Tag Archive | "T.J McFarland"

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Orioles recall Jurrjens, designate Ishikawa for assignment

Posted on 29 June 2013 by Luke Jones

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BALTIMORE — Needing a long reliever after using both T.J. McFarland and Kevin Gausman in Friday’s 4-3 win over the Yankees, the Orioles have recalled right-handed pitcher Jair Jurrjens and designated first baseman Travis Ishikawa for assignment.

Jurrjens will be available to pitch out of the bullpen for at least Saturday and possibly Sunday as manager Buck Showalter wants to stay away from McFarland and Gausman through the weekend. The Orioles are electing to keep Gausman on the 25-man roster as an option to make a start on the road trip this coming week should Wei-Yin Chen’s rehab start for Double-A Bowie not go well enough to feel confident you can activate him for his next start.

Ishikawa’s standing on the roster was always considered short-lived since his only true position is first base and he provides limited offense in backing up a man many consider to be the American League MVP to this point in the season in Chris Davis. The Orioles now have 10 days to trade Ishikawa or he must be put on waivers. Should he not be claimed, Ishikawa would then have the choice to accept an outright assignment to Norfolk or to become a free agent.

Executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette has been seeking a trade partner for Ishikawa over the last few weeks when it was apparent he intended to invoke his opt-out clause from his minor-league deal. The Orioles’ fear is the Yankees would claim Ishikawa to provide more help to their first base situation after it was learned that Mark Teixeira would miss the rest of the season with a wrist injury.

The 29-year-old Ishikawa went 2-for-17 in six games for the Orioles after hitting .316 with seven home runs and 31 RBIs in Norfolk.

“We’d like to have Travis back in Norfolk,” Showalter said. “I like Travis. He’s better than he’s shown here. I know that; you know that.”

Jurrjens, 27, is making his second trip to Baltimore after making his only start of the season against the Tampa Bay Rays on May 18. He didn’t factor in the decision but allowed four earned runs in five innings before being optioned back to Norfolk a few days later.

He is 5-5 with a 4.06 earned run average in 14 starts with the Tides this season.

After completing his rehab assignment with Norfolk, second baseman Brian Roberts arrived at Camden Yards Saturday and is expected to be activated from the 60-day disabled list on Sunday.

Outfielder Nolan Reimold is still scheduled to travel with the club to Chicago where he will be activated from the 15-day disabled list. He will continues his rehab assignment with Bowie through the weekend and entered Saturday’s game having gone 7-for-38 with a triple, four RBIs, and 12 strikeouts with the Baysox.

Showalter said the tentative plan for Chen would be for to pitch on Thursday in Chicago or Friday in New York if the organization is happy with what it sees in Saturday’s Double-A start. Should he pitch on Thursday, he could potentially make three starts prior to the All-Star break.

Wilson Betemit continues to make slow progress in Sarasota as he continues to build strength in his quad. The infielder suffered a Grade 2/3 PCL sprain in his right knee during spring training, an injury originally diagnosed to keep him sidelined for a minimum of eight weeks.

The 31-year-old did not have surgery on what was considered a serious injury, but the Orioles remain hopeful that he can make some contributions at some point after the All-Star break. When that will be, however, is anyone’s guess.

“It’d be nice to get Wilson back,” Showalter said, “but I don’t see a projectable date right now.”

Japanese left-hander Tsuyoshi Wada was scheduled to pitch for Norfolk on Saturday night and was not considered for the spot Jurrjens will fill at least for the next game or two. Showalter wants to see Wada continue to make progress over his next few starts after providing a more competitive effort over his last couple outings with the Tides.

 

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McFarland to make first major league start against Yankees Friday night

Posted on 28 June 2013 by Luke Jones

(This blog brought to you by Atlantic Remodeling. Visit www.atlanticremodeling.com to learn about their Red Cent Guarantee!)

BALTIMORE — Orioles manager Buck Showalter offered a changeup to nearly everyone by announcing left-handed pitcher T.J. McFarland will make his first major league start Friday against the Yankees instead of fellow rookie Kevin Gausman.

The assumption all week had been the latter would take the mound against New York after he was recalled Monday to pitch out of the bullpen if needed, but Showalter officially revealed his plan to go with McFarland following the Orioles’ 7-3 win over Cleveland on Thursday night.

“It’s his turn. He’s on four days of rest,” Showalter said. “He’s ready to go 80-plus pitches tomorrow, at least, and hopefully pitch five or six innings. The Yankees will have something to say about that. We’re in a position to cover whatever innings. We wanted to see how we did tonight.”

Gausman will be available to pitch out of the bullpen and could be a decent bet to receive some work on Friday with McFarland’s pitch count likely limiting him to four or five innings at most. McFarland, a Rule 5 selection that must remain on the 25-man roster all season or be offered back to Cleveland, has served as the long man in the bullpen through the first three months of the season.

McFarland is 1-0 with a 4.14 earned run average in 18 appearances covering 41 1/3 innings. He has averaged 7.8 strikeouts per nine innings pitched despite a sinking fastball that only sits in the high 80s.

“Mac is throwing the ball well and deserves an opportunity,” Showalter said. “We had a couple options. He was one of them, and that’s where we’re going to go tomorrow.”

