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Orioles let one get away against Yankees

Posted on 14 April 2015 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — It’d be tough to sugarcoat the Orioles’ 6-5 loss to the New York Yankees on Monday night.

That one stung.

No, it isn’t crushing in the sense that the Orioles currently own a 3-4 record, and it’s premature to be concerned about an up-and-down week to begin the season. But Monday brought the kind of defeat that you can’t help but feel should have been a win if not for a series of missteps. Those are the losses on which you’ll reflect, depending on where you ultimately stand in the pennant race a few months from now.

Of course, right-hander Tommy Hunter received much of the blame for failing to locate a 3-1 fastball that resulted in a go-ahead grand slam off the bat of pinch hitter Stephen Drew in the top of the seventh inning. Despite only giving up a bloop single to Chris Young and an infield hit to Jacoby Ellsbury — a play that could have resulted in the third out of the inning had Chris Davis corralled Jonathan Schoop’s bullet throw from close range — Hunter had walked John Ryan Murphy earlier in the inning and had already labored through 24 pitches when Drew stepped to the plate.

Manager Buck Showalter had Brian Matusz ready in the bullpen before electing to let Hunter face Drew, explaining after the game that he was trying not to use the lefty specialist who had thrown 26 pitches in Sunday’s loss. Drew was 0-for-5 in his career against both pitchers, but the decision to stick with Hunter appeared counterintuitive since Matusz was ready to go and is paid to get lefty hitters out. Drew owns a career .227 average against southpaws and had batted .129 against them in 2014.

With Wesley Wright expected to miss the next four to six weeks with left shoulder inflammation, the Orioles currently have just one lefty in the bullpen aside from closer Zach Britton.

“I was trying to stay away from Brian,” Showalter said. “We’ve had a couple short starts and we only had three pitchers we were going to use in the bullpen, so it’s tough. [Yankees manager Joe Girardi’s] also got another weapon over there in [Chase] Headley, so he can [then hit for Drew] if he wants to.”

Matusz eventually pitched to two batters in the ninth inning anyway, but the damage had already been done.

That sequence aside, the Orioles didn’t help themselves by making three outs on the bases with Alejandro De Aza and Adam Jones both being thrown out trying to steal and catcher Caleb Joseph failing in trying to stretch a single into a double with two outs in the fifth. Jonathan Schoop would have made another out on the bases trying to stretch an RBI single into a double in the second inning, but a nifty slide resulted in the original out call being overturned after a Showalter replay challenge.

Many clamored this offseason for the Orioles to be more aggressive on the bases, but there’s a fine line between pushing the envelope and wasting precious outs, something they’ve been guilty of doing on several occasions in the opening week. There’s no way of knowing if any of these instances could have resulted in more scoring had they been handled differently, but you’d like to think the Orioles having three extra outs might have made a difference in a one-run game.

The rotten cherry on top of a frustrating night was watching former Oriole and new Yankees closer Andrew Miller convert a five-out save to hand Baltimore its fourth loss in the last five games. It’s no secret that Miller is a dominating presence, but the early-season struggles of the Orioles bullpen have only magnified his departure.

After the game, there was no panicking about a bullpen that’s now allowed at least one run in each of the club’s first seven contests.

“I have the utmost faith and respect for those guys,” said Jones, who hit a clutch two-run homer to break a 2-2 tie in the bottom of the sixth. “Hey, get it out of the way now. No one wants to see that in August or September. It is just how it works. I am pretty sure they are all frustrated, but me being the center fielder, I have all the faith in those guys.”

Losing is a part of the game as even the best teams will likely experience it upwards of 60 times this season, but letting potential wins slip away will wear on you. Because you never know where you might be in September and how much losses like this one can potentially cost you in the long run.

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2015 American League East preview

Posted on 04 April 2015 by Luke Jones

No team has won the American League East with fewer than 95 wins since the 2000 New York Yankees won just 87 games in the regular season before eventually winning the World Series.

That 14-year run will end this season with the division showing more parity — and vulnerability — than it has in a long time.

