Tag Archive | "miguel tejada"

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The Orioles 2010 All Star and Un-Star Representatives

Posted on 29 June 2010 by Jay Trucker

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The beginning of the end for Markakis in Baltimore?

Posted on 19 June 2010 by Luke Jones

Just to be clear, the Orioles have no intention of trading Nick Markakis.

And Markakis—despite his comments earlier this week questioning both his teammates’ approach and the direction of an organization in the midst of its 13th straight losing season—doesn’t want to leave Baltimore, at least not beyond the general sense of wishing to be anywhere else but on a team that is 31 games below .500 in the middle of June.

Even so, it’s hard to imagine Markakis’ outspokenness sat very well with Andy MacPhail as he opened the paper Friday morning to see the comments questioning his vision for the organization after three years in charge.

“At this point, yeah. Where are we going?” the right fielder said when asked about the current state of the franchise by Jeff Zrebiec. “I know we have a lot of injured guys. We’re in the toughest division in baseball, and we’re a last-place team. But at this point, it’s mind-boggling. You don’t even know what to think, but you still have to be professional and go out and play every day.”

While most have focused on his statements about his teammates’ lack of an approach at the plate and his defense of hitting coach Terry Crowley, this isn’t the first time the team’s best player has questioned the state of the franchise in recent history.

If you need a reminder, just look a spot ahead of Markakis in the current Baltimore lineup. No, it’s not the older, depleted Miguel Tejada who returned to Baltimore on a one-year contract this season but the vivacious, productive Tejada coming off his second year with the Orioles in 2005.

It was a season in which the Orioles were in first place for much of the first half before collapsing under injuries and the disgrace of Rafael Palmeiro’s steroid-related suspension, which included accusations that a tainted vitamin B-12 injection from Tejada caused Palmeiro to fail a drug test.

Despite having four years remaining on a six-year, $72 million contract, Tejada requested to be traded in December 2005, citing the team’s inability to upgrade its roster. Of course, that was the winter in which the club lost closer B.J. Ryan in free agency and failed to entice Paul Konerko to sign on the dotted line. Instead, the Orioles inked Ramon Hernandez, LaTroy Hawkins, and an aging Jeff Conine—not exactly a haul that will instill confidence with your franchise player.

“I’ve done many things with this team and I haven’t seen results, and the other teams are getting stronger while the Orioles have not made any signings to strengthen the club,” said Tejada in December 2005 before eventually rescinding his trade request a month later.

The shortstop played two more seasons in Baltimore, but the damage had been done and the once-energized Tejada wilted further and further until MacPhail—in his first offseason with the Orioles—dealt him to the Houston Astros on the eve of the famed Mitchell Report, which included Tejada’s name prominently.

The differences between Tejada at the time and Markakis today are obvious, particularly with the latter being a homegrown player rather than a hired gun, but are the other circumstances all that different?

When the Orioles signed the 2002 AL MVP prior to the 2004 season, the organization made promises that it would build around the star and supplement him with teammates to help the club return to contention after not having a winning season since 1997.

Did MacPhail make similar promises to Markakis two winters ago to persuade the outfielder to ink a six-year, $66 million extension?

Of course, Markakis has far stronger ties with Baltimore than Tejada ever did, being drafted by the Orioles and making his year-round home in Monkton. He loves the community, evident by him and his wife Christina starting The Right Side Foundation to help distressed children in the state of Maryland. You don’t lay down roots in a community like he has without having strong affection.

However, Markakis wants to win in Baltimore—and soon.

Obsessed with getting better, he can be found in the video room of the Orioles clubhouse after nearly every game, reviewing that evening’s at-bats and studying opposing pitchers. He’s never satisfied with his performance, even on his most productive nights.

Now in his fifth season with the Orioles, the outfielder has experienced a 289-425 record in Baltimore. Despite having a pedestrian 2010, Markakis is entering the prime seasons of his career. Whether you believe he will improve or has reached his peak of production, there’s no question he’s a very good player, even if not the superstar many had hoped for.

Much like the rest of us, he couldn’t have been impressed with the acquisitions of a 36-year-old Tejada and a project in Garrett Atkins as the two big bats to help the Orioles take the next step toward respectability this year. A few months later, it’s safe to say his feelings haven’t improved as the club finds itself on track to become one of the worst teams in baseball history.

Markakis’ comments were far less inflammatory than those uttered by Tejada nearly five years ago, but this coming offseason will be critical for both the direction of the club and how its best player feels about it. Another stagnant winter would unquestionably sour Markakis’ mood even further.

To the point of requesting a trade in the same way that Tejada did?

Probably not, but his comments this week—completely justified and true—were out of character for the shy and quiet ballplayer. It wouldn’t be entirely out of the question, even with his deep love for the community.

It remains to be seen what Markakis’ fate will be with the Orioles. Hopefully these comments will be a call to action for both his teammates to evaluate their performance and for MacPhail as he feels the pressure from his biggest star to improve the club.

But if we’re talking about his departure a few years from now—via trade or free agency following the 2014 season—this week’s comments will be remembered as the first dent in a relationship that, up until this point, has been harmonious.

Either way, his unhappy words were loud and clear.

We can only hope the right people were listening.

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Orioles: In Defense of Symbolism

Posted on 02 June 2010 by Jay Trucker

A new manager wouldn’t have made Brian Matusz’s Tuesday night loss to the New York Yankees any easier to swallow. A pitcher’s win/loss record is perhaps the most haphazardly assigned statistic of all time, and this loss was a team effort.

A new manager wouldn’t make Miguel Tejada’s throw to first any better than it was or Ty Wigginton’s failed attempt to dig out the low ball any more graceful.

A new manager wouldn’t make a .249 hitting team with a paltry .682 team OPS any better. By comparison, the Yankees have an .820 OPS.

A new manager wouldn’t give the Orioles better bullpen options or heal the team’s long list of injured players.