A simple look at the Yankees lineup may have offered a better indication of which direction Showalter was leaning as Brett Gardner, Ichiro Suzuki, Robinson Cano, Lyle Overbay, and Travis Hafner are all left-handed hitters. McFarland has fared well against hitters from that side of the plate, holding them to a .250 average and striking out 21 of the 71 left-handed batters he’s faced this season.

With Wei-Yin Chen scheduled to make a rehab start for Double-A Bowie on Saturday, it’s possible that McFarland is only receiving a spot start as well as an opportunity to show what he can offer in a different role. The Taiwanese lefty could be activated from the disabled list as early as this coming week.

The only perplexing aspect of the decision is the use of Gausman in the bullpen considering he hasn’t pitched since June 19 when he made a start for Triple-A Norfolk. Assuming Chen’s rehab start goes well and he’s ready to return to the Baltimore rotation in his next outing — far from a guarantee — Gausman could be optioned back to Norfolk by the end of the weekend with McFarland moving back to his customary relief role.

Showalter also revealed that Brian Roberts won’t be activated from the DL for Friday night’s game, instead pointing to Saturday or Sunday as the more likely day for the 35-year-old second baseman’s return.

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Strop’s collapse exposes concerning truth about Orioles bullpen

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Strop’s collapse exposes concerning truth about Orioles bullpen

Posted on 12 June 2013 by Luke Jones

(This blog brought to you by Atlantic Remodeling. Visit www.atlanticremodeling.com to learn about their Red Cent Guarantee!)

BALTIMORE — It’s only getting worse for Orioles relief pitcher Pedro Strop.

Fresh off a stint on the 15-day disabled list with what was labeled a lower back strain — many have drawn their owns conclusions on the injury — Strop displayed the same form seen over the first two months of the season Wednesday as he allowed four earned runs and saw his ERA balloon to 7.58 while retiring just one batter in the seventh inning. The implosion turned what was a 4-2 Orioles lead into an eventual 9-5 loss to the Los Angeles Angels.

Despite a fastball that reaches the upper 90s and a slider with good movement that enabled him to serve as an elite member of the Baltimore bullpen through the first 4 1/2 months of the 2012 season, Strop is looking more and more like a pitcher whose time with the Orioles is running out.

“Not good,” Strop said in an interview with MASN before leaving the clubhouse as the rest of the media talked to manager Buck Showalter. “Only thing I can say. I couldn’t do the job.”

The Orioles aren’t hiding from Strop’s problems, evident by their decision to place him on the DL and circumvent the reality of the right-hander being out of options. Manager Buck Showalter and pitching coach Rick Adair used the 15-day period as a way for Strop to work on his mechanics in hopes of improving his command after he walked 14 batters in 17 2/3 innings through his first 22 appearances.

However, the organization decided not to send Strop on a minor-league rehab assignment that could have lasted up to 30 days and would have allowed him to continue working on adjustments to his mechanics while rebuilding his confidence against minor-league hitters. There was some thought of that possibility before last week’s oblique injury to Steve Johnson, which prompted the club to activate Strop instead of looking to Triple-A Norfolk for another option.

Even before Wednesday’s implosion, it was perplexing to see the Orioles forgo that strategy with nearly everyone concluding his DL stint was more about ineffectiveness than any legitimate health concern.

It’s understandable to not want to give up on a talented 28-year-old who only became a pitcher in 2006 after beginning his professional career as a shortstop. Executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette knows at least a few clubs would take a chance on Strop should he be placed on waivers in hopes of getting him to the minor leagues, but the Orioles are also a contending club in the American League East that needs production from every player on the 25-man roster.

“He’s just not getting results,” Showalter said. “He understands it. Nobody cares more about pitching well for this team than Pete.”

It’s easy to criticize Showalter for turning to the volatile Strop after starter Jason Hammel allowed a single to Alberto Callaspo and walked Brad Hawpe on four pitches to begin the seventh inning, but a quick inventory of the bullpen made it easy to see Showalter’s options were limited at best as he acknowledged “two or three” relievers were unavailable without revealing names. Closer Jim Johnson had pitched in three straight games and Tommy Hunter had thrown a total of 51 pitches on Sunday and Monday.

Showalter wouldn’t reveal his late-inning plans when asked, but that presumably left Darren O’Day available for the ninth inning and lefty Brian Matusz to pitch the eighth. As a result, Showalter faced the prospects of sending a tiring Hammel out for the seventh with 94 pitches under his belt and having Strop and lefty Troy Patton — who’s also struggled this season — as his options if the starter ran into trouble. Showalter was rolling the dice for a quick inning by Hammel, but the right-hander was obviously gassed before being replaced by Strop.

Perhaps the Orioles manager could have resisted the urge to use Hammel — who wasn’t exactly dominating hitters despite a statistically-effective outing through six innings — with the thought of a fresh inning with the bases empty being more conducive to Strop having success, but that’s looking with 20-20 hindsight. The reality is Showalter didn’t have great choices at his disposal in the seventh.

“I was hoping [Hammel] could get us through seven, but it wasn’t there,” Showalter said. “That’s kind of where we were. We keep a pretty good log on innings pitched and [pitchers warming up in the bullpen], and I’m not going to put anybody in harm’s way.”

