Tag Archive | "MLB"

Tillman officially named Game 1 starter of ALDS

Tags: , , , ,

Tillman officially named Game 1 starter of ALDS

Posted on 23 September 2014 by Luke Jones

In what was hardly a surprise considering his status as the staff ace, Orioles pitcher Chris Tillman has been named Game 1 starter of the American League Division Series that will begin next week.

Manager Buck Showalter confirmed the news with reporters in New York prior to Tuesday’s game against the Yankees, but he had hinted last weekend that Tillman would pitch the series opener when he indicated the right-hander would pitch on an extra day of rest in each of his next two starts, pushing him to Oct. 2 when the ALDS is scheduled to begin.

Tillman has eclipsed the 200-inning mark for the second straight year and currently owns a streak of 20 consecutive starts in which he’s allowed three or fewer earned runs, tied with Steve Barber for the second-longest streak in franchise history. The 26-year-old is 13-5 with a 3.26 ERA in 33 starts this season and will be making his postseason debut after he did not appear in the 2012 playoffs.

Showalter will wait to name the rest of his starting rotation until the Orioles’ ALDS opponent is determined. Baltimore is currently slated to play the Detroit Tigers as they held a one-game lead over the Kansas City Royals in the AL Central entering Tuesday. However, the Orioles are still pursuing the No. 1 seed and home-field advantage as they trail the Los Angeles Angels by 2 1/2 games going into Tuesday.

The order has yet to be determined, but most expect Wei-Yin Chen, Miguel Gonzalez, and Bud Norris to make up the rest of the ALDS rotation with Kevin Gausman moving to a relief role.

 

Comments (0)

Tags: , ,

Orioles announce 2015 Grapefruit League schedule

Posted on 23 September 2014 by WNST Staff

The Orioles announced Tuesday their 2015 Grapefruit League schedule, which opens Tuesday, March 3 with a 1:05 p.m. game in Lakeland against the Detroit Tigers. The Orioles will open their home schedule the next day, with a 1:05 p.m. game against the Tigers on Wednesday, March 4. The 2015 season will mark the sixth consecutive Spring Training for the Orioles in Sarasota, and the fifth in the renovated Ed Smith Stadium.

Baltimore will face 10 different opponents during their 16-game home Grapefruit League campaign. The O’s will host the Tampa Bay Rays and Toronto Blue Jays three times each and the Minnesota Twins and Pittsburgh Pirates twice each. The Orioles will square off with the Atlanta Braves, Boston Red Sox, Detroit Tigers, New York Yankees, Philadelphia Phillies, and St. Louis Cardinals once each at Ed Smith Stadium.

The Orioles will play 18 games on the road during the 2015 Grapefruit League schedule. They will make three trips to play the Blue Jays and Twins, two trips to play the Braves, Pirates, Rays, and Tigers, and one trip to play the Cardinals, Phillies, Red Sox, and Yankees.

Fans interested in Season Plans, or those wishing to receive additional Spring Training ticket information, may call the Orioles Spring Training office in Sarasota at 941-893-6300. Fans interested in additional information on suite rentals or pre-game party facilities should call 941-893-6348. Additional information on Orioles Spring Training is available at www.orioles.com/spring.

Single game tickets for all 16 games at Ed Smith Stadium will go on sale January 24, 2015.

BALTIMORE ORIOLES 2015 SPRING TRAINING SCHEDULE

(opponents, locations, dates, and game times subject to change)