But at 15-37, the Orioles front office realizes that the season is lost. The reality is that this team is pitiful, perhaps historically so. No single maneuver—no trade, no call up, no DL activation, and no managerial dismissal—will make this team respectable. In fact, to make the team better in the long run, they will probably look to trade away as many of their veteran chips as possible before the season is through. As bad as this team is now, imagine what the on-field product will look like without any or all of the following players: Jeremy Guthrie, Kevin Millwood, Ty Wigginton, Miguel Tejada. All of them should be made available in exchange for legitimate prospects.

But firing Dave Trembley and Terry Crowley carries with it a symbolic meaning. It would show what little fan base that remains that Peter Angelos and Andy MacPhail are just as unhappy with losing as we are. It would show that simply making money isn’t enough. It would show that management is being held accountable for a team with a horrifying .288 win percentage.

And whoever would be brought in to replace Trembley and Crowley, whether on an interim or full-time basis, has nowhere to go but up. And eventually, almost by accident, things have to improve at least slightly. At some point, a few of the ice cold hitters will get hot, at least briefly. At some point, Roberts and Pie will come back and provide some speed for a team that has a pathetic 18 stolen bases to 14 times caught stealing. At some point, the club will probably win, say, five in a row, or eight of ten, or 15 of twenty.

When that does happen, it will at least look like the start of something new if the team has a new skipper and an alleged new outlook. Lucky bounces, which the Orioles have had very few of this year, will be interpreted as glimmers of hope. The rare come-from-behind win will be attributed to a new clubhouse attitude. A Matt Wieters finding his stroke will be credited to a new batting cage philosophy.

If Trembley and Crowley remain, focus will remain on the team’s horrible start, as the staff is reviewed based upon the season as a whole. But symbolically, fans and critics alike would mark the start of a new managerial regime as an opportunity to begin a new period of evaluation. And if a new manager were to win even just four of ten games, improvement would be widely noted.

Here’s the truth about fans. We want to believe our team has a chance even when it doesn’t. And with 110 games remaining in 2010, the only “chance” that the Orioles fan base has to look forward to is the chance that next year will be better. Dave Trembley and Terry Crowley have both overseen a lot of losing in Baltimore. It’s time to give them both their walking players, and let fans search for the hope in a new era, even if the gesture is largely a symbolic one. Symbolism is all we have at this point, and we need some reason to watch four more months of baseball.

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A Guy Who Embodies The “Current” Orioles Way? Josh Bell ….

Posted on 28 May 2010 by Rex Snider

I’m on the doorstep of completing my fourth month as host of the REX & RAY SHOW – and during this time, a few consistencies have proven dependable …..

Fans have never been warm to the idea of Garrett Atkins regaining his once promising stroke, in an Orioles uniform …..

Ravens faithful still want Matt Stover kicking for their team …..

And, Miguel Tejada is just a “stopgap” for uber-prospect JOSH BELL …..

That’s right, if we talk Orioles, Bell’s name is usually mentioned by those who are looking forward to 2011 and beyond. And, he’s always regarded as part of the FUTURE by devoted Orioles fans.

Why?

What accomplishment or achievement has caused so many people to invest an arbitrary plea of confidence in Josh Bell?

I don’t see it. In fact, I’ve never seen it. When Bell was served up as the barter for George Sherrill (who was valued as a setup man) I reasoned the Dodgers didn’t really covet the young infielder. And, they tossed in Steve Johnson, to boot.

When he arrived at Bowie, Bell owned a career .289 batting average in 1400 at-bats. He averaged a homerun in nearly every 30 trips to the plate. He displayed very little speed on the bases and his walk/strikeout rate was less than impressive.

As a Dodgers prospect, Bell sported a fielding percentage below .900 and an overwhelming amount of his errors were with the glove, as opposed to his arm. If you saw his glovework during Orioles Spring Training, you might think he’s a DH.

Umm …. go back two paragraphs. He’s not a DH, either.

This year, Josh Bell is getting his first taste of Triple-A pitching. At best, it’s fair to suggest he’s undisciplined. At worst, it’s equally fair to say he’s often overmatched.

He is averaging a strikeout in every 3.5 at-bats. And, his walk/strikeout totals are horrendous. He’s gone down on strikes 49 times, and walked just 8 times, in 178 at-bats.

Do notable Major League hitters strikeout so often? Yes – but they’re commonly hitting dozens of homeruns, per season. They’re also facing much better pitching.

You want examples? Sure …..

Jim Thome – strikes out once in every 3.3 at-bats. But, he also owns 569 homeruns.

Adam Dunn – strikes out once in every 3 at-bats. But, he homers in every 13 times at the plate.

Pat Burrell – strikes out once in every 3.5 at-bats. But, he also hit 267 homeruns in just over 10 seasons. He’s also 33 years old and looking for a job.

If you really want to see a mirrored image of Josh Bell’s minor league offensive statistics – but on the major league level, look no further than Jose Hernandez. He enjoyed 15 seasons in the big leagues.

However, Hernandez’s long tenure was much credited to stellar defense. And, he played a variety of positions. Unlike Hernandez, Bell is challenged defensively. In fact, he’s a poor fielder – period.

In a perfect world, Josh Bell would be deemed a major success if he turned out to have a career resembling Pat Burrell. The problem is he hasn’t displayed such credential throughout 5 years of lesser competitive baseball.

Worse yet, his defense cannot be tolerated at the Major League level. A fielding percentage south of .900 will absolutely LOSE BALLGAMES for a team.

Yet, the phone calls keep coming …..

Josh Bell is part of the Orioles future. Indeed, he probably is ….. and that’s a huge part of the organization’s problem.

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Same old story as Orioles waste chances, lose 4-3 to Kansas City

Posted on 17 May 2010 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — Even after missing countless opportunities throughout the night, the Orioles managed to load the bases in the ninth for Ty Wigginton and Miguel Tejada, the two biggest run producers for an otherwise putrid lineup. There wasn’t much more you could ask for, being down a run with your No. 3 and 4 hitters coming to the plate.

