Tag Archive | "Nick Markakis"

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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Markakis plays on Opening Day despite neck issue

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Markakis plays on Opening Day despite neck issue

Posted on 31 March 2014 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — Beginning the 2014 season with hopes of returning to the postseason for the second time in three years, the Orioles received good news prior to their season opener against the Boston Red Sox with the news of right fielder Nick Markakis being in the lineup.

Dealing with a stiff neck over the weekend, the 30-year-old took batting practice and appeared to have no limitations swinging the bat before manager Buck Showalter officially inserted him in the lineup in the leadoff spot. The Baltimore skipper did not sound overly concerned about Markakis’ status in his pre-game comments, but he expressed the desire to be cautious without buying into the hype of Markakis wanting to play on Opening Day.

Even though left-hander Jon Lester will take the hill for Boston, the Orioles will send Ryan Flaherty to third base with rookie Jonathan Schoop playing second base. There had been some thought that the left-handed hitting Flaherty would sit against the southpaw with utility man Steve Lombardozzi factoring into the season-opening order. Flaherty received only 25 plate appearances against left-handed pitching last year and went 5-for-23 with a home run.

Schoop will become the first Orioles rookie since Luis Hernandez in 2008 to be in the starting lineup on Opening Day.

It was the spring’s worst-kept secret, but Showalter confirmed Monday morning that he informed right-handed pitcher Tommy Hunter that he will begin the year as the Baltimore closer. The manager also acknowledged that nothing is set in stone as he has other bullpen candidates in mind as ninth-inning options should Hunter not succeed.

Right-hander Josh Stinson will begin the season as the club’s primary long reliever, but lefties Zach Britton and Brian Matusz are also available to provide more length after being stretched out during spring training. Of course, the Orioles could always look at No. 4 and No. 5 starters Miguel Gonzalez and Bud Norris to give them extra options out of the bullpen if necessary with the abundance of early-season days off.

While the Orioles monitored Markakis’ status over the weekend, the Red Sox announced that outfielder Shane Victorino was heading to the 15-day disabled list, prompting Boston to recall outfielder Jackie Bradley, Jr. to replace him on the 25-man roster.

Here are the Opening Day lineups:

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

SP Jon Lester (0-0, 0.00 ERA)

BALTIMORE
RF Nick Markakis
SS J.J. Hardy
CF Adam Jones
1B Chris Davis
LF Nelson Cruz
C Matt Wieters
DH Delmon Young
3B Ryan Flaherty
2B Jonathan Schoop

SP Chris Tillman (0-0, 0.00 ERA)

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

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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’ hot stove rumblings surround Beltran, Wieters, Markakis

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Orioles’ hot stove rumblings surround Beltran, Wieters, Markakis

Posted on 16 November 2013 by WNST Staff

Rumblings out of MLB’s annual fall GM meetings included some interesting rumors surrounding the Baltimore Orioles late this week.

The first from Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal is particularly interesting…

Carlos Beltran will turn 37 in April, but is coming off a season with slash lines of .296/.339/.491 with 24 home runs and 84 RBI. It’s not known immediately what the market is for the outfielder with a propensity for big postseason hits, but considering Marlon Byrd got a 2 year, $16 million deal and it also 36 you would have to assume the market for Beltran would be greater.

Rosenthal says the Orioles are looking to dump a salary in order to pursue Beltran, throwing out the name of Matt Wieters as a possibility. This is logical considering a report of his from earlier in the week regarding the catcher and 1B Chris Davis, a fellow Scott Boras client.

(Rosenthal was clearly referring to closer Jim Johnson there.)

The other issue surrounding Beltran is that he isn’t a left fielder, the only outfield position the Birds’ currently have open. So how could the O’s both trade away a large salary and get Beltran on the field? From SNY New York…

SNY did go on to report that the Orioles are “not eager” to deal their former first round pick and Gold Glove winning right fielder.

So Orioles fans, what do you think of the rumors surrounding the Birds in the early stages of the Hot Stove season?

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Markakis GG 2013

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GOLD GLOVE AWARD COMMITS ERRORS

Posted on 12 November 2013 by Tom Federline

The Orioles became the best defensive club in a major league season this past year. They were “charged” with 54 errors – pretty impressive. At times during the year, the Orioles fielding prowess was the only thing worth watching when tuning into the O’s. But did they really establish a new record? How many full games or parts of games did you see this year? I’ll say, I saw parts of 50%. Of that 50%, I saw at least 15+ errors that were never charged (not all on the Orioles). Whatever happened to – “If it hits the glove and you do not make a play – it’s an error”? Whatever happened to – “If you throw the ball and it is not within 5 feet of the intended player – it is a throwing error”? You have to wonder who or what entity controls the “official scorer”.