Day Date Opponent Location Time

Tuesday March 3 at Detroit Tigers Lakeland 1:05

Wednesday March 4 Detroit Tigers Sarasota 1:05

Thursday March 5 at Tampa Bay Rays Port Charlotte 1:05

Toronto Blue Jays Sarasota 7:05

Friday March 6 at Toronto Blue Jays Dunedin 1:05

Saturday March 7 Boston Red Sox (ss) Sarasota 1:05

Sunday March 8 at Minnesota Twins Ft. Myers 1:05

Monday March 9 Philadelphia Phillies Sarasota 1:05

Tuesday March 10 New York Yankees Sarasota 1:05

Wednesday March 11 Toronto Blue Jays Sarasota 1:05

Thursday March 12 at St. Louis Cardinals Jupiter 1:05

Friday March 13 at Toronto Blue Jays Dunedin 1:05

Saturday March 14 Tampa Bay Rays Sarasota 1:05

Sunday March 15 at Pittsburgh Pirates Bradenton 1:05

Monday March 16 at Philadelphia Phillies Clearwater 1:05

Tuesday March 17 Minnesota Twins Sarasota 1:05

Wednesday March 18 at Minnesota Twins Ft. Myers 1:05

Thursday March 19 Pittsburgh Pirates Sarasota 1:05

Friday March 20 at Boston Red Sox Ft. Myers 1:05

Saturday March 21 at Minnesota Twins (ss) Ft. Myers 1:05

Sunday March 22 St. Louis Cardinals Sarasota 1:05

Monday March 23 OFF DAY

Tuesday March 24 at Pittsburgh Pirates Bradenton 1:05

Wednesday March 25 Toronto Blue Jays Sarasota 1:05

Thursday March 26 at Detroit Tigers Lakeland 1:05

Friday March 27 Tampa Bay Rays Sarasota 1:05

Saturday March 28 at New York Yankees Tampa 1:05

Sunday March 29 Minnesota Twins Sarasota 1:05

at Toronto Blue Jays Dunedin 1:05

Monday March 30 at Tampa Bay Rays Port Charlotte 1:05

Tuesday March 31 Tampa Bay Rays (ss) Sarasota 1:05

Wednesday April 1 Pittsburgh Pirates Sarasota 7:05

Thursday April 2 at Atlanta Braves Orlando 6:05

Friday April 3 Atlanta Braves Sarasota 6:05

Saturday April 4 at Atlanta Braves Orlando 3:05

(ss)- split squad game

Comments (0)

Five questions for Orioles in final 10 games of regular season

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Five questions for Orioles in final 10 games of regular season

Posted on 18 September 2014 by Luke Jones

The Orioles may have already wrapped up their first American League East title in 17 years, but a number of questions are left to be answered as they play out the remainder of the regular season.

Here’s a look at what remains on manager Buck Showalter’s mind for his 92-60 Orioles as they enter the final 10 games before the postseason …

1. Is it more important to go for the No. 1 seed in the American League or to rest everyday players?

Even though a 43-31 road record suggests the Orioles shouldn’t be afraid of playing away games in October, it’s difficult to argue with wanting home-field advantage considering Showalter’s club is a remarkable 30-8 at Camden Yards since June 30 and hasn’t lost consecutive home games since June 28-29. Entering Friday, they trailed the Los Angeles Angels by 2 1/2 games for the best record in the major leagues, a deficit that is far from insurmountable with the Angels playing Seattle and Oakland three times each — all six games are on the road — in their final nine games.

But Showalter also knows players who are fresh — or are at least as fresh as possible in October — are even more important to the Orioles’ chances of playing deep into the postseason. The early indications are that we’ll see position players such as Nick Markakis, Adam Jones, J.J. Hardy, Nelson Cruz, and Steve Pearce sit on a rotational basis of one or two per game, but Showalter has also said resting pitchers will be the higher priority.

The club’s top relievers have already been rested periodically over the last couple weeks as we’ve seen the likes of Ryan Webb, Evan Meek, and Brian Matusz pitch in some high-leverage situations while Darren O’Day, Andrew Miller, and Zach Britton have gone unused in certain games when they’d usually be available. Showalter could also elect to give a spot start or two to Ubaldo Jimenez or Joe Saunders to align his rotation and give some extra rest to starters who have historically benefited from extra days like Wei-Yin Chen and Miguel Gonzalez.

Entering Friday, the Orioles owned an eight-game lead over current No. 3 seed Detroit, so there isn’t any real danger of losing their grasp on the second seed if the Angels hold a steady lead into next week.

2. “I Don’t Know’s on third?”

While many have focused on the lost power potential of Chris Davis when news broke of his 25-game suspension last week, his absence at third base — where he was doing a solid job filling in for the injured Manny Machado — created the bigger dilemma as we’ve seen the trio of Ryan Flaherty, Jimmy Paredes, and veteran Kelly Johnson share time at the hot corner since last week.

Flaherty is the best defensive option, but his .645 on-base plus slugging percentage creates another weak spot in a lineup that’s already carrying the inconsistent rookie second baseman Jonathan Schoop and one of the catching duo of Caleb Joseph and Nick Hundley. Paredes and Johnson have provided some heroics with the bat in recent days, but neither provides a great deal of confidence defensively and they don’t have a track record — Johnson’s numbers in recent seasons are far inferior to the hitter he was four or five years ago — suggesting their offense will make a great impact in October, anyway.

It’s unlikely that Showalter will make a definitive choice for October, but his strong affinity for defense might make Flaherty the best bet of the three to receive extensive time — at least against right-handed starters — unless Paredes or Johnson continue to rake over the final 10 games going into the playoffs. Of course, there’s no guarantee that both Paredes and Johnson make the postseason roster.

