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Orioles-White Sox game postponed due to Baltimore riots

Posted on 27 April 2015 by Luke Jones

BALITMORE — Due to continuing riots in Baltimore stemming from the death of Freddie Gray, the Orioles announced the postponement of Monday night’s game against the Chicago White Sox.

The announcement came less than an hour before the scheduled 7:05 p.m. start after the Orioles and Major League Baseball consulted with the Baltimore City Police Department. The club said a make-up date will be set as soon as possible.

Fans were encouraged to keep their tickets and parking passes until more information was made available.

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Orioles feeling better after regrouping against Boston

Posted on 26 April 2015 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — You often hope a dramatic moment like David Lough’s walk-off homer against Boston on Saturday night will be the sign of better fortunes to come.

It helped the Orioles snap a five-game losing streak and sent fans home happy after a tense day in downtown Baltimore, but “magical” occurrences like this can be found in virtually any season with most being of little consequence in the scope of a 162-game schedule. That’s what made Sunday’s demolition of the Red Sox that much more encouraging.

Manager Buck Showalter often quotes the late Earl Weaver’s philosophy of momentum being as good as the next day’s starting pitcher, and Bud Norris delivered with 6 2/3 strong innings despite his nightmarish beginning to the 2015 season. Of course, he received plenty of support as the Orioles lineup matched its highest run total since April 19, 2006.

“It was one we kind of needed,” said right fielder Delmon Young, who drove in five runs in Sunday’s 18-7 final. “We’ve been playing sloppy baseball for about a week or so. Good to get out of the rut. We had been swinging the bats well, [but] just hadn’t been playing on the defensive side well. And Bud pitched a strong game.”

The Orioles played sound defense — something that shouldn’t be taken for granted of late — and Norris quieted questions about his status in the starting rotation for the time being by holding the Red Sox scoreless until surrendering a three-run home run to Pablo Sandoval with two outs in the seventh inning. Norris lowered his ERA from 17.42 to 12.18 in his first four starts covering 17 innings.

It was his outing that was the most encouraging development of the afternoon despite the Orioles collecting 20 hits in a game for the first time in over a year.

“Bud, without a doubt,” said Showalter when asked if he placed more importance on the performance of his starting pitcher or the offense. “That’s the Bud that pitched well for us last year. This guy won 15 games last year, and he was in attack mode today. He got a little tired there at the end. Threw a lot of strike ones. He was around the zone the whole day. Bud was good.”

Norris showed improved fastball command in allowing seven hits and three earned runs while walking three and striking out two to help the Orioles win their third series of the season. His six clean innings were more than his total number of clean frames (five) in his first three outings combined.

After completing six innings just four times in their first 16 games, Orioles starters are on a mini-roll with Miguel Gonzalez, Wei-Yin Chen, and Norris each turning in six or more innings over the weekend. But Norris needed a good outing more than any pitcher on the roster after a rough spring and two of the worst starts of his major league career coming in his first three outings of 2015.

“It feels really good, to be honest, just to prove to these guys that I’m here to help out again,” Norris said. “These guys know who I am. We’re trying to find our stride. We have a good group in this clubhouse, and we’re excited with the year to go.”

Yes, the Orioles regrouped nicely this weekend to calm some nerves after a 7-10 start and their ugly five-game slide. Still dealing with injuries, they need to see their pitching step up and the defense to stabilize with some new pieces until the likes of J.J. Hardy and Matt Wieters are able to return.

The offense is certainly doing its part, entering Sunday ranking sixth in the majors in runs scored and taking over the major-league lead with its highest run total in almost a decade.

Fans will hope Lough’s walk-off homer and a drubbing of the Red Sox on Sunday are the catalysts for a hot streak to even out the early struggles, but the next indicator comes against the Chicago White Sox with Ubaldo Jimenez taking the hill against Hector Noesi on Monday night.

