Tag Archive | "Nelson Cruz"

Cruz leaves Sunday’s game after being hit on left hand

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Cruz leaves Sunday’s game after being hit on left hand

Posted on 01 June 2014 by Luke Jones

The month of June got off to a scary start for Orioles outfielder Nelson Cruz as he left Sunday’s game against the Houston Astros after being hit on the hand with a pitch.

Former Orioles starting pitcher Scott Feldman hit Cruz on the left hand with a fastball clocked at 87 miles per hour in the top of the third inning, causing the 33-year-old slugger to fall to the ground in pain. After being examined by head athletic trainer Richie Bancells, Cruz temporarily stayed in the game before manager Buck Showalter replaced him with Delmon Young in field in the bottom of the third.

A club official announced in the Minute Maid Park press box late during Sunday’s 9-4 win over the Astros that X-rays came back negative and Cruz is listed as day-to-day. The Orioles are off on Monday before beginning a three-game set with the Texas Rangers in Arlington on Tuesday night.

Cruz entered Sunday’s game leading the major leagues in home runs (20) and runs batted in (52) as he set a franchise record for RBIs through the month of May, eclipsing Chris Davis’ 50 from a year ago. He had a 12-game hitting streak entering Sunday and was 20-for-42 during the streak with eight homers, nine walks, six doubles, 15 RBI, and 14 runs scored, making his departure a scary development for the Orioles and their fan base.

The Orioles have been without starting catcher Matt Wieters for the last three weeks as he continues to recover from right elbow soreness, making Cruz’s exit on Sunday alarming for an offense already struggling more than expected so far in the 2014 season.

 

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Buck

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Showalter’s past–Baltimore’s Future?

Posted on 01 June 2014 by Tony Wisniewski

Don’t look now, but the past might be repeating itself.

There’s something to be said for being comfortable in your own skin—or in this case, you own spot in the batting order.

During the Buck Showalter era, the Orioles are no stranger to a lineup that has seen more shakeups than the Old Bay Crab Shuffle.

Nelson Cruz, the Major League Leader in home runs has yet to have a clear-cut spot in the order.

He’s batted in the two-hole, which is typically reserved for slap-hitters, table-setters, and guys who can spray the ball around the field while being able to run fairly well and steal a base or two.

He’s batted in the six-spot, which is generally reserved for a guy who can’t quite carry the load in the four-or-five hole, but can still drive the ball.

And, in the same breath, he’s batted third, fourth, and fifth throughout the season.

If you look atop the AL East, to a team like the Toronto Blue Jays, you’ll find the exact opposite, where slugger Jose Bautista has batted third all-season-long.  Alas, Edwin Encarnacion played a few games early-on as the number-five hitter, but has settled in nicely as the cleanup guy during his record-setting home run tear during the month of May.

The same can be said for the majority of ML teams who boast consistent all-star quality talent like the Orioles.

Perhaps the issue is that Showalter doesn’t truly understand how to manage big-talent in the Big Leagues.

Taking a step back, you’ll find that Showalter’s track-record shows that he starts to falter when his team makes the turn into a legitimate annual contender.

After being fired by the New York Yankees after the 1995 season, he went on to turn the Arizona Diamondbacks into a force to be reckoned with in the NL West—then he was fired after his third season.

Upon his departure from Arizona, he led the Texas Rangers’ organization to a major turnaround, only to falter the following two seasons—leading to his firing after a mediocre 2006 campaign.

Four years later, Showalter comes to Baltimore, leading the Orioles to a turnaround that others like Bobby Valentine said was impossible due to a franchise that’s “unfixable.”

There’s no question that Showalter did the improbable by re-molding Baltimore into a legit contender, but there certainly should be a question over whether or not he knows what to do with the franchise once it’s reached that level.

Part of Showalter’s success is due to his ability to manage average-talent and utilize a plug-and-play type of system.

