Tag Archive | "Troy Patton"

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Roberts’ stomach ailment the latest addition to Orioles’ MASH unit

Posted on 08 April 2011 by Luke Jones

When it rains, it pours.

Only it has nothing to do with the day-long rain that postponed the Orioles’ series opener against the Texas Rangers on Friday night.

There’s another name to add to the Orioles’ ever-growing infirmary report with the startling news of Brian Roberts being taken to a local hospital because of stomach pains. Roberts would have been the second starting infielder in as many days — the other being J.J. Hardy due to a ribcage injury on Thursday — to become a late scratch had the weather not forced a cancellation in what was supposed to be rookie Zach Britton’s home debut.

Roberts’ status for Saturday’s straight doubleheader is unknown, and Hardy was not going to be in the lineup for the second straight night Friday. Both Hardy and manager Buck Showalter said the shortstop’s status is day-to-day, and a trip to the 15-day disabled list does not appear to be necessary, but it’s hard to feel encouraged about anything given the recent chain of events in Baltimore.

If Roberts and Hardy are unavailable, the Orioles would be forced to go with the double-play combination of Robert Andino and Cesar Izturis.

This comes immediately after the return of left fielder Luke Scott who missed three games this week after going down with a groin injury last Saturday in Tampa Bay.

Roberts with stomach pain? Jeremy Guthrie with pneumonia? Brian Matusz going on the disabled list before even throwing a pitch in the 2011 season?

What’s next? Showalter tripping on the dugout steps making a pitching change?

The positive vibes of a 5-1 start only go so far before taking a look at the current state of the roster.

With Britton pitching the first game Saturday against Colby Lewis and Jake Arrieta taking the hill against Matt Harrison in the nightcap, the Orioles are desperately looking for two deep outings to save a tired bullpen that managed to receive a night off due to the rain. A heavy workload in the twin bill would place the bullpen in an even more vulnerable position than it was entering Friday. Troy Patton has been put on alert for a promotion, but the left-hander isn’t eligible to be recalled until Sunday due to the rule forbidding players on the 40-man roster to be recalled until 10 days into the regular season.

To further complicate the pitching situation, Guthrie’s status remains up in the air after he threw a successful bullpen session Friday. It’s unknown whether he’ll make his start Sunday as he continues to regain stamina after being hospitalized earlier this week.

If Guthrie is unable to go, the Orioles will likely turn to Norfolk pitcher Chris Jakubauskas to take the hill in his place. Who he replaces on the 25-man roster is anyone’s guess.

What a mess.

And with the powerful Texas lineup getting an extra night’s rest in rainy Baltimore Friday night, things could get ugly very quickly this weekend against the 6-0 Rangers.

Hold on tight.

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Orioles roster moves: Gonzalez back, Patton promoted (and demoted)

Posted on 21 July 2010 by Luke Jones

With the bullpen completely spent after extensive work in the last three games, the Orioles needed immediate relief help.

The Orioles announced a series of roster moves prior to Wednesday’s game against the Tampa Bay Rays. Lefty reliever Mike Gonzalez has been reinstated from the 60-day disabled list, left-handed pitcher Troy Patton has been recalled from Triple-A Norfolk, and third baseman Josh Bell has been optioned to the Tides. To make room for Gonzalez on the 40-man roster, Jim Johnson has been moved from the 15-day disabled list to the 60-day disabled list.

Gonzalez was placed on the disabled list on April 10 with a strained left shoulder. At the time of his injury, Gonzalez had recorded one save in three appearances, much to fans’ chagrin.

Patton was 6-9 with a 4.91 ERA in 18 starts for Norfolk this season. He posted a 3.44 ERA over his last nine outings for Norfolk. This will be Patton’s first stint in the big leagues since 2007. Patton’s stay with the Orioles could be brief, as Kevin Millwood is expected to return from the disabled list to make the start on Thursday night. Patton will wear uniform No. 54.

Bell batted .263 (6-19) in six games for the Orioles and had been rotting away on the bench in his latest stint with Baltimore.

Johnson has been on the disabled list since May 28 with right elbow inflammation. He was 1-1 with one save and a 6.52 ERA in 10 games for the Orioles.

UPDATE: As expected, the Orioles optioned Patton back to Norfolk following Wednesday’s 5-4 loss to the Rays. Kevin Millwood will be activated Thursday to make the start in the first of a four-game set against the Minnesota Twins.

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1st half thoughts

Posted on 15 July 2009 by Marco Romanell

The 1st half of the season is now in the books and as usual the Orioles find themselves in the AL East cellar. The Orioles have been on a roller coaster ride following up win streaks with detrimental losing streaks, leaving the fans pulling their hair out.

Here are some thoughts I have on the 1st half of the Orioles season:

88 games into the season, we still don’t know about the rotation:

Coming into the season the Orioles knew two things about the starting rotation: Jeremy Guthrie and Koji Uehara were going to be in it. 88 games later, the Orioles seem to have more questions then answers about how the rotation will pan out. Guthrie has struggled, Koji is out for basically the rest of the season and the Rich Hill “experiment” seems to be over. The rotation is left with Brad Bergesen as the only “sure thing”.

It does the Orioles no good to trot Rich Hill and Jason Berken out to the mound every fifth day while Chris Tillman and Troy Patton are tearing it up in the Minor Leagues. I have a hunch we may see both them sometime in early August. This likely spells the end for Hill and Berken. The rotation has already under gone a major face lift and should continue to change throughout the summer.

One thing is certain; outside of Brad Bergesen, the Orioles rotation will continue to be an enigma.