“Momentum stops once you go to sleep,” Young said. “It’s a new pitcher, a new day.”

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Hardy shut down for three days after receiving injection

Posted on 26 April 2015 by Luke Jones

Updated: 12:25 p.m.

BALTIMORE — After a report had suggested J.J. Hardy might begin a rehab assignment at Triple-A Norfolk as early as Saturday, the Orioles shortstop instead returned to Baltimore to receive a cortisone injection in his left shoulder.

Manager Buck Showalter told reporters after Saturday’s 5-4 win over Boston that Hardy would be shut down for three days after receiving the injection. The Orioles think the shot can alleviate the slight pain Hardy is still feeling in extending his left shoulder through the follow-through of his swing.

“We hope. We’re just trying to give it some help getting that last little discomfort out of there,” Showalter said prior to Sunday’s series finale. “We almost did it three or four days ago, but J.J. thought it was really progressing and thought it might leave while he was in Norfolk. I’m hoping this is the last step [before rehab].”

With the Orioles playing on the road last week, Hardy was working out in Norfolk and had taken live batting practice on Thursday and Friday. Showalter said Friday that the Orioles were hoping Hardy would make it through the sessions without any discomfort, signaling he would be ready to begin a rehab assignment.

Showalter estimated that Hardy would likely only need to play in three or four minor-league games before being activated. The 32-year-old strained his left shoulder in a Grapefruit League game on March 27. He has since been joined on the 15-day disabled list by middle infielders Jonathan Schoop (right knee) and Ryan Flaherty (groin).

Filling in for Hardy has been veteran Everth Cabrera, who is hitting .224 with a .466 on-base plus slugging percentage this season.

In other injury-related news, Showalter said catcher Matt Wieters is still scheduled to catch four or five innings in an extended spring training game in Sarasota on Monday.

Left-handed relief pitcher Wesley Wright (left trapezius strain) is scheduled to begin throwing in Sarasota this week.

Top pitching prospect Hunter Harvey is scheduled to throw a 25-pitch bullpen session on Wednesday. The 2013 first-round pick has been on the minor-league disabled list since suffering a fractured right fibula in late March.

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Pearce trying to snap out of early-season slump

Posted on 25 April 2015 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — While the Orioles were trying to snap their longest losing streak since 2013 on Saturday night, Steve Pearce continues to fight his own struggles to begin the 2015 campaign.

Starting only once in the club’s last seven games, the 32-year-old is trying to recapture the magic that made him one of the best stories of the 2014 season. After hitting a career-high 21 home runs and posting a club-best .930 on-base plus slugging percentage in 383 plate appearances last year, Pearce appeared ready to pick up where he left off with two homers in the first two games of the 2015 season, which followed a strong spring performance. Since starting the year with three hits in his first five at-bats, however, Pearce has gone 5-for-41 with 12 strikeouts, dropping his average to .167 and his OPS to .551.

The activation of the hot-hitting Jimmy Paredes and Pearce’s struggles have largely left the latter on the bench. But Pearce can’t fault manager Buck Showalter for going with hotter hitters in recent days.

“I’ve been like a one-man rally-killer these past weeks,” Pearce said. “It’s just been frustrating, and I think Buck sees that I’m very frustrated. I’m not swinging the bat like I’m capable of doing. But baseball comes around; it always does. I just want to get back to where I know I can play.”

Pearce offered signs of snapping out of his slump Friday night with two strong at-bats off the bench against the Boston bullpen. Hitting for left field Alejandro De Aza in the bottom of the seventh, the right-handed hitter quickly fell behind 0-2 against Alexi Ogando before coaxing a walk in an eight-pitch at-bat to load the bases. Then, facing Red Sox closer Koji Uehara in the ninth, Pearce ripped an 0-2 pitch into the left-field corner for a long single.