The Orioles were awarded 3 Gold Gloves for 2013. In my book, the total number of 3 was right. It’s just that I thought 2 out of the 3 were wrong. Those awarded: a) Machado – a no brainer, he deserved it. b) JJ Hardy – solid and reliable, shades of Cal – when the ball is hit to him, 98% of the time a guaranteed out. Quite refreshing. c) Adam Jones – one of the best. Two things benefited Jones this past year: 1. No one else really came close to playing as many games in centerfield this year, thus he had the most chances and 2. Jones fell into the category of “not being charged with” errors when I saw at least 5 errors he committed early in the year. A few rebuttals here were that Yunel Escober of the Tampa Bay Rays committed the least amount of errors at SS and had close to the same amount of chances as Hardy. Mike Trout (LA Angels), 1 error in center (not as many chances as Jones though) And the Tampa Bay Rays in general – they ended up with the second best defensive stats in the Major League but were awarded no gold glove winners.

The 2 obvious Orioles that were overlooked were Chris Davis and Nick Markakis. Wieters also proved a nice case for himself. Chris Davis committed fewer errors than Eric Hosmer (winner with KC), while tallying approximately the same number of games played and chances. The glaring atrocity of the GG Awards this past year was that the best right fielder in baseball (American and National Leagues) was spurned again. Nick Markakis played the most games of any right fielder (AL), had the most chances of any right fielder (AL) and was charged with ZERO errors. That’s right people, a 1.000 fielding percentage and he does not win the Gold Glove. Can you say “fix”? The GG Award is supposedly voted on by managers and coaches……are they blind, ignorant or bought? Wait-a-minute, they did add another supposed measurable component this year – Sabermetrics (SABR). In our misguided world of Information Technology and everything must be measured by numbers – a group of geek numbnuts who have probably never stepped onto a baseball field, came up with some sort of indexing of defensive stats. SABR this! Once again, no “Respect” – (Aretha Franklin) for Nick. It’s wrong, man. Just all wrong.

Shane Victorino (Boston – need I say more), was the recipient of the tainted
GG glove in right field for the American League. I am not going to go through every position in the American League – I do not have to. There is enough evidence with just the Oriole players that have been mentioned. The Gold Glove Award became a joke when Cal Jr. was spurned many a time throughout his career due to the “flashy” Omar Vizquel. And then of course there was the infamous Rafeal Palmeiro incident of 1999, when he played 28 games at first base and WON the Gold Glove. Paleease people, was the selection committee also on steroids?

The Gold Glove Award – an award that you hope a true dedicated baseball player would covet. An award that should be the reflection of an acquired high skill level that all started with a glove, a ball and a wall. An award you hope could not be tainted. Unfortunately it has been. It is a shame that the selection committee for a prestigious award commits obvious errors when near perfection should be rewarded.

Enough, let’s end on a positive…….. at least the Baltimore Orioles were recognized. Kudos to Machado, Hardy and Jones – they earned it. They are in the upper echelon in fielding at their position. The Baltimore Orioles are blessed with great defensive talent at almost every position. We the fans are the beneficiaries. The past few years it has seemed like old school – glimpses of the Oriole way.
GO O’s. T-minus around 106 days until the beginning of Preseason baseball. Lookout Sarasota.

D.I.Y.
FEDMAN

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Schoop new 2b 9-25-13

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Orioles Disappoint Down Stretch

Posted on 27 September 2013 by Tom Federline

It was Saturday August 24th, O’s vs. A’s, 4:05 game time. Beautiful August late afternoon/early evening, the heat of the day was cooling off, sun was out, partly cloudy, Camden Yards at it’s finest. Perfect size crowd of around 25,000 – the real Orioles fans. O’s lost 2 – 1 on a HR by the A’s in the 9th. I watched the O’s dugout the whole game. Lifeless. No cheering. No banter. No sign of competitiveness. Baseball players just going though the motions. Only person offering any sign of encouragement to his teammates was Weiters. It was half-way through that game – my Orioles season ended. It was apparent – NO Oriole Magic in that clubhouse – discouraging.

