Tag Archive | "koji uehara"

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Live from Camden Yards: Matusz looks to rebound from recent struggles

Posted on 26 May 2010 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — Good evening from Oriole Park at Camden Yards as the Orioles (15-31) look to make it two in a row against the Oakland Athletics (23-23) as Brian Matusz takes the hill against left-handed starter Trevor Cahill at 7:05 this evening.

Matusz hopes to bounce back from the shortest outing of his career, a 2 1/3-inning effort against Texas last Thursday in which the young lefty gave up seven runs and picked up his fourth loss of the season. After winning two of his first three starts in 2010, Matusz has not registered a win in his last six starts. His last victory came against these same Athletics in Oakland on April 18.

Here are tonight’s starting lineups:

Oakland
CF Rajai Davis
1B Daric Barton
C Kurt Suzuki
3B Kevin Kouzmanoff
RF Ryan Sweeney
LF Adam Rosales
DH Jake Fox
2B Mark Ellis
SS Cliff Pennington

SP Trevor Cahill (2-2, 3.68 ERA)

Baltimore
LF Corey Patterson
1B Ty Wigginton
RF Nick Markakis
3B Miguel Tejada
C Matt Wieters
CF Adam Jones
2B Scott Moore
DH Garrett Atkins
SS Cesar Izturis

SP Brian Matusz (2-4, 5.26 ERA)

Don’t forget to join us in the Orange Crush chat tonight at 7:00 p.m., as WNST personalities will discuss tonight’s action from Camden Yards. As always, remember to follow us on Twitter (@WNST) for the quickest updates and quips about tonight’s game.

Check back right here for updates (time-stamped below) leading right up to first pitch at 7:05 p.m.

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6:25 p.m. — Luke Scott is again out of the lineup with a strained left shoulder. Manager Dave Trembley said the slugger’s shoulder has improved considerably and will not need an MRI. There’s a “50-50” chance Scott could be available to pinch-hit if needed tonight, but I wouldn’t bet on it.

Second baseman Brian Roberts and injured relievers Alfredo Simon and Koji Uehara will fly to Sarasota on Friday to begin rehabbing their respective injuries. Roberts was scheduled to fly to extended spring training before a bout of pneumonia left him hospitalized last week.

Roberts and injured closer Mike Gonzalez are eligible to come off the 60-day disabled list on June 9, but it’s highly unlikely either will be ready by then. After a limited spring training and appearing in only four games this season, the second baseman is basically starting over in his preparation to play baseball this season.

Gonzalez has pitched in three extended spring training games without any pain in his left shoulder, but the reliever has not built enough strength in the shoulder to return when eligible. He will complete a long-toss program to build up his strength.

In non-injury news, outfielder Nick Markakis will not be with the team on Thursday as he will be with his wife who will give birth to their second child.

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Orioles use small ball to top Oakland, 5-1

Posted on 25 May 2010 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — When an offense struggles as much as the Orioles have to score runs this season, playing small-ball becomes an absolute necessity to have a realistic chance to win on a nightly basis.

As their record reflects, it’s a style of play in which the Orioles have failed miserably in playing through the first quarter of the season, but it worked Tuesday night as they defeated the Oakland Athletics, 5-1.

The Orioles (15-31) went 0-for-4 with runners in scoring position but scored their first three runs of the contest without the aid of a hit. The club also drew six walks, one short of its season-high of seven in 2010.

The deciding factor of the game was the sixth when the club plated two runs without registering a hit in the entire inning.

“Four at-bats were key,” manager Dave Trembley said. “Two walks [to Nick Markakis and Miguel Tejada], a wild pitch, and two sac-flies [by Ty Wigginton and Adam Jones]. That was the key to the game.”

Winning 3-1 in the eighth, the Orioles added two insurance runs with Markakis’ third home run of the season and an RBI-double by Matt Wieters to put the game out of reach.

Continuing to face an uncertain future as the Baltimore manager, Trembley has discussed the importance of making things happen when the lineup is scuffling like it has all season.

“Let’s see about playing a little better fundamental baseball,” said Trembley about his message to the players prior to Tuesday’s game.

For at least one night, it seemed to work.

Guthrie labors

Though struggling to find a good rhythm through much of the evening, starting pitcher Jeremy Guthrie earned his third victory of the season after allowing one run in six innings despite command issues and consistently pitching with men on base.

Having thrown 66 pitches in his first three innings, the right-hander settled in to retire eight of the last 10 batters he faced to improve his record to 3-4 in 2010. Guthrie’s 114 pitches was his second-highest total of the season.

“It’s a confidence boost to know you don’t have to be at your best to [win],” said Guthrie, who has now won three of his last four starts.

Homer drought ends

Having not hit a home run since May 1, Markakis went deep in the bottom of the eight to pad the Orioles’ lead and temporarily appease those wondering what’s happened to the right fielder’s power numbers.

Though his 13 doubles and .417 on-base percentage lead the club, Markakis is on pace to set a career-low in home runs through the season’s first 46 games.

“It is what it is,” he said about the lack of long balls on his stat line. “You just have to go up there with a good approach every time.”

Battered Birds

The injury bug has bitten the Orioles so severely, they now have multiple players getting hurt on the same play.

After relievers Koji Uehara and Alfredo Simon were placed on the 15-day disabled list on Tuesday, designated hitter Luke Scott was a late scratch with a strained left shoulder.

Scott jammed his shoulder diving for a grounder in the 10th inning of Sunday’s game against the Nationals, the same play in which Simon suffered a hamstring covering first base.

“He said he really couldn’t swing [during batting practice],” Trembley said after the game.

Garrett Atkins was inserted as the designated hitter for Scott.

Odds & ends

Jones singled in the second inning to extend his career-high hitting streak to 11 games, the longest streak by an Orioles hitter this season. … Markakis has reached safely in 41 of 46 games this season. … Brothers Corey Patterson and Eric Patterson started in left field on opposite sides tonight, marking the first time the Orioles were involved in a game with brothers playing against each other since June 10, 2004 when Jerry Hairston and Scott Hairston played at Camden Yards. … Atkins singled in the seventh inning to snap an 0-for-18 streak but has now gone 47 games with a home run, extending a career-high. … Tuesday night’s paid attendance was 14,686.

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BALTIMORE — Good evening from a warm (thank goodness) Oriole Park at Camden Yards as the Orioles (14-31) return home for a brief three-game homestand against the Oakland Athletics (23-22) after an off day on Monday.

Despite rampant speculation over his job security (or lack there of), Dave Trembley is still the Orioles manager, but the question remains how long. With Koji Uehara (elbow) and Alfredo Simon (hamstring) being placed on the 15-day disabled list, the Orioles have recalled lefty reliever Alberto Castillo and selected the contract of Norfolk closer Frank Mata to retool a gassed bullpen.

The biggest news of the day was the move of starter David Hernandez to the bullpen, paving the way for right-hander Chris Tillman to make Saturday’s start in Toronto. While Dave Trembley would not officially say Tillman would take the hill against the Blue Jays, all indications point to the 22-year-old making his first start in 2010 after receiving a 12-start stint in Baltimore last season.

Here are tonight’s lineups:

Oakland
SS Cliff Pennington
1B Daric Barton
RF Ryan Sweeney
C Kurt Suzuki
DH Jack Cust
3B Kevin Kouzmanoff
CF Gabe Gross
2B Mark Ellis
LF Eric Patterson

SP Dallas Braden (4-4, 3.45 ERA)

Baltimore (Updated: Luke Scott is a late scratch with a strained shoulder)
LF Corey Patterson
2B Julio Lugo
RF Nick Markakis
3B Miguel Tejada
1B Ty Wigginton
CF Adam Jones
C Matt Wieters
DH Garrett Atkins
SS Cesar Izturis

SP Jeremy Guthrie (2-4, 3.86 ERA)

Don’t forget to join us in the Orange Crush chat tonight at 7:00 p.m., as WNST personalities will discuss tonight’s action from Camden Yards. As always, remember to follow us on Twitter (@WNST) for the quickest updates and quips about tonight’s game.

Check back right here for updates (time-stamped below) leading right up to first pitch at 7:05 p.m.

______________________________________________

7:30 p.m. — As I posted on Twitter (@WNST) right before the first pitch, Luke Scott has been scratched from the original lineup with a strained left shoulder. Bad news for a lineup already struggling to score runs.

6:55 p.m. — Needing a corresponding 40-man roster move to make room for Mata, the Orioles have officially placed Mike Gonzalez on the 60-day disabled list. Considering Gonzalez has been on the DL since April 10, this really doesn’t impact his rehabilitation efforts or time frame for a return.