The Orioles dropped their fifth consecutive game in a 7-5 final, but the flashes from Pearce are an encouraging development, especially when he was identified by executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette and Showalter as a big reason why the Orioles could endure the offseason departures of Nick Markakis and Nelson Cruz. Despite starting Saturday’s game on the bench once again, Pearce was happy to get a return for the behind-the-scenes work he’s completed in recent days.

“It definitely builds some confidence, but I’m working every day and working hard,” Pearce said. “Just mechanically, I want to get right and help the team get back on the right track.”

Seeing Pearce relegated to reserve duties for such an extended time is surprising considering his struggles have come in a small sample size.

His success from last year has allowed him to remain confident, but the journeyman outfielder and first baseman even recalls similar struggles in 2014 that weren’t magnified like they are now at the start of a new season. From July 6 through Aug. 16 of last year, Pearce batted just .167 with one homer and a .504 OPS in 82 plate appearances.

He bounced back to post an 1.144 OPS with 10 home runs over his final 118 plate appearances of the regular season.

“It helps a lot. I know I can play at this level,” said Pearce about drawing inspiration from 2014. “I went through the same period last year. I think it was after the All-Star break that I struggled exactly like this. I know there is light at the end of the tunnel.”

 

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Walks again pivotal in Orioles’ 7-5 loss to Boston

Posted on 25 April 2015 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — Orioles pitching entered Friday’s series opener against the Boston Red Sox leading the major leagues with 67 walks in 16 games.

And free passes at inopportune times once again hurt the Orioles in dropping their fifth consecutive game in a 7-5 final at Camden Yards.

“We only walked two guys tonight, and the two really bit us against a good team,” said manager Buck Showalter, who pointed to the high number of bases on balls being his biggest pet peeve of the young season prior to Friday’s game. “The walks hurt us, but at least we cut down on them. They really bit us.”

In the fifth inning, starter Miguel Gonzalez issued a bases-empty, two-out walk to Mookie Betts before eventually allowing a three-run homer to David Ortiz and a solo shot by Hanley Ramirez. The four-run frame spoiled an otherwise-solid outing by the Orioles right-hander.

With the scored tied 4-4 with two outs and the bases empty in the top of the eighth, lefty specialist Brian Matusz was summoned to pitch to the switch-hitting Pablo Sandoval, who was 0-for-13 against southpaws so far in 2015. Instead of following up Tommy Hunter’s 1 2/3 innings of strong work by getting his man, Matusz walked Sandoval and was promptly lifted in favor of Darren O’Day. A Manny Machado fielding error and a Brock Holt three-run homer later, Baltimore trailed 7-4.

Of course, the home runs were the death knells, but the two-out walks paved the way for trouble.

“We didn’t do the little things tonight,” said O’Day, who credited Holt for hitting a quality 1-2 pitch over the right-field scoreboard. “We made a lot of small errors, and our strength is paying attention to detail. We just didn’t do it tonight — both sides of the ball.”

Machado’s fielding miscue — the Orioles have now committed eight errors over their last five games  — came after he had struck out in an eight-pitch at-bat with the bases loaded in the bottom of the seventh.

It didn’t take much, but the Orioles continue to do the little things poorly and it cost them another game on Friday.

* Baltimore has now lost five straight for the first time since a six-game losing streak from Sept. 19-24, 2013.

* Matusz has walked seven batters in 7 1/3 innings, which is tied for fourth on the club. He’s tied for 11th in innings pitched.

* Gonzalez gave the Orioles only their fifth start of the season to go six innings or more. The 30-year-old has provided the last two, both coming at home.

* Counting the 2014 postseason, O’Day has given up seven homers in his last 20 innings dating back to Sept. 2 of last year.

 

 

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Orioles place Flaherty on 15-day DL, recall infielder Navarro

Posted on 24 April 2015 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — Returning to Camden Yards to begin a long homestand in the midst of a four-game losing streak, the Orioles have lost another infielder as Ryan Flaherty was placed on the 15-day disabled list Friday afternoon.

