Tag Archive | "matt wieters"


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What will Wieters bring to 2015 Orioles?

Posted on 04 June 2015 by Luke Jones

It was just over six years ago when Matt Wieters made his major league debut.

At the time, the Orioles were in the midst of their 12th straight losing season and in search of a savior. The fifth overall pick of the 2007 draft was deemed by many as the next Johnny Bench or at least Joe Mauer with power, but it never quite worked out that way despite Wieters having a good career before undergoing Tommy John surgery last June.

Six years later, the defending American League East champions may not need a savior, but they sure need a lift after losing five of their last six to fall five games below .500, their worst start since the 2011 season. They hope their three-time All-Star catcher can provide the kind of spark that can help turn their fortunes around.

Of course, expectations should be realistic as Wieters will return to the major leagues for the first time in nearly 13 months Friday night in Cleveland. It remains unclear when he’ll be ready to catch on consecutive days, but the Orioles will take what they can get from the 29-year-old, who is scheduled to become a free agent after the season.

“All feel. It’s going to be a slow process with it,” said Wieters last week about his part-time status as a catcher. “I’ve sort of come to terms with it that it’s not going to come just like that back to catching four, five days in a row. It’s all by feel. Every other day is better than not playing at all for me right now.”

Of course, no one is suggesting that Wieters alone will make the dramatic difference on the field as the emotional lift of his return might be the biggest short-term benefit for an Orioles club desperately trying to regroup. After losing two clubhouse leaders in Nick Markakis and Nelson Cruz over the winter, the club will welcome back one of its most respected members with open arms.

Caleb Joseph, the Orioles’ primary catcher over the last year, has played admirably in Wieters’ place from a defensive standpoint and has improved his offense in his second major league season. With the likelihood of Wieters departing via free agency, many view Joseph as an acceptable replacement — at least for a year or two.

For the time being, Joseph will continue to be a major part of what the Orioles do as he and Wieters alternate catching duties.

“He’s done great. I’m real proud of that guy,” Wieters said of his understudy. “To see as far as he’s come defensively is really amazing. He really put the time in and the effort in and really worked to make himself I feel like one of the better defensive catchers in the league.

“That’s saying something for a guy who for a while was thought of as an ‘offensive’ catcher. To really take the time and effort that it takes to making yourself good defensively, a lot of credit goes out to his work ethic.”

As well as Joseph has played, that doesn’t mean he’s as good as a healthy Wieters.

And therein lies the great unknown.

What exactly will the Orioles be getting with the return of the veteran backstop? Will he still provide plus offense at his position and Gold Glove-caliber defense as a part-time starter?

His opposite-field home run for Triple-A Norfolk on Wednesday was a good way to conclude a rehab assignment in which he hit .313 with a homer and three RBIs in 19 plate appearances. Perhaps the absence of the wear and tear of catching over the last year will do wonders for his offense, which would be a positive development for a Baltimore offense that’s been horrendous since early May.

The Orioles can’t truly know how this will go, but they’re welcoming the opportunity to find out at this point.

If anything, they hope a change in karma will do them good.

Wieters won’t be a savior, but the Orioles hope he can be a catalyst to help turn around their season.

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Orioles send De Aza to Boston for minor-league pitcher, cash

Posted on 03 June 2015 by Luke Jones

After designating Alejandro De Aza for assignment last week, the Orioles announced Wednesday that they had traded the veteran outfielder to the Boston Red Sox.

Baltimore received minor-league pitcher Joe Gunkel and cash considerations in return as Boston is dealing with outfielder concerns of its own so far in 2015. De Aza was hitting .214 with three home runs and seven RBIs this season and carries a $5 million salary for the 2015 season.

The 23-year-old Gunkel is from nearby Hershey, Pa. and was an 18th-round selection in the 2013 draft. He carries a 12-7 career record with a 3.05 ERA in 54 appearances — 20 of them starts — over three professional seasons while fanning 178 over 165 innings.

In 2015, Gunkel is a combined 3-2 with a 2.90 ERA split between Single-A Salem and Double-A Portland. He will be assigned to Double-A Bowie in Baltimore’s farm system.

In other news, right-handed pitcher Bud Norris completed his final rehab start pitching for Triple-A Norfolk, completing four hitless innings and retiring 12 of the 13 hitters he faced. He could be activated from the 15-day disabled list to make Sunday’s start in Cleveland, but it remains to be seen whether he will pitch effectively enough to stay in the starting rotation after a nightmarish beginning to the 2015 campaign.

Sunday would be rookie Mike Wright’s turn in the rotation.