3. Who will make up the four-man rotation for the playoffs?

Not counting Ubaldo Jimenez who appears all but certain to be left off the postseason roster, the Orioles really can’t go wrong with all five of their starters currently sporting an ERA of 3.62 or lower.

However, it would appear that Kevin Gausman is the starter left out considering he’s the least experienced of the group. Showalter’s decision to leave Chris Tillman out of the rotation in the 2012 postseason is a good indication that he’ll lean on experience, but the Orioles would be foolish not to put Gausman’s power arm in the bullpen to spell any starter showing signs of early trouble.

For the sake of ranking the remaining four from top to bottom, Tillman, Chen, Gonzalez, and Norris would be a fair order based on how they’ve pitched in recent weeks.

4. Which 25 players will make up the Division Series roster?

The Orioles elected to keep 12 pitchers for the Division Series two years ago, which gave them an eight-man bullpen and plenty of flexibility to match up.

There shouldn’t be too much drama in the bullpen as Britton, Miller, O’Day, Gausman, Matusz, Brad Brach, and Tommy Hunter would fill the first seven spots with the final slot potentially going to long man T.J. McFarland or right-hander Ryan Webb. With three of the four rotation members right-handed, McFarland could be Showalter’s preference in the event of an early exit by a starter as he’d be a long reliever throwing from the opposite side to face a lineup designed for the right-handed starter.

Working under the assumption that Jones, Markakis, Cruz, Hardy, Pearce, Schoop, Joseph, Hundley, Flaherty, Delmon Young, and Alejandro De Aza are locks, Paredes, Johnson, and outfielders David Lough and Quintin Berry would be the realistic candidates fighting for two spots. It will be interesting to see if Showalter values having either Lough or Berry as a pinch-running option and late-inning defensive replacement, which would push either Paredes or Johnson off the roster with the other  guaranteed to make it as an option at third base.

The suspended Davis isn’t eligible to return until after the first eight games of the postseason, so his status isn’t a factor for the Division Series.

5. Will the Orioles be able to maintain their edge?

With so much discussion about Showalter needing to rest his everyday players, there’s a fine balance between providing a breather and accidentally turning off a competitive switch that isn’t guaranteed to come back on in October.

This could be a real concern for many clubs locking up a playoff spot in mid-September, but the mental toughness shown from the likes of Jones and Markakis all the way down to Paredes and De Aza makes you think the Orioles are incapable of losing their focus. Of course, the possibility of still being able to catch the Angels for the top seed provides extra incentive for players to remain engaged over the final 10 games.

Considering they’ve overcome season-ending losses to two All-Star players and haven’t even blinked since Davis’ suspension began last week, it would be difficult to fathom the Orioles finally having a mental letdown at this late stage. The Orioles may ultimately fall short in the playoffs, but it won’t be due to a lack of focus or going through the motions.

Comments (0)

Orioles call up minor league player of year Walker

Tags: , , ,

Orioles call up minor league player of year Walker

Posted on 17 September 2014 by Luke Jones

A day after clinching their first American League East title in 17 years, the Orioles have called up their minor league player of the year.

The club announced Wednesday it had selected the contract of first baseman Christian Walker from Triple-A Norfolk. He will take the place of the suspended Chris Davis on the 40-man roster.

The 23-year-old Walker hit .288 with 53 extra-base hits, 97 runs batted in, and 73 runs scored in 139 games split between Double-A Bowie and the Tides. He had been working out as part of the Orioles’ “taxi squad” in Sarasota this month and is expected to spell veteran Steve Pearce at first base over the final 11 games of the regular season with the division title wrapped up.

Though Walker wasn’t eligible for the Rule 5 draft and did not need to be placed on the 40-man roster this offseason, the Orioles will take this time period as an opportunity to evaluate the 2014 Brooks Robinson Minor League Player of the Year. With Davis scheduled to become a free agent after the 2015 season, many view Walker as the Orioles’ first baseman of the future.

The former South Carolina Gamecock was selected in the fourth round of the 2012 amateur draft.

He will wear jersey No. 18.

Comments (0)

Nothing typical about these AL East champion Orioles

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Nothing typical about these AL East champion Orioles

Posted on 17 September 2014 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — For years, the discrepancy was clear as the Orioles wallowed at the bottom of the American League East.

Lagging behind in payroll and player development, they looked up at the likes of the Yankees, Red Sox, and Rays while being stuck in neutral with no apparent direction or plan of how to get better. The Orioles didn’t spend like New York or Boston and couldn’t cultivate their own talent like Tampa Bay while suffering through a seemingly endless run of fourth- and fifth-place finishes in the toughest division in baseball year in and year out.

