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Orioles activate outfielder Colby Rasmus from disabled list

Posted on 21 June 2018 by Luke Jones

Sporting the worst record in baseball and desperately needing to get younger for the future, the Orioles have gone in the opposite direction by activating veteran outfielder Colby Rasmus from the disabled list and optioning outfielder Joey Rickard to Triple-A Norfolk.

The move came before the finale of a three-game set in Washington, meaning Rasmus would be seeing his first major league action since early April against three-time Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer. The 31-year-old just completed a lengthy minor-league rehab assignment split between Single-A Frederick and Double-A Bowie in which he batted a combined .275 with two home runs, three doubles, 10 runs batted in, and an .824 on-base plus slugging percentage in 57 plate appearances.

Rasmus was placed on the DL with a left hip flexor strain on April 7 after getting off to a 2-for-21 start to the season that included an alarming 13 strikeouts in 23 plate appearances. He has a history of hip issues and even had surgery in 2016, but the Orioles signing him to a one-year, $3 million deal to be their primary right fielder in February always made it likely they’d give him another look to see if his health was the primary reason for those April struggles.

The left-handed hitter batted .281 with nine homers, 23 RBIs, and an .896 OPS in 129 plate appearances for Tampa Bay last season before abruptly walking away from the game for personal reasons. It remains to be seen how much patience the organization will have should Rasmus look similar to the hitter he was in April, especially with a frustrated fan base clamoring for Triple-A prospects such as DJ Stewart and Cedric Mullins to get an opportunity in the big leagues for a last-place team going nowhere.

Rickard, 27, is batting .203 with five homers, eight RBIs, and a .673 OPS in 86 plate appearances for Baltimore this season.

To make room for Rasmus on the 40-man roster, the Orioles transferred left-handed relief pitcher Richard Bleier to the 60-day disabled list. Bleier underwent season-ending surgery to repair a Grade 3 latissimus tear in his left shoulder earlier this week.

Infielder Pedro Alvarez cleared waivers and was outrighted to Norfolk on Thursday.

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Twelve Orioles thoughts following Memorial Day checkpoint

Posted on 29 May 2018 by Luke Jones

With one-third of the Orioles’ 2018 season officially in the books after the 6-0 loss to Washington on Monday, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. The Orioles reached the much-discussed Memorial Day checkpoint sitting at 20 games below .500 and 20 games out of first place in the American League East. I’d say an extension to Flag Day probably isn’t necessary to determine how this organization needs to proceed.

2. Since plating 17 runs on Mother’s Day, the Baltimore lineup has scored three or fewer in 11 of 13 games. Pitching woes and bad defense haven’t surprised me, but I never expected the offense to be this consistently bad, ranking last in the AL in runs scored per game (3.83).

3. I’m unsure how good the likes of Cedric Mullins, DJ Stewart, and Austin Hays will be in the majors, but watching some of the outfield combinations used by Buck Showalter in recent weeks is tiresome. I suppose a 111-loss pace reflects the amount of dead weight on the current roster.

4. Continuing to bat Chris Davis fifth or sixth is even worse.

5. Alex Cobb turned in his longest start of the season Monday, but he was plagued by a 42-pitch third inning that didn’t feature a single swing and miss. He has the worst swinging-strike percentage among pitchers completing 40 innings. His split-changeup still hasn’t returned since Tommy John surgery.

6. Davis’ performance has helped mask the struggles of Jonathan Schoop, who owns a .667 on-base plus slugging percentage and a walk rate on par with his first two seasons. The oblique strain didn’t help, but this isn’t ideal for someone needing to be re-signed or traded in the near future.

7. Many were pointing to Richard Bleier as a possible candidate to represent the Orioles at the All-Star Game if Manny Machado were to be traded before then. A 5.23 ERA in May and opponents batting .438 against him this month have certainly cooled that possibility.

8. Trey Mancini is batting .203 with a .632 OPS since banging his knee against the brick wall on April 20. He hasn’t used the knee as an excuse, but he’s hitting too many balls on the ground and his defense has taken a substantial step back from last year.

