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Twelve Orioles thoughts following series split with Detroit

Posted on 06 August 2017 by Luke Jones

With the Orioles winning two straight to salvage a four-game split with Detroit, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. A series split is an underwhelming result on the heels of the five-game winning streak, but the Orioles bouncing back from Friday’s brutal defeat with two victories was encouraging. A 7-3 West Coast trip would sure make you start thinking differently about their wild-card chances.

2. Manny Machado had a five-RBI game Sunday and is hitting .352 since the All-Star break. With an improved approach and better luck, he’s raised his average from .215 on July 6 to .257 a month later. He’s so dangerous when he isn’t trying to pull the ball exclusively.

3. Despite allowing 12 batters to reach over 5 2/3 innings, Ubaldo Jimenez was serviceable and made big pitches when necessary to protect a sizable lead. That’s three straight respectable outings for the maddening right-hander.

4. The optics were cringeworthy, but the Orioles received competitive starts from Wade Miley and Jimenez over the final two games of the series. Yes, the bar is very low for both, but Buck Showalter’s club has a chance when they’re able to turn in results like that.

5. Tim Beckham continues to be a spark plug as he’s gone 14-for-24 with seven extra-base hits in six games with Baltimore. J.J. Hardy has deep respect within the organization, but Beckham would have to fall off a cliff — perhaps literally — to justify the former returning to the starting role.

6. Beckham hit the 10,000th regular-season home run in club history Saturday and the 2,505th for the Orioles in 26 seasons at Camden Yards. They hit only 2,490 long balls over 38 seasons at Memorial Stadium. Yes, the current park is a homer haven, but the game has sure changed.

7. Jonathan Schoop tied his career high with his 25th home run of the season Sunday, matching his total from 2016 in nearly 200 fewer plate appearances. He continues to amaze in a breakout 2017.

8. The bullpen let him down, but Kevin Gausman pitched another gem on Friday and has posted a 0.65 ERA over his last 27 2/3 innings since his disastrous July 14 start to begin the second half. This is the pitcher we saw over the final two months of 2016.

9. Caleb Joseph caught all four of those Gausman starts and the staff ERA is 4.12 when he catches compared to 5.75 with Welington Castillo this season. The improvement with the bat stands out, but his work behind the plate is why the playing time is virtually even since the break.

10. Sending Chris Tillman to the bullpen wasn’t an easy conversation, but the Orioles had no other choice. It will be interesting to see how often he pitches and how a relief role will impact his nightmarish 8.10 ERA in 66 2/3 innings.

11. With his fifth-inning blast Saturday, Adam Jones reached the 20-homer mark for the seventh straight season, a streak that ranks third in Orioles history behind only Cal Ripken (10) and Eddie Murray (nine). He won’t be a Hall of Famer, but few have been more important over this club’s history.

12. Thanks to Justin Upton’s grand slam off the typically-superb Mychal Givens, the Orioles suffered their ninth straight Friday loss with a few of those occurring in gut-wrenching fashion. Maybe it’s time to retire the Friday “O’s” cap that’s an inferior look to the regular home and away caps anyway.

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Twelve Orioles thoughts following 5-4 loss to Detroit

Posted on 18 May 2017 by Luke Jones

With the Orioles losing for the fifth time in six games in a 5-4 final to the Detroit Tigers, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. Needing to give his club a deep outing after Tuesday’s 13-inning affair, Ubaldo Jimenez instead threw 95 pitches over five innings and gave up five runs. I never question the veteran’s desire, but he’s simply not getting the job done.

2. You’d probably never heard of Tyler Collins before this series and understandably so as he entered the night mired in an 0-for-30 slump. Jimenez proved to be the cure to his struggles by surrendering two home runs to the 26-year-old center fielder.

3. Scoring four times over seven innings against 2016 AL Rookie of the Year Michael Fulmer is a respectable output, but — as I wrote earlier on Wednesday — this offense probably needs to score at least five or six runs per night to win games right now.

