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“Rounding the Bases” in Orioles’ 7-0 loss to Yankees

Posted on 05 May 2016 by Luke Jones

What went wrong in the Orioles’ 7-0 defeat to the New York Yankees on Wednesday 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 26th game of the 2016 season.

1st — The late Prince’s “1999” was played at one point between innings of Wednesday’s game at Camden Yards, but Yankees starter CC Sabathia pitched like it was 2009 with seven shutout innings. Watching Sabathia at this point is not unlike what we saw from Peyton Manning at the end of his career as the burly lefty struggles to reach the high 80s with his fastball after once being a power pitcher. However, he got vintage results to halt his club’s six-game losing streak by inducing nine grounders and striking out six over the course of the evening. Sabathia moved the ball around and out of the zone effectively — Orioles hitters obliged in expanding the zone — and ended his evening with 14 swinging strikes.

2nd — Though he tossed five scoreless innings to begin the night, the third time through the order proved to be the death knell for Tyler Wilson’s outing. The right-hander allowed only one hit and two walks through the first five frames, but Jacoby Ellsbury reached base for a third time with one out in the sixth and Wilson never really recovered from there as five of the next six Yankees hitters reached base, including Starlin Castro on a throwing error by Wilson that brought Mark Teixeira home with the third run of the inning. Two earned runs in six innings was a perfectly acceptable outing if he’d received even modest run support, but Wilson must find more success the third time through the order if he wants to stick in the rotation in the long run.

3rd — Sabathia deserves plenty of credit, but the Orioles left eight men on base and went 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position over the course of the night. The New York starter didn’t record a single 1-2-3 inning, showing that Baltimore had its chances to give Wilson a lead long before he ran into trouble in the sixth. Adam Jones, Nolan Reimold, and Mark Trumbo each grounded into double plays while Manny Machado and Chris Davis each went 0-for-2 with runners in scoring position. In comparison to Yankee hitters going 3-for-5 with a walk and a sacrifice fly in their third plate appearances against Wilson, the Orioles went 0-for-7 with a walk in their third looks at the veteran Sabathia.

Home — After pitching a scoreless seventh, T.J. McFarland didn’t retire a batter in the eighth and allowed three runs, putting the game out of reach. … Jones went 0-for-3 with a walk and a strikeout to drop his season average to .205. … The Orioles were shut out for the second time this season. … Machado doubled twice to elevate his average to .355. … Kevin Gausman takes the hill seeking a series win on Thursday while New York will turn to Masahiro Tanaka.

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“Rounding the Bases” in Orioles’ 4-1 win over Yankees

Posted on 04 May 2016 by Luke Jones

Who stood out in the Orioles’ 4-1 win over the New York Yankees on Tuesday night?

In the spirit of hockey’s “three stars” system with the addition of home plate for honorable mentions and other notes, we go around the bases after the 25th game of the 2016 season.

1stMark Trumbo continues to give the Orioles everything they could have asked for in the offseason trade with Seattle as he hit two home runs and drove in three runs on the night. His first homer in the second inning was an absolute bomb to left with an exit velocity of 113 miles per hour and an estimated distance of 405 feet to tie the game at 1-1. He hit his second shot off Luis Severino in the fifth to give the Orioles a 4-1 lead that they wouldn’t relinquish. Trumbo isn’t going to hit .337 for the entire season, but it’s tough not to be reminded of the impact Nelson Cruz brought in 2014 when you see the right fielder continuously driving the ball with authority and leading the Orioles in home runs so far this season. It was the ninth multi-homer game of his career and second this season.

2ndChris Tillman was excellent for a second straight outing as he held the struggling New York lineup to one run and five hits over seven innings, his deepest start of the young season. The right-hander struggled with his fastball command at times and walked four hitters on the night, but he used his secondary pitches effectively to keep hitters off balance and struck out nine to match his career high. Four of those strikeouts came via his slider, three by his changeup, and two by his fastball, but his curveball was also an effective pitch for much of the night. Tillman lowered his season ERA to an impressive 2.81 in 32 innings, and he is now averaging 9.3 strikeouts per nine innings, which is markedly better than his 6.7 career average entering the 2016 season.

3rdBrad Brach faced four left-handed hitters in the eighth inning, but the reliever only allowed a soft one-out single to pinch hitter Dustin Ackley in a scoreless frame against the heart of the Yankees order. The lefty-heavy lineup might have been best suited for lefty specialist Brian Matusz in past years, but Brach has held lefties to a .148 average and Matusz has struggled since being activated from the disabled list late last month. Brach lowered his season ERA to 1.18 and has arguably been the Orioles’ most valuable reliever so far.