9. Concerns about Andrew Cashner being able to miss bats have been quelled by him averaging 8.1 strikeouts per nine innings, but his previously-stellar ground-ball rate has plummeted to a career-worst 37.8 percent and he’s allowed 11 homers in 60 1/3 innings. That hasn’t been a good trade-off.

10. How big has the long-ball problem been for the rotation? Dylan Bundy, Kevin Gausman, Cashner, and Cobb all rank among the top 30 for worst homer rates in the majors among those completing at least 40 innings. Chris Tillman would also be on that list if he had enough innings.

11. This past weekend marked the six-year anniversary of Adam Jones inking his $85.5 million contract that was a winner for both sides. It represented happier times when a competitive window was just opening and the Orioles had the vision and urgency to lock up a 26-year-old entering his prime.

12. I’m unmoved about in-season firings in what’s already a lost year, but how refreshing would it be for a member of the Angelos family to speak about this being unacceptable, to vow changes, and to lay out some semblance of a vision? Is that really too much to ask?

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Twelve Orioles thoughts following 4-1 loss to Philadelphia

Posted on 16 May 2018 by Luke Jones

With the Orioles concluding their eight-game homestand with a 4-1 loss to Philadelphia, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. The Baltimore offense came crashing down after scoring 58 runs in its previous seven games, managing just one run and four hits against the Phillies. It was the 22nd game this season in which the Orioles scored three or fewer runs.

2. A 5-3 homestand brought better baseball and sounds fine if you’re a team that hadn’t already buried itself over the first six weeks. That’s simply not moving the meter unless the Orioles magically start playing well on the road, something they haven’t done consistently in four years.

3. Andrew Cashner kept his club in it, but he ran into trouble going through the order a third time. Entering Wednesday, opponents had a .988 on-base plus slugging percentage seeing him a third time in a game. The Phillies continued that by going 3-for-5 with a homer and a walk.

4. Cashner continues collecting more strikeouts than expected with six in 5 2/3 innings, but the long ball continues to be a problem as he allowed at least one for the eighth time in nine starts. After allowing just 15 in 166 2/3 innings last year, he’s surrendered 11 in 2018.

5. Nick Pivetta deserves praise after matching his career high with 11 strikeouts and inducing a career-best 23 swinging strikes, but the Phillies starter mentioned in his post-game press conference how he took advantage of the Orioles’ free-swinging ways. The flawed approach is hardly a secret.

6. Adam Jones provided the lone offensive highlight of the day with his seventh homer of the season in the first inning, extended his hitting streak to 11 straight games. The Orioles didn’t have another baserunner until the fifth inning and had only two more until the eighth.

7. No one ever confused him with Manny Machado in the two-base department, but Chris Davis hit only his third double of the year. After hitting 31 in 2015, Davis collected only 21 in 2016 and 15 last year. He’s slugging .281, which is barely higher than Craig Gentry’s .270 mark.

8. Expecting Richard Bleier to sustain a 0.40 ERA was always unrealistic, but the lefty surrendering runs in each of his last two outings is a bummer for an injury-plagued bullpen that hasn’t been very good this season. He couldn’t keep the deficit to one run in the sixth.

9. The Orioles and Phillies saw a combined 13 pitches in the fourth inning. Think players were aware it was a getaway day with plenty of rain in the forecast?

10. Phillies center fielder Odubel Herrera singled in the opening frame to reach base in his 42nd consecutive game, the longest streak of any major league hitter since 2016. Just don’t tell the Orioles he’s a former Rule 5 pick.

11. After completing a bullpen session on Wednesday, Darren O’Day could be activated from the disabled list as early as Friday. With Zach Britton now throwing live batting practice, the Orioles bullpen could be back to full strength in the not-too-distant future.

12. If you needed a reminder of why the Orioles’ future looks grim, Baseball America’s Ben Badler sheds maddening light on the organization’s continued lack of participation in the international market. This puts an unnecessary ceiling on a farm system in need of more talent.

