Tag Archive | "nolan reimold"

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Orioles agree to terms with Reimold to avoid arbitration

Posted on 11 January 2013 by WNST Staff

PRESS RELEASE

The Orioles announced Friday that they have agreed to terms with outfielder Nolan Reimold on a one-year contract, thus avoiding arbitration.

Reimold, 29, was limited to 16 games in 2012 due to a herniated disk in his neck and was on the disabled list from May 1 through the end of the season. In his 16 games, he batted .313 (21-67) with five home runs and 10 RBI.

The Orioles now have eight arbitration eligible players remaining: catcher Matt Wieters, infielder Chris Davis, left-handed pitchers Brian Matusz and Troy Patton, and right-handed pitchers Tommy Hunter, Jason Hammel, Jim Johnson, and Darren O’Day.

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Five biggest Orioles disappointments of first half

Posted on 11 July 2012 by Luke Jones

After recognizing the biggest individual surprises of the Orioles’ first half, it’s strange finding a large number of individual disappointments despite the club’s 45-40 start.

Amazingly, the Orioles have managed to find so much success despite their obvious flaws as a number of individuals have failed to meet expectations and others have been injured, leaving major holes and question marks as the club begins the second half on Friday. Even though they currently hold the second wild card position in the American League, the club’s minus-36 run differential (12th in the AL) is indicative of a group due for a substantial market correction in terms of wins and losses.

Many wonder how much longer the Orioles will remain afloat — in terms of staying in the wild card race, at least — after losing 13 of their last 19 game and scoring only 61 runs in their last 22 contests. In addition to their recent offensive struggles, three-fifths of the starting rotation entering the season was recently demoted to Triple-A Norfolk, putting an even greater strain on the Orioles’ dominating bullpen to keep them in games.

Regardless of how optimistic or pessimistic you might be about the Orioles’ chances, the next two weeks of baseball will go a long way in determining how active the club will be at the trade deadline.

Here are my five biggest individual disappointments of the Orioles’ first half:

Not-so-honorable mention: Tommy Hunter, Kevin Gregg, Nolan Reimold’s neck injury, Tsuyoshi Wada’s elbow injury, Brian Roberts’ hip injury

5. Endy Chavez

The 34-year-old wasn’t signed to be a full-time starter, but the Orioles figured they were getting a decent insurance policy for Opening Day left fielder Nolan Reimold when Chavez inked a one-year deal worth $1.5 million. Instead, the 170-pound outfielder hasn’t even hit his weight in an injury-plagued, miserable first half.

While Chavez has made two different trips to the disabled list with intercostal and hamstring injuries, his abysmal .162 average in 105 at-bats makes him fortunate to even have a job at this point. Chavez figured to become the default left fielder when Reimold went down with a herniated disc in his neck, but his poor play has created a colossal hole in left field that manager Buck Showalter has attempted to fill with converted infielders (Steve Tolleson and Ryan Flaherty), journeymen veterans (Steve Pearce and Bill Hall), and a raw rookie (Xavier Avery).

Having completed his minor league rehab assignment over the All-Star break, Chavez is expected to rejoin the club on Friday, but his .402 OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage) must climb immediately for the organization to justify keeping him around much longer. The left-hander has a career .269 average over 11 major league seasons and hit .301 over 256 at-bats in a part-time role with Texas last year, making his horrendous first half even more shocking.

4. J.J. Hardy

Coming off a tremendous year in his first season in Baltimore, the shortstop has dealt with a tender shoulder since spring training and his production at the plate has dropped dramatically in 2012.

Hardy has never been a great hitter for average (.259 in eight seasons), but his .224 mark at the break reflects the horrendous slump he’s endured since late May. In his last 37 games, the 29-year-old is hitting .172 with two home runs and nine runs batted in.