It seemed throughout the whole season you were just waiting for the O’s to break out. Put that 10 game winning streak together. Leave the Yankee cheaters and the Tampa Bay “fake indoor baseball guys” in their own steroid dust. Get even with the Red Sux for a division crown run. It never happened. What consistently happened was bullpen/closer breakdown and lack of clutch hitting with runners in scoring position. A complete 180 from last year – discouraging.

What can we hope for? Gold Glove recognition! My votes – 1. Some young guy at third, think his name is Manny Mucho Machado? 2. Markakis. 3.Weiters. 4. Davis. 5. Jason Pridie. No Adam Jones – I saw at least 6 errors by him in the first 2 months of the season and he was charged with only one. I believe he has been charged with a total of 2 for the year, yeah right. Jones is good, but he is not the best center fielder in the American league. The Defense was outstanding this past year. Potential record breaking (if Buck-Buck would stop playing the minor leaguers). Reminded me of the O’s golden years in the late 60′s, early 70′s. Machado continuously amazed. If he doesn’t walk away with the award at third………..you know what I’m going to say….The Fix is on. O’s defense – encouraging.

What can we hope for? Thank you, Brian Roberts – but it’s time to go away. Out with the old – in with the new. And it looks like we have new! Get used to hearing this song at the Yards – “Shoop” by Salt N’ Pepa. The song is horrible, but it has a nice reprise/riff. and that’s all we need to hear when the next Future Hall of Famer, Jonathan Schoop come up to bat. Yeah, I’m calling another one. Looks like the O’s have a new second basemen in town and he came from down on our own farm. I don’t know the correct pronunciation of whether it’s (scope), (Scoop) or (shoop). He will always be Shoop, shoop, shoop, da woop to me. Brace yourself gang, I have seen him play in the minors, he’s a baseball player. Now can he hang with the big boys? O’s new 2nd baseman -encouraging.

What can we hope for? MASN and the Orioles FIRE Gary “Thorn in our Side”. What is sadder than his ignorance of the sport and irritating chatter, is the that some O’s/MASN numbnut(s) a. hired him and b. continually renew his contract. Take a clip of 10 minutes from any game and I’ll bet you “Thorn in our side” will screw up a call, incorrectly describe what is happening on the field, call out the wrong count, team, player and the worst of it all…..makes the call for the opposing team with greater enthusiasm than for the Orioles. I just do not understand his presence in a baseball broadcast booth. I have heard him do bowling once and I even had to turn that off. As you know, when I have the chance to watch the game, I mute the TV and listen to the radio. Sometimes on the weekend we are given a reprieve with Jim Hunter and Mike Bordick. The Baltimore area is blessed with Joe Angel and Fred Manfra on the radio end. Now there is talent and entertainment – encouraging.

The Orioles have succeeded in finishing with a second straight winning season. We haven’t experienced that in awhile. Expectations were high. They had a shot. No closer threat and losing as opposed to winning those 1-run games was the difference. Need a different atmosphere in the clubhouse. Bring Kevin Millar back. Buck-Buck needs to stop allowing them to go down into the tunnel and back into the locker room for the buffet table, cell phone texting or tweeting or whatever else they do down there. Get them on the bench with their teammates in the dugout. For a minimum of $15,000/night – they can refrain from pampering themselves. Team unity – discouraging.

Disappointing outcome of what seemingly was a promising year. They are close – just need to find the right “nuggets”. Right Buck-Buck? Orioles need a couple more “gold nuggets” to compete in the east. Preferably ones with powerful right or left arms. Get those nuggets and O’s 2014 – encouraging!

D.I.Y.

Fedman

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Showalter leaving door open for ninth-inning options besides Johnson

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Showalter leaving door open for ninth-inning options besides Johnson

Posted on 16 August 2013 by Luke Jones

(This blog brought to you by Atlantic Remodeling. Visit www.atlanticremodeling.com to learn about their Red Cent Guarantee!)

BALTIMORE — With the Orioles returning home following a deflating three-game sweep at the hands of the Arizona Diamondbacks, the question on everyone’s mind was who would take the ball in the ninth inning for manager Buck Showalter.

Having blown his last three save opportunities to run his total to a league-worst nine for the season, closer Jim Johnson told reporters in the Orioles clubhouse that he remains confident and that Showalter continues to express confidence in him. And while it’s true that the Baltimore manager maintained Friday that Johnson was still the best option on the team, he also provided himself wiggle room to make a change if he feels it to be necessary.