The real issue with the Orioles bullpen is more concerning than the individual struggles of Strop. Beyond the reliable quartet of Johnson, O’Day, Matusz, and Hunter, the Orioles have three other pitchers in the bullpen — Strop, Patton, and Rule 5 selection T.J. McFarland — that they can’t really trust in important situations. All have long-term potential to varying degrees, but none can be moved off the 25-man roster without significant risk of losing them.

In fairness, McFarland has pitched respectably as a long reliever in blowout situations, but that’s a role typically held by a pitcher who can easily be moved on and off the roster to address a club’s needs at a given point in the season. It’s a major reason why we saw the one-and-done approach applied with several ineffective starting pitchers earlier in the season and it has further hamstrung the roster flexibility that Showalter and Duquette enjoy having.

The Orioles’ problems in middle relief have led to a heavier dependence on their best relievers, which jeopardizes the club’s long-term viability for the second half of the season. It’s not uncommon for even the best teams in baseball to have shaky options beyond the top three or four pitchers in the bullpen, but the keystone of the Orioles’ 2012 success included the effectiveness of middle relievers like Luis Ayala and Patton in the sixth and seventh innings that spared other late-inning options on occasion.

Baltimore needs improvement from its middle relievers or starting pitching — preferably both — to improve its chances in a tight division in which fourth-place Tampa Bay trailed first-place Boston by only four games entering play on Wednesday.

“We can’t pitch the same guys every night,” he said. “It just doesn’t work, and [Strop] was one of those guys for us last year and has been at times this year, and we hope that he will again. He pitched well and got physically fine and had a couple really good outings, as you saw. It just wasn’t there for him today.”

Bullpens are typically quite fluid over the course of a season, but the Orioles currently have just two pitchers (Matusz and O’Day) with remaining minor-league options and they obviously aren’t going anywhere. That means time is running out for Strop — you can say the same for Patton — to right himself after roughly four months of struggles going back to last year’s regular season.

The talent is there, but the Orioles need last year’s effectiveness to resurface.

They don’t have the flexibility to wait much longer.

 

 

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Standout prospect Gausman set to make major league debut on Thursday

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Standout prospect Gausman set to make major league debut on Thursday

Posted on 21 May 2013 by Luke Jones

(This blog brought to you by Atlantic Remodeling. Visit www.atlanticremodeling.com to learn about their Red Cent Guarantee!)

Less than a year after being selected with the fourth overall pick of the 2012 draft, Orioles pitching prospect Kevin Gausman is set to make his major league debut.

As first reported by FOX Sports, the right-hander will be promoted on Thursday to start in the opener of a four-game series against the Toronto Blue Jays at Rogers Centre. The Louisiana State product has made just 13 starts in his professional career but has captivated scouts and frustrated opponents with a devastating fastball-changeup combination as well as an improving slider.

In eight starts for Double-A Bowie this season, Gausman is 2-4 with a 3.11 earned run average over 46 1/3 innings. The 6-foot-3 pitcher allowed 44 hits, struck out 49, and walked just five as many expected him to arrive in Baltimore at some point this season.

The 22-year-old’s most recent start came on May 17 against Trenton when he struck out 10 and allowed just one earned run in six innings of work. Gausman had allowed two or fewer runs in each of his last five starts for the Baysox and Double-A hitters were batting .246 against him.

He was scheduled to make his next start at Akron on Wednesday, but the Baysox announced just before midnight on Tuesday he was being scratched.

In an interview with AM 1570 WNST last week, Gausman speculated that he’d need to string together 10 consecutive quality starts before he’d be in the running for a promotion. It turns out he was on the verge of making his final minor-league start — at least for now — at the time of the interview.

Baltimore’s starting pitching problems haven’t been a secret as Orioles starting pitching entered Tuesday’s game with a 4.85 ERA, ranking 11th in the American League. Gausman will become the 11th pitcher to start a game for the Orioles this season.

Having optioned right-hander Jair Jurrjens to Triple-A Norfolk to make room for the returning Miguel Gonzalez on Tuesday night, manager Buck Showalter said earlier in the day that Jake Arrieta and T.J. McFarland were the primary candidates to make Thursday’s start against the Blue Jays.

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Jurrjens becomes latest Orioles starter sent back to Triple-A Norfolk

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Jurrjens becomes latest Orioles starter sent back to Triple-A Norfolk

Posted on 21 May 2013 by Luke Jones

(This blog brought to you by Atlantic Remodeling. Visit www.atlanticremodeling.com to learn about their Red Cent Guarantee!)

BALTIMORE — With the Orioles needing to make a roster move to create a spot for the returning Miguel Gonzalez on Tuesday night, most assumed right-handed pitcher Jake Arrieta would be the one to go, but right-handed starter Jair Jurrjens was instead optioned to Triple-A Norfolk.

Perhaps the news shouldn’t have come as a surprise as Jurrjens became the fifth starting pitcher this season to be optioned back to the minor leagues after making just one start in Baltimore. Manager Buck Showalter explained the need to keep Arrieta available in the bullpen with a certain amount of mystery remaining in Gonzalez’s return from a blister on his right thumb that’s kept him sidelined since his start in Anaheim on May 3. Jurrjens wouldn’t have been available to give the club length out of the bullpen on Tuesday, according to the manager.

