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Ravens add two tight ends to 53-man roster

Posted on 08 December 2015 by Luke Jones

With the tight end position decimated by injuries and the suspension to rookie Nick Boyle, the Ravens added veterans Konrad Reuland and Richard Gordon to the 53-man roster on Tuesday.

With Monday’s news of Boyle being suspended four games for violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs, the Ravens were left with no healthy tight ends on the active roster with rookie tight end Maxx Williams recovering from a concussion and starter Crockett Gillmore leaving Sunday’s loss to Miami with a back injury.

Head coach John Harbaugh expressed optimism that Williams and Gillmore could play in Week 14, but the additions of Reuland and Gordon suggest the status of each incumbent being questionable at best.

Reuland has spent much of the season on Baltimore’s practice squad after being with the team during the preseason. The 28-year-old Stanford product collected 12 receptions for 90 yards in two seasons with the New York Jets and has also spent time with the San Francisco and Indianapolis organizations in his career.

“He has been practicing with us pretty much all year,” said Harbaugh about Reuland on Monday. “He knows what we are doing, and he can play the position”

Gordon, 28, has four career receptions and one touchdown in his NFL career that’s been spent with Oakland, Pittsburgh, Tennessee, Kansas City, and Denver. The 2011 sixth-round pick out of the University of Miami is regarded as more of a blocking tight end and was recently cut by the Broncos.

The Ravens also added tight end Harold Spears to their practice squad on Tuesday. He was recently with the Seattle Seahawks, who will visit M&T Bank Stadium on Sunday afternoon.

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Ravens planning for banged-up Schaub to play against Seattle

Posted on 07 December 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Ravens head coach John Harbaugh says Matt Schaub remains his starting quarterback, but the veteran’s status will be monitored ahead of the Week 14 meeting with Seattle.

In addition to being tested for a concussion after slamming his head on the ground in the second quarter of Sunday’s loss to Miami, Schaub came out of the game nursing knee and shoulder ailments that could limit his practice time this week. Backup Jimmy Clausen will likely see an increased number of practice reps, but Harbaugh is expecting Schaub to make his third straight start and first at home against the Seahawks.

“He was bounced around pretty good in the game — too much,” said Harbaugh, alluding to Miami registering three sacks and 10 quarterback hits. “We’ll see how he makes it through the week, but I think he’s going to be OK. He’s a tough guy. We’re planning on Matt being the quarterback.”

With Schaub having thrown two interceptions returned for touchdowns in as many weeks, some fans have already begun clamoring for the younger Clausen to receive an opportunity. Signed only two weeks ago, the 2010 second-round pick of the Carolina Panthers is still learning the Ravens playbook, but his familiarity with offensive coordinator Marc Trestman from their days in Chicago last year has accelerated the learning curve.

Expectations should be tempered for either quarterback given the shortage of weapons around them, but the Ravens would certainly like to determine if Schaub — or Clausen — can play at a level worthy of being retained as the backup quarterback next season. For now, the Ravens are sticking with the 34-year-old veteran, but that won’t necessarily remain the case for the rest of the season.

“There are always thoughts on everything, so we’ll consider everything,” Harbaugh said. “Matt is the quarterback; Jimmy is the backup quarterback.”

Monroe’s status remains unclear

Left tackle Eugene Monroe missed his sixth game of the season on Sunday, and it remains uncertain whether he will return this season, according to Harbaugh.

Re-injuring his shoulder against St. Louis on Nov. 22, Monroe has missed the last two games and has started and finished just three games all season. The Ravens have been forced to turn to second-year tackle James Hurst, who has struggled mightily trying to protect the blindside.

“It’s just unfortunate for Eugene. He has had the shoulder issues that have been nagging him,” Harbaugh said. “I think he’s up for another [magnetic resonance imaging exam] on Wednesday. Between him, his doctor and his agent, he’ll have to make a decision about whether he wants to play with it for the rest of the year.”

Flacco to undergo surgery on Tuesday

Injured quarterback Joe Flacco is set to undergo surgery to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee on Tuesday.