Catcher Matt Wieters went 3-for-5 with a homer, two singles, a walk, and one RBI for the Tides in the final two games of his minor-league rehab assignment as he caught the opener and served as the designated hitter in the nightcap of Norfolk’s doubleheader. He is expected to be activated from the 60-day DL on Friday to play in his first game for the Orioles since May 10, 2014.

Lefty reliever Brian Matusz had his appeal hearing for his eight-game suspension on Wednesday afternoon with manager Buck Showalter and executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette in attendance. It remains unclear when a decision will be rendered on whether he will serve the full suspension for having a foreign substance on his right forearm while pitching in a game at Miami on May 23.

To prepare for Matusz’ absence and to give themselves extra length in the bullpen, the Orioles recalled left-handed pitcher T.J. McFarland from Norfolk and optioned right-hander Oliver Drake to the Tides. Baltimore will be forced to play a man short on the active roster during the suspension.

Shortstop J.J. Hardy was out of the lineup for the third straight game Wednesday night as he deals with a left oblique issue. The Orioles hope he can avoid the 15-day DL, but it remains unclear when he will return to the lineup.


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Thoughts on Tillman’s struggles, Pearce, Jones

Posted on 01 June 2015 by Luke Jones

Even as Orioles pitching took a step forward with the second-best team ERA in the American League in the month of May, staff ace Chris Tillman has been unable to shake his early-season woes.

The 27-year-old allowed six runs (five earned) in 4 2/3 innings in Sunday’s 9-5 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays, dropping his record to 2-7 with a 5.94 ERA after he went 13-6 with a 3.34 ERA a year ago. Many have wondered if Tillman’s back spasms last month have continued to linger — he’s no stranger to needing to manage his cranky back over the last few years — but the 6-foot-5 hurler insisted again Sunday that he’s fine from a health standpoint.

If Tillman isn’t dealing with a physical issue, then what’s been different for the right-hander in 2015?

It’s important to note that early-season struggles plagued Tillman a year ago before he posted a 2.38 ERA over his final 21 regular-season starts of 2014. In his first 13 starts of the season, he pitched to a 5.20 ERA and had two different starts that lasted just one inning apiece before an impressive stretch of 20 consecutive starts in which he allowed three or fewer earned runs.

There’s plenty of time for a pitcher who’s posted 200-plus innings in consecutive seasons to turn it around, meaning the Orioles must remain patient for the time being.

Another factor that’s clearly been a concern in the first two months is Tillman’s rate of 4.8 walks per nine innings, his worst since averaging 5.2 free passes per nine in 2011. Both innings in which Tampa Bay scored multiple runs against Tillman on Sunday involved a critical two-out walk, one to .077 hitter Nick Franklin in the second inning and another to slugger Evan Longoria after the starter had struck out the first two hitters of the fifth.

Tillman walked only 2.9 batters per nine innings last year and 3.0 in 2013 when he was named to his first All-Star team.

Perhaps the most interesting change from 2014 to now is the absence of veteran catcher Nick Hundley, who departed via free agency in the offseason. Hundley caught 18 of Tillman’s career-high 34 starts last season with the pitcher posting a 2.78 ERA in those outings. In contrast, Tillman had an inflated 5.29 mark in the seven starts in which Caleb Joseph caught.

It’s neither an excuse for Tillman nor an indictment of Joseph — who’s more than proven his defensive capabilities behind the plate in the last two seasons — but could there simply be some chemistry issues between the two? That’s not to suggest a personal rift by any means, but many of us have experienced times in life when we haven’t necessarily worked best with certain individuals for whatever reason.

In fairness to Joseph, Tillman sports a 4.19 ERA with him behind the plate this season while the starter gave up 15 earned runs in three starts when now ex-Oriole Ryan Lavarnway was catching.

Asked late last season about the frequent pairing of Tillman and Hundley, manager Buck Showalter made it clear he was uneasy about pitchers having personal catchers because it can act as a crutch. Even if Tillman isn’t as comfortable with Joseph behind the plate as he was with Hundley, he’s not one to make excuses and needs to be able to adjust to someone who’s had plenty of success with the rest of the pitching staff.

The idea of certain pitchers having personal catchers is nothing new as Dennis Martinez famously preferred Dave Skaggs over Rick Dempsey years ago. In 1997, backup Lenny Webster caught 30 of Scott Erickson’s 34 starts when the sinkerballer enjoyed his best season in Baltimore.

Of course, Hundley isn’t walking through that Orioles clubhouse after signing a two-year, $6.5 million contract with Colorado in early January. But perhaps the return of Matt Wieters will help Tillman regroup as he pitched to a 3.41 ERA in 28 starts with the veteran catcher behind the plate for him in 2013.

