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Orioles outright pitcher Steve Johnson to Triple-A Norfolk

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Orioles outright pitcher Steve Johnson to Triple-A Norfolk

Posted on 24 October 2014 by Luke Jones

The Orioles announced they’ve outrighted right-handed pitcher Steve Johnson to Triple-A Norfolk, leaving the St. Paul’s product’s future with the organization up in the air for the time being.

The 27-year-old Johnson can refuse the assignment and elect to become a minor-league free agent, but it remains to be seen what he elects to do after an injury-riddled season in which he pitched only 47 2/3 innings while dealing with shoulder problems. He underwent surgery on Sept. 24 to remove a bone spur in his shoulder and is expected to be cleared well ahead of spring training.

The thought behind making the move now was that it would have been more difficult sneaking Johnson through waivers when he is presumably healthy at the end of spring training compared to now as he recovers from the surgical procedure. He is out of minor-league options.

Johnson is the son of former Orioles pitcher Dave Johnson and made his major league debut in 2012. In parts of two major league seasons, Johnson has gone 5-1 with a 3.67 ERA in 21 appearances (five starts) covering 54 innings.

Though not blessed with impressive velocity, Johnson has averaged 11.0 strikeouts per nine innings at the major league level and profiles as a solid long reliever if his injury concerns are behind him.

He was 0-3 with a 6.23 ERA in 17 starts this season between Norfolk (13), Single-A Aberdeen (three), and the Gulf Coast League Orioles (one) while dealing with the shoulder ailment.

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Markakis, Jones, Hardy named Gold Glove finalists

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Markakis, Jones, Hardy named Gold Glove finalists

Posted on 23 October 2014 by Luke Jones

In what’s become an annual occurrence, the Orioles have multiple players vying for this year’s Rawlings Gold Glove awards.

Center fielder Adam Jones, right fielder Nick Markakis, and shortstop J.J. Hardy were all named finalists at their respective positions Thursday as the awards will be announced on Nov. 4 on ESPN2 at 7 p.m. with the ceremony to follow in New York on Nov. 7. The Orioles had six finalists last year, but the long-term absences of Manny Machado, Matt Wieters, and Chris Davis in 2014 led to their names being taken out of consideration.

The selection process is roughly 75 percent votes submitted by managers and coaches and 25 percent defensive metrics. Manager and coaches may not vote for their own players and can only vote for the awards in their own league.

A three-time Gold Glove winner, Jones was named a finalist along with Boston’s Jackie Bradley Jr. and Chicago’s Adam Eaton in the American League. The 29-year-old made six errors and had seven assists while accumulating 0.8 defensive wins above replacement (dWAR) this season. In contrast, Bradley committed one error and had 13 assists while posting a 2.0 dWAR, and Eaton committed four errors and had nine assists with a 1.8 dWAR.

The 2011 Gold Glove winner, Markakis will compete with fellow right field finalists Kole Calhoun of Los Angeles and Kevin Kiermaier of Tampa Bay. Markakis did not commit an error all season while collecting 11 outfield assists. However, he posted a -0.5 dWAR, which isn’t a great endorsement from a metric standpoint and could reflect his declining range.

Calhoun had one error and nine assists with a -0.1 dWAR while Kiermaier committed six errors and had five assists while posting a 1.6 dWAR.

The two-time defending Gold Glove winner at shortstop, Hardy will compete with Kansas City’s Alcides Escobar and Chicago’s Alexei Ramirez for the honor. The 32-year-old committed 13 errors while posting a 2.2 dWAR. Escobar made 16 errors and had a 0.7 dWAR while Ramirez had 15 miscues and a 0.7 dWAR.

Seventeen different Orioles players have earned a total of 67 Gold Gloves since the award was created in 1957, the highest total of any AL team and second most behind the St. Louis Cardinals’ 84.

Here is the full list of AL Gold Glove finalists:

C: Alex Avila, Yan Gomes, Salvador Perez
1B: Miguel Cabrera, Eric Hosmer, Albert Pujols
2B: Robinson Cano, Ian Kinsler, Dustin Pedroia
SS: Alcides Escobar, J.J. Hardy, Alexei Ramirez
3B: Adrian Beltre, Josh Donaldson, Kyle Seager
LF: Michael Brantley, Yoenis Cespedes, Alex Gordon
CF: Jackie Bradley Jr., Adam Eaton, Adam Jones
RF: Kole Calhoun, Kevin Kiermaier, Nick Markakis,

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Showalter finishes second in Sporting News AL honor

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Showalter finishes second in Sporting News AL honor

Posted on 21 October 2014 by Luke Jones

After guiding the Orioles to their first American League East title and AL Championship Series appearance since 1997, manager Buck Showalter finished second for the Sporting News’ AL Manager of the Year award on Tuesday.