The club’s widespread struggles at the plate and injuries to Nolan Reimold and Nick Markakis have limited questions about Hardy remaining in the No. 2 spot in the order, but Showalter will have no choice but to drop Hardy in the order if his .262 on-base percentage doesn’t improve soon. Even if Hardy’s production reflected his career numbers, he’s more suited to hit in the No. 6 or 7 spot to drive in more runs with his above-average power at the shortstop position.

Hardy’s defense is still a major asset for a defensively-challenged club, but the Orioles desperately need him to look more like the hitter he was in 2011 if they’re going to remain in the playoff hunt in the second half.

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Orioles faced with interesting roster decision in last stretch before All-Star break

Posted on 26 June 2012 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — Fresh from a day off before a stretch of 13 games in 13 days that will lead them into the All-Star break, the Orioles will be faced with interesting roster decisions to conclude the first half.

Reliever Matt Lindstrom is back in Baltimore and is expected to be activated prior to Wednesday’s game against the Los Angeles Angels. On the 15-day disabled list since May 11 with a partially torn ligament in his middle finger, Lindstrom will be examined by team doctors and hopes to pick up where he left off after allowing only two earned runs in his first 13 appearances (14 innings) this season.

However, who he replaces on the 25-man roster remains up in the air with left-hander Dana Eveland returning to the team on Tuesday night. The Orioles planned to place Eveland on the paternity leave list to buy some time on a roster decision, but the long reliever is back sooner than expected.

Further complicating the decision is the Orioles’ need for a fifth starter on Saturday, with Tommy Hunter the most likely candidate to receive the ball in the third of a four-game set against the Cleveland Indians. With Eveland not available against the Angels on Tuesday, Hunter was available to pitch in the bullpen.

If Hunter is need in the bullpen, Saturday’s starter would likely come from Triple-A Norfolk. Miguel Gonzalez is slated to pitch Saturday for the Tides and left-hander Zach Britton made the start for Norfolk on Tuesday night.

Aside from electing to go without a long man in the bullpen, the only other relief pitcher you would even consider shipping out would be former closer Kevin Gregg, but his status is well documented with a $5.8 million salary owed to him in 2012. With the trade deadline just over a month away, the Orioles would like to see if they can move Gregg — understanding they’d likely have to pay some of his salary — and at least get something modest in return.

The most realistic option might be to go with a shorter bench with the club not having another day off until the All-Star break. Infielder Steve Tolleson would be the most likely player to be optioned in that scenario. However, the Orioles will travel to the West Coast next week, making it more difficult to summon someone from the minor leagues in the event of an injury to a position player.

Markakis not swinging yet

Right fielder Nick Markakis had hoped to begin swinging a bat on Monday, but he’ll have to continue waiting impatiently.

The surgical incision on his right hand hasn’t closed completely, and the club wants it to be fully healed before he begins taking swings. Manager Buck Showalter hopes Markakis can begin doing so Friday, meaning his chances of returning before the All-Star break are growing dimmer.

“It’s frustrating, but that’s the time the body needs to heal up,” Markakis said. “You can’t rush it. It’s just a matter of healing up and getting this incision closed up all the way. It’s close, a couple more days — we’ll see.”

Though Markakis and Showalter both expressed hope that the outfielder would be able to return by the final series of the first half in Anaheim, he will need to go on a minor league rehab assignment. With the 28-year-old not beginning to swing until Friday at the earliest, a return before the start of the second half seems very ambitious.

Markakis would begin with dry swings before progressing to tee work and live batting practice. He would then likely play in at least a couple minor league games before rejoining the 25-man roster.

“It’s going to be close on the All-Star break,” Showalter said. “I don’t see us getting him back before the Anaheim series at their place.”

Injury updates

Outfielder Endy Chavez is making little progress on the hamstring injury that landed him on the 15-day disabled list on June 14. He is currently rehabbing in Sarasota.

A forgotten man after dealing with a back injury since spring training, catcher Taylor Teagarden is ready to go on a rehab assignment. He will begin playing with the Gulf Coast League team and could be activated shortly after the All-Star break if all goes well.

