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Gausman in line to make next start for Orioles

Posted on 21 April 2016 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — Orioles manager Buck Showalter hasn’t publicly committed to Kevin Gausman being activated from the disabled list to make his 2016 debut next week, but all signs point in that direction.

And with it comes hope that the 25-year-old right-hander will take the step forward many view him as capable of making as the Orioles entered Thursday’s game ranked 14th out of 15 AL clubs in starter ERA (4.97) and last in innings pitched by starters. The 2012 first-round pick allowed three earned runs and struck out nine in 5 2/3 innings for Triple-A Norfolk on Wednesday.

“We’ll see how he feels today,” said Showalter, who was pleased with what he heard about Gausman’s outing. “He’s got a chance to pitch for us in his next outing. We’ll see how it all fluctuates.”

Baltimore hasn’t hesitated to show extra caution with Gausman, who was shut down with right shoulder tendinitis in the spring and received a cortisone shot on March 20. Showalter said earlier this week that Gausman told him his shoulder feels better than it has in quite some time — he also had a DL stint for shoulder tendinitis last May — but the Orioles wanted him to get the competitive juices flowing in Wednesday’s outing in Charlotte.

Gausman would be on track to make his next start on Monday as the Orioles begin a three-game road series against Tampa Bay.

“Obviously, there’s parts where you’re going through rehab and you’re working on things,” Showalter said. “The next one is getting back into the competitive part of it. Talking to [Norfolk manager Ron Johnson] and [director of player development] Brian Graham, that was definitely the case last night.”

The Orioles hope Gausman can emerge as a front-line starter after pitching to a 4.25 ERA in 112 1/3 major league innings split between the bullpen and the rotation last season. In his most extensive work as a starting pitcher two years ago, Gausman went 7-7 with a 3.57 ERA in 20 starts spanning 113 1/3 innings.

In other injury-related news, Brian Matusz (left intercostal strain) remains on track to be activated from the DL on Saturday, but Showalter indicated that the lefty reliever could be reinstated a day earlier if needed.

Jimmy Paredes (wrist) took nine at-bats in extended spring training on Thursday and will join the Orioles in St. Petersburg next week before starting his rehab assignment.

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“Rounding the Bases” in Orioles’ 4-3 win over Toronto

Posted on 21 April 2016 by Luke Jones

Who stood out in the Orioles’ 4-3 win over the Toronto Blue Jays on Wednesday night?

In the spirit of hockey’s “three stars” system with the addition of home plate for honorable mentions and other notes, we go around the bases after the 13th game of the 2016 season.

1stManny Machado wasted no time extending his hitting streak to 13 games with his RBI double in the first inning, but his most impressive at-bats came late in the game when it was clear that Toronto pitching wanted no part of the All-Star third baseman. Coming to the plate with a runner in scoring position in both the eighth and the 10th, Machado saw a total of one strike while patiently taking walks to continue the innings. A couple years ago, he might have expanded the zone to try to be the hero in those situations, but he instead drew his free passes on Wednesday night. It was the kind of maturity at the plate that sometimes makes you forget that Machado is just 23 years old. His 2-for-3 night raised his average to .407 on the season.

2ndJoey Rickard collected three hits, scored the first run of the game, and threw out Ryan Goins at the plate to end the top of the sixth inning and protect a one-run lead at the time. Two of the three hits were of the infield variety, but the Rule 5 pick continues to show good speed to put pressure on infielders when he hits the ball on the ground. Though he’s only drawn two walks to this point in the season, Rickard saw a total of 30 pitches in his five plate appearances on Wednesday, which is exactly what you want to see from a leadoff hitter. He leads all major league rookies with 18 hits this season.

3rdAdam Jones offered the Orioles’ defensive play of the year so far as he laid out in a head-first dive in shallow right-center to catch a sinking liner off the bat of Jose Baustista in the top of the seventh. The play temporarily saved a run as Michael Saunders inexplicably failed to tag up and score, but the Blue Jays left fielder came around to touch home plate on Edwin Encarnacion’s two-out double. That said, Jones taking away a hit from Bautista might have been the difference between a tie game and Toronto going ahead on Encarnacion’s extra-base hit if Bautista had been on base.

Home — The bullpen wasn’t flawless but allowed only one run in five innings of work, and Zach Britton pitched a 1-2-3 ninth against the top of the order to headline the group’s effort. … Jonathan Schoop made fine defensive plays to end the ninth and 10th innings, the latter being a 4-6-3 double play to strand a runner in scoring position. … Baltimore has pitched to a 2.11 ERA in seven games at Camden Yards so far this season. … According to STATS, Wednesday marked the first walk-off win in Orioles history coming on a passed ball. … The Orioles send Chris Tillman to the mound in search of a series win on Thursday while the Blue Jays will go with Marco Estrada.

