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Hardy, Jones join Davis as leading All-Star vote getters at respective positions

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Hardy, Jones join Davis as leading All-Star vote getters at respective positions

Posted on 08 June 2013 by WNST Staff

Hardy overtakes Andrus at shortstop in latest American League balloting figures

Jones Passes Trout for Top Outfield Spot; Cabrera Maintains Overall Lead

 

Baltimore Orioles shortstop J.J. Hardy, who is bidding for his second All-Star appearance and his first fan-elected start, has surpassed Elvis Andrus of the Texas Rangers in the second balloting figures for the 84th All-Star Game, to be played on Tuesday, July 16th at Citi Field in New York. The latest A.L. results were announced earlier this evening on FOX as part of its “Baseball Night in America” pre-game show. The second National League balloting results will be revealed tomorrow night on ESPN during “Baseball Tonight” at 7:00 p.m. prior to its Sunday Night Baseball telecast.

Hardy, an All-Star in 2007, is aiming to become just the third Orioles shortstop to earn a fan-elected start, joining Cal Ripken, Jr. (12 times; 1984-87, 89-96) and Miguel Tejada (2005). In addition, he is attempting to become the first A.L. shortstop other than Derek Jeter of the New York Yankees to earn a fan-elected starting nod since Tejada. Hardy, who leads all A.L. shortstops with 13 home runs and 37 RBI, has totaled 1,231,843 votes. He is trailed closely by Andrus, a two-time All-Star, who has received 1,045,885.

Hardy’s Orioles teammate Adam Jones has taken over the top spot in the A.L. outfield with 1,944,450 votes, and last week’s leader, Mike Trout of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, follows right behind with 1,939,486 votes. Jones, striving for his third All-Star appearance and first fan-elected start, would become just the fourth Orioles outfielder in history to receive a fan-elected start, joining Hall of Famer Frank Robinson (1970-71), Ken Singleton (1981) and Brady Anderson (1997). Jones, who has reached base safely in 52 of his 61 games this season, ranks among the top 10 in the A.L. with 43 runs (tied for third), 77 hits (fourth) and 18 doubles (tied for fifth). Trout, the 2012 A.L. Rookie of the Year, is vying for his second Midsummer Classic appearance after becoming the seventh-youngest A.L. position player in All-Star history last year. The 21-year-old has reached safely in 55 games this season and his 24 multi-hit games are tied for second in the A.L.

Rounding out the top three outfielders is Torii Hunter of the Detroit Tigers, who has collected 1,067,973 votes as he aims for his fifth All-Star appearance and second fan-elected start (2002). The nine-time Rawlings Gold Glove Award winner, who is one home run shy of 300 for his career, would join Ron LeFlore (1976), Rusty Staub (1976), Chet Lemon (1984) and Magglio Ordoñez (2007) as the only Detroit outfielders to earn a fan-elected starting assignment. Hunter, in his first season in the Motor City, is trying to hold off a trio of outfielders, including Nick Markakis (1,030,653) of the Orioles, three-time All-Star and two-time fan-elected starter Jose Bautista (1,021,813) of the Toronto Blue Jays and 2009 All-Star Nelson Cruz (1,011,198) of the Rangers.

Hunter’s Tiger teammate Miguel Cabrera continues to hold the overall lead in the A.L. with 2,355,128 votes. The seven-time All-Star, who is bidding for his first-ever fan-elected start, leads the Majors with a .368 batting average, 67 RBI, 88 hits, 26 multi-hit games and a .447 on-base percentage. The 2012 A.L. MVP, who became the first Triple Crown winner in 45 years, also paces the A.L. with 47 runs scored. He is trailed at third base by 20-year-old Manny Machado (1,170,108) of the Orioles, who leads the Majors with 26 doubles and ranks second behind Cabrera with 84 hits.

Joining Hardy and Cabrera in the A.L. infield is Hardy’s Baltimore teammate and first baseman Chris Davis and Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano. Davis, who has received the second-highest number of votes in the A.L. with 2,084,274, is contending for his Midsummer Classic debut, and would become the first Orioles first baseman since Hall of Famer Eddie Murray in 1985 to receive a fan-elected start. Davis, who leads the Majors with 20 home runs and a .719 slugging percentage, is on pace to hit 55 home runs and 55 doubles. He is trailed at first base by four-time All-Star Prince Fielder of the Tigers, who has tallied 1,469,537 votes. Cano, who is seeking his fourth consecutive starting assignment and fifth All-Star nod overall, would become the first A.L. second baseman to earn four consecutive fan-elected starts since Roberto Alomar had five from 1996-2000. Cano, who has garnered 1,851,371 votes, leads Major League second basemen with 15 home runs and a .510 slugging percentage, and he is tops among A.L. second basemen with 39 RBI. He is followed by three-time All-Star and two-time fan-elected starter Dustin Pedroia (1,106,949) of the A.L. East rival Boston Red Sox.