Jurrjens joins Zach Britton, Steve Johnson, and Josh Stinson as pitchers promoted from Norfolk who were optioned after their only start with the Orioles this year.

“They’re all tough anytime you’re sending guys down,” Showalter said. “But, there are some people who didn’t think he would get that [opportunity] this year. I think he knows that we’ve shown him and our guys where we’re going when there’s a need. I hope not, but I’m sure there will be another need this year. It could be sooner rather than later.”

Making his 2013 debut last Saturday after going 4-1 with a 3.14 earned run average in eight starts with the Tides, Jurrjens allowed four earned runs and six hits in five innings of work. However, all six hits were of the extra-base variety as the 27-year-old struck out five and walked one but didn’t factor into the decision.

Jurrjens declined comment in the Orioles clubhouse after learning of his demotion. He would be eligible to return to the 25-man roster in 10 days barring an injury that would force someone else to the 15-day disabled list.

“We need length in our bullpen as most clubs do,” Showalter said. “As always we are going to lean on protecting our bullpen and pitching staff and keep the length down there.”

The decision leaves the Orioles without a starter for the series opener in Toronto on Thursday, but Showalter named Arrieta as well as left-handed long reliever T.J. McFarland as the candidates. Of course, Arrieta began the year in the starting rotation before being optioned to Norfolk after posting a 6.63 ERA in four starts with the Orioles. He was summoned back to Baltimore on Saturday to serve in a long relief role but has yet to appear in a game.

Arrieta experience some tightness in his right shoulder earlier this month and hadn’t made a start for Norfolk since May 7, but Showalter said they’ve provided the 27-year-old with some simulated game work since he was recalled.

Meanwhile, the 23-year-old McFarland has quietly turned heads with a 2.61 ERA in 10 appearances covering 20 2/3 innings. A Rule 5 pick out of the Cleveland Indians system, McFarland doesn’t impress you on the surface with his 87 mph sinker, but he’s struck out 22 while allowing 23 hits and seven walks in his rookie season.

While Showalter didn’t officially name his choice for Thursday’s game, his comments reflected that he was leaning toward McFarland, praising him for his work in long relief and mentioning the reward at this level is “an opportunity to do more.” The manager acknowledged that Arrieta would have the ability to go deeper into the game from a pitch-count standpoint but estimated that McFarland could give the club somewhere between 75 and 90 pitches.

McFarland hasn’t thrown more than 53 pitches in any of his 10 outings this season, making one assume the lower portion of that range would be more realistic.

Perhaps the biggest indicator of which way Showalter is leaning was mentioning how a pitcher fares in a certain ballpark — in this case, Rogers Centre in Toronto. Arrieta has a 7.31 ERA in three career starts in the building formerly known as SkyDome while the rookie McFarland has never pitched there.

Of course, Showalter could have simply been presenting a smokescreen while having every intention of giving Arrieta the ball on Thursday while keeping the Blue Jays — and the rest of us — guessing.

As has been the case all season, circumstances could change quickly should Gonzalez or Jason Hammel — or both — have short outings that would force either Arrieta or McFarland into relief action before Thursday.

NOTES: Regular center fielder Adam Jones served as the designated hitter for Tuesday’s game after dealing with some right leg soreness. The 27-year-old downplayed any injury and lobbied to play the field, but Showalter saw it as an opportunity for Jones to rest his legs while remaining in the lineup. … Nolan Reimold (right hamstring) may travel with the Orioles to Toronto and take early batting practice as he continues to work his way back from the disabled list. Showalter still anticipates sending Reimold to a minor-league affiliate for some at-bats before potentially making his return. He is eligible to return from the DL on May 27, but it would appear he won’t be ready until at least some time after that. … Backup catcher Taylor Teagarden (dislocated left thumb) could begin playing in extended spring training games as early as next Monday. … Struggling starter Jason Hammel told reporters he threw all fastballs in his bullpen session since he’s struggled to command both his four-seam and two-seam pitches at different points this season. He currently sports a 5.72 ERA in nine starts this season.

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Laboring Orioles trying to shorten chain to late innings

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Laboring Orioles trying to shorten chain to late innings

Posted on 20 May 2013 by Luke Jones

(This blog brought to you by Atlantic Remodeling. Visit www.atlanticremodeling.com to learn about their Red Cent Guarantee!)

BALTIMORE — Trying to stop a five-game losing streak on Monday with the surging New York Yankees coming to town for a three-game series isn’t the easiest of chores, but the Orioles know it begins with their starting pitching to right themselves in the American League East.

Every starter not named Chris Tillman is either injured or struggling, but the Orioles must find a way to shorten the chain to the end of the game, evident by the heavy workloads of their top relief pitchers and back-to-back blown saves by closer Jim Johnson. Baltimore entered Monday’s game with the 25th-ranked starting earned run average (4.90) in the majors and had averaged just 5.64 innings per start. In comparison, the St. Louis Cardinals have the best starting ERA (2.63) in baseball and average 6.43 innings per outing.