When the Orioles finally broke through Tuesday night with an 8-2 win over the Toronto Blue Jays to win their first AL East title since 1997, it was an atypical sum of the parts that put them on top. Yes, their payroll is higher now than it was for years, but it still remains in the middle of the pack and far below those of the Yankees and Red Sox. Their farm system has produced a number of key players, but it isn’t the well-oiled machine like those of other top organizations in baseball.

It started with Andy MacPhail using some savvy trades and top draft picks to put together a core group of All-Star talent and continued with the arrival of manager Buck Showalter and current executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette, who began filling in the gaps with below-the-radar additions and, finally, a couple high-profile free agents this past winter. What’s resulted is a club that’s won more than 90 games for the second time in three years and appears poised to make a deep run in October.

The journey certainly hasn’t been easy as the season-ending injuries to catcher Matt Wieters and third baseman Manny Machado and the recent 25-game suspension of first baseman Chris Davis have provided easy excuses for the Orioles to wilt down the stretch. Not all has gone to plan as the $50 million free-agent addition of starting pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez has been an utter failure in the first season of a four-year commitment.

But Tuesday’s win provided the perfect microcosm of what’s made the Orioles continue to thrive in 2014.

You can expect the unexpected.

Making his first start in a month after being dumped from the starting rotation, Jimenez overcame a shaky beginning to pitch five solid innings to earn just his fifth win of the season. Ironically, it was the kind of important game in which the Orioles envisioned Jimenez pitching when they signed him in February.

A three-run home run in the first inning came off the bat of Steve Pearce, the journeyman who was designated for assignment in April before being re-signed a few days later when Davis went on the disabled list. The 31-year-old has gone on to hit a career-high 18 homers, which is more than he’d hit in his first seven major league seasons combined. More than any other player, Pearce might be the ultimate symbol of the 2014 Orioles when the final chapter is written sometime next month.

A solo shot came an inning later from third baseman Jimmy Paredes, who was claimed off waivers by the Orioles during spring training and then lost to the Kansas City Royals a couple days later. Duquette eventually reacquired the 25-year-old in time for him to provide a handful of big hits in his few weeks with the club.

T.J. McFarland pitched a scoreless sixth inning. He was the Rule 5 selection the Orioles stubbornly retained on the 25-man roster all last season.

Darren O’Day provided 1 1/3 innings of excellent relief as he has for the last three seasons. The sidearm pitcher was claimed off waivers from Texas before Duquette was even hired three years ago.

Left field Alejandro De Aza hit the three-run triple in the seventh to bust the game open after he was acquired for two nondescript minor-league pitchers at the waiver trade deadline late last month.

Dominant lefty Andrew Miller struck out the only two hitters he faced and has been exactly what the Orioles envisioned when they acquired the best relief pitcher on the market while the rest of baseball lauded Oakland and Detroit for acquiring Jon Lester and David Price, respectively. The Orioles now own a better record than the Athletics and the Tigers.

When Pearce fielded the final out for the club’s 91st win of the season, it was just the latest example of the sum being much greater than the parts appear on paper.

There hasn’t been a set formula apparent to the rest of the baseball world that explains the Orioles’ ascent over the last few years, but they play great defense, hit home runs, and have pitched as well as anyone since early June. Those strengths have allowed them to overcome the loss of All-Star position players and failed free-agent acquisitions.

For Duquette and Showalter, the question isn’t who is the best player as much as it’s who is the best fit. It hasn’t been about spending money as much as it’s been about making the smartest decision.

And it’s been perfectly imperfect as Baltimore wrapped up the division title with 11 games to spare.

Whether they have 11 wins in them next month remains to be seen, but the journey to this point has been both difficult and overwhelmingly rewarding.

And it paid off with a celebration at Camden Yards Tuesday night while the rest of the American League East was looking up at the Orioles for a change.

 

Comments (1)

Tags: , ,

Orioles to hold series of rallies leading into postseason

Posted on 16 September 2014 by WNST Staff

PRESS RELEASE

The Orioles today announced a series of rallies to generate excitement for the team’s push for the postseason.  A “We Won’t Stop” street team will travel throughout Baltimore and surrounding areas over the next few weeks, with appearances at the Hard Rock Café in the Inner Harbor on September 18 and October 1, Stevenson University on September 29, and the plaza at Pratt and Light Streets on October 3.  Additionally, Miller Lite will sponsor rallies at Mothers Bar and Grille in Federal Hill on October 4 and Bond Street Social in Fells Point on October 5.

 

Former Orioles players, in addition to the Oriole Bird, will join the promo team for many of the events, including AL BUMBRY from noon to 1:00 p.m. for the first rally on September 18, TIPPY MARTINEZ on September 29, SCOTT McGREGOR on October 1, and LARRY BIGBIE on October 4.

