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Twelve Orioles thoughts following Memorial Day checkpoint

Posted on 29 May 2018 by Luke Jones

With one-third of the Orioles’ 2018 season officially in the books after the 6-0 loss to Washington on Monday, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. The Orioles reached the much-discussed Memorial Day checkpoint sitting at 20 games below .500 and 20 games out of first place in the American League East. I’d say an extension to Flag Day probably isn’t necessary to determine how this organization needs to proceed.

2. Since plating 17 runs on Mother’s Day, the Baltimore lineup has scored three or fewer in 11 of 13 games. Pitching woes and bad defense haven’t surprised me, but I never expected the offense to be this consistently bad, ranking last in the AL in runs scored per game (3.83).

3. I’m unsure how good the likes of Cedric Mullins, DJ Stewart, and Austin Hays will be in the majors, but watching some of the outfield combinations used by Buck Showalter in recent weeks is tiresome. I suppose a 111-loss pace reflects the amount of dead weight on the current roster.

4. Continuing to bat Chris Davis fifth or sixth is even worse.

5. Alex Cobb turned in his longest start of the season Monday, but he was plagued by a 42-pitch third inning that didn’t feature a single swing and miss. He has the worst swinging-strike percentage among pitchers completing 40 innings. His split-changeup still hasn’t returned since Tommy John surgery.

6. Davis’ performance has helped mask the struggles of Jonathan Schoop, who owns a .667 on-base plus slugging percentage and a walk rate on par with his first two seasons. The oblique strain didn’t help, but this isn’t ideal for someone needing to be re-signed or traded in the near future.

7. Many were pointing to Richard Bleier as a possible candidate to represent the Orioles at the All-Star Game if Manny Machado were to be traded before then. A 5.23 ERA in May and opponents batting .438 against him this month have certainly cooled that possibility.

8. Trey Mancini is batting .203 with a .632 OPS since banging his knee against the brick wall on April 20. He hasn’t used the knee as an excuse, but he’s hitting too many balls on the ground and his defense has taken a substantial step back from last year.

9. Concerns about Andrew Cashner being able to miss bats have been quelled by him averaging 8.1 strikeouts per nine innings, but his previously-stellar ground-ball rate has plummeted to a career-worst 37.8 percent and he’s allowed 11 homers in 60 1/3 innings. That hasn’t been a good trade-off.

10. How big has the long-ball problem been for the rotation? Dylan Bundy, Kevin Gausman, Cashner, and Cobb all rank among the top 30 for worst homer rates in the majors among those completing at least 40 innings. Chris Tillman would also be on that list if he had enough innings.

11. This past weekend marked the six-year anniversary of Adam Jones inking his $85.5 million contract that was a winner for both sides. It represented happier times when a competitive window was just opening and the Orioles had the vision and urgency to lock up a 26-year-old entering his prime.

12. I’m unmoved about in-season firings in what’s already a lost year, but how refreshing would it be for a member of the Angelos family to speak about this being unacceptable, to vow changes, and to lay out some semblance of a vision? Is that really too much to ask?

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Davis problem not getting any better for Orioles

Posted on 21 May 2018 by Luke Jones

Chris Davis isn’t in a slump.

An 0-for-20 skid or even a bad month fits that descriptor, but what the Orioles first baseman is experiencing is much more severe. He’s at a career crossroads, regardless of his well-documented financial security.

Entering Monday, his .166 batting average was the fourth worst in the majors among qualified hitters while his .512 on-base plus slugging percentage ranked ahead of only Los Angeles Angels right fielder Kole Calhoun (.401) and Miami rookie center fielder Lewis Brinson (.510). Davis is currently on pace to hit 14 home runs.

Light-hitting outfielder Craig Gentry has a higher slugging percentage while the just-demoted Caleb Joseph sports a higher batting average than the man who signed a seven-year, $161 million contract less than 2 1/2 years ago. The highest-paid player on the club ranks last among its 25 active players at minus-1.0 wins above replacement — Chris Tillman was at minus-1.1 before being placed on the disabled list earlier this month.

But this goes beyond a horrendous start to the 2018 season.

Over his last 1,001 plate appearances dating back to early July of 2016, Davis is batting .203 with a .301 on-base percentage and a .394 slugging percentage. He hasn’t posted better than a .757 OPS in any single month since May of 2017. Davis hasn’t performed at a level anywhere close to resembling his most productive seasons in a very long time.