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Twelve Orioles thoughts ahead of West Coast road trip

Posted on 30 April 2018 by Luke Jones

With the Orioles coming off just their second series win of the season, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. Dan Duquette said Friday it was a little early” to be talking selling, which is fine considering potential contenders are still evaluating their own rosters. But what’s the Angelos family’s plan? Will Duquette — with his expiring contract — orchestrate trades? Brady Anderson? A new hire? The clock is ticking loudly now.

2. Manny Machado entered Monday leading the majors with a .361 average and his home run, walk, and strikeout rates are career highs thus far. An MVP-caliber start helps his trade value, but failing to re-sign him or secure the optimal return value has been organizational malpractice.

3. Many expected the final two or three years of the Chris Davis deal to be ugly, but Buck Showalter’s comments on Sunday spoke volumes about this nightmare. For context, he’ll remain under contract as long as the just-drafted Lamar Jackson — assuming the Ravens exercise his fifth-year option.

4. Pedro Alvarez being pushed into last-second duty Sunday and hitting two homers was impressive on Sunday. He leads the club in both homer rate (8.6 percent of plate appearances) and walk rate (15.7 percent). Give him credit after playing most of last season at Triple-A Norfolk.

5. Mark Trumbo’s activation in Anaheim will give the Orioles a fifth player on the roster — Davis, Alvarez, Trey Mancini, and Danny Valencia the others — whose best role would be as the designated hitter or first baseman. Trumbo playing right field certainly isn’t going to help a below-average defense.

6. The suggestion of Richard Bleier closing out Sunday’s win would have been crazy even at the beginning of the season, but the fact that some were clamoring for him reflects how terrific he’s been. He’s second on the club behind Machado in wins above replacement, according to Baseball Reference.

7. Orioles catchers have struck out in 36.7 percent of their plate appearances so far this season. I support Chance Sisco playing over Caleb Joseph at this point, but he’s striking out two out of every five times at the plate. That must improve sooner than later.

8. Zach Britton is moving closer to potentially returning in early June, a remarkable recovery from his torn Achilles tendon. Perhaps that’ll be enough time for the former All-Star closer to build enough trade value, but a two-year deal this winter could have made a lot of sense for both sides.

9. This was the first home series win since last August. The Orioles have gone 15-42 since then and are 61-97 since their 22-10 start last season. To recover enough to win 85 games, they’d have to play like a 93-win team the rest of the way. Cue Lloyd Christmas.

10. The Orioles and Kansas City are both in the basement of their respective divisions less than four years after meeting in the American League Championship Series. That feels like a really long time ago, but at least the Royals can take solace in having won a World Series.

11. I’m not sure how many were preparing to stay up late to watch a last-place team on the West Coast this week, but I was disappointed to see Shohei Ohtani’s scheduled Tuesday start pushed back to the weekend after last week’s ankle sprain. His story is incredible.

12. Sunday was the 30th anniversary of the Orioles snapping their historic 0-21 start to begin the 1988 season. I recommend this look back as well as this MLB Network package chronicling that incomprehensible record. The 2018 Orioles are five games better than that club through 28 games.

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Twelve Orioles thoughts following 6-5 loss at Detroit

Posted on 18 April 2018 by Luke Jones

With the Orioles suffering their fifth straight defeat in a 6-5 walk-off final at Detroit, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. Yes, it’s early, but the Orioles must play like a 90-win team the rest of the way just to get to 85 victories. To get to 90, they have to play like a 96-win team. Any realistic path to the postseason is already circling the drain because of this start.

2. Darren O’Day hadn’t pitched in a week, but he’s now given up a go-ahead home run in the eighth inning or later in two of his last three appearances. Not including the superb four-game set at Yankee Stadium, the Baltimore bullpen has a 5.32 ERA in 45 2/3 innings.

3. No, I wouldn’t have used Pedro Araujo for the bottom of the ninth inning, but the club’s most reliable reliever over the last seven years had just blown a two-run lead in the previous inning. Who exactly do you really trust that was still available?

4. My bigger problem with Showalter’s bullpen usage was not sticking with Richard Bleier longer after he needed only six pitches to record the last two outs of the seventh inning. The lefty has been the Orioles’ top reliever and owns a 0.71 ERA this season.