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“Rounding the Bases” in Orioles’ 4-3 loss to Toronto

Posted on 20 April 2016 by Luke Jones

What went wrong in the Orioles’ 4-3 defeat to the Toronto Blue Jays on Tuesday night?

In trying to identify the top three losing factors with the addition of home plate for any not-so-honorable mentions and other notes, we go around the bases after the 12th game of the 2016 season.

1st — The Orioles hit two home runs off Toronto ace Marcus Stroman, but they didn’t cash in on the few other opportunities they had over the course of the night. J.J. Hardy left the bases loaded in the bottom of the fourth while Chris Davis and Mark Trumbo couldn’t do any damage with two runners on and Baltimore trailing by one run in the bottom of the eighth inning. When you score three runs and only leave five men on base, you didn’t have many scoring chances to begin with against a tough pitcher and the Orioles couldn’t provide enough support to combat a Blue Jays lineup that was the far-and-away best in baseball a year ago.

2nd — The Blue Jays scored three of their four runs in two-out situations, which will typically be the difference in a one-run game. Mike Wright’s overall performance was acceptable against a potent offense as he turned in the second quality start of the season for the Orioles, but Troy Tulowitzki’s two-run double past a diving Joey Rickard gave the Blue Jays breathing room with a 3-0 lead in the top of the third. The insurance run in the seventh off Tyler Wilson — the first run he’d allowed this season — was difficult to stomach considering the right-hander had retired the first two batters of the inning before giving up a single, a walk, and an RBI double off the bat of Jose Bautista.

3rd — Orioles hitters saw a total of 16 pitches in the fifth and sixth innings, which ultimately helped Stroman get through the seventh. Baltimore left the bases loaded in the fourth, but the right-hander threw 29 pitches in the frame, which put him in danger of not being able to go deep into the game and forcing Blue Jays manager John Gibbons to turn to the middle of his bullpen. What made those two innings even more frustrating was that they involved the top four hitters in the order not even mounting a threat when they were seeing Stroman for the third time. Of course, it’s fair to point out that Matt Wieters hit his two-run shot off the starting pitcher in the seventh, but the Orioles probably would have liked their chances getting to the Blue Jays bullpen much sooner.

Home — After Manny Machado doubled on a 3-2 count and Nolan Reimold drew a four-pitch walk off lefty Brett Cecil with one out in the eighth, Davis swung at the first pitch and fouled out to the catcher. … Pedro Alvarez went 0-for-4, dropping his average to just .143 and his on-base plus slugging percentage to .493. … Mychal Givens pitched a scoreless ninth inning, but it was the first outing of the season in which he didn’t record a strikeout. … Machado hit his fifth home run of the season in the fourth to extend his hitting streak to 12 games to begin the 2016 season. … Adam Jones left the game at the end of the sixth inning with a stomach virus that began affecting him during batting practice, according to manager Buck Showalter. … The Blue Jays snapped the Orioles’ 10-game home winning streak, which was tied for the seventh longest in club history. … Ubaldo Jimenez goes to the hill on Wednesday night while Toronto will counter with knuckleballer R.A. Dickey.

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Trumbo named AL co-player of the week

Posted on 18 April 2016 by Luke Jones

Orioles outfielder Mark Trumbo was named American league co-player of the week on Monday for the period that ended on April 17.

Sharing the award with Houston second baseman Jose Altuve, Trumbo hit .320 (8-for-25) with five home runs, 11 RBIs, eight runs score, and one double to earn the first weekly award of his career. He paced the majors in home runs, slugging percentage (.960), and total bases (24) while leading the AL in RBIs over the week.

His shining achievement of the period came Friday when he became the first player in Orioles history to homer twice in the same inning. The achievement earned Trumbo the fifth five-RBI game of his major league career and first since Sept. 15, 2014 when he was a member of the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Acquired from Seattle in an offseason trade, Trumbo is the first player in Orioles history to hit five homers in his first 10 games with the club, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

Trumbo and the Orioles return to Camden Yards on Tuesday to begin a three-game set with the 2015 AL East champion Toronto Blue Jays.

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Orioles stats to ponder after Sunday’s postponement

Posted on 17 April 2016 by Luke Jones

We’re still in the midst of “small sample size” territory to begin the 2016 season, but below are six statistics to ponder as the Orioles’ series finale with the Texas Rangers was postponed on Sunday.