Below is a capsule of the five AL East clubs in their predicted order of finish:

1. BALTIMORE (2014 record: 96-66, first place)
Notable additions: INF Everth Cabrera, OF Travis Snider, LHP Wesley Wright
Notable losses: OF Nelson Cruz, OF Nick Markakis, LHP Andrew Miller
Why to like them: The defense remains excellent, which will again transform a solid but unspectacular rotation and an already-strong bullpen into a pitching staff good enough to seriously contend.
Why to dislike them: Dan Duquette rested on his laurels by not bringing in a safer bet to replace either Cruz or Markakis, which puts much dependence on players returning from injuries.
Player to watch: Snider is a former first-round pick and is coming off an excellent second half with Pittsburgh, making him a solid candidate to be the Orioles’ annual surprising performer.
2015 outlook (89-73): I don’t love this Orioles club, but the Buck Showalter effect as well as bounce-back years from Manny Machado and Chris Davis will be enough to offset the void left behind by Cruz and Markakis. It’s tough to shake the feeling that 2014 was their last best chance to win a pennant with this core, but the Orioles don’t have as many glaring weaknesses or questions as their AL East foes.

2. BOSTON (2014 record: 71-91, fifth place)
Notable additions: 3B Pablo Sandoval, OF Hanley Ramirez, RHP Rick Porcello, LHP Wade Miley, RHP Justin Masterson
Notable losses: OF Yoenis Cespedes, 3B Will Middlebrooks
Why to like them: After struggling to score runs last season, the revamped Red Sox are primed to have one of the best lineups in baseball with dependable veterans and high-upside youth.
Why to dislike them: Four of their five projected starting pitchers weren’t on the roster a year ago and all but Porcello posted an ERA above 4.00 in 2014.
Player to watch: Center fielder Mookie Betts has raked all spring as teammates and observers have gushed over his potential at the top of the Boston order.
2015 outlook (87-75): If a similar roster were constructed 10 years ago, the Red Sox would be the overwhelming favorite to win the AL East with such an imposing lineup and they still might do it anyway. However, the current pitching-rich era in baseball makes you doubt an underwhelming rotation and a suspect bullpen. The pitching is what will ultimately prevent Boston from seizing the AL East title.

3. TORONTO (2014 record: 83-79, third place)
Notable additions: 3B Josh Donaldson, C Russell Martin, OF Michael Saunders
Notable losses: OF Melky Cabrera, INF Brett Lawrie, LHP J.A. Happ
Why to like them: After already scoring plenty of runs last year, the Blue Jays have a more potent lineup with the addition of an MVP-caliber player like Donaldson and the veteran Martin.
Why to dislike them: The bullpen is suspect and the rotation will lean on graybeards R.A. Dickey and Mark Buehrle while hoping youngsters Aaron Sanchez and Daniel Norris develop quickly.
Player to watch: The 21-year-old lefty Norris has plenty of talent and will begin the season in the Toronto rotation despite logging just 58 1/3 innings above the Single-A level in the minors.
2015 outlook (83-79): Nothing gets people going more about a club’s potential than talented young pitching, but it rarely comes together as quickly as you’d like. That reality along with a bullpen lacking the arms to consistently back them up will be the Blue Jays’ undoing late in the season as they fade behind Baltimore and Boston.

4. TAMPA BAY (2014 record: 77-85, fourth place)
Notable additions: OF Steven Souza, SS Asdrubal Cabrera, OF/C John Jaso
Notable losses: UTI Ben Zobrist, OF Wil Myers, RHP Jeremy Hellickson
Why to like them: If they’re able to overcome some early injury concerns, the Rays probably have the best starting rotation in the division, which will keep them competitive.
Why to dislike them: Offense was always a weakness even in their best years, but no one scares you at all in the current lineup except for third baseman Evan Longoria.
Player to watch: The 25-year-old Souza shows promise, but the Rays desperately need the offensive success he enjoyed at Triple-A Syracuse last season to carry over with his new club.
2015 outlook (80-82): The overall makeup of this division would have screamed for you to bet on the underdog Rays in past years, but that was before the departures of manager Joe Maddon and general manager Andrew Friedman. With starting pitchers Alex Cobb, Drew Smyly, and Matt Moore currently on the mend, the Rays will lag behind in the division early before improving as the year continues.