Flacco was injured on Nov. 22, but the swelling in his knee needed to subside before he could undergo the procedure. Renowned sports orthopedist Dr. James Andrews was scheduled to perform the surgery in Alabama at 10 a.m. on Tuesday after Flacco underwent a pre-surgical examination on Monday.

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Ravens-Seahawks game flexed out of Sunday night spot

Posted on 29 November 2015 by Luke Jones

In the midst of one of the most disappointing seasons in franchise history, the Ravens officially learned Sunday night that they will miss out on hosting a prime-time game next month.

The NFL announced that Baltimore’s Dec. 13 game against Seattle that was originally scheduled for NBC’s Sunday Night Football has been flexed to that afternoon. Instead, a game between Houston and New England will now kick off at 8:30 p.m on that night.

The league announced the Ravens-Seahawks game will now begin at M&T Bank Stadium at 1 p.m. and will be televised on FOX.

Though Seattle currently holds the No. 6 seed in the NFC and collected a big home victory against Pittsburgh on Sunday to improve to 6-5, the 3-7 Ravens saw their already-faint playoff hopes crushed with the season-ending knee injury suffered by quarterback Joe Flacco last Sunday. Most had predicted for weeks that the Week 14 tilt would be moved out of the coveted Sunday night time slot.

It remains unclear whether the NFL will also move the Ravens’ Dec. 27 home game against Pittsburgh out of the Sunday night slot.

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Lovely city. Lovely views. Another knockoff of Camden Yards. And waiting for Seahawks season. That's Seattle baseball.

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MLB #GiveASpit Ballpark Ranking: No. 18 Seattle Mariners

Posted on 22 August 2015 by Nestor Aparicio

Seattle – I attended the All-Star Game at Safeco in 2002 and was really looking forward to a return visit. What I found was simply yet another Camden Yards knockoff in a city that is crazed with lime green and football. The vaunted sunset deck in left field was tiny. The bowl of the stadium is kind of sleepy. It’s just another shiny new-ish stadium that lacks historical context and charm. Friendly people, beautiful city, nice enough stadium. But nothing special going on here from a vibe standpoint…unless you say the word “Seahawks”…

***

On Sept. 8-9-10, I will be releasing an extensive essay documenting my 30-30 MLB #GiveASpit journey of 2015. You can read it and all of my work here: http://wnst.net/author/nestoraparicio/

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No-hitter latest symbol of frustration for 2015 Orioles

Posted on 12 August 2015 by Luke Jones

Three clubs with better records than the Orioles have also been on the wrong end of a no-hitter this season, making Wednesday’s loss nothing to be outraged over beyond the short-term embarrassment and attention it creates.

It may be a symbol of frustration for the Orioles and their fans, but the no-hitter isn’t a defining moment of doom considering the first-place New York Mets and the current National League wild cards — Pittsburgh and the Chicago Cubs — were all no-hit earlier this season.

Seattle Mariners right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma was sensational in not only pitching the first no-hitter of his career, but it was the 2013 All-Star selection’s first career complete game in the majors. The 34-year-old Japanese pitcher deserves credit for a masterful performance as the Orioles rarely even made good contact in the 3-0 loss at Safeco Field.

It was the first time an opponent had thrown a no-hitter against the Orioles since Boston’s Clay Buchholz in 2007. Before that, it was Red Sox pitcher Hideo Nomo pitching the first no-hitter at Camden Yards in 2001 and Wilson Avarez doing it for the Chicago White Sox in the Orioles’ final season at Memorial Stadium.

Iwakuma was the first non-Boston pitcher who wasn’t making his second major league start — Buchholz and Alvarez each held the latter status with theirs — to do it against the Orioles since Milwaukee’s Juan Nieves pitched a no-no on April 15, 1987.

Beyond its historical footprint, the no-hit effort marked the end of a disappointing road trip in which the Orioles again showed their inability to play well on the road. Despite playing six games against two of the worst teams in the American League, Baltimore only managed a 4-5 record on the trip, bringing its 2015 road record to an underwhelming 25-36.

