Tag Archive | "Nick Markakis"

Pearce HR 9-16

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SEVENTEEN YEARS IN THE WAITING

Posted on 17 September 2014 by Tom Federline

“Sweeeeeeeeet Emoooootion” – Aerosmith. Just keep playing that song in your head. How ’bout ‘dem O’s hun? WOW! 8 – 2 win over the whining, scum beaning Blow Jays. The Division East Title and then………. the celebration. If you were there, nice pull. If you watched it, baseball entertainment at its’ finest (and no Gary Thorne – in our side). If you heard it, someone should put a tape of it in a time capsule. If you are an Orioles fan……………it’s been a long time comin’. “O” what a feeling.

People keep saying it’s been 17 years since the last division title. And they are right – in 1997 the O’s went wire-to-wire in first place. The teams of 1996 and ’97 were a reflection of Angelos’ attempt to buy a World Series.  They were expected to win and they did. But the World Series appearance – didn’t happen. In ’96, they beat the Indians for the ALDS and lost to the Yankees in the ALCS. Yes, that was the year of  Jeffrey Maier/Rich Garcia incident. In ’97 they went 98 – 64 and beat the Seattle Mariners in the ALDS, then lost to the Indians in the ALCS (Armando Benitez blown game in 11 innings after the O’s had 10 hits to Clevelands 3). But this year, is different. It’s a different feeling, a different team chemistry, a different era. It feels like ………..brace yourself……….the “Oriole Way”!

Back in ’96 and ’97, there were names like Alomar, Palmeiro, Davis (Eric), Bonilla, Erickson, Key, Meyers, Wells, Davey Johnson and yes - Ripken, Murray. All great players. All with hefty paychecks.  All with hefty egos. Most of them brought in to simply take the dreaded “evil empire down”. And they did. They just didn’t make it to the big dance. The 2014 Division title winners has names like Pearce, Schoop, Flaherty, Caleb Joseph, Chen, Tilman, Britton, Buck-Buck and yes, Jones, Markakis and Hardy. All with a story, all without such egos, all with their own nuances of how this cast of characters combined to take the AL East by storm since July.

Three big reasons why they are where they are. Markakis, Cruz, Pearce. Pearces’ blast last night to clearly send the message to the Blow Jays – Not Tonight! “The Answer – in the first inning.”

This year is unique. They won when they weren’t expected to. Yeah, we all HOPED and thought they had a chance. But come on, Weiters going down, Manny on DL to start and to finish, the big Ubaldomore bust, Hunter blowin’ it in the closer role, Davis not hitting for any type of average and then pulling a numbnut move……….come on, our hopes were stretching it. But the O’s never gave up. Yes, I’ll say it………they “Grind it out” and it’s true…..it’s what they do. Very few blow-outs. Even up against tough pitching and unless that guy had enough in the tank to complete the game……….it always seemed they had a chance. They playing through adversity, have perseverance and faith that they have what it takes. You go O’s or should that be “Let’s Go O’s”!

How about that crowd last night? The Yard/pot was a brewin’ since the Friday afternoon game vs. the Yankees. There was an explosion of cheers after that 11th inning win, that rivaled the Blue Angels fly byes, that day. And last night, whether on the radio or television, you could feel the adrenaline pumping from Camden Yards. Pearces’ blast in the first inning set the tone. Jimenez working out of trouble was refreshing. Then the solidifier – De Aza’s triple. So cool. They were not going to be denied. Even with the whining scum Blow Jays attempting some sort of retaliation from the night before and for what it still baffles me. Toronto Blow Jays organization = Classless. You go Darren O’day – O’day! You earned a vote for Oriole MVP.

Speaking of which, who is your Oriole MVP of 2014? If they win the World Series, it’s hands down, Buck-Buck. As far as players, I’ll go with,  hmmmm, “I wonder who Fedman would pick?” Yes, the best right fielder in baseball – Markakis. ”Nicky” stepping up and taking on the lead-off roll, being the longest tenured Oriole and a stellar example of how the game should be played – It’s Markakis! With Steve Pearce a close 2nd.

They have put themselves in the position to excel. They have a shot. They have Buck-Buck. It would be nice if the O’s can make it into October intact as they are right now. It would be extremely undesirable to lose a key player now. Duquette has been playing a nice poker game so far. He’s brought in some nice “gold nuggets”, as Buck-Buck would say. They have been surprising. Now it’s time to hunker down, stay fresh and minimize potential injury. What a run. So cool. I would rather not see Detroit in the playoffs. But you know what? Hopefully, these Birds are going to continue to surprise us. What a Wednesday. What a celebration of Sweeeeeet Emoootion.

D.I.Y.

Fedman

 

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Markakis named Orioles nominee for Roberto Clemente Award

Posted on 16 September 2014 by WNST Staff

PRESS RELEASE

Major League Baseball and Chevrolet, the official vehicle of MLB, today announced that NICK MARKAKISwas named the Orioles 2014 nominee for the prestigious Roberto Clemente Award presented by Chevrolet. Markakis is one of the 30 Club finalists for the annual Award, which recognizes a Major League Baseball player who best represents the game of baseball through positive contributions on and off the field, including sportsmanship and community involvement.