As it stands now, Wieters is slated to catch his first game with the Orioles in Cleveland on Friday night.

That also happens to be the next date for Tillman’s regular turn in the rotation.

First-pitch Pearce

Arguably the most frustrating moment of Sunday’s loss came in the bottom of the fifth when Steve Pearce grounded out to shortstop with the bases loaded and the Orioles trailing 6-2 to the Rays.

What made it worse was that Pearce swung at the first pitch — a split-fingered fastball from Jake Odorizzi — after the previous two hitters had walked on a total of nine pitches. It continues a surprising trend for Pearce, who is hitting just .189 but has been known for being a patient hitter throughout his career.

The 32-year-old is swinging at the first pitch in 33.1 percent of his 2015 plate appearances despite a career 22.5 percent mark and only swinging at the first pitch 24.5 percent of the time in his career 2014 campaign. This has contributed to his walk rate falling from 10.4 percent last year to just 7.3 percent this season, which is below the major league average.

He does have two key home runs when swinging at the first pitch in recent weeks, but his .222 average when connecting on the first pitch — that’s not including the number of times in which he’s falling behind in the count when not putting the ball in play — makes you wonder if he needs to return to a more patient approach. This and a .195 batting average on balls put in play (his career mark in that department is .286) explain why Pearce hasn’t come close to matching his career-best .930 on-base plus slugging percentage from a year ago.

Showalter and the Orioles love Pearce’s work ethic and versatility and are trying to remain patient that his fortunes will turn around, but they need him to start producing soon as he was a key cog on which they were counting after a largely-inactive offseason.

As Jones goes, so do Orioles

It’s unfair to attribute the successes or struggles of any club to one player, but it’s difficult to completely ignore how the Baltimore offense has aligned with center fielder Adam Jones so far in 2015.

In April, Jones posted a remarkable .400 average and 1.147 OPS with five homers and 19 RBIs while the Orioles ranked first in the American League in team OPS and were tied for first in home runs.

However, the four-time All-Star selection hit just one home run while posting a .239 average and .556 OPS in the month of May. Jones wasn’t alone in his struggles, of course, as the Orioles ranked last in the AL in batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage in May while scoring fewer runs than every club in the league except Boston.

Jones was bound to cool off from his absurd April production, but the Orioles obviously need his bat to turn around once he returns from a mild ankle sprain. It’s never as simple as one player being responsible for prosperity or shortcomings, but the club needs its best player and leader to get going for the summer months.

Road “w-O’s” must end

There was obvious disappointment that the Orioles didn’t take advantage of a stretch of 17 of 20 games played at home — going just 10-10 over that time — and now they will play 15 of their next 23 on the road.

Baltimore tied for the second-best away mark (46-35) in the AL last year, but an 8-14 road record this season is a major reason why the Orioles have hovered below .500 for much of the first two months. Of those eight road victories, four have come at Tropicana Field, which included two in a series moved from Camden Yards to St. Petersburg in which the Orioles acted as the home team and batted last.

Even if Showalter’s club simply wants to remain within striking distance of first place and the .500 mark, the road failures need to be reversed starting this week against Houston and Cleveland.

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Wieters could be activated Thursday in Houston

Posted on 01 June 2015 by Luke Jones

Originally slated to make his return to the Orioles in Cleveland on Friday, catcher Matt Wieters could be back a day sooner than expected.

Following Sunday’s 9-5 loss to Tampa Bay, manager Buck Showalter confirmed the Orioles had adjusted their plans with Wieters, who is eligible to be activated from the 60-day disabled list on Thursday. Previously scheduled to catch at Single-A Frederick on Monday and at Triple-A Norfolk on Wednesday, Wieters will instead catch for Norfolk on Tuesday, the same day Bud Norris will make his final rehab start.

“He’s ready to go, at-bats and everything,” Showalter said. “He needs all the time, but looking forward to getting him on [Thursday] if everything goes well Tuesday. Or [Friday].”

The revamped timing would allow Wieters to join the Orioles in Houston and to serve as the designated hitter in Thursday’s series finale, according to Showalter. It appears to be no coincidence that the club would like to have Wieters work with Norris, whose 2015 woes have carried over into his minor-league rehab assignment where he’s allowed 13 earned runs in 7 2/3 innings. Norris was placed on the 15-day disabled list last month after a nasty bout of bronchitis.

Showalter has said repeatedly that the plan is for Norris to rejoin the starting rotation upon being activated, but rookie Mike Wright has pitched to a 1.40 ERA in his first three major league starts. k

Wieters last played Saturday at Double-A Bowie and appeared in three games for the Baysox, going 2-for-11 with two RBIs and a walk and throwing out the only runner who attempted to steal a base.