The starting pitching needs to improve for a club with postseason aspirations and intentions of preserving its biggest asset — the bullpen — for the entire season.

“That falls underneath the ‘Capt. Obvious’ thing,’” manager Buck Showalter said. “It’s one thing to identify it; it’s how you do it. Pitch better.”

As of now, the Orioles have few answers with Tillman the only reliable commodity currently in the rotation. Right-hander Miguel Gonzalez returns Tuesday from a stint on the 15-day disabled list due to a blister on his right thumb, but lefty Wei-Yin Chen will just be leaving for Sarasota on Tuesday to begin his rehabilitation. Showalter didn’t paint a rosy picture on Monday that Chen would be returning in a timely fashion.

Stricken with a Grade 2 right oblique strain, Chen is at least a week away from picking up a baseball as his type of injury is a tricky one from which to recover. Setbacks are frequent with oblique injuries as you never really know how well a pitcher is recovering before he starts trying to throw again.

“I couldn’t tell you that he’s making any great progress,” Showalter said. “He’s still sore, but he’s doing some things as far as sleeping through the night and rolling over where it’s not bothering him like it was. But I don’t think there’s some definitive date. There’s an unknown to it.”

When Chen and Gonzalez dealing with injuries this month, the Orioles have been forced to turn to veteran Freddy Garcia and former Atlanta pitcher Jair Jurrjens to stabilize the back end of the rotation. Speculation persists that Garcia could be reaching the end of his run with the Orioles after turning in poor outings against Kansas City and San Diego to follow up his surprising debut in Anaheim at the beginning of the month.

Jurrjens figures to receive at least a couple more starts after allowing four earned runs in five innings in his 2013 debut against Tampa Bay over the weekend, but the Orioles appear close to moving on in their quest for rotation stability.

Recalled over the weekend to serve as an extra arm in the bullpen, Jake Arrieta is not in line to receive a start and could be optioned to Triple-A Norfolk to make room for Gonzalez on Tuesday. However, another pitcher in the Baltimore bullpen could be next in line for a shot in the rotation.

Left-hander T.J. McFarland turned in a scoreless performance over 2 1/3 innings to keep the Orioles within two runs of the Rays on Sunday, and Showalter acknowledged prior to the start of the Yankees series that the 23-year-old Rule 5 selection has been considered as a starting option.

“He was impressive again yesterday,” Showalter said. “I’m real proud of our scouting department. So far, so good with him. He’s a guy we’ve thought about starting, too, but right now it’s Freddy and Jair.”

McFarland has a 2.61 ERA in 20 2/3 innings over 10 appearances. The lefty has allowed 23 hits, struck out 22, and walked seven coming out of the bullpen.

Gonzalez chomping at bit

The Orioles will welcome the Tuesday return of Gonzalez, who hasn’t pitched since leaving his start in Anaheim early with a blister on his thumb on May 3.

Sporting a 2-2 record with a 4.58 ERA in six starts this season, a healthy Gonzalez would help soothe the rotation concerns if he can look more like the pitcher who went 9-4 with a 3.25 ERA in 18 games (15 starts) last season. The 28-year-old threw briefly on Sunday just to work on the spin of his curveball and feels confident after throwing roughly 80 pitches in completing a simulated game on Friday.

“I’ve been telling the guys it was frustrating not being able to be out there because of a blister,” Gonzalez said. “You know, it’s not an injury, but you just have to wait and heal.”

The right-hander said he shouldn’t be limited to any limited pitch count and would be able to throw 100 or more pitches if necessary on Tuesday night.

Hardy moving up

Shortstop J.J. Hardy saw his 13-game hitting streak come to an end on Sunday, but his .360 average that includes five home runs and 10 RBIs since May 3 hasn’t gone unnoticed.

Hardy was elevated to the No. 3 spot in the order against left-hander CC Sabathia on Monday night, but that was also the result of his numbers against the burly Yankees starter. The 30-year-old entered the game with a .321 career average against Sabathia with one homer and five RBIs.

Showalter was looking for any edge he could get against Sabathia, who held a 10-3 career mark with a 3.38 ERA in 15 career games at Camden Yards prior to Monday’s game.

“It’s hard to find anybody that’s had some success against certain guys,” Showalter said. “This just fits a little bit better for us [Monday night].”

Minor-league additions

According to Baseball America, the Orioles signed catcher Ronny Paulino and right-handed pitcher Austin Urban to minor-league contracts.

Paulino was released by the Seattle Mariners on March 30 while the Chicago Cubs released Urban on March 12.

Of course, the 32-year-old Paulino served as the Orioles’ backup catcher for a good portion of the first half of last season, hitting .254 in 63 at-bats and appearing in 20 games.

 

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Gonzalez’s DL stint may not be that painful for Orioles

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Gonzalez’s DL stint may not be that painful for Orioles

Posted on 09 May 2013 by Luke Jones

(Updated: 12:00 a.m.)

BALTIMORE — Wanting to play it safe with the nasty blister that’s developed on starter Miguel Gonzalez’s right thumb, the Orioles have elected to place the right-handed pitcher on the 15-day disabled list.