HomeChris Davis went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts, but he continues to play excellent defense as he scooped a couple balls in the dirt and made a good throw to second to get the lead runner on a close play in the fourth. Buck Showalter said after the game that his first baseman is playing Gold Glove-caliber defense so far in 2016, and it would tough to argue. … With Zach Britton still resting his left ankle, Darren O’Day picked up his 16th career save and second of the season in a scoreless ninth. The Orioles are 11-1 in games in which he pitches. … Baltimore collected its sixth straight win over the Yankees, a stretch dating back to Sept. 8 of last season. … The Yankees lost their season-high sixth consecutive game and have now scored three or fewer runs in eight of their last nine games. They’re eight games below .500 for the first time since May 29, 2007. … The Orioles retook first place in the AL East after Boston fell to the Chicago White Sox on Tuesday night. … Tyler Wilson goes to the hill on Wednesday against New York southpaw CC Sabathia.

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Orioles keeping options open at shortstop in Hardy’s absence

Posted on 03 May 2016 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — The original Orioles lineup written out by Buck Showalter did not have Manny Machado at shortstop in the series opener against the New York Yankees on Tuesday night.

An afternoon conversation with the two-time Gold Glove third baseman, however, prompted the Baltimore manager to change his mind, shifting Machado to his natural shortstop position and moving recalled utility infielder Ryan Flaherty from short to third base. Showalter said earlier this season when Hardy was dealing with a calf issue that he slightly preferred the defensive alignment of Flaherty at third base with Machado at shortstop, but the Orioles will keep all options open with their three-time Gold Glove shortstop now expected to miss at least a month with a hairline fracture in his left foot.

Slick-fielding veteran shortstop Paul Janish remains a strong possibility to be promoted from Triple-A Norfolk in the near future, and Showalter reminded reporters that Pedro Alvarez has also started more than 500 games at the hot corner in his major league career. Of course, Alvarez at third base wouldn’t represent the optimal defensive alignment for a club that puts much emphasis in defense.

“There’s some other things that we could do,” said Showalter about his decision to move Machado to shortstop on Tuesday. “I’d keep in mind, too, that Pedro’s played a lot of third base. He’s actually played more third base than Manny has in the big leagues. There are some options there. I’d like to keep them all open; I’d also like to keep from moving guys around a lot.

“This is the way we’re going to go tonight.”

Drafted as a shortstop out of high school and having played all but two career minor-league games there before he was promoted to the majors in 2012, Machado was only making his ninth career major league start at short on Tuesday night. The Orioles know the 23-year-old can play elite defense at third base, but it remains to be seen just how good his defense would be at shortstop over the long haul.

The best defensive left side of the infield in Hardy’s absence would likely be Janish at shortstop with Machado staying at third, but the former has hit just .216 and posted a .574 on-base plus slugging percentage in parts of seven major league seasons, making him less than ideal for an everyday role. The Orioles would rather not weaken their defense at two positions, but Flaherty is a better third baseman than shortstop, which has facilitated the opportunity for Machado to play his natural position on occasion.

Perhaps the time is now to see how Machado’s incredible skill at third base translates to shortstop over an extended time as Showalter even noted that he’s seen better preparation than ever from the young superstar who was named American League Player of the Month for April.

“It’s just been so much more focused every day,” Showalter said. “You can tell by the look in his eye that he has a real passion for what he’s trying to accomplish for our team.”

Britton encouraged by ankle improvement

Closer Zach Briton was happy that a magnetic resonance imaging exam revealed no structural damage to the left ankle he jammed on Saturday, and he hopes to return at some point during the Yankees series.

The lefty reliever played catch on Tuesday afternoon to better gauge how close he was to being 100 percent from a pitching standpoint. Britton told reporters that all pain is virtually gone when he walks after he was on crutches just a couple days earlier.

“I feel a lot better. The flexibility and range of motion is back,” Britton said. “It’s just swollen. It’s got some bruising, but as long as I can manage the pain. That’s going to be the biggest issue right now. Does it hurt me doing baseball things — covering first, having to field the bunt, or what not? Those are things that I’m going to have to test out.”

Gallardo update

It remains unclear when starting pitcher Yovani Gallardo (right shoulder tendinitis) will resume throwing, but Showalter is hoping they’ll see a better pitcher than the one who posted a 7.00 ERA in 18 innings last month.

“I’m very optimistic about the return we’re going to get on some of the things that he’s doing,” Showalter said. “Hopefully, he’s moving towards throwing here before too long.”

