Tag Archive | "mike wright"

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Starting pitching passing the test for Orioles so far

Posted on 12 May 2016 by Luke Jones

The home runs hog the spotlight, but another encouraging development has sparked the Orioles to a season-best eight games above .500 as they began a seven-game homestand on Thursday night.

We figured that Buck Showalter’s club would hit the long ball and runs would be aplenty in 2016, but what about the starting pitching?

While the offense hit an impressive 13 home runs over a four-game winning streak, the rotation quietly turned in four consecutive quality starts for the first time in 2016. In fact, the Orioles have recorded 11 quality starts in their last 14 games since the return of Kevin Gausman on April 25 after registering just three in their first 18 games.

The 9-5 stretch has elevated Baltimore to seventh in the AL in starter ERA at 4.28.

Certainly not great, but good enough with a terrific bullpen backing up the rotation. The Kansas City Royals showed last year that you don’t need excellent starting pitching to contend as they finished 12th in starter ERA and pitched the fewest starter innings in the AL before ultimately winning the World Series.

Perhaps even more encouraging than the Orioles’ starter ERA is the fact that they rank third in the AL in starter fielding independent pitching (FIP) at 3.74, suggesting the peripherals have been better than the results. Starters have allowed a league-low 16 home runs, rank 10th in strikeouts, and have issued the fifth-fewest walks among AL clubs. This is marked improvement from a year ago when the rotation surrendered the second-most homers, finished 10th in strikeouts, and issued the sixth-highest total of walks in the AL.

Yes, the Orioles have pitched in cool and damp conditions to aid in their efforts to prevent the long ball, but the weather hasn’t stopped their lineup from leading the league in home runs.

Leading the way for the rotation have been Chris Tillman and Gausman, who have accounted for seven of the Orioles’ 14 quality starts to begin the season.

Through the first 5 1/2 weeks of the season, Tillman has not only bounced back from a forgettable 2015 season, but the right-hander has been better than ever. Even more impressive than a tidy 3.05 ERA through seven starts has been his ability to miss bats as he’s struck out 9.4 batters per nine innings, a significant improvement from his 6.8 career average.

The increased use of his slider has been the difference for the 28-year-old as he’s thrown it 16.2 percent of the time, up from just 7.2 percent a year ago. He’s gotten more strikeouts and a higher swinging strike percentage with his slider than any other pitch in 2016.

Despite beginning the year on the disabled list with shoulder tendinitis, Gausman has looked the part of a top-half-of-the-rotation starter through his first four outings, posting a 2.16 ERA and striking out 8.3 and walking just 1.8 per nine innings. The Orioles talked all offseason about the need for the 25-year-old to take a big step forward to help them contend, and his start to the season has been encouraging.

Perhaps more important than the results is the fact that his velocity is in line with where it was two years ago, indicating that the health of his shoulder hasn’t been a major concern. The improvement of his breaking ball has also added another dimension to his repertoire.

The rest of the rotation has been more uncertain, but it’s still allowed the Orioles to compete.

As we’ve come to expect, Ubaldo Jimenez has been hot and cold with a couple exceptional starts and some ugly ones in which he’s struggled to throw strikes, netting him a 4.54 ERA entering Thursday.

Mike Wright’s 5.83 ERA is ugly, but he sports a 4.10 FIP and opponents have a .356 batting average on balls in play, signs of hope that his results could improve with better fortune moving forward.

Tyler Wilson has been the most pleasant surprise as he sports a rock-solid 3.57 ERA as a starter. His stuff doesn’t wow you and he’s struck out just 4.4 batters per nine innings, but he doesn’t issue many walks and has limited home runs, allowing his defense to be a bigger factor in his success. Whether he can sustain that level of success remains to be seen.

Veteran Yovani Gallardo is set to begin a throwing program and has reported improvement with the strength of his right shoulder. The Orioles certainly aren’t ready to give up on the free-agent acquisition despite a concerning start to the season in which he was struggling just to reach the high 80s with his fastball before being placed on the DL on April 23.

