall for much of the first half of the season?!

While those few months make a difference, the Orioles are still out of contention. However unlike in past years, they’re catching the hearts and minds of Baltimore. Gary Thorne mentioned on MASN yesterday that the resurrgence under Showalter has turned into a national story. That’s certainly easy for a local play-by-play guy to say, however keep in mind that Thorne also works for ESPN, and thus very much has his pulse on various stories in the national sports scene. That said, as much of America enjoyed picnics and cook-outs on Monday afternoon, the Orioles set to beating the Yankees in game one of the series. Brian Matusz took the ball against AJ Burnett of NY, and did so with about as much success as one could have. In six innings of work Matusz threw 106 pitches, giving up three runs over five hits. The thing with Matusz is that he’s a southpaw. One can look at Jake Arrieta and see a guy that has similar stuff to Matusz, however a left-hander with that kind of moxie is something that’s fairly rare, and can be deadly. Matusz also has an effective changeup that he mixes in with his fastball which has seemingly left opposing hitters perplexed of late. On Monday the Orioles got doubles from Caesar Izturis and Josh Bell; if you can get that kind of production from the bottom of the order, you’re really in good shape.

Speaking of Arrieta, he got the ball on Tuesday night, with the same kind of result. Arrieta went 6.1 innings, spreading two runs over eight hits. The big story in this game was that Yankee starter C.C. Sabathia was going for his twentieth victory of the season. Common sense dictated that he’d get it seeing that they were playing a team in the Orioles who was out of contention. I might also add that Sabathia has owned the O’s over time as well. Not on this night. Sabathia also pitched 6.1 innings, but gave up five runs. Joe Girardi seemed to keep Sabathia in a bit longer in hopes that his offense would put something across to get C.C. that twentieth victory. If anything, that hurt his cause more, as the O’s were hitting. Noland Reimold even hit his third homer of the season in the win, a moon shot to left field. This was a classic AL East game in that the Orioles added on runs when they needed to, giving Arrieta another win under his belt.

Yesterday the O’s had a chance to sweep their first series against the Yankees since 1986, and it appeared that they would do so. With Koji Uehara coming in to close out a 2-1 Oriole victory, suddenly Nick Swisher stepped to the plate. You know the rest…walkoff home run. However Brad Bergesen’s effort in this game should not go unnoticed. One run over four hits in 6.1 innings; seemingly all of the Oriole starters’ lines are very similar of late. We know that the Orioles have won their share of games in this fashion…just ask the White Sox, Angels, Red Sox, and Nationals. Live by the sword, die by the sword. As I said above, if you’re going to drop one game in a series you probably don’t want it to be the last one, as it leaves a sour taste in your mouth. However that should not be the case for the Orioles, as they’re doing the unthinkable as we speak. If this team wins 12 more games in 2010, they’ll have one win more than last season. Did anyone foresee this even being in the argument at 2-16? This season hasn’t been kind to Birdland, but this year’s end will pay dividend’s to new beginning’s in 2011. The O’s were far from the best team this year to this point, however their heart should be uncontested.

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Orioles bolster ‘pen, hope to continue spoiler alert

Posted on 07 September 2010 by Jay Trucker

Don’t tell Buck Showalter’s Orioles that their September games are meaningless. After dropping a series opener to the Tampa Bay Rays on Friday, the Birds won the last two games of the series against the Rays and a matinee holiday opener in New York against the division-leading Yankees.

The Yankees (86-52) are now 2.5 games ahead of the Rays (83-54) in the contentious AL East, while the O’s are having a lot to do with the pennant race.

Showalter’s fightin’ Birds will play New York five more times and Tampa three more times before the season’s end. Suddenly, the haves in the A.L. have to be concerned with the perennial have-nots.

Meanwhile, the O’s continue to expand their roster, bringing up David Viola, who was 3.4 with a 3.59 ERA in Bowie.

David Hernandez, who has both started and pitched from the bullpen, is also likely to be called up.