 

Additional locations and appearances, including visits to taverns and restaurants in Federal Hill, Fells Point and Canton, will take place throughout the next two weeks.

 

The We Won’t Stop team will give away promotional items, and fans will have the chance to win autographed memorabilia. The current list of rally dates and locations is below, but the schedule for rallies may be updated with new locations. Fans are encouraged to visit www.orioles.com/rallies regularly for a complete schedule of events.

 

DATE    TIME                       LOCATION                                ADDRESS                       FORMER PLAYER

9/18      11 a.m. – 1 p.m.           Hard Rock Café-Inner Harbor            601 E. Pratt St                                          Al Bumbry

9/29      12 p.m. – 1 p.m.           Stevenson University                          11001 Owings Mills Blvd                Tippy Martinez

10/1      11 a.m. – 1 p.m.           Hard Rock Café-Inner Harbor            601 E. Pratt St                                 Scott McGregor

10/3      5 p.m. – 7 p.m.              Plaza at Pratt St. and Light St.          Pratt/Light St                                                       TBD

10/4      7 p.m. – 9 p.m.              Mothers Bar and Grille                       1113 S. Charles St                               Larry Bigbie

                          (sponsored by Miller Lite)                 

10/5      5 p.m. – 7 p.m.              Bond Street Social                              901 S. Bond St                                                     TBD

                          (sponsored by Miller Lite)

Comments (0)

Tags: , , ,

Markakis named Orioles nominee for Roberto Clemente Award

Posted on 16 September 2014 by WNST Staff

PRESS RELEASE

Major League Baseball and Chevrolet, the official vehicle of MLB, today announced that NICK MARKAKISwas named the Orioles 2014 nominee for the prestigious Roberto Clemente Award presented by Chevrolet. Markakis is one of the 30 Club finalists for the annual Award, which recognizes a Major League Baseball player who best represents the game of baseball through positive contributions on and off the field, including sportsmanship and community involvement.

 

Each Club nominates one player to be considered for the Roberto Clemente Award presented by Chevrolet in an effort to pay tribute to Clemente’s achievements and character by recognizing current players who truly understand the value of helping others. Tomorrow marks the 13th annual Roberto Clemente Day, which was established by Major League Baseball to honor Clemente’s legacy and to officially recognize local Club nominees of the Roberto Clemente Award presented by Chevrolet and to honor Clemente’s legacy. The 15-time MLB All-Star and Hall of Famer died in a plane crash on New Year’s Eve 1972 while attempting to deliver supplies to earthquake victims in Nicaragua.

 

Markakis earned the Orioles nomination due to his work with many charities in and around the Baltimore community, including Casey Cares, Rose Street Community Center, American Heart Association, Lungevity Foundation, Baltimore City and County Public Schools, Pathfinders for Autism, Baltimore Animal Rescue and Care Shelter, Orioles Charitable Foundation, and Orioles Military Appreciation Program.

 

In 2014, Markakis and his family made several financial contributions to the club and its charities, most significantly $75,000 to the Orioles Charitable Foundation.  Markakis also donated to the Orioles Military Appreciation program, providing a catered suite, t-shirt, hat and meet and greet to select military members every Sunday home game and also contributed to the OriolesREACH Gameday Experience Program giving at-risk children the opportunity to experience an Orioles game.

 

Nick and his family served as “Race Ambassadors” for the Casey Cares 5K Run for the third consecutive year. They welcomed 2,100 runners at the starting line to kick-off the race. The race earned over $108,000 dollars for the Casey Cares Foundation, a 501(c)(3) non-profit that provides uplifting programs for critically ill children and their families.

 

Markakis is also serving as the Orioles spokesperson for the 2015 American Heart Association Heart Walk. AHA is a non-profit organization that fosters cardiac care in an effort to reduce disability and deaths caused by cardiovascular disease and stroke.

 

The Markakis family has annually attended the Orioles Holiday Party for Kids the last six years, playing games, serving food, and purchasing gifts for children from a selected inner city public school.  They also purchased winter coats for the Rose Street Center, a community-based, multi-cultural youth and family development organization.

 

The Casey Cares Foundation will be receiving Chevy’s donation on behalf of Markakis winning the award, and Markakis will match that donation with a contribution to the Rose Street Community Center.