5. If you’re looking for a silver lining, the Orioles managed to score more than three runs for just the second time in eight games. They even played some effective small ball in the eighth with Craig Gentry’s bunt and Adam Jones’ sacrifice fly.

6. Entering the day with four career homers and a .568 career on-base plus slugging percentage, Luis Sardinas hitting a pinch-hit homer to tie the game in the ninth would have been a pretty special moment had the Orioles won. Instead, it was quickly forgotten.

7. Speaking of nondescript defensive-minded infielders, Engelb Vielma made one heck of an over-the-shoulder catch in the seventh inning to help keep the Orioles’ deficit to one run.

8. Kevin Gausman made mistakes to Jeimer Candelario and Miguel Cabrera for solo homers, but he was very solid over his six innings. His velocity improved as the game progressed as he started to consistently hit 94 miles per hour and was touching 95 and 96. He deserved better.

9. Gausman’s slider was also one of the better ones I’ve seen him throw. He only recorded three swinging strikes out of the 21 times he threw it, but he was able to induce quite a bit of harmless contact with it.

10. Caleb Joseph is now batting .081 with a .240 OPS. It’s time for Chance Sisco to start receiving more extensive playing time.

11. The players, Showalter, the coaches, the front office, and ownership all deserve significant blame for this 5-13 start threatening to ruin the season. That said, I’m not sure what the immediate answer is that isn’t just based in emotion. The trade deadline is more than three months away.

12. I couldn’t have been the only one thinking Machado hitting a walk-off homer is something the Orioles should probably get used to being on the wrong side of sooner than later anyway. Yeah, that was a low blow, but watching bad baseball on a daily basis is getting to me.

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Twelve Orioles thoughts following 3-1 loss to Boston

Posted on 15 April 2018 by Luke Jones

With the Orioles suffering their third straight defeat in a 3-1 final against the Boston Red Sox, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. The Orioles led 1-0 three batters into the game and didn’t score again as the bottom six lineup spots were 0-for-20 with one walk and 12 strikeouts. No one expects 10 runs per game with the tough schedule and cold weather they’ve endured in April, but this is ridiculous.

2. Sixteen games into the season, three regulars against right-handed starters — Manny Machado, Trey Mancini, and Pedro Alvarez — have swung the bat well. Two part-timers — Chance Sisco and Craig Gentry — have been OK. The overall performance of everyone else has ranged from poor to below-replacement level.

3. In the four games in which Dylan Bundy has started, he’s posted a 1.40 ERA while the Orioles have scored a total of seven runs. To channel Gisele Bundchen, he can’t pitch the ball and hit the ball. If only he were Shohei Ohtani.

4. Bundy recorded five of his six strikeouts on his slider and has now gotten a swing and miss on 35.3 percent of his sliders this season. That’s up from 24.4 percent last year. Impressive.

5. It’s tough to pitch when you have to get five outs in the sixth inning of a tie game. Maybe it wasn’t a great idea to cut payroll by 10 percent without bothering to acquire a real utility infielder. Danny Valencia’s career minus-36 defensive runs saved aren’t a secret.

6. Until this season, the infield had done a good job masking the Orioles’ overall defensive decline since 2014 when they led the American League in defensive runs saved. Baltimore entered Sunday 12th in the AL in DRS and has finished 11th or 12th every season since its division title campaign.

7. I’ve been a Caleb Joseph guy, but he really needs to start hitting. His defense is his strength, but a .286 on-base plus slugging percentage is unacceptable with Sisco behind him. He needs to produce in the neighborhood of what he offered last year (.700 OPS) or 2015 (.693).

8. Richard Bleier pitching 2 1/3 scoreless innings isn’t shocking, but registering two strikeouts is rare after having only three in his first 9 2/3 innings of 2018 and striking out only 3.7 per nine frames last season. The lefty sinkerballer is a fascinating contrast to the strikeout-heavy relievers of today.

9. Even before Monday’s postponement, the Orioles were listing Chris Tillman’s turn in the rotation as TBD for the Detroit series. I expect him to receive a few more opportunities, but that’s still pretty telling. Then again, an 8.28 ERA since the start of last year says it all.