6:10 p.m. — Frank Mata and Alberto Castillo aren’t exactly creating a buzz here at the ballpark—especially with Castillo’s ERA sitting at an ugly 12.79 after his most recent stint with the Orioles—but the club is desperate for bullpen arms after losing Uehara and Simon to the disabled list.

Mata signed as a minor-league free agent in the off-season and sported a 2-1 record with a 1.86 ERA and eight saves as the Norfolk closer this season. He spent his entire minor league career in the Minnesota organization prior to this year and has a career 4.08 ERA in six seasons of professional baseball. At 26 years old, he’s far from a prospect, but his performance with the Tides warrants an opportunity at the big-league level.

With the expected promotion of Tillman for Saturday’s start, I’d expect Alberto Castillo to be sent down to make room on the 25-man roster on Saturday. At this rate, Castillo might be on pace to set a major league record for number of promotions and demotions in a season. Of course, that’s not exactly the most prestigious title to be aiming for if you’re Castillo.

Trembley was noncommittal regarding his plans for a revamped bullpen after losing his third closer of the season in Simon. Lefty Will Ohman (0.00 ERA in 24 games) can probably expect an expanded role out of necessity, but the Orioles manager will need to feel his way through the mess that is the Baltimore bullpen right now.

5:50 p.m. — With the Orioles hopelessly in last place and 18 games behind Tampa Bay, the anticipated promotion of Tillman does create a bit of intrigue for the weekend series in Toronto. Tillman made Monday’s start for the Tides, earning the victory after allowing one run and scattering eight hits over six innings.

The 22-year-old prospect struck out seven and continues to dominate the Triple-A level in May. Monday’s victory improved his record to 3-1 with a 2.32 ERA this month, putting to rest the concerns of a poor start to his 2010 season with the Tides.

It’s no secret that most believe Hernandez is best-suited for a bullpen role, and the numbers support it.

While Hernandez supports a 3.38 ERA in the first three innings of his starts, that number balloons to 7.50 in innings 4-6 of his outings. The hope is the 25-year-old can rely more heavily on a plus-fastball and command the slider a bit better in shorter stints out of the bullpen.

Of course, his command issues (28 walks in 42 1/3 innings) may not vanish in a relief role, a dicey proposition should he enter a game with runners on base. Regardless of how confident you might be in Hernandez’s makeup as a reliever, it’s clear Trembley is looking for any reliever who can offer multiple innings of work, a job the right-hander can fulfill without any problem.

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Two more of MacPhail’s “genius” pickups, Simon and Uehara, headed to DL

Posted on 25 May 2010 by Jay Trucker

At the 2009 Orioles Fanfest, Andy MacPhail boasted that 40% of the Orioles rotation consisted of international talent. That 40% was Mexican League pickup Alfredo Simon and former Japanese All Star Koji Uehara. This was supposed to be a great development for the Orioles, who were finally making inroads into the international talent pool.

Today, 100% of the Orioles’ international talent that MacPhail touted a year and a half ago are headed back to the DL.

While injuries are inevitable in baseball, the failure of Simon and Uehara represent much more than bad luck.

There is a reason Simon came out of nowhere to become perhaps the worst “number three” starter of all time when the Orioles put him on the 25 man roster to begin last season.  Simon was not “discovered” in the Mexican League. The Dominican-born righty was drafted by the Phillies in 1999. He kicked around several organizations’ minor league systems before being dropped by the Texas Rangers organization. According to Baseballreference.com, he lost the Mexican League finals before becoming a late-season replacement for the O’s in September 2008.

Simon is the definition of a “scrap heap” player.

Uehara’s story is more well documented. The former Yomiuri Giant. The 1999 Rookie of the Year in Japan’s Central League was converted to a closer in the years preceding his move to the U.S.  Koji was converted to relief for the Giants due to concerns about his stamina. This is the same reason the Orioles were the only team to consider him for their starting rotation. Koji signed with the O’s because the only interest in him from other MLB teams was an interest in his services for relief. The Birds paid him $10 million over two seasons. He has played in 18, 12 as a starter, 6 as a reliever. His unheralded career as an Oriole may be over.

Don’t look for a big announcement from Andy MacPhail today regarding the transfer of his two international pitchers to the DL. This is the guy who told The Sun the day that Brian Roberts was hospitalized for pneumonia: “We don’t anticipate that it’s going to be anything that impacts his rehabilitation schedule.” And here’s MASN’s Roch Kubatko updating Roberts’ road to recovery yesterday: “Second baseman Brian Roberts is feeling better after being hospitalized last week with pneumonia, but he doesn’t have any immediate plans to fly down to Sarasota and resume baseball-related activities. That idea has been put on hold.”   What’s that?  A setback?  Well,  surprise, surprise.

I’ve been a MacPhail fan since he took over for the two-headed GM monster in 2007, but in the words of ubiquitous Baltimore defense lawyer Barry Glazer, it’s about time he stop pissing on our legs and telling us it’s raining. Brian Roberts’ extension looks really bad right now. The forays into international scouting were abysmal failures. The Koji experiment, particularly, may have actually set the Orioles back in their efforts to extend into the East. When Koji was playing, he was playing for a losing team in 3/4 empty ballparks. Do you think the hoards of Japanese reporters who followed his every move last year were impressed?

The most bitter disappointments in 2010 have not been the losses on the field; they’ve been the failures off the field, and management’s way of treating a dwindling fan base like we’re ignorant. Things look bleak in Birdland, not just today, but in the future, too.

The young players’ ceilings appear to be relatively low.

The veteran 2B is just hoping to get back to the Canton dog park, let alone a baseball field.

The international players are gone, which is probably addition by subtraction.

Garrett Atkins has no power. Maybe that’s why no other team wanted him.

Mike Gonzalez is in Florida licking his wounds.

Houston and Seattle no longer look so bad for the spare parts they traded in exchange for Miguel Tejada and Erik Bedard.

But according to MacPhail, that yellow stuff is just rain.

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Koji Uehara, Symbol of Birdland Expectation and Frustration, Set to Return as Middle Reliever

Posted on 05 May 2010 by Jay Trucker

With all of the Orioles’ disappointments after one month of play, for all of the free agent duds (Mike Gonzalez, Garrett Atkins), sluggish starts (Nolan Reimold, Adam Jones), and lineup-crushing injuries (Brian Roberts, Felix Pie), perhaps no Oriole over the last few years serves as a more fitting symbol of Birdland failure than Koji Uehara.

In fact, Uehara has been such a disappointment, so injury-laden, and so unimpressive in his brief stints on the mound, that it feels like much more than just sixteen months ago that he arrived from Japan to the banks of the Chesapeake amidst much fanfare.

Though he has largely been forgotten both by the fans and the club’s front office, the signing of Uehara was widely praised at the time, since it marked the Orioles’ first foray into the Asian free agent market. By signing Uehara, the O’s became the last AL East team to sign an Asian-born player. This is a step in the right direction, of course, but being excited about the O’s making a well-overdue splash in international free agency is akin to being excited that a 500 pound man lost 100 pounds. He’s made some progress, but there is still much work to be done.

But this isn’t the way the signing was played out locally. In their official press release, the Orioles touted Uehara’s ten years with the Yomiuri Giants, his 56 career complete games, and his Sawamura Awards in 1999 and 2002. You remember those years, right, before myspace, facebook, youtube or gmail?

Check out the Orioles complete Uehara press release here.

http://baltimore.orioles.mlb.com/news/press_releases/press_release.jsp?ymd=20090113&content_id=3741984&vkey=pr_bal&fext=.jsp&c_id=bal

In the end, the Orioles bid against themselves for Uehara’s services. They were the only team willing to bring Koji in as a starter. He had been relegated to relief in his last year in Japan, and other MLB were only willing to sign him to continue his career as a reliever. The Orioles, however, were confident that the 34 year-old Koji could return to prominence as a starter, or at least eat a lot of innings while The Cavalry readied themselves in the minors.

Uehara finished his first season 2-4 in 12 games as a starter in 2009. He earned $5 million in 2009 and logged only 67 innings before going on the DL for most of the year.

On Wednesday, the team optioned Alberto Castillo to AAA to make way for Uehara. This year, there will be fewer Japanese reporters, fewer expectations, and fewer innings for Uehara, who labored in the fifth and sixth inning of nearly all of his 2009 starts. The club is bringing him back as a reliever, the role every other team in the league appears to have known he was best suited. Perhaps he will thrive in relief. Of course, this doesn’t erase the Orioles’ mistake as Uehara’s injuries both this year and last were perhaps foreseeable. Yomiuri didn’t just decide to relegate a once-dominant starter to relief for no reason. One look at Koji sweating out a fifth inning meltdown confirmed what the rest of the league already knew—he wasn’t the pitcher he was in 2002.