Los Angeles Angels manager Mike Scioscia won the award after guiding his club to the best record in baseball with 98 wins. Voting was done by major league managers prior to the start of the postseason with Scioscia receiving six votes and Showalter getting five. Seattle Mariners skipper Lloyd McClendon finished third with three votes.

Washington Nationals manager Matt Williams won the NL honor after guiding his club to the best record in the Senior Circuit.

“You know what those [awards] are? That’s which team surprised the most,” said Showalter last week when asked about the possibility of winning. “If you had a vote from managers and coaches, you’d see a whole different guy get it every year. That’s all a reflection on your players and how good they played and how much they surprised people. Sometimes, the best jobs are done when you’re supposed to win. That’s why I have so much respect for those guys.

“I’d like to have that next year. I’d like to have us expected to win.”

Showalter won the publication’s AL honor in 2012 after guiding the Orioles to a 93-69 record and their first postseason appearance in 15 years. However, he lost out to Oakland manager Bob Melvin that year in the Baseball Writers’ Association of America’s vote, which is typically recognized as the most prestigious award.

The BWAA will announce its Managers of the Year on Nov. 11.

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Former Orioles second baseman Roberts announces retirement

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Former Orioles second baseman Roberts announces retirement

Posted on 18 October 2014 by Luke Jones

After 14 major league seasons, former Orioles second baseman Brian Roberts has decided to call it a career.

Spending all but one season in Baltimore, the 37-year-old was released by the New York Yankees in August and confirmed his retirement to multiple outlets on Friday. The two-time All-Star selection is a sure bet to be elected to the Orioles Hall of Fame as he ranks in the franchise’s top 10 in a number of categories including hits, walks, doubles, triples, runs, total bases, and stolen bases.

Of course, the injury-riddled end to Roberts’ time in Baltimore tarnished his legacy in many fans’ eyes as he averaged just under 57 games played per season over his last five years when he dealt with back, hamstring, hip, and concussion-related issues.This came on the heels of a four-year, $40 million extension that ran through the 2013 season.

Roberts signed a one-year deal with the Yankees last winter after the Orioles didn’t express any real interest in retaining his services.

He finishes his career with a .276 lifetime average with 97 home runs, 542 runs batted in, 367 doubles, and 285 stolen bases. His 56 doubles in 2009 set the franchise’s single-season record.

Roberts was a supplemental first-round pick in the 1999 amateur draft. He was named in the infamous Mitchell Report in 2007 and later said he tried steroids only once in 2003.

 

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Where does 2014 rank among Orioles’ most exciting seasons since 1983?

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Where does 2014 rank among Orioles’ most exciting seasons since 1983?

Posted on 18 October 2014 by Luke Jones

Though only a couple days have passed since the Orioles’ disappointing elimination from the American League Championship Series at the hands of the Kansas City Royals, we begin to reflect on what was an exceptional season that netted the franchise’s first AL East championship in 17 years.

The Orioles still have a long way to go to approach their glory days of 1966 through 1983, but two postseason appearances in the last three years represent a good start that fans hope will culminate with the franchise’s first World Series title in over 30 years before the current run is over. However, it’s difficult to argue you how special the 2014 season was in what’s been an underwhelming 31 years since Cal Ripken caught the final out of Game 5 of the 1983 Fall Classic.

Where does 2014 rank among the greatest Orioles seasons since 1983?

Below is a brief look at five candidates before you vote for your favorite in the poll. If you have a different season in mind, feel free to make your case in the comments section at the bottom of the page.

Which is your favorite season of Orioles baseball since 1983?

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1. 1989 “Why Not?” season
Skinny: After losing a major league record 21 straight games to begin the season and finishing a woeful 54-107 a year earlier, the 1989 Orioles spent a remarkable 119 days in first place and owned a 7 1/2 game lead in late July. The season was highlighted by a number of comeback wins and contributions from the unlikeliest of players. Though they fell short in their quest for the division title in the final weekend of the season in Toronto, the new-look Orioles of 1989 went down as one of the most surprising and exciting clubs in franchise history after having no expectations at the start of the season. 

