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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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Orioles pick up McFarland from Indians in Rule 5 draft

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Orioles pick up McFarland from Indians in Rule 5 draft

Posted on 06 December 2012 by WNST Staff

The Orioles had some success last season with their Rule 5 pick in INF Ryan Flaherty, and in Nashville, Baltimore Executive Vice President Dan Duquette felt like there were players that could make the team better in 2013.

With the 23rd selection in the Rule 5 draft, the Orioles selected 23-year old left-hander T.J. McFarland from the Cleveland Indians organization.

McFarland, a sinkerball pitcher and fourth-round pick in 2007, went 16-8 with a 4.03 ERA in starts between Double-A and Triple-A Columbus.

At the Triple-A level, he was 8-6 with a 4.82 ERA.

McFarland will be given a chance to compete for a starting spot in the Orioles rotation, and like Flaherty, he must be kept on Buck Showalter’s 25-man roster for the entire length of the season or be offered back to the Indians.

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