On the day that Andy MacPhail finally spoke about the Orioles’ hitting woes, Uehara’s return is a secondary concern. But his signing is beginning to look like a foreshadowing of the perhaps similarly poor Gonzalez and Atkins signings. All three players seem to have been signed with the expectation that they will perform to the highest points of their careers. However, all three players showed signs of a downward trajectory in the last few seasons. Atkins’ numbers had been in a tailspin for three years, in the National League no less, before the Orioles signed him for $4.5 million to play first base. Gonzalez lost his closing job in Atlanta before the Orioles handed him the keys for two years.

When Gonzalez was booed on Opening Day in Baltimore, he became the new symbol of Orioles frustration. Gonzalez struggles have been more immediate and therefore more spectacular than Uehera’s. I mean, at least he wasn’t booed on day one at Oriole Park. But everything about the Koji signing—the hype, the optimistic expectations, the misplaced role he was given, the injuries, the disappointment—is beginning to look all-too-familiar in Birdland. And not just in comparison to Atkins and Gonzalez. Will Brian Roberts, the 32 year-old speed-based player given a $40 million, four-year extension, ever be the real Brian Roberts again? Unlike Koji, BRob won’t have the chance to reinvent himself in middle relief.

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Notebook: Home runs lead Orioles past Red Sox, 12-9

Posted on 01 May 2010 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — With two pitchers returning to the starting rotation for their respective teams, it was clear Saturday night’s game had the potential to become an offensive explosion, especially with the temperature soaring to the mid-80s in downtown Baltimore.

Twenty-one runs, 24 hits, and nine home runs later, the Orioles (6-18) bested the Boston Red Sox, 12-9, in a game filled with offense and short on pitching.

Baltimore’s 12 runs was a season high, besting their eight-run effort against the Oakland Athletics on April 18.

As he has for the entire 2010 season, Ty Wigginton led the offense with two home runs, including a solo blast in the fifth inning that ignited a six-run explosion that put the Orioles in front for good. Wigginton leads the club in nearly every run-producing category imaginable including home runs (8), runs batted in (14), average (.324), slugging percentage (.721), and on-base percentage (.413).

“I’m just executing my plan,” he said. “I try to come up with the best approach [at the plate] and stick with it. I’m executing it more times than I’m not.”

Manager Dave Trembley believes there’s a far simpler explanation, especially with Brian Roberts being on the disabled list for all but four games this season.

“You ask Ty and he’ll tell you if he gets his at-bats, he’ll put his numbers up. He’s getting his at-bats.”

It was Wigginton’s second multi-homer game of the season and the 11th of his career.

Markakis, Wieters connect

While both have been criticized for failing to connect for the long ball, Nick Markakis and Matt Wieters both connected for three-run blasts.

Markakis hit his against Tim Wakefield in the sixth inning to extend the Baltimore lead to 11-4. He matched his career high of five runs batted in, a feat he accomplished twice before and most recently against Boston on April 17, 2009. The right fielder has now reached base safely in 22 of 24 games this season and is 22 for his last 63 (.349).

“Nick Markakis is a pure hitter,” said Trembley. “He can hit, always has. Nick’s a guy that I don’t really concern myself with. Nick will be there at the end of the year with the numbers that he always puts up, and he’ll probably put up better numbers.”

While Markakis had the bigger night overall, Wieters’ opposite-field, three-run blast off Daisuke Matsuzaka broke a 4-4 tie in the fifth. It was the phenom catcher’s first home run since connecting off James Shields on Opening Night in Tampa Bay on April 6.

Bergesen returns to Baltimore

It wasn’t pretty, but Brad Bergesen notched his first victory of the season in his return to the starting rotation on Saturday night. After looking completely lost in his first three starts with a 12.19 ERA and seemingly falling apart mentally, Bergesen spent 11 days at Triple-A Norfolk, making one start last weekend for the Tides.

His sinker lacked the downward movement it showed last season, but Bergesen battled through five innings, giving up four runs, seven hits, two home runs, and striking out two.

“I’ve made some progress,” said Bergesen, who feels much better about his mental approach. “It’s still not quite where where it needs to be, but it’s going in the right direction right now.”

Bergesen improved to 1-2 and actually lowered his ERA to 10.57.

Simon Says: Save No. 2

Alfredo Simon received his second save opportunity Saturday night, and the new closer looked far more comfortable than he did in his prior two appearances this week.

After walking leadoff man Marco Scutaro, Simon struck out Dustin Pedroia and recorded the final two outs to pick up his second save and give the Orioles their first series win of the season.

“He didn’t overthrow like he did [Friday] night,” said Trembley. “[Friday] he was flying off that mound. Tonight he stayed back over the rubber, his split was a lot better. He didn’t try to throw it as hard.”

Beating Boston? Really?

After going just 2-16 against the Red Sox in 2009, the Orioles have already eclipsed that total in 2010 with their third straight win over Boston on Saturday night, the first coming at Fenway Park last Sunday. The Orioles lead the season series, 3-2.

Baltimore will go for its fourth straight victory over the Red Sox on Sunday, a feat it hasn’t accomplished since 2004.

“We got April behind us, which wasn’t the most pleasant of circumstances, but you have to put it behind you and keep fighting,” said Trembley.

In addition to securing their first series win of the season after dropping their first seven, the Orioles can complete a three-game sweep of Boston in Baltimore for the first time since Sept. 1974.

Check out the final box score here and the pre-game notes below, including details behind the demotion of reliever Jim Johnson to Triple-A Norfolk.
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BALTIMORE — Good afternoon from Oriole Park at Camden Yards as we await the second of a three-game set between the Orioles and Boston Red Sox at 7:05 p.m.

With last night’s dramatic 5-4 victory, thanks in large part to the bat of Miguel Tejada, the Orioles have already equaled last season’s win total against the Red Sox (2-16 in 2009) and have an opportunity to win their first series of the season if they can grab one of the next two games at Camden Yards.

The big news this afternoon is the demotion of reliever Jim Johnson to Triple-A Norfolk to make room for the return of Brad Bergesen to the starting rotation. The right-hander  struggled mightily in April with a 6.52 ERA and three blown saves in 10 appearances. I’ll have more on Johnson in a bit.

Here are tonight’s starting lineups:

Boston
SS Marco Scutaro
2B Dustin Pedroia
C Victor Martinez
1B Kevin Youkilis
RF J.D. Drew
DH David Ortiz
3B Adrian Beltre
LF Darnell McDonald
CF Jonathan Van Every

SP Daisuke Matsuzaka (first start of 2010)

Baltimore
CF Adam Jones
RF Nick Markakis
C Matt Wieters
3B Miguel Tejada
DH Luke Scott
2B Ty Wigginton
1B Rhyne Hughes
LF Nolan Reimold
SS Cesar Izturis

SP Brad Bergesen (0-2, 12.19 ERA)

As we do for every Orioles game, please join us in the Orange Crush chat at 7:00 p.m. to discuss tonight’s happenings from Camden Yards. For the quickest updates and analysis of tonight’s game, don’t forget to follow us on Twitter (@WNST).

Continue to check right here for more updates (time-stamped below) leading up to first pitch at 7:05 p.m.

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5:45 p.m. — The other piece of news to pass along from Trembley’s pre-game comments was a slight adjustment in the appearance schedule for Koji Uehara at Triple-A Norfolk. The Japanese hurler will pitch in back-to-back games on Sunday and Monday, easing the burden of pitching on consecutive days by allowing him to pitch in a day game followed by a night game on Monday.

The skipper was adamant that it had nothing to do with any injury or health-related concern.

Personally, I’m not sure where he would have gotten the idea that we’d be wondering if it were. (Insert your favorite hamstring joke here.)

The club will assess where Uehara is at following Monday’s outing and decide whether it wants to activate him from the disabled list. Of course, that would mean a corresponding roster move after already optioning Johnson to Norfolk this afternoon.

There was no update on the timetable for Mike Gonzalez’s concern, but Trembley went on to say the pitcher is still pain-free in the midst of a strengthening program for his injured pitching shoulder.

5:35 p.m. — If you’ve been following my blog (and if you haven’t been, why not?), I’ve made my thoughts abundantly clear on the quick return of Brad Bergesen. In the club’s defense, it sounds as though it was planned all along for the young pitcher to make only one start in Norfolk before being recalled.

All parties involved seem to think his problems—both mechanical and mental—are solved, and we’ll now see the Bergesen who emerged as the team’s best starter in 2009 before missing the final two months of the season after taking a wicked line drive to the shin. If so, much credit belongs to the coaching staff at Triple-A Norfolk.

