Tag Archive | "manny machado"

Orioles roster on skates with Machado’s looming suspension, Norris’ groin injury

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Orioles roster on skates with Machado’s looming suspension, Norris’ groin injury

Posted on 25 June 2014 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — With third baseman Manny Machado awaiting a decision on an appeal of a five-game suspension and starting pitcher Bud Norris still dealing with groin soreness, the Orioles are preparing to shuffle their roster over the next several days with various scenarios in play.

Machado had his hearing in Baltimore on Wednesday with executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette and agent Dan Lozano in attendance. Joe Garagiola, Jr., senior vice president of standards and on-field operations for Major League Baseball, was also present as the sides met at the Camden Yards warehouse.

“At this point, there’s nothing to talk about,” Machado told reporters prior to Wednesday’s game against the Chicago White Sox. “Just wait and see how many games I’m going to get suspended. Hopefully, I don’t and just get fined.”

The Orioles remain hopeful that a ruling will not come prior to Friday’s split doubleheader against the Tampa Bay Rays because they are not allowed to fill Machado’s roster spot for however many games he must sit. Manager Buck Showalter acknowledged they would likely need another infielder in Machado’s absence. Logical candidates who could be added include Steve Lombardozzi and Jemile Weeks, who are both on the 40-man roster and currently playing at Triple-A Norfolk.

As far as which pitcher would go to make room for an additional infielder, Norris could figure into that equation as he was still experiencing some discomfort with his right groin while throwing a bullpen session on Wednesday. The right-hander had hoped to make the start in the nightcap of Friday’s doubleheader, but Chris Tillman will go in his place.

For now, the Orioles are optimistic that Norris will avoid the disabled list, but their roster needs with the Machado suspension could complicate that expectation. Showalter announced after Wednesday’s game that Norris would undergo a magnetic resonance imaging exam on Thursday morning.

“I don’t think Friday’s a good option,” said Showalter, who added that Norris is more uncomfortable working from the stretch than the windup. “[He's] a little tentative, but better. I just don’t think he’s quite there yet.”

Showalter added that Norris is still in play to potentially start on Saturday or Sunday, but he will need at least one more bullpen session to see where he is from a physical standpoint. Because of Thursday’s off-day, the Orioles could push Norris as far back as Tuesday before they would need another starting pitcher.

Right-hander Kevin Gausman will start the first game on Friday as the 26th man that can be added for day-night doubleheaders, but the 23-year-old will then return to the minors for the remainder of his 10-day requirement after being optioned to Triple-A Norfolk last weekend. Gausman would be able to return to make his next start next Wednesday, but that would still leave Tuesday unaddressed should Norris not be ready by that point in time.

While they wait to see how quickly Norris continues to improve, the Orioles have several ways to handle the Machado suspension while keeping an eye on a potential need for a starter next Tuesday.

“We have things in place,” Showalter said. “Maybe somebody moves to Bowie to be closer. We’ve got some things in place — infielders, possible pitchers. There are some moving parts on it. We’re trying to prepare for the scenarios.

“Everybody’s in play. And there’s about a 50-percent [chance] that we stand pat [depending on] what happens.”

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Machado suspension hearing set to take place on Wednesday

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Machado suspension hearing set to take place on Wednesday

Posted on 24 June 2014 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — Orioles manager Buck Showalter confirmed that the hearing for third baseman Manny Machado’s five-game suspension will finally take place in Baltimore on Thursday.

The 21-year-old is appealing the discipline handed down by Major League Baseball for a bat-throwing incident that took place against the Oakland Athletics on June 8 and his bench-clearing altercation with Oakland third baseman Josh Donaldson two days earlier. Machado was ejected from the Sunday game before being suspended for five games and fined an undisclosed amount.

Executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette will attend the hearing while Showalter expressed hope on Tuesday that a final decision would not come prior to Friday’s split doubleheader against the Tampa Bay Rays. The Orioles will play a man down for however long Machado is ultimately suspended.

“Some of their precedents have been longer than [a few days] before they’ve announced it,” said Showalter when asked if a decision might not come until after the twin bill. “If [before Friday is] what they decide, you’ve got to take your medicine. I don’t think it needs to be resolved before Saturday. What do you think?”

It remains unclear when a decision will be handed down on the suspension, but the organization and Machado have expressed confidence that the five-game penalty will be reduced.