The 30-year-old was sent to the 15-day disabled list with an arm-related ailment for the first time in his career on April 23.

Harvey sidelined again

Showalter confirmed that top pitching prospect Hunter Harvey underwent sports hernia surgery on Tuesday, the latest challenge in a career that’s been derailed by various injuries since July 2014.

However, the Orioles aren’t as concerned with the current ailment since it has nothing to do with the elbow issues he experienced in each of the previous two seasons.

“If he pitches from June, July on and finishes up strong like we think he can, I think he’s OK,” Showalter said. “But we’d really like to see him get the ball every fifth day at some point there and kind of get some of that experience he needs to finish off some things [with his development].”

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Hardy reportedly expected to miss 6-8 weeks with hairline fracture

Posted on 02 May 2016 by Luke Jones

Orioles manager Buck Showalter’s fears were realized Monday as shortstop J.J. Hardy will be sidelined with a hairline fracture in his left foot.

According to MASN, Hardy is expected to miss six to eight weeks after fouling a ball off his left foot in the fourth inning of Sunday’s loss to the Chicago White Sox. The 33-year-old infielder temporarily stayed in the game before leaving in the sixth inning as Pedro Alvarez took his place in the lineup and Manny Machado shifted from third base to shortstop.

It remains to be seen how the Orioles will handle Hardy’s absence, but it appears likely that utility infielder Ryan Flaherty will be recalled from Triple-A Norfolk to take his place on the 25-man roster. Baltimore could move Machado to shortstop with Flaherty serving as the primary third baseman, but Chris Davis and Pedro Alvarez have also played at the hot corner in the past.

Another option would be 33-year-old infielder Paul Janish, who is currently hitting .318 at Triple-A Norfolk and plays superb defense at shortstop. However, he owns a career .216 average in the majors with a .574 on-base plus slugging percentage in 1,242 plate appearances over seven seasons.

Regardless of what the Orioles decided to do, the injury is a definite blow from both offensive and defensive perspectives.

In other injury-related news, pitching prospect Hunter Harvey is expected to undergo sports hernia surgery this week and will be sidelined for several weeks.

On the positive side, MASN reports that Zach Britton’s left ankle continues to feel better and the All-Star closer could even be available to pitch at some point during the three-game series with the New York Yankees beginning Tuesday night.

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Hardy’s status uncertain after fouling ball off left foot

Posted on 01 May 2016 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — The Orioles dropped the finale of a four-game set to the Chicago White Sox on Sunday, but greater concern existed after the game regarding the status of J.J. Hardy.

The veteran shortstop fouled a ball off his left foot in the fourth inning and was removed in the top of the sixth as Pedro Alvarez entered the game at third base and Manny Machado shifted to shortstop. Manager Buck Showalter called Hardy’s injury a contusion after the game, but he hinted that the injury could be more serious without delving into specifics.

“I do know; I’ve got an idea,” Showalter said. “Right now, it’s a contusion. He fouled a ball off his foot, and it got real stiff and sore on it quickly, so he’s going to get some more detailed [tests]. I think it’s a scan [Monday] to see the extent of it. They took the X-ray here and they’re going to look at it in the morning.

“There are some things that we want to look at further and make sure that we’ve got our arms around what exactly it is.”

If Hardy were to be sidelined for an extended period of time, the Orioles could summon Ryan Flaherty or Paul Janish — or both — to provide more infield depth. Flaherty was optioned to Triple-A Norfolk last Monday, but he would not need to fulfill the full 10-day requirement to be recalled if Hardy were to go to the 15-day disabled list. The Orioles could elect to play Machado at short with Flaherty at third base in Hardy’s absence as they had a couple times last month.

Another option would be to promote Janish, who is not currently on the 40-man roster but has played well at Triple-A Norfolk. The Orioles and Showalter love his defense at shortstop, but he is a career .216 hitter with a .574 on-base plus slugging percentage in 1,242 career plate appearances in the major leagues.

The 33-year-old Hardy is hitting .244 with two home runs, eight RBIs, and a .701 OPS in 22 games this season.

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Orioles, Britton hoping he can avoid trip to disabled list

Posted on 01 May 2016 by Luke Jones

(Updated: 6:15 p.m.)

BALTIMORE — Despite using crutches to walk around the clubhouse on Sunday, Orioles closer Zach Britton told reporters he doesn’t expect to go on the 15-day disabled list with a sprained left ankle.