We can only hope, or the Orioles will find themselves right back where they were when Bergesen was sprinting off the mound, visibly shaken following a disastrous outing in Seattle less than two weeks ago.

4:55 p.m. — Speculation began flying Friday night about the possibility of Jim Johnson being demoted, especially after the right-hander pitched so poorly and Matt Albers followed it up with another good outing while picking up the victory in the 5-4 final. Johnson gave up three hits, walked two, and gave up a home run in his one inning of work Friday.

Most assumed earlier in the week that Albers would be the one to go with Bergesen returning to the big club, but three straight strong outings—not to mention the fact that he’s out of options—saved him from the chopping block and hoisted him back into Trembley’s good graces for now.

Johnson, who spent time as the team’s closer last season following the trade of George Sherrill, struggled to find any consistency in April. He failed in the closer role after Mike Gonzalez went on the disabled list and has struggled with his command, pitching to a 6.52 ERA and 1.97 WHIP in 2010.

“[It] was a tough decision, but it’s the best thing to do for Jim Johnson,” said Trembley. “We now have to have other guys step up.”

Trembley does not anticipate Johnson being in Norfolk for long but would not elaborate on any specific adjustments needed to be made after pitching coach Rick Kranitz and Trembley sat down with the reliever. The manager did say Johnson simply needs to find his “comfort zone” that has made him so dominant at times in his brief career.

Dating back to last season following the Sherrill trade, Johnson has pitched 31 1/3 innings with a 6.32 ERA. It’s clear something is off with the setup man, so perhaps a return to Triple A will allow him to clear his head and regain the form he displayed in 2008 and the first half of last season.

The Orioles certainly hope it works with Bergesen tonight.

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Orioles fall back into all-too-familiar pattern in 4-0 loss to Yankees

Posted on 29 April 2010 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — With Brian Matusz taking the hill with an opportunity to secure the club’s first series victory of the season Thursday night, the Orioles had to like their chances—at least as much as a 4-17 team possibly can when facing last season’s World Series champions.

That is, until A.J. Burnett took the mound for the New York Yankees. The Monkton resident was masterful over eight innings, allowing just three hits and striking out four as the Yankees won the rubber game of the three-game set, 4-0.

After providing 25 runs for Matusz in his first four starts of the season—nearly equaling the amount received by any other two starters combined—the bats fell quiet to the right arm of Burnett, who improved to 3-0 on the season.

Matusz didn’t pitch poorly but struggled to keep the ball down in the strike zone, allowing three runs and nine hits over six innings to suffer his first loss of the season. The Orioles were again victimized by second baseman Robinson Cano who homered twice and scored three of the four New York runs.

“That guy is swinging the bat so well,” Matusz said. “He’s a tough out. I have to make some adjustments the next time I face him.”

The problem for the Orioles was no one was swinging the bat well against Burnett who pounded the strike zone with mid-90s heat and a sharp breaking ball throughout the evening. It’s a pattern we’ve come to expect over the first month of the season as the Orioles will conclude April without a series win on its atrocious resume.

Even after winning two straight games—one against both the Red Sox and Yankees—and showing signs of life for the first time all season, the Orioles fell back into the predictable framework of decent starting pitching and anemic offense on Thursday night.

After falling behind early, you got the feeling the Orioles were resigned to the fact that they would come up short against Burnett and the Yankees.

“If we could’ve pulled another game out against them, it would’ve gotten us some momentum going into the next series [against Boston], but that’s the way it’s going right now,” said outfield Nolan Reimold. “You’ve just got to live with it.”

Not exactly the most inspiring words from a club desperate for some victories, but Reimold was one of the few willing to talk after Thurday’s loss.

Truthfully, what else is there to say at this point?

It’s the way it’s gone the entire month of April as the Orioles sit in last place with a 4-18 record and find themselves a staggering 13 games behind first-place Tampa Bay—on April 29.

The Orioles are “just living with” the fact that they’re the worst team in baseball, and no one—at least, publicly—among the players is standing up to demand improvement. They’re a defeated group taking a long look at the five months of potential misery lying ahead.

At 4-18, the Orioles are on pace to win just 29 games this season, a preposterous notion after nearly a month of baseball. The club will play better at some point, but haven’t we been saying that for weeks?

When will it end?

Adam Jones is hitting .204 and has a .228 on-base percentage. Not exactly setting the table at the top of the order.

Matt Wieters hasn’t hit a home run since Opening Night over three weeks ago.

Nolan Reimold is hitting .193.

Nick Markakis has four RBI.

Brian Roberts and Felix Pie are on the disabled list and won’t return any time soon.

A team supposedly building for the future has 35-year-old Miguel Tejada and 32-year-old Ty Wigginton as its most consistent (and only?) run producers as we prepare to leave April in the rear-view mirror and enter the second month of the season.

You just have to wonder how long the starting pitching will hold up before absolute frustration sets in—if it hasn’t already—with the utter lack of run support in April. For now, everyone’s saying the right things, but “talk is cheap” as the legendary Johnny Unitas once said.

“Our starters have gotten their fair share of quality starts, and we haven’t scored a lot of runs for them,” said manager Dave Trembley. “But they just need to keep doing their job and hope that the offense picks it up and we can score some runs and break through this.”

Otherwise, they’ll just have to live with it.

Like we all are.

Check out the final box score here and the pregame notes below.

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**I’ll be hosting tonight’s Orange Crush chat, so please join me at the cyber bar for a cold one and some baseball talk.**

BALTIMORE — Good evening from Oriole Park at Camden Yards as the Orioles (4-17) look to earn their first series win of the season in the finale of a three-game set against the New York Yankees (13-7).

Here are tonight’s lineups:

New York
SS Derek Jeter
RF Nick Swisher
1B Mark Teixeira
3B Alex Rodriguez
2B Robinson Cano
DH Marcus Thames
CF Curtis Granderson
C Francisco Cervelli
LF Brett Gardner

SP A.J. Burnett (2-0, 3.20 ERA)

Baltimore
CF Adam Jones
RF Nick Markakis
C Matt Wieters
3B Miguel Tejada
DH Luke Scott
2B Ty Wigginton
1B Rhyne Hughes
LF Nolan Reimold
SS Cesar Izturis

SP Brian Matusz (2-0, 4.38 ERA)

With Matusz taking the hill for his second career start against the Bronx Bombers, Dave Trembley and the Orioles hope he can approach the success he had in the final start of his 2009 campaign.

Pitching at Yankee Stadium on Sept. 12, Matusz pitched seven strong innings, allowing only one run and four hits in a 7-3 victory. The young lefty was shut down for the remainder of the season following that effort and has clearly established himself as one of the best young pitchers in the American League early on in 2010.

While Matusz’s 4.38 ERA looks quite pedestrian, keep in mind the Orioles bullpen has allowed six of seven inherited runners to touch the plate following the 23-year-old’s departure in four starts. Matusz must certainly take responsibility for the runners he leaves on the bases, but you’d clearly like to see a higher success rate among the Orioles relievers.

As we do for every Orioles game, please join us in the Orange Crush chat at 7:00 p.m. to discuss tonight’s happenings from Camden Yards. For the quickest updates and analysis of tonight’s game, don’t forget to follow us on Twitter (@WNST).

Continue to check right here for more updates (time-stamped below) leading up to Matusz’s first pitch at 7:05 p.m.

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5:50 p.m. — As you can see with the lineup above, Adam Jones is once again in the leadoff spot despite a .202 average and .227 on-base percentage in the first month of 2010. Trembley continues to go with Jones in the No. 1 spot this series after trying Lou Montanez and Nolan Reimold in the top spot last week.

The Orioles manager insists Jones is his best option at the top of the order, but it’s very tough to justify keeping him there when he’s nearly been an automatic out when the lineup flips over. In 30 at-bats (granted, a small sample size), Jones is hitting just .133, walking once and striking out seven times.

Meanwhile, Nick Markakis (.379 OBP) and Cesar Izturis (.276 AVG) look like tempting short-term options as the Orioles continue to search for a suitable replacement for Roberts at the top of the order.

No easy task, to say the least.

5:35 p.m. — As we continue to track the progress and health of Brian Roberts, we learned the second baseman had an endoscopy today to determine the cause of the gastrointestinal discomfort. Trembley does not seem concerned with Roberts’ health, believing it’s a side effect of the medication he’s been taking for the herniated disc in his lower back.

Needless to say, it’s been a forgettable year for the All-Star second baseman who would badly like to be back in the Orioles lineup. When that will take place is anybody’s guess, but it’s not happening any time soon.