Athletics relief pitcher Fernando Abad was also ejected from the June 8 game and eventually fined but not suspended for throwing two inside pitches before Machado hurled his bat.

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B&B Big Story Banter: If We Were the Orioles…

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B&B Big Story Banter: If We Were the Orioles…

Posted on 14 June 2014 by Brett Dickinson

By: Brett Dickinson and Barry Kamen 

BK: Another week of Orioles baseball means another set of highs and lows for a team that finds itself fighting for second place in the American League East. The starting pitching has been the team’s bright spot, with Bud Norris, Wei-Yin Chen, and Chris Tillman combining for just 1 run allowed in 21 innings during the rain-filled series with the Boston Red Sox. Kevin Gausman also had his best week as professional, going 2-0 and out-pitching Sonny Gray and Mark Buehrle against the Oakland Athletics and the Toronto Blue Jays respectively.

Despite the great starting pitching, the week was marred by another poor outing from Ubaldo Jimenez and the antics of 3B Manny Machado during the series with the Athletics. If the Orioles are going to compete for a playoff spot in a very winnable division, the team will need both Jimenez and Machado to regain their 2013 form rather than continuing at the pace that they are on.

The news of Manny Machado’s 5 game suspension (which he has appealed) shocks no one who follows the Orioles. Machado’s helmet-slamming and bat-throwing actions were both immature and inexcusable, providing an already potent Athletics team with more motivating to win a series during a difficult road trip. So Brett, I ask you this: if you were the Orioles, how would you go about handling the Manny Machado incident? Was appealing the suspension the right call?

Manny Machado Josh DonaldsonBD: Barry, knowing this organization, I already knew this would be a PR nightmare; and they didn’t disappoint.  First off, having a MASN exclusive interview with him after the incident is simply a joke. We all know who is signing those checks for the TV network and we have seen this many times in the past. Then nobody in the organization has the balls to sit the young man down.  The players had to take action, since it was clear nobody else was.  Embarrassing.

There was no reason at all he should have played that game on June 7th, after his actions the night before with Oakland A’s 3B Josh Donaldson.  Buck should have realized that he was out of control then and benched him on the spot.  As a 21 year old, sometimes you need to be knocked down a peg or two, before things really get out of hand…like they did two days later.  And by having Chen hit Donaldson that same night, it was just a terrible sign of how this team thinks.  ”We like OUR guys” does not mean you have to back them even if they were egregiously wrong.

Now after the episode on June 9th, everyone now sees Machado as a spoiled brat and dirty player.  The organization should have been proactive in this situation and made a point throughout their dugout.  Allowing him to play the night after not only is an embarrassment to the Orioles, but is a sign that Buck Showalter may not be the man for the job.  He proved that he does not have the where with all to stand up to a star player and put him in his place.

Now the appeal is just common practice in the MLB, as their is no repercussions for trying, so why not appeal and hope for a lesser sentence.  As a legal move it makes a lot of sense. As a personal move, if Machado really wanted to prove his sincerity, he just lets this one slide, accepts his punishment as a man and comes back ready to play in five days.

Now on to some good news for the O’s, as they have seen top prospect at least fulfill his expectations for his past two starts, after being called back up to the big leagues.  Thirteen innings, two earned runs and nine strikeouts may be the best two game stretch for any Baltimore pitcher this season (oh by the way the team won both games). If you were the Orioles, what do you do with Kevin Gausman and the starting rotation when Miguel Gonzalez  returns from injury? Is a 6-man rotation still a possibility?

Kevin GausmanBK: I had the privilege of getting a Manny Machado bobblehead (insert joke here) and watching Kevin Gausman in person last Saturday. Prior to the game, I had my doubts about how the evening would play out. Gausman’s first start of the year was against a division leader, with the opponent’s ace taking the mound. Under eerily similar circumstances Gausman rose to the occasion. What made the former LSU product so impressive was the velocity on his fastball (consistently hitting 96-97 mph) and the ability to ramp it up when needed. In the 6th inning, with runners on second and third and one out, Gausman struck out Athletics’ third baseman Josh Donaldson with a phenomenal off-speed pitch, followed by a 99 mph heater to  ring up cleanup hitter Brandon Moss that reminded me of Justin Verlander. By getting out of a jam by striking out the heart of the Athletics’ order, Kevin Gausman had arrived.

