Tag Archive | "Orioles"

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Hardy, Flaherty make it through first rehab game without issue

Posted on 04 May 2015 by Luke Jones

Receiving his first live-game action since injuring his left shoulder in late March, Orioles shortstop J.J. Hardy made it through the first game of a minor-league rehab assignment without issue on Monday.

The 32-year-old went 2-for-4 with a single and an RBI double in Double-A Bowie’s 8-0 win over Akron. Hardy and infielder Ryan Flaherty began a rehab assignment that could see both return by the weekend if all goes well. Flaherty went 1-for-4 with a double in the seventh inning.

Hardy played shortstop and batted third while Flaherty hit second and manned second base.

After both players exited the game at the end of seven innings, they reported no physical concerns to reporters, which is good news for an Orioles infield that’s been devastated by injuries at the beginning of the season. Hardy received a cortisone shot in his left shoulder on April 25 after he was continuing to feel slight discomfort at the end of his follow-through when swinging the bat.

It remains unclear how many rehab games Hardy will play before he’s deemed ready to be activated by the Orioles. Flaherty is eligible to return from the 15-day disabled list as soon as he becomes eligible to do so on Friday after he was sidelined with a mild groin injury in Toronto two weeks ago.

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machado

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Machado might be best fit in leadoff spot for Orioles

Posted on 04 May 2015 by Luke Jones

Amidst the weirdness of a “home” series in St. Petersburg this weekend, the Orioles trotted out a new leadoff hitter in a series win against the Tampa Bay Rays.

Third baseman Manny Machado batted first in wins on Saturday and Sunday, his first games in the top spot in the order since doing it twice in 2013. With both Alejandro De Aza (a .219 batting average) and Everth Cabrera (.221) struggling at the plate, the 22-year-old Machado might be the best option the Orioles have for the role after the offseason departure of Nick Markakis.

It’s clear that using Machado in the No. 1 spot is something that manager Buck Showalter has considered for a while after the young infielder served in that role a number of times in spring training. His current .250 average is largely a product of an 0-for-15 start to the 2015 season as he’s batted .308 with a .927 on-base plus slugging percentage since then.

A deeper look reveals Machado might be a better fit as a leadoff hitter than most would think. He has already laid down a couple impressive bunt singles this season and leads the club with three stolen bases without being caught yet, signs that his well-documented knee concerns are hopefully behind him for good.

The biggest factor working in Machado’s favor is his improved patience at the plate. The 2010 first-round pick leads the club with 11 walks and has increased his walk rate from 5.7 percent in 2014 to 13.3 percent of his plate appearances this year. Of course, that will likely level off some as the year continues, but there’s no doubt that he’s showing more willingness to draw the base on balls since walking only 29 times in 667 plate appearances in his first full year in the majors in 2013.

So far, Orioles leadoff hitters have posted a .703 OPS while drawing only six walks — two coming from Machado in the last two games — and striking out 22 times. That’s just not what you’re looking for from the top hitter in the order who will receive more opportunities than any other spot over 162 games.

Baltimore still hopes Machado will settle into a spot in the heart of the order in the long run, but he is probably their best option as the leadoff hitter for the time being. Yes, it’s unconventional, but Showalter proved he wasn’t afraid to go a different route when he slotted Markakis in the top spot a few years ago with positive results.

Cabrera not getting it done

Shortstop J.J. Hardy beginning a minor-league rehab assignment at Double-A Bowie on Monday is great news as it appears an All-Star player is on the verge of returning to the lineup.

The Orioles have survived without Hardy through the first month of the season, but there’s no doubting they’ll welcome his production at the shortstop position where they’ve received very little so far this season. Cabrera has been acceptable defensively (three errors in 76 chances), but his .481 OPS was the third worst in the majors among qualified hitters entering Monday.

With Hardy and fellow infielder Ryan Flaherty potentially returning by the weekend, the Orioles are faced with interesting decisions with the 25-man roster. Career minor-league infielder Rey Navarro figures to be optioned, but might we see Cabrera — who has an option remaining — sent to Triple-A Norfolk as well?

Perhaps Showalter has experimented with Steve Pearce at second base this past weekend to determine whether he could be reliable enough to go with the combination of Hardy, Flaherty, and Pearce at the middle infield spots with Flaherty able to play either second base or shortstop. It would help solve — at least temporarily — a roster crunch that exists with other fringe position players such as David Lough not having any minor-league options.