Meanwhile, Koji Uehara, who looked one of Andy MacPhail’s worst signings during the first 4/5 of his two-year deal, is suddenly playing like an elite closer. He’s currently 7/7 in saves with a miniscule 2.38 ERA. He pitched a perfect ninth inning in the Bronx Monday afternoon.

The former Japanese All Star, who struggled as a starter in the States and was often visibly laboring in the humid climate, has been excellent since inheriting the closer’s role.


Oh well, better late than never. If Koji can help the O’s continue to play the spoiler role, his pitiful first year and a half plus will be forgotten, and he’ll earn another MLB contract somewhere…as a reliever.

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Enduring the second half: What I’d like to see from the Orioles (Part 1 of 2)

Posted on 05 July 2010 by Luke Jones

With the Orioles officially reaching the halfway point of the season on Sunday, the second half of the schedule began much like the first—with a 12-9 loss in Detroit on Monday afternoon.

It’s no secret that much of Baltimore has shifted its attention to the Ravens and the upcoming start of training camp with the Orioles appearing destined to finish with the worst record in franchise history. Whether you choose to persevere through the season’s final three months or tune out in hopes of regaining your sanity after the horrid first half, much needs to be accomplished between now and October—on and off the field.

The most critical question of whether Andy MacPhail and Peter Angelos will commit to significantly improving the roster via free agency and trades in the offseason will linger long after October—and beyond—but in the mean time, a plethora of other issues can be addressed, some by the organization and others by players themselves.

If I had a crystal ball to predict what will unfold over the final three months of 2010, here’s what I’d like to see:

1. A new skipper is hired

This one is a no-brainer, but it’s imperative that the Orioles bring in a guy who truly wants the job and is willing to do the legwork of changing the culture of losing that exists in the clubhouse. It won’t happen by season’s end or even in 2011, but the club needs a dynamic leader.

I’ve championed Buck Showalter as the man, mainly due to his work with the Arizona Diamondbacks during the infancy of the franchise. Showalter, of course, did not stick around long enough to enjoy the fruits of his labor when Arizona won the World Series in 2001, but his obsessive work ethic could hopefully do wonders for the Orioles’ player development.

With MacPhail’s preference for an experienced manager, Showalter might be the man needed to ruffle some feathers, not only at the big-league level but throughout the organization.

2. A true commitment to the international market is made

While most have focused on the Orioles’ inability—or unwillingness—to make improvements through free agency and their poor track record with the amateur draft for the better part of 25 years, the organization continues to abstain from the international market.

The Orioles have opened a baseball academy in the Dominican Republic, but far more needs to be done on the international front, both in the Caribbean and the Far East. The club’s sheer number of international scouts pales in comparison to their competitors in the American League East, a simple but poignant indication that the organization is not doing enough to find talent elsewhere in the world.

And no, signing a 33-year-old Koji Uehara two winters ago doesn’t qualify as really trying.

It won’t fix the franchise alone, but tapping into the international waters instead of wasting $5 million on the Garrett Atkins types of the world every winter is a far better use of resources with a higher potential reward.

As one simple example, Robinson Cano, my choice for Most Valuable Player of the first half, was signed out of the Dominican by the New York Yankees. Talent is out there; it’s up to the Orioles to find and develop it.

3. Do whatever it takes to fix Matt Wieters

The claims of “Mauer with Power” and “Switch-Hitting Jesus” were always ridiculous, but no one—inside or outside of Baltimore—expected Matt Wieters to struggle as he has over the first 600-plus at-bats of his major league career.

It’s not just the .239 average or the lack of power (.344 slugging percentage) this season, but his approach at the plate is undisciplined and his swing is passive, often looking to slap the ball somewhere instead of attacking the baseball when he gets a good pitch to hit.

Many blame Terry Crowley while others will point to the team’s struggles and the overwhelming expectations bestowed upon the young catcher, but Wieters needs help to realize his vast potential.

Whether it’s a new hitting coach, a former Oriole such as Eddie Murray working with him, a demotion to the minors, or the apparition of Charley Lau returning to tinker with his swing, Wieters must get on track if the Orioles are to pull themselves out of this 13-year abyss. Aside from the final month of his rookie season, he’s looked nothing like the future star so many projected him to be.