While he’s terrific with shuffling fringe starters in and out, and getting the most out of guys who don’t really have much of a clear-cut Major League future, he lacks the ability to appropriately manage superstars and legitimate Major League talent.

A perfect example is the continued shuffling of the lineup and the inability to give a player like Nelson Cruz a stable spot in the batting order.

Certainly this isn’t to say that there’s no room to change a lineup from time to time, even the best of managers sometimes rearrange things to keep players on-alert, but to do it game-in and game-out is sophomoric and a glaring weakness of a manager who has proven in three other cities that he simply can’t handle the type of talent that removes his power to micromanage every facet of the roster, lineup, and game.

When Showalter took over in 2010, the Orioles were an unmitigated disaster. Now, in 2014, they’re not.  They’re a team who should have some continuity and consistency.

While there’s no solid argument to question his ability to turn a franchise around, there’s certainly room for concern and debate over whether he’s the right guy to get the job done moving forward.

Sitting at .500, there’s plenty of room to question whether or not Showalter’s past is destined to become Baltimore’s future.

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Fangraphs’ Minnix thinks moving Cruz up in lineup could help long term

Posted on 24 May 2014 by WNST Audio

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B&B Big Story Banter: Orioles Lineup Makeover

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B&B Big Story Banter: Orioles Lineup Makeover

Posted on 23 May 2014 by Brett Dickinson

The week in Orioles baseball has been a memorable one, for better and for worse. After last week’s difficult 1-0 loss to the Kansas City Royals in which Adam Jones and Chris Davis stranded the tying run at third, questions surrounded manager Buck Showalter’s stubbornness with his everyday lineup. With Manny Machado playing every day and batting second, the Orioles most consistent hitter, Nelson Cruz, has now been moved down to the fifth spot.

After a week in which the Orioles have actually put runs on the board with Showalter’s “stubborn” lineup, the team has won just once. Cruz continues to impress, while it appears that Jones has settled in to the three hole with 8 hits in his last 4 games. Which begs the question: Should the Orioles make major changes to their lineup? 

 

FOR By: Brett Dickinson 

Though the Orioles had a decent week at the plate, that does not change the long-term reality for some “stars” in this current lineup.  At the top, Nick Markasis has been steady getting on base as needed with some many run producers batting behind him.  Manny Machado has struggled through his first several weeks, coming off a serious knee injury and missing out on the entire off season.  It may be hindering the team now, but getting the young superstar comfortable is much more important for this team’s success later on.  Hopes are he can start to turn things around and be the same type of player that filled the two hole for the Orioles last season.

But the heart of the lineup is where I see Baltimore Orioles manager Buck Showalter really struggling with his inner demons.  He is consistently not putting his best hitters in the best situations to succeed at their highest level.  Nelson Cruz is certainly an extremely early MVP candidate, yet is left batting in the fifth spot.  Showalter has been loyal to a fault in his tenure with the organization; clearly evident with his handling of Jim Johnson and the closer role last season. The same can be said with the team’s highest paid player (and supposed team leader) center fielder Adam Jones.

When everyone watching the game knows the scouting report on a player (including my own wife, who knows baseball, but doesn’t follow it as intently as most fans), then there is a problem. Just the other night Adam Jones came to the plate; her exact quote as a slider was thrown to the outside corner, into the dirt:

“I’m surprised he didn’t swing at that one…”

Adam JonesJones plate discipline this season has been down right despicable.  Yet he still bats third in a lineup that has struggled to consistently score runs all season.  Buck needs to stop worrying about hurting his feelings and tell the young man he is moving down a couple spots.  It should not matter that he is the “face of the franchise;” if that were true, he should do what’s best for the team without hesitation.  Ideally, Chris Davis should move into his slot, because though he does not have the massive power numbers of 2013, he is getting on base at an alarmingly high rate, taking an massive amount of walks in the process.