“I think we have a lot of options and he’s one of them,” Showalter said. “We’re lucky to have all those options. Different guys have failure. I know the finality of it and I know the questions should and need to be asked and it’s frustrating for Jimmy and me. I’m frustrated for him. There’s some things we haven’t done in other innings, too, but I understand the finality of that inning.”

Johnson still leads the majors with 39 saves, but the embattled right-hander is just 9-for-16 in one-run saves as many have pointed to the Orioles’ horrendous 56-9 mark when leading after eight innings and an underwhelming 14-21 record in one-run games after going a remarkable 29-9 in contests decided by one run last year. Those ugly realities have led most to the conclusion that the Orioles need to make a change at the closer spot — at least temporarily.

Showalter has repeatedly expressed his confidence in Johnson this year — including when the 30-year-old reliever blew four of five save chances in late May — but that loyalty is now appearing to contradict the ultimate goal of winning enough games to qualify for postseason play. If Showalter is planning a change, it comes as no surprise that he isn’t broadcasting that for both competitive reasons and respect for the 2012 All-Star closer.

Some have suggested even just giving Johnson a mental and physical respite for a number of days to see if that straightens him out for the stretch run, but the club has already tried to do that at a couple points this season, according to Showalter. If the next save opportunity comes Friday or later this weekend or even next week, the Orioles aren’t tipping their hand whether it will once again be Johnson or somebody else trotting to the hill in the ninth inning.

“If we decide to do that, there’s not going to be some big announcement,” Showalter said. “It will be something I’ve talked to people about and you’ll probably know about it when the gate opens. There are a lot of things that have to be done for us to get 27 outs before they score more runs than we do.”

Even Showalter’s biggest supporters have questioned the sanity of continuing to use Johnson in the ninth inning, a reality not lost on the manager as the Orioles start an important nine-game homestand to take them to the final days of August.

He’s very aware that the Orioles have lost some games that they shouldn’t have won, but Showalter’s intense loyalty to his players that is typically viewed as his greatest strength looks much more like a weakness at this point.

“I’m a fan, too. I get frustrated. We’re all fans of the Orioles,” Showalter said. “I’m a fan of the Orioles and I want us to win. If there are adjustments that need to be made along the way, I understand the sense of urgency with 42 games [left]. But I also know we’re still in a position to do what we set out to do this season and we won’t give in.”

No timetable for Adair’s return to club

As the organization did in announced Rick Adair’s personal leave of absence on Friday morning, Showalter remained respectful of his privacy and would not divulge any details about the circumstances with which the pitching coach is dealing.

Bullpen coach Bill Castro will assume the duties of pitching coach while former Orioles left-hander and minor-league instructor Scott McGregor will serve as the interim bullpen coach. Castro has major league experience as a pitching coach after previously serving in that capacity with the Milwaukee Brewers as recently as 2009.

Many reacted to the news by immediately speculating that this was a polite way to dismiss Adair, but the Orioles have been emphatic that the reason for the leave of absence isn’t related to his job performance. We could eventually learn there is more to this story, but it’s also important to remember coaches and players are also human beings with everyday trials just like anyone else.

“We all have some things in our lives we need to take care of that are more important than this, believe it or not,” Showalter said. “We’re just fortunate to be in an organization that is willing to do those things, and we’re fortunate to have people like Billy and Scott that can make it seamless. It has nothing to do with the job Rick is doing. Rick’s been doing a good job. Just some challenges we all have that we need to take some time and take care of.”

Showalter held a team meeting Friday afternoon to inform them of the shuffling along the coaching ranks and to address any rumors that might hear about Adair’s absence. Castro met with Orioles pitchers individually prior to the series opener against Colorado.

Gausman dealing with arm soreness

After top pitching prospect Dylan Bundy underwent Tommy John surgery earlier in the season, the last thing Orioles fans wanted to hear Friday was that 2012 first-round pick Kevin Gausman was skipped in the Triple-A Norfolk rotation with some soreness in his right arm.

Showalter made it clear that this isn’t considered to be anything serious, but the club also presented a similar prognosis when Bundy first complained of forearm discomfort. Of course, pitchers frequently deal with sore or tired arms and it doesn’t mean Gausman is facing any type of long-term issue at this time, but it will be something the Orioles will monitor for the time being.