This really isn’t about striking out too much — that’s always been the slugger’s weakness — as Davis’ strikeout rate is actually a touch better than a year ago and his contact rate is as high as it’s been since his massive 2013 campaign. That’s not to forgive 60 strikeouts in 166 plate appearances in 2018, but it’s the kind of contact he’s making that’s much more troubling.

Once known for Herculean power that allowed him to lead the majors in home runs twice in a three-year period, Davis’ average exit velocity has declined from 91.9 miles per hour in 2015 to 90.8 in 2016 to 89.9 last season and now down to an alarming 87.3 this season. His 46.1 percent ground-ball rate is a career high while his hard-hit percentage is down almost 10 percent from 2015, according to Statcast. His homer to fly ball ratio of 12.5 percent is nearly half of what it was even a year ago (24.8 percent). A .241 batting average on balls in play reflects bad luck at first glance, but the inability to hit the ball hard and consistent infield shifting aren’t doing that mark any favors.

That contact-to-damage ratio manager Buck Showalter once cited on the regular has all but vanished.

This isn’t just a bad season; it’s the kind of profile making you wonder if Davis is bordering on being completely finished as a productive major league player. A 32-year-old’s bat speed is rarely ever going to be what it was five years ago, but this incredible decline leaves you to at least ask if there’s an underlying physical problem. For what it’s worth, Showalter told reporters in Boston that Davis was “fine physically” before sitting him for Sunday’s game.

Many anticipated at the time of the signing that the last two or three seasons of Davis’ seven-year deal wouldn’t be pretty, but no one could have imagined him being this bad this quickly. The Ryan Howard contract has frequently been cited when discussing what Davis could become over the course of his deal, but the Orioles now would likely sign up in blood for what Philadelphia got from the former National League MVP, who still averaged 24 home runs and a .706 OPS over his final three seasons. That’s still pretty bad, but not the historic liability Davis is shaping up to be.

What can the Orioles do?

As we should have just learned over the length of the Ubaldo Jimenez contract, they’re not cutting Davis anytime soon. If the organization wasn’t willing to part ways with Jimenez at any point over the course of his four-year, $50 million contract, the thought of releasing Davis with more than four years remaining on his record-setting deal isn’t even worth entertaining. Frankly, it would make little sense for a last-place team already hopelessly out of playoff contention to make a rash decision with such dramatic financial ramifications without exploring every possible avenue to try to fix him.

But the Orioles can’t continue to pretend like this is just a slump either. That’s not to say the wheels haven’t already been turning behind the scenes to address Davis’ woes, but there’s no justification to continue to bat him in the middle of the order. If he’s going to be in the lineup on any kind of a consistent basis — also debatable — Davis should hit no higher than eighth or ninth on a given night.

The organization needs to be as aggressive as possible trying to salvage a $161 million investment that is already appearing to be circling the drain. Enlist the help of any hitting guru or sports psychologist that might be able to help. With apologies to hitting coach Scott Coolbaugh and his good relationship with the veteran first baseman, it might be time to see if a fresh pair of eyes and new ideas can fare any better.

If necessary, give Davis “the Tillman treatment” with a stint on the disabled list to work in a lower-pressure environment like Sarasota and utilize a minor-league rehab assignment to experiment and tinker with adjustments. If nothing else, a mental break might be beneficial for all parties — including the fans.

You really hope he experiences a breakthrough. I don’t believe for a second this is a result of Davis not caring or putting forth effort after getting his big contract. There are many variables you can point to, ranging from his past suspension for Adderall and treating his ADHD to the pressure of living up to such an enormous contract on a club whose competitive window has already slammed shut. But history also says many strikeout-heavy sluggers don’t age well, the argument that was being made by some while so many others celebrated Davis re-signing with the Orioles.

It’s difficult to say whether he can reverse the trend, especially considering it had already been moving in the wrong direction before this 2018 fall off a cliff.

Just seven years ago, Adam Dunn — a player with a similar profile to Davis — had one of the worst seasons for a previously-accomplished player in major league history with a .159 average, 11 home runs, and a .569 OPS in 496 plate appearances before rebounding to hit 97 home runs over the next three seasons. Dunn was only a year younger than Davis at the time of that disastrous campaign, giving you hope that a meaningful turnaround for the latter is possible.