4. How much of a struggle was Wednesday’s outing for Jimenez? He allowed at least two baserunners in all but one of his five frames. Orioles starters are rapidly making 20-pitch innings the norm.

5. Orioles pitching is seemingly allergic to having a lead. As if Tuesday weren’t bad enough, Jimenez quickly squandered a 1-0 lead in the second and a 5-2 lead in the fifth. There’s no sugarcoating how excruciating it is watching this staff at the moment.

6. If every other starter not named Dylan Bundy were pitching better and there were more interesting alternatives, time would almost be up for Jimenez, who is in the final year of his disappointing contract. That doesn’t mean he shouldn’t still be looking over his shoulder, however.

7. Think Welington Castillo paid attention to what Caleb Joseph and Francisco Pena were doing at the plate in his absence? He’s 6-for-10 since being activated from the disabled list and had a particularly impressive at-bat in the fourth that resulted in an RBI single.

8. After a few rough outings earlier in the season, Stefan Crichton fared well in his 1 2/3 scoreless innings to keep the score at a one-run deficit. The Orioles need to find another effective middle reliever, and he took advantage of the opportunity.

9. Miguel Castro needed 25 pitches to register a scoreless eighth inning, but a 22-year-old sitting comfortably in the mid-90s with his fastball? He’s raw, but there’s some intrigue there.

10. In regards to his brutal call on Manny Machado’s check swing to end the game, I suppose first base umpire C.B. Bucknor just wanted to go home.

11. Donnie Hart being sent to Norfolk was mildly surprising, but he’s not an established major league reliever yet and you can’t pitch that poorly with a three-run lead in the 12th inning. He’ll be back, and the Orioles need him to get back on track after a brutal May.

12. I’m no doctor and am not privy to the rehabilitation plan, but I’m surely not the only one wondering if it’s too soon for Zach Britton to be throwing for the first time in Sarasota on Thursday. Everyone in the organization will have their fingers crossed.

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Orioles “very pleased” with Gallardo’s first throwing session

Posted on 14 May 2016 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — Orioles starting pitcher Yovani Gallardo was encouraged by his first throwing session since being placed on the 15-day disabled list with right shoulder discomfort on April 23.

The right-hander made 25 throws from 60 feet on flat ground Saturday afternoon and told reporters that he felt good. Manager Buck Showalter isn’t ready to disclose the full schedule for Gallardo’s potential return to the mound, but he will throw from 90 feet on Monday and from 120 feet after that.

“He and [head athletic trainer Richie Bancells and bullpen coach Dom Chiti] were very pleased with it,” Showalter said. “So far, so good. That was a good step for him. We’ll see how he feels tomorrow. He wasn’t just flipping it — you throw. It’s got some intensity to it.”

Showalter said the throwing progression will be similar to the one completed by Kevin Gausman in late March and April but would probably take a “little longer.” Gausman was sidelined for just over a month after receiving a cortisone shot for right shoulder tendinitis on March 20 and making his first regular-season start on April 25.

Gallardo, 30, had never gone to the DL with an arm-related injury in his first nine major league seasons.

He hasn’t pitched since leaving an April 22 start in Kansas City after two innings due to right shoulder discomfort. In his four starts covering 18 innings, Gallardo posted a 7.00 ERA with nine strikeouts and seven walks.

Much had been made about Gallardo’s declining strikeout rate and velocity over the last few seasons before the Orioles deliberated over his physical and eventually signed him to a two-year, $22 million contract in late February, but the organization hopes that the efforts to rest and strengthen his shoulder will result in a more competitive pitcher. Gallardo’s fastball was averaging a career-low 88.3 miles per hour in April, down 2.2 mph from last year’s average.

“You could see some of his arm action was even better,” said Showalter about his first throwing session. “This is a guy who had great command. One of the first things you know when a guy’s not feeling well is when they lose command.

“I’m hoping when he gets back that the stuff and the command are going to be better.”