Showalter said outfielder Nolan Reimold had already regained strength in his arm and hand just a few hours after Monday’s neck surgery. He also revealed the herniated disc may have stemmed from an April game in Chicago in which Reimold dove into the stands after a foul ball.

Visit the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault to hear more from Nick Markakis and Buck Showalter.

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Markakis hopeful to begin swinging bat after Nationals series

Posted on 22 June 2012 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — The normally mild-mannered Nick Markakis was asked on Friday how he’s handled being on the disabled list for the first time in his seven-year career.

The right fielder is itching to return to the field after undergoing surgery to remove the broken hamate bone in his right wrist exactly three weeks ago. . If he has it his way, it will come before the All-Star Break.

“It’s terrible, it’s horses–t,” said Markakis in describing his time on the disabled list. “It is what it is. It’s just one of those things that I’ve got to get through.”

Still wearing a bandage covering the surgical wound on his right hand, Markakis will rest over the weekend in hopes of being cleared to begin taking swings on Monday. There isn’t a definitive timetable in place for his return to the lineup, but the 28-year-old hopes to progress from dry swings to tee work to live pitching in a short period of time.

But the decision isn’t up to him.

The original estimation of three to four weeks for a return seemed overly ambitious when news broke of the outfielder needing surgery, but Markakis looks like he won’t need the typical six-to-eight week recovery period that many past players experiencing the same injury have taken.

“I’m not where I want to be right now, but that’s coming from me,” Markakis said. “They’re telling me I’m ahead of where I need to be.”

Markakis had initially hoped to avoid going on a minor league rehab assignment, but he acknowledged needing one after his original goal to begin taking swings on Friday was not approved by the club. However, manager Buck Showalter is remaining optimistic that Markakis’ goal of returning in early July can be met.

“I’ll hold out hope that’s the case too,” Showalter said. “But it’s an inexact science. Keep in mind, he’s ahead of normal schedule of people that do this. You don’t want to do anything to set that back.”

With the news of Nolan Reimold likely being sidelined for the rest of the season due to neck surgery, the Orioles would love to have Markakis’ bat and glove back in the lineup as soon as possible. Injuries to the two Opening Day starters have left Adam Jones playing between two players with little experience in the outfield, making for a weaker defensive alignment.

Never playing fewer than 147 games in any of his first six years, Markakis knows he’s progressing but understands the importance of avoiding a setback with the Orioles in contention in late June for the first time in his career.

“I see light at the end of the tunnel,” Markakis said. “I just want to take it [slow] and make sure it’s all healed up.”

Listen to Markakis’ entire interview prior to Friday’s game in the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault right here.

 

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Reimold’s season likely over after choosing to undergo neck surgery

Posted on 22 June 2012 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — After waiting nearly two months for a herniated disc to respond favorably, Orioles left fielder Nolan Reimold has decided to undergo neck surgery in a move that will likely end his 2012 season.

The 28-year-old announced the decision prior to Friday’s game and weighed his options carefully after consulting with multiple cervical specialists in the Baltimore area. The spinal fusion surgery will be performed by Dr. Ziya Gokaslan at Johns Hopkins Hospital on Monday morning.

“The best thing to do as far as my career is definitely to get the surgery,” Reimold said. “[It will] get the pressure off the nerve that’s being pushed on.”

Reimold said the procedure is similar to the one underwent by Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning. The herniated disc will be removed and two vertebrae will be fused together. While doctors told Reimold there’s a very small chance he could return by the end of the season, he told reporters not to bet on that scenario, explaining how the body responds to spinal fusion in different ways from individual to individual.

The outfielder expressed frustration with not being able to contribute to a Baltimore club that was nine games above .500 entering the start of this weekend’s series against the Washington Nationals, but he’s cognizant how critical the recovery period will be for the remainder of his playing career.