5. NEW YORK (2014 record: 84-78, second place)
Notable additions: SS Didi Gregorius, LHP Andrew Miller, RHP Nathan Eovaldi
Notable losses: RHP Hiroki Kuroda, RHP David Robertson, SS Derek Jeter
Why to like them: The upside of starting pitchers Masahiro Tanaka, CC Sabathia, and Michael Pineda speaks for itself if they can stay healthy.
Why to dislike them: Old, injury-prone, and expensive is no way to go through a 162-game season, which is exactly what the Yankees are trying to do at this point.
Player to watch: Reliever Dellin Betances is coming off a terrific season, but his velocity is down and his command has been poor this spring, which will cause him to share closer duties with Miller early on.
2015 outlook (78-84): The names you’ll find up and down the Yankees’ lineup would have had you salivating in 2011, but age and injuries will put too much pressure on a starting rotation praying that Tanaka’s elbow holds up and the 34-year-old Sabathia bounces back from knee surgery. The Yankees won’t be awful, but they will finish in last place for the first time since 1990.

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Ravens release Canty to clear $2.66 million in cap space

Posted on 27 February 2015 by Luke Jones

Defensive end Chris Canty became the second veteran player to be released by the Ravens this week.

The 32-year-old had his contract terminated on Friday morning, a move that saves the Ravens $2.66 million on their 2015 salary cap. Canty was entering the final season of a three-year, $8 million contract and had been pondering retirement this winter, but many predicted he would be a roster victim due to the Ravens’ tight salary-cap situation.

Return specialist Jacoby Jones had his contract terminated earlier this week.

“I am very proud to be a Raven,” Canty said in a statement released by the organization. “They are a great franchise, and I was privileged to be a contributor to that outstanding tradition of defense that is part of the team’s lore.

“I am going to continue to prepare to play again and will explore other possibilities to play the game I love.”

In 26 games over two seasons with Baltimore, Canty didn’t make a big impact on the field, but he was one of the most respected veterans in the locker room, a detail that shouldn’t be overlooked after the turbulent nature of last year with the Ray Rice saga and four other player arrests. However, with the Ravens selecting defensive end Brent Urban in the fourth round of the 2014 draft — he suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in last year’s training camp — and also having younger options on the roster such as DeAngelo Tyson and Kapron Lewis-Moore, Canty was viewed as expendable.

The Ravens could also re-sign veteran Lawrence Guy, who played effectively at the 5-technique in the defensive line rotation after being picked up from the San Diego Chargers in early October. General manager Ozzie Newsome did not rule out the possibility of bringing back Canty at a reduced rate, but the Ravens will likely be content in going with younger, cheaper options at defensive end.

“We are a better franchise for having Chris Canty with us the last two years,” head coach John Harbaugh said in a statement. “He added maturity and leadership. Chris played well and played a lot of snaps for us, especially last season. He was an outstanding contributor to our playoff season in 2014.”

Canty missed five games during the 2014 campaign while dealing with a staph infection in his wrist in October and an ankle injury at the end of the regular season. He finished the year with 33 tackles, two pass breakups, a forced fumble, and a half-sack.

In his 10-year career, Canty has also played for the Dallas Cowboys and the New York Giants, earning a Super Bowl XLVI championship ring.

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Maier glove used to catch 1996 Jeter homer auctioned off

Posted on 16 February 2015 by Luke Jones

A week after former Ravens running back Jamal Lewis auctioned off a Super Bowl ring that was a gift from owner Steve Bisciotti, Baltimore fans now have an opportunity to own a piece of local sports infamy.

The glove Jeffrey Maier used to corral a Derek Jeter fly ball over the right-field fence at old Yankee Stadium against the Orioles in the 1996 American League Championship Series is being auctioned off this week. As of Monday evening, the leading bid at Heritage Auctions came in at $13,000.

While Maier was beloved in New York for his assist, the then-12-year-old was a villain in Baltimore as Jeter’s home run tied Game 1 and the Yankees went on to win the series opener on a Bernie Williams homer in the 11th. Orioles fans have long wondered if the series — won by the Yankees in five games — might have been different had fan interference been ruled on the eighth-inning fly that right fielder Tony Tarasco was camped under before Maier’s glove deflected it over the fence.