10. Jonathan Schoop expressed hope Sunday that he’d only be on the disabled list for the minimum 10 days before returning. I admire his desire, but oblique injuries can linger all season if not handled carefully. I expect the training staff to protect the All-Star second baseman from himself if necessary.

11. Alex Cobb had an awful debut, but overreaction has been silly. There’s much over which to be concerned, but declaring someone who signed less than four weeks ago a bust is a bit much. That said, Baltimore is already running out of time for Cobb to get up to speed.

12. We’re only 10 percent of the way through the schedule, but Sunday was only the third of 11 losses in which the margin of defeat was three runs or fewer, reflecting the struggle to even be all that competitive. It’s going to start getting late very early if this continues.

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Twelve Orioles thoughts following 8-7 win over Yankees

Posted on 08 April 2018 by Luke Jones

With the Orioles securing their first series victory of the season in a dramatic 8-7 win over the New York Yankees in 12 innings, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. After pitching 14 2/3 innings the previous three days, the Orioles bullpen received the reins with two outs in the first. While allowing the offense to erase an early 5-0 deficit, six relievers combined to throw 186 pitches to cover 11 1/3 innings and allowed two runs. What an effort.

2. Brad Brach did quite a Don Stanhouse impersonation by loading the bases with no outs in the 12th, but he induced an Aaron Judge comebacker and a heady Caleb Joseph turned a 1-2-5 double play. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen that, especially in such a critical spot.

3. After preserving a 7-7 tie with his difficult catch in the 10th inning, Craig Gentry capped off a three-hit, two-steal day with his game-winning RBI single off Adam Warren. The reserve outfielder has certainly pulled his weight early this season.

4. Not only did Richard Bleier pitch a third consecutive day for a taxed bullpen, but he tossed three scoreless frames to collect the victory. His post-game comments reiterated how easy it is to root for the 30-year-old.

5. You have to be impressed with the way Anthony Santander hit the go-ahead home run on a 3-0 pitch in the seventh. I’m not sure he’ll remain in the majors for good after his Rule 5 requirement expires next month, but he has definitely flashed potential.

6. Speaking of Rule 5 picks, Pedro Araujo not only kept the Yankees off the scoreboard over 2 1/3 innings, but he struck out five and allowed only one hit. I stand by my position on carrying two Rule 5 pitchers in the bullpen, but Araujo at least shows upside.

7. Fans in the Bronx booing Giancarlo Stanton just a handful of games into his Yankees career are silly, but he had a brutal series going 2-for-19 with eight strikeouts. He registered his second five-strikeout game in six days on Sunday. Ouch.

8. After grounding into a double play to short-circuit a rally in the third, Danny Valencia made amends by clubbing a two-run shot in the fifth to make it a one-run deficit. He needs to produce against lefty starters and did exactly that against Jordan Montgomery.

9. The tying run was charged to Tanner Scott in the seventh, but the rookie did a solid job over 1 2/3 innings in his 2018 debut. That inning likely would have gone to Mychal Givens if he hadn’t thrown 59 pitches on Thursday and Friday.

10. His team bailed him out, but Mike Wright trying to turn a double play on a comebacker instead of throwing to the plate was a bad decision and the throw was even worse. He completely crumbled after that in what was likely his last start before Alex Cobb is recalled.

11. Wright had a competitive outing against Houston, but Sunday’s performance has happened too frequently in his major league opportunities. He’s tried to make adjustments over the years with his two-seam fastball and mixing in a cutter, but I just don’t see the stuff or temperament of a major league starter.

12. The Orioles entered this series struggling and were rarely even competitive at Yankee Stadium last year. They didn’t play perfectly and now return home with an exhausted bullpen, but that was an impressive statement this weekend. A 4-6 record doesn’t look so bad after being 1-5.

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Rule 5 obsession again hurting Orioles’ chances to win

Posted on 04 April 2018 by Luke Jones

The Orioles do this to themselves.

Year after year, executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette champions the Rule 5 draft as a cheap way of acquiring young prospects. It sounds fine in theory in December and we hear the encouraging reviews of these players during spring training, but the Orioles inevitably find themselves in predicaments in which both their roster and their ability to compete are compromised during the season.