A win against the Mariners on Wednesday would have only made for a 5-4 trip, but it would have been a winning mark leaving a better taste in the Orioles’ mouths as they enter Thursday’s off-day and prepare to begin an important 10-game homestand this weekend.

Taking nothing away from Iwakuma’s performance, a simple look at the Orioles lineup on Wednesday says it all about how frustrating the offense has been for large portions of the season.

Replacing the struggling J.J. Hardy at shortstop on Wednesday, Ryan Flaherty is now in the midst of an 0-for-33 nightmare. David Lough is hitting .202 on the season and is one of several options in left field offering nothing at the plate. And despite hitting .353 in his first 122 plate appearances of 2015, designated hitter Jimmy Paredes has hit .233 with a .598 on-base plus slugging percentage since May 23.

A club that’s supposed to be contending simply can’t afford to have multiple colossal holes in its lineup, especially when sporting a suspect starting rotation and a suddenly-shallow bullpen.

The math still says the Orioles remain in the hunt in both the AL East and the wild-card race, but we’re still waiting for them to find consistency after 113 games. At this point, what exactly should we expected to change over the final 49 contests?

Whether it was winning 18 of 23 in June or taking seven of eight in late July, manager Buck Showalter’s club has quickly reverted to mediocrity after their hottest streaks of the season instead of steadily earning more victories that defeats like they did over the final three months of 2014. The task of simply winning series — slow and steady wins the race, right? — has proven too much, especially on the road.

Before dropping consecutive games to conclude the Seattle series, the Orioles had alternated wins and losses over the first nine games of August, an appropriate snapshot of what the 2015 club’s identity continues to be.

That of a .500-ish club that just isn’t quite good enough.

Wednesday’s no-hitter wasn’t anything more than what it was in the standings — another loss — but it’s the latest example of frustration in a season full of them.

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Hardy delivers key hit while trying to find bearings at plate

Posted on 21 May 2015 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — With so much attention paid to the free agents who departed in the offseason, we often forget about the one the Orioles didn’t allow to get away.

Re-signed to a three-year, $40 million contract on the eve of the 2014 American League Championship Series, Hardy is still finding his bearings at the plate after missing six weeks with a left shoulder strain. But the go-ahead RBI single in the eighth inning of Thursday’s 5-4 win over Seattle had Hardy and the Orioles feeling much better.

How does his shoulder feel with two weeks of games under his belt?

“Good and the rest of the body [feels good],” said Hardy, who singled sharply up the middle off right-hander Danny Farquhar to plate Chris Davis and give the Orioles a series win. “That first week I came back felt like spring training all over again and my whole body was sore. But everything feels good now.”

With initial concerns about his shoulder now at ease, the 32-year-old is still trying to find his way with the bat despite hitting two home runs in his first eight games. It’s the second straight year in which an injury has disrupted the start of Hardy’s season after a back ailment suffered in the first week of the 2014 season lingered all year.

As a result of the cranky back, the shortstop hit just nine homers in 2014 after he’d averaged just under 26 per season in each of his first three years in Baltimore. That’s what has made his early home runs an encouraging sign in 2015 despite Hardy slugging just .348 in his first 48 plate appearances.

Thursday’s game-winning hit provided a boost as the Orioles have struggled to score runs in the month of May.

“It’s nice to get hits when you’re feeling like I feel right now,” Hardy said. “Every day I’m making adjustments. I feel like one day I go up there with a different stance [and] next at-bat a different stance. I’m just trying to feel something that feels good and have something to work off of, so it’s definitely nice getting hits when you’re not feeling great.”

Hardy’s defense alone makes him a valuable commodity, but the Orioles need his traditional offensive contributions to help make up for the problems they’re experiencing at the corner outfield spots, traditional run-producing positions.

Of course, manager Buck Showalter isn’t panicking over the veteran infielder’s start, trusting that Hardy will make the necessary adjustments after a long layoff that cost him the first 25 games of the season.

“He’s not there yet where he’s going to be offensively, but he found a way to get it done [Thursday],” Showalter said. “His confidence is fine. With his track record, it’s not his first year in the big leagues. He doesn’t have to get a hit May 20 to be confident. We all know.”