Minnesota Twins backstop Joe Mauer, who has totaled 1,492,396 votes, continues to lead Orioles catcher Matt Wieters (1,153,795), a two-time All-Star, behind the plate. Mauer, a five-time All-Star and three-time fan-elected starter, would join Hall of Famers Rod Carew (nine times) and Kirby Puckett (six times) as the only Twins to earn at least four fan-elected starts.

Eight-time All-Star and six-time fan-elected starter David Ortiz of the Boston Red Sox maintains a comfortable lead at designated hitter, having received 1,716,410 votes. Ortiz, who is trailed by Lance Berkman (957,618) of the Rangers, would become the second Red Sox player in history to earn seven fan-elected starts, joining his former teammate Manny Ramirez. In addition, Ortiz would become the 10th player in A.L. history to receive at least seven fan-elected starts with a single team, joining Hall of Famers Cal Ripken, Jr. (17, Baltimore), George Brett (11, Kansas City), Carew (9, Minnesota) and Dave Winfield (7, New York), and other A.L. All-Stars Ken Griffey, Jr. (10, Seattle), Ichiro Suzuki (9, Seattle), Ivan Rodriguez (9, Texas), Jeter (8, New York) and Ramirez (7, Boston).

MLB’s All-Star Balloting Program is the largest of its kind in professional sports, and last year produced a record-shattering total of 40.2 million ballots cast. This year, more than 20 million Firestone All-Star ballots will be distributed at the 30 Major League ballparks, each of which will have 25 dates for balloting, and in approximately 100 Minor League ballparks.

In addition, fans around the world can cast their votes for starters 25 times exclusively at MLB.com and all 30 Club web sites – online or via their mobile devices – with the 2013 All-Star Game MLB.com Ballot Sponsored by freecreditscore.com. During the voting period, the All-Star Game MLB.com Ballot Sponsored by freecreditscore.com will be available in English, Spanish, Japanese, Korean and Chinese, and will offer audio CAPTCHA functionality for visually-impaired fans. Banco BHD will sponsor online All-Star balloting in the Dominican Republic, making Spanish-language ballots available to fans in the Dominican Republic via LasMayores.com, the official Spanish-language Web site of Major League Baseball.

Every Major League Club began its in-stadium balloting no later than Tuesday, May 7th. When the in-stadium phase of balloting concludes on Friday, June 28th, fans will have the opportunity to cast their ballots exclusively online at MLB.com, the 30 Club Web sites and their mobile devices until Thursday, July 4th at 11:59 p.m. (EDT).

Firestone, the official tire of MLB, is once again the exclusive sponsor of the 2013 In-Stadium All-Star Balloting Program. The ballot features an All-Star sweepstakes, in which a winner will be rewarded with a trip for two to MLB All-Star Week, including airfare, hotel accommodations and tickets to the All-Star Game and other MLB All-Star Week events.

For the fifth consecutive year, this year’s ballot features the Home Run Derby Fan Poll. Fans will have the opportunity to select the three players in each League who they would most like to see participate in the Home Run Derby. The Fan Poll is also available online at MLB.com. The 2013 Home Run Derby, part of Gatorade All-Star Workout Day, will be broadcast live on ESPN, ESPN HD, ESPN Deportes and ESPN Radio in the United States beginning at 8:00 p.m. (EDT) on Monday, July 15th. The 10 American League candidates are Jose Bautista of the Toronto Blue Jays; Adrian Beltre of the Texas Rangers; Miguel Cabrera of the Detroit Tigers; the winner of the 2011 Home Run Derby, Robinson Cano of the New York Yankees; Adam Dunn of the Chicago White Sox; the winner of the 2009 and 2012 Home Run Derby, Prince Fielder of the Tigers; Josh Hamilton of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim; Adam Jones of the Baltimore Orioles; Evan Longoria of the Tampa Bay Rays; and Mike Trout of the Angels. The 10 National League candidates are Carlos Beltran of the St. Louis Cardinals; Ryan Braun of the Milwaukee Brewers; Bryce Harper of the Washington Nationals; Jason Heyward of the Atlanta Braves; Matt Kemp of the Los Angeles Dodgers; Andrew McCutchen of the Pittsburgh Pirates; Buster Posey of the San Francisco Giants; Giancarlo Stanton of the Miami Marlins; Joey Votto of the Cincinnati Reds; and David Wright of the Mets.

The A.L. All-Star Team will have nine elected starters via the fan balloting program, while the N.L. All-Star Team will have eight fan-elected starters. The pitchers and reserves for both squads – totaling 25 for the N.L. and 24 for the A.L. – will be determined through a combination of “Player Ballot” choices and selections made by the two All-Star managers – A.L. skipper Jim Leyland of the Detroit Tigers and N.L. manager Bruce Bochy of the defending World Series Champion San Francisco Giants.