“I’m resigned to the fact that I’m going to do the surgery and do my rehab until I’m ready to play at this level,” Reimold said. “Whether it takes eight weeks or longer, that’s what I’m going to do.”

Reimold was hitting .313 with five home runs and 10 runs batted in prior to hitting the disabled list in early May.

Though the loss of Reimold for the remainder of the season was becoming more likely after two epidural injections failed to solve the neck issue, his absence forces the Orioles to address the left field position for the remainder of the season. Veteran Steve Pearce has held down the position recently, but a more intriguing internal option might be Chris Davis, who was once again in right field despite the Orioles returning to American League rules on Friday.

Davis handled right field adequately over the six-game National League road trip, so it’s apparent Buck Showalter is trying to assess his normal designated hitter in more extensive fashion. His bat translates well to left field and his defense wouldn’t have to be all that good to even match the skills of someone like Cubs left fielder Alfonso Soriano, who is a potential trade target and known for playing less-than-stellar defense.

“To not be a part of it, just to watch it is kind of tough,” said Reimold about not being part of a winning team. “But I’m still rooting for the guys and puling for them. Just from that perspective, it’s tough, but I’ll be back. Everything should go well, and I’ll do everything I can to be back as soon as I can — and hopefully be stronger.”

Visit the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault to hear more from Reimold HERE.

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With Reimold news sounding worse, where do Orioles turn in left field?

Posted on 18 June 2012 by Luke Jones

While the Orioles have celebrated the return of Brian Roberts and could have Nick Markakis back by the end of the next homestand, the status of left fielder Nolan Reimold remains a different story entirely.

Prior to the start of a three-game series with the New York Mets, manager Buck Showalter told reporters Reimold won’t be back before the All-Star Break and the news could be even worse depending on the advice of a second cervical specialist. The 28-year-old was scheduled to seek a second opinion on Monday.

Still experiencing tingling and weakness on his left side after two epidural injections, Reimold underwent an MRI last week and has not played since April 30 while dealing with a herniated disc in his neck. The Orioles haven’t mentioned surgery as a possibility — at least, publicly — but it has to be part of the discussion with the outfielder not responding to shots and an extended period of rest.

In 67 at-bats this season, Reimold was hitting .313 with five home runs and 10 runs batted in before landing on the disabled list.

If the long-term prognosis isn’t favorable for Reimold to return this season, it leaves a major hole in left field that the Orioles have tried to fill on an interim basis with the likes of Endy Chavez, Steve Tolleson, Ryan Flaherty, and — most recently — Steve Pearce. With apologies to those players, it would be very ambitious to expect that combination of players to provide sufficient production for a club entering Monday only 1 1/2 games behind the first-place Yankees.

Of the nine regular positions in the lineup, the left field slot has posted the second-worst OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage) behind second base and second-worst batting average (.227) behind third base.

The discussion of potential trades has heated up in recent weeks, with starting pitching being the No. 1 priority. However, should the Orioles pursue another outfield bat if the price is right?

With so many teams still viewing themselves as potential buyers with the addition of a second wild card in each league, few hitters have been mentioned as potential trade bait. However, one name that’s consistently come up is veteran left fielder Alfonso Soriano of the woeful Chicago Cubs.

Now 36 years old and still owed a total of $36 million in 2013 and 2014, Soriano won’t even be considered by teams unless the Cubs are willing to pay a substantial portion of his remaining salary — something they seem more than willing to do to move him. He is hitting .266 with 12 homers and 41 runs batted in after hitting .244 with 26 homers and 88 runs batted in in 2011.

If the Cubs are willing to absorb $27-$30 million of the estimated $47 million owed to Soriano over the next 2 1/2 seasons, would you be willing to part with a Chris Tillman or a Xavier Avery — and perhaps another throw-in — to bring the veteran to Baltimore?

