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Orioles promote outfield prospect Hays from Double-A Bowie

Posted on 05 September 2017 by Luke Jones

(Photo courtesy of MILB.com)

BALTIMORE — The Orioles have promoted their fastest-rising prospect to the major leagues as outfielder Austin Hays was called up from Double-A Bowie on Tuesday.

A third-round pick out of Jacksonville University in 2016, Hays was preparing to play in the Eastern League playoffs for the Baysox before receiving the call from Baltimore. The 22-year-old hit .328 with 16 home runs, 15 doubles, 41 RBIs, and a .956 on-base plus slugging percentage in 64 games for Single-A Frederick earlier this season before being promoted to the Double-A level in June. Hays impressively didn’t miss a beat playing against tougher competition, batting .330 with 16 homers, 17 doubles, 54 RBIs, and a .960 OPS in 64 games for the Baysox.

Ranked 99th on Baseball America’s mid-season top 100 list released in early July, Hays has seen his stock rise dramatically and has started receiving national attention in his first full season of professional baseball. The right-handed hitter and thrower was ranked as Baltimore’s No. 2 prospect behind catcher Chance Sisco in the same publication’s top 10 list for the organization released in late July

Hays was also named one of five finalists to be Baseball America’s minor league player of the year on Tuesday.

It remains unclear what role Hays might fill this month, but it would be surprising to see him removed from a minor-league playoff experience if the Orioles intended to mostly sit him on the bench. Hays has played in both center field and right this season, making it possible that he could see action in right field against left-handed pitching.

Joey Rickard has served as the primary right fielder against lefties, but he is hitting just .223 with a .560 OPS since the All-Star break. His .283 average against southpaws is respectable, but his .706 OPS against lefties reflects his lack of power.

To make room for Hays on the 40-man roster, the Orioles designated left-handed pitcher Jayson Aquino for assignment. Considered a candidate for the major league starting rotation this spring, Aquino has pitched to a 4.24 ERA in 21 starts for the Tides this year and has made only two starts and four appearances for Baltimore, posting a 7.43 ERA.

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Labor Day weekend illustrates Orioles’ minuscule margin for error

Posted on 04 September 2017 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — The Orioles still have a pulse in their push for a wild-card spot.

Winning nine of their last 12 games was a must after falling four games below .500 two weeks ago, but the effort required for a 2-2 long weekend fit well with Monday’s holiday celebrating the unofficial end of summer.

Laborious.

Even with a 7-4 loss to the New York Yankees on Labor Day, the Orioles should feel fortunate. Instead of easily disposing of last-place Toronto in a four-game set, they were a bad pitch away on Friday and the subtraction of Welington Castillo’s game-tying home run on Sunday from finishing the long weekend on a five-game losing streak that would have wrecked their work from the previous week. They managed to come away with a four-game split that was an exhausting grind and left them vulnerable on Monday — even with top starter Dylan Bundy going to the hill.

After a blistering August at the plate, the Orioles have scored a total of 12 runs over the last four games, which included seven extra innings of play. In the two extra-inning wins over the weekend, the bullpen had to pitch a whopping 15 frames with much of that work going to Baltimore’s most reliable arms. Those innings took their toll as manager Buck Showalter confirmed after Monday’s loss that he wasn’t going to use three or four unidentified relievers in the opener against New York.

That’s why Bundy’s outing was so deflating as the Orioles needed their best starter to go at least six or seven innings to have any decent chance to win without a huge offensive performance. No one could have expected Bundy to duplicate the brilliance of a one-hit shutout in his last outing, but his short day was a death knell when the bats also went silent after three early runs.

Instead of being able to hand the reins of a close game over to a tough bullpen in the fifth, Showalter tried to squeeze extra outs out of his struggling starter and then had no choice but to turn to Miguel Castro, another young pitcher who’s had multiple long outings over the last 10 days. Castro struggled to throw strikes, eventually giving way to the likes of recent call-ups Richard Rodriguez and Gabriel Ynoa to finish the day. An expanded September roster allowed Showalter to rest his trusted relievers, but you’d prefer not using those extra arms when the outcome hasn’t fully been decided.

Monday’s loss and the weekend illustrated Baltimore’s minuscule margin for error.