They again failed to take advantage as Wigginton struck out and Tejada grounded to second, and the Orioles fell 4-3 to the Kansas City Royals on Monday night.

Manager Dave Trembley uttered the same words after the game that we’ve heard countless times this season, but the tone was different. His voice was filled with anger and frustration, far more emotion than we typically hear from the maligned skipper.

“There’s nothing for me to say other than the fact that we’re getting the opportunities and not cashing them in,” Trembley said in one of the shortest post-game press conferences you’ll ever hear.

What more is there to say? What else can you ask other than the same questions offered night after night?

Every time you begin to think this team might begin a run of better baseball—sorry, but 10-11 over their last 21 games doesn’t cut it—we see a meltdown like we did Saturday night and a tailspin immediately thereafter. The Orioles have now lost three in a row to two teams with a combined 30-44 record.

On the bright side, only a couple thousand people were at the ballpark (9,299 was the paid attendance) on a rainy night to witness the Orioles lose to one of the worst teams in baseball—a Kansas City team now three games ahead of them in a battle to avoid the title of worst record in the American League.

In what was supposed to be an opportunity to put together a string of victories against three of the worst teams in the league, the Orioles stand just 3-4 on the current homestand, needing a win tomorrow to avoid a losing record. This eight-game stretch was a chance to improve their embarrassing record. After facing the toughest teams the American League had to offer in the season’s first five weeks, the Orioles were licking their chops to face the Mariners, Indians, and Royals this past week.

Instead, they had their own chops busted once again.

The Orioles were 1-for-12 with runners in scoring position and left 10 men on base. They’re hitting just .120 with runners in scoring position in their 27 losses this year.

The club has scored fewer than four runs in 25 of 39 games this season, an appalling statistic continuing to get worse. Unsurprisingly, the club is just 2-23 in those 25 games.

They’ve hit into 45 double plays (second to only the Minnesota Twins), a stat that sounds insignificant until you realize the Orioles are also 13th in on-base percentage in the American League. At least they’re maximizing their opportunities in that regard.

While the Orioles have faced their share of imposing American League pitchers in the opening quarter of the season, opposing starters have pitched six innings or more 29 times this season. Make excuses if you want, but CC Sabathia isn’t taking the hill every night against this anemic lineup.

Unacceptable.

Changes need to be made. Many of them.

The players aren’t performing nearly as well as they need to, but Trembley and hitting coach Terry Crowley are responsible for that lack of production. If not, why even have a coaching staff if it’s supposedly all about the players?

Roster deficiencies have played an overwhelming part, but that doesn’t mean Trembley and Crowley are worthy of keeping their jobs either. The two are not mutually exclusive. At some point, you need to try a different message from a different group of coaches.

Garrett Atkins was 0-for-3, lowering his average to .236 as he continues to take up space at first base. Whether it’s Michael Aubrey or Boog Powell, there has to be someone out there who can give the Orioles better production.

Adam Jones has hit better of late but still sits at .245, making his 2009 All-Star appearance seem more and more like a distant memory. Why not move Corey Patterson to center for a few games to instill a little more urgency in the young outfielder?

And why is Lou Montanez still on the roster? The outfielder—hitting .114—hasn’t played since Cinco de Mayo. If Trembley doesn’t have any faith in him, bring up someone else who can try to help the team.

Wholesale changes are needed. And sorry, Corey Patterson for Nolan Reimold won’t cut it, though Patterson has played well in his brief time back in Baltimore.

Einstein said the true definition of insanity was doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. Andy MacPhail and the Orioles continue to explore and evaluate their options while waiting for conditions to get better. But nothing happens and losses continue to mount as the offensive numbers grow uglier and uglier.

Yes, losing Brian Roberts hurt. Having Felix Pie would have allowed the team to push Jones more seriously. And true, the schedule was tough.

But the excuses only go so far for a team currently on pace to win 50 games.

MacPhail’s inability to supplement the roster with legitimate big-league talent in the off-season and his choice to retain Trembley has left the Orioles an embarrassing 12-27 mess with a young core of positional talent looking less impressive everyday.

It’s time for MacPhail to start making changes.

By no means is it an easy job, but the mess isn’t going to clean itself with more waiting.

Might as well start now.

Check out the final box score here and the pre-game notes below.

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***Join us right now in the Orange Crush chat to talk about tonight’s game!***

BALTIMORE — Happy Monday from a dreary Oriole Park at Camden Yards as the Orioles (12-26) and Royals (14-24) prepare for a brief two-game series getting underway tonight at 7:05 p.m. (weather permitting).

After a brief three-game winning streak against Seattle and Cleveland, the Orioles appeared to be on their way to a successful homestand entering the ninth on Saturday night.

Eight ninth-inning runs on Saturday and a listless 5-1 loss on Sunday now leaves the club at 3-3 after the first two legs and thinking about the missed opportunities over the weekend. Of course, it’s the same story throughout the first quarter of the season for this team, currently sitting in the cellar and 14 1/2 games behind the first-place Rays.

It’s hard to find any compelling reasons to be excited about two last-place teams playing on a rainy Monday night in the middle of May, but tonight’s game brings a special significance for Brad Bergesen. While in the midst of a very successful rookie season, Bergesen took the hill last July 30 against these same Royals.

Of course, he didn’t pitch again in his rookie season after taking a wicked line drive to the left shin from Kansas City first baseman Billy Butler. It was a very disappointing—not to mention scary—conclusion to an encouraging first season in Baltimore for the 24-year-old righty.

Tonight will mark Bergesen’s first start against the Royals since the injury, and Butler will be hitting cleanup for Kansas City. While Bergesen has pitched extremely well in his three starts since returning from a brief stint in Triple-A Norfolk, he clearly wants to prove the incident is fully behind him tonight.