 

The distinguished list of past national Roberto Clemente Award recipients includes 14 members of the National Baseball Hall of Fame:

 

1971 Willie Mays+** 1982 Ken Singleton 1993 Barry Larkin+ 2004 Edgar Martinez
1972 Brooks Robinson+** 1983 Cecil Cooper 1994 Dave Winfield+ 2005 John Smoltz
1973 Al Kaline+ 1984 Ron Guidry 1995 Ozzie Smith+ 2006 Carlos Delgado
1974 Willie Stargell+ 1985 Don Baylor 1996 Kirby Puckett+ 2007 Craig Biggio
1975 Lou Brock+ 1986 Garry Maddox 1997 Eric Davis 2008 Albert Pujols
1976 Pete Rose 1987 Rick Sutcliffe 1998 Sammy Sosa 2009 Derek Jeter
1977 Rod Carew+ 1988 Dale Murphy 1999 Tony Gwynn+ 2010 Tim Wakefield
1978 Greg Luzinski 1989 Gary Carter+ 2000 Al Leiter 2011 David Ortiz
1979 Andre Thornton 1990 Dave Stewart 2001 Curt Schilling 2012 Clayton Kershaw
1980 Phil Niekro+ 1991 Harold Reynolds 2002 Jim Thome 2013 Carlos Beltran
1981 Steve Garvey 1992 Cal Ripken, Jr.+ 2003 Jamie Moyer

+ Member of the Baseball Hall of Fame

** Originally known as the Commissioner’s Award (prior to 1973)

 

Fans are encouraged to participate in the process of selecting the national Roberto Clemente Award presented by Chevrolet recipient by visiting ChevyBaseball.com, which is powered by MLB Advanced Media, to vote for one of the 30 Club nominees. Voting ends on Sunday, October 6th and participating fans will be automatically registered for a chance to win a trip to the 2014 World Series, where the national winner of the Roberto Clemente Award presented by Chevrolet will be announced.

 

The winner of the fan vote will receive one vote among those cast by the selection panel of dignitaries, which includes Baseball Commissioner Allan H. (Bud) Selig; MLB Chief Operating Officer Rob Manfred; MLB Goodwill Ambassador and wife of Roberto Clemente, Vera Clemente; and representatives from Chevrolet, MLB Network, MLB.com, ESPN, FOX Sports and TBS, among others.

 

Clubs playing at home on September 17th will recognize their local nominees as part of Roberto Clemente Day ceremonies, while visiting Clubs will honor their nominees before another September home game. As part of the league-wide celebration, the Roberto Clemente Day logo will appear on the bases and the official dugout lineup cards.

Comments (0)

Monday musings on Orioles magic, Ravens, and NFL Week 2

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Monday musings on Orioles magic, Ravens, and NFL Week 2

Posted on 15 September 2014 by Luke Jones

Journeyman infielder Kelly Johnson became the latest hero for the Orioles Sunday night with his ninth-inning double to complete a dramatic 3-2 comeback win over the New York Yankees and shrink Baltimore’s magic number to only three.

Acquired just before the waiver deadline late last month, Johnson hadn’t made a big impression with his new club before stroking a double to deep right-center off Yankees closer David Robertson and sending the Orioles to victory in walk-off fashion. Having played for all five American League East teams over the last three seasons, Johnson is clearly happy to have landed with the first-place Orioles at the perfect time and now has an excellent chance to secure a postseason roster spot in wake of the Chris Davis suspension.

“I’ve bounced around a little bit now and you know, you just get a feel,” Johnson said about his new club. “Sometimes, it’s just meant to be. You find a way to win, rather than ways to lose. It’s been pretty cool. I haven’t been here long, but I’ve seen some things I haven’t seen before.”

If you’re subscribing to Johnson’s feeling of it all being “meant to be,” brace yourself for the start of a three-game series against Toronto with the Orioles needing to take two games from the Blue Jays to secure their first AL East title since 1997. If the Orioles are able to win the series opener on Monday night, they will send Ubaldo Jimenez — who will act as a sixth starter this time through the rotation due to the doubleheader on Friday — to the hill with the opportunity to clinch the division on Tuesday night.

It wouldn’t forgive what’s been a horrendous first season in Baltimore for the 30-year-old right-hander, but how ironic would it be if Jimenez — the free-agent pitcher the Orioles signed to pitch in big games as a top-half-of-the-rotation starter — pitched well enough to earn the win in the division-clinching game of the season? Exactly how Dan Duquette and Buck Showalter drew it up back in spring training, right?

Nothing would surprise me with the Orioles at this point, including Jimenez finally delivering in a big spot to officially punch their ticket to the playoffs.

> It’s difficult not to be pleased with the performance of the offensive line through the first two weeks of the season as the Ravens try to put the nightmarish line play of 2013 behind them once and for all.