The 2015 All-Star selection was injured trying to field a bunt in the ninth inning of Saturday night’s 8-7 loss to the Chicago White Sox. Britton had to leave the game and was limping as he walked to the dugout with head athletic trainer Richie Bancells, but his prognosis hadn’t changed since initially being labeled as “day-to-day” a night earlier.

“Not much swelling. I think he’ll be a pitcher shortly — hopefully,” said manager Buck Showalter, who later revealed after Sunday’s game that Britton would undergo a precautionary magnetic resonance imaging exam on Monday. “It’s the left one. I actually kind of like that a little better than the right one. I’d rather have that one as opposed to the landing foot, but it was more like he kind of jammed the capsule in there a little bit as opposed to turning it. The lack of swelling kind of reiterated what Richie thought it was looking at the tape.”

It remains to be seen whom Showalter might use as his closer in Britton’s absence, and he was predictably tight-lipped about it when asked by reporters.

As the Orioles prepared to conclude a four-game set with Chicago, Showalter acknowledged there were a “couple” relief pitchers he wouldn’t use on Sunday, adding more intrigue to the possibility of a save situation. Having pitched in three of the last four games and throwing 35 pitches over the last two nights, primary setup man Darren O’Day was likely to be unavailable on Sunday. Givens also pitched in two of the first three games of the series and tossed a combined 50 pitches in those outings, leaving his status for the series finale in question.

The Orioles will be off on Monday, which will give Britton another day to recover and Showalter an opportunity to better set up his bullpen for a three-game series with the New York Yankees.

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Orioles ink veteran lefty Wandy Rodriguez to minor-league deal

Posted on 29 April 2016 by Luke Jones

Wanting to add depth to their Triple-A Norfolk rotation, the Orioles signed veteran left-handed pitcher Wandy Rodriguez to a minor-league deal on Friday.

The 37-year-old owns a career 4.10 ERA in 11 major league seasons and spent the spring with the Houston Astros before being released at the beginning of April. In 2015, Rodriguez pitched to a 4.90 ERA in 86 1/3 innings with the Texas Rangers before being released in August and ending the season on a minor-league deal with Kansas City.

The worst season of his career came in 2014 when he posted a 6.75 ERA in six starts with Pittsburgh before being let go at the end of May. He spent the first eight seasons of his career with Houston where he went 80-84 with a 4.04 ERA in 1,306 2/3 innings.

It’s no secret that the Orioles desire a left-handed starter, but Rodriguez would first need to show he can be an asset for the Tides before any big-league promotion would be considered. Manager Buck Showalter said Rodriguez will report to extended spring training in Sarasota to get into better pitching shape before potentially joining the Norfolk rotation.

 

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Cal Ripken, wife Kelly finalize divorce

Posted on 28 April 2016 by WNST Staff

Orioles Hall of Famer Cal Ripken and wife Kelly have divorced after nearly 30 years of marriage.

According to The Sun, the couple finalized the proceedings in the Baltimore County Circuit Court on Thursday morning after a one-year separation.

Kelly Ripken’s lawyer, Sanford Ain, issued the following statement to The Sun:

“Kelly has been a great mother to two fabulous children and a wonderful, faithful wife for the duration of the parties’ relationship, which lasted more than 30 years. This is a difficult time for her and she asks that her privacy and the privacy of her children be respected. Kelly looks forward to the next chapter in her life, which will be focused on philanthropy and her commitment to promoting women’s health, most currently through ‘A Woman’s Journey’ at Johns Hopkins Medicine.”

Married in 1987, the couple have two children, Rachel and Ryan, who are both in their 20s.

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“Rounding the Bases” in Orioles’ 3-1 win over Tampa Bay

Posted on 27 April 2016 by Luke Jones

Who stood out in the Orioles’ 3-1 win over the Tampa Bay Rays on Wednesday night?

In the spirit of hockey’s “three stars” system with the addition of home plate for honorable mentions and other notes, we go around the bases after the 20th game of the 2016 season.

1stChris Tillman was terrific as he turned in his deepest outing of the year with 6 2/3 shutout innings and struck out nine to match his career high. The right-hander only allowed four baserunners as Rays hitters consistently struggled to make contact with eight of his nine strikeouts coming on swings. The biggest moment of his night came in the fourth inning when he struck out Chris Dickerson on a 95 mph fastball with runners on second and third and one out and then got Desmond Jennings to fly out to retire the side. Tillman hasn’t been much of a strikeout pitcher in his career, but his velocity is up so far this season and it was good to see him reach back for a little extra against Dickerson in such a big spot. He also effectively used his slider and curveball to miss bats as the night progressed. If not for the fact that he had a rested bullpen, manager Buck Showalter could have gone a little deeper with Tillman, who struck out four of the last six batters he faced and threw 101 pitches.