Soriano is a below-average outfielder but could settle into the designated hitter role in the final two years of his contract. For a club not in a position to deal its top prospects but capable of taking on more payroll, Soriano is a name the Orioles should at least consider if the Cubs are willing to fork over gobs of cash to help pay for one of the worst contracts in baseball history.

Ultimately, starting pitching will remain the Orioles’ top priority should they remain in the race by the end of July, but losing Reimold for the season would force executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette to take a long look at left field.

Again, it’s not a move I would automatically endorse — especially when looking at Soriano’s age and limitations in the field — but it’s the type of move the Orioles can make without parting with an elite prospect.

 

 

 

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Davis more than folk hero for Orioles in surprising 2012 season

Posted on 18 June 2012 by Luke Jones

Chris Davis might be the best example of what the 2012 Orioles are all about.

Entering the season with untapped potential and more failure than success at the big-league level, both Davis and the Orioles have blossomed in the first 2 1/2 months of the season, surpising critics and even the most optimistic fans in what’s been Baltimore’s best start since 2005.

The 26-year-old Davis has morphed into a fan favorite in his first full season with the Orioles, not only becoming one of the team’s most productive hitters but providing one of the craziest memories in club history when he pitched two innings to earn the win in a 17-inning marathon at Fenway Park on May 6.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v3_OflQilqU

Add a broken-bat home run against Pittsburgh last week and his first games in right field at the big-league level this past weekend in Atlanta and you have all the makings of a folk hero in Baltimore.

Much like the 39-27 Orioles, at times, it’s difficult to believe what you’re seeing when watching the designated hitter/first baseman/right fielder/pitching extraordinaire.

But there’s no understating how important Davis’ emergence has been this season, especially with stints on the disabled list by Nolan Reimold, Mark Reynolds, and Nick Markakis. Center fielder Adam Jones has emerged as a superstar by leading the Orioles in batting average, home runs, runs batted in, slugging percentage, and runs scored, but Davis ranks second or third in all five of those categories in becoming a legitimate middle-of-the-order threat in the lineup.

His 12 home runs and 60 strikeouts in 211 at-bats entering Monday night aren’t overly surprising given Davis’ reputation when the Orioles acquired him in the Koji Uehara trade last July, but his .294 average defies what we saw over his last three years in Texas where Davis went from looking like a future star in 2008 to a player fitting the mold of a “Quad-A” hitter before being dealt.

The raw power has never come into question — evident by his broken-bat homer to right field off Pittsburgh reliever Tommy Watson last Wednesday — as Davis hit 17 home runs and batted .285 in 295 at-bats during his rookie season with the Rangers in 2008. However, the left-handed slugger quickly earned the reputation of a hitter who struck out too much, didn’t walk enough, and struggled to handle plus-fastballs in the major leagues. Those flaws led his batting average to plummet to .238 in 2009 and .192 in 2010, causing Davis to bounce back and forth between the Rangers and Triple A in his final three years in Texas.

It was difficult to project Davis as anything more than a less-patient, less-powerful version of Reynolds entering the season, which didn’t speak highly for his potential when considering how flawed Reynolds is as a player.

In 2012, Davis hasn’t made any dramatic changes to his overall approach — 60 strikeouts to just 13 walks — but his improvement against plus-fastballs has led to the substantial increase in average. A career .204 hitter in 255 career at-bats against power pitchers (those in the top third in the league in strikeouts plus walks) entering 2012, Davis has handled them at a .286 rate in 42 at-bats this season.

Davis has also handled left-handed pitching at a far more successful clip, batting .327 in 53 plate appearances against southpaws in 2012 after hitting only .236 against lefties in 275 career at-bats entering 2012.

While his high strikeout and low walk totals aren’t indicative of a hitter that will continue to hover around the .300 mark, Davis has been a model of consistency through his first 57 games this season. Aside from an abysmal seven-game stretch in May in which he went 3-for-28 and struck out 14 times, the left-hander has consistently sat somewhere between .290 and .310 as we reach the final two weeks of June. His .355 batting average for balls put in play indicates Davis has been fortunate, but it’s actually lower than the .366 combined clip he posted last year for the Rangers and Orioles.