This would lead to Nelson Cruz batting cleanup, where he has the potential to come to the plate with runners on base each and every time.  Doesn’t that seem like the smart decision for a guy that among the tops in the entire MLB in home runs and RBI? Moving the free swinging Jones down to the fifth spot should not hurt his approach either, because he really doesn’t have one at this point.  Whether he bats third, fifth or ninth, he is going to swing and swing a lot.

Time to stop being loyal to a player’s past performance and looking at his current contributions Buck!

 

AGAINST By: Barry Kamen 

In the month of May, it is very easy to overreact to things that happen during the course of an entire baseball season. Sure, no Oriole fan likes to see the middle of the order fall flat in a close game. But every fan LOVES it when 3 Orange Crushes leave PNC Park. There are ebbs and flows to every season. The goal of the Orioles in May is consistency, ensuring that the peaks and the valleys are not drastically far away from each other.

Manny MachadoOne way to ensure is consistency is with the lineup. The criticism surrounding Adam Jones is largely unwarranted. The free-swinger is what he is; a .280 hitter with above-average home run and RBI numbers for his position. Jones doesn’t walk, and he is going to strike out more than he should. Fan frustration should not be with Jones, but with the injuries that have plagued the team all season. With Manny Machado’s bat starting to come around after joining the team at the beginning of May, the entire lineup has produced as a result. Assuming no other injuries occur, the Orioles have one of the best 1-5 lineups in all of Major League Baseball. Not only is the top and middle of the order talented, but there are very few mysteries associated with each player. The biggest question mark could very well be Chris Davis, as he works to ensure that last year’s production was not a fluke.

Rather than tinker with the lineup, depth becomes the next issue for Showalter to deal with. David Lough has played himself out of the lineup, and the end might be nearing for the former Royal. With Delmon Young and Steve Pearce in the fold, there is very little reason to keep Lough. It will not be long before Steve Lombardozzi returns to the majors, and could make a significant impact at the bottom of the order. Until then, tread water in May, and prepare for the high tide in September.

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smith

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Nelson Cruz and Steve Smith: An Oriole and a Raven searching for redemption

Posted on 26 April 2014 by johngallo

One man wants to forget his past; the other is motivated by it.

One man is sorry for the mistake he made; the other is adamant he did nothing wrong to be sent packing.

One makes a living hitting home runs; the other earns his paycheck scoring touchdowns.

One was a strike away from winning a World Series in 2011; the other was denied a championship on a field goal with four seconds left in Super Bowl XXXVIII.

Nelson Cruz, the Orioles’ designated hitter and outfielder, and Steve Smith, who Ravens fans want to be the second coming of receiver Anquan Boldin, hope their futures in Baltimore are as bright as their pasts. Cruz made the All-Star Game twice as a Texas Ranger, while Smith was named All-Pro twice as a Carolina Panther.

Two players, two sports, two careers that took unlikely turns, yet both are connected by a single word in Baltimore: redemption.

Turbulent, yet successful pasts

Nelson Cruz is off to a strong start in Baltimore, as he led the Orioles in homers (6), runs batted-in (23), runs scored (16) and on-base percentage (.391) through 22 games. (Courtesy of Wikipedia)

Cruz’s time in Texas was over following the 2013 season, when he turned down the Rangers’ one-year, $14.1 million qualifying offer after serving a 50-game suspension last season for violating Major League Baseball’s drug policy in connection with the sport’s investigation of the Biogenesis of America, an anti-aging clinic in Florida.

Smith’s 13-season run in Carolina was marred by punching two teammates – receiver Anthony Bright during a film room meeting in 2002 and defensive back Ken Lucas at a training camp practice in 2008 – and highlighted by leading the squad to the franchise’s lone Super Bowl appearance in 2004. It ended in March when the Panthers felt he was no longer worth a $7 million hit to their salary cap.

Cruz, 33, is from Monte Cristi, a poor city in the baseball-rich Dominican Republic, where he worked in his uncle’s shop as a mechanic from age 10 to 16. He played professionally for three seasons in the Dominican Republic after signing as an undrafted free agent by the Mets in 1998. In 2000, he arrived in the U.S. after being traded to Oakland – not bad for a teenager who grew up idolizing Michael Jordan before falling in love with baseball.