2. 1996 Wild Card team
Skinny: After underachieving for much of the season under new manager Davey Johnson, the veteran-laden Orioles got hot down the stretch and went 37-22 over the final two months of the 1996 season to clinch their first wild card berth. Breaking the all-time record for most home runs by a team in a single year, four Orioles scored at least 100 runs, four drove in at least 100, and seven hit at least 20 homers. The 88-74 Orioles upset the heavily-favored defending AL champion Cleveland Indians in the Division Series before bowing out in the ALCS to the eventual World Series champion New York Yankees in six games.

3. 1997 wire-to-wire AL East champions
Skinny: Unlike the previous year, the 1997 Orioles started fast and never looked back on the way to becoming the sixth team in major league history to stay in first place from Opening Day through the end of the regular season. Their 98 wins were their most since winning the World Series in 1983 and the Orioles appeared on their way to their first pennant in 14 years before Cleveland exacted revenge for the previous year by stunning Baltimore in the ALCS in six games. As if the defeat weren’t painful enough, the following season would begin a dubious streak of 14 consecutive losing seasons. 

4. 2012 Wild Card team
Skinny: Manager Buck Showalter had begun changing the losing culture of the organization from the time he arrived two years earlier, but the results on the field didn’t match it until 2012 when the underdog Orioles won 93 games and hung tough with the first-place Yankees throughout the month of September. Settling for a wild card berth, the Orioles bested the Texas Rangers in the first Wild Card Game to advance to the Division Series where Camden Yards witnessed its first postseason games in 15 years. In a very competitive and entertaining series, the Orioles fell in five games to the Yankees, but the season signaled the end of Baltimore’s extended stay in the baseball doldrums.

5. 2014 AL East champions
Skinny: Despite losing All-Star players Matt Wieters, Manny Machado, and Chris Davis for extended periods of the season, the Orioles ran away with the AL East by a staggering 12 games. Baltimore clinched and celebrated its first division title in 17 years at Camden Yards before sweeping the Division Series against the Detroit Tigers and besting the last three Cy Young Award winners to do it. The series also brought arguably the most exciting in-game moment in the history of Camden Yards when pinch-hitter Delmon Young smacked a go-ahead three-run double in the eighth inning to win Game 2. The sweep at the hands of the Kansas City Royals in the ALCS was painful, but the disappointment didn’t erase the memory of a remarkable run.

 

 

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Duquette noncommittal on plans for free agent Cruz

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Duquette noncommittal on plans for free agent Cruz

Posted on 17 October 2014 by Luke Jones

At a quiet Oriole Park at Camden Yards on Friday, executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette was asked to not only reflect on the Orioles’ 96-win season that resulted in their first division title in 17 years but also how he planned to attack the offseason in hopes of returning to the playoffs for the third time in four years in 2015.

One of the most prominent items to address will be the pending free agency of slugger Nelson Cruz, who was voted the club’s most valuable player after signing a one-year, $8 million contract last spring. Though several teams are expected to be interesting in his services should he hit the free-agent market, the Orioles are expected to at least make a $15.3 million qualifying offer to Cruz, which would mean they’d receive a draft pick if he’d sign elsewhere.

Asked about his plans for Cruz in the coming weeks, the Orioles executive was noncommittal.

“The important thing for our fans to know is that we’ve increased our payroll over the last couple years,” Duquette said. “I expect we have the foundation for an additional increase, and however we invest that, we’re going to give them the most competitive and compelling and entertaining team we can to support.”

With the sheer number of young players in line to receive raises through arbitration, an increase in payroll was all but guaranteed, but what does that mean for Cruz? After hitting a career-high 40 home runs in his first season with the Orioles, the slugger has expressed several times that he’d like to remain in Baltimore if possible.

The Orioles have engaged in some preliminary contract talks with Cruz’s representation since the All-Star break, but the 34-year-old recently changed agents and is now represented by Diego Bentz of Relativity Sports, according to a FOX Sports report from earlier in the month.

“It’s good to know that Nelson likes it here,” Duquette said. “I can tell just by watching him, he’s the leader of the ball club, and the young players look up to him, especially the young Latin players. He’s an excellent leader, he’s a very good role model, he led the league in home runs, and he had a great year. I really appreciate the veteran leadership that he gave the team.