 

Each Club nominates one player to be considered for the Roberto Clemente Award presented by Chevrolet in an effort to pay tribute to Clemente’s achievements and character by recognizing current players who truly understand the value of helping others. Tomorrow marks the 13th annual Roberto Clemente Day, which was established by Major League Baseball to honor Clemente’s legacy and to officially recognize local Club nominees of the Roberto Clemente Award presented by Chevrolet and to honor Clemente’s legacy. The 15-time MLB All-Star and Hall of Famer died in a plane crash on New Year’s Eve 1972 while attempting to deliver supplies to earthquake victims in Nicaragua.

 

Markakis earned the Orioles nomination due to his work with many charities in and around the Baltimore community, including Casey Cares, Rose Street Community Center, American Heart Association, Lungevity Foundation, Baltimore City and County Public Schools, Pathfinders for Autism, Baltimore Animal Rescue and Care Shelter, Orioles Charitable Foundation, and Orioles Military Appreciation Program.

 

In 2014, Markakis and his family made several financial contributions to the club and its charities, most significantly $75,000 to the Orioles Charitable Foundation.  Markakis also donated to the Orioles Military Appreciation program, providing a catered suite, t-shirt, hat and meet and greet to select military members every Sunday home game and also contributed to the OriolesREACH Gameday Experience Program giving at-risk children the opportunity to experience an Orioles game.

 

Nick and his family served as “Race Ambassadors” for the Casey Cares 5K Run for the third consecutive year. They welcomed 2,100 runners at the starting line to kick-off the race. The race earned over $108,000 dollars for the Casey Cares Foundation, a 501(c)(3) non-profit that provides uplifting programs for critically ill children and their families.

 

Markakis is also serving as the Orioles spokesperson for the 2015 American Heart Association Heart Walk. AHA is a non-profit organization that fosters cardiac care in an effort to reduce disability and deaths caused by cardiovascular disease and stroke.

 

The Markakis family has annually attended the Orioles Holiday Party for Kids the last six years, playing games, serving food, and purchasing gifts for children from a selected inner city public school.  They also purchased winter coats for the Rose Street Center, a community-based, multi-cultural youth and family development organization.

 

The Casey Cares Foundation will be receiving Chevy’s donation on behalf of Markakis winning the award, and Markakis will match that donation with a contribution to the Rose Street Community Center.

 

The distinguished list of past national Roberto Clemente Award recipients includes 14 members of the National Baseball Hall of Fame:

 

1971 Willie Mays+** 1982 Ken Singleton 1993 Barry Larkin+ 2004 Edgar Martinez
1972 Brooks Robinson+** 1983 Cecil Cooper 1994 Dave Winfield+ 2005 John Smoltz
1973 Al Kaline+ 1984 Ron Guidry 1995 Ozzie Smith+ 2006 Carlos Delgado
1974 Willie Stargell+ 1985 Don Baylor 1996 Kirby Puckett+ 2007 Craig Biggio
1975 Lou Brock+ 1986 Garry Maddox 1997 Eric Davis 2008 Albert Pujols
1976 Pete Rose 1987 Rick Sutcliffe 1998 Sammy Sosa 2009 Derek Jeter
1977 Rod Carew+ 1988 Dale Murphy 1999 Tony Gwynn+ 2010 Tim Wakefield
1978 Greg Luzinski 1989 Gary Carter+ 2000 Al Leiter 2011 David Ortiz
1979 Andre Thornton 1990 Dave Stewart 2001 Curt Schilling 2012 Clayton Kershaw
1980 Phil Niekro+ 1991 Harold Reynolds 2002 Jim Thome 2013 Carlos Beltran
1981 Steve Garvey 1992 Cal Ripken, Jr.+ 2003 Jamie Moyer

+ Member of the Baseball Hall of Fame

** Originally known as the Commissioner’s Award (prior to 1973)

 

Fans are encouraged to participate in the process of selecting the national Roberto Clemente Award presented by Chevrolet recipient by visiting ChevyBaseball.com, which is powered by MLB Advanced Media, to vote for one of the 30 Club nominees. Voting ends on Sunday, October 6th and participating fans will be automatically registered for a chance to win a trip to the 2014 World Series, where the national winner of the Roberto Clemente Award presented by Chevrolet will be announced.

 

The winner of the fan vote will receive one vote among those cast by the selection panel of dignitaries, which includes Baseball Commissioner Allan H. (Bud) Selig; MLB Chief Operating Officer Rob Manfred; MLB Goodwill Ambassador and wife of Roberto Clemente, Vera Clemente; and representatives from Chevrolet, MLB Network, MLB.com, ESPN, FOX Sports and TBS, among others.

 

Clubs playing at home on September 17th will recognize their local nominees as part of Roberto Clemente Day ceremonies, while visiting Clubs will honor their nominees before another September home game. As part of the league-wide celebration, the Roberto Clemente Day logo will appear on the bases and the official dugout lineup cards.