Smith, 34, is from inner-city Los Angeles, where he never took the SAT while becoming an all-California Interscholastic Federation receiver at University High School. He took the bus to his $5.75 an hour job running the cash register and sweeping floors at Taco Bell, where worked from his junior in high school until he left nearby Santa Monica College. That’s where he and teammate and future All-Pro receiver Chad Johnson had college recruiters flocking to the junior college. Smith earned a scholarship to the University of Utah, where he dominated the Mountain West conference en route to being drafted in the third round (74th overall) by the Panthers in 2001.

Both have traversed the country en route to Baltimore, which represents where they hope to find redemption, yet could be the last place they ever play.

Think about it: What team will sign Cruz if he flops as an Oriole after putting up amazing numbers that could have been the result of using performance-enhancing drugs? What team will sign Smith if he can no longer get open as he did so effortlessly when he was among the NFL’s best receivers as a Panther?

Cruz’s road to Baltimore included stops in Oakland, Milwaukee and Texas, where he highlighted his eight years in as a Ranger by belting six homers and driving in 13 runs en route to being named the most valuable player of American League Championship Series in 2011. His six homers and 13 RBIs are major league records for a championship series. The Rangers lost the World Series to St. Louis in seven games, after being a strike away from a title-clinching win in Game 6.

“Whatever happened in the past, I look to move forward and have a great year with the Baltimore Orioles,” Cruz said at his press conference, where he was joined by eight Oriole teammates after signing a one-year, $8 million deal with February.

Smith had just one stop as a professional, Carolina, where all he did was set more than 30 career, single-season and single-game team records on offense and special teams, including becoming the franchise’s career leader in total touchdowns (75), receiving touchdowns (67), receptions (836) and receiving yards (12,197).

“Steve Smith has been one of the NFL’s finest receivers for over a decade and has been the face of the franchise for a large part of the team’s history,” Carolina General Manager Dave Gettleman told the team’s website after waiving Smith. “This was not an easy decision. As a team, we made a step forward last year; however, we are also a team in transition, which is a part of the NFL.”

Steve Smith is adjusting to life as a Raven by attending voluntary workouts, where he’s jelling with teammates, learning the playbook and developing a hatred for Baltimore’s biggest rival. (Courtesy of Baltimore Ravens)

When he was released, the five-time Pro Bowler vowed he’d make the Panthers pay, claiming they’ll be “blood and guts everywhere” when he plays them. The teams meet in Week 4 on Sept. 28 at M&T Bank Stadium.

“When you look at the Ravens, they’ve had an amount of great success with integrating older players and younger players and fusing them together and understanding the right combination,” Smith told the Ravens’ website after signing a three-year deal worth a reported $11.5 million. “That part is very intriguing to me and also brings a challenge that I’m up for….They are getting an old guy in age, but a young guy’s spirit and work ethic.”

What’s next?

Where would the Orioles be right now without Cruz? Maybe not 11-11 and in second place in the American League East following a loss to the Royals on April 25. Cruz leads the team in homers (6), runs batted-in (23), runs scored (16) and on-base percentage (.391). His .588 slugging percentage is tied with Steve Clevenger, who has played in seven games compared to Cruz’s 21.

“Nelson is a great hitter,” catcher Matt Wieters told reporters after Cruz blasted two homers during a 10-8 win over Toronto on April 23. “I always had trouble calling pitches against him so I’m glad he’s on our team. He’s a huge addition to the middle of our lineup.”

“We all know what he’s capable of,” Manager Buck Showalter said of Cruz after the game.

Meantime, Smith is adjusting to life as a Raven by attending voluntary workouts, where he’s jelling with teammates, learning the playbook and developing a hatred for Baltimore’s biggest rival.