But that may not happen with Davis. This could just be who he is now, a terrifying proposition for an organization facing dark clouds of uncertainty everywhere you look.

If every avenue is exhausted to try to fix Davis before ultimately concluding it can’t be done, then you simply have to part ways with the sunk cost. The money is spent either way.

But until that time, the Orioles must stop pretending this is only a slump and start showing more urgency — both publicly and behind the scenes — to try to fix their high-priced first baseman.

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Orioles demote Joseph, call up catcher Susac from Triple-A Norfolk

Posted on 17 May 2018 by Luke Jones

Beginning an 11-game road trip with the third-worst record in baseball, the Orioles have made a notable change to their 25-man roster.

Veteran catcher Caleb Joseph was optioned to Triple-A Norfolk and catcher Andrew Susac was recalled from the Tides ahead of Thursday’s series opener in Boston. Joseph, 31, has struggled mightily at the plate this season, batting just .182 with 24 strikeouts in 80 plate appearances. The 28-year-old Susac was batting .296 with three home runs and 14 runs batted in for the Tides.

Joseph and rookie Chance Sisco each started seven of Baltimore’s first 14 games in May in what had developed into a timeshare after the former began 2018 as the primary catcher. Susac was in Thursday’s lineup with Red Sox left-hander David Price taking the hill, but Sisco figures to continue seeing regular playing time against right-handed starting pitchers.

Known for providing above-average pitch framing and defense in the past, Joseph has declined in those departments in 2018. He ranks just 61st in Baseball Prospectus’ pitch-framing metrics after finishing no worse than 11th in any of the previous four seasons. Joseph has also had issues blocking pitches and has already committed four errors after having just three all last year.

Those underwhelming defensive numbers made it easier for the Orioles to send Joseph to the minors since he’s been so poor at the plate. He posted a respectable .700 on-base plus slugging percentage last year, but he infamously failed to collect a single RBI in 141 plate appearances in 2016, another season in which he was demoted to the minors.

In 274 major league plate appearances, Susac has batted .232 with seven home runs and a .695 OPS.

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Twelve Orioles thoughts following 4-1 loss to Philadelphia

Posted on 16 May 2018 by Luke Jones

With the Orioles concluding their eight-game homestand with a 4-1 loss to Philadelphia, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. The Baltimore offense came crashing down after scoring 58 runs in its previous seven games, managing just one run and four hits against the Phillies. It was the 22nd game this season in which the Orioles scored three or fewer runs.

2. A 5-3 homestand brought better baseball and sounds fine if you’re a team that hadn’t already buried itself over the first six weeks. That’s simply not moving the meter unless the Orioles magically start playing well on the road, something they haven’t done consistently in four years.

3. Andrew Cashner kept his club in it, but he ran into trouble going through the order a third time. Entering Wednesday, opponents had a .988 on-base plus slugging percentage seeing him a third time in a game. The Phillies continued that by going 3-for-5 with a homer and a walk.

4. Cashner continues collecting more strikeouts than expected with six in 5 2/3 innings, but the long ball continues to be a problem as he allowed at least one for the eighth time in nine starts. After allowing just 15 in 166 2/3 innings last year, he’s surrendered 11 in 2018.

5. Nick Pivetta deserves praise after matching his career high with 11 strikeouts and inducing a career-best 23 swinging strikes, but the Phillies starter mentioned in his post-game press conference how he took advantage of the Orioles’ free-swinging ways. The flawed approach is hardly a secret.

6. Adam Jones provided the lone offensive highlight of the day with his seventh homer of the season in the first inning, extended his hitting streak to 11 straight games. The Orioles didn’t have another baserunner until the fifth inning and had only two more until the eighth.

7. No one ever confused him with Manny Machado in the two-base department, but Chris Davis hit only his third double of the year. After hitting 31 in 2015, Davis collected only 21 in 2016 and 15 last year. He’s slugging .281, which is barely higher than Craig Gentry’s .270 mark.

8. Expecting Richard Bleier to sustain a 0.40 ERA was always unrealistic, but the lefty surrendering runs in each of his last two outings is a bummer for an injury-plagued bullpen that hasn’t been very good this season. He couldn’t keep the deficit to one run in the sixth.