Immediately following the announcement of the American League and National League All-Star rosters, fans will begin voting to select the final player for each League’s 34-man roster via the 2013 All-Star Game MLB.com Final Vote Sponsored by freecreditscore.com. Fans will cast their votes from a list of five players from each League over a four-day period and the winners will be announced after the voting concludes on Thursday, July 11th. Now in its 12th season with more than 350 million votes cast, fans again will be able to make their Final Vote selections on MLB.com, Club sites and their mobile phones.

This year’s final phase of All-Star Game voting again will have fans participating in the official voting for the Ted Williams All-Star Game Most Valuable Player Award presented by Chevrolet. During the Midsummer Classic, fans will vote exclusively online at MLB.com and the 30 Club sites via the 2013 All-Star Game MLB.com MVP Vote, and their collective voice will represent 20 percent of the official vote determining this year’s recipient of the Arch Ward Trophy.

The 2013 All-Star Game will be played at Citi Field on Tuesday, July 16th. The 84th All-Star Game will be televised nationally by FOX Sports; in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and RDS; and worldwide by partners in more than 200 countries via MLB International’s independent feed. Pregame ceremonies will begin at 7:30 p.m. (EDT). ESPN Radio and ESPN Radio Deportes will provide exclusive national radio coverage of the All-Star Game. MLB Network, MLB.com and Sirius XM also will provide comprehensive All-Star Week coverage. For more information, please visit allstargame.com or mets.com/asg.

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Chen, Bundy each taking big steps in potential returns; All-Star voting update

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Chen, Bundy each taking big steps in potential returns; All-Star voting update

Posted on 03 June 2013 by Luke Jones

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

As the Orioles enjoyed some much-needed rest and a travel day on Monday, they also received good news for two important pieces of their pitching puzzle who have been sidelined recently.

According to interpreter Tim Lin through his Twitter account, left-handed pitcher Wei-Yin Chen will take part in his first light-toss session in Sarasota on Tuesday to test the progress made from a strained right oblique that’s kept him sidelined for just over three weeks. Manager Buck Showalter revealed late last week that Chen reported no discomfort whatsoever for the first time last week and the pitcher had begun jogging work in a pool.

Chen hasn’t picked up a ball since leaving his start against the Minnesota Twins as strained obliques are often a difficult injury to rehab due to a bigger fear of setbacks. Showalter said Sunday that a mid-June return would be the best-case scenario for the Taiwanese southpaw, but the Orioles are expected to remain cautious to avoid the possibility of re-injury.

The Orioles will have a chance to reunite with Chen this weekend as they travel to St. Petersburg for a three-game set with the Tampa Bay Rays.

Meanwhile, top pitching prospect Dylan Bundy will also begin a throwing progression on June 10 after a followup exam with the renowned Dr. James Andrews on Monday, the club announced.

The fourth overall pick of the 2011 draft hasn’t pitched since spring training due to discomfort in his right forearm and received a platelet-rich plasma injection on April 29 that was followed by six weeks of rest. Should Bundy make it through the throwing program without any signs of pain or discomfort, the 20-year-old would presumably rejoin Double-A Bowie’s starting rotation.

Bundy and the Orioles had reported no discomfort and full range of motion with the elbow prior to Monday’s meeting with Dr. Andrews.

Davis, Jones among leaders in All-Star balloting

Having a career year with a .357 average, 20 home runs, and 52 RBIs, Chris Davis leads all American League first basemen in All-Star voting with a slight edge over Detroit’s Prince Fielder.

With just under 1.2 million votes in the update provided by Major League Baseball on Monday, Davis would become the first Orioles first baseman to start the Midsummer Classic since Eddie Murray in 1985.

Center fielder Adam Jones is second behind the Angels’ Mike Trouth in AL voting for outfielders, which means the 27-year-old would be one of the All-Star starters if voting concluded now. Jones is hitting .313 with 11 home runs and 37 RBIs so far this season and is a two-time All-Star.

Right fielder Nick Markakis is sixth among AL outfielders while left fielder Nate McLouth currently ranks seventh.

Third baseman Manny Machado ranks second in the voting at his position, trailing only 2012 Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera, who leads in the overall AL vote. The 20-year-old is hitting .327 with a major-league-leading 25 doubles in his first full season in the major leagues.

Matt Wieters currently trails only Minnesota’s Joe Mauer among AL catchers and is vying for his third consecutive All-Star appearance.

Shortstop J.J. Hardy is second in voting at his position, narrowly behind Elvis Andrus of the Texas Rangers.

Despite playing in just three games this season before suffering a right hamstring injury, Brian Roberts ranks fifth among AL second basemen.

Sunday home game against Yankees moved to Sunday Night Baseball

The Orioles’ June 30 home game against the New York Yankees has been moved from 1:35 p.m. to 8:05 p.m. and will be a nationally-televised event on ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball.