1. Yovani Gallardo hasn’t recorded an out after the sixth inning since June 27, 2015.

This stat doesn’t exactly make Buck Showalter’s decision to send Gallardo back out for the seventh inning of Saturday’s game look any better. His velocity was slightly better against Texas, but the 30-year-old still isn’t carrying the kind of stuff that makes you think he’ll be able to pitch more than five or six innings in any given start, which isn’t what you’re looking for in a $22 million investment.

2. The starting pitching entered Sunday averaging the fewest innings per start in the AL, but the rotation has allowed only five home runs, tied for fewest in the league.

Starters are averaging only 5.09 innings per start through 11 games, but at least they’ve kept the ball in play. Of course, the Orioles have pitched in plenty of cold weather early on in 2016, but the rotation gave up the second-most homers in the AL last year. That’s a little bit of progress, right?

3. J.J. Hardy has collected six extra-base hits in 10 games after amassing only 22 all last year.

We know an injured left shoulder played a big role in the veteran posting a .564 on-base plus slugging percentage in 2015, but Hardy is showing he still has the ability to hit the ball with authority. Per FanGraphs, 50 percent of the balls Hardy has put in play have been hard contact and just 16.7 percent have been soft contact after just 23.7 percent were hard contact — his worst percentage since his rookie year — and 19.5 percent were soft contact in 2015. Of course, the key will be keeping the 33-year-old healthy over the course of the season, but Hardy is showing that the ability for him to contribute offensively is still there.

4. Orioles hitters are seeing more pitches per plate appearance and drawing walks more frequently than in 2015.

We’ll see if it continues moving forward, but the Orioles entered Sunday tied for fourth in the AL in walks after finishing 13th in that department in 2015. Their 2016 walk rate is 8.7 percent of all plate appearances so far compared to just 7.0 percent a year ago. The lineup is also seeing 3.98 pitches per plate appearance through 11 games after seeing 3.81 a year go. Through two weeks, the Orioles are showing more of a willingness to work counts and have swung at just 31 percent of pitches outside the strike zone, down from 34.1 percent last year (FanGraphs).

5. Mychal Givens is second on the club in strikeouts while only eighth in innings pitched.

The 25-year-old has been scored upon in three of his six appearances to begin the season, but he’s struck out a whopping 13 batters while walking two in 5 2/3 innings. Lefties have been a problem going 6-for-8, but he held lefty bats to a .555 OPS in 30 innings last season, making you think this is more of an aberration than a startling absolute. Showalter might be wise to limit his exposure to lefties for the time being, but averaging 20.6 strikeouts per nine innings is a ridiculous rate and opponents won’t sustain a .727 batting average on balls put in play against him.

6. Baltimore leads the majors with 23 home runs.

The 1997 Seattle Mariners hold the major league record with 264 long balls in a single season, and the Orioles are averaging just over two per game so far and the weather hasn’t even been that conducive for hitting the ball out. No club has hit more than 250 in a season since the 2010 Toronto Blue Jays, but there’s no reason why this lineup can’t at least approach that plateau if everyone stays healthy.

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ARLINGTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 29: A fan waits through a rain delay between the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and the Texas Rangers at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington on September 29, 2012 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Rick Yeatts/Getty Images)

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Sunday’s Orioles-Rangers game postponed due to rain

Posted on 17 April 2016 by Luke Jones

(Updated: 4:30 p.m.)

Sunday’s series finale between the Orioles and the Texas Rangers was postponed due to rain, the first rainout in Arlington since May 29, 2013.

The forecast called for heavy rain and storms throughout the day with no apparent window to play the final contest of a four-game set. The Rangers announced that the game would be made up on June 20 at a start time to be determined.

That makeup game will fall in the midst of what was supposed to be an eight-game homestand. Now, Baltimore will conclude a three-game weekend set with Toronto on June 19, travel to Arlington for a Monday makeup game, and return to Oriole Park at Camden Yards to open a two-game set with San Diego on June 21.

This is the Orioles’ second postponement of the year after their April 9 game against Tampa Bay was wiped out because of wintry conditions. No makeup has been set for that contest, but it is expected to be played when the Tampa Bay Rays return to Baltimore for a three-game series beginning June 24.

Sunday’s postponement was just the latest disruption to the start of the season for right-hander Mike Wright, who saw his original 2016 debut date pushed back a day because of rain on Opening Day and has now seen two scheduled start dates postponed. Wright will now start Tuesday’s opener of a three-game set with Toronto and will be opposed by Marcus Stroman.

Ubaldo Jimenez will start Wednesday against knuckleballer R.A. Dickey with Chris Tillman pitching the finale against Marco Estrada.