9. The Orioles and Phillies saw a combined 13 pitches in the fourth inning. Think players were aware it was a getaway day with plenty of rain in the forecast?

10. Phillies center fielder Odubel Herrera singled in the opening frame to reach base in his 42nd consecutive game, the longest streak of any major league hitter since 2016. Just don’t tell the Orioles he’s a former Rule 5 pick.

11. After completing a bullpen session on Wednesday, Darren O’Day could be activated from the disabled list as early as Friday. With Zach Britton now throwing live batting practice, the Orioles bullpen could be back to full strength in the not-too-distant future.

12. If you needed a reminder of why the Orioles’ future looks grim, Baseball America’s Ben Badler sheds maddening light on the organization’s continued lack of participation in the international market. This puts an unnecessary ceiling on a farm system in need of more talent.

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Twelve Orioles thoughts following doubleheader split with Tampa Bay

Posted on 12 May 2018 by Luke Jones

With the Orioles splitting their twin bill with the Tampa Bay Rays on Saturday, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. Baltimore saw its four-game winning streak snapped in the nightcap, but this week has been a decent diversion from how poor the 2018 season has been. Even if the Orioles had won the second game, they still would have been on pace to lose 110 games. Instead, it’s 114.

2. The story of the day was David Hess, who shook off an early three-run homer to win his major league debut and register a quality start over six innings, equaling the total number from Chris Tillman and Mike Wright in their combined nine starts this season. He deserves another start.

3. Hess used all four of his pitches effectively and recorded five of his seven swinging strikes on his slider. Scouts have said he lacks a dominant pitch, but many believe the right-hander is a legitimate major league pitcher, either as a starter or a reliever.

4. Pitching on short rest wasn’t ideal, but Hess had the benefit of being promoted to work in a starting role. Hopping on the Norfolk train as a long reliever isn’t easy when youngsters are typically rewarded for pitching well by immediately being optioned right back to the minors.

5. Manny Machado and Jonathan Schoop hit back-to-back home runs on consecutive pitches in the third inning of the first game, the Orioles’ first back-to-back homers of the season. Machado had homered in three straight games before the nightcap while Schoop clubbed two homers on Saturday. Fun to watch.

6. Schoop’s second home run was the 92nd of his career, tying him with Brian Roberts for the most homers by a second baseman in Orioles history. This is your latest reminder that he becomes a free agent at the end of next season.

7. Watching Hess followed by Tanner Scott and Mychal Givens to close out the victory was a reminder that the cupboard isn’t entirely bare for the Orioles despite a very unsettling future. It’s easy envisioning Scott and Givens leading the back end of the bullpen in the coming years.

8. Who didn’t expect catcher Chance Sisco’s first major league stolen base to be a swipe of home? Seth Smith had Baltimore’s last steal of home prior to Saturday. A pair of speed demons right there.

9. With Buck Showalter wanting to avoid using Richard Bleier and Miguel Castro and having used Givens and Scott in Game 1, the lack of bullpen depth was painfully exposed as Jimmy Yacabonis, Pedro Araujo, and Mike Wright combined to allow six runs, seven walks, and a hit batter. Yuck.

10. Saturday was underwhelming for Alex Cobb, who allowed three earned runs, two homers, and seven hits in 5 2/3 innings. In fairness, he had retired seven straight and was settling in at just 69 pitches before a lengthy rain delay brought his night to a premature end.

11. The Rule 5 pick Araujo has been scored upon in five straight outings, walking three and plunking another while recording two outs Saturday. I’ve stated my disdain for the Rule 5 draft obsession repeatedly, but you might as well keep him when you’re already 16 games below .500 in mid-May.

12. An offense that plated 26 runs in the previous three games had one hit through five innings of the nightcap and failed to take advantage of runners on second and third with no outs in the sixth, managing only one more run and leaving the tying run on third.

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Orioles send struggling Tillman to 10-day disabled list

Posted on 11 May 2018 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — Struggling Orioles pitcher Chris Tillman will not make his next start.

When — or if — he makes another remains to be seen after he was placed on the 10-day disabled list Friday with what was officially called a lower back strain. Right-handed pitcher Jimmy Yacabonis was recalled from Triple-A Norfolk to take his place on the 25-man roster and provide an extra arm for an overworked bullpen.