Many Orioles fans suggested on social media Monday that the glove needs be burned as a way to exorcise a curse as Baltimore hasn’t advanced to the World Series since 1983. The Orioles have been unsuccessful in three trips to the ALCS since their last championship, also falling in 1997 and 2014.

Of course, some fans quipped that umpire Rich Garcia should purchase the glove since it was his failure to call interference that was the real culprit of the Orioles’ controversial Game 1 loss in the Bronx.


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Ravens safety Hill reportedly facing legal problems in New Jersey

Posted on 29 January 2015 by Luke Jones

Another off-field problem has found Ravens safety Will Hill.

A warrant for the 24-year-old’s arrest has been issued in the state of New Jersey due to an alleged failure to pay more than $16,000 in child support, according to The Sun. However, the warrant was reportedly issued last March and Hill is not being actively pursued by police.

This is the latest chapter in a number of off-field missteps for Hill, who started eight games at safety in his first season with the Ravens after serving a six-game suspension for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy. It was Hill’s third suspension in three years in the NFL, which prompted the New York Giants to release him early last summer.

The University of Florida product was arrested in New Jersey in December 2013 for failing to pay child support.

In a season full of injuries and inconsistent play in the secondary, the Ravens found a bright spot in Hill, who emerged as the only clear-cut starter in a group of safeties that included 2013 first-round pick Matt Elam, Darian Stewart, Jeromy Miles, and rookie third-rounder Terrence Brooks. Hill collected 42 tackles, four pass breakups, and an interception returned for a touchdown in a late November win over New Orleans.

“He has a lot of talent, and it’s something that we always knew,” head coach John Harbaugh said at the end of the season. “He also has a great love for the game. He learned our defense throughout the course of the season, which it’s not easy to do that. We have a tough defense. We do a lot of good stuff back there. But he was running the show pretty well back there toward the end of the year. Having the offseason, having the [organized team activities], and the minicamp and the training camp is only going to really help him tremendously as far as being a really good safety for us.”

With No. 1 cornerback Jimmy Smith returning from a Lisfranc injury and veteran cornerback Lardarius Webb struggling at times in 2014 and carrying a $12 million figure, Hill might have been the Ravens’ surest bet in the secondary going into the offseason if you discount his off-field history.

Baltimore is expected to retain the restricted free agent, but Harbaugh said he issued the challenge for Hill to stay out of trouble at the end of the season. His current legal situation in New Jersey wouldn’t appear to be a healthy reflection of him getting the message after the Ravens gave him a second chance last summer.

“We put it on his plate a little bit. We’re challenging him for the next three or four months,” Harbaugh said. “‘Are you going to come back a better player than you were when you left here in January, and is that slate going to be clean?’ We fully expect it to be. He just had a baby. He’s doing great with his family, and we fully expect him to do a great job with that, and we’re going to try to help him anyway we can with that.”

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Ravens secondary coach Spagnuolo rejoining New York Giants

Posted on 15 January 2015 by Luke Jones

Ravens secondary coach Steve Spagnuolo is heading back to the Big Apple.

The assistant head coach to John Harbaugh has agreed to re-join the New York Giants as their defensive coordinator, a position he held there from 2007-2008 while guiding his defense to a win against the undefeated New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLII. Spagnuolo spent the last two years with the Ravens, serving as a senior defensive assistant in 2013 before being assigned to coach the secondary this past season.

A rash of injuries led to plenty of struggles in the secondary as the Ravens finished 23rd in pass defense, but the 55-year-old Spagnuolo was praised by Harbaugh at his season-ending press conference earlier this week. The pair worked together for eight years in Philadelphia under head coach Andy Reid.

“Steve is a great coach. He’s done a great job with the guys throughout the course of the season,” Harbaugh said. “Obviously, [he is] a tremendously experienced coach. He’s been a head coach, been a coordinator, and that’s not something that we would want to hold him back from as an opportunity.”