The 30-year-old’s return isn’t imminent, but he would potentially give Showalter another viable option should Wright be unable to straighten himself out or if opposing lineups begin catching up to Wilson.

No, the parts aren’t all pretty, but the sum has contributed to an impressive 20-12 start.

The Orioles don’t really need exceptional starting pitching as they entered Thursday ranked third in the AL in runs scored per game (4.625) and first in bullpen ERA (2.33). They just need their rotation to rank in the middle of the pack to contend in the AL East.

Not great, but just good enough.

And that’s exactly what the Orioles have gotten so far.

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“Rounding the Bases” in Orioles’ 6-1 loss to Kansas City

Posted on 24 April 2016 by Luke Jones

What went wrong in the Orioles’ 6-1 defeat to the Kansas City Royals on Sunday afternoon?

In trying to identify the top three losing factors with the addition of home plate for any not-so-honorable mentions and other notes, we go around the bases after the 17th game of the 2016 season.

1st — The Orioles managed just one hit in Yordano Ventura’s final six innings of work after grabbing an early 1-0 lead. The Kansas City right-hander threw 28 pitches in an opening inning that included a Mark Trumbo RBI single, but the Orioles made Ventura throw a total of 25 in the next three frames and pushed only one runner into scoring position after the first. The lineup simply couldn’t handle Ventura’s effective off-speed stuff to go along with his fastball and were retired in order a total of six times on Sunday afternoon. You knew it wouldn’t be an easy day against the talented 24-year-old, but the inability to even make him work set up the Orioles for a long day at Kauffman Stadium.

2nd — After pitching well through six innings, Mike Wright couldn’t handle a long leash in the seventh and suffered his second loss. It’s a shame that many will look at the final numbers and just assume that the Orioles right-hander was lousy, but Wright effectively mixed in his off-speed and breaking stuff to compete against a lineup that included five lefty bats. That said, he left a 92 mph sinker up and over the outer half of the plate on Alex Gordon’s fourth-inning homer and hung a curve on Eric Hosmer’s long ball in the sixth, showing lefties are still problematic for him. To be clear, Wright doesn’t receive a pass as he entered the seventh at only 87 pitches, but Buck Showalter could have had a reliever loosening in a 2-1 game as the inning began. Even if it had been a clean inning, you wouldn’t have loved the Orioles’ chances with Kelvin Herrera and Wade Davis looming in a 2-1 game, which could explain why Showalter tried to push it a little more than normal with Wright instead of going to the bullpen at the first sign of trouble. Right or wrong, that’s a choice that sometimes needs to be made when thinking of the long-term status of a bullpen that’s working behind a poor starting rotation in 2016.

3rd — You never know if the seventh would have been different for Wright if not for Chris Davis’ misplay of a Gordon chopper down the first-base line to open the inning. The Orioles made a handful of shaky plays defensively like the Royals did in Saturday night’s contest, but Davis would be the first to tell you that he should have turned that into the first out — even if catcher Caleb Joseph thought the ball was foul. Instead, it opened the floodgates to transform a close game into a blowout. Yes, Wright needs to be able to shake it off and not give up doubles to two of the next three hitters, but Baltimore’s stellar defense can’t bend like that when you’re asking a young starter to work into the seventh inning of a one-run game.

Home — Dylan Bundy wasn’t able to keep the Orioles in it after the deficit had grown to 4-1 in the seventh. He allowed three of the first four hitters he faced to reach as the Royals busted it wide open with a five-run advantage and allowed two more hitters to reach in the eighth. … Manny Machado saw his 16-game hitting streak come to an end as he went 0-for-3 with a walk and two strikeouts. Only Davey Johnson had a longer hitting streak (17 games) to begin a season in Orioles history. … Pedro Alvarez went 0-for-3 and is now hitting .108 to begin the season. … Trumbo collected his club-leading 16th RBI, but all have amazingly come on the road. … Kevin Gausman will be activated from the 15-day disabled list to make his 2016 debut against Tampa Bay ace Chris Archer on Monday night.