Alvarez at third

Since J.J. Hardy’s foot injury resulted in some defensive shuffling two weeks ago, Showalter had said several times that Pedro Alvarez had more major league experience at third base than any other player on the roster.

The manager acted on that thought Saturday by giving Alvarez his first start at the hot corner since Aug. 17, 2014 when he was with Pittsburgh. Not known for his defensive work at either corner infield spot, Alvarez has been worth minus-29 defensive runs saved at third base in his career, which prompted the Pirates to move him to first base.

“It’s one thing I’ve been trying to get done,” Showalter said. “It’s something he’s very experienced at; it’s just I [had] to get him out there. As we play our next 120-some-odd games, we need to be able to know what we have — people at different places. There’s only one way to do it.”

Odds & ends

On Saturday, Scott McGregor began a four-game stint filling in as the Orioles pitching coach while Dave Wallace is away to deal with a family matter. … Hyun Soo Kim was making his first start since May 7 and seventh of the season. … Orioles relievers entered Saturday leading the majors with a 2.20 ERA in 110 1/3 innings pitched. Baltimore’s overall team ERA (3.47) ranked fourth in the American League and eighth in the majors. … Adam Jones hit his 200th career home run in Friday’s 1-0 win over Detroit. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the only other player to hit a century-mark homer in a 1-0 game (200th or higher) was Ted Williams, who hit his 400th career long ball in a win over the Kansas City Athletics at Fenway Park in 1956.

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“Rounding the Bases” in Orioles’ 1-0 win over Detroit

Posted on 13 May 2016 by Luke Jones

Who stood out in the Orioles’ 1-0 victory over the Detroit Tigers on Friday night?

In the spirit of hockey’s “three stars” system with the addition of home plate for honorable mentions and other notes, we go around the bases after the 33rd game of the 2016 season.

1stChris Tillman continues to look the part of an ace early on as he went toe to toe with 2011 AL Cy Young Award winner Justin Verlander and tossed seven shutout innings for his fifth victory of the season. Despite getting off to his customary slow start by allowing a total of four baserunners and throwing 38 pitches over his first two frames, Tillman settled in nicely to retire 14 of the final 16 hitters he faced. He recorded an impressive 13 swinging strikes and struck out seven batters, the final two coming immediately after he surrendered a leadoff double to Nick Castellanos in the top of the seventh. The right-hander has now posted five consecutive quality starts and has struck out an impressive 36 batters over those 33 innings of work. His season ERA now sits at a strong 2.58.

2ndAdam Jones picked the opportune time to hit his 200th career home run as he knocked a 92 mph fastball from Verlander into the Orioles bullpen with one out in the bottom of the sixth for the only run of the game. It was the third straight time that Jones had swung at a first-pitch fastball, and the center fielder didn’t miss one of the few mistake pitches made by the Detroit right-hander. The RBI moved Jones into sole possession of eighth place on the Orioles’ all-time list with 663, surpassing Melvin Mora. After a difficult start to the season, Jones has now homered in three of his last four games and has raised his average from .200 to .248 over that time.

3rdZach Britton induced three grounders for a 1-2-3 ninth inning to record his 10th save in as many tries to begin 2016. It was his 83rd career save, tying the left-hander with Jorge Julio for fifth place on the Orioles’ all-time saves list.

HomeDarren O’Day worked around a leadoff single to retire the side in the eighth inning, which included getting Miguel Cabrera out for the second straight night in a close game. … The Orioles beat the Tigers by a 1-0 score for the first time since Sept. 23, 1981 at Memorial Stadium. It was the second shutout victory of the season for Baltimore. … Mark Trumbo saw his 25-game on-base streak snapped in an 0-for-3 night. … The Orioles can clinch a series win on Saturday night with Mike Wright going to the hill against Detroit’s Anibal Sanchez.