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Wieters set to return next Friday in Cleveland

Posted on 29 May 2015 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — Matt Wieters hasn’t played in a game for the Orioles in over a year, but the veteran catcher has finally learned when he’ll make his 2015 season debut.

Manager Buck Showalter announced the 29-year-old will return to the major league lineup next Friday in Cleveland after undergoing Tommy John surgery on June 17, 2014. Currently catching every other day, Wieters began his minor league rehab assignment at Double-A Bowie on Monday and is 2-for-9 with one RBI in his first two games and also threw out the only runner who attempted to steal a base.

“I’m not going to jinx it. I’ve already talked about it more than I should,” said Showalter about how much he’s looking forward to Wieters returning. “You can tell Matt feels good. I watched the last two innings last night and I called him on the way home. You can just tell in his voice and in his body language that he’s real close.”

Wieters will once again catch for Bowie on Saturday before playing at Single-A Frederick on Monday and Triple-A Norfolk on Wednesday before joining the Orioles on their road trip. The three-time All-Star selection hasn’t caught for Baltimore since May 4 of last season and last played in a game for the Orioles serving as the designated hitter on May 10, 2014.

Despite the fact that Wieters hasn’t yet begun throwing on non-catching days, Showalter said the Orioles would not be required to carry a third catcher unless they want to when he’s activated next Friday. There had been some thought that the club might need to keep both Caleb Joseph and Steve Clevenger if Wieters wouldn’t be able to catch on consecutive days because of a potential injury to the other catcher. Showalter said he’s spoken to Wieters about that scenario and he’s prepared to catch a second straight game if something would happen to Joseph.

Friday marked the six-year anniversary of Wieters’ major league debut as he is now in his final year of club control before he can become a free agent this offseason.

Gausman looking forward to Norfolk

Right-hander pitcher Kevin Gausman threw 32 pitches to live hitters at Camden Yards on Friday and is expected to start at either Norfolk or Frederick on June 6.

Placed on the 15-day disabled list with right shoulder tendinitis on May 8, Gausman will throw a bullpen session on Sunday and a two-inning simulated game in Houston on Tuesday before being sent to the minors. The Orioles are in the process of once again stretching out the 24-year-old as a starter, who threw all of his pitches against a group of hitters that included Wieters and Clevenger on Friday afternoon.

“No fatigue and I don’t feel anything in my shoulder,” said Gausman, who acknowledged the recovery process being slower than he initially anticipated. “The biggest thing was just getting out there and getting guys in the box and seeing how my body was going to react. But everything felt good. Now, it’s just going forward.”

With rookie Mike Wright currently pitching well in the Baltimore rotation, Showalter is pondering the next step for right-hander Bud Norris, who is on the DL while recovering from bronchitis. Norris’ obvious struggles dating back to the spring as well as Wright’s effectiveness will make for an interesting decision.

And that’s not even counting what to do with Gausman once he’s stretched out as a starter in the coming weeks.

“I haven’t talked to [Dave Wallace], but I did kind of hear from the trainers,” said Showalter about Gausman’s session on Friday. “He feels good. I know Kevin thinks we’re being a little overcautious with it. He wants to pitch now, but it’ll happen and be here sooner than you think.”

Lough receives consecutive starts

The decision to part ways with outfielder Alejandro De Aza has created more opportunities for the little-used David Lough, who started consecutive games Thursday and Friday for the first time since June 9-10 of last season.

Lough has primarily served as a late-inning defensive replacement and pinch runner in his two seasons with the Orioles, but the lack of production from the corner outfield spots makes it fair to ask whether the 29-year-old should receive an extended look. He’s hitting .278 with one home run, two RBIs, and a .694 on-base plus slugging percentage in 41 plate appearances this season.

“It’s not what I usually get, but I’m definitely trying to take advantage of it and do what I can to help out,” Lough said prior to starting Friday’s series opener against Tampa Bay. “It’s as hard as anyone could imagine, believe me. Getting a couple starts and then going to the bench for five or six days can be really tough. It’s a tough job, but I’ve kind of embraced it. I try to go out there when I do get my chance and try to help out as much as possible.”

Odds & ends

Showalter decided against bringing up a reliever for Friday’s game, saying that all members of the bullpen were available but there were a few he’d like to stay away from if possible.

Minor-league catcher Jonah Heim will undergo surgery after injury his foot at Single-A Delmarva.

The appeal hearing for left-hander Brian Matusz’s eight-game suspension is scheduled for Wednesday. The Orioles would not be allowed to replace him on the roster while he serves any potential suspension.