Snider vs. Markakis

While no one doubted the Orioles would miss Nelson Cruz’s bat — he’s already hit 13 home runs for Seattle to lead the majors — the debate over Markakis’ departure was more interesting as most acknowledged he was already on the decline before undergoing offseason neck surgery.

In Atlanta, Markakis is hitting .292 and has drawn walks in 14.4 percent of his plate appearances, the highest walk rate of his career. However, the 31-year-old right fielder has collected just three extra-base hits — all of them doubles — and is slugging just .326 with a .720 OPS.

Travis Snider, who has seen the most time in right field for the Orioles so far, has batted .281 while posting a .773 OPS and is tied for third on the club with eight walks. Of course, Snider has struggled in the outfield with several gaffes in the early going, which you wouldn’t have seen from Markakis.

Could the Orioles use Markakis in the leadoff spot right now? Sure, but his numbers so far in 2015 don’t exactly suggest the Braves are getting the bang for their buck after awarding the former Oriole a four-year, $44 million contract. Meanwhile, Snider is making just $2.1 million and doesn’t become a free agent until after the 2016 season.

Gonzalez quietly on tear

He’s always among the first names observers talk about trying to replace, but Miguel Gonzalez continues to get the job done for the Orioles after pitching 7 2/3 shutout innings to earn his third win of 2015 in Saturday’s 4-0 final.

In the last calendar year, the 30-year-old right-hander has posted a 2.71 ERA over 159 2/3 regular-season innings. Entering Sunday, his 2.31 ERA since last year’s All-Star break was third in the American League (minimum 15 starts) behind Houston’s Dallas Keuchel (2.00) and Seattle’s Felix Hernandez (2.07).

He rarely wows you with his stuff, but Gonzalez has been as reliable as anyone for the Orioles since 2012 and is off to another good start with a 2.59 ERA this season.

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hardy

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Hardy, Flaherty to begin rehab assignments Monday

Posted on 03 May 2015 by Luke Jones

The Orioles are moving closer to a healthier infield as manager Buck Showalter revealed J.J. Hardy and Ryan Flaherty are set to begin a rehab assignment Monday.

The pair will report to Double-A Bowie and could be ready to rejoin the Orioles this weekend in New York. Hardy has been sidelined with a left shoulder strain since late March while Flaherty (groin strain) is eligible to return from the 15-day disabled list as early as Friday.

Showalter said the Orioles will play it by ear with Hardy, who hasn’t received any live-game action since the Grapefruit League schedule, but his return will help solidify an infield that’s turned to the likes of Everth Cabrera, Rey Navarro, and even Steve Pearce at the middle infield positions. Flaherty ran the bases at Tropicana Field prior to Sunday’s finale without any reported concerns.

How the Orioles will handle their 25-man roster when Hardy and Flaherty are activated remains to be seen. Navarro possesses minor-league options and is a logical choice to be sent out, but the other move would be more complicated. David Lough and Jimmy Paredes are both out of options, but the latter has emerged as the everyday designated hitter over the last two weeks.

The Orioles could give up on Rule 5 pick Jason Garcia, but going with an 11-man pitching staff would only be a short-term fix.

Would Showalter continue the Pearce experiment at second base and choose to option Cabrera or Flaherty to Triple-A Norfolk? The veteran super utility player has survived thus far at his new position, but he has only been tested there for a couple games.

It should be interesting.

In other injury-related news, Matt Wieters continues to catch in extended spring training games every other day in Sarasota, but there is still no timetable for him to begin a rehab assignment with a minor-league affiliate. The three-time All-Star selection told reporters in St. Petersburg that recovery from soreness between games is still an issue.

Wieters is two weeks away from the 11-month mark from undergoing Tommy John surgery on June 17, 2014.

Left-handed relief pitcher Wesley Wright (left trapezius strain) is scheduled to pitch in his first extended spring game on May 19, according to Showalter.

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snl

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Saturday Night Live spoofs empty-stadium game at Camden Yards

Posted on 03 May 2015 by Luke Jones

You knew it was coming.

After the Orioles hosted the first empty-stadium game in major league history amidst the unrest in Baltimore this week, Saturday Night Live spoofed the happenings at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on Wednesday afternoon. Below is the video, courtesy of SNL and NBC:

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johnsonos

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Five questions pondering Perriman, Orioles bullpen, others

Posted on 01 May 2015 by Luke Jones

Every Friday, I’ll ponder five topics related to the Ravens or Orioles (or a mix of both).