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“Rounding the Bases” in Orioles’ 4-3 loss to Toronto

Posted on 20 April 2016 by Luke Jones

What went wrong in the Orioles’ 4-3 defeat to the Toronto Blue Jays on Tuesday night?

In trying to identify the top three losing factors with the addition of home plate for any not-so-honorable mentions and other notes, we go around the bases after the 12th game of the 2016 season.

1st — The Orioles hit two home runs off Toronto ace Marcus Stroman, but they didn’t cash in on the few other opportunities they had over the course of the night. J.J. Hardy left the bases loaded in the bottom of the fourth while Chris Davis and Mark Trumbo couldn’t do any damage with two runners on and Baltimore trailing by one run in the bottom of the eighth inning. When you score three runs and only leave five men on base, you didn’t have many scoring chances to begin with against a tough pitcher and the Orioles couldn’t provide enough support to combat a Blue Jays lineup that was the far-and-away best in baseball a year ago.

2nd — The Blue Jays scored three of their four runs in two-out situations, which will typically be the difference in a one-run game. Mike Wright’s overall performance was acceptable against a potent offense as he turned in the second quality start of the season for the Orioles, but Troy Tulowitzki’s two-run double past a diving Joey Rickard gave the Blue Jays breathing room with a 3-0 lead in the top of the third. The insurance run in the seventh off Tyler Wilson — the first run he’d allowed this season — was difficult to stomach considering the right-hander had retired the first two batters of the inning before giving up a single, a walk, and an RBI double off the bat of Jose Bautista.

3rd — Orioles hitters saw a total of 16 pitches in the fifth and sixth innings, which ultimately helped Stroman get through the seventh. Baltimore left the bases loaded in the fourth, but the right-hander threw 29 pitches in the frame, which put him in danger of not being able to go deep into the game and forcing Blue Jays manager John Gibbons to turn to the middle of his bullpen. What made those two innings even more frustrating was that they involved the top four hitters in the order not even mounting a threat when they were seeing Stroman for the third time. Of course, it’s fair to point out that Matt Wieters hit his two-run shot off the starting pitcher in the seventh, but the Orioles probably would have liked their chances getting to the Blue Jays bullpen much sooner.

Home — After Manny Machado doubled on a 3-2 count and Nolan Reimold drew a four-pitch walk off lefty Brett Cecil with one out in the eighth, Davis swung at the first pitch and fouled out to the catcher. … Pedro Alvarez went 0-for-4, dropping his average to just .143 and his on-base plus slugging percentage to .493. … Mychal Givens pitched a scoreless ninth inning, but it was the first outing of the season in which he didn’t record a strikeout. … Machado hit his fifth home run of the season in the fourth to extend his hitting streak to 12 games to begin the 2016 season. … Adam Jones left the game at the end of the sixth inning with a stomach virus that began affecting him during batting practice, according to manager Buck Showalter. … The Blue Jays snapped the Orioles’ 10-game home winning streak, which was tied for the seventh longest in club history. … Ubaldo Jimenez goes to the hill on Wednesday night while Toronto will counter with knuckleballer R.A. Dickey.

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ARLINGTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 29: A fan waits through a rain delay between the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and the Texas Rangers at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington on September 29, 2012 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Rick Yeatts/Getty Images)

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Sunday’s Orioles-Rangers game postponed due to rain

Posted on 17 April 2016 by Luke Jones

(Updated: 4:30 p.m.)

Sunday’s series finale between the Orioles and the Texas Rangers was postponed due to rain, the first rainout in Arlington since May 29, 2013.

The forecast called for heavy rain and storms throughout the day with no apparent window to play the final contest of a four-game set. The Rangers announced that the game would be made up on June 20 at a start time to be determined.

That makeup game will fall in the midst of what was supposed to be an eight-game homestand. Now, Baltimore will conclude a three-game weekend set with Toronto on June 19, travel to Arlington for a Monday makeup game, and return to Oriole Park at Camden Yards to open a two-game set with San Diego on June 21.

This is the Orioles’ second postponement of the year after their April 9 game against Tampa Bay was wiped out because of wintry conditions. No makeup has been set for that contest, but it is expected to be played when the Tampa Bay Rays return to Baltimore for a three-game series beginning June 24.