“Having said that, he came here to have a platform year to get himself reestablished so he could get a long-term deal, and that’s something that we’ll have to consider.”

While Cruz is expected to garner plenty of attention, trying to assess the market for right fielder Nick Markakis will be more complicated as the Orioles are not expected to pick up the $17.5 million mutual option on his contract. The option includes a $2 million buyout should the club not use it.

Markakis has been one of the more productive players in franchise history, but his on-base plus slugging percentage was only .685 in 2013 and only .729 this season, which aren’t eye-popping numbers for a corner outfielder who lacks speed. A cornerstone of the organization for nearly a decade, Markakis is adored by manager Buck Showalter and ownership and has made his home in Maryland, making it likely the sides will eventually agree on a reasonable extension.

Duquette said it was “always a possibility” that the Orioles would negotiate a long-term contract with Markakis, who will turn 31 next month, during the World Series.

The Orioles are less optimistic that they’ll be able to retain the services of left-handed reliever Andrew Miller, who only made himself look more attractive to potential suitors by pitching 7 1/3 scoreless innings in the postseason. The 6-foot-7 southpaw is expected to be courted as a closer and receive lucrative money from another team this offseason.

“There’s a lot of interest in Andrew Miller,” Duquette said. “We knew that when we traded for him. He pitched well for us. Good for us that we had him because I think he was the difference in the Tigers series that allowed us to advance. Obviously, we like Andrew and we like to have pitchers of that ilk on our ball club.”

NOTES: Even though Chris Davis has one game remaining on the 25-game suspension he received for amphetamine use, the first baseman will be allowed to be a full participant during spring training and in Grapefruit League games. According to Showalter, the Orioles will benefit from not having to keep Davis on the 40-man roster during the winter, which is an advantage for an organization that manipulates its roster as much as any team in the majors. … Pitchers and catchers will report to spring training in Sarasota on Feb. 18 with the first day of workouts the following morning. Position players will participate in their first official workout on Feb. 24. … Asked his thoughts on the remainder of the postseason, Showalter offered a reply that many Orioles fans can appreciate as well as relate to. “Watching it makes me ill. I’m not one of those guys that likes watching other people do what we wanted to do.”

 

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Future’s uncertainty always most painful as Orioles bow out of postseason

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Future’s uncertainty always most painful as Orioles bow out of postseason

Posted on 16 October 2014 by Luke Jones

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A sweep was a bitter way for a season to end after the Orioles won 96 games to secure their first American League East title in 17 years.

Overcoming season-ending injuries to Matt Wieters and Manny Machado as well as enduring the 25-game suspension and poor performance of slugger Chris Davis, the Orioles arguably had their most rewarding year since their last World Series title in 1983. But that magic and mojo finally expired against the Kansas City Royals, who didn’t embarrass Baltimore but was just a little bit better across the board as they won their first AL pennant since 1985.

Even if 2014 ultimately proves to be the Royals’ year — and an 8-0 postseason mark certainly suggests it is — the end still hurts.

“There’s a lot of positive things there. But it’s kind of shallow,” manager Buck Showalter said. “There’s so many things that during the year, it’s just an unspoken word, a look at each other, there’s a real respect for each other. And like I just told them, the game’s not always fair. Someone’s going to be extremely disappointed.”

The Orioles have quite a juxtaposition of half-full and half-empty outlooks as they conclude 2014, but the uncertainty of navigating another offseason and another 162-game marathon to try to get back to this same point next year — with a different outcome, of course — always makes you wonder if they’ll make it back. The AL East doesn’t figure to feature underwhelming versions of both the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox for a second straight year, so that alone forces you to take pregnant pause.

Even as disappointment wanes and fans begin to reflect on the Orioles’ third straight winning season and first division title since 1997, expectations have only soared for executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette, Showalter, and the current club. But as is the case with any offseason, some change will be inevitable.

“You know, [2012] was unexpected, in ’13 we had expectations, and here we were doing something that hasn’t been done in a long time,” center fielder Adam Jones said. “I think expectations have risen a little bit in Baltimore and that’s good. I don’t mind expectations being risen, because I’m going to come back to spring training ready to get back to this position. It’s a great position to be in the ALCS.”