Trying to give Bundy extra rest as much as possible since he’s already thrown a career-high 159 1/3 innings in 2017, the Orioles have continued to hand starts to Chris Tillman and Ubaldo Jimenez, who own the two worst ERAs in the majors among all pitchers with at least 80 innings. Those two still being part of a playoff contender’s six-man rotation in the final month of the season is an organizational failure from top to bottom, but the Orioles somehow still find themselves in the race.

Pitching on five days’ rest after a career-high 116 pitches last Tuesday, Bundy showed no dip in velocity, but his command wasn’t sharp from the get-go and the Yankees eventually exposed the deficiency in the fourth inning when he gave up three runs and needed 37 pitches to retire the side. Those struggles conjured unsettling thoughts of last season when Bundy posted a 5.11 ERA in September.

The Orioles’ formula for winning is difficult, but clear with 24 games remaining. They need to score runs at a prolific rate and use their bullpen to protect narrow leads in the late innings. The starting rotation merely needs to be mediocre like it was in August with an underwhelming 4.86 ERA and averaging 5.7 innings per start, which were dramatic improvements from the previous three months. We know this rotation isn’t going to lead the Orioles into October, but it has to be decent enough to keep them in games and not completely cripple the bullpen.

A 2-2 Labor Day weekend didn’t ruin their playoff chances, but it stretched their limits.

And we were reminded how little room the Orioles have for error with the days dwindling.

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Alvarez, Sisco highlight Orioles’ first wave of September call-ups

Posted on 01 September 2017 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — With September bringing the perk of an expanded roster, the Orioles have summoned an old friend and will provide the first major league taste to one of their top prospects.

Veteran slugger Pedro Alvarez and rookie catcher Chance Sisco headlined a list of promotions that also included outfielder Joey Rickard and right-handed relief pitchers Jimmy Yacabonis and Richard Rodriguez on Friday afternoon. Baltimore designated right-handers Tyler Wilson and Logan Verrett for assignment to make the necessary room on the 40-man roster.

Signed to a minor-league deal in March, Alvarez spent the entire season at Triple-A Norfolk and hit 26 home runs with a .737 on-base plus slugging percentage for the Tides. The 30-year-old spent 2016 in Baltimore and hit 22 homers with an .826 OPS, but his significant defensive limitations left him without a major league job this past offseason. He had been learning to play the outfield in the first half of the season at Norfolk, but the experiment was largely abandoned as he played first base in the second half.

Manager Buck Showalter confirmed that Sisco’s promotion is expected to be more of a learning experience rather than an audition, especially with incumbents Welington Castillo and Caleb Joseph playing so well. Ranked as Baltimore’s No. 1 prospect in Baseball American’s mid-season top 10 list, the 22-year-old hit .267 with seven homers, 23 doubles, and a .736 OPS at Norfolk this season and was invited to take part in the MLB All-Star Futures Game for the second straight year.

Sisco’s locker was placed next to Joseph’s, a deliberate move to help the highly-regarded talent better learn his trade from an above-average defensive catcher.

Rickard is back with the Orioles after a two-week stint at Norfolk that allowed the club to begin carrying Rule 5 outfielder Anthony Santander on the 25-man roster in mid-August. Yacabonis has also spent time with Baltimore this season, allowing five earned runs and walking six in 6 1/3 innings.

Rodriguez, 27, has yet to make his major league debut, but he posted a 2.42 ERA in 70 2/3 innings and recorded 10 saves for the Tides this season to earn the promotion.

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Twelve thoughts on Dylan Bundy’s one-hit shutout

Posted on 30 August 2017 by Luke Jones

With Orioles starter Dylan Bundy pitching a one-hit shutout in a 4-0 win over Seattle, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. That was the kind of performance fans daydream about when their team selects a pitcher in the top five spots of the amateur draft. Whether we’re witnessing the start of something special or this was merely the pinnacle of a solid career, Tuesday’s outing was fun to watch.

2. All of his pitchers were working, but the slider was especially potent, fetching swings and misses on 10 of the 27 he threw. It’s been said before, but he’s tough to beat when he has that breaking pitch going.

3. It’s a bummer to think a chance at a no-hitter was lost on a bunt single by Kyle Seager, but he dropped that down facing a one-run deficit in the fourth inning and before anyone was thinking about any flirtation with history.