Sunday’s postponement was just the latest disruption to the start of the season for right-hander Mike Wright, who saw his original 2016 debut date pushed back a day because of rain on Opening Day and has now seen two scheduled start dates postponed. Wright will now start Tuesday’s opener of a three-game set with Toronto and will be opposed by Marcus Stroman.

Ubaldo Jimenez will start Wednesday against knuckleballer R.A. Dickey with Chris Tillman pitching the finale against Marco Estrada.

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Kim makes major league debut as Jones remains sidelined

Posted on 10 April 2016 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — South Korean outfielder Hyun Soo Kim was set to make his major league debut on Sunday as the Orioles concluded a three-game set with the Tampa Bay Rays.

Kim was slotted in the No. 9 spot and playing in left field after not appearing in the first four games of the 2016 season. With Adam Jones sidelined with rib soreness for a third straight game, regular left fielder Joey Rickard was once again in center as Kim received his first start.

The 28-year-old hasn’t started in a game since March 25 and received just two more spring at-bats after that as the Orioles tried to persuade him to accept a minor-league assignment.

“We talked about it, but you don’t want to say too much,” said manager Buck Showalter about Kim making his regular-season debut. “There’s a fine line there — go play. He’s probably got enough things going on without me jumping in there too deep.”

As he predicted on Saturday, shortstop J.J. Hardy was back in the lineup after missing Friday’s game due to tightness in his left calf. However, Showalter continues to be cautious with Jones, who is improving but is still feeling some discomfort in the rib area at the end of his swing. The manager reiterated that the training staff does not believe that Jones is dealing with an oblique problem.

For now, the Orioles are willing to wait before considering putting the five-time All-Star selection on the 15-day disabled list. Jones hasn’t played since Wednesday night when he felt discomfort swinging in his final at-bat.

“It’s a concern because he’s one of our best players and he’s not playing,” Showalter said. “But it’s close we think; [we’ll wait] as long as it takes. You know that 10 days is as far as you can backdate something [for the DL], so 10 days? Then, if on the 11th day, he comes in and says he feels good, I’m fine with that, too.

“He’s worth waiting on.”

Kevin Gausman (right shoulder strain) was set to make a rehab start for Double-A Bowie on Sunday that was expected to last three or four innings. The right-hander would then make his next rehab start at Single-A Frederick on Friday and could be activated from the DL as soon as April 20 if all goes to plan.

Lefty reliever Brian Matusz (left intercostal strain) will pitch two to three innings for Bowie on Monday and is expected to be activated from the DL on Thursday when the Orioles begin a four-game series in Texas.

Showalter said pitching prospect Hunter Harvey experienced a mild setback with a groin issue he’s been dealing with since late March.

Right-hander Mike Wright will now make his 2016 debut in a Tuesday start against Boston after Saturday’s start was postponed. Chris Tillman will now make his next start against the Rangers on Thursday.

Below are Sunday’s lineups:

TAMPA BAY
2B Logan Forsythe
DH Logan Morrison
3B Evan Longoria
LF Corey Dickerson
1B Steve Pearce
SS Brad Miller
RF Steven Souza Jr.
CF Kevin Kiermaier
C Curt Casali

SP Jake Odorizzi (0-0, 1.59)

BALTIMORE
CF Joey Rickard
3B Manny Machado
1B Chris Davis
RF Mark Trumbo
C Matt Wieters
DH Pedro Alvarez
SS J.J. Hardy
2B Jonathan Schoop
LF Hyun Soo Kim

SP Vance Worley (2015 stats: 4-6, 4.02 ERA)

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Wright makes rotation, Kim balking at minor-league assignment

Posted on 31 March 2016 by Luke Jones

On the same day the Orioles revealed the fourth member of their starting rotation to begin the 2016 season, the status of outfielder Hyun Soo Kim remained in limbo.