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markakis-game saver 8-20-14

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JUMP ON THE ROLLER COASTER

Posted on 26 August 2014 by Tom Federline

Thursday, August 21st – Birds up by 9 on the Spankee’s and 9 on the Boo Jays. Four (4) days later, August 25th – Birds up by 6 on the Spankee’s and 8 on the Boo Jays. Just when you start thinking - the Orioles (73 wins), might just be able to coast into the playoffs - BANG – O’s get  swept/outplayed by the Chicago…….Cubs (58 wins). That downer coming right after riding high sweeping the Chicago……….White Sox (59 wins).  Then to add salt into the wound, the Cubs sweep came at the hands of former Orioles, i.e. Jake “I’m on juice”" Arietta, Pedro “Strope Me Strope Me” and finally the guy who never pitched one inning for the O’s but collected a heckuva paycheck – “One hit” Wada. Up/down/hold on - roller coaster is at turn 1.

On top of being swept, lets add some more salt, O’s fans get the official news – Machado is gone for the rest of the year. Not that you didn’t know that already, especially if you had seen the knee buckle (live) that night. But you go, Orioles front office and media relations. You go, with your weak attempt to fill our minds with hope that it was only a “strained” ACL. The knee bent at almost a 45 degree angle and “it’s just a strain?” SO, during this past year we have learned Manny is not so “Mucho” Machado with week knees, week/slippery hands and bad aim. It’s a shame, Machado was just getting into playing shape, after missing preseason and over a month of the regular season. Machado threat gone joining the Wieters threat that was gone.  Down and further down – keep holding on through turn 2.

When the O’s are hitting, there are moments of, “Man - the Orioles may actually have a shot, they got this.” Unfortunately, those moments are to few and far between. But……….. those moments…… are there. The Orioles are still in first place of the American League East. They didn’t get there by luck. They don’t give up, they show sporadic confidence and even with the injuries they are fairly solid in the field. At least CC Sabathia is out for the year, so he can’t sabotage the O’s by taking Markakis out for this years playoff run. Up/Up and Up - getting ready for turn 3.

The dilemma is, they are probably going to need more game saving catches (Nick). They are going to need late inning wins and walk off home runs. They are going to need someone to pick up the offensive slack (Steve Pearce). They are going to need some serious staring pitching (Chen?Tillman). They are going to need some “lights out” relief pitching (O’Day/Britton). They are going to need some Orioles Magic (Buck-Buck). Down/Up/Down/Up - through turn 4.

Can the pitching save the Orioles? It’s going to have to. I’m feeling better about Cruuuuuuuuuz. If any team had a decent pitching coach, Jones would be out 90% of the time. Feed him down and away and he’s toast. Davis needs a shot of “juicy juice”. Brady – where are you? Isn’t that your job - ”Juice” without getting caught? Davis whiffs and the whole stadium feels a breeze, consistently. Can we get Mark Reynolds back? Whoops weak moment there – forget that one. When the opposing team gets  Markakis out - their odds of winning the game quadruple. There is minimal threat left in the line-up. Wieters gone. Machado gone. Davis – no threat. I’m a big fan of Delmon Young – we need to see more of him. At least he is a major league hitter. Coast/Down/Coast/Up - getting set up for the final stretch.

Then there’s the secret weapon – the manager. The O’s have a shot with Buck-Buck. Buck-Buck is going to keep these boys focused. One of the few criticisms I have on Buck-Buck is, I wish he would get tossed more. Yes, I was and always will be an Earl Weaver fan. It’s going to take the leadership of Buck-Buck, Markakis, Jones and Hardy. If the O’ lose another key player – we are not going to be on any roller coaster ride. So you have your choice – The O’s Rollercoaster or the “Love Rollercoaster” – (Ohio Players). Both rides affect the blood pressure and adrenaline levels. I recommend jumping on both. Go O’s!

D.I.Y.

Fedman

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Machado 6-7

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Orioles Have Issues

Posted on 09 June 2014 by Tom Federline

A little over one-third of the way in and this current Oriole team is no playoff contender. At this stage in the game, it does not even look like either of the two wild cards are going to come out of the east division. Don’t get me started on the TWO (2) wild card teams and one game winner-take all scenario. That is bogus! For future (and from a past) blog – I say 142 game season (players salaries adjusted/decreased), season is from mid-April to mid-September, 3 division winners/ 1 wild card, 3 out of 5 Division series, 3 out of 5 Championship series, 4 out of 7 World Series. Season over by 2nd week of October. Ok enough, had to get that out there. Bottom line – O’s at current rate there will be no October ball anyway.

Oriole Issues - challenged starting pitching, questionable middle relief, no closer threat (yet), minimal clutch hitting, to many men left on base, increased errors, no catcher and lack of team discipline. All that and they are in second place of the American League East with a 31 – 30 record. To put in perspective -that is the 7th best record out of 15 teams in the American League and 14th out of 30, in both leagues. It is amazing they have been able to hold on as long as they have, considering the inflated pitching ERA and loss of their major signal caller and part backbone of the team (Wieters).