After another impressive start from Gausman on Thursday against yet another first place team, it is time for him to become a full-time member of the rotation. Of all of the Orioles starting pitchers, Gausman has already drawn three of the most difficult matchups on the season. By challenging him early, the team is preparing Gausman well for tough division games in August and September. With two straight quality starts, sending the 23-year old back to Norfolk or placing him in the bullpen would be misguided.

The idea of a six-man rotation was first brought up when Johan Santana was added to the roster. The idea was short lived, as Santana tore his Achilles during a start at extended spring training, ending his season. Although Buck Showalter has said that he does not want to go to a six-man rotation to sacrifice an arm in the bullpen, the team has the arms to do so. The extra day of rest for starting pitchers would benefit Chen and Gausman the most, while also giving the team more time to work with Chris Tillman and Ubaldo Jimenez on their early inning struggles. The Orioles also have four bullpen members who have starting experience (Tommy Hunter, T.J. McFarland, Zach Britton, Brian Matusz) that are capable of throwing two-plus innings if needed. This would require the team to make Darren O’ Day the closer, or a by committee approach.

The most likely scenario is for Gausman to stay in the rotation, while Miguel Gonzalez moves to the bullpen. Prior to the oblique injury, Gonzalez had put together a string of nice starts in May. The Orioles have a need for a right-handed reliever to work the 6th and 7th innings when starters like Jimenez and Chen produce high pitch counts, and Gonzalez has experience coming out the bullpen. There is room for both pitchers in a six-man rotation, but the Orioles don’t value the risk-reward as much as others.

 

 

 

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Machado 6-7

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Orioles Have Issues

Posted on 09 June 2014 by Tom Federline

A little over one-third of the way in and this current Oriole team is no playoff contender. At this stage in the game, it does not even look like either of the two wild cards are going to come out of the east division. Don’t get me started on the TWO (2) wild card teams and one game winner-take all scenario. That is bogus! For future (and from a past) blog – I say 142 game season (players salaries adjusted/decreased), season is from mid-April to mid-September, 3 division winners/ 1 wild card, 3 out of 5 Division series, 3 out of 5 Championship series, 4 out of 7 World Series. Season over by 2nd week of October. Ok enough, had to get that out there. Bottom line – O’s at current rate there will be no October ball anyway.

Oriole Issues - challenged starting pitching, questionable middle relief, no closer threat (yet), minimal clutch hitting, to many men left on base, increased errors, no catcher and lack of team discipline. All that and they are in second place of the American League East with a 31 – 30 record. To put in perspective -that is the 7th best record out of 15 teams in the American League and 14th out of 30, in both leagues. It is amazing they have been able to hold on as long as they have, considering the inflated pitching ERA and loss of their major signal caller and part backbone of the team (Wieters).

I see a team not focused. Next time you’re at the Yards, check out the dugout, during and in between innings. Buck-Buck does NOT have a handle on the boys. There should be a rule – ‘No one goes down the tunnel unless you are due up and require warm-ups for your at-bat. No buffet snacking during game. No video games. Just stay out of the tunnel and all it’s amenities.” Watch game, with teammates, on bench. That should not be tough requirement for the over-paid, spoiled, self-indulged roster players. Buck-Buck should remind them of their hourly rate.

I see a major bust in Jimenez. BTW – nice move Orioles magazine editor – putting Ubaldo-more on the cover of the first Oriole magazine this year. See blog from Opening Day – “Play Ball”.  One, maybe two decent games? He’s 2 -7 with a 5.01 ERA. Yeah, there’s a #2 starter for ya. “O” wait-a-minute, that’s right the weather has to warm up in order for him to perform at a comfortable level. Hmmm – seemed pretty warm to me for about a month now.

I saw a youngster breakdown and act his age this past weekend. Well, actually the over-paid, spoiled, self-indulged “star-in-the-making” acted more like a 10 year old. Team discipline? Manny-O-Manny, did you need your Mommy this weekend? Over -reaction on Friday night. Whined all weekend. Lackluster performance on his Bobblehead night annnnnnnnnd thennnnnnnn, yesterdays throwing of the bat. Fine him, suspend him, send him to his room with no snack before bed time. Maybe he was just miffed that they used a JJ Hardy look-a-like bobblehead instead of using the picture of himself he has hanging above his bed as the model.

Whatever the case, Machado still has some growing up to do. Ok, he’s still young, he will be 22 in July. Nope, not buying that one either. He needs a mentor. He needs a taste of Humble Pie.  He needs a butt kicking. He also needs to be put in the 6th hole and out of the #2 spot. He’s an inning killer. In particular, the first inning. Markakis is rolling at that top spot and it’s getting wasted. This is a case for Buck-Buck, Jones or Markakis to take control in the clubhouse. Actually, it’s a job for his parental units. Enough of that embarrassing situation.