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Hot-hitting Paredes continues making his doubters wait

Posted on 20 May 2015 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — You keep waiting for Jimmy Paredes to cool off, but the Orioles continue reaping the benefits.

He can’t possibly continue this, right?

That sentiment has been uttered over and over for a month now and the 26-year-old hasn’t slowed down yet, going 2-for-5 with a home run and four RBIs in Tuesday’s 9-4 win over the Seattle Mariners. His .346 average is just a few plate appearances shy of officially being ranked third in the American League behind Prince Fielder and Nelson Cruz.

His 22 RBIs rank second on the club behind Adam Jones (25) and his 1.001 on-base plus slugging percentage is the best on the roster. A two-run single in the fourth inning of Tuesday night’s game was of the “seeing-eye” variety, but 15 of his 36 hits this season have gone for extra bases, including an opposite-field two-run shot in the sixth inning.

Of course, Paredes won’t continue hitting at a near-.350 clip, but the switch hitter — who entered spring training out of options — isn’t merely getting lucky by dinking and dunking singles into the outfield as even the poorest hitters can do over a short period of time. He continues making contact and hitting the ball hard with regularity while serving as the club’s everyday designated hitter.

“Jimmy’s such a sincere guy,” said manager Buck Showalter, who has repeatedly joked that he tries to say as little as possible to Paredes in fear of jinxing him. “Those guys give themselves such a chance to be successful because he never gives in in the effort department. I was watching him during the last out. He’s in every pitch.”

He’s currently hitting 86 points higher than Mariners second baseman Robinson Cano, a fellow Dominican who has worked out with Paredes in past offseasons. Results aside, you don’t have to watch Paredes for long to see how he tries to copy elements of the six-time All-Star selection’s swing. With a career .752 on-base plus slugging percentage in parts of nine minor league seasons, Paredes is seeing years of hard work — which included plenty of failure in the minors and in the majors — pay off with a run of success he hasn’t experienced at any level of professional baseball.

After watching him bat .302 in the final month of the 2014 season and continue hitting this spring, the Orioles are quietly becoming more confident that they’ve found an everyday player. Of course, no one expects Paredes to continue to produce these video-game numbers, but his ability to keep the barrel of the bat square through the hitting zone has been impressive to watch. If he continues to prove he belongs in the majors as a regular, the next step is finding him a position in the field, which likely wouldn’t occur until the offseason with a plan to have him learn a corner outfield spot to utilize a strong throwing arm he’s shown off — erratically — at third base on occasion.

His 6-foot-3, 200-pound frame alone makes it easy to understand why the New York Yankees, Houston, Kansas City, and the Orioles each wanted Paredes in their organizations at one time. But now he’s offering the Orioles the justification for keeping him.

“He is so upbeat and I’m always pulling for the underdog,” said catcher Caleb Joseph, who spent seven years in the minors and lockers next to Paredes in the home clubhouse at Camden Yards. “For a guy to get claimed and [designated for assignment] and get claimed again and find a home, it’s big and we’re glad he’s on side. He’s real stable for us in the [No. 2 spot] right now.”

There’s no telling how long Paredes’ current hot streak will last as pitchers will adjust and teams will look for his weaknesses at the plate. He’s not particularly patient as he’s walked only five times in 109 plate appearances this season, but he’s been able to adjust to different pitch sequences in impressive fashion. He saw several changeups from Mariners starter Taijuan Walker on Tuesday night before he was able to slap one between third and short for his fourth-inning single.

Everyone keeps waiting for Paredes to come back to earth and understandably so for a player with no track record and such little fanfare. But watching him hit safely in 22 of his 25 games this season and reaching base in 20 straight contests makes it surreal to think how few would have predicted him to even make the club, let alone become one of the Orioles’ best players when spring training began three months ago.

Where would the Orioles be without Paredes over the last five weeks?

“You never know,” Showalter said. “We’ve seen so many guys do good things in spring training and the season starts and it doesn’t happen for them. We’ve seen guys that struggle like heck in the spring and then the season starts and the light goes on. Jimmy was not only trying to make the club and be a part of this, but he knows how you stay here because he’s been down this road before.