Manager Buck Showalter announced Thursday that right-hander Mike Wright would start the fourth game of the season, but that news was trumped by reports indicating that Kim will not accept an assignment to the minor leagues. Signed to a two-year, $7 million contract, Kim posted an anemic .411 on-base plus slugging percentage in 48 plate appearances in the Grapefruit League, but he must give his consent to be sent to the minors as part of the original agreement reached in December.

He has started just once in the last 10 games.

Executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette said earlier this week that Kim was unlikely to make the club to begin the season, citing a need for him to get further acclimated to a new country and a higher level of competition. However, the Orioles will be forced to either carry the 28-year-old South Korean on the 25-man roster or to release him and be on the hook for $7 million over the next two years if he does not agree to go to the minors.

The Orioles have until noon on Sunday to set their 25-man roster for the season opener.

Wright will start the series opener against the Tampa Bay Rays on April 8 after he pitched to a 4.79 ERA in 20 2/3 innings in the Grapefruit League. The 26-year-old allowed just four earned runs over his last three outings covering 14 innings this spring.

Showalter cited Wright’s spring performance as well as his 2.22 ERA in 81 innings at Triple-A Norfolk in 2015 as evidence that he was ready for the opportunity. The Orioles released veteran starting pitcher Miguel Gonzalez on Thursday, opening an additional spot in the rotation to the one vacated by the injured Kevin Gausman.

Wright made his major league debut last May, storming onto the scene with 14 1/3 shutout innings in his first two starts. However, he struggled mightily after that, posting an 8.90 ERA in his final 30 1/3 innings at the major league level.

Fellow right-hander Tyler Wilson will also begin the season on Baltimore’s 25-man roster as a member of the bullpen. He remains a candidate to pitch April 10 when the Orioles need a fifth starter for the first time.

Wilson finished the spring with a 2.60 ERA in 17 1/3 innings this spring and posted a 3.50 ERA in 36 innings in the majors last year.

The Orioles announced Thursday evening that right-handed relief pitcher Oliver Drake was optioned to Triple-A Norfolk. Drake pitched nine scoreless innings this spring and remains on the radar as quality bullpen depth for the 2016 season.

Thirty-eight players now remain in major league camp, a total that includes six non-roster invitees.

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Spring bringing little optimism from Orioles starting rotation

Posted on 23 March 2016 by Luke Jones

Hope springs eternal for the Orioles starting rotation.

Three former All-Star selections are projected members of this year’s rotation.

Three starters remain from the group that thrived in the second half of 2014 and contributed to the Orioles running away with the American League East title.

Baltimore may have lost its most consistent starting pitcher from the last four years — Wei-Yin Chen — but his replacement, Yovani Gallardo, sports a 3.66 career ERA.

Then you actually take a look at what’s transpired this spring and wonder how a club that increased its payroll to roughly $150 million can be living under such a black cloud with its starting pitching entering the 2016 season.

Miguel Gonzalez, one of the great stories of the Orioles’ resurgence beginning in 2012, has been nothing short of disastrous in the Grapefruit League after posting a 6.14 ERA in the second half last season. In 14 1/3 innings this spring, the 31-year-old has allowed 20 earned runs, 28 hits, six walks, and five home runs while striking out just four. Against Pittsburgh on Wednesday, Gonzalez continually missed up in the strike zone and threw fastballs sitting in the upper 80s as he allowed four earned runs, six hits, and two homers in 4 1/3 innings.

Strong track record or not, Gonzalez has struggled dramatically dating back to June of 2015 and should not be assured a spot in the rotation, but the alternatives are few and far between. Gonzalez will have a couple more starts to turn it around before the season begins, but it’s worth noting that he has a minor-league option remaining if his poor performance continues.

The talented Kevin Gausman is dealing with shoulder tendinitis for the second straight year and received a cortisone shot to alleviate the discomfort. Even if the ailment proves to be minor, this isn’t the start that the 25-year-old was looking for with the Orioles needing him to take a major step forward in his first full season as a starter.

Manager Buck Showalter has remained optimistic about Gausman’s availability at the start of the season, but the Orioles won’t know how practical that is until he begins throwing again later this week. Gausman avoiding the disabled list appears unlikely at this point.