The team appears in disarray at the moment. The boys holding this thing together are: Markakis, Jones, Cruuuuuz (until they pop him for juicy juice again) and Hardy. Pitching: Thank you Wei-Yin Chen, Bud Norris and Zach Britton – saving graces. Wieters being out – hurts offensively and defensively. The captain on the field is out and it shows. If the Orioles stay at current pace, it’s going to be a frustrating year. It’s time for Buck-Buck to “Whip It” – Devo. And whip it good! Get the boys back on track. How about one step at a time – just beat the Bosox!

D.I.Y.

Fedman

 

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Machado issues apology for bat-throwing incident over weekend

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Machado issues apology for bat-throwing incident over weekend

Posted on 09 June 2014 by Luke Jones

Prior to Monday’s game against the Boston Red Sox, Orioles third baseman Manny Machado issued an apology for his actions over the weekend against the Oakland Athletics.

Machado completed an interview with MASN but was not made available to any other media outlets for questions besides the team-owned network. The 21-year-old did not specifically mention the bat-throwing incident that occurred after Oakland pitcher Fernando Abad twice threw inside toward his knees, actions that prompted both players to be ejected from Sunday’s game.

He said in the immediate aftermath of Sunday’s game that the bat slipped out of his hands but provided a more regrettable tone with his words a day later.

“I definitely had a nice rest at home and seeing the replay over and over again,” Machado said. “I definitely want to apologize. I want to apologize to all my teammates, my coaching staff, the Orioles organization, and Oakland and to our fans for the way I acted and overreacted on that.”

Machado met with teammates in a players-only meeting on Monday afternoon, and manager Buck Showalter told reporters that the young infielder was showing remorse for his behavior that started with his reaction to a tag on the bases from Athletics third baseman Josh Donaldson on Friday night.

Major League Baseball had yet to rule on any discipline, but Machado was all but guaranteed to receive a suspension for his actions on Sunday, which prompted plenty of negative reaction nationally and locally. The 2013 All-Star selection was unsure when asked if he expected to be suspended for his behavior but acknowledged the possibility.

“Just looking over the replay, it was a frustrating weekend,” Machado said. “We were playing against one of the best teams in all of Major League Baseball. We’re in the heat of it. We’re trying to make the playoffs. We’re trying to win a World Series, and it was a frustrating weekend. I just let my emotions get the best of me.”

Oakland players were harsh in their reactions following Sunday’s game, taking issue with Machado failing to acknowledge or apologize for two different back swings that hit catcher Derek Norris. Norris left the game following the second one to strike him in the back of the head.

Showalter even acknowledged on Monday that he noticed Machado didn’t apologize to Norris for what was perceived to be accidental contact both times.

“I want to apologize to Derek,” Machado said. “That wasn’t intentional. I didn’t realize how hard I had hit him with the bat. I have a tough follow-through, a really long follow-through. At that point, with how the weekend was going, I didn’t really think he would have cared about whether I had showed emotion for him. I do want to apologize for him being taken out of the game.”

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I’m actually glad Machado snapped like a 6-year old yesterday

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I’m actually glad Machado snapped like a 6-year old yesterday

Posted on 09 June 2014 by Drew Forrester

Honestly, I’m glad Manny Machado flipped out in the 8th inning of yesterday’s clubbing administered by the Oakland A’s.

I was a little concerned — selfishly — that I might have opened a can of worms this morning when I bashed him for his silly tirade on Friday night when – GASP! – he was tagged out by A’s 3rd baseman Josh Donaldson.  I assumed a few folks in town would rally behind Machado when I chided him for being an over-sensitive wimp who was angry because Donaldson “tagged him too hard.”

Now you know why I was happy to see Machado go off the reservation yesterday.

There’s no defending him on that — and no defending him for Friday’s episode, either.

He obviously tried to throw his bat at the pitcher yesterday.  That came on the heels of the pitcher trying to hit him (or, at the very least, “send a message”) with the previous pitch.  All of that, I’ll remind you, was part of a Friday night debacle where Machado acted like a complete lunatic after Josh Donaldson tagged him out on a play near third base.  My guess is there was plenty of chirping going on throughout the three games — between both Machado and the A’s — and the A’s quietly said to themselves, “Well, if we can somehow get a 10-run lead on these guys at some point, we’ll deal with the whiz kid.”