In other injury news, Koji Uehara made his second appearance for Double-A Bowie this morning, pitching one scoreless inning and walking one. The Japanese right-hander will now continue his injury rehab assignment at Triple-A Norfolk and is scheduled to pitch on Saturday. Uehara is expected to pitch an inning out of the bullpen (he started both games in Bowie but threw only one inning) and will make a second appearance for the Tides before the organization decides he’s fit to be activated from the disabled list.

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Orange Chatter: 10 Questions for 2010 (Part 2 of 2)

Posted on 03 April 2010 by Luke Jones

In Part 1 of my 10 Questions for 2010, we pondered the health of Brian Roberts, the status of Jeremy Guthrie and Chris Tillman, and the platoon of Felix Pie and Nolan Reimold.

Here are my second five of 10 questions entering the 2010 season:

6. Is the bullpen up to par?

Following the trade of George Sherrill last summer, it was clear the Orioles struggled in the late innings with Jim Johnson better suited in his previous role as a setup man. Andy MacPhail responded by signing free agent closer Mike Gonzalez to a two-year, $12 million contract, the club’s largest signing of the offseason.

Gonzalez has 54 career saves in a seven-year career, including 10 last season in Atlanta. While the lefty seems capable of closing games–keep in mind Sherrill was never a closer before the trade to Baltimore–Gonzalez battled a stiff back and appeared hesitant to cut it loose in Sarasota until recently. He closed out the spring with a perfect outing against the Mets on Saturday, striking out two and lowering his spring ERA to 5.14.

Gonzalez is joined in the bullpen by two mainstays in Johnson and lefty Mark Hendrickson, who thrived in the bullpen (3.44 ERA) after being moved out of the starting rotation (5.40 as a starter) last season.

However, after these three, the bullpen becomes a bit murkier, especially with Koji Uehara on the disabled list (hamstring) to begin the season. Cla Meredith had a tremendous spring (0.84 ERA) and pitched well in Baltimore after being acquired from the Padres last season but is certainly not a household name with a track record. Newcomer Will Ohman figures to provide plenty of laughs, but Trembley would like to see him evolve into an effective left-handed situational arm (a career 4.25 ERA in seven seasons).

And with three pitchers 25 or younger in the starting rotation, the club will go with two long men in Matt Albers and Jason Berken. Albers was very effective in 2008 (3.49 ERA), but a shoulder injury (torn labrum) and questions surrounding his conditioning led to an abysmal 2009 season in which he pitched to a 5.51 ERA and was demoted to Triple-A Norfolk on three different occasions.

Berken shifts to a long-relief role after starting 24 games last season (6.54 ERA). While the 26-year-old lacks the stuff of an effective starting pitcher, Trembley will look for him to eat innings should a starter be knocked out early. Of course, Berken could find himself back in the starting rotation should there be an injury or two over the course of the seaosn.

A player to keep an eye on at Norfolk is Kam Mickolio, a hard-throwing righty (part of the Erik Bedard trade with Seattle) who appeared to have a good chance of making the 25-man roster before a groin injury limited his opportunities in the spring. He projects as a late-inning man with closer potential.

As is the case with any bullpen on any team, the starting pitching will ultimately decide its fate. If starters are unable to reach the sixth or seventh inning on a consistent basis, this bullpen will inevitably wear down as we’ve seen just about every summer over the last 12 years. Improved starting pitching will hide the weaknesses in the bullpen and allow more opportunities to finish games.

7. Will Miguel Tejada and Garrett Atkins prove to be capable stopgaps?

The corner infield positions were two of MacPhail’s biggest priorities to address in the offseason, and he responded by adding two veterans accustomed to playing different positions than they will in 2010.

Tejada’s return to Baltimore was a controversial decision, but his ability to adjust to third base will be critical to the infield defense and pitching. Most seem to think Tejada will become a capable third baseman, but it’s hard to forget the initial struggles of both Cal Ripken and Melvin Mora when they shifted to the hot corner. One would expect Tejada to struggle in the first month or two of the season before settling in to be an average third baseman.

Tejada will also be asked to handle the cleanup spot in the order, at least until Matt Wieters is ready to grab the reins. While no longer capable of hitting 25 home runs per season—he hit just 27 in two combined seasons in Houston—Tejada led the National League with 47 doubles in 2009.

Across the diamond, Atkins shifts to first base after primarily manning the hot corner in his seven seasons in Colorado. Atkins has played 105 career games at first, so the transition should not be as drastic as Tejada’s.

The acquisition of Atkins was a curious one with the 30-year-old coming off the worst season of his career (.226, 9 home runs, 48 RBI) and safer options such as Adam LaRoche available. The club hopes Atkins can regain his pre-2009 form when he averaged 25 home runs and 110 RBI over three seasons.

Neither player figures to be in the fold when the Orioles aim to contend in the next few years—both signed one-year deals—but with prospects Josh Bell and Brandon Snyder likely a year away from the big leagues, Tejada and Atkins will be depended on for offense and steady defense on the corners. At the very least, neither contract will come back to haunt the club should either player prove ineffective.

8. How good will Brian Matusz be?

Though the hype hasn’t rivaled the insane expectations for Wieters, Matusz appears set to contend for the 2010 American League Rookie of the Year after starting eight games down the stretch, going 5-2 with a 4.63 ERA.

His 2009 minor league numbers look like something out of a video game, as he went a combined 11-2 with a 1.91 ERA at Single-A Frederick and Double-A Bowie. In fact, Matusz was even better after being promoted to Bowie, going a perfect 7-0 record with a 1.55 ERA in eight starts.

Matusz was fantastic in the spring, finishing with a 2.59 ERA while striking out 21 and walking just three in 24.1 innings.

There’s a reason why he’s on every top-10 prospect list you’ll find this spring. Though Matusz would be hard-pressed to match Mike Mussina’s numbers in his first full year in 1992, don’t be shocked if he’s the Orioles’ best pitcher by mid-season. He might be already.

A scout was recently asked about Matusz in Baseball Prospectus: “He might have been the best pitcher I saw all spring, and I’m not just talking about prospects.”

Need we say more?

9. Is Dave Trembley managing his last season in Baltimore?

While many wondered about Trembley’s job security as the Orioles collapsed down the stretch last season, which included a 13-game losing streak that nearly pushed the club past the 100-loss mark, MacPhail retained Trembley while also declaring the 2010 season would be judged more critically on wins and losses.

It’s clear Trembley has had a near-impossible task trying to win with inferior talent in the AL East, but the skipper cannot expect a free ride either. Baserunning gaffes, poor fundamentals, and questionable bullpen management were major issues in 2009, regardless of who was on the field. It’s no secret the Orioles lack the talent of the Yankees, Red Sox, and Rays, so playing fundamentally-sound baseball is an absolute necessity if the club wants to improve in 2010.

Trembley’s supporters continue to claim he hasn’t had a chance to compete in his three seasons as manager, but the lack of talent cannot excuse some of the problems witnessed in 2009. Having bad players doesn’t mean you’re a bad manager, but it doesn’t mean you’re a capable manager either.

It’s imperative for the club to make significant improvement in 2010, or Trembley will be shown the door at the end of the season—if not sooner.

10. Will the Orioles make it an unlucky number 13?

Twelve years.

Twelve painful, long years.

The Orioles begin the new decade after closing out the first 10 years of the century without a winning season, their last winning campaign coming in 1997.

But unlike most of the last 12 years, it really looks as though the team will improve from where it was a year ago, though it’s difficult to go any direction but up after a 98-loss season. The problem is even a 15-game improvement–a tremendous accomplishment—would only create a 79-83 mark and a 13th straight losing season.

If the Orioles have any hope of a .500 season, they not only have to thrive against the AL Central and West but must find a way to avoid the utter embarrassment experienced last year against the Yankees and Red Sox.

The Orioles were 5-13 against the Bronx Bombers, and the results were even worse with the Red Sox, as Baltimore was an egregious 2-16 against Boston. Another 7-29 mark—far and away their worst record against the two AL East powers over the last 12 seasons—is unacceptable, if not unfathomable.

Forget about money, competitive imbalance, or recent history. A .194 winning percentage over 36 games against the Yankees and Red Sox should never happen.

When it all adds up, the Orioles can make significant improvement in 2010, but it looks like a 13th consecutive losing season is almost inevitable.

A record in the neighborhood of 77-85 will not rejuvenate the fan base immediately, but it would be a sizable step in the right direction.

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I've Got An Offer For You .....

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I’ve Got An Offer For You …..

Posted on 26 March 2010 by Rex Snider

I always enjoy opportunities to meet WNST.net’s listeners and readers. Whether it’s an organized event or just an informal chance meeting, it’s rewarding to actually see the people who SUPPORT us.