Five questions …

1. Is it just me or has Central Florida quietly produced some quality NFL players in the last 20 years? Not exactly known as a college football powerhouse, the Knights have played at the Division I Football Bowl Subdivision level for just under two decades, but their list of NFL players includes the likes of Brandon Marshall, Daunte Culpepper, Kevin Smith, Asante Samuel, Blake Bortles, and Mike Sims-Walker. First-round pick Breshad Perriman became the third former UCF player on the Ravens’ current roster, joining wide receiver Kamar Aiken and offensive lineman Jah Reid. Of course, Baltimore can only pray that Perriman works out a lot better than Reid, who has been a major disappointment as a third-round pick in 2011.

2. Is it just me or is Steve Pearce quickly becoming the new Melvin Mora? As if Friday’s opener as the “home” team at Tropicana Field wasn’t strange enough, the Orioles started Steve Pearce at second base for the first time in his professional career — majors or minors. Fielding questions aside, it’s a creative way to get Pearce in the lineup as he’s essentially been supplanted by the hot-hitting Jimmy Paredes over the last two weeks. Through the first 21 games of the season, Pearce has now started at five different spots — both corner outfield positions, first base, designated hitter, and second base. If you’re wondering what could be next, Pearce has also appeared at third base in his major league career and once at shortstop in the minors. That versatility is just another reason why Buck Showalter likes having Pearce on his roster, especially if his bat can heat up to 2014 levels.

3. Is it just me or do the Ravens always seem to land a high-value player in the second round? Baltimore clearly needed to add a tight end with Dennis Pitta’s future unclear and Owen Daniels now in Denver, but few would have expected Minnesota’s Maxx Williams to still be on the board when general manager Ozzie Newsome moved up just three spots to grab him at 55th overall. It hasn’t worked out perfectly every year in terms of results, but Torrey Smith (2011), Arthur Brown (2013), Timmy Jernigan (2014), and Williams (2015) were all players linked to the Ravens in at least a few first-round mock drafts before Newsome ultimately nabbed each one in the second round. Pretty strong value.

4. Is it just me or do the Orioles have too many attractive bullpen options at Triple-A Norfolk to waste much more time on the Jason Garcia experiment? Showalter offered an honest assessment of the Rule 5 pick last homestand in noting that his velocity has dropped from the spring, perhaps a sign of the organization having second thoughts about continuing to keep him on the roster. A peek at Norfolk might expedite that conclusion with a finally-healthy Steve Johnson posting a 0.73 ERA with 18 strikeouts in 12 1/3 innings this season. The Tides starting rotation also sports options with Mike Wright (2.29 ERA), Zach Davies (1.25 ERA), and Tyler Wilson (3.86 ERA) leading the way. Garcia has a 6.97 ERA and 8.61 FIP (fielding independent pitching mark), numbers so poor that you must ask if his potential ceiling is worth keeping him on the roster of a contending club.

5. Is it just me or does the NFL need to pick up the pace in announcing draft picks? One of my biggest pet peeves over the last few years is how easily the television presentation falls behind the pace of picks actually being turned in by the teams. Commercial breaks are unavoidable, but it becomes excessive when the announcement of a selection is delayed while the networks blabber on about something unrelated to what’s happening in real time. The NFL has effectively transformed the draft into a three-day marathon, but can we at least announce the picks in a timely manner to avoid logjams like what we experienced Thursday with the news of Perriman’s selection being out there for several minutes before it was announced by commissioner Roger Goodell? The event is long enough as it is without the additional dragging of feet.

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A memorable day we hope never happens again

Posted on 29 April 2015 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — Accompanied by the punchlines and photos on social media was a sadness as a recording of the national anthem played at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on Wednesday afternoon.

As if the sight of an empty ballpark moments before the start of an Orioles game wasn’t strange enough, it had just hit me that we wouldn’t hear the customary “O!” that we’ve come to expect at any major sporting event in Baltimore over the years. Out-of-towners don’t get it and even some within the community don’t care for the practice, but there are few things more “Baltimore” than our own Star-Spangled Banner trademark you’ll even hear when fans follow the Orioles or Ravens on the road.