“He was in an MRI tube for quite a while today,” said manager Buck Showalter after Friday’s 9-4 win over Tampa Bay. “I know what some of the findings were, but the DL obviously was needed.”

After failing to make it out of the second inning in his second straight start on Thursday, Tillman saw his season ERA climb to an unseemly 10.46, leaving many to call for the Orioles to part ways with the veteran who hasn’t been effective since 2016. The 30-year-old has pitched to a nightmarish 8.42 ERA in 119 2/3 innings since the start of last season, making him easily the worst in baseball among pitchers completing at least 100 innings over that time frame.

After becoming just the eighth pitcher since 1929 to produce a season ERA of 7.50 or higher with at least 90 innings of work in 2017, Tillman remained on the free-agent market until late February when Baltimore re-signed him to a one-year, $3 million contract that included incentives. The Orioles had hoped Tillman would regain his pre-2017 form when he served as the de facto ace for the starting rotation and posted a solid 3.81 ERA from 2012-16, but he’s been even worse this season, allowing at least four runs in all but one of his seven starts.

Tillman’s problems began with a shoulder injury that landed him on the DL in August of 2016. He was able to return for the final few weeks of that season, but the issue returned that offseason, disrupting his spring preparations and putting him on the DL to begin 2017.

The DL move will understandably be met with great skepticism — especially after Tillman declared himself healthy in his post-game interview on Thursday — but the maneuver does allow the club to remove him from the starting rotation and potentially send him on an extended minor-league rehab assignment before determining the next step. The Orioles would remain on the hook for his 2018 salary if they were to release him.

Tillman becomes the seventh Orioles player currently on the DL, joining relief pitchers Zach Britton (Achilles tendon) and Darren O’Day, infielders Tim Beckham (core muscle surgery) and Luis Sardinas (back), outfielder Colby Rasmus (hip), and starting pitcher Gabriel Ynoa (shoulder). Second baseman Jonathan Schoop and outfielder Mark Trumbo recently returned from the DL.

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Twelve Orioles thoughts following 11-6 win over Kansas City

Posted on 11 May 2018 by Luke Jones

With the Orioles winning just their third series of the season in an 11-6 win over Kansas City, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. The Orioles won two straight for the first time in over a month and the second time all season. The 11 runs scored marked a season high as they went 6-for-7 with runners in scoring position. It took six weeks, but Baltimore finally cracked double-digit wins. It hasn’t been fun.

2. The victory doesn’t mask the hard truth about Chris Tillman, who failed to get out of the second inning for the second straight start and owns a 10.46 season ERA. Whether he simply can’t do it physically anymore or the organization has no idea how to “fix” him, it’s over.

3. Tillman has now allowed four earned runs or more in 17 of his 26 starts since the start of last season. You can’t keep pointing to outliers like his seven shutout innings against Detroit last month while ignoring an 8.79 ERA in 114 2/3 innings over the last calendar year.

4. I have no idea whether the likes of David Hess or Tim Melville will succeed at the next level, but their numbers at Triple-A Norfolk warrant an opportunity. With this club already out of contention in mid-May, there’s no point continuing to go down this road with Tillman.

5. If it’s not someone from Norfolk, Miguel Castro stated his case for a starting opportunity with 4 2/3 scoreless innings against the Royals, lowering his season ERA to 3.55. He threw 65 pitches and could slide into Tillman’s turn in the rotation if you want to take that route.

6. Trey Mancini hit his fourth homer of 2018 and tied career highs with three hits and three runs. He’s had a tough time at the plate since hurting his knee last month, so it was encouraging to see him break out with two extra-base hits to the opposite field.

7. Adam Jones is now 9-for-21 with two homers since moving into the No. 2 spot in the order during the West Coast trip. The veteran center fielder is still hitting just .258, but you much prefer seeing him in the second spot over Jace Peterson or Craig Gentry.

8. Both Mancini and Jones being a triple away from becoming the fifth Oriole to hit for the cycle made me wonder what Felix Pie is up to these days. He batted .286 in the Mexican Pacific Winter League this past offseason.

9. Manny Machado continues to rake as he clubbed his 10th long ball of the season and reached base three other times. He’s now batting .350 with a .439 on-base percentage. He continues to do his part in keeping his trade value as high as possible.