Here are tonight’s lineups:

Kansas City
LF Scott Podsednik
2B Mike Aviles
RF David DeJesus
1B Billy Butler
DH Jose Guillen
3B Alberto Callaspo
CF Mitch Maier
SS Betancourt
C Jason Kendall

SP Kyle Davies (2-2, 5.22 ERA)

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

SP Brad Bergesen (3-2, 5.76 ERA)

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

Check back right here for updates (time-stamped below) leading right up to first pitch at 7:05 p.m.
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6:25 p.m. — Just a few more notes to pass along before tonight’s game:

Brian Roberts will report to the minor league camp in Sarasota on Wednesday to continue baseball-related activities as he recovers from a herniated disc in his lower back. The second baseman has been on the disabled list since April 10 and was shifted to the 60-day DL last week. Roberts is eligible to return to the active roster on June 10 but would likely complete a lengthy minor league rehab stint to get back into baseball shape after missing most of spring training with the same injury.

Nolan Reimold may be readjusting to life in the minor leagues, but he will apparently need to get used to a new position as well. After taking some grounders at first base during spring training and sporadically since the start of the season, Reimold received a start at first for Norfolk on Sunday.

Manager Dave Trembley made it no secret the club is exploring any possible option at first base, and Reimold would appear to be a logical candidate given his mobility issues in the outfield after suffering the Achilles injury last season. Of course, the move would also be prefaced by Reimold straightening things out offensively after being demoted to Triple A last week with a .205 average.

If Reimold continues to play primarily at first, it could mean Brandon Snyder being sent down to Bowie. After entering the season as a viable prospect, Snyder is hitting just .200 with the Tides and has struggled to adjust to the Triple-A level. Not a good sign for a player the Orioles hoped could emerge as their first baseman of the future.

6:15 p.m. — It’s no secret the first base position has been an abomination for the Orioles this season with Garrett Atkins taking the brunt of the criticism through the first quarter of the season.

In 38 games, the club has received a .226 batting average, no homers, 11 runs batted in, and six runs from the position. It’s hard to be that unproductive at a traditional power spot on the field.

General manager Andy MacPhail said earlier today that the club is exploring other options, both internally and outside of the organization. The problem is finding one.

If you’re looking within the organization, the club has already optioned Rhyne Hughes to Triple A, so the only other legitimate possibility at this point is Michael Aubrey who received 90 at-bats in Baltimore at the end of last season.

Aubrey made the most of his time in Baltimore, hitting .289 with four bombs and 14 RBI. After struggling to begin the season in Norfolk, Aubrey has rebounded over the last couple weeks, hitting .256 with two homers and seven runs drive in.

Is he the answer? Of course not.

But when you’re talking about an upgrade over Atkins, it’s hard to go anywhere but up.

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Orioles climb small hill against Red Sox this weekend

Posted on 02 May 2010 by Luke Jones

As the Orioles travel to New York Sunday evening, Dave Trembley will take a deep breath, smile, and maybe even light up a cigar in a brief celebration.

After an exciting weekend at Camden Yards and taking a broom out of the closet to finish off the Red Sox, the Orioles (7-18) will enjoy their first three-game home sweep against Boston since 1974 (a stat that’s a bit misleading as they had a four-game sweep over Boston in 1998, but surprising nonetheless).

“It’s just great for the team, individuals who have gone through a lot of pain and mimicry for 30 days,” Trembley said. “I believe we’ve gotten through the worst. The good days are ahead.”

Maybe so, but reality will set in again Monday morning.

After outplaying a team they went 2-16 against in 2009, the club still finds itself 11 games below .500 and 11 games behind first-place Tampa Bay. As satisfying as the weekend was at Oriole Park at Camden Yards, it was merely a small climb after the Orioles threw themselves off a cliff in the first month of the season.

Make no mistake, it feels good—especially sending the thousands of Boston fans who once again invaded Baltimore home unhappy—but these three wins don’t count any more than the 18 losses accumulated in the first month of the season. As much as we’ll hear the silly claims of being 2-0 in May and it being a new season, the same issues plaguing the club during a 4-18 start—one of the 12 worst in MLB history since 1900—are still there.

Brian Roberts is weeks—or even months—away from returning to the top of the order while Adam Jones struggles to settle into the role. The bullpen remains in flux with the current closer only a year removed from Tommy John surgery and the previously reliable Jim Johnson trying to regain his form at Triple-A Norfolk. And the hitting, while improved, still ranks near the bottom of every significant category in the American League.

The questions surrounding general manager Andy MacPhail’s off-season acquisitions of closer Mike Gonzalez (on the disabled list) and first baseman Garrett Atkins (replaced by minor leaguer Rhyne Hughes) and the front office’s willingness to spend money in free agency are as loud as ever.

Trembley has likely bought himself more time after a very solid week of baseball against the team’s two biggest bullies, but his seat is still too hot to touch.

This is still very much a bad baseball team, weekend sweep or not.

Even with the hope created after sending Red Sox Nation into a mode of panic after being swept by the lowly Orioles, it doesn’t get any easier as the Orioles travel to the Bronx to finish up the current 12-game stretch against the Red Sox and Yankees after going 5-4 in the first nine. Following three at Yankee Stadium, the Orioles travel to brand-new Target Field to take on the AL Central-leading Minnesota Twins for four more.

After playing so well against a struggling Red Sox team this weekend, it’s conceivable to think the Orioles might hold their own over the seven-game road trip against two of the best teams in the American League, but they could just as easily go 1-6 without too many batting an eyelash.

If we can take anything away from a fulfilling weekend at Camden Yards, we witnessed an Orioles team finally playing with a pulse and overcoming adversity after coming from behind in two of the three games and winning two extra-inning games.

Veterans Ty Wigginton and Miguel Tejada continue to swing red-hot bats to lead the offense, but Nick Markakis, Matt Wieters, and Adam Jones are beginning to shake off the cobwebs of slow starts and play more like the talents so many in Baltimore are excited about. The team continues to get solid-to-good starts from the rotation, even if the starters have little to show for it in terms of wins.

Will it be enough to sustain the current stretch of improved baseball?