Baltimore and New York squared off on a Sunday night in the Bronx back in April.

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Orioles acquire veteran C Snyder from Angels

Posted on 29 April 2013 by WNST Staff

The Baltimore Orioles traded minor league right handed reliever Rob Delaney to the Los Angeles Angels in exchange for veteran catcher Chris Snyder.

The 32-year-old Snyder will join the Birds in Seattle Monday night (replacing Luis Exposito on the 25 man roster according to MASN) and will backup Matt Wieters. The O’s felt the need to make the move after placing backup C Taylor Teagarden on the 15 day DL Sunday with a dislocated thumb suffered in Saturday’s win over the Oakland Athletics.

Snyder hasn’t played a game at the major league level in 2013 but has played 706 in his nine year MLB career. Snyder is a career .225 hitter with 77 home runs in just over 2,000 career at-bats. He hit .176 with seven homers in 76 games last season with the Houston Astros.

Delaney, 28, made just three appearances for the AAA Norfolk Tides this season, going 0-1 and allowing six earned runs and nine hits in 5.1 innings pitched.

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Orioles reportedly make long-term offer to Wieters

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Orioles reportedly make long-term offer to Wieters

Posted on 03 April 2013 by Luke Jones

All-Star catcher Matt Wieters won’t become a free agent until after the 2015 season, but the Orioles don’t appear to be wasting time in addressing his long-term status.

According to a CBSSports.com report, the club recently offered Wieters a long-term contract in hopes of securing his future in Baltimore long before he would become a free agent at age 29. However, the sides aren’t believed to be anywhere close to an agreement.

That reality comes as no surprise considering Wieters is represented by super agent Scott Boras, a factor that led many to believe the Orioles would avoid drafting the star catcher from Georgia Tech altogether in the 2007 draft. Instead, the club selected Wieters with the fifth overall pick and signed him minutes before the deadline on August 15 of that year. Historically, Boras discourages young clients from signing extensions with their original clubs that would prevent them from hitting the open market.

The report says the offer was believed to be at least five years, but the exact terms were unknown. San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey recently signed a nine-year, $167 million deal, and the 2008 first-round pick was four years away from free agency. However, Posey has been more accomplished in the big leagues after being voted 2012 National League MVP and helping the Giants to World Series titles in two of the last three years.

Executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette provided a cryptic answer when asked to describe how talks were going.

“We’ll enjoy him as long as he’s here,” Duquette told CBSSports.com before declining further comment.

It’s typical for the Orioles executive to be sly in describing matters of this nature, so trying to read too much into his words doesn’t serve much purpose. Signing the 26-year-old anytime soon will be a tall order, but the fact that the Orioles are already exploring an extension with nearly three full seasons of control remaining before he becomes a free agent shows how serious the organization is about keeping the two-time Gold Glove winner in Baltimore.

The sides settled on a $5.5 million salary for the 2013 season, avoiding arbitration over the winter.

Wieters hit a two-run home run off David Price in the Orioles 7-4 season-opening win over the Tampa Bay Rays on Tuesday.

 

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Orioles’ rare victory against Price not one to take for granted

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Orioles’ rare victory against Price not one to take for granted

Posted on 02 April 2013 by Luke Jones

The Orioles’ season-opening win over the Tampa Bay Rays on Tuesday had just about everything you’d like to see.

A five-run seventh inning turned a 3-2 deficit into a 7-4 a comeback victory over an American League East foe.

Adam Jones, Matt Wieters, and Chris Davis combined to go 6-for-12 with two home runs, three walks, and seven runs batted in. Wieters’ two-run home run provided the early lead, Jones’ two-run double in the seventh put the Orioles back in front, and Davis’ three-run blast later that inning finished off Tampa Bay for good. You can’t ask for much more from the heart of the order.

Starting pitcher Jason Hammel pitched six solid innings and allowed only three runs despite being up in the strike zone for a good portion of the afternoon. The de facto ace earned his first victory of the season and was picked up by Troy Patton and Darren O’Day in the seventh and eighth innings.

All-Star closer Jim Johnson earned his first save in an uneventful ninth inning.

20-year-old third baseman Manny Machado picked up where he left off in the field last year with a couple smooth plays and collected a single and a walk hitting in the No. 2 spot.

Even Brian Roberts and Nolan Reimold, two players the Orioles are depending on to remain healthy this season, went a combined 4-for-8 at the plate.

The euphoria accompanying any Opening Day win aside, we know pennants aren’t won or lost in April except in the most extreme cases, but a victory in a game pitched by 2012 American League Cy Young Award winner David Price is one to put in your back pocket over the course of a 162-game schedule. Price didn’t factor into the decision, but the patience and tough at-bats put together by Baltimore hitters — including a 13-pitch walk drawn by Wieters in the third — pushed the left-hander’s pitch count to 100 through six innings and forced Rays manager Joe Maddon to go to his bullpen earlier than he wanted to with his ace on the mound.