Signed to a two-year, $22 million deal that was restructured after apparent concerns about his shoulder, Gallardo has allowed four homers in 4 1/3 innings in the Grapefruit League and surrendered two runs, six hits, and three walks while striking out one in four innings of a Single-A game on Monday. A late start to the spring gives the 30-year-old the benefit of the doubt, but there was much discussion about his declining velocity and strikeout rate before the Orioles signed him in late February.

The next couple outings are important for him.

Slowed by a hip issue earlier this spring, Chris Tillman threw the ball well on Sunday despite mediocre results — three earned runs and two homers in four innings — but he also acknowledged during that MASN telecast that his hip still isn’t 100 percent. The Orioles need Tillman to pitch more like the guy he was from 2012-2014 and not the pitcher who posted a 4.99 ERA in 2015.

And then there’s Ubaldo Jimenez, who gave up six runs and retired just one batter in his spring debut on March 2. Fortunately, the enigmatic right-hander has allowed just two earned runs in 17 innings split between Grapefruit League and minor-league outings since then.

It speaks volumes about the current state of the rotation when Jimenez looks like the surest bet.

So, who else might the Orioles turn to, especially if Gausman isn’t ready to return when a fifth starter is needed on April 10?

Of a group that also includes Mike Wright (5.74 ERA), Vance Worley (5.56 ERA), and Odrisamer Despaigne (7.15 ERA), Tyler Wilson has stood out this spring as he’s posted a 2.89 ERA in 9 1/3 innings. The 26-year-old doesn’t blow you away with his stuff, but a strong 3.50 ERA in 36 major league innings last year showed that the stage wasn’t too big for him and he has yet to walk a batter this spring.

Wright’s spring ERA isn’t stellar, but his 15 strikeouts in 15 2/3 innings at least keep him in the conversation.

Beyond those names, executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette continues to look for reinforcements, whether it’s that elusive left-handed starter or another right-handed one who can simply get hitters out.

You never want to read too much into spring training performance — good or bad — but it’s getting late early for the starting rotation and there hasn’t been much evidence from Florida to discount the biggest concern about the 2016 Orioles. We know spring numbers don’t count in the long run, but you’d like to see a little more to be optimistic about at this late stage.

Who knows?

Maybe the pre-2015 light bulb goes back on for Gonzalez, Gausman’s shoulder isn’t an issue and he takes that big step forward, Tillman puts last year behind him, Gallardo proves to be one of the best signings of the offseason, and the good Jimenez surfaces for an entire season. Such a series of events would make us forget all about an ugly spring training and might even make the Orioles the favorites in the AL East.

Hope springs eternal this time of year, right?

As long as you don’t pay attention to anything that’s happened so far.

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2016 Orioles preview: Mike Wright

Posted on 20 March 2016 by Luke Jones

With Opening Day just two weeks away, we’ll take a look at a member of the 2016 Orioles every day as they try to return to the playoffs for the third time in five years this season.

March 1 – Adam Jones
March 2 – Chris Tillman
March 3 – Jonathan Schoop
March 4 – Brad Brach
March 5 – Nolan Reimold
March 6 – Yovani Gallardo
March 7 – Matt Wieters
March 8 – T.J. McFarland
March 9 – Dariel Alvarez
March 10 – Brian Matusz
March 11 – J.J. Hardy
March 12 – Mychal Givens
March 13 – Ryan Flaherty
March 14 – Ubaldo Jimenez
March 15 – Mark Trumbo
March 16 – Darren O’Day
March 18 – Pedro Alvarez
March 19 – Oliver Drake

SP Mike Wright

Age: 26

Contract status: Under club control through at least the 2021 season

2015 stats: 3-5, 6.04 ERA, 1.57 WHIP, 5.2 K/IP, 3.6 BB/IP, 9 HR, 44 2/3 innings

Why to be impressed: Wright’s major league career got off to a terrific start as he threw 14 1/3 shutout innings over his first two starts against the Los Angeles Angels and Miami. He earned the opportunities with the Orioles by posting a superb 2.22 ERA in 81 innings at Triple-A Norfolk, which prompted his first promotion in mid-May.

