Tag Archive | "Orioles"

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Orioles designate Webb for assignment, promote Lavarnway

Posted on 06 April 2015 by Luke Jones

The Orioles wasted no time in altering their first 25-man roster of the 2015 season by designating right-handed pitcher Ryan Webb for assignment and promoting catcher Ryan Lavarnway hours before their season opener on Monday.

It was clear the Orioles would need to make a change after initially keeping 14 pitchers on their roster Sunday, but they have been unable to find a trade partner for Webb, who is guaranteed a $2.75 million and has already refused an assignment to Triple-A Norfolk as a player with more than five years of major league service time. The 29-year-old cleared waivers last week, making it all but guaranteed that the Orioles will now need to eat his salary.

Baltimore selected Lavarnway’s contract after initially reassigning him to minor-league camp on Sunday. The move signals that manager Buck Showalter likely envisions the former Boston Red Sox product as the club’s backup behind Caleb Joseph while three-time All-Star selection Matt Wieters continues to rehab his surgically-repaired elbow.

Needing to activate first baseman Chris Davis from the suspended list on Tuesday, the Orioles appear likely to send catcher Steve Clevenger to Triple-A Norfolk since he has a remaining minor-league option if Showalter wants to keep 13 pitchers for the time being.

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Buck Showalter, Adam Jones

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Showalter makes Orioles best bet in question-filled AL East

Posted on 06 April 2015 by Luke Jones

I’ll admit I don’t love this Orioles roster going into the 2015 season.

While fighting the thought that they may have missed their last best chance to go to the World Series last October, the Orioles lost Nelson Cruz, Nick Markakis, and Andrew Miller this offseason while making no sure-fire additions to replace their production. Yes, the payroll rose to just under $120 million to account for a laundry list of players receiving raises in arbitration, but that still doesn’t erase the feeling of it being an underwhelming winter.

Those factors alone make it easy to pick against the Orioles this year before you take a step back to examine the remaining roster.

Will the Orioles miss Cruz and Markakis? Absolutely, but will they miss them more than they might have yearned to have the injured Matt Wieters and Manny Machado last season while still managing to win 96 games? Will they ache for Cruz quite as badly if Chris Davis rebounds from a horrific campaign to look more like the slugger he was in 2012 or, better yet, 2013?

And while Miller found a lucrative contract in Yankee pinstripes, the rest of a pitching staff that finished third in the American League in ERA last season remains intact. So does a defense that’s been the best in baseball over the last three years and might be the biggest reason for the Orioles’ success.

If you’re not yet convinced, a look around the rest of the AL East might do it.

Boston? That’s one hell of a scary lineup, but four of their five starting pitchers posted an ERA above 4.00 last year and the bullpen headlined by ailing closer Koji Uehara is shaky at best.

Toronto will again hit the baseball with the additions of Josh Donaldson and Russell Martin, but the bullpen is a major weakness and the loss of Marcus Stroman puts too much stress on veterans R.A. Dickey and Mark Buehrle and three starters below the age of 25.

The Yankees? That roster would have scared you five years ago, but age and injuries will be their undoing as it was a year ago.

Tampa Bay will have a strong starting rotation if early-season injuries are overcome, but the Rays will struggle to score runs all year and the magic maneuvering of former manager Joe Maddon is now gone.

No, the Orioles won’t run away with the division, but there’s vulnerability anywhere you look. And that’s where the potential tiebreaker comes into play that will push Baltimore over the top.

Taking nothing away from Boston’s John Farrell and New York’s Joe Girardi for having won World Series rings with their respective clubs, but I’ll count on Buck Showalter to get the absolute most from his roster while hiding deficiencies better than any manager in the AL East.

For the last three years, the Orioles have thrived on overcoming adversity while relishing opportunities to prove their doubters wrong. Showalter and his players were already talking about many naysayers picking them to finish in last place weeks ago, even if those slights are more fabrication than reality.

The knee-jerk reaction in assessing the Orioles after an underwhelming offseason is to drop them substantially in the standings, but then you remember they clinched the division in mid-September and won the AL East by a whopping 12 games. That’s a lot of ground that the others in the division needed to make up.