“We’re starting to learn how to win a little bit,” said starter Kevin Millwood, who again failed to register his first win of the season Sunday despite pitching eight strong innings. “I think we’re starting to realize that we’re a better team than people give us credit for. It really was a very good homestand.”

The Orioles will have the opportunity to fly under the radar for the foreseeable future—the national media is already talking about Boston’s embarrassment of being swept by lowly Baltimore—so it will be possible to catch some teams napping if they can play good baseball in the process.

A disastrous April cannot be erased, but the club can slowly begin to regain the cautious optimism that existed a month ago by playing inspired baseball like we saw over the weekend against the hated Red Sox.

It won’t be easy and even if they do, it won’t catapult the team to contention or even a .500 record, but it can create a feeling not enjoyed at any point throughout the month of April. A feeling relished by the Orioles fans who walked out of the ballpark late Sunday afternoon.

A tiny bit of pride.

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Tejada’s clutch bat leads Orioles past Red Sox, 5-4 in 10

Posted on 30 April 2010 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — To say the Orioles have struggled in the month of April would be comparable to labeling Mount Everest as a “pretty big hill.”

Their record entering Friday night made them the 12th team to start a season 4-18 or worse since 1900. Not exactly the type of history you want to make. Only the hapless 1988 club has saved the current Orioles from suffering the worst start in franchise history.

The club looked to be well on its way to another disappointing loss after failing to capitalize with runners in scoring position and to protect the lead in the late innings. However, that outlook changed dramatically when Miguel Tejada stepped to the plate in the bottom of the eighth, connecting for a game-tying home run off Daniel Bard.

Tejada’s heroics weren’t finished as the game moved into extra innings, and he knocked in the winning run in the 10th to give the Orioles a 5-4 victory over the Boston Red Sox at Camden Yards.

“I just put in my mind that I had to be able to relax,” said Tejada. “I know they had to throw me a strike, and I was lucky to get one pitch over the plate.”

Considering Tejada was one of the “big bats” acquired by general manager Andy MacPhail this offseason, it’s easy to be underwhelmed with his performance after watching Adrian Beltre sign with Boston and Chone Figgins with Seattle. In reality, Tejada has quietly put together a nice start in his first month back with the Orioles.

He leads the club with 13 runs batted in and has clubbed four home runs, second behind Ty Wigginton for the team lead. While his defense won’t make anyone forget about Brooks Robinson—or even Melvin Mora at this point—his transition to the hot corner hasn’t been nearly as painful as many expected.

“What it comes down to is getting the big hit when you need it from a guy who’s been there and that’s why Tejada is who he is,” said manager Dave Trembley. “He has the ability to rise to the occasion because he’s been there so many times.”

The Orioles have failed to rise to the occasion countless times over the first month of the season, so it was refreshing to finally see it happen, especially against the Red Sox.

Tejada hasn’t recaptured his 2004-level production and never will, but he’s been one of the select few to provide consistent offense in an otherwise miserable lineup. It’s astounding to think how much worse the lineup might be without him.

Then again, does it really matter when you’re 5-18?

Truthfully, the victory masked several of the recurring issues that have regularly cost this team ballgames in the month of April. Garrett Atkins’ comebacker to John Lackey with the bases loaded and no outs in the fourth squandered an opportunity to blow the game wide open and to knock the right-hander out of the game in the process. The first baseman—MacPhail’s other “big bat” acquired last winter—is now hitting .224 and appears to have lost his job to call-up Rhyne Hughes.

The pitching staff issued a season-high 10 walks, including five from the bullpen. Jim Johnson struggled mightily and blew his third save (in the seventh inning) of the season.

However, unlike far too many nights in the month of April, the Orioles found a way to pick up the victory instead of discovering a new method of losing as they’ve done so often in recent weeks.

And—for one night anyway—it’s a welcome change.

– The Orioles and Red Sox are now tied 2-2 in the season series. Friday night’s victory snapped a seven-game home losing streak against Boston.

– Now standing at 11-12, the Red Sox completed their first losing April since 1996.

– After dropping their first six series openers, Baltimore has now won two openers in a row. The club is still seeking its first series win of 2010.

– Nick Markakis has reached base safetly in 21 of 23 games this year and is now 19 for his last 59 (.322).

– Adam Jones picked up his sixth multi-hit game of the season. The outfielder is hitting .100 (7-70) in all other games this year.

– Of the 10 walks issued by Orioles pitchers, three were to No. 9 hitter and former Orioles first-round draft pick Darnell McDonald.

– J.D. Drew hit two home runs in Friday’s game, his 16th career multi-homer game.

– On Saturday night, Brad Bergesen will be recalled from Triple-A Norfolk to face Daisuke Matsuzaka who will be making his first start of the 2010 season.

Check out the final box score here and the pre-game notes below.

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**Join us right now in the Orange Crush chat as we’ll be talking baseball throughout the evening!**

Good evening and Happy Friday to you from the press box at Oriole Park at Camden Yards as we await the start of a three-game set between the Boston Red Sox (11-11) and the Baltimore Orioles (4-19).

Thankfully, the Yankees and their fans are long-gone, so the Orioles will again enjoy the benefits of a home—I’m sorry, I couldn’t even finish typing that. Walking into the ballpark this afternoon, the pink and green red and blue was prevalent as we can fully expect an overwhelming number of Boston fans to invade Camden Yards this weekend.

Shocking, I know.

Here are tonight’s starting lineups:

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

SP John Lackey (2-1, 5.09 ERA)

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

SP David Hernandez (0-3, 4.84 ERA)

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

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

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6:35 p.m. — In a bit of good news—relatively speaking of course—the Orioles announced reliever Wilfrido Perez has cleared waivers and will be outrighted to Double-A Bowie. The 25-year-old lefty was designated for assignment when the club purchased the contract of Alfredo Simon on Tuesday afternoon.

Perez has shown promise in his brief career despite a 10.80 ERA in five appearances for the Baysox in 2010.