So, in the spirit of putting faces to names, I’m going to buy a steak dinner for one of WNST’s fans. Is there a hook? Of course, there’s a hook. But, it’s not a very demanding one …..

Simply predict the Baltimore Orioles win/loss record for the 2010 season. If your prediction is the closest to the team’s actual record, you’ll be the WINNER. And, as a reward, we’ll head downtown on a mutually agreeable evening and I’ll buy you dinner at one of the nicer, upscale steakhouses …..

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Which steakhouse? I don’t know, yet. Please understand WNST benefits from wonderful restaurant clients and it would be unfair to indirectly promote any ONE restaurant over others. Thus, we’ll leave the destination open-ended. But, rest assured, it’ll be a very nice evening.

Even if you’re not a devout baseball fan, it’s still fairly easy to play. Just take 162 games and guess how many of them will end up in the win column, for the Orioles. If you’re thinking 94 wins, so be it. There’s a pretty good chance you’ll stand alone on such a prediction, too.

However, if you are an Orioles fan, you’re probably starting to develop a firm feeling of what these guys are capable of doing.

Of course, you’ll have to consider the likelihood of aging newcomers staying healthy …..
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And the prospect of “Baby Birds” will weigh into your decision, as well …..
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This Orioles team, like many recent editions is fundamentally dependant on 2 or 3 guys having a decent season, and at least one “sleeper” catching us by surprise. If healthy, you can pencil Roberts, Markakis, Jones, Tejada and Scott in for usual, solid contributions. Keep health a factor and the Millwood/Guthrie combination will likely be a positive, too. Finally, toss good sophmore campaigns by Wieters, Matusz and Bergeson into the mix and the Orioles can exceed the typical results of the last decade.

As I said, the team depends on the above cast of characters STAYING ON THE FIELD …..

If the Orioles lose 2 or 3 of them, it’ll be quite difficult to tread water. Of course, the dependable, consistent guys are the keys to the equation. But, the likes of Nick Markakis and Adam Jones are also the surest of bets.

Winning this steak dinner is not as easy as some might think. You can predict the Yankees inside a 10-game window, right? They’ll likley win between 90-100 games. The same goes for the Red Sox. But, the Orioles are quite fragile. I can see them winning as many as 80 ballgames, and I can see them losing 100 games, again, as well.

I think the Orioles are a 20-game window team.

Hmmm ….. that creates a potential problem, right? Provided I receive at least 20 entries, we could end up with a tie between contributions. I’m nowhere near wealthy, so we’ll add a tiebreaker to the mix. Of course, it’s gotta be a good one – almost like a LOTTERY !!!!

The tiebreaker question has to be something NOBODY can rightfully predict. Oh yeah, I’ve got it. In addition to submitting an entry for the Orioles overall record, this season, you’ll also be required to predict how many innings this guy pitches …..
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That’s right, I told you it would be tough. I don’t think anybody knows what to expect from Koji Uehara, huh?

While I’m pretty certain Dave Trembley isn’t really depending on any firm contribution from Koji, he’s likely to be delighted with anything beyond a month or two of decent health.

If Koji left us with any firm impressions after his 2009 campaign, it’s the doubt in his overall durability. He appears to be as tough as Erik Bedard – minus the blistering fastball and sneaky breaker. I know, what’s left? EXACTLY !!!!

It appears Koji is likely to rob David Hernandez of a final bullpen slot. I think that’s unfortunate for a team that is bent on it’s youth growing up together. But, it’s also a topic for another day.

How many innings will Koji pitch, in 2010? He could pitch as many innings as CC Sabathia …..

But, he could also end up pitching as many innings as the local, cat luvin’ tow truck driver …..
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And, therein, lies the more difficult challenge to winning dinner.

Did I mention Ray Bachmann is coming with us? Of course, he is. I’m buying – and he doesn’t eat red meat. Still, it’s a night of hanging out with Rex & Ray (not a very appealing opportunity) and enjoying a meal, together.

Everyone, including WNST personalities, is invited to submit a prediction. However, WNST personalities will participate in representation of a specific fan. Thus, “Bob in Parkville” gets to play, too.

Please submit your predictions by Sunday, March 28th, at noon. I won’t post any predictions until ALL are received and accounted – there’s no need to play “The Price Is Right” and base your prediction on existing, posted ones, if you know what I mean. So, I’ll post all predictions at the same time – on Sunday evening.

Remember – simply predict the Orioles win/loss record, as well as Koji’s total innings pitched, in 2010. The win/loss record is the primary consideration. Koji’s total innings pitched is simply a tiebreaker.

Good Luck …..

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A Long, Hard Look At Nolan Reimold .....

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A Long, Hard Look At Nolan Reimold …..

Posted on 03 March 2010 by Rex Snider

As we sat around on March 3rd, 2009, our respective outlooks on a lot of things looked differently …..

Aside from the sting of absorbing another Steelers Super Bowl victory and a Terps basektball team that served up frustrating and disappointing performances with regularity, baseball fans wanted to believe the Orioles would break their streak of losing seasons.

And, why not? The birds were sporting a brand new look ….. full of retreads.

The starting pitching staff included Adam Eaton, Mark Hendrickson, Alfredo Simon and Koji Uehara. We thought they would perform poorly – yet, they still managed to be even worse.

The bullpen was a mess – and, that’s a polite way of putting it.

And, Gregg Zaun anchored the starting catcher’s position with a .111 batting average throughout the first month.

Still, Orioles fans had HOPE. Regardless of the above listed pile of “misfit toys” nobody else wanted anywhere near their bench, we still hoped things would get better before getting any worse. In fact, I distinctly recall the theme beckoned by many …..

“If the veterans can just tread water until the KIDS arrive ….. after the All Star break.”

Well, we all know how that pipedream ended …..
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As predicted, the pitching was absolutely horrible and those veterans who we hoped could “tread water,” ended up drowning. Indeed, the young prospects started streaming through Bowie and Norfolk, enroute to their ultimate destination, BALTIMORE, a little earlier than expected.

Brad Bergeson pitched very well. And, the heralded arrival of our savior, Matt Wieters, turned out to be a success, too.

Yet, as the orange carpet was being rolled out for Wieters’ first big league at-bat, on May 29th, another prospect was settling comfortably into the lineup, after making his debut just a couple weeks earlier.

One of the first players to struggle, in 2009, was the opening day left fielder, Felix Pie. Touted as a five tool, CAN’T MISS prospect throughout his minor league career, Pie was doing something the experts said he wouldn’t (or should I say CAN’T ….) do, with his impressive talents.

Through the month of April, Pie struggled at the plate with a .157 batting clip. And, if you recall, he looked even worse …..

By mid-May, the Orioles had seen enough – so ALL OF US thought. On May 14th, a move was made and another rookie was added to the lineup …..
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Nolan Reimold made an immediate impact upon seizing the role as starting left fielder. Heck, his first homerun came off Mariano Rivera – and he went deep another 14 times, in just 400 at bats.

It was an impressive rookie campaign and it fueled a starving fan base that has waited beyond rightful understanding to see the “Baby Birds” develop before our eyes. And, to a point Reimold’s success and overall “splash” was kinda unexpected.

While we awaited the eventual promotions of Wieters, Matusz, Tillman and Hernandez, seeing Reimold’s impact was certainly the promising surprise of another dreadful season. And, after those 400 at-bats, everybody is ready to annoint the streaking sophmore part of the long term future of Baltimore’s baseball landscape.

In fact, as the 2010 season is fast approaching and the Orioles assemble the makings of their most promising roster, in more than a decade, many experts and casual observers are penciling Nolan Reimold’s name in the left field slot.

Better yet, most enthusiasts are writing Reimold’s name with a SHARPIE.

I hope we’re right. I will never, EVER root against any player wearing an Orioles uniform. That included, Reggie Jackson, Albert Belle and most recently, Aubrey Huff. So, I absolutely hope to see a less-heralded guy like Nolan Reimold make it.

Nothing would make me happier than to see #14 on Birdland highlight reels for years to come …..
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But, admittedly, I have some reservations. Call me a pessimist or detractor, if you wish. Yet, I’m just trying to be honest with myself, and YOU.

Most observers are hoping Nolan Reimold’s name accompanies Matt Wieters, Adam Jones and Nick Markakis into the long term future of the Baltimore Orioles franchise.

However, I have real concerns.

Did you know Reimold is older than all of the above mentioned players? Yeah, yeah, he’s only a month older than Markakis. But, he’s going to be 27, this year. Not the optimal age for a sophmore season, huh?