Spagnuolo beat out the likes of former Oakland head coach Dennis Allen, former Tampa Bay head coach Raheem Morris, and former Giants linebacker Pepper Johnson for the job.

As for who might replace Spagnuolo in Baltimore, assistant secondary coach Chris Hewitt would be a logical in-house replacement, but the Ravens would likely look outside the organization for other candidates. This marks the second straight offseason that Harbaugh will need to replace his secondary coach after Teryl Austin departed last January to become the defensive coordinator of the Detroit Lions.

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Ravens assistant general manager DeCosta staying put

Posted on 01 January 2015 by Luke Jones

A new year brought an old refrain from Ravens assistant general manager Eric DeCosta.

He isn’t going anywhere.

According to an NFL Network report, DeCosta has turned down interview requests from the New York Jets and the Chicago Bears about their open general manager positions. The news comes as no shock as it’s well known that DeCosta is paid better than many general managers around the league and has publicly been referred to as the successor to longtime general manager Ozzie Newsome.

DeCosta’s wife is from the area, another factor that’s led to him having little interest in leaving the Ravens in the past.

The 43-year-old is considered one of the great personnel minds around the league and has regularly been pursued as a general manager candidate before turning away other teams in recent years. Previously serving as the organization’s director of college scouting and director of player personnel, DeCosta was formally promoted to the title of assistant general manager in 2012.

DeCosta joined the organization in 1996 after it relocated from Cleveland to Baltimore.

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Jets reportedly request interview with Ravens coordinator Kubiak

Posted on 30 December 2014 by Luke Jones

After leading the Ravens to their best offensive season in franchise history, first-year coordinator Gary Kubiak has already drawn interest from the New York Jets for their head coaching position.

The Jets fired head coach Rex Ryan and general manager John Idzik on Monday and have requested to interview Kubiak, according to an ESPN report. New York also seeked interviews with Arizona defensive coordinator Todd Bowles, Seattle assistant head coach Tom Cable, San Diego offensive coordinator Frank Reich, and Seattle defensive coordinator Dan Quinn.

The former Houston Texans head coach guided the Ravens to single-season franchise records in points scored (409) and total yards (5,838). Baltimore finished eighth in points scored and 12th in total yards during the 2014 regular season.

In eight years as Houston’s head coach, Kubiak accumulated a 61-64 record and guided the Texans to two AFC South titles.

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Jerry’s Used Car Superstores Presents WNST Orange Baseball Bus to CitiField for Mets-Orioles (May 5, 2015)

Posted on 08 December 2014 by WNST Trips

Come see some Baltimore baseball in the “other” stadium in New York. We’re headed to Queens to see the Baltimore Orioles take on the New York Mets at CitiField in The Big Apple on Tuesday, May 5, 2015.

Tickets: $99 per person

Mobile contact #

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Ex-Orioles reliever Miller agrees to join Yankees

Posted on 05 December 2014 by Luke Jones

In a move that was expected after the Orioles hadn’t pursued him in free agency, left-handed relief pitcher Andrew Miller agreed to a four-year, $36 million contract to join the New York Yankees on Friday.

The news comes at the end of a very difficult week for the Orioles after they had already lost free-agent outfielders Nelson Cruz and Nick Markakis to the Seattle Mariners and the Atlanta Braves, respectively. It remains undetermined whether Miller will assume the closer role in New York, but his deal would be the richest awarded to a non-closer relief pitcher in major league history.

Acquired from the Boston Red Sox in exchange for pitching prospect Eduardo Rodriguez on July 31, Miller was a major part of the Orioles’ push for their first American League East title since 1997. The 6-foot-7 lefty pitched to a 1.35 ERA and struck out 34 hitters in 20 innings for Baltimore to close out the regular season, stepping into a late-inning role to set up for closer Zach Britton.

Miller’s work was even more dominating in the postseason as he pitched 7 1/3 scoreless innings and allowed only one hit while striking out eight.

The Orioles were never in the picture in terms of keeping Miller as he was always expected to receive lucrative money, but his destination is bad news for the rest of the AL East.  Miller will join right-hander Dellin Betances in forming what could be the most dominating relief duo in the major leagues.

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