4. I was waiting for Buck Showalter to pop out of the dugout after Bundy hit Robinson Cano to lead off the ninth inning, but you had to be impressed with the way the young pitcher immediately went back to work.

5. His 95 game score is tied for the sixth best in club history, according to the Baseball Reference play index. That’s some impressive company over 64 seasons of Orioles baseball.

6. This was easily the best pitching performance by an Oriole since Erik Bedard’s two-hit shutout that included 15 strikeouts against Texas on July 7, 2007. I’ll give Bedard a slight edge since he didn’t walk a batter while Bundy walked two and hit one.

7. Bundy provided the club’s first complete-game shutout since Miguel Gonzalez pitched one in 2014 and its complete game since Ubaldo Jimenez’s last September. How much has the game changed over the years? Jim Palmer pitched 20 or more complete games in a season four times.

8. This was the third time in his last four starts he’s struck out 10 or more. According to ESPN, that’s more than the total for any Orioles pitcher over the last 10 years. Yes, that reflects the Orioles’ lack of high-quality pitching, but it’s still an impressive feat for Bundy.

9. After averaging an ordinary 6.9 strikeouts per nine innings over the first four months of the season, Bundy is striking out 11.3 per nine in August. Even with extra rest being an obvious factor, it’s encouraging for the future to see him missing more bats.

10. He became the second pitcher in Orioles history to record a one-hit shutout with 12 or more strikeouts. Mike Mussina was the first on Aug. 1, 2000 when Bundy was not quite 8 years old.

11. I understand concerns over a career-high 155 1/3 innings this season, but squabbling over the right-hander exceeding his career high in pitches by four to get the shutout just reeks of joylessness. That said, the Orioles need to continue massaging his workload the rest of the way.

12. Bundy was pitching with a heavy heart after his grandmother’s death last week. That outing sure was a special tribute to her.

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Twelve Orioles thoughts following 8-7 win over Oakland

Posted on 24 August 2017 by Luke Jones

With the Orioles winning their first series since early August in an 8-7 final against Oakland, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. There was never going to be an ideal time for Zach Britton to finally blow a save, but it was good to see the Orioles save him after an incredible 60 conversions in a row. What a remarkable streak to watch over these last two years.

2. It was quite a homestand for Manny Machado with walk-off home runs in the first and last games. He’s now hitting .352 with 12 home runs since July 6 when his season average sat at an alarming .215.

3. Wednesday’s win likely doesn’t change the Orioles’ not-so-encouraging outlook in the crowded race for the second wild card, but squandering a late 6-1 lead and then losing after Britton’s blown save sure would have felt like the proverbial final nail in the coffin.

4. Relievers don’t often deserve the wins attached to their name, but Miguel Castro did enormous work with 3 2/3 scoreless innings. I’m not as high on him as a potential starter because of his low strikeout rate, but he’s provided a strong shot in the arm for the bullpen.

5. Extra rest for a starting pitcher sounds great in theory, but I’ve been impressed with how crisp Dylan Bundy has been after the long layoffs. He deserved a much better fate despite finding trouble the third time through the order in the seventh inning.

6. Bundy’s 19 swinging strikes were a new career high. His average fastball velocity of 91.7 mph was hardly his best of the year, but he induced swings and misses on 10 of the 29 sliders he threw against the Athletics.

7. The news of Britton undergoing an MRI exam on Thursday may turn out to be of little consequence, but the two-time All-Star closer having a knee issue on the heels of the forearm strain that sidelined him for most of the first half won’t help his trade value this offseason.

8. Tim Beckham doesn’t always show the best instincts, but he had three hits after having cooled off a bit recently. I have tremendous respect for what J.J. Hardy has done in Baltimore, but I’m amazed anyone can think it’s a real debate over who should start when the latter returns.

9. It may have sounded worse on TV, but I only heard a few nitwits booing Britton after he blew his first save since Sept. 20, 2015. There’s no excusing that foolish reaction after such a historic run of success, regardless of how frustrating the club’s mediocrity can be.