New center Jeremy Zuttah has impressed, second-year right tackle Rick Wagner has held up, and Marshal Yanda and Kelechi Osemele have looked the part of the ferocious guard tandem the organization envisioned. Even left tackle Eugene Monroe bounced back against Pittsburgh with a strong performance after a poor preseason and Week 1 showing against Cincinnati.

However, Sunday will bring another important test as the Ravens play their first road game against a talented Cleveland front. With the communication issues the offensive line faced all last season, Zuttah will need to show he can make the right calls at the line of scrimmage with crowd noise being a factor unlike when the offense operates at M&T Bank Stadium.

There’s plenty to be encouraged by with the way the unit has protected quarterback Joe Flacco and wore down the Steelers’ defensive line with the running game in the fourth quarter, but it will take another strong performance or two to convince doubters that the offensive line issues are a thing of the past.

> Speaking of Flacco, I couldn’t help but think of him in the moments that followed the gruesome ankle injury suffered by Washington quarterback Robert Griffin III against Jacksonville on Sunday.

Taken with the second overall pick of the 2012 draft to be the franchise quarterback, Griffin has now suffered two major injuries in just over two seasons of play. It just goes to show how difficult it can be to stay healthy, let alone play at an exceptional level on a yearly basis in the NFL.

Flacco will make his 98th consecutive regular-season start to begin his NFL career against the Browns on Sunday, which just shows how durable and dependable he’s been since arriving on the scene in 2008. Of course, the seventh-year quarterback’s style of play and size make him far less of an injury risk than a signal-caller like Griffin, but that shouldn’t diminish the value of having a quarterback you can count on to be under center every week.

The high number of injuries to star players on Sunday makes you appreciate Flacco’s durability while you immediately knock on wood and keep your fingers crossed that it continues.

> Though Philadelphia has an opportunity to join the ranks of the 2-0 teams with an upset win at Indianapolis Monday night, only six teams could claim such a record at the end of business on Sunday.

Who would have guessed that Buffalo and Houston would be two of them along with Denver, Cincinnati, Arizona, and Carolina? The Texans have now won two straight under new head coach Bill O’Brien after losing 14 consecutive games to close their disastrous 2013 season.

And who would have predicted New Orleans would be sitting at 0-2, even with two road games to begin the season?

You just never know with the NFL.

 

Comments (0)

Orioles’ ability to overcome adversity begins with starters

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Orioles’ ability to overcome adversity begins with starters

Posted on 14 September 2014 by Luke Jones

With Friday’s surprising news of Chris Davis being suspended 25 games for amphetamine use, the same question that’s been tossed the Orioles’ way all season was uttered once again.

How can they overcome this?

Despite an 88-60 record entering Sunday that had them days away from the American League East championship, the Orioles have faced anything but a problem-free campaign in 2014.

All-Star players Matt Wieters and Manny Machado have suffered season-ending injuries. Top free-agent acquisition Ubaldo Jimenez has not only failed to meet expectations, but has been banished to the last spot in the bullpen and is very likely to be left off the postseason roster. And even before Davis’ suspension that now bans him until at least the AL Championship Series — if the Orioles advance that far — the slugger was hitting only .196 a year after hitting a franchise-record and league-leading 53 home runs.

“The game usually gives you back kind of what you put into it,” said manager Buck Showalter after the Orioles’ doubleheader sweep of the New York Yankees on Friday. “Everybody’s putting something into it.”

The narratives of resiliency and a different hero every night have frequently rung true, but they don’t paint the entire picture of how the Orioles have managed to all but run away with their first division title since 1997. We knew the Orioles would hit home runs and play exceptional defense entering the season, and those skills have certainly been there all year.

But the biggest question would be the pitching, particularly in the rotation. Even with the struggles of their $50 million addition in Jimenez, the starting pitching has not only silenced the doubts, but has been a strength since the first two months of the season. Through the end of May, the starting rotation had posted an underwhelming 4.49 ERA as the Orioles were 27-27. Since June 1, starters have pitched to an impeccable 3.20 mark, which would be tops in the AL if extrapolated over the entire season. The Orioles have gone 61-33 over that period of time, a .649 winning percentage.

Even with the unevenness of April and May included, Baltimore ranks sixth in the AL in starter ERA, which nearly any fan would have gladly taken at the start of the season. The current team ERA of 3.50 would be the Orioles’ lowest in a full season since 1979 when the AL champions posted a 3.26 ERA.

When being compared to the other top clubs around baseball, the Orioles are often sold short for lacking a true ace, but that hasn’t stopped the starting rotation from becoming the strong heartbeat of a club nearly 30 games above .500 in mid-September. All five members of the current rotation sport an ERA of 3.74 or better, making Showalter’s job a difficult one when deciding which four will make the postseason rotation.