The club has recalled right-handed reliever Alex Burnett from Triple-A Norfolk to take his place on the 25-man roster as well as provide an extra arm in the bullpen for the next couple nights. Gonzalez’s DL stint is retroactive to May 4, meaning the 28-year-old could return to the starting rotation as early as May 19 in a series finale against the Tampa Bay Rays.

Gonzalez completed a bullpen session on Thursday with a bandage covering the thumb, but he only threw fastballs as the blister that developed under a broken callous hindered his ability to throw his two-seam fastball and off-speed pitches. According to manager Buck Showalter, the plan is for Gonzalez to complete another bullpen session this weekend in Minnesota and then throw a rehab start at either Bowie or Norfolk next week.

Of course, a blister is a very tricky ailment for a pitcher that you can’t rush in fear of re-aggravating the skin and putting yourself right back in the same predicament. The Orioles remain confident that the decision to place Gonzalez on the DL is the proactive choice that will eliminate the problem for the remainder of the season.

“I just think this is the most prudent thing to do,” Showalter said. “I don’t care what happened today; he’s still going to be tentative throwing his breaking ball and his split. If it forms again, you’re going to have a season-long problem, so we just decided to get that done before he had the work day and get that out of his mind.

On the surface, the short-term loss of Gonzalez would create a problem after the Orioles finally appeared to ease their fifth-starter dilemma — at least for the time being — with veteran Freddy Garcia. The good news is the Orioles will only be faced with the problem of replacing Gonzalez in the rotation for Saturday’s start since they benefit from days off next week on Monday and Thursday.

Showalter was initially tight-lipped regarding his thoughts for Saturday’s starter, but announced that right-hander Steve Johnson would be recalled to take the ball in Minnesota. The 25-year-old Johnson pitched for Triple-A Norfolk on Monday, throwing 94 pitches, allowing two earned runs, and striking out eight in 5 2/3 innings against Buffalo.

Once they’ve completed Saturday’s game, the Orioles could get away with using only Wei-Yin Chen, Jason Hammel, and Chris Tillman as starters all the way through Sunday, May 19 when Gonzalez would hypothetically be ready. Of course, that means Garcia would be available to pitch in relief or make a start should they want to give any of the aforementioned pitchers such as Chen an extra day of rest as Showalter often likes to do when able.

As Showalter likes to say, there are plenty of moving parts and a lot could change quickly, but the Orioles appear to be in good shape to endure Gonzalez’s absence thanks to a couple well-placed days off after recently completing a 20-day stretch void of any scheduled days of rest.

Roberts surgery successful

Second baseman Brian Roberts underwent right hamstring surgery on Thursday morning in Dallas in what was deemed a successful procedure.

The 35-year-old exchanged some text messages with Showalter and is expected to return to Sarasota this weekend where he’ll begin a six-week recovery period. The hope is that the procedure will eliminate any tangible risk of re-injuring the hamstring once Roberts is able to resume baseball activity.

“Everything went well today,” Showalter said. “Very positive. The doctors felt good about getting it done after getting in there. It will speed up the process. I’ve got marked off what [six] weeks is from today, so we’ll see what happens.”

Showalter expressed empathy for Roberts’ latest setback while acknowledging some of the frustration and emotional responses expressed by critics and fans regarding the $10 million the second baseman is making this season in the final year of a four-year, $40 million contract.

Various injuries have limited Roberts to just 118 games over the last four seasons.

“He’s not going to give in,” Showalter said. “That’s why it makes me confident that he’ll come back and be a contributor. We think he’s worth waiting on. It’s been tough on him. It would be kind of selfish to say it’s tough on us. It’s tougher on him if you put yourself in the position he’s been in the last two or three years and ask yourself sincerely what you would do.”

Orioles add minor-league third baseman Wood

Executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette sent cash considerations to the Kansas City Royals in exchange for infielder Brandon Wood on Thursday.

The 28-year-old will report to Triple-A Norfolk as he continues to plug away in a disappointing career that once held a tremendous amount of promise. Wood was Baseball America’s No. 3 prospect in all of baseball prior to the 2006 season but has never been able to put it together at the big-league level.

In 700 career at-bats in the major leagues, Wood has a career .186 average with 18 home runs, 64 RBIs, and 218 strikeouts.

Back in 2006 and 2007 when the Orioles were exploring trades for shortstop Miguel Tejada, the Angels were often linked in discussions with Wood’s name mentioned as a player the club might covet in return. He became somewhat of a folk hero in the minor leagues by hitting 43 home runs and 53 doubles in his 2005 season split between high Single A and Triple A.

However, the talent that once made scouts salivate never came to fruition at the big-league level as the Orioles will now be Wood’s fifth different organization.

Odds & ends

Closer Jim Johnson picked up his 85th career save on Wednesday night. If he collects 21 more this season, he will move into second place on the club’s all-time list ahead of Tippy Martinez (105) and Stu Miller (100). Gregg Olson remains the Orioles’ all-time saves leader with 160. … Left fielder Nate McLouth has stolen 11 bases (second in the American League) and is on pace to steal 52 this season. That would be the third-best mark in Orioles history behind Luis Aparicio (57 in 1964) and Brady Anderson (53 in 1992). … The Orioles have the highest team fielding percentage (.991) in baseball in the 85 games since third baseman Manny Machado arrived in Baltimore on Aug. 9, 2012. … Since July 29, 2012, the Orioles have the best record in baseball at 62-33 (.652 winning percentage) as well as the best home record at 32-13 (.711 winning percentage).