It was just the latest reminder of how far from ideal the concept of playing a baseball game without fans truly was, but that’s when I heard the faint but audible “O!” from a few dozen fans standing beyond the left-center gate. The sound warmed the heart in a week filled with much tension and sadness in the city of Baltimore, and it suddenly made more sense for the Orioles to be playing a game at home before embarking on what will now be a nine-game road trip.

“Oh, they were heard,” said a smiling Buck Showalter when asked about those fans cheering from afar during an 8-2 win over the Chicago White Sox.

Of course, the Orioles returning to the field is of little consequence compared to the real problems our city is facing and will continue to deal with in the coming hours, days, and weeks. The decision not to allocate the law-enforcement officials required for a regular game was a wise one, but the quiet atmosphere was a reminder of just how important fans are to the product.

As one of the select few able to watch the game in person, I enjoyed the previously-unheard sounds of Jimmy Paredes sliding into third base or first base coach Wayne Kirby calling for Delmon Young to run out a popup, but the atmosphere reminded of a junior varsity baseball game without the pings of aluminum bats. It may have been a day that made major league history, but we can only hope it never happens again as we look ahead to the return of both the Orioles and fans to Camden Yards on May 11.

“It’s something that we hopefully don’t take for granted,” said catcher Caleb Joseph, who jokingly pretended to high-five fans and sign autographs before the game. “Days like today definitely remind you if it weren’t for them, we wouldn’t have jobs. Hopefully, everything can be resolved as quickly as possible.”

A game being played without any fans wasn’t what anyone truly wanted, but if it represented baby steps toward some normalcy, we’ll take it. After watching so many parts of the city burn on Monday night, just seeing baseball being played at Camden Yards again was movement in the right direction.

For those watching on television or listening on the radio on a weekday afternoon, the surreal game at least provided a temporary distraction.

“They’re always watching. You all know that,” said center fielder Adam Jones, acknowledging more fans viewing on television than those attending any game under regular circumstances. “Cameras are always on. It was good to come out and get six [runs] in the first [and] get a stronghold off a good pitcher.”

The day was helped by the Orioles rolling over starter Jeff Samardzija and the White Sox to win their third consecutive game. While players were quick to note the insignificance of winning a baseball game in the city’s current climate, you still sensed their purpose of wanting to do something positive for fans despite their inability to attend the game.

Of course, the run of baseball-related distractions and sacrifice isn’t over for the Orioles as they’ll now play a “home” series — with home uniforms and all — against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg this weekend. But leaving town on a winning note helps.

“You tried to stay focused on the competition and us trying to get where we want to be at the end of the season,” Showalter said. “But I also talked to [players] about the people who are going to be sitting around our city watching this game. How many things have really gone on normal here in the last few days in our society?”

Yes, the perception of playing in an empty stadium was less than appealing, but it beat the alternative of canceling a third consecutive game at an abandoned Camden Yards. If it served as even a few minutes of leisure from the tension that currently exists in our city, the unorthodox measure was worth it.

There are much bigger issues at work in Baltimore — ones that won’t be solved overnight — but to hear cheers from those fans standing beyond the gates was a reminder of just how important something so unimportant can be. It isn’t a coincidence that we’ve occasionally heard the “Seven Nation Army” chants from protesters over the last couple days, either.

Sports have brought and will continue to bring us together, which is why I look forward to once again seeing a packed Camden Yards — hopefully as early as May 11.

“The last 72 hours I think in this city have been tumultuous, to say the least,” Jones said. “We’ve seen good, we’ve seen bad, we’ve seen ugly. We’ve seen our games canceled, postponed, relocated, a lot of families relocated.

“It’s a city that’s hurting, and a city that needs its heads to stand up, step up, and help the ones that are hurting. It’s not an easy time right now for anybody. It doesn’t matter what race you are. It’s a tough time for the city of Baltimore.”

One day at a time.

As unusual and less than perfect Wednesday’s game was, it was comforting to have a diversion.

It was good to hear that familiar “O!” in the distance.

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Orioles to play in empty Camden Yards this afternoon

Posted on 28 April 2015 by Luke Jones

Facing circumstances not witnessed in Baltimore in over four decades, the Orioles have announced changes for the remainder of their scheduled homestand, which will include a 2:05 game Wednesday to be played in an empty Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

Due to the citywide curfew and continuing safety concerns after Monday’s riots, the Orioles moved their scheduled 7:05 p.m. first pitch to the afternoon on Wednesday. The game will be closed to the public but will still be televised on MASN, which will surely create a surreal atmosphere at the ballpark. This comes after the first two games of a three-game set with the Chicago White Sox were postponed due to safety concerns stemming from Monday’s riots.