When seeing the ball well, Davis shows exceptional power to straightaway center and the opposite field has eight of his 12 home runs have traveled in either of those directions.

After Markakis was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a broken hamate bone, manager Buck Showalter turned to Davis to hold down the No. 3 spot in the order as the Orioles were depleted even further offensively. He’s hit only .206 in 34 at-bats batting third, but the lineup shift could present an interesting decision for Showalter when Markakis returns — projected to be some time during the next homestand, according to the right fielder.

Should Davis remain around the .300 mark, would you consider keeping him in the third spot and moving Markakis to the No. 2 slot? The move would allow Showalter to drop J.J. Hardy in the order, which would make sense with the shortstop hitting only .253 despite 11 home runs.

Whatever the Baltimore skipper decides, it’s a good problem to have.

For a team suffering its fair share of injuries and not receiving the same power numbers it enjoyed from Reynolds a season ago, Davis’ emergence has been one of the most pleasant surprises of the season.

His willingness to do whatever is asked of him reflects the spirit of the 2012 Orioles.

Need someone to pitch? Not a problem.

You want to put me in right field in a National League ballpark, even though I’ve never played there in the big leagues? Sure thing.

Whatever it takes to win.

Much like watching the Orioles, you keep waiting and wondering if it’s going to last, but Davis has given no indication of slowing down any time soon.

And he just might be realizing the potential so many saw in him when he first arrived in the big leagues.

 

 

 

 

 

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Your Monday Reality Check-What a difference a week makes?

Posted on 11 June 2012 by Glenn Clark

Perhaps you’re not familiar with WNST.net MLB analyst Allen McCallum. Allen was once the Ballpark Reporter at WNST, covering the Baltimore Orioles on a daily basis. He’s remained with us in the years since then, appearing once a week in studio (currently with Thyrl Nelson on “The Mobtown Sports Beat”) to talk Major League Baseball and Baltimore Orioles.

Allen is a really good dude, but is decidedly un-American in my book. You see, Allen doesn’t like football. I don’t understand it either, trust me. I have every reason to believe he celebrates the 4th of July and enjoys a good slice of Apple Pie, but he loves baseball and just doesn’t care about our national pastime.

Despite this obvious flaw, I’ve maintained a level of friendship and (as much as is possible for someone who I have to imagine may be a communist) respect for Allen. I don’t dislike him, I just don’t understand how someone like him can exist in this country. You see, football is our beautiful game. It’s a game fathers play in the backyard with sons. Baseball is okay when there aren’t real sports to watch, but is clearly inferior to football in every way.

I’m kidding. Well I’m kidding a LITTLE bit anyway.

The reason my lede is about our resident purveyor of Orange Kool-Aid is because Allen likes to make a point during the course of baseball season that is relevant to both sports. As Birds fans have a tendency to freak out over the results of a couple of games (or one game…or a couple of innings…or a single at-bat), Allen likes to send out a reminder that “this isn’t football. There’s 162 games to be played.”

It hasn’t always been good news in Charm City that the O’s have to play 162 games, but the point he makes is relevant. During Ravens season we tend to overreact to one particular game, but we do that knowing that one game reflects roughly six percent of the season. While a NFL team can certainly recover from a stretch of two or three bad games, a bad streak can quickly spiral into killing a quarter of a football season. At the same time, a bad streak of three or four games during baseball season does not even represent the same six percent of the season that one football game represents.

Let me try to step away from math for a second. A single football game is more significant than a single baseball game. But you already knew that.

Seven days ago (which as I type this would have been June 4), there was reason for great concern amongst Baltimore baseball fans. After getting off to a 27-14 start, the Birds were mired in a streak that saw them drop 10 of 13 games. Sitting at 30-24, the Birds had appeared to already be well into their annual “June swoon” and seemed destined to find themselves on their way to the cellar of the AL East.