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Wieters feeling good after first game of rehab assignment

Posted on 27 May 2015 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — After appearing in his first game at Double-A Bowie since 2008, Orioles catcher Matt Wieters felt good a day after beginning his much-awaited minor-league rehab assignment.

Eligible to be activated from the 15-day disabled list on June 4, Wieters went 2-for-4 with a pair of singles and threw out a runner trying to steal second base in his first professional regular-season game since May 10, 2014. With the 29-year-old still only catching every other day, the Orioles hoped Wieters would feel good the morning after beginning his rehab stint.

“I felt good. I thought yesterday went well,” Wieters said. “I felt good when I woke up this morning. That’s the big thing. Hopefully, keep feeling like we did yesterday and we should be good to go.”

Wieters will once again catch for the Baysox on Thursday and Saturday before the Orioles then decide where he will continue his rehab assignment. Manager Buck Showalter said it was possible that Wieters could serve as the designated hitter at Bowie on days he wasn’t scheduled to catch, but the veteran suggested that he feels pretty good at the plate and took batting practice at Camden Yards before Wednesday’s game against Houston.

Barring any setbacks, Wieters is expected to be activated by the latter half of next week despite the fact that it will be a while before he’s ready to catch on consecutive days. With Caleb Joseph sporting a .274 average with four home runs and 18 RBIs entering Wednesday, the Orioles can live with the idea of Wieters not being ready to handle his normal workload.

With Wieters not even throwing on non-catching days yet, the Orioles may need to give stronger consideration to keeping a third catcher than most would have thought. That would figure to be Steve Clevenger, who would give the Orioles another left-handed bat off the bench and is capable of playing some infield in a pinch.

For now, Wieters can see the light at the end of the tunnel while acknowledging his return to the Orioles won’t be the end of his long recovery from Tommy John surgery.

“It’s all feel, and it’s going to be a slow process with it,” Wieters said. “I’ve sort of come to terms with that. It’s not going to come just like that — catching four, five days in a row. It’s all by feel. The ‘every other day’ thing feels good now, and as soon as that little bit of soreness that we do have in between [is gone], we’ll start by picking up a ball on the day after I catch and go from there.

“Every other day is better than not playing at all for me right now.”

Bundy MRI confirms tendinitis

Executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette said a magnetic resonance imaging exam on pitching prospect Dylan Bundy’s right shoulder confirmed the initial diagnosis of tendinitis.

Fortunately, there was no structural damage to the shoulder despite the MRI showing some inflammation. Duquette said Bundy has been prescribed rest as well as anti-inflammatory medication before the Orioles reevaluate when he’ll begin throwing again.

Bundy last pitched on May 21, a four-inning start that was his longest outing of the season as the organization was monitoring his innings in the early portion of the season. He is 0-3 with a 3.68 ERA and 25 strikeouts in 22 innings of work at Bowie.

Cuban left-hander Miranda signed

The Orioles officially announced the signing of Cuban left-handed pitcher Ariel Miranda on Wednesday.

The 25-year-old Miranda went 22-25 with a 3.78 ERA in seven seasons in the Cuban National Series. The plan is for him to report to Sarasota to get into better baseball shape before the organization assigns him to Bowie or Single-A Frederick, according to Duquette.

Wilson, Wright to start Thursday’s doubleheader

Showalter announced that right-hander Tyler Wilson will be called up as the Orioles’ 26th player for Thursday’s doubleheader and will start Game 1 against the Chicago White Sox.

Fellow rookie right-hander Mike Wright will start the nightcap of the single-admission twin bill beginning at 1:05 p.m.

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Counting down to Wieters return, Orioles add Clevenger to mix

Posted on 26 May 2015 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — On the same day Matt Wieters began a rehab assignment at Double-A Bowie, the Orioles recalled Pigtown native Steve Clevenger from Triple-A Norfolk and designated catcher Ryan Lavarnway for assignment.

Looking for more offense as well as some versatility off the bench, the Orioles elected to bring up Clevenger, who has played first base, second base, and third base in addition to catching in his minor-league career and was hitting an impressive .352 with an .864 on-base plus slugging percentage in 91 at-bats for the Tides. Meanwhile, the 27-year-old Lavarnway was just 3-for-28 in sporadic playing time behind starter Caleb Joseph this season.

In Sunday’s loss to Miami, Lavarnway went 0-for-4 and left seven runners on base in his final three plate appearances.

The Orioles have challenged Clevenger to improve his defense, and manager Buck Showalter said the 29-year-old has done that, throwing out 32 percent of runners attempting to steal in the International League this season. Clevenger appeared in 35 games for the Orioles last season before being demoted in favor of Joseph and Nick Hundley when Wieters was lost for the season due to Tommy John surgery.