Why to be concerned: The right-hander’s performance was nothing short of disastrous after those first two starts as he posted an 8.90 ERA over his final 30 1/3 innings in the majors in 2015. His fastball sits in the low-to-mid 90s, but his breaking stuff was not good enough against major league hitters in 2015 and makes you wonder whether he has the assortment of pitches needed to be a long-term starter.

2016 outlook: Wright struggled when he first got to Double-A Bowie and Norfolk, so it’s perfectly reasonable to expect him to improve in the majors whenever he might be called upon in 2016. That said, many believe he is best suited for a bullpen role that would allow him to unleash a plus fastball for shorter periods of time, but a deep group of relievers will likely leave him as rotation depth for now.

2016 not-so-scientific projections: 4-6, 4.86 ERA, 1.41 WHIP, 6.4 K/IP, 3.5 BB/IP, 8 HR, 65 innings

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Gonzalez’s struggles, Wieters’ elbow more concerning than spring record

Posted on 14 March 2016 by Luke Jones

The question is being asked over and over about the Orioles’ poor start in the Grapefruit League.

Are you concerned?

My short answer is no, at least as it relates to a 1-11-2 record entering Monday’s game against Philadelphia. A simple look at each box score illustrates how many outcomes have been impacted by many players who are unlikely to be real factors for the Orioles this year. If you need historical perspective to feel better, the 2012 Washington Nationals began spring training with an 0-10-1 record before winning 98 games in the regular season.

But dismissing the Orioles’ spring training record doesn’t mean there aren’t other reasons to be concerned as Miguel Gonzalez was crushed for the second time in his first three starts on Sunday. The right-hander allowed six earned runs, seven hits, three walks, and a home run in 1 2/3 innings against Minnesota, elevating his spring ERA to 22.24 in three outings covering just 5 2/3 innings.

His nightmarish start has brought memories of Bud Norris last spring, but the ex-Oriole only had an 11.74 ERA through his first three spring starts in 2015, reinforcing how dramatic Gonzalez’s struggles have been. It also doesn’t help that his poor spring performance comes after he pitched to a 6.53 ERA over his final 14 starts of 2015 upon returning from the disabled list in late June.

It’s true that spring training is the time for pitchers to work on different parts of their craft with the goal of being ready for early April, but giving up 18 hits and 14 earned runs in less than six innings of work takes that notion to an absurd level. The veteran right-hander spoke about his mechanics being off against the Twins on Sunday, but even his best outing of the spring saw him giving up three hits, a walk, and a home run in 2 2/3 innings.

To be clear, Gonzalez deserves some benefit of the doubt after serving as one of the Orioles’ best starting pitchers from 2012-2014 and posting an ERA of 3.78 or better in each of those seasons. He even had a 3.33 ERA in his first 12 starts last year before going to the DL with a groin strain, making you wonder if poor health was the biggest reason for his struggles the rest of the way. Gonzalez also spent most of September on the DL after concerns rose about his shoulder and elbow.

Gonzalez will be 32 in late May and never had dominating stuff even when he was at his best, making you wonder if he’s going to get back to being the pitcher he was prior to last year. Manager Buck Showalter will certainly give him more opportunities to figure it out based on his track record, but those chances shouldn’t continue too long if progress isn’t being made over his next three or four starts.

Ubaldo Jimenez also had a horrendous spring debut (six earned runs in 1/3 inning), but he’s bounced back over his last two starts and has allowed just one run over his last 6 1/3 frames despite a spring ERA that still sits at 9.45. Gonzalez needs to start showing a similar progression.

Unlike last year when Norris was struggling, the Orioles don’t have a slam-dunk replacement for Gonzalez waiting in the wings like the talented Kevin Gausman, who is already part of the starting rotation in 2016. Vance Worley, Odrisamer Despaigne, Tyler Wilson, and Mike Wright would all figure to be in the mix to be the fifth starter, but those options don’t provide much hope that they could be what Gonzalez was for the Orioles prior to last year.