“My dislike 4 @steelers will grow everyday I’m in the #caste,” Smith tweeted.

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Orioles DH Cruz comfortable with familiar faces heading into Opening Day

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Orioles DH Cruz comfortable with familiar faces heading into Opening Day

Posted on 28 March 2014 by WNST Audio

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Bovada sets Chris Davis 2014 home run total at 39.5

Posted on 25 March 2014 by WNST Staff

Courtesy of Bovada, (www.Bovada.lv, Twitter: @BovadaLV). Here are some of the more interesting player stats.

Baltimore Orioles

Chris Davis – Total HR’s in the 2014 Regular Season   

Over/Under                   39½

 

Chris Davis – Total RBI’s in the 2014 Regular Season  

Over/Under                   113½

 

Adam Jones – Total HR’s in the 2014 Regular Season  

Over/Under                   30½

 

Adam Jones – Total RBI’s in the 2014 Regular Season 

Over/Under                   95½

 

Nelson Cruz – Total HR’s in the 2014 Regular Season  

Over/Under                   25½

 

Matt Wieters – Total HR’s in the 2014 Regular Season  

Over/Under                   23½

 

J.J. Hardy – Total HR’s in the 2014 Regular Season      

Over/Under                   24½

 

Nick Markakis – BA in the 2014 Regular Season           

Over/Under                   .285

 

Ubaldo Jimenez – Total Wins in the 2014 Regular Season       

Over/Under                   12½

 

Chris Tillman – Total Wins in the 2014 Regular Season

Over/Under                   11½

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Orioles Nation’s Conway does not want to see Nelson Cruz in the OF at all

Posted on 01 March 2014 by WNST Audio

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CBS’s Snyder does not think Orioles Jimenez is an ace but a decent 2 or 3

Posted on 26 February 2014 by WNST Audio

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B&B Rapid Fire: Cruz, Santana, Incognito and More

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B&B Rapid Fire: Cruz, Santana, Incognito and More

Posted on 24 February 2014 by Brett Dickinson

By: Brett Dickinson and Barry Kamen

Each week on the Brett & Barry Show (Saturdays 9am-12pm), we gather each others’ analysis of the big news stories and headlines of the week for a couple minutes a piece in a segment we call Rapid Fire.  We will post our answers in blog form every Sunday to a visual version, with links to our segment in the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault.

Listen HERE to last week’s Rapid Fire Segment.

 

Barry 1: With the NFL Combine going on throughout the weekend, we always here big names that will not participate in certain drills for various reasons, especially QBs in throwing drills. In your opinion, should quarterbacks participate in all aspects of combine to properly display their value?

BD: In the end, the combine is used as a tool for the players, and if they feel any drill will hurt their stock, then by all means, do not do it.  A player’s value is so fical and we have seen many players drop because of bad Combine performances; if teams only have game tape to evaluate, that may be a good thing.

As for QBs, it would be nice to see the top rated ones, throwing to a collection of the best WRs in the country.  It would certainly display their skill sets with the biggest, fastest, strongest in the country.  It would also benefit those pass-catchers equally, as they get the opportunity to run routes with the best QBs slinging them the ball.

 

Brett 1: After the signing of former Rangers slugger, Nelson Cruz, the Orioles have most likely found their everyday DH. But they were also in on possibly bringing in switch-hitter, Kendrys Morales. Who would have been a better fit for the Orioles?

Nelson CruzBK: I have no issue with the Baltimore Orioles moving forward with Nelson Cruz as opposed to Kendrys Morales. Morales would have provided the Orioles with more versatility, both at the plate and in the field, but it appears that Morales and his agent are firm on holding out for a multi-year deal. With Chris Davis playing above average defense at first base last season, it made sense that the Orioles would covet Cruz, who can be the everyday DH while also spelling David Lough when the team faces a left-handed starter, as well as giving Nick Markakis the occasional day off.