The Red Sox appear to have emerged as the media favorite to win the AL East, but that didn’t stop 30 of ESPN’s experts from picking Baltimore to take the division compared to 36 forecasting Boston. A number of other national outlets are giving the Orioles plenty of respect as well, and even their bigger critics are generally picking them no worse than second or third.

After watching the Orioles average 91 wins per year while outperforming projections over the last three seasons, we should know better at this point. The questions that exist elsewhere in the AL East should only confirm the truth.

You don’t bet against Buck.

And even if I may not like the Orioles as much as last year, they will still be the best that the AL East has to offer in 2015.

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clevenger

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Clevenger, Garcia make Orioles’ 25-man roster for Opening Day

Posted on 05 April 2015 by Luke Jones

In a unique position with a surplus of pitching and Chris Davis having one game remaining from last year’s 25-game suspension, the Orioles have elected to keep 14 pitchers on their 25-man roster for Opening Day.

For now, the Orioles will keep veteran Ryan Webb and Rule 5 pick Jason Garcia in a crowded bullpen for Monday’s opener against the Tampa Bay Rays. Owed a guaranteed $2.75 million this season, Webb passed through waivers late last week and cannot be sent to the minors without his consent. Executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette would like to move him, but the Orioles would not be able to expect much of anything in return as other clubs are aware of his status.

The 22-year-old Garcia is a former member of the Boston Red Sox organization and impressed this spring, posting a 0.87 ERA with 12 strikeouts in 10 1/3 innings this spring. The right-hander underwent Tommy John surgery in 2013 and was converted to the bullpen last season.

He will need to remain on the 25-man roster all season in order for the Orioles to keep him in the organization.

In a bit of a surprising move, Mount Saint Joseph graduate Steve Clevenger made the 25-man roster as the backup catcher to Caleb Joseph, who will start in place of the injured Matt Wieters to begin the season. Many expected former Red Sox catcher Ryan Lavarnway to make the club, but Clevenger was already on the 40-man roster.

Clevenger made the club to begin last season as the backup catcher, but he was optioned to Triple-A Norfolk last May when the Orioles elected to go with Joseph and veteran Nick Hundley in Wieters’ absence. The Pigtown native hit .275 with three doubles and six RBIs in 40 at-bats this spring.

The Orioles announced Sunday that veteran Ubaldo Jimenez will make his first start of the season on Saturday, confirming that he has made the starting rotation. This leaves the 24-year-old Kevin Gausman in a relief role for now, which may create problems in finding him regular work or keeping him stretched out for a potential starting role later this season.

Davis will be eligible to return to the 25-man roster on Tuesday, leaving an interesting decision for Duquette. If the club is unable to make a trade to clear space, Webb could be released or Gausman might be optioned to Norfolk to create a roster spot.

The Orioles also announced Sunday that they had reassigned Lavarnway and outfielder Nolan Reimold to minor-league camp and optioned long reliever T.J. McFarland to Norfolk.

Wieters (right elbow), shortstop J.J. Hardy (left shoulder), outfielder David Lough (left hamstring), and infielder Jimmy Paredes (lower back) were officially placed on the 15-day disabled list to begin the year. The stints for the first three were backdated to March 27, making them eligible to return as early as April 11. Paredes is eligible to be activated as soon as April 16 after straining his lower back lifting weights last week.

Below is a look at where the roster stands for now:

STARTING PITCHERS
RHP Chris Tillman
LHP Wei-Yin Chen
RHP Miguel Gonzalez
RHP Bud Norris
RHP Ubaldo Jimenez

RELIEF PITCHERS
RHP Kevin Gausman
RHP Jason Garcia
RHP Ryan Webb
LHP Wesley Wright
LHP Brian Matusz
RHP Brad Brach
RHP Tommy Hunter
RHP Darren O’Day
LHP Zach Britton

CATCHERS
Caleb Joseph
Steve Clevenger

INFIELDERS
Everth Cabrera
Ryan Flaherty
Manny Machado
Jonathan Schoop

OUTFIELDERS
Alejandro De Aza
Adam Jones
Steve Pearce
Travis Snider
Delmon Young

DISABLED LIST (will not count against 25-man roster)
SS J.J. Hardy (left shoulder)
OF David Lough (left hamstring)
INF Jimmy Paredes (lower back)
C Matt Wieters (right elbow)

SUSPENDED LIST (will not count against 25-man roster)
1B Chris Davis

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MLB: Toronto Blue Jays at Baltimore Orioles

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2015 Orioles preview: Ryan Lavarnway

Posted on 04 April 2015 by Luke Jones

With Opening Day now only days away, we continue to take a look at a member of the 2015 Orioles every day as they try to defend their American League East title this season.