“He’s not playing like a guy that’s out of options.”

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Former Ravens kicker Hauschka facing hometown team in Super Bowl

Posted on 27 January 2015 by WNST Staff

PRESS RELEASE

QUOTES FROM SEATTLE SEAHAWKS MEDIA DAY

KICKER STEVEN HAUSCHKA

(on why kickers are so good these days) “Because we grew up kicking. I started kicking at three years old, soccer balls that is. You learn how to train better. I think it’s just we’re more athletic, not me in particular, but some of the guys out there in the league are just really, really good athletes that just switched to kicking because they couldn’t make it as a quarterback or something.”

(on if he thinks punters have improved as much as place kickers have over recent years) “I think some of the punters have gotten really good, but as a whole, I don’t think they’re at the level of field goal kickers. I think there’s more put into the field goal at a younger age. I don’t think kids start learning to punt until a little later.

(on playing in the Super Bowl) “I love it. It’s the most exciting thing you can do in my profession. I’m just looking forward to the chance to win the game potentially for our team.”

(on what he was thinking while Seattle was losing to Green Bay in the NFC Championship game) “There were about five minutes there after Russ (quarterback Russell Wilson) threw his last interception we were talking on the sideline saying, ‘Man, this is the end, huh?’ To come back from that, there’s a time where I realized, ‘Man, I’m really bummed. I want to be in the Super Bowl.’ For those five minutes, I realized how much I actually want to play in this game and how excited I am about it. We’re playing on second life now, a second chance.”

(on if being back to the Super Bowl feels any different) “It’s cool. It does feel a little different having just been through it last year. Two long years back to back, but we know exactly what to expect. It’s nice, too, coming from New York where it’s freezing cold, and you’re looking out the window and it’s 20 degrees and blowing snow to being here where it’s sunny and a little clouds.”

(on if the warmer weather helps his kicking) “Yeah, the kicking weather is perfect here, and I think everybody on our team needed a little warm weather.”

(on if this Super Bowl is different being the defending champs) “Yeah, I think there are always those storylines, but at the end of the day, I think whoever plays the best football is going to win the game. That’s what I remember. The Patriots have had the last couple chances in the Super Bowl not going well for them. I’m sure they’ve got every bit of motivation to win this game too just like we do. There’s plenty of motivation on either side. That’s not going to be what wins it. It’s just who plays the better football that day.”

(on what’s like to be playing the Patriots in the Super Bowl being a Massachusetts native) “It’s fitting. It’s very fitting to play your childhood team in this game. I grew up rooting for the Patriots. When they won that first Super Bowl on (Adam) Vinatieri’s foot, that was the craziest thing. I can only imagine what it feels like as a Seahawks fan to watch that and see our first Super Bowl last year. I’m excited about it.”

(on New England being as good as anyone in football in the last 15 years compared to the teams that he grew up watching) “They’re incredible, what they’ve done with different players every year, too. There’s really only a couple key guys that have been there. It’s impressive. It shows you how important those key guys are and just the environment that they have there.”

(on who his favorite New England player was growing up) “(Adam) Vinatieri. I had a framed picture of him signed and stuff from the ‘Snow Bowl’ game. That was impressive.”

(on if kickers think about possibly winning the game) “You honestly don’t have to think much at all this week. It’s just your body knows what to do, and the key is just to go out there and let your body do what it wants to do. I know how to swing, and no mental thoughts are going to make me swing better right now.”

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Looking at who’s going to win the NFL Conference Championships

Posted on 16 January 2015 by Dennis Koulatsos

The NFL’s version of the final four is upon us, and the Seattle Seahawks are poised to defend their crown and repeat as champions. In the NFC, Russell Wilson is going after his second Super Bowl ring, as well as Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers. In the AFC matchup, Tom Brady has a chance to climb the Mt. Rushmore of 4 time Super Bowl winning quarterbacks, joining Terry Bradshaw and Joe Montana. Andrew Luck leads the upstart Indianapolis Colts, as the only quarterback in the tournament who is attempting to win his first Lombardi Trophy.