And for what?

The greatest Rule 5 success story of the Duquette era has been Ryan Flaherty, a versatile utility man who was worth a total of 1.6 wins above replacement over his six seasons with Baltimore. Carrying a position player has proven to be easier as the Orioles were able to qualify for the playoffs with Flaherty in 2012 and outfielder Joey Rickard in 2016, but does the upside of a Rule 5 pick really justify the roster headaches?

Was it worth it having T.J. McFarland hamstring the bullpen in 2013 and Jason Garcia clogging it up in 2015? McFarland at least made some useful contributions as a long reliever in 2014, but Garcia was never heard from again as he struggled at Double-A Bowie the following two years. Neither is with the organization anymore.

That brings us to the present with the Orioles not only trying to satisfy the remainder of outfielder Anthony Santander’s Rule 5 requirement from last season, but they’re currently carrying two Rule 5 pitchers in their bullpen.

Two.

A club that sported the worst starter ERA in the majors in 2017 and one that is without two-time All-Star closer Zach Britton for at least the first two months of the season thinks it’s a good idea to carry two pitchers who have little business being in the major leagues right now. And it took all of five games for this bizarre Rule 5 fascination to cost the Orioles a potential win.

Manager Buck Showalter shouldn’t be absolved for his decision-making in Tuesday’s 10-6 loss in Houston as he could have avoided using both Miguel Castro and Richard Bleier in Monday’s 6-1 defeat, but that only delays the inevitable as this type of scenario would have played out at some point very soon. When starters consistently fail to pitch deep into games, you’re not going to survive with what amounts to a five-man bullpen. Whether it was Tuesday night, Wednesday afternoon, or next week, Pedro Araujo and Nestor Cortes were going to find themselves pitching in a game with the outcome still in doubt.

Trying to hide one Rule 5 pick in the bullpen is difficult enough, but carrying two eliminates any margin for error as we saw when Mychal Givens allowed the go-ahead two-run home run to Josh Reddick in the sixth inning. Showalter removing starter Mike Wright was the right call after he’d given the Orioles a solid five innings and 82 pitches in his first competitive outing since March 22. Regardless of the result, you’d rather see Givens against the heart of the Astros order rather than Wright facing it a third time.

The likely plan was for Givens to pitch the sixth and seventh before turning to Darren O’Day and Brad Brach for the final two innings. Instead Givens’ struggles opened the door for both Araujo and Cortes to put the game out of reach. One could still argue using O’Day or Brach for the seventh inning, but Showalter has always been reluctant to use his top arms when the Orioles are trailing and such a strategy would have merely pushed the bullpen shortage to the following day.

You just aren’t going to win with starters pitching only four or five innings and backing them up with only five relievers you trust. The math simply won’t add up as the cumulative impact of needing to cover 13 innings in the previous three blowout losses put the Orioles in bad position on Tuesday. Again, Showalter could have handled his bullpen differently the last two nights, but Araujo and Cortes are going to have to pitch when it matters from time to time if they’re to remain on the 25-man roster.

And that’s the major problem.

The Orioles deserve praise for stepping up to sign starting pitcher Alex Cobb in late March, but you can’t say you’re truly all in on 2018 with two Rule 5 picks straining your bullpen while you’re already trying to survive the absence of your best reliever. Such a path comes across as trying to prove you’re smarter than everyone else rather than doing what it takes to win.

And history suggests the long-term payoff with both Araujo and Cortes won’t be worth it anyway.

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Twelve Orioles thoughts following 7-0 loss to Minnesota

Posted on 01 April 2018 by Luke Jones

With the Orioles dropping their first series of the season with a 7-0 loss to Minnesota, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. You know it’s been a sobering weekend when there’s a question over whether the pitching or offense was worse. The Orioles batted .117 against the Twins and allowed 13 runs over the final two games of the series. I suppose the answer to the debate is … yes.

2. Kevin Gausman giving up a home run on the first pitch of his season wasn’t an encouraging sign for his first half being different this time around. He followed that by giving up six runs and three homers in four innings. It was only one start, but a brutal one.