2ndJoey Rickard brought a sigh of relief to the Orioles dugout when he smacked a three-run shot into the left-field seats off Matt Moore with two outs in the top of the fifth inning. The Orioles had scored only one run in their previous 30 innings before the Rule 5 pick hit his second home run of the season. It would prove to be all the Orioles would need and the rest of the lineup took that literally as Tampa Ray retired 13 in a row after Rickard’s blast. The clutch hit snapped a 2-for-22 slump for the young outfielder.

3rdBrad Brach pitched a scoreless eighth inning despite a two-out walk and has now allowed only one run in his 13 1/3 innings to begin the 2016 season. The right-hander entered Wednesday holding left-handed hitters to a .158 average before retiring all three lefties he faced in the inning. That’s as good as any lefty specialist many clubs would typically use in such a situation.

Home — In addition to making a sliding catch in the third inning, Nolan Reimold worked a four-pitch walk with two outs and nobody on in the fifth to begin the rally that culminated with Rickard’s home run. … Pitching for the first time since April 21, Darren O’Day retired Steven Souza Jr. for the final out of the seventh and has yet to be scored upon through his first nine appearances of 2016. … Adam Jones went 0-for-4 and is now hitting .196 on the season. … Chris Davis was also hitless, but he was robbed of an extra-base hit in the fourth when Souza made a tremendous diving catch on the warning track in right-center. … Beginning a stretch of 17 of their next 20 games at home on Thursday night, the Orioles will send Tyler Wilson to the hill to open a four-game set against lefty John Danks and the Chicago White Sox.

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“Rounding the Bases” in Orioles’ 2-0 loss to Tampa Bay

Posted on 25 April 2016 by Luke Jones

What went wrong in the Orioles’ 2-0 defeat to the Tampa Bay Rays on Monday 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 18th game of the 2016 season.

1st — It was only a matter of time before Rays ace Chris Archer bounced back from a horrendous start to his season, but the Orioles were shut out for the first time all season and extended their scoreless streak to 17 innings. And it’s a shame because they received a more-than-acceptable performance with only two runs allowed by Orioles pitching. Entering the night with a 7.32 ERA, Archer did a superb job commanding his changeup and slider to complement his mid-90s fastball, but the Orioles managed just five hits and didn’t have a single batter reach against the Rays bullpen. The lone offensive highlights of the night were provided by Pedro Alvarez, who collected two doubles as he tries to bounce back from a horrendous start. No other Baltimore hitter reached second base, however.

2nd — Kevin Gausman deserved a better fate, but his struggles after failing to get the call on a 3-2 slider to Steven Souza proved to be the difference in the fifth. The Orioles had to be pleased with what they saw from the 25-year-old in his season debut following a stint on the disabled list, but the terrific breaking ball he displayed over the first four innings vanished after the walk to Souza and he worked into too many deep counts and struggled to put hitters away the rest of the inning. The pitch he’d ultimately like to have back was the 3-2 fastball catching too much of the plate that Rays catcher Curt Casali lined down the left-field line to plate Souza for the first run of the game. The 32-pitch fifth brought a premature end to his outing and he probably ran out of a gas trying to keep up with a terrific pitcher on the opposing side, but Gausman removed much doubt about the health of his right shoulder by using a fastball in the mid-to-high 90s and a sharp breaking ball to strike out seven in five innings. He just didn’t get any help from his offense.

3rd — In his second appearance since coming off the DL, Brian Matusz walked the two left-handed hitters he faced and loaded the bases in the sixth. If the lefty specialist isn’t going to get lefty bats out, his place in the bullpen becomes tenuous at best as he doesn’t offer as much length as other pitchers. Yes, it was Vance Worley who clipped Casali’s jersey with a pitch to force in the second Tampa Bay run, but Matusz was the one who created the mess that led to a 2-0 deficit.

Home — The Orioles didn’t have many opportunities, but Jonathan Schoop, Joey Rickard, and Manny Machado combined to go 0-for-4 with runners in scoring position. … Chris Davis was 0-for-4 with three strikeouts. … Despite hitting Casali to force in a run, Worley pitched 2 1/3 scoreless innings for Baltimore to save the rest of the bullpen. … Adam Jones grimaced after swinging at the second strike in his final at-bat and was captured by MASN cameras talking to trainer Richie Bancells in the dugout after he grounded out in the ninth inning. … Ubaldo Jimenez goes to the hill on Tuesday night and will be opposed by Tampa Bay right-hander Jake Odorizzi.

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