10. Jonathan Schoop dropped a throw at second on a potential double play for the second straight night in the second inning, but the Royals inexplicably dropped a sacrifice bunt right after that. Giving a struggling starting pitcher an out in that situation was baffling.

11. Tanner Scott was terrific over two innings, striking out four and getting eight swinging strikes on 31 pitches. He averaged 97.1 miles per hour on his fastball with a very good slider. The Orioles need a fresh bullpen arm, but he deserves to stay in Baltimore for the time being.

12. Darren O’Day said he hyperextended his elbow when someone accidentally collided with him as he stretched in the bullpen. The injury isn’t considered serious, but it reiterates how bizarre this season has been in addition to being terrible. It’s his fourth trip to the disabled list in three seasons.

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Bundy’s struggles take Orioles’ season to new low

Posted on 09 May 2018 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — Nearly 20 games below .500 three weeks before Memorial Day, the Orioles are a punchline to many in the sports world right now.

But there’s nothing funny about what’s going on with starting pitcher Dylan Bundy despite the best efforts of some on social media. Unlike the many poor performances from players unlikely to be in Baltimore beyond this season, the 25-year-old is supposed to be one of the few long-term answers in place for an organization full of uncertainty from top to bottom.

He represents hope, either as a fixture atop the rotation for years to come or even as a valuable trade chip for a last-place club desperately needing to rebuild.

That’s why Bundy becoming the first pitcher in major league history to allow four home runs in a game without retiring a batter Tuesday night wasn’t a laughing matter for anyone invested in the Orioles. After beginning the 2018 season with a sparkling 1.42 ERA, striking out 40, and allowing only one long ball in 31 2/3 innings, the 25-year-old has allowed an obscene nine homers and 19 earned runs in his last nine innings on the mound, ballooning his season ERA to 5.31.

Those three starts being the extreme opposite of what he did over his first five outings when he looked like one of the best pitchers in baseball will naturally prompt one to wonder whether Bundy is healthy. His well-documented injury history in the minors would make anyone take pause, but both Bundy and Buck Showalter said he felt good physically after Tuesday’s 15-7 loss, a claim the Orioles manager reiterated a day later.

“I know he went out and ran two miles today. He said he feels great,” said Showalter, who added that Bundy is still scheduled to make his next start on Sunday. “Sometimes there’s not a black and white answer. Anytime you have a guy who’s as good a pitcher as Dylan have some of the outings he’s had, it makes you look at it. It’s not as simple as, ‘Well, he’s always struggled in May.’ That’s not what I or Dylan or anybody wants to hear.

“That’s a little different proportion last night. We’ll take a look at him as always during the workday. I know he’s looking forward to getting back out there.”

Bundy’s average fastball velocity on Tuesday was 90.5 miles per hour and 90.6 in the start before that, down from his 91.7 average over his first five starts. That’s not a dramatic red flag by itself, but that decrease, less movement, and the poor command compared to what we’ve typically seen from the young pitcher raise concerns.

Showalter speculated after Tuesday’s game that the young pitcher could be going through a “dead arm” period that many pitchers experience during spring training. Bundy also dealt with some minor groin tightness on the Orioles’ last road trip, but he and Showalter dismissed its significance.

To be clear, no one should have expected him to continue pitching to an ERA well below 2.00, but Bundy was averaging a dominant 11.4 strikeouts per nine innings and opponents had a .325 batting average on balls in play over his first five starts. Those numbers suggest he wasn’t benefiting from luck in the way that even a bad pitcher can sometimes have a shiny ERA with some good fortune over a handful of starts. Bundy was bound to give up a few more long balls after surrendering only one over his first five starts, but the last three outings are a little much to simply chalk it up to some regression to the mean.

The good news is that Bundy is as mentally tough as young pitchers come, making it unlikely that the historic embarrassment of Tuesday night will linger beyond the short-term disappointment of not giving his team a chance to win. If the last three starts are only an extreme example of the ebbs and flows of a season or the result of a mechanical flaw that’s easily correctable, Bundy’s confidence level should be fine moving forward.

This Orioles season has been dreadful from the beginning with the day-to-day results already becoming inconsequential, but watching Bundy every fifth day was supposed to remain a highlight. The thought of him continuing to pitch like this or, even worse, there being an issue with his health makes a season that’s already been a nightmare that much worse.