The Orioles will need to make another move tomorrow when Bergesen returns from the minor leagues to make the start. Matt Albers could be the guy to go, though he is out of options and would have to clear waivers before being sent to the minors.

Of course, it wouldn’t exactly be devastating to lose the right-handed reliever who currently sports a 7.36 ERA.

5:45 p.m. — Both of tonight’s starting pitchers made their last starts against the same opponent last weekend at Fenway Park.

John Lackey earned the victory in a 7-6 final last Saturday night and is now 9-3 with a 3.21 ERA in 13 career starts against the Orioles.

Hernandez picked up a no decision last Sunday in a game the Orioles won. Imagine that. He is 1-2 with a 5.40 ERA in five career starts against the Red Sox.

5:35 p.m. — Aside from another unacceptable takeover from the Bandwagon, the Orioles have lost seven straight games to Boston at Camden Yards. Everyone hates the annual takeovers, but at some point, you have to give fans a reason to want to come out to the ballpark and deal with Red Sox fans.

The Orioles’ performance certainly hasn’t done it.

5:25 p.m. — Tonight’s starting pitcher David Hernandez sports an ugly 0-3 record on the last day of April, but the young right-hander has not piched as poorly as his record indicates. As has been the case for the entire starting rotation—sans Brian Matusz until Thursday night—Hernandez has been the victim of shoddy run support.

The Orioles lineup has provided just 10 runs in his four starts with only two crossing the plate while Hernandez was still in the game. Even with a pedestrian 4.84 ERA, it’s clear he hasn’t received nearly enough support.

Keeping with starting pitcher news, Dave Trembley confirmed in his pre-game comments that Brad Bergesen would return from Triple-A Norfolk to make Saturday’s start against Daisuke Matsuzaka who himself will be making his first start of the 2010 season. Bergesen was originally scheduled to pitch for Norfolk tonight, but it wasn’t exactly a secret he would be getting the ball at Camden Yards on Saturday evening.

Trembley said Bergesen has made the necessary adjustments in his mechanics and pacing to return to the starting rotation despite only making one start for the Tides last weekend.

Regardless of how confident Trembley may be about Bergesen’s return, it’s hard to shake the image of Bergesen running off the mound in Seattle after a 2.2 inning performance in which he gave up seven runs (four earned). The lack of downward movement on his sinker was concerning enough, but his demeanor—one of the strengths of his rookie season—was alarming.

I still have a difficult time believing those issues are fixed in just an 11-day period, but we’ll see how he looks on Saturday night. If Bergesen struggles again, you really have to question the prudence of recalling the 24-year-old so soon when the club easily could have used Jason Berken for a spot start or two.

Of course, if Bergesen comes back and tosses a gem, all is well.

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

Posted on 29 April 2010 by Luke Jones

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

When will it end?

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

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

Nolan Reimold is hitting .193.

Nick Markakis has four RBI.

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

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

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

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

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

Like we all are.

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

_____________________________________

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

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

Here are tonight’s lineups:

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

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

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

SP Brian Matusz (2-0, 4.38 ERA)

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

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

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

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

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

_____________________________________________

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

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

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

No easy task, to say the least.

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

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

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

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The Orioles & Andy MacPhail - 5 Mistakes In 3 Years (Part II of V) .....

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The Orioles & Andy MacPhail – 5 Mistakes In 3 Years (Part II of V) …..

Posted on 15 April 2010 by Rex Snider

Today’s topic will ruffle alot of feathers, but I’ll absorb all the criticism. In fact, it’s a subject that will also cause some readers to raise an eyebrow, especially considering the timing of this blog.

But, do your homework on me – I’ve always felt this way …..

Mistake #2 – Re-signing Brian Roberts

While I don’t think he’ll ever admit it, I’d be willing to bet Andy MacPhail will regret giving Brian Roberts a 4 year/$40 million deal, prior to the 2009 season. That’s right, the Orioles committed $40 million and 4 seasons to a 32 year old infielder, whose game is built on speed.

Now, before anyone gets in an uproar, be assured of one distinct factor …..

THIS HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH BRIAN ROBERTS CURRENT BACK INJURY OR HIS STATUS ON THE DISABLED LIST.
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I was denouncing such a deal as far back as 2007. In the days leading up to the renewal, many of us were hearing trade rumors regarding the Chicago Cubs. Something made the Cubs back off – but I don’t think it was the durability of Roberts, at all.

I just sense they didn’t want to trade budding talent and re-sign Roberts when comparable second basemen were inking deals for substantially less than the rumored price tag on Brian Roberts. The supposed number being tossed around for Roberts’ services was 3 years/$30 million …..

Hmmm ….. it turns out the rumors were pretty accurate.

Ironically, as the Orioles were entertaining offers for Roberts, another second baseman with similar traits was perishing on the free agent market. Orlando Hudson was initially seeking a deal likened to the Roberts rumors, but his price was dropping by the day. Did teams around the league notice?

I’ll bet Brian Roberts and his agent, Mark Pieper, did.

Suddenly, on February 20, 2009, the Orioles announced the re-signing of Roberts to the 4 year/$40 million deal. It wasn’t a BLOCKBUSTER signing …..
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And, the Roberts deal evidently failed to establish a precedent or send waves through the industry. A day later, Hudson signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers for 1 year/$3.4 million.

Is Hudson identical to Roberts with a stick? Not exactly. But, aside from stolen bases, their respective numbers are pretty comparable. And, Hudson is without question better with the glove.

I don’t think it’s a stretch to suggest Mark Pieper saw the thin market and plummeting price tag on Hudson – and he probably urged Roberts to re-sign with the Orioles and achieve financial wealth for life.

But, did Andy MacPhail do the right thing?

I’ll bet the house on this ….. Brian Roberts was not going to command $10 per season on the open market. No freakin’ chance. Perhaps, if he was 25 or 26 years old – but, not in his early 30’s.