The Orioles made life more difficult than it needed to be for themselves by going 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position and leaving four runners stranded on second or third with Price in the ball game, but that’s as much a credit to the 27-year-old pitcher as any shortcoming of Buck Showalter’s lineup. Jones finally broke the 1-for-9 drought overall with runners in scoring position with the double off lefty Jake McGee, who relieved Price to start the seventh.

In three starts against Baltimore last season, Price was 2-0 and allowed one earned run and 13 hits in 22 1/3 innings. No player on the current 25-man roster had ever hit a homer against Price until Wieters launched one into the left-field seats to give the Orioles a 2-0 lead in the first inning.

The Orioles weren’t fazed by the power lefty, even after he threw four shutout innings against them in Sarasota last week. And they came away with a win in the first of 19 meetings with the Rays, who are regarded by most as a division favorite along with the Toronto Blue Jays this year.

Tueday’s victory is only one in a 162-game marathon, but it’s one you put on the positive side of the ledger that you typically wouldn’t expect to have when facing one of the best pitchers in the game. Of course, it means nothing if you don’t win the close games in which you have a chance, an area in which the Orioles excelled last year with their 29-9 record in one-run games, 16-2 mark in extra-inning affairs, and astonishing 74-0 record when leading after seven innings.

As we would have said had they lost 11-1 at Tropicana Field on Tuesday, it’s only one game. But it is one game just as important as the 161 to follow. And for what’s expected to be an extremely tight division race, Tuesday’s victory represents one the Orioles won’t have to make up in September.

It’s a new season and the improbable 2012 season is only a memory, but the Orioles have already come away with one that you would not have expected.

And that was a familiar feeling.

 

 

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Orioles don’t stand out in “ifs, coulds, and maybes” AL East division

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Orioles don’t stand out in “ifs, coulds, and maybes” AL East division

Posted on 01 April 2013 by Luke Jones

From the moment catcher Matt Wieters grounded out to end Game 5 of the American League Division Series and the Orioles began setting their sights toward the 2013 season, the same question has been asked over and over.

Will they build upon the surprising success that resulted in their first postseason appearance in 15 years?

Regardless of what executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette and manager Buck Showalter try to tell you, it wasn’t a successful offseason. The stated goals of acquiring a middle-of-the-order bat and an established starting pitcher were never realized unless you count the minor-league signings of Jair Jurrjens and 36-year-old Freddy Garcia, who will each begin the year at Triple-A Norfolk.

Of course, that doesn’t mean the Orioles can’t and won’t compete in the AL East this season. Critics arguing that the Orioles won’t repeat their 29-9 record in one-run games and 16-2 mark in extra-inning affairs overlook the fact that the club was built to excel in late-and-close situations with a stellar bullpen and arguably the best tactician in the game with Showalter in the dugout.

That success rate will be very difficult to repeat, but the Orioles will point to last year’s injuries to Nick Markakis, Nolan Reimold, Jason Hammel, and Brian Roberts and the overall lack of progress by their young starting pitchers last year as evidence that they didn’t need a perfect set of circumstances to win a year ago. Better overall health for the aforementioned group as well as the emergence of just an arm or two from the likes of Jake Arrieta, Zach Britton, Dylan Bundy, and Kevin Gausman would do wonders in overcoming a more realistic record in games decided by one run.

“I like our guys” has been Showalter’s battle cry since the end of last season, and the Orioles will need to validate that feeling if they’re to break the 90-win mark for the second straight year. It’s difficult not to trust the Baltimore skipper after orchestrating a 24-game improvement from 2011 to 2012.

A core group of position players including Adam Jones, Wieters, Manny Machado, and Markakis as well as top pitching prospects Bundy and Gausman paint a very bright future in Baltimore in the years to come. The ceiling for the 2013 Orioles — and even more so in the next few years — is substantially higher than it’s been in a very long time.

This year’s AL East lacks Yankees and Red Sox teams — or even one of them — that will inevitably run away with the division crown. The parity existing top to bottom has made this race more difficult to forecast than any in recent memory.

Toronto appears to be the best on paper, but will a plethora of new additions mesh quickly or experience growing pains as many revamped teams often do?

Tampa Bay has more than enough starting pitching to offset the departure of James Shields, but will the Rays have enough offense to separate themselves?

The Yankees are old and banged up and the Red Sox are coming off their worst season in 47 years, but both clubs still have enough talent to hang in the division race with enough good fortune.

It’s a division full of ifs, coulds, and maybes everywhere you look, but there aren’t enough answers present to place the Orioles a cut above the rest.

The lineup has quality but not enough depth to overcome an injury or two, whereas the starting rotation has plenty of options but lacks the necessary quality to give you great confidence in the Orioles getting what they’ll need on the mound for 162 games.