Sadly, Machado is turning into the very player we DIDN’T want to see with one of our hotshot rookies.  He has apparently evolved into a cross between Bryce Harper (“I’m untouchable”) and Brett Lawrie (“If things don’t go my way, I just act like a jerk”).  That’s not good.

I have no idea what sort of relationship Buck Showalter has with Machado.  For all I know, Machado might completely march to the beat of his own drum and not listen to anyone, including his manager.  That said, Showalter has a great opportunity to do some real coaching now.  He can either protect his player or tell him the truth.  If he tells Machado the truth, he’s going to hurt his feelings.  But, truth be told, Machado embarrassed himself this weekend.  He embarrassed the organization, too.  And, in a weird way, he’s embarrassing Showalter, too.  If the skipper can’t get his wonder-boy under control, we’ll all be left to wonder if Showalter has any juice (no pun intended) in the clubhouse or is he just the old guy who fills out the lineup card?

All Showalter has to do is have the tough talk with him that no one in the organization is willing to do:  ”Manny, you’re acting like a punk, now.  You can’t spend the rest of your career getting pissed off every time something doesn’t go your way.”

Machado won’t like it.  But it’s the truth.

He’s embarrassing himself.

I assumed he was above that, being 21 years old and a superstar and all.

Apparently not.

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Is it time to be concerned about Manny Machado?

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Is it time to be concerned about Manny Machado?

Posted on 30 May 2014 by Luke Jones

Anyone who expected Orioles third baseman Manny Machado to return from left knee surgery and simply pick up where he left off was hoping for too much.

With so much attention devoted this offseason to the rehabilitation of his surgically-repaired left knee and the question of when Machado would be ready to return in 2014, many forgot that the 2013 All-Star selection and Gold Glove winner is still only 21 years old and far from a finished product. That’s what made such a disruptive offseason so concerning in terms of his development and ability to continue working on his craft.

Through his first 25 games and 112 plate appearances entering Friday’s game, Machado is hitting just .216 with a .555 on-base plus slugging percentage and three extra-base hits after clubbing a league-leading 51 doubles and collecting 68 extra-base hits in his first full season in the majors. Recognized as one of the best defensive players in baseball, Machado has also committed six errors in 87 chances after making only 13 all last season.

Some rust was certainly expected for a talent still more than a month shy of his 22nd birthday, but is it now time to be concerned about Machado’s poor start?

Considering how exceptional Machado’s defense has been from the moment he made his major league debut late in the 2012 season, there’s no doubt that his slow start in the field will turn around. The third baseman has made his fair share of exceptional plays since returning on May 1 and will undoubtedly find the consistency he displayed in his first two seasons in Baltimore.

But Machado’s struggles at the plate aren’t new to 2014 after he struggled significantly down the stretch last year. The right-handed hitter was batting .321 with an .839 OPS on June 30 to seal his first invitation to the Midsummer Classic, but his second half was a different story.

Machado hit only .239 and posted a .638 OPS from the start of July until a gruesome knee injury ended his first full season in the big leagues on Sept. 23, 2013. Despite his impressive gap power, Machado showed flaws in his plate discipline throughout his first full year by drawing only 29 walks in 710 plate appearances.

Strangely enough, Machado has shown better patience at the plate this season, already drawing eight walks and seeing 3.87 pitches per plate appearance compared to 3.53 last year. Looking beyond the conventional statistics, Machado has profiled as a much different hitter in the kind of contact he’s making so far this season.

Machado is hitting fewer line drives (17.9 percent of balls in play to 20.6 percent last year) and fly balls (23.8 percent to 32.3 percent last year) and many more grounders (58.3 percent to 47.1 percent last year), which doesn’t bode well when trying to hit for any kind of power. Such a high propensity for hitting the ball on the ground may work for a speedster such as Houston’s Jose Altuve, but Machado isn’t fast enough to leg out many infield hits and certainly has the frame to drive the ball with authority.

The third baseman’s contact percentage (79.9 percent to 80.1 percent) is nearly identical to what it was last year, so it’s not a matter of Machado swinging and missing more often, but you do wonder if rehabbing his surgically-repaired knee has zapped some strength from his legs that’s necessary for driving the ball. Even as he was struggling in the second half last season, Machado never had a groundball percentage higher than 53 percent in any one month, making what we’ve seen so far this year more perplexing.