The 50-game suspension for Cruz scared a lot of suitors away, and he was forced to settle for a 1 year $8 million contract. I look for Cruz to prove to other teams that they made a mistake by not signing him. Even a .265 average with 25 HRs and 75 RBIs is a significant upgrade from the production of the cast of characters that filled the designated hitter role last season.

 

Barry 2: After disappointing finishes for both Men’s and Women’s hockey teams, what is your reaction to their performances in the highlighted sports of the Olympics?

USA Olympic HockeyBD: First off, you have to be proud as an American for those teams (and all the athletes) to make it as far as they did, with that level of competition.  Both teams played their hearts out against the Canadian teams, with tough finishes.

You saw the raw emotion coming from the ladies, with the last minute collapse in regulation and ensuing overtime.  The tears running down their eyes led you to understand that they left it all out on the ice. So though it was disappointing neither team took the gold, I have a great sense of pride watching those teams.

 

Brett 2: The Orioles added front of the rotation starter, Ubaldo Jimenez, earlier in the week, but have been reportedly still interested in adding pitcher, Ervin Santana.  Do you think they should consider adding another rotation arm into the mix?

Ervin SantanaBK: After talking with Tucker Blair from Orioles Nation [Link it], it appears that the team is essentially finished its spending this offseason, save for a few minor moves that may occur during spring training. The Orioles have enough pitchers in camp that they will find trouble finding a home for everyone. My current projection of the Orioles rotation is as follows:

1) RHP Chris Tillman

2) LHP Wei-Yin Chen

3) Ubaldo Jimenez

4) Bud Norris

5) Miguel Gonzalez

Jimenez has better stuff than Chen, but fits in nicely as the #3. The former Indian will provide the team with a Right-Left-Right rotation, which forces opposing managers to tinker with their lineup in the middle of a three game series. Gonzalez’ nagging back injury is a cause for concern, but the Orioles will have enough guys in the bullpen this year (Zach Britton, Suk-Min Yoon, Steve Johnson) that can spot-start, or be the #5 for a month. It appears unlikely that Ervin Santana will end up in Baltimore, and the signing of Jimenez will provide the innings and stability that the team needs to compete in the toughest division in Major League Baseball.

 

Barry 3: Many teams in the league will be weighing the options of bringing in ex-Dolphins OL, Richie Incognito or Jonathan Martin. If you had to chose one as an NFL GM, who would you pick?

Incognito MartinBD: This can be somewhat comparable to the Ray Rice situation, as all that really matters to NFL GMs is whether or not a player can help their team win. It is really sad to say, but it is true; just look over NFL rosters, including the most well-run organizations (even the Ravens).  Teams are littered with low character guys because they are talented.

In this case, Richie Incognito has been a better player than Martin, and would have to be my choice as a GM.  Though he is older, I would bank on Incognito keeping up his play at the same level, over Martin developing over the next couple seasons.  In the end, production outweighs all, and Incognito is simply the better player.

 

Brett 3: Recent reports have come out that Warner Brothers is going to make a sequel to our childhood classic, ‘Space Jam’, with Lebron James having the headlining role.  Is that a good fit? And a bonus question; which players would you steal talent from if you are the ‘Monstars’?

Space Jam 2BK: The reports of a Space Jam 2 provides sports writers with the opportunity to once again compare the careers of LeBron and MJ. While starring in a kids movie would help repair King James’ image from “The Decision”, it just wouldn’t be right. Personally, if Warner Brothers was going to make a sequel, it should have taken place with Kobe Bryant during the early 2000s, when he was in his prime.

Which five players should the Monstars recruit to face the Tune Squad? I came up with them pretty quickly:

PG Kyrie Irving (play off of the Uncle Drew character, in addition to his talent)

SG Dwayne Wade (who wouldn’t want to see a Wade/James rivalry?

SF Paul George (to defend James) or Kevin Durant (scoring purposes)

PF Kevin Love (rebounding machine who is friends with Uncle Drew)

C  Dwight Howard (Personality would translate well to the silver screen)

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