Not only has the quintet of Chris Tillman, Miguel Gonzalez, Wei-Yin Chen, Bud Norris, and Kevin Gausman pitched effectively, but the group has been durable with only Gonzalez and Norris spending brief time on the disabled list this season. After using a total of 12 or more starters in each of the previous three seasons under Showalter, the Orioles have sent just seven starters to the hill in 2014 with long reliever T.J. McFarland only receiving one spot start.

Four Oriole starters — Tillman, Chen, Norris, and Gonzalez — have made 24 or more starts. For perspective, only three made 24 or more starts in 2013 and just one did it in 2012 when the Orioles earned their first postseason trip in 15 years.

Upon learning of Davis’ suspension on Friday, the Orioles responded by promptly sweeping a twin bill over the Yankees in which they allowed one run in 20 total innings. The nightcap was particularly indicative of what the Orioles have become as they fielded what looked like a spring training lineup that included only four players from the Opening Day order and three who weren’t even on the 40-man roster at the start of the year. It was no problem for Bud Norris, who pitched seven shutout innings against the fading Yankees in a 5-0 victory.

“Good pitching solves a lot of problems, issues, whatever you might want to call it,” said Showalter as he reflected on the work his club did following the Davis announcement on Friday. “That’s usually where it starts.”

And it’s why the Orioles shouldn’t be counted out, even after this latest blow to the lineup.

 

 

Comments (0)

Davis receives 25-game ban for amphetamine use

Tags: , , , ,

Davis receives 25-game ban for amphetamine use

Posted on 12 September 2014 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — Closing in on their first American League East title in 17 years, the Orioles learned Friday that slugger Chris Davis has been suspended 25 games for testing positive for amphetamine use.

Manager Buck Showalter confirmed the news Friday morning prior to Baltimore’s day-night doubleheader against the New York Yankees. Davis phoned his manager Thursday night to break the news as his 25-game ban will extend into the postseason, meaning he would not be eligible to play in the first eight games of the playoffs should the Orioles advance that far.

In a statement released Monday morning, Davis said he tested positive for Adderall, a drug he had an exemption to use in the past, but not this season.

“I apologize to my teammates, coaches, the Orioles organization and especially the fans,” Davis said. “I made a mistake by taking Adderall. I had permission to use it in the past, but do not have a therapeutic use exemption this year. I accept my punishment and will begin serving my suspension immediately.”

Davis hit a franchise-record 53 home runs a year ago before falling off significantly this season, hitting just .196 with 26 home runs and 72 runs batted in.

The 28-year-old was outspoken against performance-enhancing drug use in the midst of his record-breaking season and while Adderall doesn’t carry the same stigma of a steroid, doubts about his feats in 2013 will undoubtedly come under even more scrutiny with Friday’s news.

“At this point it’s not up to me to gauge what’s fair or not fair,” said Showalter about public perception. “I know what the positive test was for and believe me, I’m not condoning any positive test. Everybody knows what the rules are, so it is what it is. We’ve all made mistakes and none of us would like to have our whole life judged by our worst decision.”

For the first game of Friday’s doubleheader, Steve Pearce started at first base while the recently-acquired Kelly Johnson played third. The Orioles will have an open spot on the 40-man roster with Davis suspended, which means they could consider adding someone from their “taxi squad” in Sarasota. First baseman and the organization’s minor league Player of the Year Christian Walker is among the players continuing to work out in Florida.

With Davis ineligible for the first eight games of the postseason if the Orioles advance to the American League Championship Series, they would have to potentially decide whether to name him to the ALCS roster and play a man down to begin the series or push back his potential return until the World Series. Of course, there isn’t much precedent for a situation such as this as teams are only allowed to change their roster in the midst of a postseason series because of an injury.

Should the Orioles’ season end without playing eight postseason games, the remainder of Davis’ suspension would carry over into the start of the 2015 campaign.

Davis is scheduled to become a free agent after next season and has undoubtedly cost himself millions with a poor 2014 followed by the news of Friday’s suspension.

Resilient all year long despite season-ending injuries to catcher Matt Wieters and third baseman Manny Machado, the Orioles will now face another substantial challenge, even if Davis failed to approach the success he enjoyed in 2013.

“I’m disappointed, but I know Chris is, too. It is what it is,” Showalter said. “We’re going to try to deal with it and move on. The timing’s never good, but it’s one of those challenges. That’s why we have this in place and [are] fully supportive of it. These are the things that everybody knew beforehand.

“You learn to deal with the problems and the challenges along the way. If they’re self-inflicted, there’s no ‘woe is me.’ And this is self-inflicted.”

Comments (0)