Baltimore’s Opening Day order top to bottom is good enough to compete, but there’s little help waiting in the minors if the injury bug strikes virtually any position on the field. The club will depend on the return of Reimold and the continued development of Machado to offset the loss of power hitter Mark Reynolds for a club that finished ninth in the AL in runs score last season.

The starting rotation was in flux most of last season but was able to depend on Wei-Yin Chen, Miguel Gonzalez, and a revamped Chris Tillman in the second half of the season. You have to wonder if Chen and Gonzalez can duplicate their rookie success with the book now out on how they work and it’s difficult to trust any other young pitchers to simply put it together after the underwhelming results of the past few years. Even Hammel, the de facto ace, doesn’t have a track record you’d like to see in a No. 1 starter. Any combination of hurlers put together by Showalter and pitching coach Rick Adair feels too much like a group of third, fourth, and fifth starters.

The late-season arrival of Gausman or Bundy would spark plenty of excitement, but expecting either young pitcher to thrive in the thick of a pennant race is — again — asking a lot.

Lots of promise, but more questions than answers at this point.

A bullpen that competes with Tampa Bay to be the best in the division will again be asked to shoulder an extremely heavy load, but it’s difficult to demand Jim Johnson and his mates to do what they did last year in throwing more innings than all but two bullpends (Minnesota and Kansas City) in the American League. Johnson’s club-record 51 saves sent the 29-year-old to his first All-Star Game, but an underwhelming rate of 5.4 strikeouts per nine innings pitched strongly suggests the sinkerballer is in line to come back to the pack when pitching to contact so frequently as a closer.

The performance of relief pitchers is more difficult to project than any other position, with peaks and valleys consuming most careers like unpredictable investments on Wall Street.

The Orioles don’t have the lineup or starting rotation of the Blue Jays, but Toronto’s bullpen has plenty of uncertainty.

Baltimore’s lineup tops the Rays’ order, but the starting five doesn’t stack up to Tampa Bay’s rotation.

Ironically enough, the Orioles appear to match up well against the traditional heavyweights that beat the rest of the division like a drum for the better part of 15 years, but New York and Boston are no longer the class of the AL East.

The outlook of the division appears murky, with the Orioles having enough going for them to envision them at the top if all goes well but not enough to feel strongly about that possibility.

These questions have answers that are tough to predict as the Orioles aren’t terribly different from the rest of the division in that regard.

It could mean an AL East title or even a last-place finish if most of their questions fetch negative answers this season.

You could even draw the order of finish out of a hat if you’d like, which might be as accurate as any expert trying to look into a crystal ball.

My guess is the Orioles will fall somewhere in the middle, but that doesn’t mean anything as Showalter’s Orioles are used to hearing their critics doubt them.

And they know ifs, coulds, and maybes will only be answered on the diamond.

To view The D&L Window Tinting Morning Reaction 2013 MLB Predictions, click HERE.

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Orioles’ listless offseason leaves sour taste instead of excitement

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Orioles’ listless offseason leaves sour taste instead of excitement

Posted on 12 February 2013 by Luke Jones

This was supposed to be the most exciting start to spring training of the last 15 years as Orioles pitchers and catchers reported to Sarasota on Tuesday.

To be fair, it still is as the Orioles come off their first playoff appearance since 1997, but that wasn’t exactly a daunting standard to top after a string of 14 consecutive losing seasons was snapped last year. However, that positive feeling isn’t nearly as overwhelming as it should be as we hear the predictable reports this week of players being in the best shape of their lives and others eyeing career seasons after making adjustments over the winter.

Even with the memory of the Ravens winning the Super Bowl fresh in our minds, the city should be abuzz over the Orioles after one of the most exciting seasons in the 59-year history of the franchise in which a club expected to finish fifth in the American League East won 93 games and prevailed in the inaugural AL Wild Card game to advance to the AL Division Series. But instead of using the success of 2012 to springboard the Orioles to new heights and capitalizing on their karma with a productive offseason, the Orioles and executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette largely stood pat.

The Orioles appeared dormant to put it mildly while harsher critics believe Duquette and the front office rested on the laurels of the unlikeliest of seasons instead of striking while the iron was hot to add talent to a roster that overcame countless flaws last season. No matter how you want to describe or justify it, the Orioles didn’t do enough to make improvements to a club that deserved better after one of the most remarkable seasons in team history. They didn’t spend money or even pull the trigger on a notable trade like they did last year when they sent veteran starting pitcher Jeremy Guthrie to Colorado for pitchers Jason Hammel and Matt Lindstrom, a move that worked beautifully for the Orioles.