I see a team not focused. Next time you’re at the Yards, check out the dugout, during and in between innings. Buck-Buck does NOT have a handle on the boys. There should be a rule – ‘No one goes down the tunnel unless you are due up and require warm-ups for your at-bat. No buffet snacking during game. No video games. Just stay out of the tunnel and all it’s amenities.” Watch game, with teammates, on bench. That should not be tough requirement for the over-paid, spoiled, self-indulged roster players. Buck-Buck should remind them of their hourly rate.

I see a major bust in Jimenez. BTW – nice move Orioles magazine editor – putting Ubaldo-more on the cover of the first Oriole magazine this year. See blog from Opening Day – “Play Ball”.  One, maybe two decent games? He’s 2 -7 with a 5.01 ERA. Yeah, there’s a #2 starter for ya. “O” wait-a-minute, that’s right the weather has to warm up in order for him to perform at a comfortable level. Hmmm – seemed pretty warm to me for about a month now.

I saw a youngster breakdown and act his age this past weekend. Well, actually the over-paid, spoiled, self-indulged “star-in-the-making” acted more like a 10 year old. Team discipline? Manny-O-Manny, did you need your Mommy this weekend? Over -reaction on Friday night. Whined all weekend. Lackluster performance on his Bobblehead night annnnnnnnnd thennnnnnnn, yesterdays throwing of the bat. Fine him, suspend him, send him to his room with no snack before bed time. Maybe he was just miffed that they used a JJ Hardy look-a-like bobblehead instead of using the picture of himself he has hanging above his bed as the model.

Whatever the case, Machado still has some growing up to do. Ok, he’s still young, he will be 22 in July. Nope, not buying that one either. He needs a mentor. He needs a taste of Humble Pie.  He needs a butt kicking. He also needs to be put in the 6th hole and out of the #2 spot. He’s an inning killer. In particular, the first inning. Markakis is rolling at that top spot and it’s getting wasted. This is a case for Buck-Buck, Jones or Markakis to take control in the clubhouse. Actually, it’s a job for his parental units. Enough of that embarrassing situation.

The team appears in disarray at the moment. The boys holding this thing together are: Markakis, Jones, Cruuuuuz (until they pop him for juicy juice again) and Hardy. Pitching: Thank you Wei-Yin Chen, Bud Norris and Zach Britton – saving graces. Wieters being out – hurts offensively and defensively. The captain on the field is out and it shows. If the Orioles stay at current pace, it’s going to be a frustrating year. It’s time for Buck-Buck to “Whip It” – Devo. And whip it good! Get the boys back on track. How about one step at a time – just beat the Bosox!

D.I.Y.

Fedman

 

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Matt-Wieters-SI

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60 Greatest Members of the Orioles: 60-56

Posted on 19 May 2014 by Tony Wisniewski

If you missed the beginning of the “60 Greatest Members of the Orioles”, it covered the Honorable Mentions–the fellas who were worthy of being in the conversation, but ultimately failed to make the cut.  At last, here is the beginning of the list:

60.  Dennis Martinez, Pitcher

During his 11-year career in Baltimore, “El Presidente” recorded double-digit wins in six of those seasons.  An upper-echelon starter in the late 70s, Martinez was a large piece to the ’79 AL Championship team.

59.  Nick Markakis, Right Fielder

A pitching prospect out of college, Markakis quickly moved through the Orioles system and served as the lone bright spot several historically bad O’s teams.  While his power has diminished from the projections back in the mid-2000s, Markakis is a lock for the Orioles Hall of Fame for the simple fact of tenure and consistency during a time of turmoil and failure.

58.  Matt Wieters, Catcher

The Georgia Tech alum has never quite become “Mauer with power,” at least not to the degree that many expected when he was taken fifth overall in 2007.  With that being said, Wieters has been a mainstay in Baltimore since 2009 and a proven home-grown commodity–something the Orioles had previously struggled with in the 2000s.  Should Wieters sign a contract extension and remain in Baltimore, he’ll go down as the greatest catcher in club history.  

57.  Frank Cashen, General Manager

As the Director of Baseball Operations, Cashen played a major role in bringing Oriole-great Frank Robinson to town, despite the fact that Harry Dalton–who was GM at the time–routinely receives the notoriety.  Cashen’s best days were in New York, as the GM of the Mets, however, his Baltimore roots and contribution to multiple Orioles’ World Series makes him a lock for this list.

56. Rich Dauer, Second Baseman

Dauer, a projected big-time hitter coming through the O’s system in the mid-70s, never panned out in terms of being much of a threat at the dish; however, he was a fan-fave and his presence through the late 70s and early 80s was a big part of the team’s chemistry and its ability to rebound after losing the 1979 World Series to the Pirates.  He currently manages the AA affiliate of the San Diego Padres.