“I went down there on a mission,” Clevenger said. “Coming into spring training this year, I wanted to focus more on my catching and I tried to do that. I went down [to Norfolk] and played very well and just tried to concentrate on my catching and helping the pitchers do what they can do best and not worry about anything else. I was playing solid defense down there.”

The initial plan for Wieters is to have him catch every other day at Bowie — he could serve as the designated hitter on the non-catching days — with the goal of activating him when he becomes eligible on June 4. His return would likely push Clevenger back to Norfolk, but Showalter didn’t rule out the possibility of the club keeping three catchers since Clevenger does provide a left-handed bat off the bench with the ability to play other infield positions in a pinch.

The Orioles would like to keep Lavarnway in the organization, but they will gauge interest from other clubs before trying to pass him through waivers and outright him to Norfolk. The former Boston Red Sox product may decline a minor-league assignment and become a free agent, however.

Showalter acknowledged that Clevenger is probably better equipped to handle infrequent playing time, but the Norfolk coaching staff provided favorable reports about his defensive progress this season.

“I try to be blunt to a fault about what they need to do while they’re there,” Showalter said. “I talked about continuing to be engaged with the pitcher and catching and throwing. I said, ‘You’re going to be out of options next year, you’re going to control all this. Try to present yourself for us and everybody else in the game as good as possible. Go down there and lead the league in hitting.'”

Clevenger didn’t have enough plate appearances to qualify, but his average ranked second in the International League batting race at the time of his promotion.

Hardy returns to lineup

A day after being removed in the eighth inning of the series opener against Houston due to back stiffness, shortstop J.J. Hardy returned to the Orioles lineup Tuesday night.

The 32-year-old said he was feeling better and likely benefited from sleeping in his own bed after hypothesizing that a soft hotel mattress in Miami caused the problem over the weekend. Hardy spent the entire offseason focusing on strengthening his core in hopes of avoiding the nagging back spasms that limited him to just 141 games and nine home runs in 2014.

“It is definitely experience,” said Hardy about past problems giving him a good indicator. “When I first went through back issues, I didn’t know what to do, and now I feel like I have a pretty good handle on it. I think Buck definitely made the right decision, but I still wanted to stay in there [Monday].”

Bundy’s shoulder OK

After being scratched from Tuesday’s start at Bowie, pitching prospect Dylan Bundy’s shoulder examination went well with Showalter saying there were no structural concerns.

However, the 22-year-old told reporters in Bowie he planned to undergo a magnetic resonance imaging exam on his right shoulder on Wednesday just to be on the safe side. He was prescribed anti-inflammatory medicine for a mild case of shoulder tendinitis.

The 2011 first-round pick is 0-3 with a 3.68 ERA in eight starts (22 innings) for the Baysox this season.

Flaherty returning

Infielder Ryan Flaherty was leading off and playing second base for Norfolk on Tuesday as he continues his minor-league rehab assignment.

Serving two different stints on the 15-day disabled list for a lingering groin injury, Flaherty could rejoin the Orioles as early as Wednesday, according to Showalter. His return would leave the organization with an interesting roster decision as veteran Everth Cabrera is out of options and hitting just .205 this season.

Odds & ends

Rookie Mike Wright will start one game of Thursday’s doubleheader with the other starter being either Tyler Wilson or T.J. McFarland. Both had abbreviated outings for Norfolk this week with the possiblility of Thursday in mind.

No Orioles players were leading their positions in the first All-Star Game voting update released Tuesday, but Jones ranked fourth among American League outfielders. Manny Machado ranked fourth among AL third baseman while Joseph was fifth among AL catchers.

Former Orioles first baseman Calvin Pickering has been hired as the hitting coach for short-season Single-A Aberdeen.

Baltimore ranks first in the majors in outfield assists with 12. Delmon Young is tied for third in the American League with five while Adam Jones has three.


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Orioles working out Wieters in Miami this weekend

Posted on 21 May 2015 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — A day after celebrating his 29th birthday, Matt Wieters is scheduled to join the Orioles in Miami for a three-game series against the Marlins.

It figures to be the final test for the three-time All-Star catcher before he’s scheduled to begin a minor-league rehab assignment with Double-A Bowie on Tuesday. And it’s an opportunity for Wieters to finally escape the heat of Sarasota, where he’s spent much of the last 11 months rehabbing from Tommy John surgery.

“I think Matt wants to get around [bench coach and catching instructor John Russell] and get around his teammates and get back in that environment,” manager Buck Showalter said. “I think it’s a good progression for him, and I think it’s what Matt wants to do, too. Nobody knows what’s going on with his elbow and everything else more than him.