Here’s a piece of future trivia for developing an eventual question – Nolan Reimold was born on the day the Orioles won their last HOME World Series game.
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Don’t get me wrong, I’m not dissuaded from hoping Reimold can be a fixture in this town, for a while. He’ll turn 27 AFTER the season – but, I still acknowledge he’s not that optimal aged prospect, if you know what I mean.

To compound my doubts or overall concerns, Reimold has a pretty consistent injury history. In fact, he’s been on the Disbaled List during 4 of his 5 professional seasons. The injuries have been varied and, at times, substantial. He’s had back issues – which concern me with anyone.

Say what you will, players tend to fight the injury bug as they get older.

My final cautionary consideration on Nolan Reimold is I’m not 100% certain he’s the best left fielder on this Orioles team. Being open minded, I believe he has some competition from within the 25 man roster.

Last August, I witnessed a DIFFERENT Felix Pie. He was disciplined, yet, aggressive at the plate. And, that HUGE hole in his swing was gone !!!! Pie looked comfortable and confident whenever he stepped in the box; heck, he looked like he was having fun …..
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While Nolan Reimold probably offers a little more power, Felix Pie has speed on his side. He’s more dangerous on the basepaths and covers more territory in the outfield. He’s been widely touted as the “5 Tool” player, as I’ve mentioned. And, the man who first took a chance on him (Andy MacPhail) hasn’t abandoned hope.

The intangible factors favoring Pie is he’s a little younger (so we think ….) and his injury history suggests he’s a healthier player. Pie has been on the DL only 2 times, in 8 seasons.

Look, I’m not trying to initiate a positional feud – I just think the Orioles are still very much within a phase where long term projections and in-house competition are a GOOD THING.

Heck, in a perfect scenario, Felix Pie and Nolan Reimold both make the most of the respective situations and opportunities. If so, I’d reckon Luke Scott will lose playing time – if anybody does.

As I said during yesterday’s show, I think Nolan Reimold has the makings of a potentially solid big league career. But, I also think Felix Pie might be one of those “diamonds in the rough” or “late bloomers,” if you know what I mean.

If either has a sliver of SUPERSTAR potential, I feel it’s safe to say it’s Pie. But, he could also end up being the biggest disappointment.

Regardless, I don’t think we’re anywhere near approaching a situation similar to the most famous outfield platoon, in Orioles history …..
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I’ll just be happy if Nolan Reimold or Felix Pie translates into a solid, everyday left fielder for this Orioles team. Heaven forbid they’re both successful – that’s a GREAT problem to consider.

I just hope they both get a REAL shot …..

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RAVENS, RANTS & RANKINGS – week 4

Posted on 08 October 2009 by kevinpb

Ravens

Patriots 27 – Ravens 21. The sky is not falling, everybody relax. The Ravens are 3-1 and still in first place with a big showdown with the surprising Cincinnati Bengals coming up this Sunday at home..

Offensively the Ravens got better as the game went on. I thought or biggest advantage on the Patriots would be on the offensive line and I thought they would run the ball more then they did. It makes sense that an effective running game would help control the clock and help stifle the Patriots offense in the process. The Patriots defensive line gave us fits early, but we did wear them down in the second half. We still didn’t run the ball enough throughout the game. The Ravens need to do whatever they need to so that Ray Rice has the ball in his hands 20-25 times a game, whether it be by run or throwing him the ball. He is electric. It is quite clear that Harbaugh and Cameron has complete confidence in Joe Flacco throwing the ball early and often. I like the idea of opening the offense up and I think the confidence in Flacco is warranted, but I feel that ball control would have been a more prudent approach on this afternoon. As of this writing it appears that Jared Gaither is going to be OK and will be back sooner then later. That is terrific news. I heard on the radio, that Mark Clayton was 1 of only 2 NFL receivers not to drop a pass in 2008. He picked a heck of a time to drop his first one in 2 years.

Defensively, the Ravens stopped the run as they always do, but if they did not get pressure on Tom Brady they usually paid the price. The coverage was inconsistent to say the least. On the Randy Moss touchdown, Dominique Foxworth has got to understand with the safety blitz he needs to stay up on Moss and look for the quick pass. Brady basically threw the ball up in the air and Moss was not challenged at all on the catch. For most of the day the Ravens bracketed Moss under and over with the safety and he was not a factor. Wes Welker hurt the Ravens on crossing patterns, and the backs gashed the Ravens on check downs and dump offs. Dawan Landry struggled mightily covering the tight end and slot receivers. He has to be able to cover the tight end better. Both Foxworth and Washington cannot tackle. Their idea of making a tackle is throwing their shoulders at the legs of the ball carrier. I can think of three separate occasions when if either corner would have made the first tackle they would have forced the Patriots to punt. The pass rush was inconsistent but they did succeed in making Brady move in the pocket. Suggs sack and strip of the football was a thing of beauty and completely changed the momentum of the game. Has anybody seen Ed Reed?

Special teams has covered well the lat 2 weeks, but we are sorely lacking on our return game. Chris Carr has not worked out. In the preseason, it was clear that Carr was the choice because the Ravens were more comfortable with his ball handling and ball security, but if he is going to put the ball on the ground, let’s go with the more dynamic Ladarius Webb.

Final thoughts on the game, the Ravens made mental and physical mistakes all day long and still had a chance to win the game at the end. As we were discussing in the final moments of the game, it would have been nice for Joe Flacco to get that signature come from behind win against a real tough team; but it was not to be. I don’t give to much credence to the thought that the roughing penalties killed the Ravens. We got a roughing call in much the same manner when Flacco was hit on one occasion. The calls that killed me were the interference calls, one on Derrick Mason and one on Chris Carr that were just terrible calls! The defensive call was a third down play that extended a Patriots drive. The offensive call stalled a critical Ravens drive.

Rants

College Football Officials or Major League Umpires? It is getting harder to tell the difference. In the LSU-Georgia game this past weekend, the officials had a bearing on the outcome of the game. Georgia scored late on a touchdown pass to AJ Greene to go ahead and he was promptly penalized for excessive celebration. The penalty was assessed on the kick off which led to great field position for LSU who then scored to go ahead. Charles Scott ran 33 yards for a score and was penalized for excessive celebration. And as you might have guessed, this was penalized on the ensuing kick off which led to good field position. Now Georgia did not score, and I really have no vested interest in who one this game; but my concern was the penalties and why they were called. AJ Greene did not approach anyone on the other team, and only celebrated with his teammates. Charles Scott just raised his fingers to the sky and bumped his chest. As touchdown celebrations go these days they were very tame. I detest the “look at me” celebrations on the football field and support penalties for those in excess, but in this case the referees changed the course of this game. For a minute I forgot that I was watching a college football game, and thought I was watching a Major League Baseball game.

Heisman Trophy – Most experts would rank the Heisman Trophy finalists as Tim Tebow, Colt McCoy and Jahvid Best. I think a fourth name needs to be added to the mix, Jimmy Clausen. There is no question that Clausen plays for the weakest team of the bunch (even though Notre Dame is 4-1), but his numbers are off the charts. This year Clausen has a 4-1 record. He is 100-148 passing for 1544yds with 12 touchdowns and only 2 interceptions. His quarterback rating is 179.25. His completion percentage is 67.5%. In his last 3 games he has led the Fighting Irish on late drives that have positioned the team to win. The golden boys of the 2009 quarterback class are commonly thought to be, Tim Tebow, Sam Bradford and Colt McCoy, but ask NFL talent evaluators and they rave about Clausen and Jake Locker of Washington. Of course both Clausen and Locker are juniors

I smell Pay per View – Braylon Edwards and LeBron James put them in the Octagon or put them in the ring, I don’t care, can you imagine the buy rate on that one. I think I should get a percentage since it is my idea.