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Ten Orioles thoughts with April in the books

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Ten Orioles thoughts with April in the books

Posted on 01 May 2013 by Luke Jones

With the Orioles concluding the opening month of the 2013 season by tying a franchise record with 16 wins in April, here are 10 thoughts to ponder as May begins:

1. Jason Hammel leads the club with four wins, but we’ve yet to see the 2012 version of the de facto ace show up this season. That’s not to say the right-hander hasn’t been one of the Orioles’ better starting pitchers, but the two-seam fastball that led to his renaissance last season hasn’t shown nearly the same bite through six starts this year. Despite a 3.79 earned run average, Hammel is averaging just 5.9 innings per start and his 5.3 strikeouts per nine innings is down dramatically from the 8.6 rate he held last season. Always possessing strong breaking stuff, Hammel needs to find a better feel for his two-seamer in order to make the rest of his repertoire more explosive. There was little debate that 2012 was a career season for Hammel prior to the knee surgery in July, but the Orioles didn’t actively pursue an impact starting pitcher with the thought — wise or not — that they had a pitcher with top-of-the rotation stuff. They’ll need better from Hammel over the next five months of the season.

2. Chris Davis’ historic opening-week start gained the most attention, but the free-swinging first baseman also collected 16 walks in April. His nine home runs have garnered plenty of press as opponents are pitching the left-handed slugger very carefully since the beginning of the season, but the walk totals have led many — including me — to praise Davis for an improved level of patience at the plate after he walked only 37 times during the 2012 season. However, the 27-year-old is seeing just 3.79 pitches per plate appearance after averaging 4.00 pitches per trip to the plate a year ago. Part of this can be explained by Davis’ strikeout rate decreasing (one every 3.5 at-bats compared to one per 3.0 at-bats last year), but it also indicates his walk numbers may not be sustained as his bat inevitably cools off at different points in the season. Regardless of just how much more patient Davis has become at the plate or not, it’s difficult to dispute how much of a force he’s become since the beginning of last season, making his acquisition in the Koji Uehara deal in 2011 a brilliant one by former president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail.

3. The decisions to let go of Mark Reynolds and Joe Saunders weren’t the problem, but electing not to replace them is looking more and more like a mistake. Anyone who expects the former Orioles first baseman to continue hitting .300 like he did in his first month with Cleveland will likely be disappointed, but his eight home runs would look very good in the Baltimore lineup right now. Considering Orioles designated hitters batted .144 and posted a .502 on-base plus slugging percentage in April, Reynolds occupying that role or first base — with Davis handling the other — would be a major boost to the lineup. Meanwhile, Saunders pitched a complete game against the Orioles on Monday night but has been abysmal away from Safeco Field (12.51 ERA) so far. As I said during the offseason, letting go of Reynolds and Saunders was fine if the intention was to upgrade each of their spots and executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette expressed the desire to acquire a middle-of-the-order bat and a veteran starting pitcher. However, neither of those goals were accomplished and that could continue to plague the Orioles throughout 2013.

4. Zach Britton turned in a poor 2013 debut, but his quick demotion sends the wrong message to the organization’s young pitchers. No one expected the 25-year-old left-hander to have a long leash given the higher expectations in Baltimore these days, but I can’t subscribe to the idea of sending down a pitcher who you hope will fit into your future after only one rough start. This creates the impression that young pitchers looking for their chance in Baltimore need to be perfect, which isn’t a mindset conducive to being successful. I also wonder what kind of message it sends to Norfolk manager Ron Johnson and pitching coach Mike Griffin, who gave their recommendation for Britton to be the next call-up after Josh Stinson’s failed start last week. A spot start for an organizational depth guy like Stinson or even a journeyman like Freddy Garcia is fine, but if the expectation all along was for Britton to only receive one chance, the club would have been better served leaving him in Norfolk and not messing with his head. Again, allowing six earned runs in six innings was far from acceptable, but it wasn’t the type of disastrous outing that warranted an immediate exit.

5. It’s safe to say Nolan Reimold has yet to adjust to his new role as the club’s primary designated hitter. Reimold has two home runs, five RBIs, and a 1.029 OPS in 29 plate appearances as the club’s left fielder, but the 29-year-old has posted an ugly .477 OPS with one homer and two RBIs in 52 plate appearances while serving in the DH spot. The problem for Reimold is the remarkable play of Nate McLouth, who has been more productive at the plate and is better defensively in the outfield. Manager Buck Showalter can’t justify taking McLouth out of left field, so Reimold needs to adjust to his new role, which can be difficult for individuals accustomed to being in the game as a defensive player. The good news for Reimold is that he’s remained healthy after undergoing spinal fusion surgery last year, but the Orioles must get better production from the designated hitter or will need to begin looking at other options for the role. It’s fair to acknowledge he’s still regaining strength and is adjusting to not having quite as much range of motion in his neck after the surgery, but Reimold would be the first to tell you he needs to be better at the plate.