But something funny happened in the six games that followed. Instead of continuing their free fall, the Birds stabilized. They won two of three against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park, then returned home to take two dramatic extra inning contests against the Philadelphia Phillies at Oriole Park at Camden Yards in front of thousands of stunned supporters who had made their way down I-95 from The City of Brotherly Love.

(Continued on Page 2….)

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Orioles breathe sigh of relief as MRI reveals only contusions on Jones’ sore wrists

Posted on 03 June 2012 by Luke Jones

(Monday 11:45 a.m.)

It was difficult imagining the two-week-long nightmare getting much scarier for the Orioles until the news following Sunday’s 8-4 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays that center fielder Adam Jones would undergo an MRI on his sore right wrist.

However, the verdict was positive Monday morning as the club announced the test showed only contusions on his ailing wrists, meaning Jones will fly to Boston to join the club ahead of the start of a three-games series with the Red Sox on Tuesday night.

“Thanks for all the concern but I’m all good,” Jones said on Twitter. “On the way to Beantown.”

After being replaced by pinch hitter Nick Johnson in the ninth inning on Sunday, Jones told reporters his right wrist had bothered him for a few weeks and manager Buck Showalter decided to remove him from the game as a precautionary measure. The 26-year-old was hit by a pitch on his left wrist in Toronto last Wednesday and had been icing it over the last few days.

Leading the Orioles with a .315 average, 16 home runs, and 34 runs batted in, Jones is having the finest season of his seven-year career in the big leagues and signed a six-year, $85.5 million contract last weekend to remain in Baltimore through the 2018 season. An X-ray taken on the right wrist came back negative on Sunday, but the club elected to have Jones remain in Florida overnight for an MRI.

Jones maintained the right wrist still felt strong despite being sore for the last few weeks and did not recall a specific play on which he injured it.

The news couldn’t have come at a better time after the recent loss of right fielder Nick Markakis to a broken hamate bone and left fielder Nolan Reimold’s extended stay on the disabled list with a herniated disc in his neck.

Baltimore has lost 10 of its last 13 games, falling one game behind Tampa Bay in the American League East.

 

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With Roberts’ potential return looming, Orioles still seek leadoff solution

Posted on 29 May 2012 by Luke Jones

After being optioned to Triple-A Norfolk prior to Tuesday’s game in Toronto, 22-year-old outfielder Xavier Avery became the latest in a long list of candidates to fall short in stabilizing the Orioles’ leadoff spot over the last two seasons.

Since second baseman Brian Roberts exited a game with concussion-related symptoms on May 16, 2011, the Orioles have been without a bona fide hitter at the top of the order despite trying a number of candidates in the role.

Shortstop J.J. Hardy had a higher degree of success than others last season, but his .295 on-base percentage while batting in the leadoff spot — to go along with a career .320 on-base percentage — didn’t exactly scream top-of-the-order hitter. In fact, Hardy’s power numbers (40 home runs in 176 games with the Orioles) suggest a player better suited to hit in the middle of the order than at the top.

This season, left fielder Nolan Reimold appeared to be an intriguing — but unconventional — choice with his career .338 on-base percentage, but a herniated disc in his neck has sidelined him after a fast start. In his absence, the combination of Endy Chavez, Robert Andino, Ryan Flaherty, and Avery has not been able to produce and set the table for the middle of the order.

Avery shows promise for the future, but his extended audition exposed the need for him to improve against off-speed pitches and develop further at Norfolk before he’s ready to assume the leadoff role on a permanent basis.

In 2011, the No. 1 spot in the order accounted for a .240 batting average and a .290 on-base percentage, the worst figures of any spot in the batting order. The numbers have been even worse this season as the top spot in the order has produced an anemic .213 average to go along with a .258 on-base percentage.