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Twelve Orioles thoughts ahead of nine-game homestand

Posted on 08 May 2018 by Luke Jones

With the Orioles limping home with an appalling 8-26 record after a winless trip to the West Coast, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. Baltimore needs to play like a 92-win club the rest of the way to finish at .500 and like a 97-win team just to get to 85 wins. Even the obligatory Dumb and Dumber reference rings hollow at this point.

2. If you’re seeking any semblance of a silver lining, there shouldn’t be any danger of the organization having delusions of a chance at the trade deadline as it did in 2015 and 2017. Hovering a few games below .500 in late July and not selling would be worse than this.

3. Firing anyone at this point isn’t saving the season and isn’t going to prompt more fans to come to the ballpark. At the same time, nothing should be off the table when an organization is in this kind of a position and there’s so much blame to pass around.

4. As has been discussed by numerous outlets for months, the Orioles communicating and executing a short-term and long-term direction would mean more than firing or trading any individual. Chris Davis remaining the biggest example of long-term stability speaks volumes.

5. Part of that direction is determining how dramatically to rebuild. Trading pending free agents is easy, but will fetch mostly-underwhelming returns. Dealing Kevin Gausman or even Dylan Bundy would be painful, but they’d fetch more talent. Are the Orioles going to contend again before either hits free agency?

6. The organization should be open to trading Manny Machado at any moment, but I’m not convinced the best offers automatically come now rather than a little later. Teams’ needs and their level of urgency aren’t in a vacuum — even if it would be smart to maximize the rental.

7. Jonathan Schoop returning from the disabled list is a welcome sight. The Orioles would be wise to put on the full press to try to extend him over the next two months. If unsuccessful, trading him at the deadline should be a major priority. They shouldn’t repeat the Machado saga.

8. How to proceed with Adam Jones is complicated on various levels, especially since he has a full no-trade clause. However, he’s not going to have any trade value if he continues to sport a .674 on-base plus slugging percentage. He has two walks in 144 plate appearances.

9. The numbers back up how awful the Orioles defense has been as they entered Tuesday ranked dead last in the majors at minus-28 defensive runs saved. Trey Mancini is at a club-worst minus-10 defensive runs saved while Jones sits at minus-seven.

10. Alex Cobb looking much more like Alex Cobb over his last two starts has been encouraging. As was feared a few weeks ago, however, it already appears too late to make a meaningful difference in 2018.

11. No matter who runs the organization in 2019, persuading the Angelos family to reconsider its long-held position on sitting out the international market is a must if the Orioles ever want to build a strong farm system.

12. Nick Markakis owns a .977 OPS and has struck out 13 times compared to 20 walks in the final season of his deal with Atlanta. The 34-year-old hasn’t been great the entire time, but the Orioles could have used his dependability and .362 on-base percentage over these last few years.

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Orioles activate Trumbo from disabled list, recall infielder Vielma

Posted on 01 May 2018 by Luke Jones

Baseball’s 2016 home run champion has finally returned to the lineup for the struggling Orioles.

Sidelined with a right quad strain since spring training, Mark Trumbo was activated from the 10-day disabled list for the start of a three-game set with the Los Angeles Angels on Tuesday night. The Orioles also recalled infielder Engelb Vielma from Triple-A Norfolk and placed infielder Luis Sardinas on the DL with a lower back strain. Outfielder Joey Rickard was optioned to Norfolk after Sunday’s win over Detroit to make roster space for the returning Trumbo.

The last-place Orioles hope Trumbo can provide a spark to an offense ranking 28th in the majors in runs scored per game (3.5) and tied for eighth in the American League in long balls (32). The 32-year-old was batting sixth and serving as the designated hitter for the series opener against the Angels while the hot-hitting Pedro Alvarez was making his second straight start at third base.

Trumbo went a combined 5-for-24 with a double, three runs batted in, two walks, and five strikeouts in a six-game rehab assignment split between Norfolk and Double-A Bowie.

The Anaheim native is coming off a down 2017 campaign in which he batted just .234 with 23 homers and a career-worst .686 on-base plus slugging percentage. Trumbo is in the second season of a three-year, $37.5 million contract signed after his 2016 All-Star campaign in which he batted .256 with 47 homers, 108 RBIs, and an .850 OPS, all career highs.

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