“I think he needs to get out of the ‘Gulf Roast’ league, too. He’s been a diligent rehab guy, almost to a fault. I think he needs to get out of there physically, mentally, and emotionally. I think it’s a good time for him. Believe me, we’ll do a lot of work in Miami.”

Despite catching in a number of extended spring training games, Wieters has yet to play on consecutive days, leading many to speculate that he will share starting duties with Caleb Joseph upon being activated from the 60-day disabled list next month. Wieters is eligible to return as early as June 4, and that’s the date on which he’s expected to be activated barring any setbacks, according to Showalter.

It was more than two months ago that Wieters caught six innings in a Grapefruit League game on March 17, exactly nine months after undergoing ulnar collateral ligament reconstruction surgery. He was shut down the following day with elbow tendinitis, but Showalter says he didn’t view that as a setback as much as he did a sign for the fifth overall pick of the 2007 draft to slow down.

“It was the test to see where he was. I don’t know, who knows?” said Showalter when asked if he wonders where Wieters might be now had they not pushed the elbow so soon. “If anything, it helped us make better decisions to know that he was on more of the 11 [or] 12-month plan than the nine-month [one] that he was hoping. I think he showed a lot of maturity with it. Matt really knows what has to happen for him to be able to contribute here, and I think he kind of used that as a gauge a little bit.

“I look at it as a positive in the long run. I thought it was just part of the progression. In hindsight, it was actually positive that he was able to make a good decision there and not push it along where he would have really had a setback that would have required some other things.”

Of course, the clock is ticking for Wieters as he’s scheduled to become a free agent after the 2015 season. The Orioles hope to benefit from his return to the lineup, but he needs to prove that he will be the same player despite undergoing a procedure not typical for catchers.

Showalter is confident that Wieters is in excellent shape when it comes to the other aspects of catching that go beyond throwing and estimates that he’s received somewhere between 200 and 300 at-bats since the start of spring training. The jump in competition level will be an initial obstacle, but the Orioles are eager to have the veteran catcher back in whatever capacity he’s ready to handle.

As they have throughout the process, the Orioles will lean on how Wieters says he feels as the biggest gauge when he’s ready to return.

“The one thing he’s in is he’s in really good catching shape,” Showalter said. “He’s been challenged there leg-wise and everything. He’s probably got more at-bats than anybody. It’s just where he is with the elbow.”

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Cruz on return to Camden Yards: “You have to move on”

Posted on 19 May 2015 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — A year ago at this time, former Orioles slugger Nelson Cruz was just a couple weeks away from making his return visit to Arlington where he’d spent the previous eight seasons with the Texas Rangers.

His return to Baltimore may not be accompanied by as many memories, but the current Seattle Mariners outfielder hit 40 home runs last year to help the Orioles win the American League East title for the first time since 1997. The 34-year-old has picked up in Seattle where he left off last year, leading the major leagues with 15 homers in 157 plate appearances after signing a four-year, $57 million contract with the Mariners in early December.

What kind of reaction was he expecting from Orioles fans?

“Love, hopefully, until I do something to piss them off,” said Cruz, flashing a big smile while talking to reporters in the visitor dugout at Camden Yards. “But hopefully love.”

Cruz holds no ill will toward the Orioles, who were unwilling to offer the veteran free agent a fourth year for a player who will turn 38 midway through the 2018 season. Though still possessing plenty of power in ranking sixth in the majors with 44 homers, the Orioles have missed Cruz’s bat in the heart of the order as they have used a collection of corner outfielders with very little success through the first 35 games of the season.

Meanwhile, the Mariners haven’t taken advantage of Cruz’s .340 average, 15 homers, and 30 RBIs thus far, stumbling to a 17-20 record with few others producing in their lineup and their pitching not performing at its 2014 level.

Asked if he thinks he and Nick Markakis would be making a difference for the 16-19 Orioles, Cruz kept his former team’s struggles in perspective, recalling that last year’s club didn’t take off until the summer months.

“Last year around this time, we kind of struggled as a team and we found a way to get it done,” Cruz said. “It’s early, and they still have a pretty good team this year. [Matt] Wieters is probably the only piece they need right now besides [not having] Nick and myself. They still have a pretty good team.”

In his first game against the Rangers last year, Cruz hit a three-run homer to help the Orioles to an 8-3 win over Texas on June 3. Baltimore can only hope that the slugger cools off this week after punishing pitchers through the first six weeks of 2015.

Attending Manny Machado’s charity bowling event since both teams had Monday off, Cruz had an early start getting reacquainted with former teammates, but he planned to use his experience returning to Texas last year to help deal with any emotions he might feel being back in Charm City.