“He feels good. He’s not happy about not pitching, but just had a little soreness,” Showalter said. “[It will] probably be the last time he ever tells us about it. That’s usually how it goes. They don’t seem alarmed about it. There was some give and take about whether they were even going to do it.”

The good news is that Showalter acknowledged the extra rest would benefit Gausman in terms of his workload and referred to the likely scenario of Gausman helping out the major league club in September and beyond.

Gausman last pitched on Aug. 8 when he allowed two earned runs in five innings of work for the Tides.

Changing it up

For the second time over the last week, Showalter flipped first baseman Chris Davis and right fielder Nick Markakis in the batting order as Davis was hitting third and Markakis fifth in Friday’s lineup against the Colorado Rockies.

Showalter admitted there were a variety of reasons for making the change, ranging from a desire to get Davis more at-bats to simply wanting to shake things up in hopes of jump-starting the offense. With both Davis and Markakis swinging from the left side, the change keeps the lineup in order in terms of making it difficult for a bullpen to match up in the late innings as Showalter frequently alternates right-handers and left-handers.

“Nick doesn’t care if he hits ninth, first, second, third, twelfth. He would probably have a problem with hitting twelfth,” Showalter quipped. “It’s just something we feel like is a good approach for today. We’ll see where it takes us.”

While Davis is in the midst of an MVP-caliber year, Markakis’ .282 batting average, .335 on-base percentage, and .372 slugging percentage are all career lows, making an easy argument against the right fielder remaining in the No. 3 slot in the lineup. It will also be interesting to see what it means for Davis with Adam Jones hitting directly behind him in the order compared to either Matt Wieters or J.J. Hardy as we’ve seen for most of the season.

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Handing out Orioles awards at the All-Star break

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Handing out Orioles awards at the All-Star break

Posted on 16 July 2013 by Luke Jones

(This blog brought to you by Atlantic Remodeling. Visit www.atlanticremodeling.com to learn about their Red Cent Guarantee!)

Standing at 53-43 and sending five representatives to Tuesday’s All-Star Game at Citi Field in New York, the Orioles had quite the memorable first 3 1/2 months of the season filled with plenty of highs and also some lows.

Before manager Buck Showalter and the Orioles get back to business in Texas on Friday, I’ve composed my list of All-Star break awards. Some are more serious than others, but there was plenty to remember over the first 96 games of the 2013 season.

Most Valuable Player: Chris Davis
Skinny: Manny Machado deserves more consideration here than most will give him if you take his remarkable defense into account, but the Orioles first baseman is on pace to break franchise records for RBIs, slugging percentage, OPS, extra-base hits, and total bases as well as surpass the American League home run record of 61 set by Roger Maris in 1961. Who else could it really be?

Best Starting Pitcher: Miguel Gonzalez
Skinny: Chris Tillman received the All-Star nod, but Gonzalez has been the Orioles’ best starter, especially since posting a 2.88 earned run average in his last 10 starts upon returning from a May stint on the 15-day disabled list. The 29-year-old posted seven straight quality starts heading into the All-Star break and his 3.48 ERA is the best in the starting rotation.

Best Relief Pitcher: Tommy Hunter
Skinny: Darren O’Day earned consideration here, but Hunter’s ability to pitch more than one inning has saved the bullpen numerous times. With Luis Ayala traded early in the season and Pedro Strop unable to bounce back from his late-season struggles from a year ago, the Orioles would have been in major trouble with their bullpen without Hunter’s 2.41 ERA and 52 1/3 innings of work.

Biggest Surprise: Manny Machado
Skinny: With Davis taking aim at the record books, it’s difficult not to give him the nod here, but I would have predicted Davis to be more likely for a breakout season than Machado, who just celebrated his 21st birthday less than two weeks ago. We now see the third baseman as a doubles machine with a shot at the single-season record, but many thought Showalter had gotten too much Florida sun when he put the unproven Machado in the No. 2 lineup spot at the start of the season.

Biggest Disappointment: Jason Hammel
Skinny: The Opening Day starter was counted on to be the de facto ace and has instead looked like the weak link in the current starting rotation. His 5.24 ERA is worse than his career mark, but most of his other numbers align closely with his career statistics prior to his arrival in Baltimore last season.