3. His average fastball velocity of 92.3 miles per hour was the lowest single-game average of his career, according to FanGraphs data. Gausman said he felt fine physically, but his average fastball velocity was 95.0 last season. That’s something to monitor.

4. Gausman absolutely needs to be able to succeed throwing to catchers not named Caleb Joseph, but he posted a 2.62 ERA with him (113 1/3 innings) last year and a 7.85 mark with others (73 1/3 innings). I would have stuck with that partnership at least to open this season.

5. No matter how unhappy you want to be with the Orioles bats, Jose Berrios deserves much credit. The 23-year-old was terrific in nearly pitching a “Maddux” before finishing with a three-hit shutout on 107 pitches. That’s quite a statement after a solid 2017 campaign.

6. Just imagine if Eddie Rosario hadn’t misplayed Chance Sisco’s fly to the left-field wall into a double in the third inning. The Twins could have taken a no-hitter into the eighth inning two days in a row and Berrios might have had a perfect game into the ninth.

7. It’s too soon for Buck Showalter to pull the plug on the Chris Davis leadoff experiment after committing to it in the first place, but an 0-for-12 start doesn’t bode well for his early-season confidence.

8. I dislike the unwritten rules of baseball as much as anyone, but I figured Sisco’s bunt single against the shift with one out in the ninth inning of a seven-run game wouldn’t go over well in the Minnesota dugout. That doesn’t make those complaints any less ridiculous though.

9. Minnesota starters combined to allow zero runs and five hits over 21 innings. For what it’s worth, Showalter was singing the praises of the Twins even before the series began.

10. Richard Bleier, Brad Brach, and Mychal Givens all had good outings. So, there’s something positive to take away from Sunday.

11. When you’re about to go on the road to face the defending World Series champions followed by the American League runner-ups, a series win would have been a nice confidence boost. Instead, there wasn’t much evidence of a pulse this weekend.

12. As ugly as the final two games of this series were, remember to exhale and allow the new season to breathe. Whatever your 2018 expectations were a week ago really shouldn’t be any different at this point.

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2018 Orioles preview: Richard Bleier

Posted on 15 March 2018 by Luke Jones

With Opening Day less than three weeks away, we’ll take a look at a member of the 2018 Orioles every day as they try to bounce back from a disappointing last-place finish a year ago.

March 5 – Manny Machado
March 6 – Kevin Gausman
March 7 – Trey Mancini
March 8 – Brad Brach
March 9 – Tim Beckham
March 10 – Andrew Cashner
March 11 – Adam Jones
March 12 – Mychal Givens
March 14 – Jonathan Schoop

RP Richard Bleier

Opening Day age: 30

Contract status: Under club control through the 2022 season

2017 stats: 2-1, 0 saves, 1.99 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 3.7 K/9, 1.8 BB/9, 6 HR, 63 1/3 innings

Why to be impressed: Not making his Orioles debut until early May, the left-hander finished 2017 with the best ERA on the club and the fifth-best mark in the American League among pitchers throwing at least 60 innings. Perhaps even more impressive was Bleier’s “Britton-light” 68.8 percent ground-ball rate, which ranked second in the majors among pitchers with 60 or more innings.

Why to be concerned: Bleier induced the second-lowest hard contact rate of any Orioles pitcher, but his strikeout rate was the worst of any major league pitcher (min. 60 innings), making his success even more remarkable. Taking that a step further, his .259 batting average on balls in play will be very difficult to repeat, making the southpaw reliever a natural regression candidate as opponents become more familiar.

2018 outlook: The Orioles love Bleier’s deceptive delivery and effective sinker, but it’s difficult imagining him posting another sub-2.00 ERA with such an inability to miss bats. However, his pitch-to-contact style of inducing ground balls should continue to give him a reasonable chance to be a solid middle reliever in the Baltimore bullpen if the revamped infield defense lives up to expectations.

Not-so-scientific projections for 2018: 2-4, 0 saves, 3.52 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 4.4 K/9, 2.2 BB/9, 7 HR, 61 1/3 innings

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