It’s only mid-March and Gonzalez still has time to figure it out, but his three spring starts become magnified after his final three months of 2015.

Wieters worry

The Orioles and Matt Wieters are trying to downplay the right elbow soreness that forced him out of Saturday’s game in the first inning, but you can’t help but be concerned until he’s back behind the plate.

Arm soreness at this time in the spring isn’t uncommon for pitchers, catchers, or other position players, but Wieters is just 21 months removed from Tommy John surgery and only caught on consecutive days a total of five times last season. It’s also worth noting that Wieters caught consecutive games for the first time in the spring last week, making you wonder if the issue was related to that.

Even if he returns in the next few days, you wonder if this is a sign that Wieters isn’t yet ready to be the guy he was prior to surgery when he would catch 135 games or more per year. Based on the limited number of major league catchers to have the procedure over the years and the unknown that remains, it’s possible that Wieters will never be that guy again.

It wouldn’t be the worst scenario for Wieters and Caleb Joseph to more evenly share the workload despite the $15.8 million salary the former is making in 2016 after he accepted the Orioles’ qualifying offer. In fact, you can make a sound argument that Joseph is the superior defensive option at this point, which could bring more value to a questionable starting rotation.

Either way, you hope that Wieters’ elbow issue isn’t anything serious with what he’s already endured over the last two years and what the Orioles are paying him in 2016.

Kim’s rough start

An 0-for-23 start isn’t what Hyun Soo Kim or the Orioles envisioned in his first spring training, but going 3-for-6 since then has eased some concerns for now.

Showalter didn’t sugarcoat his assessment of the South Korean outfielder’s performance last week, making you wonder if Kim will be the club’s starting left fielder on Opening Day as many anticipated. Of course, the Orioles are already facing the likelihood of playing Mark Trumbo in right field, so Kim’s slow start just creates more doubt in the corner outfield spots for the second straight year.

Perhaps the 2015 spring performance of South Korean infielder Jung Ho Kang provides some encouragement as he went 3-for-27 to begin his first spring with Pittsburgh before ultimately posting an impressive .816 on-base plus slugging percentage in the regular season. The quality of competition in the Korean Baseball Organization is generally viewed as similar to the Single-A or Double-A level of the minor leagues, making for a difficult adjustment to succeed in the majors.

That doesn’t mean that Kim is destined to figure it out, either, but you hope his last few games are a sign of better things to come for the 28-year-old.

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Wilson to make start for Orioles against Tampa Bay on Friday

Posted on 17 September 2015 by Luke Jones

Beginning their final road trip of the 2015 season and needing a historic finish to qualify for the postseason, the Orioles have made a change to their starting rotation.

Prior to the start of a four-game series against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field, the Orioles announced that right-handed pitcher Tyler Wilson will start Friday’s game with Wei-Yin Chen and Kevin Gausman each being pushed back a day. Manager Buck Showalter told reporters in St. Petersburg that Ubaldo Jimenez would start in Washington on Monday night.

Wilson’s inclusion in the rotation comes after right-hander Mike Wright was roughed up in his latest start, continuing his struggles at the major league level. In his first two starts for the Orioles this season, Wright tossed 14 1/3 scoreless innings. Since then, the 25-year-old has pitched to a 9.53 ERA in 8 appearances (seven starts) spanning 28 1/3 innings.

The Orioles may have turned to Wilson instead of Wright when Miguel Gonzalez began experiencing shoulder tendinitis, but the former was dealing with a strained oblique at the time. Wilson has a 2.19 ERA in 24 2/3 innings for the Orioles this season with most of that work coming in relief.

In his two starts, the 25-year-old allowed four earned runs in 13 2/3 innings. His best outing came in Oakland on Aug. 3 when he gave up just two earned runs in 7 2/3 innings.

It’s fair to ask whether Wilson will miss enough bats at the major league level as he’s struck out only seven batters in his 24 2/3 innings, but his work earlier in the season as well as his 3.24 ERA at Triple-A Norfolk in 2015 make him deserving of a look.

Showalter also told reporters on Thursday that Gonzalez could be ready to return as early as next weekend in Boston.

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