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“Rounding the Bases” in Orioles’ 7-5 win over Tigers

Posted on 13 May 2016 by Luke Jones

Who stood out in the Orioles’ 7-5 come-from-behind win over the Detroit Tigers on Thursday night?

In the spirit of hockey’s “three stars” system with the addition of home plate for honorable mentions and other notes, we go around the bases after the 33rd game of the 2016 season.

1st — Jonathan Schoop had never tripled in his major league career before lining a ball down the right-field line to plate two runs and give the Orioles their first lead of the night to cap off a five-run seventh inning. The second baseman also drove in Baltimore’s second run of the night with an infield single an inning earlier as the Tigers bullpen began losing its grip on a 5-0 lead. Schoop has hit safely in 13 of his last 14 games with two doubles, a triple, two home runs, and seven RBIs over that stretch.

2ndChris Davis doubled to left-center to plate the first Orioles run off Tigers starter Mike Pelfrey in the sixth, but his next at-bat was even more impressive as he lined an 0-2 fastball from lefty Justin Wilson into right for a run-scoring single to make it a 5-4 game in the bottom of the seventh. Davis would then score the go-ahead run on Schoop’s triple to complete his two-RBI, two-run night.

3rdPedro Alvarez entered the game with just one hit off left-handed pitching this season and had already lined out to center off southpaw Kyle Ryan with two runners on in the sixth, but he became the second lefty to collect a key hit off Wilson in the seventh when he singled past first baseman Miguel Cabrera to drive in the tying run with two outs. He also drew a walk and lifted his season average to .212.

HomeDarren O’Day walked the leadoff hitter in the eighth, but he then retired the heart of the Tigers order to preserve the 7-5 lead. … The Orioles improved to 5-6 in games in which they haven’t homered this season after going 11-39 in that department in 2015. … Mark Trumbo went 0-for-3, but he drew a walk in the sixth to extend his on-base streak to a major-league best 25 consecutive games, according to MLB Network. … Zach Britton earned his ninth save of the season and his 82nd career save with the Orioles, one shy of tying Jorge Julio for fifth place on the club’s all-time saves list. … Adam Jones collected his 662nd RBI with the Orioles, tying Melvin Mora for eighth place on the club’s all-time list. … The Orioles’ five-game winning streak is their second longest of the season, topped only by their 7-0 start to 2016. … On Friday, Chris Tillman goes to the hill trying to improve to 5-1 on the season while the Tigers will start 2011 AL Cy Young Award winner Justin Verlander.

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Former Towson standout West joins Ravens practice squad

Posted on 10 November 2015 by Luke Jones

The start of former Towson running back Terrance West’s NFL career has been nothing short of disappointing, but he’ll now come home with an opportunity to turn it around.

The Ravens signed the Northwestern High product to their practice squad on Tuesday to become the third NFL team to employ the 24-year-old in less than two seasons. A third-round selection of the Cleveland Browns in last year’s draft, West was traded to Tennessee in September before the Titans released him this past weekend.

Despite leading the Browns in rushing with 673 yards as a rookie, West quickly fell out of favor with the Cleveland coaching staff due to both inconsistent play and immaturity, prompting the organization to give up on him days before the start of his second season. West appeared in only two games for the Titans, rushing 16 times for 51 yards.

West shot up the 2014 draft board after a standout career at Towson in which he rushed for almost 5,000 yards in three seasons for the Football Championship Subdivision-level Tigers. The Browns were so high on West that they traded up to select him 94th overall, five spots ahead of where the Ravens were scheduled to pick at the end of the third round.

No one doubts that West is talented, but he will need to prove himself after two running back-needy teams disposed of him in the last two months. If West can’t get his career back on track in his hometown, it’s fair to wonder if it will ever happen for the 5-foot-10, 225-pound back.

To make room for West on the practice squad, the Ravens cut defensive end Nordly Capi.

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Tim Leonard looks back on the fascinating story of Army Sgt. Maj. Wardell Turner

Posted on 16 September 2015 by WNST Staff

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The Lindell AC and Tiger Stadium are gone but the baseball life is good in Motown...