This winter, Baltimore parted ways with first baseman Mark Reynolds and pitcher Joe Saunders, re-signed left fielder Nate McLouth, traded second baseman Robert Andino, and acquired infielders Alexi Casilla, Danny Valencia, and Travis Ishikawa. That essentially brings you up to speed if you were hibernating all winter and aren’t concerned with a few other waiver-wire additions and minor-league signings, which — in fairness to Duquette — could bring this year’s version of Miguel Gonzalez or McLouth to light at some point.

The idea of parting ways with Reynolds would have been acceptable had the Orioles found an upgrade such as signing veteran first baseman Adam LaRoche or trading for Kansas City’s Billy Butler, but they elected to solve the problem from within by sliding Chris Davis to the position. In turn, that’s created a question mark at designated hitter as a platoon of Wilson Betemit and a right-handed bat to be named later will be counted on to hold down that spot in the order.

Instead of looking to the free-agent market to find an established bat such as veteran Torii Hunter — who signed a two-year, $26 million deal with Detroit — to man left field, the Orioles will pray for the health of Nolan Reimold and hope McLouth can build on two strong months of play last season that resurrected his big-league career from life support.

Few expected the Orioles to be players for the top commodities on the market — outfielder Josh Hamilton and starting pitcher Zack Greinke — but “kicking the tires” was as far as the organization was willing to go on any free agent of even modest note. Avoiding a $150 million contract is understandable and even prudent, but avoiding the open market like the bubonic plague is disappointing.

Duquette vowed that the Orioles would look to acquire a middle-of-the-order bat and another veteran starting pitcher but has done neither to this point. While it’s true the free-agent market was lukewarm in terms of talent, take a look at the number of trades that went down around the big leagues this winter and you’ll find plenty that didn’t involve an organization parting with its top prospect, dispelling the notion that the Orioles would have needed to part with top pitching prospect Dylan Bundy to fetch anything of value.

Their payroll did climb as the Orioles dealt with a number of arbitration-eligible players in line for raises, but that’s simply the price of doing business and not a real reflection of trying to improve your club. The payroll increased from an estimated $84 million in 2012 to closer to the $90 million range at the start of spring training.

All those excuses sound too familiar for an organization that appeared to turn the corner last season. Instead of building on their success, the Orioles didn’t spend money or make a single addition — and, no, re-signing McLouth wasn’t an addition since he was already in Baltimore — that appears primed to help move the meter in the AL East.

It’s disappointing after such an enjoyable year.

In truth, there are still plenty of reasons for optimism as All-Star players Adam Jones and Matt Wieters are in their respective primes, talented 20-year-old third baseman Manny Machado will play his first full season in the majors, and Bundy and 2012 first-round pick Kevin Gausman could make an impact before the season is over.

A rotation including Hammel, Gonzalez, Wei-Yin Chen, and Chris Tillman appears promising, but all four are also coming off career seasons that will need to be built upon. The names vying for the fifth spot in the rotation haven’t changed as Jake Arrieta, Zach Britton, Brian Matusz, and Steve Johnson are all in the mix.

One of the best bullpens in baseball from last season remains intact, but relievers are also as unpredictable as the stock market from year to year.

Maybe the Orioles will be poised to finish 29-9 in one-run games and win 16 straight extra-inning games as they did last season, but both figures were historically remarkable and more anomalies than standards you could possibly expect to repeat, even with a shrewd manager such as Showalter.

Instead of a offseason that included a couple impact acquisitions to augment the progress made last year, we’re once again left with too many ifs and maybes, a familiar story for a organization with a group of players that deserved much better after the work they put in last season.

To truly feel confident in the Orioles’ ability to build upon the magic of last season — or even maintain it — Duquette, the front office, and ownership needed to take advantage of that fortune and simply didn’t. Finally poised with an opportunity to sell Baltimore as one of the most desirable destinations in all of baseball and Showalter as a manager players would love to play for, the Orioles instead stood pat with the hope that lightning would strike twice this season.

The Orioles may still compete this season, but a listless offseason did nothing to build confidence that they will do it again.

We’ll still look forward to spring training more than we have in a long time, but it could have been that much more exciting.

And I suppose the Orioles will once again need to prove us all wrong.

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Orioles avoid arbitration with Wieters, Davis, Matusz, Patton

Posted on 18 January 2013 by WNST Staff

PRESS RELEASE

The Orioles Friday announced that they have agreed to terms with catcher Matt Wieters, infielder Chris Davis, and left-handed pitchers Troy Patton and Briant Matusz on one-year contracts, thus avoiding arbitration.

Wieters, 26, batted .249 (131-526) and set career-highs with 23 home runs, 83 RBI and 144 games played. Wieters was named to his second All-Star Team.

Davis, 26, batted .270 (139-515) with a team-leading 33 home runs and 85 RBI in 2012. Davis saw action in left field, right field, at first base, served as the designated hitter and recorded a win in his only appearance as a pitcher, May 6 at Boston.

Patton, 27, was 1-0 with a 2.43 ERA (55.2IP, 15ER) in a career-high 54 games for the Orioles in 2012.