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Davis Oblique strain 4-25

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Rocky Start for O’s

Posted on 06 May 2014 by Tom Federline

Not exactly the start most Oriole fans were anticipating , now is it? Orioles are one (1) game above .500 at 15-14 and tied with the Yankees for first. Really? The Orioles have the same amount of wins as the last place team Toronto at 15-17.  Grant it the Orioles got a taste of all the teams in the East in the first month. Two-thirds of their games were against AL East. The entire division was going after each other in that first month. That is no excuse. Early in the year is no excuse. If you saw some of the games and not just O’s, you should agree, the caliber of play in the East is sub-par.  The AL East has started out looking like the battle of mediocrity.

The AL West may have surfaced as the more dominant division. Oakland, Texas and LA Angels are making a case as formidable opponents. Pitching is usually ahead of hitting and the Oakland A’s pitching staff is on fire. 4th in the Major Leagues with a 3.03 ERA, while the O’s are 22nd at a 4.28 ERA. The O’s pitching is suspect and the hitting comes in spurts, leaving to many runners in scoring position consistently. The way the O’s have started out, it looks like most teams are going to be formidable opponents this year.

After almost 30 games, let’s give an assessment, position-by-position:

Left field: Looks like we are going to have all hit and questionable fielding (Cruuuuuuuuz). Or all fielding and no hit (Lough). Cruz – is a bright spot. His hitting has saved many a game. Hopefully Brady has him on the “non-detectible juice diet”. Lough has been a disappointment. Needed him to step up as lead-off and that is not happening by a long shot.

Centerfield: Jones – I’m not a fan. He is over-rated as a fielder. He’s not hitting and he continues to be fooled by the low outside sinker/curve ball. He has gotten paid an awful lot of money to lose that habit. You would think after 8 years – he may have learned something. Clean-up hitter cannot be batting .250 with 1 HR.

Right field: Solid. Best right fielder in baseball. Has been robbed year after year on Gold Glove award.. Hitting over .300. Doing his job. He should not be leading off, but they have no one else to do the job. Nick is a better 3 or 5 hitter.

Third base: Heeeeee’s baaaaaack. They sure did lead us on that Machado was going to be ready for Opening Day, now didn’t they? That was an un-welcome surprise. When ole Manny jogged out onto that field on Opening Day, let’s just say he wasn’t looking sure footed. We’ll see how it plays out. Nice timing with him coming back and Davis going out. Flaherty and Schoop performed well. They just aren’t Manny.

Shortstop: The DL is inevitable for Hardy. You can see the pain and stiffness as he runs. Lower back spasms and hamstring problems. It’s only a matter of time. One of those two nagging ailments , is going to blow. That could hurt. He is the elder statesman and rock of that infield. His bat can do some talking also. Potentially another Flaherty/Schoop /Lambardozzi tandem.

Second base: Ouch, another questionable position. Schoop is close, but he’s not there yet. He needs to get through that first round of at bats. He’s another one fooled by the low sinker and steady diet of curve balls. He needs to make adjustments. I like Flaherty. Problem is you have to eat his bat. Just not consistent enough. I like Lombardozzi, but he is strictly a utility guy also.

First base: Just ouch  -

No HR or RBI title this year. Let alone will the threat still be there, when he gets back. When Davis gets back? That could be at the All-Star break. Team will miss his glove at first. He had a gold glove performance last year, but he fell victim to the unscrupulous GG voting also. Pearce is not the answer. Markakis should stay in right. Although, I believe first base is his ultimate position.

Catcher: Major surprise offensively. A blessing we were not expecting. Weiters, I don’t believe, has ever had a hot April. Well he had one this year. A pleasure to watch at the plate. Confident placing bat to the ball. What a relief when he comes up to the plate. The Orioles needed that. Defensively, still one of the best in the business. Don’t agree with him looking over at the dugout to get pitch call though. Maybe it’s to early, maybe him and some of the pitchers are not seeing eye to eye. But something isn’t right with the pitching.

Pitching: I’ll just keep it brief - Has NOT helped my blood pressure. Starting pitching has left us with “Suspicious Minds” – Elvis. Tilman is the only one who has come close to looking confident. Ubaldo finally had a decent outing last time out versus the Twinkies. Thank you Zach Britton for giving the middle relief some creds. I still don’t know half of the middle relievers. And I prefer a lights out closer. Hunter is no intimidator. That is not going to bode well, second time around.

Some positives and negatives to feed on. It seems like the O’s are hanging on a thread. I know it’s early. I know it’s going to be a long rough roller coaster ride. Maybe it will all come together in September? Your thoughts? Go O’s!

D.I.Y.

Fedman

 

 

 

 

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Lombardozzi squeezed out of infield picture with Machado’s return

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Lombardozzi squeezed out of infield picture with Machado’s return

Posted on 01 May 2014 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — The Orioles had a decision to make about the state of their infield with the much-anticipated return of third baseman Manny Machado, and Steve Lombardozzi ended up being the odd man out on Thursday.