Manager Buck Showalter sliding Machado to the No. 7 spot in the order on Thursday was a clear indicator that the Orioles are concerned enough about his slow start to try to alleviate some pressure and allow him to get on track. His defense is too much of a strength to even remotely consider sending him down to the minor leagues unless his slow start at the plate would continue for an extended period of time, but the Orioles need more production from a player who showed the ability to be an elite hitter in the first half of last season.

It’s important not to read too much into his first month of 2014 alone, but Machado is hitting only .234 in his last 411 at-bats going back to last July and is showing few signs of a hitter on the cusp of driving the ball the way he needs to.

Machado certainly isn’t alone in his slow start as J.J. Hardy is still looking for his first home run, but even the shortstop’s .361 slugging percentage dwarfs the .284 mark posted by the third baseman. For some context, the constantly-criticized Ryan Flaherty even has six extra-base hits — and a higher OPS — in 97 at-bats compared to Machado’s three in 102 at-bats.

The third overall pick of the 2010 draft certainly is one of several hitters still trying to find his way, but Machado’s continued development is critical to the club’s future with the likes of Chris Davis, Matt Wieters, Nelson Cruz, Nick Markakis, and Hardy all becoming free agents over the next two offseasons. Machado and center fielder Adam Jones will be counted on to be two of the main pillars of the Baltimore lineup after the 2015 season when the makeup of the roster is likely to be very different.

The first priority was making sure Machado was healthy once again, but the Orioles need to start seeing more signs of the player he’s capable of being to improve their chances of contending in the American League East.

 

 

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B&B Big Story Banter: Orioles Lineup Makeover

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B&B Big Story Banter: Orioles Lineup Makeover

Posted on 23 May 2014 by Brett Dickinson

The week in Orioles baseball has been a memorable one, for better and for worse. After last week’s difficult 1-0 loss to the Kansas City Royals in which Adam Jones and Chris Davis stranded the tying run at third, questions surrounded manager Buck Showalter’s stubbornness with his everyday lineup. With Manny Machado playing every day and batting second, the Orioles most consistent hitter, Nelson Cruz, has now been moved down to the fifth spot.

After a week in which the Orioles have actually put runs on the board with Showalter’s “stubborn” lineup, the team has won just once. Cruz continues to impress, while it appears that Jones has settled in to the three hole with 8 hits in his last 4 games. Which begs the question: Should the Orioles make major changes to their lineup? 

 

FOR By: Brett Dickinson 

Though the Orioles had a decent week at the plate, that does not change the long-term reality for some “stars” in this current lineup.  At the top, Nick Markasis has been steady getting on base as needed with some many run producers batting behind him.  Manny Machado has struggled through his first several weeks, coming off a serious knee injury and missing out on the entire off season.  It may be hindering the team now, but getting the young superstar comfortable is much more important for this team’s success later on.  Hopes are he can start to turn things around and be the same type of player that filled the two hole for the Orioles last season.

But the heart of the lineup is where I see Baltimore Orioles manager Buck Showalter really struggling with his inner demons.  He is consistently not putting his best hitters in the best situations to succeed at their highest level.  Nelson Cruz is certainly an extremely early MVP candidate, yet is left batting in the fifth spot.  Showalter has been loyal to a fault in his tenure with the organization; clearly evident with his handling of Jim Johnson and the closer role last season. The same can be said with the team’s highest paid player (and supposed team leader) center fielder Adam Jones.

When everyone watching the game knows the scouting report on a player (including my own wife, who knows baseball, but doesn’t follow it as intently as most fans), then there is a problem. Just the other night Adam Jones came to the plate; her exact quote as a slider was thrown to the outside corner, into the dirt:

“I’m surprised he didn’t swing at that one…”

Adam JonesJones plate discipline this season has been down right despicable.  Yet he still bats third in a lineup that has struggled to consistently score runs all season.  Buck needs to stop worrying about hurting his feelings and tell the young man he is moving down a couple spots.  It should not matter that he is the “face of the franchise;” if that were true, he should do what’s best for the team without hesitation.  Ideally, Chris Davis should move into his slot, because though he does not have the massive power numbers of 2013, he is getting on base at an alarmingly high rate, taking an massive amount of walks in the process.