So that is what Major League Baseball is suppose to be like – It wasn’t a classically played baseball game, but for sheer drama, excitement and finality it was a classic baseball game. The Minnesota Twins beat the Detroit Tigers in 12 innings for the right to face the Yankees in the playoffs. Both teams left everything on the field. As the game wore on the intensity picked up and the Metrodome was electric. It was clear that the players on the field were giving it everything they had. God, I miss good baseball! With that being said…

An open letter to Andy McPhail – Here is how you make the Orioles relevant again; I don’t want the credit, I just want good baseball. First the good, you know the Orioles get beat up pretty good and in most cases it is well deserved, so let’s give them a little credit. They have the best young pitching I have seen in this organization since I was a little kid, and that is a long time ago. Barring injury, Matusz is going to be a top of the rotation guy for a long time. Bergesen was a pleasant surprise. He is the poster boy for the old Oriole mantra, “work fast, change speeds and throw strikes.” Tillman has shown enough that I think he is going to be an effective starter in this rotation for some time. I can’t get passed the fact that the first time I saw him he reminded me so much of Jim Palmer it was scary. I am not trying to put that type of expectation on him, but his physical presence on the mound and his delivery are very similar. Jeremy Guthrie had a bad year, but he is not the only one. I don’t think that his contract issues and the World Baseball Classic did him any favors. So there is 4 fifths of your rotation; and that leaves one spot open in the rotation. While I think Matusz is going to be a stud, I don’t think it is fair to saddle him with that expectation this early. So it is time to sign a front of the rotation guy. The best pitcher out there is John Lackey. Call his agent the moment the Angels are done playing, don’t skimp on the money and bring him to Baltimore. With the rotation set, that leaves us with a woeful bullpen. Let’s face it, as a whole they were God awful. Mark Hendrickson was a real pleasant surprise in the pen and once through a batting order he was very effective. Koji Uehara showed flashes and previously made his living as a reliever. I don’t think he is strong enough to start for a full year, so move him to his comfortable role in the pen. With those two you have your left handed relievers taken care of, in addition to the fact that both can spot start if you need an emergency starter.
Jim Johnson returns to being one of the best set up men as he did for the previous 2 years. Cla Meredith is effective as a side arm situational reliever. Kam Mickolio shows tons of promise and pitched well when used correctly. but he is not yet ready to be a closer. Danys Baez, Matt Albers, Brian Bass and the rest of those cast of characters need to go.
The only spot open is closer. The guy they ought to give the first shot to close is David Hernandez. I like Hernandez, he throws a hard and heavy ball, and he has a bulldog mentality. Next year is the perfect year to try and invent yourself a closer. There is no pressure to win and if we show improvement then it is a win-win situation for all involved. If the team exceeds expectations and you want to make a move you can always make a trade before the deadline.
Offensively, there are a lot of very nice pieces. Up the middle they are solid with Weiters behind the plate, Roberts and Izturis at the middle infield positions and Jones in centerfield. Weiters is getting better behind the plate and he was our hottest hitter in the last month. He will have a monster year in 2010. Roberts in a really good lead off hitter and Izturis is the best defensive shortstop we have had around here is a while, plus his speed and bat in the 9 hole was a pleasant surprise. Adam Jones is a mercurial talent and one of these years will be his breakout year. The corner outfielders with Markakis and Reimold are very capably manned. Nolan Reimold was such a great find. I hope Reimold continues to improve on his play and Markakis is as steady as can be. So the only positions we have open are 1st base and 3rd base. Offensively we are in desperate need of a home run hitter. At third base, we need to move past Melvin Mora. The player they need to sign is Chone Figgins. Now he is not a power hitter but he is an excellent defensive 3rd baseman. He also hits for a high average and is a disruptive force on the base paths. I can’t imagine the chaos that Roberts and Figgins can cause at the top of the Oriole lineup. So the only thing missing is a big time power hitter. The one guy that they should pursue; and in fact, should have signed him last year, is only 50 miles down the road. The Washington Nationals are quietly shopping him around. Go get Adam Dunn. The guy hits 40 home runs a year and drives in 100. He is not a great outfielder or 1st baseman, but we don’t currently have a first baseman of that caliber anyway. I don’t see the downside here. You let him play half the time in the field and DH the rest of the week. He is a proven commodity who has a nasty streak. He is perfect for what this team needs. Ladies and Gentleman if I was the general manager of the Baltimore Orioles below would be the 2010 version.

Batting Lineup

1. Brian Roberts – 2B
2. Chone Figgins – 3B
3. Nick Markakis – RF RESERVES:
4. Adam Dunn – 1B/DH Felix Pie, Ty Wigginton,
5. Adam Jones – CF Robert Andino, Chad Moeller
6. Matt Weiters – C
7. Nolan Reimold – LF
8. Luke Scott – DH
9. Cesar Izturis – SS

Pitchers

John Lackey – SP Mark Hendrickson – RP
Brian Matusz – SP Koji Uehara – RP
Jeremy Guthrie – SP Jim Johnson – RP
Brad Bergesen – SP Kam Mickolio – RP
Chris Tillman – SP Cla Meredith – RP
Jason Birken – RP
David Hernandez – Closer

The only two things left are finances and field management. Let’s take the easy one first, finances. Committing to Lackey, Figgins and Dunn would take money. Dunn already is under contract, and if my numbers are right, he makes somewhere in the neighborhood of 10 million a year. With the shedding of the contracts of Melvin Mora, Danys Baez and Aubrey Huff that should clear roughly 20 -22 million per year. So making a quick calculation we would still be 12 million to the good after adding Dunn’s contract. Considering that we will have to over pay to sign both Lackey and Figgins we should figure on committing 27-30 million in additional payroll to sign both players. Again after applying the additional 12 million in savings, this would mean that we would only add approximately 15-18 million in gross payroll. Increasing our payroll by 18 million from 2009 to 2010 and adding 3 impact players is a bargain.

I have to admit I am all over the map with regards to Dave Trembley. The Orioles wasted no time in committing to bring him back in 2010. I sometimes scratch my head at his in game moves, but it appears he has the support of the players and he has admirably steered this organization through its most turbulent era. He is rock steady and a real company man. He has taken enough bullets for the organization and always comes back for more. It is amazing to me that this man did not completely wig out during this past season. To make all the changes I have outlined above would require some stability at the top. It will also take some time for the new parts to gel. Having veteran stewardship will help the new pieces gel, plus for all he has put up with he deserves the chance to compete on a more even playing field. Basically by bringing Tembley back so quickly, McPhail has taken a mulligan for the 2009 season.

Ok, now I have that off my chest, on to the NFL Power Rankings.

Rankings

1. New York Giants – meet the new boss, same as the old boss… But if Eli is hurt how long will this last.
2. New Orleans Saints – Darren Sharper is doing his best Ed Reed impersonation, or maybe that is Ed Reed, because he hasn’t registered on the Ravens field yet.
3. Minnesota Vikings – Tick…they have been impressive, tick…the defense is tough, tick…Petersen is a beast, tick…when will Brett blow up.
4. Indianapolis Colts – Peyton v. Eli in the Superbowl, what would be the over –under on Manning commercials.
5. Denver Broncos – I still don’t believe they are this good, but hey you have to give then there do.
6. New England Patriots – someone is going to have to put a stake through their heart. Still a good football team.
7. Baltimore Ravens – We didn’t expect them to go 16-0 did we? Big game this week against Bengals.
8. Philadelphia Eagles – McNabb comes back, can he be much better then Kolb the last 2 games?
9. Chicago Bears – Cutler is paying dividends. By the end of the year this might be a real tough team.
10. San Francisco 49ers – I think this team is really underrated. Singletary has made them a good team.
11. New York Jets – Sanchez hit a little bump in the road, let’s see if they can right the ship this week.
12. Cincinnati Bengals – I would feel a lot better about this team if they didn’t almost choke it up against Cleveland last week.
13. Pittsburgh Steelers – Got a big win against the Chargers, it appears Polumalo is coming back. They might be ready to go on a run.
14. Atlanta Falcons – coming off a bye, let’s see if they get back to winning after New England set back.
15. Green Bay Packers – walked into a buzz saw on Monday night. That offensive line might get Aaron Rodgers killed.
16. San Diego Chargers – GM calls the team soft…is there a Norv Turner watch in San Diego.
17. Jacksonville Jaguars – very impressive win against the Titans. Gerard’s best game in 2 years.
18. Houston Texans – Maybe they are beginning to turn the corner, still not sold on Schaub however.
19. Tennessee Titans – It is hard to believe that they are this bad a football team.
20. Arizona Cardinals – they have done nothing to warrant being ranked this high but still a lot of talent. Is Warner done?
21. Seattle Seahawks – Losing Hasselback has kind of derailed them. Still think they are better then their ranking shows.
22. Dallas Cowboys – Wade Phillips is in trouble, the Cowboys are soft.
23. Miami Dolphins – I route for Chad Pennington, but let’s see if Chad Henne is ready to step up.
24. Washington Redskins – think Jim Zorn is feeling any pressure? What the heck are they hiring Sherm Lewis to do?
25. Buffalo Bills – When does T.O. explode. He must feel like he is in Siberia playing for the Bills.
26. Detroit Lions- played Bears tough for a half. They were making strides, let’s hope Stafford does not miss much time.
27. Oakland Raiders – they wouldn’t be bad if their quarterback could make a play.
28. Carolina Panthers – hard to understand why they are winless. They have talent, John Fox is a decent coach, where is the weak link?
29. Kansas City Chiefs – tied for last place
30. St. Louis Rams – tied for last place.
31. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – tied for last place
32. Cleveland Browns – Eric Mangini is determined to completely destroy this team.

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