10. The Orioles have gone 6-9 since climbing back to the .500 mark on Aug. 7. Those games came against teams with a combined .485 winning percentage. That’s just not the work of a serious playoff contender with September rapidly approaching.

11. Continuing to give starts to Ubaldo Jimenez and Chris Tillman in late August isn’t the stuff of a contender, either. Jimenez has the worst ERA (6.57) in the majors among all qualified pitchers while Tillman (7.75) is dead last among pitchers with at least 60 innings.

12. Onetime Oriole Rich Hill lost a perfect game in Pittsburgh because of an error in the ninth inning and then lost a no-hitter — and the game — when he gave up a solo homer to Josh Harrison in the 10th. Someone give that man a stiff drink. Or a hug.

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Twelve Orioles thoughts following West Coast trip

Posted on 17 August 2017 by Luke Jones

With the Orioles dropping their final two games in Seattle to finish a 4-6 trip on the West Coast, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. A losing road trip doesn’t cripple their playoffs chances, but the Orioles entered Thursday with six clubs ahead of them for the second wild card. They’ve played better since the All-Star break, but repeatedly falling to the back of the line among so many mediocre teams isn’t encouraging.

2. With a bullpen in good shape going into an off-day, Buck Showalter stayed with Ubaldo Jimenez entirely too long in the fifth inning Wednesday. The already-struggling veteran was facing the top of the order a third time, but Showalter instead saved his best relievers and lost the lead.

3. Showalter letting Chris Davis bat against lefty Marc Rzepczynski was a tougher call. He’s 8-for-24 over the last week after being lowered in the order, and Rzepczynski has been tough against righties, too. If you’re trying to get Davis going for the stretch, I understand not testing his confidence further.

4. Of their six losses on the road trip, the Orioles held a lead in five of those defeats. Whether it was shaky pitching or the offense going to sleep after scoring an early run or two, the trip should have been better. That’s just another sign of mediocrity.

5. Tim Beckham will cool off eventually, but it’s fun thinking about the possibility that there was more to the idea that he didn’t like hitting at Tropicana Field than anyone thought. In 16 games, he already ranks seventh on the 2017 Orioles in wins above replacement, according to Baseball Reference.

6. I’ve said this before, but Trey Mancini’s development has a left fielder continues to amaze after he only began learning the outfield this past offseason. I would never bet on him winning a Gold Glove, but he looks very capable, which is a nice bonus to accompany his dangerous bat.

7. Davis has fairly received plenty of heat in the midst of his worst season since 2014, but Mark Trumbo has been just as disappointing. Expecting him to match what he did in 2016 was unrealistic, but his .711 on-base plus slugging percentage is the second-worst mark of his career.

8. Since the All-Star break, the Orioles are 1-5 in games in which they’ve had an opportunity to move back to the .500 mark. Talk about beating your head against a brick wall as the second wild card sits there begging for someone to take control.

9. Kevin Gausman has allowed two or fewer runs in five of his last six starts and sports a 3.13 ERA when Caleb Joseph catches. Welington Castillo was behind the dish for that one non-quality start, and Gausman owns a 7.30 mark with him behind the dish. Stick with what’s working.

10. I don’t have a major problem with temporarily sending Joey Rickard to Triple-A Norfolk to make room for Anthony Santander, but Rule 5 players since 2012 have netted the Orioles a combined 2.4 WAR, per Baseball Reference. That’s a minimal return for so often playing with a shorthanded roster.

11. Speaking of questionable value, Jimenez and Chris Tillman have combined for a minus-2.4 WAR despite making a total of $23.55 million in 2017. That’s a heck of a price tag for below-replacement-level production.

12. The 25th anniversary celebration of Camden Yards will be a nice nod to the 1992 Orioles, who showed a 22-game improvement from the previous year. I’m a little bummed Randy Milligan — one of my favorites as a kid — won’t be there though. His .391 career on-base percentage was underappreciated.

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The Peter Principles (Ch. 10) – Syd Thrift, Confederate money and the new Oriole Way of 21st century

Posted on 08 August 2017 by Nestor Aparicio

(Author note: This is Chapter 10 of my book “The Peter Principles,” which I was working to finish in March 2014 when my wife was diagnosed with leukemia the first time. I will be releasing the entire book for free online this summer – chapter by chapter. These are the true chronicles of the history of Peter G. Angelos and his ownership of the Baltimore Orioles. If you enjoy the journey, please share the links with a friend.)