The Orioles absolutely overpaid for him. And, while I understand the heartstrings attachment of many fans, I also believe it’s more prudent to live by an Ozzie Newsome rule …..

DON’T PAY PLAYERS FOR WHAT THEY’VE DONE …. PAY THEM FOR WHAT THEY’RE GOING TO DO.

When the Orioles announced the Roberts signing, I openly said “Brian is not going to earn that money.” I don’t blame him for agreeing to the deal, it’s pretty lucrative. And, I honestly think he would’ve preferred to make the same money in Chicago or St. Louis. But, the offer was in Baltimore and it was likely to be substantially more than he would earn via free agency.

That said, I think Andy MacPhail recognized Roberts’ appeal with fans and he rewarded the model citizenship, as well. Brian Roberts is an outstanding “character” guy. The fans in this town love him and from a public relations standpoint, he’s a great investment.
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Unfortunately, being a popular guy in the public scene doesn’t win ballgames.

Heck, many fans have expressed their confidence in Roberts, by suggesting he’s the “player you build a team around.” That’s just not true. You build teams around high production, power threats. You build teams around youth.

The truth is Orioles fans are so starved for an identity of players to call their own. Brian Roberts has fit that calling over the last decade. He’s been the dependable spoke in the Orioles’ wheel, so to speak.

I won’t sit in front of this computer and pretend that parting with a popular player is an easy task for any team. But, the Orioles were also in a slightly envious position with Brian Roberts – before the 2009 off-season. Of course, hindsight is always vividly 20-20, but I think Andy MacPhail would’ve been best served to trade Roberts around the same time he parted with Erik Bedard and Miguel Tejada. Maximum value could’ve been realized, in return.

That’s the pains of being a rebuilding organization. Parting with popular veteran players, in return for the potential of prime prospects is a reality in rebuilding. Perhaps, Andy MacPhail was pressured from other parts of the organization, as well. But, holding onto a veteran middle infielder, who’s surpassed his 30th birthday defies the logic and principles of STARTING OVER.

What do the Orioles have to show for their investment? A 32 year old second baseman with back problems. And, he’s signed thru a few more seasons.

No, I’m not saying anyone could’ve predicted Roberts would develop back issues. But, it’s safe to suggest teams should be objective about the wear and tear on “speed” guys as they reach their 30’s. When he’s 33 and 34 years old, Brian Roberts will not be the player he was at 27 or 28. He’s not that player NOW.

The speed simply erodes …..
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And, the lack of power makes players like Brian Roberts pretty restrictive in overall capability.

The Orioles are gonna look back on the $40 million investment with knowing it was a bad idea. A couple years ago, Roberts probably would’ve netted the Orioles two decent prospective talents. Today, they’re stuck. If he recovers within the next couple weeks and returns to his normal form, Brian Roberts is virtually untradable.

Well, let me rephrase the above statement. They can deal him, perhaps, for a decent upside kid in return. But, they’ll definitely be paying a good portion of that remaining salary. A far cry from the enviable position of a couple seasons ago, huh?

Ultimately, Andy MacPhail did right by the fans when he re-signed Roberts. But, pleasing the fans is not how the future is built.

If he had his way, I’d bet MacPhail would’ve traded his second baseman in the same window as the Bedard/Tejada deals.

And, this is likely to be a mistake that follows him around for a while.

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Orioles

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Bullpen implodes as Orioles fall 8-6 to Tampa Bay

Posted on 13 April 2010 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — The Orioles looked to be cruising toward their second win of the season behind the left arm of Brian Matusz, leading 3-0 in the top of the eighth and the left-hander in control of the game.

However, after striking out Willy Aybar to start the eight, Matusz gave up four straight singles, losing the shutout and turning the game over to the Baltimore bullpen with the based loaded and one out.

From there it completely fell apart.

Despite 7.1 sparkling innings from Matusz—striking out eight, walking one, and surrendering six hits—the bullpen imploded, allowing all three inherited runners to score and giving up four runs of its own as the Orioles fell to the Rays in 10 innings, 8-6.

“Tonight was similar to what we’ve been seeing for the last week,” said manager Dave Trembley. “We’re not closing the games out out of the bullpen. We’re not getting outs when we need to get outs. It’s no one guy [alone].”

The Orioles (1-7) have now given up at least one run in the eight or ninth inning in every game this season, a dubious stat playing a large part in why they’re already six games below .500 a little over a week into the season. The club has now allowed an astonishing 21 runs in the eighth inning or later in just eight games.

While Mike Gonzalez’s two blown saves have earned him the most notable goat horns to begin the season, the lefty hasn’t thrown a pitch since Friday. And the Orioles have lost all four games in which he hasn’t appeared since.

Jim Johnson, the man some have called to replace Gonzalez as the closer despite struggling in the role late last season, pitched just a third of an inning before giving up a two-run single to Evan Longoria to complete the Tampa Bay comeback, tying the game at 3-3. Lefty Will Ohman followed Johnson and gave up two more hits, allowing the go-ahead runs to score as the Orioles fell behind 5-3 entering the bottom of the eighth.

A tremendous night from the talented young starter was completely wasted, because the bullpen could not pick him up.

The pen even received a chance at redemption as Luke Scott’s clutch, pinch-hit two-run homer tied it in the bottom of the eight as the game eventually moved to an extra inning.

In the 10th, despite having a fresh Jason Berken available to pitch, Trembley again went with a struggling Matt Albers, pitching in his third consecutive game after giving up a run on Monday. Albers did not retire a better, walking two before giving up a three-run shot to Carlos Pena, sealing the Orioles’ fate of a fifth straight loss and a 1-7 record.

Since his impressive Opening Day performance at Tropicana Field last week, things have fallen apart quickly for the long reliever, who was considered a question mark to make the team entering spring training before an injury to Koji Uehara opened a spot for him. Albers has walked five in 4.1 innings, pitching to a 10.38 ERA.

“The ball’s not down, and his curveball is just being taken,” said Trembley about Albers, who is out of options. “It’s not being thrown for a strike.”