Ever since the Patriots caught fire after their dismal performance against the Kansas City Chiefs in front of a national football audience, I’ve been predicting a Patriots – Seahawks finale. I still believe that after this Sunday’s games are over, those are still the two teams that will be left standing.

I expect the Patriots to activate Jonas Gray, and come out running against the Indianapolis Colts. Gray rushed for over 200 yards in Lucas Oil stadium, and with the addition of LeGarrette Blount, I expect more of the same this Sunday. Bill Belichick is a master of situational football, and just like he abandoned the run in the Patriots’ win over the Baltimore Ravens in the prior week, he will once again adapt his personnel to match his opponent.

On the other side of the ball, I do not believe that the Colts can go up to New England without a running game, and get away with it. They will go only as far as Andrew Luck will take them, and Belichick will take away what Luck does best, he will commit more players to defend the pass, and dare the Colts to run on his defense.

The Seattle Seahawks look to be a team on a mission. They are peaking at the right time, and their defense is the difference maker. They  have solid corners, unbelieveable safeties, active linebackers, and a defensive line that at times is dominant. They have a mercurial quarterback in Wilson, arguably the best running back in the NFL in Lynch, and they don’t beat themselves. They are also the most complete team in the playoffs.

The Green Bay Packers have come this far with sheer grit and determination, and on the arm of Aaron Rodgers. His calf injury has hindered his play, but on one leg he is still better than most NFL QBs on two legs. The key to the Packers having a chance is to unleash stout running back Eddie Lacy, but I do not see his offensive line opening up holes for him. He’ll have to make his own, and although he is capable of just that, I don’t believe it is going to be enough.

 

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Nelson Cruz agrees to four-year deal with Seattle

Posted on 01 December 2014 by Luke Jones

Former Orioles slugger Nelson Cruz will not be returning to Baltimore after agreeing to a four-year deal with the Seattle Mariners on Monday.

As first reported by the Dominican newspaper El Caribe, the 34-year-old will receive a total of $57 million after spending a season with the Orioles that was described as a “platform” year by executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette. Baltimore had hoped to retain Cruz’s services after he led the majors in home runs, but the organization was unwilling to offer more than a three-year deal as Cruz was initially seeking a five-year commitment.

The good news is that the Orioles will receive a compensatory draft pick at the end of the first round after making Cruz a $15.3 million qualifying offer last month, but they will need to replace production that resulted in the veteran receiving the Most Valuable Oriole award last season. The organization signed Cruz to a one-year, $8 million contract last spring after interest in the outfielder was lukewarm because of his connection to the Biogenesis scandal and subsequent 50-game suspension.

The Orioles may prove wise not making a lucrative commitment to a player who will turn 35 next July and is coming off a career year, but finding a productive bat to replace his work at the designated hitter spot and in left field won’t be easy. They’ve reportedly shown interest in outfielder Torii Hunter, but it’s believed the 39-year-old would have to accept a one-year deal.

Another option that’s reportedly been discussed is Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp, who has battled injuries in recent years and is still owed more than $107 million over the remaining five years of an eight-year, $160 million contract inked before the 2012 season. Of course, the Orioles would demand that the Dodgers take right-handed pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez and his bloated contract off their hands in any potential trade, but it’s difficult envisioning the organization assuming such a deal without further financial assistance accompanying the 30-year-old outfielder.

Kemp hit .287 with 25 home runs, 89 runs batted in, and an .852 on-base plus slugging percentage in 2014, the first season in which he played more than 106 games since 2011.

Perhaps the easiest way for the Orioles to make up for Cruz’s production in 2015 would be a bounce-back season from first baseman Chris Davis as well as the respective returns of Manny Machado and Matt Wieters, but counting on Davis isn’t easy after he hit just .196 and saw his home run total drop from 53 in 2013 to just 26 in a nightmare 2014 that ended with him being suspended 25 games for amphetamine use.

In 678 plate appearances for the Orioles in 2014, Cruz hit .271 with 40 home runs, 108 RBIs, and an .859 OPS.

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