March 9 – Adam Jones
March 10 – Chris Tillman
March 11 – J.J. Hardy
March 12 – Zach Britton
March 13 – Chris Davis
March 14 – Wei-Yin Chen
March 15 – Jonathan Schoop
March 16 – Travis Snider
March 17 – Kevin Gausman
March 18 – Alejandro De Aza
March 19 – Tommy Hunter
March 20 – Manny Machado
March 21 – Brad Brach
March 22 – Steve Pearce
March 23 – Darren O’Day
March 24 – Caleb Joseph
March 25 – Wesley Wright
March 26 – Delmon Young
March 27 – Miguel Gonzalez
March 28 – Ryan Flaherty
March 29 – Ubaldo Jimenez
March 30 – Everth Cabrera
March 31 – Bud Norris
April 1 – Matt Wieters
April 2 – Jimmy Paredes
April 3 – Brian Matusz

C Ryan Lavarnway

Opening Day age: 27

Contract status: Under club control through the 2018 season

Minor-league options remaining: None

2014 stats (with Boston): .000/.000/.000, 0 HR, 0 RBI, 0 R, 0 SB, 10 PA

Why to be impressed: After being selected off waivers by three different clubs this offseason, the former Red Sox catcher has impressed enough to earn the backup role behind Caleb Joseph while Matt Wieters continues to work his way back to full strength. The right-handed hitter has an .824 career on-base plus slugging percentage at the Triple-A level.

Why to be concerned: Despite hitting .299 in 77 at-bats for the Red Sox in 2013, he was moved to first base by the organization last season before missing significant time with a broken hamate bone. Lavarnway beat out Steve Clevenger with better defensive skills, but he’s not nearly as good as Wieters or Joseph behind the plate, giving him limited value as a backup catcher.

2015 outlook: Lavarnway has a career .565 OPS in 301 major league plate appearances and never established himself as a consistent option for Boston. The Orioles hope he won’t be needed at the major league level for long with Wieters expected back from Tommy John surgery sooner rather than later.

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sandoval

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2015 American League East preview

Posted on 04 April 2015 by Luke Jones

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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webb

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Webb reportedly clears waivers, Paredes likely heading to DL

Posted on 03 April 2015 by Luke Jones

With the Orioles needing to finalize their 25-man roster for the start of the 2015 season by Sunday, two more outcomes became evident on Friday afternoon.

According to The Sun, right-handed relief pitcher Ryan Webb has passed through waivers, which will likely lead to his departure from the organization. Meanwhile, the red-hot Jimmy Paredes is expected to be placed on the 15-day disabled list after injuring his lower back while lifting weights earlier this week.

Out of minor-league options and owed $2.75 million, Webb cannot be sent to Triple-A Norfolk without his consent and is still guaranteed his salary if he refuses to go to the minors. This means the Orioles will likely need to decide to either make room for him on the 25-man roster or to part ways with the 29-year-old while still paying him his money.

Asked about the matter on MASN Friday, executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette would not expand on Webb’s future with the organization.

“Waivers are [supposed to be] confidential,” Duquette said. “Ryan Webb is still on our roster.”

Signed to a two-year, $4.5 million contract two offseasons ago, Webb pitched to a 3.83 ERA last season before he became the odd man out when the Orioles acquired lefty reliever Andrew Miller in late July. Webb hasn’t helped his cause this spring by pitching to a 6.75 ERA in 6 2/3 innings.

News of Paredes’ injury is disappointing after the switch-hitting infielder batted .364 with 10 extra-base hits, 12 RBIs, and a 1.005 on-base plus slugging percentage this spring. With shortstop J.J. Hardy and outfielder David Lough also expected to begin the season on the DL, Paredes was expected to make the roster out of spring training.