Flaherty suffered a right groin strain in Wednesday’s loss to the Toronto Blue Jays and did not play in the series finale at Rogers Centre. Infielder Rey Navarro has been recalled from Triple-A Norfolk to take Flaherty’s place on the 25-man roster to begin a weekend series against the Boston Red Sox.

Manager Buck Showalter said Flaherty was projected to miss five to seven days, but this would have been too much time for the club to endure with a shortage of middle infielders. After Jonathan Schoop suffered a right knee injury last weekend that landed him on the DL, Flaherty had been filling in as the starting second baseman. The 28-year-old is hitting .300 with two home runs and four RBIs in 35 plate appearances this season.

Flaherty joins Schoop, shortstop J.J. Hardy, catcher Matt Wieters, and left-handed reliever Wesley Wright as the latest member of the Orioles’ regular 25-man roster to visit the DL.

The 25-year-old Navarro signed with the Orioles in the offseason after spending time in the Cincinnati, Kansas City, and Arizona organizations. Making his major league debut on Friday, Navarro was batting seventh and playing second base after being activated from the minor-league disabled list earlier this week. Like Flaherty, Navarro was nursing a groin injury.

In 885 games over nine minor-league seasons, Navarro is a career .265 hitter with 47 homers, 363 RBIs, and 74 stolen bases.

In other injury-related news, Hardy took live batting practice with Triple-A Norfolk for the second straight day on Friday. Showalter wants Hardy to hit live without any left shoulder discomfort in consecutive days before he begins a rehab assignment, making Friday’s session an important one. The Orioles manager confirmed that Flaherty’s injury would not change how the Orioles view Hardy’s timetable.

Wieters caught a few innings in extended spring training for the second consecutive day. He made throws to second and third base on Thursday, and Showalter was anxious to hear how the catcher fared on Friday as he moves closer to potentially starting a minor-league rehab assignment.

On Friday, Norfolk catcher Steve Clevenger has been placed on the minor-league seven-day DL with a bruised left thumb.

Showalter will not be with the club Saturday as he attends the memorial service of his father-in-law in Nashville.

Below are Friday night’s lineups:

BOSTON
CF Mookie Betts
2B Dustin Pedroia
DH David Ortiz
LF Hanley Ramirez
1B Mike Napoli
3B Pablo Sandoval
RF Daniel Nava
SS Brock Holt
C Ryan Hanigan

SP Rick Porcello (1-2, 6.63 ERA, 1.47 WHIP)

BALTIMORE
LF Alejandro De Aza
3B Manny Machado
DH Jimmy Paredes
CF Adam Jones
1B Chris Davis
RF Delmon Young
2B Rey Navarro
C Caleb Joseph
SS Everth Cabrera

SP Gonzalez (2-1, 2.55 ERA, 1.25 WHIP)

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Orioles still trying to recapture starter success from last year

Posted on 23 April 2015 by Luke Jones

You don’t have to look far to figure out why the Orioles are off to a 7-8 start to begin the 2015 season.

They’ve been sloppy in other areas of the game, but Orioles starting pitching entered Thursday ranking last in the majors in innings pitched (4.87 innings per start) and 27th in ERA (5.30). In looking at the first 15 games of the season solely through that lens, Baltimore might be fortunate to be just a game below .500. The bullpen hasn’t been much better with a 4.55 ERA, but relievers have already been overworked because of the starters’ failures.

Bud Norris’ struggles have garnered plenty of attention as the right-hander currently sports a 17.42 ERA, but No. 1 starter Chris Tillman entered Thursday’s start with a 5.52 ERA through three starts. Meanwhile, Wei-Yin Chen can thank his shoddy defense in Boston on Monday — one of the errors were committed by the lefty starter — for a 3.07 ERA that doesn’t accurately reflect how shaky his performance has been thus far. Chen sports a 1.70 WHIP (walks and hits per inning pitched) and a 6.49 FIP (fielding independent pitching mark), which paint a better picture of how he’s pitched.