With those heightened expectations in mind, how do the Orioles improve for next season? As always, the quest will continue to improve their pitching depth while hoping 23-year-old Kevin Gausman takes another step forward, but do Duquette and Showalter tinker dramatically with an offense that relied too much on the home run?

The addition of some speed would benefit, but the Orioles also expect to have Wieters, Machado, and Davis back in the picture, which should provide significant overall improvement to the offense. But the lineup could look different without Nelson Cruz anchoring the cleanup spot.

After signing a one-year, $8 million deal during spring training to come to Baltimore, Cruz will be seeking a long-term deal for lucrative money, but he is 34 years old and coming off a career season in which he hit 40 homers. As we saw with Davis’ disastrous 2014 campaign a year after he hit a franchise-record 53 home runs, you don’t want to make a snap reaction based on a career season and set your price based on that.

Cruz acknowledged he may have played his last game with the Orioles after Wednesday’s 2-1 loss in Kansas City.

“It’s there, but I want to come back,” Cruz said. “We’ll just wait and see what happens. I love the clubhouse. I love all my teammates. The whole organization is great — even the guys you don’t see every day. I appreciate that.”

The Orioles also face difficult decisions with right fielder Nick Markakis and lefty reliever Andrew Miller, who will also become free agents. Miller was the club’s best pitcher in the postseason, but he is expected to receive an enormous amount of attention on the open market and could be paid lucratively to become a closer elsewhere.

Though they were able to re-sign shortstop J.J. Hardy to a contract extension last week, the Orioles know that Wieters and Davis will be free agents after 2015. Duquette was more aggressive this year than he was over his first two offseasons running the club as he signed Cruz and starting pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez, so will we see the Orioles once again be bold to set up for another run next season or take a more conservative approach even though they face the loss of two more key players next winter?

It’s tough to say as even the career-long Oriole Markakis doesn’t know for sure if he’ll be back or if the organization will elect to go in a different direction as his power has declined over the last few seasons.

“I don’t know; you never know,” Markakis said. “Baseball is a funny game and anything can happen. Take some time off and see where that ball goes.”

It’s that unknown that makes Wednesday’s loss and the abrupt end of a terrific season that much more frustrating.

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Former Oriole Guthrie apologizes for post-game shirt

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Former Oriole Guthrie apologizes for post-game shirt

Posted on 15 October 2014 by Luke Jones

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — On a day in which the Kansas City Royals were trying to officially advance to their first World Series in 29 years, Game 3 starter Jeremy Guthrie was apologizing to his former club.

The former Orioles pitcher issued an apology for wearing a post-game shirt stating, “These O’s Ain’t Royal,” adding that he made no connection with the play on words from the song “Loyal” by Chris Brown. Countless fans and members of the organization took exception to what was perceived as a sign of disrespect for a club that helped Guthrie revitalize his career when he arrived in Baltimore in 2007.

“Unfortunately for me, I used a lack of judgment in putting that shirt on after the game,” Guthrie said Wednesday afternoon. “Never changed, came in here, and wore it. What ensued was not what I intended. There was no intention to call the attention to the other team, friends, and former teammates, certainly not the organization and most definitely not their fans.”

Guthrie allowed one earned run and three hits over five innings in Game 3 as the Royals won 2-1 to take a 3-0 lead in the American League Championship Series. Guthrie said a few former teammates in the Orioles clubhouse reached out to him following the game to express they thought the shirt “was pretty low, a low blow, or inappropriate.”

In five seasons in Baltimore, Guthrie went 47-65 with a 4.12 ERA. He was traded to the Colorado Rockies in exchange for pitchers Jason Hammel and Matt Lindstrom before the start of spring training in 2012. However, Guthrie had remained a fan favorite in Baltimore over the last couple years prior to Tuesday night.

“Anyone and everyone that was offended, you’ll never see the shirt again,” Guthrie said. “The shirt was sent to me, and it will be sent to the garbage, because that’s probably where it belongs at this point. And I am willing to accept that. And any reaction that’s come my way, I understand it. I’ve accepted it. And I’ll move on.”

Perhaps the most damning fallout from Guthrie wearing the shirt was the amount of attention it received prior to the start of Game 4 as the Orioles try to become only the second team in major league history to erase an 0-3 deficit in a playoff series.