The Paredes injury may open the door for outfielder Nolan Reimold to make the club after being a non-roster invitee. The 31-year-old has hit two home runs and posted a .928 OPS this spring.

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2015 Orioles preview: Brian Matusz

Posted on 03 April 2015 by Luke Jones

With Opening Day now only days away, we continue to take a look at a member of the 2015 Orioles every day as they try to defend their American League East title this season.

March 9 – Adam Jones
March 10 – Chris Tillman
March 11 – J.J. Hardy
March 12 – Zach Britton
March 13 – Chris Davis
March 14 – Wei-Yin Chen
March 15 – Jonathan Schoop
March 16 – Travis Snider
March 17 – Kevin Gausman
March 18 – Alejandro De Aza
March 19 – Tommy Hunter
March 20 – Manny Machado
March 21 – Brad Brach
March 22 – Steve Pearce
March 23 – Darren O’Day
March 24 – Caleb Joseph
March 25 – Wesley Wright
March 26 – Delmon Young
March 27 – Miguel Gonzalez
March 28 – Ryan Flaherty
March 29 – Ubaldo Jimenez
March 30 – Everth Cabrera
March 31 – Bud Norris
April 1 – Matt Wieters
April 2 – Jimmy Paredes

LHP Brian Matusz

Opening Day age: 28

Contract status: Under club control through the 2016 season

Minor-league options remaining: None

2014 stats: 2-3, 3.48 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, 9.2 K/IP, 7 HR, 51 2/3 innings

Why to be impressed: Even if Matusz never lived up to the potential of being a first-round pick in 2008, he’s carved out a nice role as a lefty specialist with a career 3.26 ERA pitching in relief and struck out 9.2 batters per nine innings while holding lefties to a .223 average in 2014. The southpaw was stretched out this spring, posting an exceptional 1.88 ERA and striking out 12 in 14 1/3 innings of work to draw interest from other clubs.

Why to be concerned: A $3.2 million salary is less than ideal for a reliever who surrendered an .876 on-base plus slugging percentage against right-handed hitters a year ago. With a crowded bullpen that now includes fellow lefty Wesley Wright, Matusz doesn’t possess as much value to manager Buck Showalter considering he is often used for only a batter or two.

2015 outlook: It’s no secret that the Orioles shopped Matusz all spring with the New York Mets appearing to be a potential suitor before they ultimately turned elsewhere for left-handed relief help. Matusz now appears more likely to begin the regular season in Baltimore, but the decision to tender him a contract this winter remains a puzzling one as the organization tries to figure out what to do with a surplus of bullpen arms. If he sticks around, Matusz is good for an ERA around 3.50 in which he gets the best of left-handed hitters and is kept away from righty sluggers as much as possible.

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Orioles set spring training attendance record

Posted on 03 April 2015 by WNST Staff

PRESS RELEASE

With Friday’s crowd of 7,329 for the final home game of Orioles Spring Training at Ed Smith Stadium, the Orioles have drawn a total of 112,258 fans for 15 home games in Sarasota this season. Since 2010, when the club’s Major League operations moved to Sarasota, 544,316 fans have enjoyed Spring Training baseball at Ed Smith Stadium.

This year, the club set a franchise record with an average per game attendance of 7,484, topping the previous record average of 7,454 set during the 2014 Spring Training season. The Orioles also tied a franchise record with nine sellouts this spring, including a record eight consecutive sellouts from March 7 to March 22.

“As the Orioles wrap up another Spring Training season, we are incredibly grateful to our fans for their tremendous support,” said DAVID ROVINE, Vice President of Orioles-Sarasota. “As evidenced by our record-setting attendance figures this season, Ed Smith Stadium and the greater Sarasota area continue to be a premiere destination for baseball fans throughout Florida, the Mid-Atlantic region, and the entire nation. While Spring Training may be coming to a close, we look forward to hosting many exciting events throughout the year.”

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Five things that can’t happen for 2015 Orioles

Posted on 03 April 2015 by Luke Jones

It’s funny how we annually try to pinpoint absolutes in assessing what must go right or what can’t go wrong for the Orioles to have a successful season.

There are very few absolutes on which you can count over the course of a 162-game schedule. Look no further than last year to realize just how true that can be.