The poor performance of the rotation has left many to wonder why the talented Kevin Gausman isn’t starting, but the 24-year-old is trying to rebound from a rough beginning of his own in the bullpen and owns a 5.40 ERA in 10 innings of work. The 2012 first-round pick finished 2014 with a 3.57 ERA in 20 starts.

The rocky start has been a stark contrast from the second half of 2014 when the pitching became one of the Orioles’ biggest strengths, finishing fifth in the American League in starter ERA (3.61). Baltimore went 53-27 over the final three months of the season, a clip that translates to a 107-win season over the course of a full year. Aside from Ubaldo Jimenez, who made only five starts in the final three months of 2014, every member of the rotation finished with an ERA of 3.65 or better.

Though many continued to criticize Orioles starters for failing to go seven innings consistently last year, the more realistic standard in today’s game has become six innings as Cincinnati led the majors last year in averaging 6.32 innings per start. Over those final 80 games when the Orioles ran away from the rest of the AL East, starters completed at least six innings 49 times and seven or more innings 23 times.

So far in 2015, starting pitchers have gone six innings just four times in 15 games. And only Ubaldo Jimenez and Miguel Gonzalez have completed seven innings in one start each.

It’s easy to point to the offseason departures of Nelson Cruz, Nick Markakis, and Andrew Miller as reasons why the Orioles might fail to repeat as AL East champions, but the shortcomings of the starting pitching have told the bigger story in the early stages of 2015.

One of their biggest strengths of last season has been the weakest link of Buck Showalter’s club in April.

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No excuse for Orioles’ sloppy play to begin season

Posted on 23 April 2015 by Luke Jones

A 7-8 record for the Orioles is nothing over which to panic.

Every team in baseball will undergo a three-game losing streak this season and will go through stretches when the pitching or the hitting — or both — will fail to do the job.

But the sloppiness with which the Orioles have played at times through the first 2 1/2 weeks of the season is concerning. And you know that isn’t sitting well with manager Buck Showalter.

Yes, they’re missing All-Star players in J.J. Hardy and Matt Wieters and lost young second baseman Jonathan Schoop to a knee injury last weekend, but that can’t excuse the fielding miscues and the baserunning gaffes uncharacteristic of Showalter clubs that we’ve seen. The Orioles may not play small ball, but they’ve still done the little things well for the most part.

Over the last few years, they’ve hit the cutoff man, minimized mistakes on the bases, and made the plays they’re supposed to make.

That hasn’t been the case in the season’s first 15 games.

Their current three-game losing streak has included six official errors, but the defensive struggles came to a head Tuesday night with right fielder Travis Snider making a few gaffes that had fans pining for Nick Markakis’ steady defensive work. Aside from the last few games, the defense hasn’t been awful, but it’s certainly fallen short of the high standard the Orioles set over the last few years.

Baltimore has done a poor job controlling the running game as catcher Caleb Joseph had failed to throw out the first eight runners attempting to steal against him this season before finally gunning down Toronto catcher Russell Martin at second base on Wednesday night. Opponents are 10-for-12 in stolen base attempts this year after Joseph threw out 40 percent of runners last season. Of course, the pitching must also take blame in failing to hold runners as several stolen bases have come after huge jumps.

Perhaps the signature play of the sloppy start to the season was Alejandro De Aza’s inexplicable attempt to steal third base in the top of the seventh of Wednesday’s game. Chris Davis was at the plate as the potential tying run before De Aza was gunned down to end the inning and protect the Blue Jays’ 4-2 lead.

Any baseball fan knows you never make the third out of an inning at third, but it’s an even worse play with one of your best power hitters at the plate and you’re facing a two-run deficit in the seventh.

Brutal.