 

10. Syd Thrift, Confederate money and the new Oriole Way of 21st century

 

 

“Mr. Angelos feels the term general manager is obsolete and I agree with him. We’re going to keep working to turn this thing around and we’re all going to be working together.”

Syd Thrift

Orioles Director of Player Personnel

January 2000

 

 

BY NOW ONE OF THE biggest problems Peter G. Angelos was discovering was his inability to lie or buy his way out of the dilemma of the very public and ongoing accountability of running a Major League Baseball team. By all accounts, those around him would say that he had very little natural interest in baseball at all before he bought the Baltimore Orioles. He was a boxer as a kid and a bookish, nerdy, difficult, know-it-all political aspirant who was least likely to get a player autograph or spend a free day at a lowly baseball game on 33rd Street as a kid.

 

Mr. Angelos was far more interested in ruling the world than being a peasant local sports fan.

Angelos was much more serious and interested in law, government, politics and pontificating for anyone who would deem him significant enough to listen to him drone on about his expertise in the world and his world view. Buying the baseball franchise bought him an audience to listen, and an initially fawning media that hung on his every word. Angelos was once called a “windbag” by a rival politician during his City Hall-aspiring days and six years into his reign of terror with the sputtering Orioles, his many words and lack of success with people would lend some credence to that claim.

Now, with an evolving track record and many knee-jerk executive decisions, his fingerprints were all over every aspect of the Orioles and the fan experience. His check and report card was coming due in the media. There was no way to avoid the humiliation and daily soap opera of despair that the team generated – on and off the field.

Angelos wanted everything his way.

And, now, he had his wish.

And he couldn’t handle how miserably his strategy – if you could call it that – was failing. And how unpopular a guy who was wrecking baseball for lifelong Orioles fans could actually become and how quickly the “Marylander of The Year” accolades could be under siege from the fan base and a media that was simply reporting the bizarre nature of every unorthodox transaction, while watching competent baseball people come in the front door of The Warehouse and get pushed out the side door like yesterday’s rubbish.

The franchise was without a true leader, without a plan and without a clue. But the team still had a legion of disappointed and disillusioned fans. Tens of thousands of Orioles fans turned to the team on a daily basis as they’d done with their parents and in some cases their parents’ parents. Baseball in Baltimore felt like a birthright, like an appendage or a member of the family.

For local fans, the franchise was a “we” not a “them.”

That was the lure and allure that drew Peter G. Angelos to the team to begin with – the significance and royalty of the Baltimore Orioles. It wasn’t his love of a spring afternoon at a baseball stadium or a hot summer night in a pennant race. It wasn’t because he loved a well-pitched game or keeping score with a No. 2 pencil. It wasn’t because he had memories during his formative years with Brooks Robinson or Jim Palmer or even Jim Gentile and Gus Triandos. It wasn’t because he entered debates about Eddie vs. Cal or Frank vs. Brooks.

Angelos bought the team to be loved. He certainly didn’t need the money. He craved the power, the status it would bring. He sold the very concept that ONLY a local owner could make the franchise better and

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Twelve Orioles thoughts following series split with Detroit

Posted on 06 August 2017 by Luke Jones

With the Orioles winning two straight to salvage a four-game split with Detroit, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. A series split is an underwhelming result on the heels of the five-game winning streak, but the Orioles bouncing back from Friday’s brutal defeat with two victories was encouraging. A 7-3 West Coast trip would sure make you start thinking differently about their wild-card chances.

2. Manny Machado had a five-RBI game Sunday and is hitting .352 since the All-Star break. With an improved approach and better luck, he’s raised his average from .215 on July 6 to .257 a month later. He’s so dangerous when he isn’t trying to pull the ball exclusively.

3. Despite allowing 12 batters to reach over 5 2/3 innings, Ubaldo Jimenez was serviceable and made big pitches when necessary to protect a sizable lead. That’s three straight respectable outings for the maddening right-hander.

4. The optics were cringeworthy, but the Orioles received competitive starts from Wade Miley and Jimenez over the final two games of the series. Yes, the bar is very low for both, but Buck Showalter’s club has a chance when they’re able to turn in results like that.