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Orioles so close, yet so far away in now facing elimination

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Orioles so close, yet so far away in now facing elimination

Posted on 15 October 2014 by Luke Jones

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The stigma of a 3-0 deficit in a best-of-seven series doesn’t paint an accurate picture of the Orioles’ performance against the Kansas City Royals in this year’s American League Championship Series.

The fact that Kansas City has scored in its final at-bat to win two games and prevailed by just one run in Game 3 supports the notion that the Orioles haven’t played poorly. In fact, their play has almost matched the Royals in a variety of ways as the clubs have played a competitive and highly-entertaining series to this point.

But none of that really matters now. There are no moral victories or bonus points for a narrow margin of defeat. And unlike a sport like boxing where a fighter has the chance of a late knockout after repeatedly being edged 10-9 in the early rounds, baseball affords no such structure.

If erasing an 0-2 deficit was a steep task, coming back from an 0-3 hole is conquering Everest, because there’s no way to do it other than to grind out four straight wins against the club that’s grinding better than anyone right now. Yes, the 2004 Boston Red Sox created a glimmer of hope for all teams in this scenario in becoming the first team to come back from an 0-3 deficit, but of the nine teams to take a 3-0 lead in the best-of-seven LCS era, all but three completed a four-game sweep.

The Royals have been just a little bit better in each of the three games. And the Orioles have to feel so close, yet so far away from this series being very different.

“We’ve played three really good games, just fell short in each game,” center fielder Adam Jones said. “Now, we have a good idea of what the uphill battle is now. Just got to win.”

In the days leading up to the series, so much time was spent discussing the different offensive styles, but it was also pointed out how similar the Orioles and Royals were in every other phase of the game. And it’s been in some of those areas where the difference in this series have come.

As terrific as the Baltimore bullpen has been, the Royals have been better with Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis, and closer Greg Holland allowing only one earned run in 11 combined innings. Meanwhile, two of the Orioles’ big three — Darren O’Day and Zach Britton — didn’t get the job done in their opportunities in Games 1 and 2.

Defensively, both clubs were considered among the best in the majors, but it’s been the Royals who’ve made the spectacular plays. Call it luck in saying the Royals have had more opportunities to make those defensive gems, but they have certainly seized those moments when presented.

And the Royals’ offensive style — the ability to foul off tough pitches and the presence of speed on the bases — has put the pressure on Baltimore pitching while scratching across just enough runs to leave them one win shy of their first World Series appearance in 29 years. On Tuesday, it was an run-scoring grounder and a sacrifice fly that plated the Kansas City runs. In contrast, several deep drives from Orioles bats early in the game didn’t carry out of the ballpark on a windy night before the lineup slipped into a coma as Kansas City pitching retired the final 16 batters of the game.

The Royals have just had a little bit more in the tank than the Orioles, who haven’t played bad baseball but haven’t done enough to win, either.

“They’re a good team, they’re a scrappy team,” first baseman Steve Pearce said. “They don’t strike out, they manage to put the ball in play, and [they] get hits. That’s just the way the series has gone so far.”

The Orioles and their fans had held out hope that some of the breaks the Royals had received in terms of broken-bat hits, swinging bunts, and stellar defensive plays would eventually swing in their favor, but it now appears too late for that to make a difference. Players said the right things about focusing solely on winning Game 4, but there appears to be no slowing the momentum train that is the Kansas City Royals, who are the third team in major league history to win the first seven games of a postseason.

If the clubs had played two weeks ago or two weeks from now, the story could be much different as the Orioles were the superior team in the regular season. But that’s both the beauty and the cruelty of October as it isn’t about being the best team, but it’s about being the best team right now.

To expect the Orioles to just roll over in Game 4 would be to overlook everything they’ve accomplished over the last three years, but the resiliency they’ve shown over the last three years just doesn’t look like it’s going to be enough to stop the Royals. Whatever magic that fans have long proclaimed the Orioles to have just doesn’t appear to be as potent as what’s going on in Kansas City right now.

“If we can get one [win] under our belt and get a few things to work our way, we feel like we can get it spinning the other way,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “Otherwise, we shouldn’t show up tomorrow. I know what our guys in our locker room feel like. They know they’re up against some good competition. But [there’s] always one more opportunity, which is tomorrow.”

And tomorrow could also bring the end of the Orioles’ season, even if it doesn’t feel like it should be over yet.