“It was weird like it’s going to be [here],” Cruz said. “Maybe the first at-bat is going to be different, but after that, it’s part of another game. You have to move on.”

NOTES: Starting pitcher Bud Norris (bronchitis) will make a rehab start for Triple-A Norfolk on Friday and is eligible to return from the 15-day disabled list on May 26. Manager Buck Showalter said the plan is for Norris to return to the Orioles rotation if “all things are equal when he’s ready to come back.” … Wieters (right elbow) will join the Orioles in Miami for their weekend series against the Marlins and is expected to finally begin his minor-league rehab assignment with Double-A Bowie next Tuesday. The three-time All-Star catcher is eligible to be activated from the 60-day DL as early as June 4. … Right-handed pitcher Kevin Gausman (right shoulder) threw 25 times from 60 feet on Tuesday and will throw from 90 feet on Thursday. He is currently scheduled to throw living batting practice in Miami on Saturday. … Infielder Everth Cabrera (left foot) is continuing his rehab assignment with Norfolk and is eligible to be activated from the 15-day DL on Friday. He is out of minor-league options.

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Showalter expecting Wieters to rejoin Orioles on June 4

Posted on 12 May 2015 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — On the same day Matt Wieters caught nine innings for the first time in extended spring training, Buck Showalter gave his clearest projection yet of when the Orioles catcher might be ready to return.

The three-time All-Star selection was moved to the 60-day disabled list Sunday while continuing to work his way back to full strength from Tommy John surgery. The move made Wieters eligible to be activated on June 4, which is the date his manager is expecting to finally have him back in the Orioles lineup.

“He should join us then if everything goes well and we don’t have any other setbacks,” Showalter said prior to the second contest of a three-game series with Toronto. “It may be an every-other-day scenario here. I was only going to catch him four out of seven [games] anyway, but we may do an every-other-day thing with him. We’ll see how it goes. Today was a good step for him.”

Wieters is scheduled to catch nine innings on Thursday and Saturday as he inches closer to beginning a minor-league rehab assignment. It was expected that Wieters — who turns 29 later this month — would need to catch on consecutive days before reporting to a minor-league affiliate, but Showalter’s revelation on Tuesday possibly paints a different picture for the catcher’s immediate future.

With current starter Caleb Joseph currently hitting .295 with three home runs, 10 RBIs, and an .866 on-base plus slugging percentage in 92 plate appearances, the Orioles have been able to practice more patience since Wieters suffered a setback in mid-March. The possibility of Wieters and Joseph sharing starting duties wouldn’t appear to be a bad scenario for the club, especially with the former scheduled to become a free agent at the end of the season.

“Let me get to [June 4] first,” Showalter said. “Having Matt every other day is better than not having him at all. I think that will progress from there.”

Gausman’s MRI returns clean

The results of a magnetic resonance imaging exam showed no concerns beyond the mild right shoulder tendinitis that landed right-handed pitcher Kevin Gausman on the 15-day DL last week.

Showalter once again confirmed that the plan is for Gausman to enter the starting rotation at Triple-A Norfolk, but the Orioles will take it slow to make sure what remains of the inflammation in his right shoulder fully dissipates. Gausman hopes to possibly be throwing again by the weekend before eventually reporting to the Tides.

“We were contemplating [sending him to Norfolk] anyway because I don’t want Kevin to end up at [only] 50, 60 innings on the year,” Showalter said. “He figures into the potential of being in the rotation down the road [and] next year. When he went out and did that last year, he came back actually better in our bullpen. I want to keep the ball in his hand, so I think it’s going to be good.”

With Bud Norris struggling early in the season, Gausman could factor into the Baltimore rotation sooner rather than later once he is stretched out again as a starter. He has posted a 4.50 ERA in 12 innings pitching in relief this season.

While accepting a bullpen role with no complaints despite pitching to a 3.57 ERA in 20 regular-season starts last season, Gausman makes no secret about the role he’d like to fill in the long run.

“Obviously, I’ve been a starter for most of my career,” Gausman said. “That’s what I’m comfortable doing, so just to kind of get into a routine, that’s what I’m excited about.”

Flaherty back on DL, Navarro recalled

After leaving Monday’s game with a re-aggravated right groin, infielder Ryan Flaherty was placed back on the 15-day DL less than a week after being reinstated.

The Orioles recalled infielder Rey Navarro after he was optioned for the returning Flaherty on Friday. He and Steve Pearce will likely share duties at second base, but the latter was in the starting lineup on Tuesday.

Showalter is hopeful that Flaherty will not be sidelined for long, but the Orioles could not afford to carry him on the 25-man roster with a shortage of infield options behind him.

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