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MLB #GiveASpit Ballpark Ranking: No. 14 Detroit Tigers

Posted on 27 August 2015 by Nestor Aparicio

Detroit – Comerica Park suffers simply because it’s not Tiger Stadium. The places I feel the worst for on the list are the ones where they built a “newer” ballpark and . Kind dark and gray and old time that gives you a sample of Tiger Stadium. Well, nothing could give you a sample. We rode the carousel like idiots. We posed with the giant Tiger. We drank beer down the left field line with some crazy fans. We had a great day. It’s a nice ballpark. Detroit, in general, is a pretty solid place to visit to see a sporting event of any kind. It’s not as bad as they say. And I live in Baltimore…

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Fingerprints of Duquette all over Orioles’ Game 3 clincher

Posted on 05 October 2014 by Luke Jones

Dan Duquette and Buck Showalter would be the first to tell you much of the foundation of the Orioles’ run to their first American League Championship Series since 1997 was in place before they arrived in Baltimore several years ago.

Others may have been responsible for bringing the likes of Nick Markakis, Adam Jones, Chris Tillman, J.J. Hardy, and Zach Britton to Baltimore years ago, but it was Duquette’s fingerprints all over the Orioles’ 2-1 victory to complete the three-game sweep of the Detroit Tigers on Sunday. In fact, a trio of acquisitions made over the last 15 months — winning pitcher Bud Norris, slugger Nelson Cruz, and lefty reliever Andrew Miller — played a critical part in Baltimore sweeping its first postseason series since 1971 and sending the big-name Tigers home for the offseason.

Acquired in exchange for unspectacular outfield prospect L.J. Hoes, 19-year-old pitching prospect Josh Hader, and a draft pick in late July of last season, Norris may not have made the difference in 2013 as the Orioles fell short of the postseason, but the reasonable asking price as well as two extra years of club control made the former Houston Astros pitcher more attractive to Duquette than other seasoned pitchers with expensive or expiring contracts on the trade market.

Making his postseason debut after Miguel Gonzalez was initially slated to pitch in Game 3, Norris pitched 6 1/3 shutout innings while striking out six and allowing two hits to shut down a formidable Detroit lineup that had given him plenty of trouble in two starts earlier this season. Commanding his four-seam fastball and keeping the Tigers scoreless as the Orioles faced 2012 AL Cy Young Award winner David Price, Norris offered a gutsy performance to build on a strong campaign that included a 15-8 record with a 3.65 ERA in 28 starts this season.

It was Cruz who provided Norris with just enough run support as he homered inside the right-field foul pole in the top of the sixth to give the Orioles a 2-0 lead. It was the 34-year-old’s second homer of the series and 16th career postseason homer to pass Babe Ruth on the all-time list, which came after a 40-homer season that resulted in him being named the club’s most valuable player in late September.

No, Cruz wasn’t a diamond in the rough despite no club being willing to invest a long-contract in a player tainted and suspended due to last year’s Biogenesis scandal, but Duquette saw the opportunity to add a slugger on the cheap for a lineup that needed another middle-of-the-order bat. A one-year, $8 million investment made during spring training has never worked out better for the Orioles as Cruz responded with the best season of his 10-year career.

After carrying the Orioles through the first 2 1/2 months of the season and heating up once again over the final few weeks of September, Cruz once again was the offensive hero as the Orioles faced a third straight Cy Young Award winner on Sunday at Comerica Park. His flick of the bat on a high and outside pitch from Price put the Orioles ahead and further depressed what was already a subdued crowd watching their Tigers try to climb out of an 0-2 hole.