Matusz, 25, was 6-10 with a 4.87 ERA (98.0IP, 53ER) in 34 games (16 starts) for the Orioles. In his 18 relief appearances in 2012, Matusz was 1-0 with a 1.35 ERA (13.1IP, 2ER).

The Orioles have also exchanged salary arbitration figures with right-handed pitchers Jim Johnson, Jason Hammel, and Darren O’Day.

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Hardy, Wieters, Jones take home 2012 Gold Glove awards

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Hardy, Wieters, Jones take home 2012 Gold Glove awards

Posted on 30 October 2012 by Luke Jones

In a year in which their overall defense was maligned for much of the season, the Orioles took home three 2012 American League Gold Glove awards on Tuesday night.

Shortstop J.J. Hardy, catcher Matt Wieters, and center fielder Adam Jones won hardware as Baltimore nabbed three defensive awards in the same year for the first time since 1998. The Orioles’ three winners were the most of any team in baseball this season.

The Orioles’ overall defense struggled for much of the season, but the trio of defenders was exceptional at their respective positions throughout the year.

Perhaps the most deserving of the Orioles’ three winners was Hardy, who nabbed his first Gold Glove after a remarkable season at shortstop. The 30-year-old infielder committed only six errors and posted a career-high .992 fielding percentage to lead the AL. His fielding percentage was the highest by an Orioles shortstop since Mike Bordick had a .998 mark in 2002.

Hardy also led AL shortstops in games (158), putouts (244), assists (529), range factor per game (4.89), defensive wins above replacement (2.8) and total zone runs (21).

He is the fourth Orioles shortstop to win a Gold Glove, joining Luis Aparicio (1964 and 1966), Mark Belanger (1969, 1971, 1973-78), and Cal Ripken Jr. (1991-92).

Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus and Seattle’s Brendan Ryan were the other AL finalists at the shortstop position.

The 26-year-old Wieters took home the AL award for the second straight year despite committing a career-high 10 errors and five passed balls. However, the strong-armed catcher threw out 38.6 percent of runners attempting to steal — third in the AL — as he built upon his reputation as one of the best defensive catchers in the game.

His 994 putouts were the third-most in AL history for a catcher and the most since former Yankees catcher Jorge Posada had 996 in 2001.

Detroit’s Alex Avila, Yankees catcher Russell Martin, and Chicago’s A.J. Pierzynski were the other finalists at the catcher position for the award.

Earning his first Gold Glove since the 2009 season and second overall, Jones surprisingly edged out rookie sensation Mike Trout for the center field honor. The 27-year-old committed eight errors and had a .982 fielding percentage, but managers and coaches around the league love Jones’ range and strong throwing arm. Jones led AL center fielders in putouts (439), ranked second in range factor per game (2.75), and third in assists (seven).

Jones is one of three Orioles outfielders who have won Gold Glove awards, with Paul Blair (1967 and 1969-75) and Nick Markakis (2011) being the others.

In addition to Trout, Jones edged out Tigers center fielder Austin Jackson for the AL honor.

This marks the 18th season in which the Orioles have won multiple Gold Glove awards in the same year. Their three winners were the most the Orioles have had in a season since 1998 when pitcher Mike Mussina, second baseman Roberto Alomar, and first baseman Rafael Palmeiro each claimed one. It’s the ninth time in club history the Orioles have had at least three winners.

Sixteen different Orioles players have earned a total of 64 Gold Glove awards since the honor was created in 1957. It’s the second most in the AL and one fewer than the New York Yankees.

 

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Three Orioles named finalists for Gold Glove awards

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Three Orioles named finalists for Gold Glove awards

Posted on 29 October 2012 by Luke Jones

Major League Baseball will announce the Rawlings Gold Glove winners on Tuesday night with the Orioles having three finalists this season.

Shortstop J.J. Hardy, center fielder Adam Jones, and catcher Matt Wieters have been named finalists for the 2012 awards at their respective positions. Wieters — along with right fielder Nick Markakis — won his first Gold Glove last season and Jones nabbed his only fielding honor in 2009.

Hardy is competing with Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus and Seattle’s Brendan Ryan at the position. The 30-year-old committed only six errors and posted a career-best .992 fielding percentage in 2012 as he was regarded as one of the finest defensive shortstops in the league.

Jones is up against Tigers center fielder Austin Jackson and the Angels’ Mike Trout. The 27-year-old outfielder committed eight errors and had a .982 fielding percentage in 2012.

Despite committing a career-high 10 errors and five passed balls in his third full season in the big leagues, Wieters is up for his second consecutive Gold Glove. He is competing with Detroit’s Alex Avila, Yankees catcher Russell Martin, and Chicago’s A.J. Pierzynski.

The awards will be announced at 9:30 p.m. Tuesday night on ESPN2.

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