This would lead to Nelson Cruz batting cleanup, where he has the potential to come to the plate with runners on base each and every time.  Doesn’t that seem like the smart decision for a guy that among the tops in the entire MLB in home runs and RBI? Moving the free swinging Jones down to the fifth spot should not hurt his approach either, because he really doesn’t have one at this point.  Whether he bats third, fifth or ninth, he is going to swing and swing a lot.

Time to stop being loyal to a player’s past performance and looking at his current contributions Buck!

 

AGAINST By: Barry Kamen 

In the month of May, it is very easy to overreact to things that happen during the course of an entire baseball season. Sure, no Oriole fan likes to see the middle of the order fall flat in a close game. But every fan LOVES it when 3 Orange Crushes leave PNC Park. There are ebbs and flows to every season. The goal of the Orioles in May is consistency, ensuring that the peaks and the valleys are not drastically far away from each other.

Manny MachadoOne way to ensure is consistency is with the lineup. The criticism surrounding Adam Jones is largely unwarranted. The free-swinger is what he is; a .280 hitter with above-average home run and RBI numbers for his position. Jones doesn’t walk, and he is going to strike out more than he should. Fan frustration should not be with Jones, but with the injuries that have plagued the team all season. With Manny Machado’s bat starting to come around after joining the team at the beginning of May, the entire lineup has produced as a result. Assuming no other injuries occur, the Orioles have one of the best 1-5 lineups in all of Major League Baseball. Not only is the top and middle of the order talented, but there are very few mysteries associated with each player. The biggest question mark could very well be Chris Davis, as he works to ensure that last year’s production was not a fluke.

Rather than tinker with the lineup, depth becomes the next issue for Showalter to deal with. David Lough has played himself out of the lineup, and the end might be nearing for the former Royal. With Delmon Young and Steve Pearce in the fold, there is very little reason to keep Lough. It will not be long before Steve Lombardozzi returns to the majors, and could make a significant impact at the bottom of the order. Until then, tread water in May, and prepare for the high tide in September.

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Waiting the hardest part for Orioles’ slumbering offense

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Waiting the hardest part for Orioles’ slumbering offense

Posted on 19 May 2014 by Luke Jones

Memorial Day is rapidly approaching, which brings the unofficial end of the mantra uttered countless times to explain an Orioles offense that continues to sputter over the first seven weeks of the 2014 season.

“It’s still early” doesn’t fly anymore as the season has passed the quarter pole and Baltimore ranks 13th in runs, 12th in on-base percentage, ninth in home runs, and eighth in slugging percentage in the American League. Of course, the Orioles’ free-swinging tendencies and 10th-ranked on-base percentage from a season ago made it clear that the lineup had its flaws, but no one could forecast such a dramatic power outage from a club that led the majors in long balls and was fourth in the AL in runs during the 2013 season.

Save for free-agent acquisition Nelson Cruz, whose 12 home runs are twice the output of any other player on the roster, the Orioles’ power outage has been felt up and down the lineup.

Chris Davis has only three home runs in 30 games after hitting a club-record 53 a season ago. Since returning from a strained oblique on May 11, the first baseman is hitting just .179 and has been out in front of nearly everything, evident by his four groundouts to the right side in Sunday’s loss to Kansas City, instead of waiting to drive the ball the other way like he does when at his best.

J.J. Hardy is without a long ball after hitting 77 in his first three seasons in Baltimore. Early-season back and hamstring issues appear to be in the rear-view mirror, but the All-Star shortstop has yet to find his usual power stroke.

Manny Machado still hasn’t hit a double — he hit a league-leading 51 last year — and has only one home run in his first 73 plate appearances after starting the season on the 15-day disabled list and completing his recovery from offseason knee surgery. The 21-year-old deserves the benefit of the doubt after a seven-month recovery from last September’s injury, but his .240 average in the second half last year reminds us that the third baseman is far from a finished product even when healthy.

Injuries have impacted all three, but the likes of Adam Jones and Nick Markakis have also tailed off in the power department in comparison to their career averages. Of course, the order hasn’t been helped by the elbow injury to catcher Matt Wieters, who was off to the best offensivee start of his career prior to being placed on the disabled list earlier this month.

So, what is manager Buck Showalter to do?

Short of taking a closer look at alternative options at second base, catcher, and left field (or designated hitter if the Orioles elect to have Cruz play in the outfield), there isn’t much to be done except continuing to run the aforementioned players out there on a daily basis.