For the record, I still believe Wieters eventually becomes a good-to-great catcher in the big leagues, but the organization must do everything in its power to help him.


4. The trade pieces perform and are dealt at the deadline

Anyone with delusions that Kevin Millwood, Ty Wigginton, Miguel Tejada, Jeremy Guthrie, or any other veteran would fetch a return comparable to the one the Orioles received for Erik Bedard a few years ago was always setting himself up for disappointment, but these players have a few more weeks to improve their value in hopes of being dealt.

Millwood’s struggles are painfully apparent as the 35-year-old was shelled again on Monday afternoon in Detroit, lasting only an inning while giving up five runs against the Tigers lineup. His 2010 story has transformed from a sympathetic figure (standing at 0-4 despite a 3.26 ERA on May 8th) to one who can’t get anyone out (5.77 ERA after Monday’s start).

Even if MacPhail was unable to find a suitable deal for Millwood at the deadline, there were hopes that Millwood could perhaps fetch a compensatory pick as a Type B free agent—and certain to reject arbitration—but as Millwood’s ERA continues to skyrocket, that likelihood is becoming very unlikely.

Wigginton would appear to have the most value with his recent All-Star selection and the versatility of playing several positions on the diamond, but his hot start feels like a long time ago, and the numbers support it.

Entering Monday afternoon’s game, Wigginton has hit just .218 in 202 at-bats since May 3. For the sake of fetching a better return, a Wigginton hot streak would do wonders by the July 31st deadline.

Tejada might be an attractive option for a team looking for a third baseman or even a short-term answer at shortstop, but his .373 slugging percentage suggests a singles hitter, not the man who once led the league in runs batted in or even the hitter who led the National League in doubles last season. In other words, teams won’t be knocking down the door at the Warehouse to get him.

Guthrie might be the most valuable piece as he’s under control for two more seasons. His 4.64 ERA isn’t sparking by any stretch of the imagination, but a National League team looking for an arm to supplement the back-end of the starting rotation could do far worse than Guthrie.

Of course, the Orioles could elect to hold on to Guthrie because of those two years of control and his positive presence for a young rotation.

Reliever Will Ohman (2.88 ERA) might be another trade candidate, but it’s hard to imagine getting anything more than minor league filler for the lefty specialist.

5. Brian Roberts gets healthy for 2011

The simple act of Brian Roberts taking the field again in 2010 matters very little for a team currently 32 games below .500, but it might be viewed as a symbolic act to show he will be fully-recovered in 2011, the second year of a four-year extension signed 17 months ago.

Roberts is once again taking batting practice in Sarasota, but we’ve heard this story several times already. Surgery continues to be ruled out by all parties, so it’s imperative for Roberts’ back to hold up as we’re now approaching a time frame in which surgery could jeopardize the start of his preparation for the 2011 season.

It’s too late to debate whether it was a good idea to give the then-31-year-old Roberts a four-year extension, so you can only hope the decision to rest and rehabilitate the herniated disc proves to be the right one for his career.

If there’s any long-term risk for Roberts to try to play baseball again in 2010, he should be shut down immediately and given the rest of the season to rest.

Check out Part 2 of what I’d like to see from the Orioles over the season’s final three months later this week.

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The Orioles 2010 All Star and Un-Star Representatives

Posted on 29 June 2010 by Jay Trucker

With the All Star game fast approaching, it is time for the obligatory speculative blog to determine who will and who should represent the Orioles. Despite their four game winning streak, it’s still safe to say a team with a record this pitiful does not deserve an All Star. However, since each team must have at least a single representative at the Midsummer Classic, someone wearing the O’s cap will make the exhibition club.

By the way, why didn’t anyone mention the “each team must have an All Star” rule to Adam Jones? He certainly doesn’t seem aware of this in his omnipresent MASN commercial, in which he talks proudly of “earning the title All Star” while squatting an unimpressive 235 lbs.

Someone on the horrendous 25 man roster had to “earn” the title All Star, Adam. It’s like being the smartest kid to repeat the eighth grade.