5. Tim Beckham continues to be a spark plug as he’s gone 14-for-24 with seven extra-base hits in six games with Baltimore. J.J. Hardy has deep respect within the organization, but Beckham would have to fall off a cliff — perhaps literally — to justify the former returning to the starting role.

6. Beckham hit the 10,000th regular-season home run in club history Saturday and the 2,505th for the Orioles in 26 seasons at Camden Yards. They hit only 2,490 long balls over 38 seasons at Memorial Stadium. Yes, the current park is a homer haven, but the game has sure changed.

7. Jonathan Schoop tied his career high with his 25th home run of the season Sunday, matching his total from 2016 in nearly 200 fewer plate appearances. He continues to amaze in a breakout 2017.

8. The bullpen let him down, but Kevin Gausman pitched another gem on Friday and has posted a 0.65 ERA over his last 27 2/3 innings since his disastrous July 14 start to begin the second half. This is the pitcher we saw over the final two months of 2016.

9. Caleb Joseph caught all four of those Gausman starts and the staff ERA is 4.12 when he catches compared to 5.75 with Welington Castillo this season. The improvement with the bat stands out, but his work behind the plate is why the playing time is virtually even since the break.

10. Sending Chris Tillman to the bullpen wasn’t an easy conversation, but the Orioles had no other choice. It will be interesting to see how often he pitches and how a relief role will impact his nightmarish 8.10 ERA in 66 2/3 innings.

11. With his fifth-inning blast Saturday, Adam Jones reached the 20-homer mark for the seventh straight season, a streak that ranks third in Orioles history behind only Cal Ripken (10) and Eddie Murray (nine). He won’t be a Hall of Famer, but few have been more important over this club’s history.

12. Thanks to Justin Upton’s grand slam off the typically-superb Mychal Givens, the Orioles suffered their ninth straight Friday loss with a few of those occurring in gut-wrenching fashion. Maybe it’s time to retire the Friday “O’s” cap that’s an inferior look to the regular home and away caps anyway.

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By not selling, Orioles continue course toward 2019 cliff

Posted on 31 July 2017 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — Monday’s trade deadline came and went with the Orioles taking no detour from their path toward that 2019 cliff.

Executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette offered few specifics about any potential deals that were on the table for two-time All-Star closer Zach Britton or 2016 All-Star setup man Brad Brach. He did allude to Britton’s market being depressed because of his two-month absence for a left forearm strain in the first half and referenced the lucrative returns that the New York Yankees received for relievers Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman at last year’s deadline.

“He’s one of the top relievers in the American League,” Duquette said. “There’s a steep price paid for the relievers that were traded last year, and that really wasn’t the market this year.”

Make no mistake, the Orioles were smart to aim high and not trade Britton if they couldn’t find a fair offer, especially with him being under club control through next season. He wasn’t just a rental for a contending club, but you’d certainly hope they plan to deal the talented — and increasingly expensive — closer this winter and not wait until a year from now when his hypothetical value would be considerably lower.

Keeping the likes of Britton, Brach, and third baseman Manny Machado for now isn’t necessarily the end of the world that many are making it out to be, but the Orioles remain on that ominous path when those three as well as veteran center fielder Adam Jones become free agents at the end of next season. You can’t help but feel that the longer they wait to deal such valuable pieces, the longer it will be until their next competitive window opens.

And just because the Orioles can still trade any of those individuals at some point over the next year doesn’t mean they will, which is an even scarier proposition.

Duquette talked at length about the organization not giving up on 2017, a notion that left many rolling their eyes as Baltimore entered Monday tied for the fifth-worst record in the American League. The acquisitions of veteran starting pitcher Jeremy Hellickson — who’s only under contract through the end of the season — and 27-year-old infielder Tim Beckham are hardly the moves of a club that considers itself a serious contender.

At least Beckham, the first overall pick of the 2008 draft, is under control through the 2020 season and has developed into a useful major league piece after years of underwhelming results. The Hellickson deal reeks of pointlessness as even he admitted surprise when the fourth-place Orioles acquired him from Philadelphia late Friday night.