For some perspective, Davis hit only five homers through May 19 of the 2012 season before ultimately hitting 33, a reminder that a hot stretch or two would put any of these players back on a favorable pace in the power department. In Davis’ case, reaching 53 home runs was always going to be extremely difficult, but he’s still more than capable of posting big numbers in 2014 despite the slow start.

The club’s poor on-base percentage and inability to work counts are valid criticisms and a conscious effort should be made to enhance those areas, but only marginal improvement should be expected when you’re talking about veteran hitters who’ve carried a given approach — flawed as it may be — throughout their careers. Free swingers don’t suddenly transform themselves into selective hitters at the big-league level unless you want to stunt their biggest strengths in the process.

If Showalter wants to change the mindset of veterans who might be pressing, a shakeup of the order might be a simple way to rejuvenate a group clearly capable of much better. Here’s only one example of what could be done:

RF Markakis
DH Cruz
1B Davis
CF Jones
LF Delmon Young/Steve Pearce
C Steve Clevenger
3B Machado
SS Hardy
2B Jonathan Schoop

Such an order would provide Davis with a better on-base percentage option in front of him while also taking some pressure off Machado as he tries to get his 2014 season on track. Showalter also prefers keeping his lineup balanced with right-handed and left-handed hitters to make it more difficult for opposing managers to match up with their bullpen arms late in games.

This alignment would call for Young or Pearce to be in the lineup regularly, which is preferred if the Orioles are to continue carrying both on the 25-man roster. Neither has played much since Davis’ return from the DL.

Are those suggested changes dramatic? Of course not, but there is only so much you can try as a manager when so many core members of your lineup are sputtering. Staying the course sounds cliched, but it’s the only real choice in trusting that proven track records will ultimately prevail over the results of the first 42 games of the season — as concerning as they might be.

Hitting the “Lough” point

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Why Orioles Road Woes Don’t Spell Trouble

Posted on 05 May 2014 by Brandon Sacks

The Baltimore Orioles lost two out of three games to the Minnesota Twins after coming off a strong double header against the Pirates.  The Orioles scored  six runs during the entire Twins series and used a very depleted bullpen that was coming off short rest from the double header.  As the Orioles head to Tropicana Field in Tampa Bay, fans should think about one thing – there is no real problem yet with the Orioles.

You may ask how scoring six runs during a three game series is not actually a problem or how using too many pitchers each game is not a problem.  While there were some problems with the series just played, there haven’t been any serious problems as of yet.  Here’s why.

Ubaldo Jimenez, the $50 million free agent signed in the off season, might finally be coming to mid-season form.  While his performance was sub-par during his first few starts, he finally notched his first win as a Baltimore pitcher.  In his outing in Minnesota, he went 7.1IP and fanned 10 in the Orioles 3-0 shutout of the Twins.  Jimenez, often criticized as being a massive bust by the Orioles organization, looks to be trying to prove his haters wrong.  This last outing may just be a glimpse of why the Orioles signed him for the next four years to be one of our starting pitchers.

Manny Machado is back and ready to play every inning.  Back in September, we did not know how long it would take for Manny to come back and be ready to play again.  After starting in his first game of the season with the Orioles in the second game of the double header against the Pirates, he has shown that he is absolutely ready to get back into the swing of things.  Since coming back, he has made plays that fans would not have expected Schoop or Flaherty to make in the same position.  Once he finds his swing and starts hitting again like he did last year before the injury, Manny will once again become one of the premiere players in the league.

The Orioles currently sport a 15-14 record and are second place in the AL East.  There is no team in sole possession of last place at the moment because three are tied at 15-17.  Toronto, Boston, and Tampa Bay are all two games back from the division leader New York Yankees.  The Yankees currently have a 16-14 record, which is a half game up on the Orioles.  What’s the point here?  The Orioles are in the toughest and closest division in baseball.  While losing one or two games may swing them out of second place, picking up a game or two on the division leader would put the birds in first place.  One game is all it will take to thrust the Orioles into first place in the division.

The bottom line here is that the Orioles are not in as bad of shape as they could be considering the outcomes of some of the recent games.  If fans really want to worry about the team, that should wait until the middle of the season.  With Chris Davis coming along with his oblique strain, it isn’t long before the Orioles have a completely healthy starting lineup, which could be one of the most dangerous lineups in all of baseball once the bats come alive.  The Orioles are still in a pretty good spot, and until the middle of June, we won’t really be able to tell what to expect from the O’s as the season continues to progress.  Until then, we can keep cheering for the birds as they look to win every series from here on out.

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