To be clear, the Orioles need to play better overall as the pitching has been poor — starters have completed six innings just four times this season — and the offense squandered a slew of opportunities to score more than two runs on Wednesday night.

But you can minimize the damage when you’re not pitching or hitting at your best by doing the little things well — the parts of the game that don’t always show up in the box score.

And that’s where, as Adam Jones would say, the Orioles need to clean it up.

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Ortiz’s response to Palmer reeks of his entitlement

Posted on 21 April 2015 by Luke Jones

Who would have guessed it would be a 69-year-old Hall of Fame pitcher to provide the biggest spark to the Orioles-Red Sox rivalry in a few years?

If you’re a social media participant, you’re likely already aware of Orioles broadcaster Jim Palmer using Twitter to criticize David Ortiz after the Boston designated hitter’s antics led to his ejection from Sunday’s game. Major League Baseball announced Tuesday afternoon that Ortiz had been suspended one game and fined an undisclosed amount for making contact with home plate umpire John Tumpane in the moments after he was thrown out, but the veteran hitter will appeal the decision.

Yes, you could argue Palmer shouldn’t have fanned the flames of the story by responding to and posting a number of replies from angry Red Sox fans who view “Big Papi” as an infallible figure, but the beauty of social media can be the interaction with a famous figure, right? In reading Palmer’s Twitter timeline, it was amusing to see some show off their baseball ignorance in saying they’d never heard of one of the greatest pitchers of the last 50 years.

To no one’s surprise, Palmer’s criticism didn’t sit well with Ortiz, who again showed off the same entitlement that led to him being tossed from Sunday’s game in the first place.

“That’s how he wants to get respect from us? Is that how he wants me to respect him?” Ortiz said to reporters in Boston on Monday. “It’s not going to happen.”

Of Ortiz’s 11 career ejections, the last three have come against the Orioles, which provides extra ammunition for Palmer’s hard truths. Perhaps the Red Sox slugger had forgotten about a certain dugout phone he destroyed a couple years ago?

What takes the cake, however, is Ortiz suggesting Palmer made the comments to garner more attention for himself. Never mind the fact that we’re talking about a Hall of Fame pitcher who’s never been afraid to share his opinion in his three decades as a broadcaster.

“Actually, I thought that he was one of my guys,” Ortiz said. “All of a sudden, now he’s killing me, huh? I guess anybody who wants to get famous or make some noise comes to Papi, right?”

Or, Palmer just sees a tired act, whether we’re talking about Ortiz’s intimidation of umpires or the general way in which he makes everyone wait on him in the midst of a game. There’s no disputing how great his career has been or how beloved Ortiz is in the city of Boston, but to suggest a Hall of Famer — a title Ortiz hopes to enjoy one day — is trying to become famous at his expense is as arrogant as it gets.

It’s just Ortiz’s world and we’re all living in it, I suppose.

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Jones not missing his pitch in hot start for Orioles

Posted on 20 April 2015 by Luke Jones

Even after an 0-for-2 showing in Monday’s 7-1 loss that snapped a nine-game hitting streak, Orioles center fielder Adam Jones is off to one of the best starts of his career through the first two weeks of the 2015 campaign.

The numbers resemble something from a video game as Jones is hitting .438 with five home runs, 16 RBIs, and a 1.294 on-base plus slugging percentage, but the most encouraging stat that could make room for Jones to sustain improvement in 2015 is his impressively-low number of strikeouts. Entering Monday with a career 19.3 percent strikeout rate, Jones has gone down on strikes just five times in 54 plate appearances this season.

Jones has only walked three times, but he’s making more contact on pitches in or out of the strike zone. Of course, we’re dealing with a small sample size, but even a reasonable improvement from his career 73.5 percent contract rate — Jones entered Monday making contact on 78 percent of his swings — could make an already-dangerous hitter even better.