Despite hitting .292 in 72 at-bats, the 25-year-old infielder was optioned to Triple-A Norfolk to make room for Machado on the 25-man roster, raising a few eyebrows among fans who expected the light-hitting Ryan Flaherty or the recently-recalled Jemile Weeks to be demoted. As is typically the case when faced with these decisions, manager Buck Showalter and executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette sided with the stronger defensive player.

Weeks provides an element of speed that the Orioles are taking advantage of for the time being.

“I think where we are as a club and what are needs are going to be with Manny coming back, just initially [Jemile] might fit us a tad better, but we’ll see,” Showalter said. “But that’s a good tough decision. Two switch-hitting middle infielders.”

With Machado and shortstop J.J. Hardy coming off injuries and the first base position in flux with Chris Davis on the disabled list, versatility is a must off the bench and Flaherty has the ability to play quality defense at all four infield positions. Lombardozzi appeared in 19 games this season at second base but did not play another position as there are questions about his arm strength to play on the left side of the infield.

Of course, the Orioles could revisit the decision if Hardy and Machado play a couple weeks without any injury concerns, which would decrease the urgency for having Flaherty at their immediate disposal off the bench.

For what it’s worth, Lombardozzi’s career .638 on-base plus slugging percentage is only slightly higher than Flaherty’s .636. Of course, the latter is off to a poor start at the plate for the second year in a row and is hitting just .188.

Veteran Steve Pearce was officially back in the Orioles clubhouse Thursday and made the start at first base in Game 1 of the doubleheader against the Pittsburgh Pirates. While right fielder Nick Markakis and Flaherty could still factor into the puzzle at first base, Pearce figures to receive an extensive opportunity as he’s played 94 games at the position in the major leagues.

“Stevie’s been hitting, he’s stayed active during the time,” said Showalter, referencing the fact that Pearce was designated for assignment on April 22. “I don’t think he ever left Baltimore.”

Machado did not start in the opening game of the doubleheader as Showalter and the 21-year-old both agreed it would be too aggressive to try to play 18 innings in his 2014 season debut. The Baltimore manager didn’t want Machado playing in Game 1 and sitting around all evening before coming off the bench to play in the late innings if necessary.

The third baseman said he didn’t do anything special over the last three days other than his normal in-season workouts and admitted he would feel some nerves before taking the field in Game 2. Showalter quipped that Thursday night would be Machado’s Opening Day after the All-Star break, referencing the club’s three straight days off because of inclement weather.

“It’s actually been kind of good for him to take his breath and get settled here in the locker room instead of traveling back and forth to Frederick,” Showalter said. “There’s nobody more excited today than Manny.”

The Orioles will activate left-handed relief pitcher Troy Patton after the first game of the doubleheader, meaning they will need to make a roster move before the nightcap. Showalter acknowledged having a roster move in mind and an intention to keep the roster at 12 pitchers, but that was dependent on how the pitching staff made it through the opening game.

Candidates to be sent out included long reliever Josh Stinson — who would need to be designated for assignment — and fellow reliever Evan Meek, who has an option remaining.

In injury-related news, veteran left-hander Johan Santana was able to touch 86 to 87 miles per hour on a few occasions while pitching in a simulated game in Sarasota on Monday. Trying to make a comeback from shoulder surgery, Santana’s velocity has steadily increased since he was signed in the spring.

Outfielder Nolan Reimold took batting practice Wednesday in Sarasota as he continues to rehab his surgically-repaired neck on the 60-day disabled list.

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Schoop should stick with Orioles in wake of Davis injury

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Schoop should stick with Orioles in wake of Davis injury

Posted on 28 April 2014 by Luke Jones

It all appeared to be coming together as third baseman Manny Machado started his rehab assignment and the Orioles anticipated having their full lineup together for the first time all season.

Of course, a left oblique strain suffered by Chris Davis has delayed that vision indefinitely, but Machado is expected to return this week, instantly boosting the infield defense as well as helping an offense now devoid of Davis’ Herculean power. Even with the All-Star third baseman’s return, the injury to Davis forces manager Buck Showalter and executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette to alter the way in which they view the starting lineup.

Even if Nick Markakis proves capable of handling the defensive duties of first base — his errant throw on a rundown play led to a run in Sunday’s loss to Kansas City — he’s a significant downgrade offensively just like any realistic replacement would be. It’s why the Orioles may need to take chances elsewhere in trying to make up for Davis’ absence.

In addition to Nelson Cruz filling a full-time outfield role with Markakis in the infield, the Orioles would be wise to continue playing Jonathan Schoop at second base after Machado officially returns. His future appeared to be the club’s biggest roster decision a few days ago as the argument could be made that Schoop needs more seasoning and both Steve Lombardozzi and Ryan Flaherty are stronger defensive players.

But when missing a player of Davis’ ability, the Orioles would benefit from Schoop’s offensive upside while also remembering he’s handled 30 chances at second base without an error. The 22-year-old has struggled bouncing back and forth between second and third base due to the Orioles’ injury-related needs in the first month of the season, but his four errors have all come while playing the hot corner.