Most Overrated Performer: Nick Markakis
Skinny: The Orioles right fielder was close to being voted into the All-Star Game, but he is on pace for career lows in batting average and OPS and has become more of a singles hitter in recent years except for his 2012 injury-plagued campaign. Markakis is still a good player, but the clamoring for his inclusion in the Midsummer Classic was more about his popularity and less about his production. Many will argue that catcher Matt Wieters deserves this distinction, but few tried to say he was deserving of All-Star honors with his poor offensive output this season.

Most Underrated Performer: Nate McLouth
Skinny: Even McLouth’s biggest supporters had to wonder if the second-half success he enjoyed last season was a fluke, but the left fielder continues to be a spark plug at the top of the order and on the base paths with a team-leading 24 stolen bases. He doesn’t do anything that blows you away, but McLouth makes a substantial contribution just about every night, whether it shows up in the box score or not.

Most Improved Player: Ryan Flaherty
Skinny: The second baseman hit .133 in his first 102 plate appearances before being demoted to Triple-A Norfolk and has batted .300 in 94 plate appearances since being recalled at the end of May. The simple fact that many are clamoring for Flaherty to play over veteran Brian Roberts says all you need to know about his improvement since the start of the season.

Biggest Injury: Wei-Yin Chen’s strained right oblique
Skinny: The Taiwanese lefty went down with the injury in mid-May, leaving a major hole in the rotation for nearly two months. Ironically, the long layoff may pay off in the long run for Chen, who tired down the stretch last year and should now feel strong for the remainder of the season after less wear and tear on his pitching arm.

Most Important Win: A 2-1 victory over the Yankees thanks to Adam Jones’ homer off Mariano Rivera on July 7
Skinny: Even Showalter downplayed the significance of the dramatic victory in early July, but the Orioles were on the verge of dropping their third straight one-run game to New York to complete a 1-5 road trip before Jones tagged the greatest closer of all time for his first blown save at Yankee Stadium since 2010.

Most Disappointing Loss: Jim Johnson’s meltdown in Toronto on May 26
Skinny: The Orioles sent Johnson to the mound with a 5-2 lead and needed only three outs to take three of four from the Blue Jays at Rogers Centre. A double, two singles, a walk, and a Munenori Kawasaki double later, the closer had blown his fourth save in his last five chances and the Orioles had suffered a stunning 6-5 loss on a Sunday afternoon.

Most Exciting Moment: Chris Dickerson’s walk-off homer against the Tigers on May 31
Skinny: All-Star Game starter Max Scherzer had pitched brilliantly for eight innings before Detroit manager Jim Leyland turned the game over to Jose Valverde with a 5-3 lead in the ninth. Before an electric crowd of over 46,000, the Orioles staged a rally as Markakis hit a homer to lead off the inning and the part-time player Dickerson hammered a three-run blast into the right-center bleachers for one of the most exciting regular-season moments in Camden Yards history.

The Kevin Gregg-Michael Gonzalez Fireman Award: Pedro Strop
Skinny: The Orioles tried to stick with the volatile but talented Strop as long as they could, but you knew time was running short for the 28-year-old on June 29 when Showalter felt the need to warm up O’Day in his bullpen as the struggling reliever was working the ninth inning with an 11-3 lead over the Yankees. Sporting a 7.25 ERA in 29 appearances, Strop was dealt along with Jake Arrieta to the Chicago Cubs a few days later in exchange for starting pitcher Scott Feldman.

The Justin Duchscherer “Yes, He Was an Oriole” Award: Mike Belfiore
Skinny: If you’re asking who Belfiore is, you’re probably not alone as the left-handed reliever has twice been recalled to the 25-man roster this season but hasn’t appeared in a game. Chances are good he’s near the top of the list of players currently on the 40-man roster who could be designated for assignment should the need for a roster spot arise, but Belfiore does have a 3.67 ERA for Triple-A Norfolk this season.

The Jack Cust Baserunning Award: Alexi Casilla’s ninth-inning blunder against the Red Sox
Skinny: Trying to rally against Boston closer Andrew Bailey on June 15, the Orioles sent the speedy Casilla into the game to run for J.J. Hardy at first base with one out. After Ryan Flaherty lined a ball sharply to right fielder Shane Victorino, Casilla was inexplicably standing on third base as he was doubled off first to end the game. The utility infielder said after the game he knew the number of outs and simply misread the ball off Flaherty’s bat, but the play may have gone down as the Orioles’ worst pinch-running debacle since Manny Alexander was picked off upon running for Cal Ripken in a 1996 game that then went into extra innings.

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