It will mark the first time in major league history that a game will be played without a paying crowd, according to Major League Baseball historian John Thorn. The lowest-attended game took place in 1882.

After consulting with city and local officials as well as MLB, the Orioles have moved their weekend series with the Tampa Bay Rays to Tropicana Field. There had been discussions about the clubs swapping dates for a home series, but Baltimore will instead serve as the home team and will receive the gate for the weekend games in St. Petersburg minus costs incurred by the Rays.

“After conversations with the Orioles and local officials, we believe that these decisions are in the best interests of fan safety and the deployment of city resources,” MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said in a statement. “Our thoughts are with all those who have been affected by violence in Baltimore, and everyone in our game hopes for peace and the safety of a great American city.”

Ubaldo Jimenez and Jeff Samardzija will remain as the scheduled starters for Wednesday’s game.

The postponed games against Chicago will be made up as part of a single-admission doubleheader on May 28 beginning at 4:05 p.m. Tickets for Monday’s postponed contest will be valid for the doubleheader with fans unable to attend having the opportunity to exchange their tickets for any remaining home game this season. All those with tickets to games on April 29, May 1, May 2, or May 3 at Camden Yards may exchange their tickets for any remaining home game. All of these exchanges will be made on a “dollar for dollar” basis.

All tickets are subject to availability and exchanges must be completed by June 30.

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Tuesday’s Orioles-White Sox game also postponed

Posted on 28 April 2015 by Luke Jones

As Baltimore tries to recover from one of the darkest times in its history, the Orioles have postponed Tuesday night’s game against the Chicago White Sox.

Despite discussions about playing in the afternoon, the club elected to postpone a second consecutive game after consulting with state and local officials as well as Major League Baseball. Even if games can be played at Oriole Park at Camden Yards this week, start times figure to be impacted by the citywide 10 p.m. curfew beginning Tuesday night that is scheduled to last for the next week.

With law enforcement officials having so many more important matters to address in the Charm City, the involved parties ultimately made the right call not using resources for a baseball game so soon after Monday’s riots.

Safety remains the highest priority, but complicating matters is this being the only trip into Baltimore for the White Sox this season. The Orioles are off on Thursday, but Chicago will be beginning a series in Minnesota.

Like Monday’s postponement, no makeup date has been announced, but fans are asked to keep their tickets and parking passes until more information is available.

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Report: Orioles-White Sox day game being considered for Tuesday

Posted on 28 April 2015 by Luke Jones

As Baltimore deals with one of the darkest times in its history, the Orioles and Major League Baseball continued to ponder how to handle what remains of the current homestand.

After postponing Monday’s game due to ongoing riots through the city, MLB will decide by 9 a.m. Tuesday whether the Orioles will play an afternoon game against the Chicago White Sox at Oriole Park at Camden Yards, according to USA Today. Speaking to media on Monday evening, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred acknowledged the possibility of the Orioles-White Sox series being moved to another location such as Nationals Park in Washington.

It goes without saying that the Orioles would prefer to play games at their home ballpark if at all feasible.

“We feel like we made the decision that would provide us the greatest possible security, in terms of protecting the fans, the players, the umpires, everybody involved,” Manfred said Tuesday evening. “We’re looking at every possible alternative in terms of completing the schedule in a timely way and making sure the games are played in a secured situation that’s safe for the fans. We’re going to look at every alternative.”

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake announced a citywide curfew from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. beginning Tuesday night that is to last for a week. Maryland governor Larry Hogan later declared a state of emergency and deployed the National Guard to help protect structures in the city.

Such developments would make it highly unlikely that the Orioles would be able to start games this week at the normal 7:05 p.m. first pitch — if they’re able to play in Baltimore at all.

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CamdenYards

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Orioles-White Sox game postponed due to Baltimore riots

Posted on 27 April 2015 by Luke Jones

BALITMORE — Due to continuing riots in Baltimore stemming from the death of Freddie Gray, the Orioles announced the postponement of Monday night’s game against the Chicago White Sox.

The announcement came less than an hour before the scheduled 7:05 p.m. start after the Orioles and Major League Baseball consulted with the Baltimore City Police Department. The club said a make-up date will be set as soon as possible.

Fans were encouraged to keep their tickets and parking passes until more information was made available.

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