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“Rounding the Bases” in Orioles’ 8-4 loss to Texas

Posted on 16 April 2016 by Luke Jones

What went wrong in the Orioles’ 8-4 defeat to the Texas Rangers on Saturday night?

In trying to identify the top three losing factors with the addition of home plate for any not-so-honorable mentions and other notes, we go around the bases after the 11th game of the 2016 season.

1st — Buck Showalter is as good they come handling a pitching stuff, but the Orioles manager was too greedy sending Yovani Gallardo out to the mound to begin the seventh inning with a 4-2 lead. It wasn’t even about the right-hander having thrown 96 pitches to that point, but multiple Texas hitters had made hard contact in the previous two innings, making you think the Orioles were already pushing their luck with the veteran through six. A questionable decision was made even worse by allowing Gallardo to not only issue a four-pitch walk to the No. 9 hitter, Brett Nicholas, but a double to Delino DeShields before finally going to T.J. McFarland, who was put in a difficult spot. That seventh inning had Brad Brach’s name written all over it, but he had been used each of the previous two nights. That said, there were too many other options in the bullpen to excuse sticking with Gallardo for the seventh.

2nd — Even if Showalter made a bad decision leaving Gallardo in too long, McFarland and Mychal Givens didn’t do their jobs in the seventh and couldn’t keep the Orioles in the game. It was a lot to ask the former to strand runners at second and third with no outs, but three of the four hitters McFarland faced were left-handed and he needed to be able to keep the game tied at the very least. Givens wasn’t much better as he gave up back-to-back singles that busted it open for the Rangers instead of slamming the door and keeping it a 5-4 deficit when he entered.

3rdThe defense also melted down in the seventh as McFarland failed to cover first base on a grounder to Chris Davis that turned into an infield hit for Nomar Mazara, the first batter the lefty faced. An out there certainly would have improved their chances of keeping it tied or to a smaller deficit. Making matters worse was Mark Trumbo letting Rougned Odor’s two-run single skip under his glove, allowing the speedy second baseman to advance to third and score on a single a batter later. It capped off a nightmare inning that began with a two-run lead and ended in a four-run deficit.

Home — The Orioles left nine runners on base. … Jonathan Schoop was the only Baltimore hitter not to record a hit and went 0-for-2 with runners in scoring position. … Manny Machado homered in the first inning and has now hit safely in all 11 games to begin the season. … Pedro Alvarez drove in his first run of the season with a two-out single in the fifth. … Mike Wright goes to the hill in the series finale on Sunday against Rangers lefty Derek Holland.

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Orioles continue to take time with Matusz’s return

Posted on 16 April 2016 by Luke Jones

Left-handed relief pitcher Brian Matusz was originally slated to be activated from the disabled list by the Orioles last weekend, but he instead will continue a minor-league rehab assignment with one more appearance this week, manager Buck Showalter told reporters in Texas.

After allowing seven earned runs in his first three appearances with Double-A Bowie, Matuz gave up only one run in three innings for Single-A Frederick on Friday night, but his shaky performance makes up only part of the early-season predicament. The Orioles entered Saturday with an 8-2 record, but they’ve leaned heavily on their bullpen as they rank 13th in the AL in starter ERA and have averaged a league-worst 5.0 innings per start through their first 10 games.

Manager Buck Showalter would clearly like to see his starters get deeper into games, but Matusz’s absence has allowed the Orioles to carry an additional long reliever in the bullpen, which has proven to be useful early in the season. The southpaw’s return would likely mean T.J. McFarland or Tyler Wilson being optioned to the minor leagues, giving Baltimore less length when starters are knocked out early.

Matusz began the season on the 15-day DL with a left intercostal strain that hindered him for much of the spring.

So far this season, the Orioles have lacked a lefty specialist — a role in which Matusz has been effective over the last four years — but adding another reliever who can’t be sent to the minor leagues brings less flexibility to a bullpen with four other pitchers out of options. Matusz was respectable against right-handed hitters in 2015 by holding them to a .244 average, but they have batted .299 with an .853 on-base plus slugging percentage against him in his career, which limits the situations in which Showalter would ideally use him.

With late-inning options in right-handers Darren O’Day and Brad Brach who fare very well against batters from both sides of the plate, one could argue that a lefty specialist only facing a batter or two is more of a luxury than a real need in a bullpen that will likely be forced to handle plenty of innings in 2016. Perhaps that’s why we’ve seen the Orioles try to stretch Matusz out in his last two rehab outings.