You might have predicted last spring that nearly everything needed to go right for the Orioles to win their first American League East title in 17 years. Instead, they endured the absence of All-Star catcher Matt Wieters for most of the year, another season-ending knee injury to Gold Glove third baseman Manny Machado, and an abysmal campaign from 2013 home run king Chris Davis that ended with a 25-man suspension for Adderall use.

If given a preview of only those subplots last spring, you would have been more inclined to predict a 96-loss campaign as opposed to 96 victories and winning the division by a dozen games.

You just never know and that’s what makes it fun, as manager Buck Showalter would say.

With that reality in mind, below is a stab at five things that can’t happen for the Orioles in 2015 after we looked at what factors must go right on Thursday. In an effort to avoid being redundant in the wake of the first piece, I avoided the polar opposites of the factors already discussed.

1. The worm turns on the health of the pitching

In addition to recapturing the success from last season, Orioles pitching would desperately like to extend its run of good fortune in the health department as only four pitchers — Tommy Hunter, Bud Norris, Miguel Gonzalez, and Ubaldo Jimenez –visited the 15-day disabled list in 2014. Of those four, only Jimenez spent more than 18 days on the DL and there was plenty of external debate over the severity of his ankle injury as he was in the midst of a disappointing season.

Injuries are a part of the game and it’d be difficult for the Orioles to expect that same level of health, but you can only hope the baseball gods don’t decide to exact revenge in 2015. Baltimore was one of only 10 teams in the majors last year to have four pitchers make 25 or more starts while only two clubs — Kansas City and Washington — had five pitchers make 25 or more.

The odds are not in the Orioles’ favor to repeat last year’s injury-light run as any given club has a 65 percent likelihood of having two starters ailing at the same time at some point in a season, according to FanGraphs. That reality makes it clear why executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette was so hesitant to part with any of the club’s top six starters this winter.

While many focused on the misfortune of the injuries suffered by Wieters and Machado last season, the rotation and the bullpen were as healthy as you could have hoped for on the way to 96 wins.

2. Corner outfield spots become a wasteland

It’s been impossible to escape the lamenting over the departure of outfielders Nelson Cruz and Nick Markakis this offseason as the Orioles weren’t willing to invest the combined $101 million that the pair received elsewhere in free agency. The veterans accounted for a total of 207 starts at the corner outfield spots that others will need to assume in 2015.

No two individuals will be expected to fill their roles exclusively as some combination of Steve Pearce, Alejandro De Aza, Delmon Young, Travis Snider, David Lough, and possibly Nolan Reimold will receive early opportunities. Even if you thought Cruz and Markakis were overpaid, the Orioles still need to account for the 116 extra-base hits the two produced last year.

Of course, the club can reasonably expect better offensive returns from the likes of Davis, Machado, Wieters, and J.J. Hardy at their respective positions, but there’s a lot of unknown that Showalter will be facing in trying to pull the right strings with a cast of unproven or flawed characters flanking center fielder Adam Jones.

The Orioles don’t necessarily need the overwhelming success of platoons resembling the best days of John Lowenstein and Gary Roenicke, but poor production from the corner outfield spots is a recipe for a lineup likely struggling to score runs.

3. Matt Wieters is a shell of his old self defensively

There was a reason why I didn’t include Wieters having a bounce-back year as one of the things that must happen for the Orioles. The truth is they proved they could win without him last season.

Make no mistake, the Orioles would benefit from a better offensive catcher than Caleb Joseph, but a more uncomfortable proposition might be a Wieters behind the plate who is a shell of what he used to be defensively. If Wieters is fully cleared, Showalter will immediately reinstall him as the starter, but that doesn’t guarantee his defense will warrant him being the overwhelming regular, potentially creating an awkward situation.

Last season, Joseph produced 1.5 defensive wins above replacement — a better mark than Wieters in either of his last two full seasons — and the Orioles allowed the eighth-lowest total of stolen bases in the majors. For a club that prides itself in controlling the opponent’s running game, Wieters’ defense is more important than his offense.

Yes, it’s important to have Wieters back, but him returning as a defensive liability while also remembering that his on-base plus slugging percentage steadily declined from 2011 through 2013 would be worrisome. With a small number of catchers having undergone Tommy John surgery at the major league level over the years, it’s impossible to truly know what to expect.