No, Duquette didn’t trade away the organization’s high-end minor-league pieces for a long-shot chance at a playoff berth, but middling activity such as these two deals once again left us wondering about the Orioles’ overall direction. Beckham could be the club’s starting shortstop for the next few years, but he’s not someone you’d point to as a difference maker, either.

“I still like this team. I like this team for this year; I like this team for next year,” said Duquette, whose contract expires at the end of next season. “You’ve seen fits and spurts of this team playing very, very good baseball. The consistency will come when we get a consistent, stable rotation.”

Duquette chuckled when asked how his and manager Buck Showalter’s contract status as well as the age of owner Peter Angelos — who turned 88 on July 4 — might impact the club’s overall plans, but those uncertain futures are even more problematic than what to do with the likes of Machado and Britton. It makes little sense to have a lame-duck general manager begin a rebuilding process, and he has little incentive to want to start such an arduous task without assurance of being able to see it through.

Angelos should have already decided what the future holds for Duquette and shouldn’t continue with him in charge if he isn’t going to be the architect after next season.

Instead, it appears to be all about the present, whether not selling at the deadline or continuing to move international signing bonus slots.

Are the Orioles committed to keeping the band together for a final run in 2018? If so, they’ll need to do a ton of heavy lifting to revive a starting rotation that’s been an utter disaster this season, and a veteran like Hellickson isn’t going to cut it. While they’re at it, the offense hasn’t been very good in 2017, either.

Will the Orioles start showing any regard for what happens beyond 2018 or stubbornly continue marching forward with a club that doesn’t appear to be good enough anymore?

Important questions, but no clear direction in sight.

Other than that cliff ahead.

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Twelve Orioles thoughts following 9-7 win over Houston

Posted on 23 July 2017 by Luke Jones

With the Orioles salvaging the finale of a three-game set in a 9-7 win over Houston, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. It was a long time coming, but Zach Britton set a new American League record with his 55th consecutive save conversion and first since April 14. If he is indeed traded before the Orioles return home next Monday, it was a fitting final appearance for him at Camden Yards.

2. A balanced offensive attack was the difference as seven different Orioles collected an RBI. The offensive showing could have been even better if not for grounding into four double plays in the first six innings.

3. Dylan Bundy will continue receiving extra rest when off-days allow it, but he’s now posted a 7.85 ERA over his last seven starts after surrendering a career-high seven runs. He handled quite a workload over the first 2 1/2 months, and you wonder how much fatigue is factoring into his struggles.

4. Houston hitters were able to work their way back from multiple 0-2 counts as Bundy wasn’t able to finish them off. The walk to Alex Bregman preceding Nori Aoki’s game-tying three-run home run in the sixth was particularly frustrating for the young pitcher.

5. Mark Trumbo reminded us why he only plays sparingly in the outfield, but he made up for it with the game-tying home run in the last of the seventh. He was one of three Baltimore hitters to collect their 50th RBI of the season on Sunday.

6. Trey Mancini drove in two runs and improved his average with runners in scoring position to a whopping .431. You keep waiting for him to start looking more like a rookie at the plate, but it hasn’t happened.

7. Jonathan Schoop saw his streak of five straight games with multiple RBIs come to an end, but he’s had at least one in seven consecutive contests. His three-hit afternoon raised his season average to .307.

8. Jose Altuve’s greatness is hardly breaking news, but he collected four hits to finish off a .500 batting average for the series. He sure is something special to watch.

9. A move to the leadoff spot has sparked a recent surge for Adam Jones, who had four hits and passed former teammate Nick Markakis to move into sole possession of sixth place on the Orioles’ all-time hit list. He’s been in the middle of plenty of scoring rallies of late.

10. The sixth inning is a separator in today’s game as teams need starters capable of getting through six innings or an incredibly deep bullpen to survive. The Orioles gave up 11 runs in the sixth frame over this series.

11. Much was made about Dan Duquette’s trade deadline comments Saturday, but remember he was addressing season-ticket holders as players were within earshot. His actions, not his words, are what matter over the next week.

12. Had the Orioles gone 7-3 or better on this homestand to get back to .500, I could maybe understand not selling, but they have no more than six wins in any 10-game stretch since May 9. Winning five of seven isn’t enough to overlook 2 1/2 months of .379 baseball.

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