Making $3.9 million in his final season before becoming a free agent, Matusz could be activated next weekend in Kansas City, but it’s fair to ask whether his skill set is the best fit for a bullpen already sporting plenty of talent in the late innings but needing to do more work early in games. He’ll be capable of getting out a tough lefty bat or two from time to time, but Matusz will likely need to give the Orioles some contributions in the middle innings to be a valuable member of the bullpen.

And that helps explain why the Orioles haven’t been in a hurry to activate the 29-year-old, who hasn’t exactly impressed during his rehab assignment anyway.

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“Rounding the Bases” in 6-3 loss to Texas

Posted on 15 April 2016 by Luke Jones

What went wrong in the Orioles’ 6-3 defeat to the Texas Rangers on Thursday night?

In trying to identify the top three losing factors with the addition of home plate for any not-so-honorable mentions and other notes, we go around the bases after the ninth game of the 2016 season.

1st — Going the third time through the batting order is challenging for any starting pitcher with hitters being more familiar with their stuff and fatigue sometimes setting in, but it was painful for Chris Tillman, who had allowed only one run and three hits in his first two trips through the Texas lineup. Counting Delino DeShields’ infield single in the fifth, Rangers hitters went 6-for-7 with three doubles in their third at-bats seeing Tillman and transformed a 3-1 Baltimore lead into a 6-3 Texas advantage as the right-handed starter was chased and the sixth inning eventually came to an end. It didn’t take much as a couple pitches up in the zone to Nomar Mazara and Adrian Beltre quickly transformed what had been a solid start into a nightmare exit.

2nd — For the second straight night, the Orioles squandered scoring opportunities that could have eased the pressure on Tillman in that fateful bottom of the sixth. After Jonathan Schoop singled and Nolan Reimold doubled off Texas starter Cole Hamels to lead off the top of the fifth, the top of the order failed to plate a single run as Joey Rickard struck out looking, Manny Machado grounded out, and Adam Jones struck out swinging. J.J. Hardy singled in a run in the top of the sixth, but Jonathan Schoop grounded into an inning-ending double play with runners at the corners and one out, failing to extend a 3-1 lead. The Orioles left four runners in scoring position and lost by three runs.

3rd — Tillman’s final line of six earned runs and nine hits surrendered in just 5 1/3 innings was ugly, but some of that damage was due to some bad luck in the sixth, which you figure will be balanced out by good fortune over a 162-game season. Mitch Moreland’s RBI double down the left-field line was nothing more than a softly-hit pop fly that Rickard couldn’t catch up to after he was playing the pull-happy lefty hitter way over in left-center. Ian Desmond followed that with a game-tying infield hit that couldn’t have been much softer between the mound and first. As Buck Showalter said to MASN after the game, “The baseball gods weren’t too kind to us.” They made a bad inning worse for Tillman and the Orioles.

Home — Replays showed Schoop did not get a good read on the Reimold double over Desmond’s head in left-center and probably should have scored from first base on the play. … Machado has a hit in all nine games to begin the 2016 season, but he went 0-for-2 with runners in scoring position. … Tillman turned in the second-longest outing of the season for the Orioles, becoming the first starter to complete more than five innings since Ubaldo Jimenez’s seven-inning performance on April 7. … Mark Trumbo is now 5-for-15 with two homers off Hamels in his career after hitting one out to the opposite field in the fourth. … Vance Worley will make his second start of the season on Friday with Texas sending lefty Martin Perez to the bump.

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Jones returns to Orioles starting lineup in Texas

Posted on 14 April 2016 by Luke Jones

(Updated: 11:15 p.m.)

Orioles center fielder Adam Jones went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts in his return to the lineup for Thursday’s series-opening 6-3 loss to the Texas Rangers.

Jones was slotted in the No. 3 spot in the order and hadn’t started in Baltimore’s previous six games while dealing with soreness in the rib area. The 30-year-old experienced discomfort swinging in his final at-bat of the Orioles’ April 6 win over Minnesota.

Serving as a late-inning defensive replacement in the first two games of the Boston series, Jones had been moving closer to a return and took batting practice before Wednesday’s finale. However, manager Buck Showalter decided to escape the cold conditions at Fenway Park in favor of a first-pitch temperature around 70 degrees in Arlington, Texas to finally put Jones back in the lineup on Thursday.

After missing a total of just five games from 2012-2014, the five-time All-Star center fielder missed 25 contests last season due to shoulder, ankle, and back ailments at various times. That total included 12 of the final 13 games of 2015 as Jones was sidelined with back stiffness.

Dating back to the end of last season, Jones had been out of the starting lineup in 18 of the Orioles’ last 21 games prior to Thursday night.

With Jones returning, rookie Joey Rickard was back in left field after starting the previous six games in center.

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