“He’s going to turn the double play well above average with arm strength,” said Showalter when asked to assess Schoop’s play at second base. “That’s one thing that steps out at you. He could profile down the road as an offensive run producer that can play the middle infield. We’ll see. I feel confident that Jonathan is going to be as good as he’s capable of being. That’s what makes me feel good about him.”

Truthfully, his offensive numbers don’t overwhelm you as Schoop is hitting just .241 and has struck out 26 times in his first 82 plate appearances as major league pitchers continue to challenge him with breaking balls, but his numbers dwarf Flaherty’s paltry .188 average and he has more power (.405 slugging percentage) than Lombardozzi (.333), who appears best suited for a utility role.

We’ve seen with Showalter’s patient handling of Flaherty that defense can trump offensive production with the rest of the lineup so dangerous, but the Orioles must be more judicious in that approach with Davis missing from the order. Schoop has given no reason to indicate he can’t play a solid second base — the position at which he had the most experience in the minor leagues — and is fifth on the club in total bases and first in doubles.

The rockets he hit in New York and Toronto earlier this month for his two home runs show what kind of power potential he brings to the table. It’d be interesting to see what he can do without the unrest of switching positions on a regular basis weight on his mind.

“You can be in the big leagues 10 years and it’s never going to be easy, but I think the game’s slowing down a little bit,” Schoop said. “I’ve still got to get better. In situations, I’ve got to think what I’m going to do before the ball comes to me. I’ve got to get better.”

A few days ago, it would have been easy for the Orioles to send Schoop to Triple-A Norfolk and settle on the strong defensive platoon of Flaherty and Lombardozzi at second base while watching the rest of the lineup wreak havoc on opposing pitchers. But with Davis sidelined and his teammates trying to pick up the slack, the second base position needs to provide some of the offensive lifting.

While far from a finished product, the Curacao native has shown more than enough flashes for the Orioles to take a chance that he’ll be up to the task.

“I’m glad he’s on our side. He’s got a chance to be a pretty good one,” Showalter said. “But we’ll see where he settles out and see how things go with Manny in the next few days.”

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Orioles move Markakis to first base with Davis sidelined

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Orioles move Markakis to first base with Davis sidelined

Posted on 26 April 2014 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — Veteran right fielder Nick Markakis prepared to make his third career start at first base Saturday night as the Orioles awaited the results of Chris Davis’ magnetic resonance imaging scan on the strained left oblique he suffered in Friday’s loss to the Kansas City Royals.

Davis told reporters he was feeling a little better on Saturday, and manager Buck Showalter described the All-Star first baseman as “day to day” for the time being. The Orioles are hoping Davis can avoid a trip to the 15-day disabled list and scheduled days off on Monday and Thursday would ease the hardship of him being unavailable for a few days.

Markakis hadn’t started a game at first base since Sept. 4, 2011 and was on the field early Saturday afternoon working at the position where he’d only appeared three times in his nine-year career. Showalter moved Nelson Cruz to right field and placed the newly-recalled Jemile Weeks in the leadoff spot as the designated hitter with Markakis moving to the No. 3 position in the lineup.

Whether Markakis remains the first baseman in Davis’ absence is undetermined, but the Orioles have few options on the 25-man roster after designating veteran Steve Pearce for assignment earlier this week. Showalter indicated hesitancy in moving catcher Matt Wieters to first base when he’s not starting behind the plate.

Markakis played first base extensively at Young Harris College before the Orioles drafted him with the seventh overall pick of the 2003 amateur draft.

“He’s one of our options,” said Showalter, who moved Ryan Flaherty to first base when Davis exited in the fifth inning of Friday’s game. “We’ll see how it presents itself tonight. [Nick] takes some work there every once in a while.”

Davis’ immediate future remains up in the air, but the Orioles are optimistic about Manny Machado’s pending return to the lineup after the 21-year-old third baseman went 1-for-4 and started at third base in Single-A Frederick’s 4-2 loss to Carolina on Saturday. Machado is scheduled to play third base once again at Frederick on Sunday before the Orioles decide whether he’ll continue playing for the Keys or will move to Triple-A Norfolk on Monday.

Showalter didn’t dismiss the possibility of Machado rejoining the Orioles for their two-game series against Pittsburgh that begins on Tuesday, but next weekend appears to be the logical target for his return when Baltimore travels to Minnesota to take on the Twins.

“I wouldn’t say anything is [off] the table right now,” said Showalter, who dismissed the notion that Davis’ injury might rush the timetable to activate Machado. “It’s a baseball decision right now as much as physical.. We will have a pretty good idea after tomorrow.”