Manager Buck Showalter has also noted that several of Jones’ big hits early in the season have come on pitches well outside the zone, which should serve as a reminder for those who like to harp on his lack of plate discipline and inability to draw walks. You take the good with the bad with Jones, and there’s been much more of the former in his eight years with the Orioles.

** The final numbers showed that all five runs that Wei-Yin Chen surrendered on Monday were unearned, but anyone who watched his performance knows nearly all of the damage was self-inflicted for the Taiwanese lefty.

Committing an error and walking four batters in the third — he walked no more than three in any of his 31 starts last season — Chen struggled to shake off the fielding miscue and allowed it to affect his performance on the mound. Of course, the error committed by Manny Machado with the bases loaded led to two more runs and a 5-1 deficit.

The defensive gaffe and the control problems are uncharacteristic for Chen, who is regarded as an exceptional fielder and walked only 1.7 hitters per nine innings last year. For now, you chalk it up as one of those days even though he’s now walked eight batters in 14 2/3 innings in 2015.

** With another strikeout on Monday, Chris Davis has now gone down on strikes 21 times in 50 plate appearances to begin the year.

It isn’t news that Davis strikes out a lot as he fanned 199 times in his 53-homer season in 2013, but the left-handed slugger striking out in 42 percent of his plate appearances is alarming even for his standards. Despite this, Davis has still managed to produce with two home runs, seven RBIs, and a .457 slugging percentage.

What might be more concerning than the strikeout rate is the fact that Davis has only drawn two walks this season. Despite his nightmarish 2014 season that included a .196 average, Davis still drew 60 walks in 525 plate appearances to at least salvage a .300 on-base percentage.

With the increased use of the shift against him, Davis will do himself no favors if he doesn’t have patient at-bats. Of course, pitchers may not feel the need to pitch him as carefully this season, which could also impact his ability to earn free passes.

** Once J.J. Hardy returns, many assume Everth Cabrera will become the primary second baseman in place of the injured Jonathan Schoop, but I’m not convinced.

Cabrera has just 12 games of major league experience at the position while Ryan Flaherty has proven he can play above-average defense at second. The former has also shown little at the plate with a .244 slugging percentage this season after posting a .572 OPS in his final season in San Diego last year.

Flaherty is a polarizing figure among Orioles fans, but he’s off to a strong start in 2015 with a .333 average and two homers in 24 at-bats. If you view him in his proper context as a utility player who can play six different positions well, it’s easier to see why manager Buck Showalter likes him so much.

Because of Flaherty’s power potential and his ability to play good defense at second, I’d be inclined to give him an extended look at the position before automatically handing the job over to Cabrera when Hardy is back at shortstop.

** The silver lining in Monday’s rain-shortened game was the Orioles bullpen receiving a breather aside from Rule 5 pick Jason Garcia, who pitched for the first time since April 10.

Orioles relievers pitched 12 1/3 innings in the first three games at Fenway and will now travel to Toronto to take on a potent Blue Jays lineup that entered Monday ranking first in the majors in runs scored. On top of that, Baltimore will not have another day off until April 30.

** The Orioles Hall of Fame has come under criticism in recent years with a number of players being inducted who were viewed as unworthy, but Melvin Mora shouldn’t be mentioned in that group after it was announced that he and former platoon partners John Lowenstein and Gary Roenicke will be enshrined this August.

Mora, a two-time All-Star selection, is 13th in all-time wins above replacement in club history and ranks in the top 10 in a number of categories including doubles, RBIs, home runs, runs, and total bases. That sounds like a player deserving of inclusion, regardless of whether you think the overall standard has dropped.

His 2004 campaign in particular goes down as one of the most underrated seasons in franchise history and Mora was one of the lone bright spots in a very dark time period for the Orioles.

In the same way that we don’t attach the stench of 1988 to Hall of Famers Cal Ripken and Eddie Murray, Mora shouldn’t be classified as an unworthy inductee for the Orioles Hall of Fame because of the terrible teams on which he played.

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