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Orioles’ 25-man roster set as Pearce grabs final spot

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Orioles’ 25-man roster set as Pearce grabs final spot

Posted on 30 March 2013 by Luke Jones

The Orioles have set their 25-man roster for the start of the regular season as outfielder Steve Pearce won the final bench spot on Saturday.

The 29-year-old Pearce beat out fellow outfielder Conor Jackson after both complete strong Grapefruit League performances. The right-handed batter will likely serve as the club’s designated hitter against left-handed pitching to begin the season.

As expected, manager Buck Showalter named right-handed pitcher Jake Arrieta his fourth starter and left-hander Brian Matusz will pitch out of the bullpen to begin the season. Next Friday will mark the third consecutive time Arrieta has taken the hill in the home opener.

Utility players Ryan Flaherty and Alexi Casilla and catcher Taylor Teagarden will occupy three of the club’s four bench spots to begin the season. Flaherty became all but a certainty to make the team following the knee injury suffered by corner infielder and designated hitter Wilson Betemit earlier this week.

The bench took a substantial hit after Betemit tore the PCL in his right knee as Showalter would have had either Betemit, Nolan Reimold, or Nate McLouth off the bench on a typical night, depending on the pitching matchup. However, Casilla provides a base-stealing threat while Flaherty will serve as the primary pinch hitter against right-handed pitching.

Showalter must decide whether he will keep Rule 5 selection T.J. McFarland in the bullpen beyond the first few days of the season after the left-hander was told he made the team to begin the season.

The 23-year-old impressed this spring but must remain on the 25-man roster in order to stay with the organization. The decision to send fifth starter Chris Tillman to the 15-day disabled list (retroactive to March 22) was made in order to buy time for the Orioles to either trade another relief pitcher or to work out a deal with the Cleveland Indians — McFarland’s original club — that would allow them to option McFarland to the minor leagues.

Right-handed pitcher Steve Johnson is expected to be placed on the DL as he deals with a back injury.

Teams have until 3 p.m. on Sunday to finalize their 25-man rosters for the start of the regular season.

Here’s a look at where the roster stands right now, including a projected lineup:

LINEUP
RF Nick Markakis
LF Nate McLouth
CF Adam Jones
C Matt Wieters
1B Chris Davis
SS J.J. Hardy
DH Nolan Reimold
3B Manny Machado
2B Brian Roberts

BENCH
INF Alexi Casilla
UTI Ryan Flaherty
C Taylor Teagarden
OF Steve Pearce

STARTING ROTATION
RHP Jason Hammel
LHP Wei-Yin Chen
RHP Miguel Gonzalez
RHP Jake Arrieta

BULLPEN
RHP Jim Johnson
RHP Pedro Strop
RHP Darren O’Day
LHP Brian Matusz
LHP Troy Patton
RHP Luis Ayala
RHP Tommy Hunter
LHP T.J. McFarland

DISABLED LIST
RHP Chris Tillman (will become fifth starter on April 6)
INF Wilson Betemit
RHP Steve Johnson
LHP Tsuyoshi Wada

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Orioles buy time with roster decisions by placing Tillman on DL

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Orioles buy time with roster decisions by placing Tillman on DL

Posted on 28 March 2013 by Luke Jones

Still weighing final decisions for their 25-man roster to begin the 2013 season on Tuesday, the Orioles placed starting pitcher Chris Tillman on the 15-day disabled list on the same day he was named the club’s fifth starter.

The right-hander has dealt with abdominal soreness since being scratched from a Grapefruit League start on March 10 and has only pitched in unofficial spring games recently, making his DL stint retroactive to March 22 and allowing him to return to pitch in the fifth game of the season on April 6 against the Minnesota Twins in Baltimore. Manager Buck Showalter hasn’t named a fourth starter for his Opening Day rotation, but all signs continue to point to right-hander Jake Arrieta with southpaw Brian Matusz beginning the season in the bullpen.

If Arrieta gets the ball on April 5, it would mark the third straight year that the 27-year-old will have started the home opener.

The decision to place Tillman on the DL not only frees up a roster spot for the first four games of the season but more importantly buys time as the Orioles try to figure out what to do with Rule 5 selection T.J. McFarland, a talented 23-year-old left-handed pitcher the club desperately would like to keep. For now, Showalter will stash McFarland in the bullpen as the organization tries to either move another reliever such as Luis Ayala or Tommy Hunter in a trade or work out a deal with the Cleveland Indians, McFarland’s former club, that would allow the Orioles to keep McFarland without him taking a spot on the 25-man roster.

The Orioles also announced Thursday that outfielder Trayvon Robinson has been reassigned to minor league camp, leaving the club with 35 active players in its major league camp, which includes five non-roster invitees.

Right-handed pitcher Jair Jurrjens also appears to be OK after leaving Wednesday’s start after being struck in the ribs with a line drive. X-rays taken Thursday morning came back negative and manager Buck Showalter told reporters that Jurrjens could be ready to throw over the weekend.

The former Atlanta starter is expected to begin the season at Triple-A Norfolk but rebounded well after a difficult start to the spring.

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