Here are Saturday night’s lineups:

KANSAS CITY
RF Nori Aoki
2B Omar Infante
1B Eric Hosmer
DH Billy Butler
LF Alex Gordon
C Salvador Perez
3B Danny Valencia
CF Justin Maxwell
SS Alcides Escobar

SP Jeremy Guthrie (2-1, 4.68 ERA)

BALTIMORE
DH Jemile Weeks
RF Nelson Cruz
1B Nick Markakis
CF Adam Jones
C Matt Wieters
SS J.J. Hardy
3B Ryan Flaherty
2B Jonathan Schoop
LF David Lough

SP Wei-Yin Chen (3-1, 4.91 ERA)

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Lough, Lombardozzi receive first starts with Orioles

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Lough, Lombardozzi receive first starts with Orioles

Posted on 02 April 2014 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — Trying to build upon the good vibes of their season-opening win over the Boston Red Sox, the Orioles returned to Camden Yards on Wednesday with a pair of changes to their lineup in the second meeting of a three-game set.

David Lough was penciled in to start in left field while the newly-acquired Steve Lombardozzi received his first start at second base as manager Buck Showalter tries to get all of his position players a start in the early days of the 2014 season. With right-hander John Lackey going to the hill for Boston, Lough was already expected to start in left — with Nelson Cruz moving to the designated hitter spot — and understands his role hitting in the No. 2 spot in the order.

“Just get on base. I get on base, I score,” said the 28-year-old Lough, who was acquired from the Kansas City Royals in exchange for Danny Valencia in the offseason. “Look who is hitting behind me. A lot of great hitters.”

Meanwhile, Lombardozzi was excited to receive his first start with his hometown team after growing up in Columbia and graduating from Atholton High. Rookie Jonathan Schoop is expected to receive most of the playing time at second base — the position at which Showalter would like to play him exclusively — but Lombardozzi’s versatility makes him a valuable piece the Orioles acquired from the Detroit Tigers near the end of spring training.

Entering his fourth major league season, Lombardozzi played second base, shortstop, third base, and left field in his three years with the Washington Nationals even though he acknowledged prior to Wednesday’s game that his best position is second base.

Lombardozzi wasn’t sure of an exact count but expected plenty of family members and friends to be in attendance for his Orioles debut.

“I’ve definitely got some nerves, but I’m really excited to get out there and help this team win,” Lombardozzi said. “It was cool being out there for Opening Day. I came to a couple of them growing up. I’m very fortunate to be back close to home. It’s a good feeling to be with this organization.”

Markakis continues to lead off

Though he is still receiving treatment for a stiff neck, Nick Markakis was once again in the lineup and leading off as Showalter indicated the right fielder would remain in the top spot for the foreseeable future.

With Nate McLouth now in Washington and David Lough still trying to establish himself as an everyday player, Markakis represents the best option that the Orioles have despite lacking the prototypical speed for a leadoff hitter. The 30-year-old received his first extensive time in the role in 2012 when he batted .335 with five home runs, 28 runs batted in, and an .879 on-base plus slugging percentage in 54 games

“He doesn’t mind doing it. He embraces it,” Showalter said. “I don’t think I’ve ever had a club that never dwelled on where they hit in the order like this one. I hope it’s because they kind of trust what we’re trying to get done. I asked Nick in the spring, ‘In a perfect world, where would you want to hit in the order?’ You can imagine what Nick’s response was. ‘I don’t care. Whatever you need me to do.’”

Showalter acknowledged that Lough’s speed might make him an attractive option in the leadoff spot at some point this season.

Santana, Bundy progressing

Showalter continues to be encouraged by the progress of veteran left-hander Johan Santana, who threw 30 pitches off a full mound in Sarasota on Tuesday. The two-time American League Cy Young Award winner threw his full assortment of pitches as he continues to try to build up his velocity after last year’s surgery on his left shoulder capsule.

The bigger question than how hard he can throw will be whether Santanta can find that ideal 10-miles-per-hour difference between his fastball and changeup, according to Showalter.

“He had one of the best changeups in baseball,” Showalter said, “but if his velocity is only 85, can he drop his changeup to 75? I don’t know. And is 85 enough? I think the hitters are going to answer a lot of those questions. In my mind, [I know] what I’d love to see on the gun in a perfect world. But all indications are so far, so good. He hasn’t had any setbacks.”

Top pitching prospect Dylan Bundy threw 25 fastballs from a mound on Wednesday as he continues to work his way back to full strength from Tommy John surgery. Showalter continues to be pleased with his progress even though he’s not quite as far along as Santana.

Outfielder Francisco Peguero had the cast removed from his right wrist on Wednesday and remains on the 15-day disabled list.

Here are Wednesday night’s lineups:

BOSTON
LF Daniel Nava
2B Dustin Pedroia
DH David Ortiz
1B Mike Napoli
LF Jonny Gomes
CF Grady Sizemore
SS Xander Bogaerts
C A.J. Pierzynski
3B Will Middlebrooks

SP John Lackey (0-0, 0.00)

BALTIMORE
RF Nick Markakis
LF David Lough
CF Adam Jones
1B Chris Davis
DH Nelson Cruz
C Matt Wieters
SS J.J. Hardy
3B Ryan Flaherty
2B Steve Lombardozzi

SP Ubaldo Jimenez (0-0, 0.00 ERA)

Follow WNST on Twitter throughout the evening for live updates and analysis from Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

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