4. Injuries continue to zap J.J. Hardy of his power

A back injury that lingered for much of the 2014 season limited the three-time Gold Glove shortstop to just nine home runs and a .372 slugging percentage, which is what made the news of a shoulder injury last week disheartening for the 32-year-old.

Hardy isn’t expected to miss much time, but the Orioles are counting on him to be part of the equation to fill the power void left behind by Cruz. Before Hardy signed a three-year, $40 million contract last fall, the organization had to be expecting a return to power numbers similar to what he posted in his first three years in Baltimore.

Back and shoulder issues for a shortstop on the wrong side of 30 are worrisome, especially when you’re counting on Hardy to hit a few more out of the ballpark this season. His defense is his best asset, but the Orioles need more than that while paying him an average of just over $13 million per season over the next three years.

5. The underwhelming offseason and the reality of 11 pending free agents create a tight clubhouse

Several players made no secret about their disappointment in this past offseason in watching the departures of Markakis, Cruz, and lefty reliever Andrew Miller while seeing minimal additions for the 2015 season. Duquette has certainly earned the benefit of the doubt, but it’s human nature for veterans to be disappointed to see a longtime Oriole like Markakis depart.

On top of this, the club has 11 players currently slated to become free agents next offseason including position players such as Davis, Wieters, Pearce, De Aza, and Young and starting pitchers Norris and Wei-Yin Chen. That’s why many are viewing 2015 as the Orioles’ last chance to seriously contend for at least a couple years.

Showalter is as good as any manager in baseball in cultivating a loose clubhouse and strong player leadership remains despite Markakis’ departure, but it wouldn’t be a stretch to wonder if players might be too tight this season, especially if the club were to get off to a slow start.

And the memory of a disappointing four-game sweep in last year’s American League Championship Series could creep back into players’ psyche in the process.

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2015 Orioles preview: Jimmy Paredes

Posted on 02 April 2015 by Luke Jones

With Opening Day now only days away, we continue to take a look at a member of the 2015 Orioles every day as they try to defend their American League East title this season.

March 9 – Adam Jones
March 10 – Chris Tillman
March 11 – J.J. Hardy
March 12 – Zach Britton
March 13 – Chris Davis
March 14 – Wei-Yin Chen
March 15 – Jonathan Schoop
March 16 – Travis Snider
March 17 – Kevin Gausman
March 18 – Alejandro De Aza
March 19 – Tommy Hunter
March 20 – Manny Machado
March 21 – Brad Brach
March 22 – Steve Pearce
March 23 – Darren O’Day
March 24 – Caleb Joseph
March 25 – Wesley Wright
March 26 – Delmon Young
March 27 – Miguel Gonzalez
March 28 – Ryan Flaherty
March 29 – Ubaldo Jimenez
March 30 – Everth Cabrera
March 31 – Bud Norris
April 1 – Matt Wieters

UTI Jimmy Paredes

Opening Day age: 26

Contract status: Under club control through the 2019 season

Minor-league options remaining: None

2014 stats: .286/.308/.444, 2 HR, 8 RBI, 12 R, 4 SB, 65 PA

Why to be impressed: Building on a strong finish to the 2014 season with the Orioles, Paredes has produced a terrific spring with a 1.005 on-base plus slugging percentage in 55 at-bats to all but guarantee himself a roster spot to begin the season. His ability to hit from both sides of the plate makes him a viable offensive piece to come off the bench in late-inning situations.

Why to be concerned: Despite his potential with the bat, Paredes is very limited defensively no matter where manager Buck Showalter might put him in the field. The injury to David Lough has created roster space for the time being, but Paredes will need to really contribute with the bat to justify his place on the club for the long haul.

2015 outlook: He could take some at-bats away from Delmon Young as an occasional designated hitter, but Paredes wouldn’t figure to see much playing time unless the Orioles are dealing with a slew of injuries. It remains to be seen how long he will stick on the roster, but his strong showing last year and fantastic spring make him deserving of an opportunity. Even if Paredes cools off and the Orioles decide they can’t continue to carry him on the 25-man roster in the coming weeks, they’d like to keep him in the organization for depth, but he’d have to pass through waivers to make it back to the minors.

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