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Cruz on Royals: “They’re coming back” to Camden Yards

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Cruz on Royals: “They’re coming back” to Camden Yards

Posted on 13 October 2014 by Luke Jones

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — After two days of hearing questions about the inflammatory comments made by Kansas City Royals outfielder Jarrod Dyson, Orioles slugger Nelson Cruz finally bit just a little after downplaying any significance of the bulletin board material.

Dyson said after Game 2 of the American League Championship Series that he didn’t expect to return to Oriole Park at Camden Yards later in the series and that Orioles players didn’t believe they would, either. A day later during the teams’ workout at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, the reserve outfielder — who’s 0-for-2 attempting to steal bases over the first two games of the series — questioned how much fight the Orioles might have left.

Cruz was asked Monday whether he expected the series to return to Baltimore later this week, and the 34-year-old took the opportunity to finally take a veiled shot at Dyson.

“Oh yeah, ” said Cruz as he cracked a smile. “They’re coming back, too.”

To this point, the designated hitter has allowed his bat to do the talking in the playoffs as he’s hit .476 with two home runs and seven runs batted in over 22 plate appearances this October.

In 39 career postseason games, Cruz has hit an incredible 16 home runs and batted .306 with a 1.059 on-base plus slugging percentage. The veteran said the Orioles aren’t concerned with how anyone outside their clubhouse feels about their chances with a 2-0 deficit in the best-of-seven series, and they’re eager to prove it upon getting back on the field after Monday’s Game 3 postponement.

“There’s going to be talk. You can’t help it,” Cruz said. “There’s going to be talk, but you stay in the present and focus on whatever you need to focus on and whatever you can control.”

Most players have taken the high road in responding to Dyson’s confidence, but manager Buck Showalter and a couple others have taken a different approach in agreeing that the Royals have a right to feel good about themselves after winning two games at Camden Yards.

But that doesn’t mean the Orioles haven’t made a mental note as the series is now scheduled to resume on Tuesday night. And you do wonder why a player who’s had such a small role in his club’s success in Game 1 and 2 would find the need to act as the Royals’ spokesman.

“He’s trying to get his team jacked up. It is what it is,” closer Zach Britton said. “They should be confident. They played some good games, but we’re not going to let what he says dictate the way we go out and play, and we understand that.”

Gausman embracing relief role with eye on future

With Monday’s rainout, the Orioles hope to potentially find themselves planning for who might start a deciding Game 7 with the teams now set to potentially play five straight days.

That responsibility could ultimately fall on normal No. 5 starter Kevin Gausman, who’s worked exclusively out of the bullpen to this point in October. In two appearances spanning 5 1/3 innings — one outing each against Detroit and Kansas City — Gausman has allowed only one earned run and four hits while striking out six and walking two.

“I hope that we’re back here next year and the near future, and hopefully, I’m starting one of these games,” Gausman said. “That’s what I would like, obviously, in the future. But anytime you have success in the postseason, it definitely helps not only yourself but your confidence level and it says a lot about your career.”

Gausman has proven to be a valuable piece out of the bullpen after he got his feet wet in that capacity as a rookie last year. In his 15 relief appearances a year ago, the 2012 first-round pick pitched to a 3.52 ERA and struck out 11.3 batters per nine innings.

Showalter hasn’t shied away from using Gausman as more than just a long man out of the bullpen as he was trusted to keep the Orioles close in Game 2 of the AL Division Series, allowing his offense to eventually stage the comeback win. The 23-year-old was then used in Game 1 of the ALCS to keep the Orioles within one run as they tied the score while he was still in the game.

“It’s not so weird for me,” said Gausman about once again having a relief role after starting all season. “I feel like if we put any other starter down in the bullpen, it might take him a little while to get used to it. When I was told I was going out there, I wasn’t mad or upset. I just kind of took it as a challenge, and I think it’s really fun coming out of the bullpen. That’s when you have your best stuff, and you get to kind of showcase [it].”

Duquette wheeling and meal-ing

Executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette expressed confidence Monday that his club would be ready to play whenever the weather would allow the series to resume.

But he may have offered the line of the day when a reporter asked if he planned on signing anyone else to a contract extension to provide some material for media on a slow news day after Monday’s postponement.

“I’m going to sign the room service [bill] at the hotel,” he said.

Duquette signed shortstop J.J. Hardy to a three-year, $40 million extension with a vested option last Thursday.

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