Anyway, I wouldn’t look for Jones to repeat as the O’s lone All Star this year. He is on an eight game hitting streak, but his defense has been suspect at times, and he spent most of April and May whiffing at breaking balls. Time to up your squats, Jonesy.

Ty Wigginton was an early season favorite, as he got off to a hot start that nearly makes up for his pitiful 2009. But he has leveled off recently, hitting .266 on the season with no homers in the past month.

A few local writers are pulling for Jason Berken, but he’s a little-known middle reliever on a bad team. He has about as much chance of making the All Star team as you or me.

Miguel Tejada could act like he’s been there before because he’s been there before. Tejada is hitting .287 while making the move to third base. I wouldn’t be completely surprised to see him get the nod, if only for his name recognition.

The Oriole truly deserving the All Star nod is Nick Markakis. When he’s not calling out his underachieving teammates or dining with Peter Angelos, Markakis has been hitting .306 while exhibiting his usual stellar defense in right field. With only 3 home runs on the year, Markakis has not rediscovered his power stroke, but he is walking at a higher ratio than last year, posting a .398 OBP on the season. Most criticism of Markakis is due to the fact that he is a natural number two hitter forced to hit in the number three spot for this undertalented team. Hopefully his fifth season in the bigs will bring him his first of many All Star nods. He’s been one of the only bright spots both on and off the field this season.

While Markakis is the clear choice for the All Star game, a doppleganger “Unstar” game would have several Baltimore Orioles candidates. Here’s a partial list of underachievers.

Garrett Atkins – Gone but not forgotten. Atkins told The Sun’s Jeff Zrebiec, “Taking my [batting practice] and stuff the last month or so, it’s been pretty good. I’ve been driving the ball well. I just haven’t been able to transfer it over to the games.” You hear that, New York Yankees? Atkins is doing great in BP. Now if only he could hit in games.

Mike Gonzalez – An Andy MacPhail offseason pickup who may be the only Oriole to ever get booed in his Camden Yards debut. Last seen giving up home runs in short season A ball for Aberdeen. Seriously.

Brian Roberts – In year one of a four-year $40 million deal, Roberts had only 16 plate appearances in 2010 before going on the long-term DL. He can be seen giving video updates on MASN from local dog parks. Seriously.

Koji Uehara – another waste of money and roster space, Uehara’s most impressive achievement to date is his ability to hop on and off the disabled list. Enjoy ingthe humidity, Koji?

Matt Wieters – Nicknamed “switch-hitting Jesus,” Wieters is hitting .238 on the season.

Let’s hope that Nick Markakis’ name is called for the real All Star game. The real question is, who is your Orioles Unstar?

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The Garrett Atkins Era Is Over

Posted on 27 June 2010 by Jay Trucker

He arrived in Baltimore with sagging statistics and high expectations, another member of a growing list of disappointing Andy MacPhail free agent signings.  Garrett Atkins, released on Sunday in order to make room for fellow low-achieving Oriole Koji Uehara, will walk away with $5 million dollars from a team for which he accomplished very little.

We’ll always remember that one home run. In 140 at bats, Atkins hit only one dinger, posting a pitiful .214 batting average. Often looking confused and completely powerless, Atkins had recently been relegated to the bench as the Orioles looked to improve their offensive punch. In the last 28 days, Atkins had made only 18 plate appearances.

Unless the once-formidable righty completely reinvents himself, his career is likely over. He spent most of 2009 and 2010 embarrassing himself at the plate and inciting the ire of irate fans, first in Colorado, then here in Baltimore. He will walk away $16.5 million richer than he was before his MLB career.

The true mystery, however, is not how Atkins lost his ability to play baseball. His numbers had been declining for three consecutive seasons prior to his signing this offseason.

The true mystery is why the Orioles would sign a 30 year-old with very little glove and decreasing stats to make the transition from the cushy confines of Colorado to the unforgiving stage of the AL East.

Garrett Atkins may be gone, but the people who signed him to a one-year deal with a buyout for 2011 are still here, and they should be packing their bags and splitting a cab to the airport along with Atkins.

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