The heroics of Norris and Cruz paved the way for Miller, the acquisition that most of baseball ignored while Oakland acquired Jon Lester and the Tigers traded for Price. Those high-profile trades for aces were viewed by many experts as the moves that would automatically send the Athletics and Detroit to a meeting in the ALCS

Miller retired all five hitters he faced in Game 3, including the top three hitters in the Tigers lineup in the bottom of the eighth inning. While many criticized — or at least questioned — the Orioles’ inability to land a top-of-the-rotation starter at the trade deadline, Duquette dealt pitching prospect Eduardo Rodriguez to the Boston Red Sox for the tall left-hander, who’s dominance has transformed the Orioles bullpen from good to great over the last two months.

Pitching to a 1.35 ERA and averaging 15.3 strikeouts per nine innings in 23 regular-season appearances for Baltimore, Miller’s 32-pitch performance in Game 1 matched his highest total of the year and he allowed only one runner in 3 1/3 innings in the ALDS.

No, it wasn’t the sexy move and it’s not as though Lester or Price pitched poorly in their new homes, but Duquette and Showalter have constantly preached the desire to acquire players that are the right fit for their club — not necessarily the biggest or most expensive names. Miller certainly fit the bill as a reliever with great strikeout ability and excellent numbers against hitters from both sides of the plate.

And it’s a move that’s been an integral part of the Orioles continuing to play in October while the Tigers and Athletics have already been eliminated.

The Orioles’ executive vice president of baseball operations has often been teased by outsiders for his decade-long absence from the majors as well as his off-the-wall moves that many have even labeled dumpster diving. Not every move has turned to gold — he did sign high-priced free agent Ubaldo Jimenez, after all — but you couldn’t help but tip your cap to Duquette in watching Sunday’s game play out with the Orioles earning the series win.

A one-year contract and two deadline trades that appeared solid but unspectacular couldn’t have paid off any better in Game 3. And while Duquette may not have built the entire core of the current club from the ground up, the pieces he’s added in recent months have helped put the Orioles four wins away from an American League pennant.

 

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Orioles elect to go with Norris over Gonzalez for ALDS Game 3

Posted on 04 October 2014 by Luke Jones

After previously leaning toward starting Miguel Gonzalez for Game 3 of the American League Division Series against the Detroit Tigers, manager Buck Showalter instead elected to go with right-hander Bud Norris as the Orioles will go for the sweep on Sunday afternoon.

The decision was made following Baltimore’s 7-6 win Friday to take a 2-0 lead in the best-of-five series. Showalter told reporters in Detroit that the change allows the Orioles to use Norris out of the bullpen in a potential Game 5 and gives Gonzalez a chance to have a good workday on Saturday after being on standby in the bullpen for the first two games of the series.

With Kevin Gausman pitching 3 1/3 effective innings and Brad Brach and Zach Britton the only other relievers to work in Game 2, the bullpen should be in excellent shape to back up Norris in the event of a shaky outing. Ubaldo Jimenez would still be ready as a long man and all other relief options besides Gausman should be fresh.

“We didn’t need Bud as much in the bullpen [Sunday],” Showalter told reporters in Detroit. “It’s one of the reasons we kind of held off on a lot of it. We wanted to wait this time of year, some of the things that happened in the game, what that means will happen in further games comes into play.”

Norris hasn’t pitched since Sept. 24 and will be making his postseason debut, which might lead you to believe the Orioles wanted him to get his feet wet with the benefit of a two-game cushion in the Division Series. Gonzalez pitched seven strong innings and allowed only one earned run in his only postseason start against the Yankees in Game 3 of the 2012 ALDS.

The 29-year-old Norris went 15-8 with a 3.65 ERA in 28 starts this season. In two starts against Detroit in 2014, Norris was 0-2 with a 6.39 ERA, but it was his second start against the Tigers on May 12 that sparked controversy when he plunked Torii Hunter in the ribs after giving up a late home run to Ian Kinsler, a move that prompted the right-hander’s ejection before both benches and bullpens emptied.

Gonzalez allowed eight earned runs in 5 1/3 innings against Detroit this season, which included a start on April 4 that was the worst of his season. He also made a relief appearance against the Tigers in relief of a Gausman start in mid-May.

 

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