While many place too much emphasis on the batting order, the leadoff spot is expected to be occupied by a player with a strong ability to get on base and speed — a combination that has eluded the Orioles.

So, who might manager Buck Showalter turn to?

Ironically, it might be the man the Orioles have been trying to replace for over a year.

Five games into his minor league rehabilitation assignment, Roberts has yet to experience any setbacks while collecting two hits and two walks in 12 plate appearances at Double-A Bowie. Even if his rehab stint goes off without a hitch, it would be ambitious to expect Roberts to return to the form of a career .353 on-base hitter, but the 34-year-old infielder would easily become the most viable option in the top spot if he’s even remotely close to the player he was prior to the injury.

The debate will continue over how Showalter should handle Roberts’ workload and what it means for current second baseman Robert Andino, but the Orioles desperately need more production from the leadoff spot.

And with Roberts’ return looking more realistic every day, he would be as close to the ideal candidate as the Orioles have had since his exit over a year ago.

Starting pitching woes

The news of veteran pitcher Roy Oswalt signing a one-year deal with the Texas Rangers stole some of the thunder of this topic, but it’s become clear the Orioles need better starting pitching if they hope to maintain anything close to the 29-20 pace that’s put them in first place for much of the first two months of the season.

The current 4.31 earned run average from the starting rotation is just above the league average of 4.30, but that number becomes more concerning when you consider starters pitched to a 3.63 ERA in April but have posted a 4.94 mark so far in May.

Left-hander Zach Britton is expected to take the place of the struggling Tommy Hunter, who was optioned to Triple-A Norfolk on Tuesday with his ERA ballooning to 5.59 after another poor start in Toronto on Monday. However, the in-house options are few and far between after that, making the idea of Oswalt so appealing before he decided to sign with the defending American League champions.

The Orioles have few pieces in their system to warrant anything better than what they already have in making a trade, meaning they will likely have no choice but to depend on the continued success of Jason Hammel and Wei-Yin Chen and hope for more consistency from Jake Arrieta and Brian Matusz to prevent too much wear and tear on the bullpen.

While the health of Britton’s left shoulder remains the priority over any short-term results, the Orioles can only hope the 24-year-old more closely resembles the pitcher who was 5-2 with a 2.35 ERA in his first 10 starts last season than the one posting a 6.25 mark over his final 18 starts, which included a demotion and a trip to the disabled list with that sore shoulder.

With two days off during the current nine-game road trip, the Orioles will not need a fifth starter again until June 9. Barring any setbacks, Britton should be ready to join the starting rotation by that point in time.

Given Oswalt’s preference to play for a winner, Baltimore was an extreme long-shot, but his veteran presence for one season — without a long-term financial commitment — would have brought some much-needed stability and a veteran presence to the rotation.

Carrying Flaherty becoming burdensome?

Showalter has said how impressed he is with Rule 5 selection Ryan Flaherty on several occasions this season, but you have to wonder if the 25-year-old is becoming too great a burden on the 25-man roster for a first-place team.

Injuries provided the utility player more playing time in the early stages of May, but his .143 batting average (7-for-49) has led to less playing time over the last two weeks. Since going 0-for-4 in Kansas City on May 17, Flaherty has received only one start and four plate appearances while being relegated to the bench.

The idea of a Rule 5 player on a team projected to be in last place sounds like an acceptable situation, but carrying a player like Flaherty when you’re trying to win is a dicey proposition, especially when the Orioles have elected to go with a three-man bench and 13 pitchers at times when the bullpen has been overworked.

In addition to Flaherty, infielder Steve Tolleson doesn’t have a strong hold on his roster spot, so it will be interesting to see what executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette decides to do if and when Roberts is ready to be activated on June 12. Regardless of whether Roberts takes Andino’s starting job or not, his addition will take away another roster spot and make you wonder if the Orioles can keep Flaherty around much longer if he isn’t going to produce.

 

 

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