The collective implosion of the bullpen is just another problem to add to the pile plaguing the Orioles as they complete the home stand Wednesday afternoon before traveling to Oakland Thursday to begin a seven-game West Coast trip (and finishing the road trip with three in Boston).

The little things continue to build up. An ineffective bullpen, failure to hit with men in scoring position, and critical errors have all contributed to heartbreaking losses for the Orioles over the last week.

You only begin to wonder how long the starting pitching is going to hold up. It’s arguably the one bright spot for this club right now.

“We’re playing hard one through nine,” said Matusz. “You could see it with Luke’s homer. We’re just coming up short and have to battle through this.”

– The Orioles went 1-for-6 with runners in scoring position Tuesday night and are just 10-for-63 (.159) on the season. The club is even worse with two outs, hitting just 1-for-29 (.034) in the first eight games.

– Longoria’s two-run single that tied the game in the eighth inning gave him eight RBI on the season, all of which have come against the Orioles.

– Scott’s pinch-hit home run was the first for the Orioles since Ty Wigginton did it on Sept. 30, 2009 against James Shields of the Rays.

Five of the club’s eight homers have either tied the game or given it a lead.

– The Orioles will send Brad Bergesen to the hill looking to avoid the sweep tomorrow afternoon at 1:35 p.m. Lefty phenom David Price will take the ball for Tampa Bay.

Check out the final box score here and the pre-game notes below.

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Good evening from a cold, rainy Oriole Park at Camden Yards as the Orioles (1-6) prepare to face the Tampa Bay Rays (4-3) in the second of a three-game set, scheduled to get underway at 7:05.

The major news of the day is the new lineup filled out by Dave Trembley in hopes of pumping a pulse into an offense that has scored only three runs in its last three games and is 1-for-17 with RISP over the same stretch.

Miguel Tejada will hit second, Matt Wieters will slide into the cleanup role, and Adam Jones will now hit from the No. 5 spot in the order. The move comes as no surprise as the Orioles manager said in his post-game press conference last night that he had to “show a different look” to get things going.

Here are tonight’s lineups:

Tampa Bay
SS Jason Bartlett
2B Sean Rodriguez
RF Ben Zobrist
3B Evan Longoria
1B Carlos Pena
CF B.J. Upton
DH Willy Aybar
C Dioner Navarro
LF Gabe Kapler

SP Jeff Niemann (0-0, 0.00 ERA)

Baltimore
LF Felix Pie
3B Miguel Tejada
RF Nick Markakis
C Matt Wieters
CF Adam Jones
DH Nolan Reimold
1B Garrett Atkins
2B Ty Wigginton
SS Cesar Izturis

SP Brian Matusz (1-0, 3.60 ERA)

The tarp is currently on the field, but the weather forecast does look promising in terms of seeing baseball this evening. How many people will be in the stands is an entirely different story.

Tonight is Matt Wieters T-shirt night, so I would imagine the promotion gave a boost to advanced sales for tonight’s game.

As always, please join WNST.net’s Orange Crush chat, beginning at 7:00 p.m. with Comcast Morning Show host Drew Forrester hosting and a variety of other WNST.net personalities chiming in throughout the evening. Also, remember to follow us on Twitter (@WNST) for the quickest news and updates from Camden Yards.

Check back right here for updates (time-stamped below) leading up to the scheduled first pitch at 7:05. At that point, I’ll be switching over to the Orange Crush to provide my thoughts.
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6:55 p.m. — I’m about to move over to the Orange Crush chat, but I thought I’d leave you with this surprising nugget of information.

The Orioles’ .158 average with runners in scoring position ranks 30th out of 30 teams in the big leagues.

I’m floored.

Things HAVE to turn around tonight, don’t they? See you in the live chat.

6:50 p.m. — While Brian Roberts has been the focal point on the injury front, we received word today that Koji Uehara was scheduled to throw another bullpen session in Sarasota this afternoon. As he did on Sunday, the Japanese righty was expected to throw 25 pitches in the session as he works his way back in shape after a left hamstring injury sidelined him during spring training.

6:30 p.m. — In an effort to change up their luck, the Orioles will wear their orange batting practice jerseys for tonight’s game. Let’s hope it works.

Of course, it’s not quite the same look as this:
Orioles

It’s sad to think three of the four 20-game winners are no longer with us.

5:56 p.m. — The grounds crew is currently removing the trap from the field, so it looks like we’ll have baseball tonight as expected.

Despite the less-than-ideal conditions, tonight’s game provides an attractive pitching duel as Brian Matusz gets the ball in his second start against right-hander Jeff Niemann. Matusz was uncharacteristically wild in his first start in Tampa, walking five batters while striking out seven in five innings. However, the young lefty finished strongly and secured the only victory of the season for the club.

On the opposite side, Niemann was knocked out in the second inning after taking a line drive to the pitching shoulder from Tejada. It was a scary scene at the time, but the Rays pitcher sustained only a bruise and is not expected to be limited tonight. Niemann had a successful 2009, going 13-6 with a 3.94 ERA. The 6-9 righty will definitely provide a challenge to the Baltimore lineup, as if it needed one currently.

Much has been said about the high hopes for Matusz as a potential No. 1 in the future, but the Orioles will need him to pitch like an ace tonight. At 1-6 and a seven-game West Coast trip looming after the series finale against Tampa Bay tomorrow afternoon, the club needs something to feel good about to hopefully build some momentum.

If not, things could spiral even further out of control.

No pressure on the 23-year-old though, right?

5:23 p.m. — Mike Gonzalez is back with the team after traveling back to Arizona to be with wife for the birth of his daughter, so the big question on everyone’s mind is whether he’ll received the ball in the ninth inning in a save situation.

Trembley has implied that Gonzalez will be eased back into the closer role while working on his mechanics with pitching coach Rick Kranitz, citing a preference for the team to have a big lead in the final inning.

Any lead in the ninth inning would be acceptable at this point, but that’s just me.

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