Dave Trembley needs to change his managerial “style”:

When he became the manager a little over two seasons ago, Dave Trembley had a fire about him that exhibited a no nonsense style of managing. Fast forward to 2009; Dave Trembley is surly, mean and fiery, but to the media only and not his players. Although I don’t watch every other major league team regularly, I can’t imagine that they make as many fundamental mistakes as the Orioles. Fundamental baseball is one thing I believe the manager can control but Trembley seems to be more worried about attacking the media then fixing his team’s mistakes.

Personally, I don’t care if its Adam Jones or Felix Pie, if someone makes a bonehead mistake repeatedly then they need to be sitting on the bench next to Dave Trembley. Different players respond to the manager in different ways, but benching them is a universal way to get the message across. Something needs to change and that something to me is Dave Trembley.

The Orioles are interesting enough to keep me watching:

Just when the season looked to be over after a five game losing streak to start June, the Orioles turn around and win five straight, including a three game sweep in Philadelphia. One night they have the greatest comeback in team history then the next game they blow a 4 run lead in the 9th inning. If there is one word you can use to describe the 2009 Orioles its “interesting”.

It is now mid July and the Orioles still have me interested. Even with Ravens training camp two weeks away, I am anxiously awaiting the arrival of Tillman and Patton and looking forward to see this team improve in the last 2+ months of the season.

The Orioles have been inconsistent but have shown enough in spurts to keep me entertained. These Birds are interesting and after 11 straight losing seasons, interesting is about as good as it gets.

The Orioles are eight games under .500 which is pretty much where I expected them to be. Luke Scott and Adam Jones had career 1st halves, while Nolan Reimold and Matt Wieters look to be the real deal.

With the trade deadline looming there could be some fireworks. Any trade Andy MacPhail makes is likely to improve the Orioles for the present and future.

While they may not hit the “unattainable” .500 mark, they are making strides towards it. I believe they will be a better team on the last day of the season then they were on Opening Day. This to me should excite everyone.

For once it looks like it could be a fun summer in Birdland, something I haven’t experienced since I was 13!!

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Questions, Comments and Concerns

Posted on 06 July 2009 by Marco Romanell

Sometimes in the sports media world we are forced to deal with tragedy and must talk about it whether we want to or not. Steve McNair’s tragic death has been the topic of conversation for the weekend and probably will continue to be until all the details come out. I have made it known how I feel on the topic, so this blog will be my traditional questions, comment and concerns:

Questions:

Who is the more dominate athlete, Tiger or Roger?

There is no question that both players are clearly the most dominate athletes of their sport, but who is more dominant?I know people are quick to anoint Federer as the better athlete given the physicality of Tennis to Golf but I still lean toward Tiger. Federer has won 15 majors to Tiger’s 14 but I still believe Tiger is more dominate for a myriad of reasons.

First, I consider golfers athletes and I believe hitting a golf ball consistently accurate is one of the hardest things to do in sports. People shouldn’t  discount it as a sport just because it isn’t “physical”.

Second, just seeing Tiger’s name instills fear in his other competitors and causes them to fold. Mental dominance plays just as big of a role in being dominate as athleticism does. While Federer is good, I don’t believe that people “fear” him nearly as much as golfers fear Tiger.

Lastly, Federer seems to have an equal in Rafael Nadal who has beaten the last few finals that they played in, while Tiger has no equal in his sport. It is impossible to win every golf tournament but Tiger has the best chance of winning every tournament he enters then the rest of the field does. Both are great and I love Federer but I have to give the nod to Tiger.

Has USA soccer done enough to get people to start caring?

To me- and the rest of the world- there is no more exciting sporting event then the World Cup . In all other countries outside of the United States, the country comes to a virtual stop when the World Cup is going on. The United States has been a traditional doormat in international soccer for years, but their win against Spain and hard fought play against Brazil shows they might be turning the corner.

I think if they can continue win in World Cup qualifying then the fans will start to pay attention and should be very excited come June 2010 when the World Cup starts. After upsetting Spain, even the most casual soccer fans, were excited and made it a point to watch the Brazil game. Every person that I talked to was brimming with American pride and made it a point to watch all 90 minutes of the USA/Brazil game.

If the American team can start winning some games consistently then soccer could start to become a more popular sport. Hopefully for their sake- and the sake of the sport- this happens.

Comments:

I would trade anyone on the Orioles outside of Jones, Markakis and Wieters.

With the trade deadline coming up at the end of the month, the Orioles once again figure to be “sellers” instead of “buyers”. If I was Andy MacPhail I would seriously entertain the notion of trading anyone on the team outside of Adam Jones, Nick Markakis, Nolan Reimold and Matt Wieters. Certainly MacPhail isn’t going to just give away Brian Roberts and Aubrey Huff, but if he can get a deal that he likes I think he should pull the trigger.

Roberts and Mora are the longest tenured Orioles but I don’t feel like the Orioles “owe” them anything and should be more then willing to trade them if a team makes a reasonable offer for them. I expect to see quite a few Orioles on the move and it wouldn’t surprise me if Jeremy Guthrie, Brian Roberts and Melvin Mora were traded. 

Dave Trembley has got to go.

I have been a proponent of Dave Trembely getting fired since the season started and I continue to echo those sentiments after some bad decision making and poor fundamental baseball from the Orioles. Managing in the American League is much easier then managing in the National League but Trembley still doesn’t seem to “get it”.

My main problems with Trembley are that I  he is to “by the book” and that he is responsible for the lack of fundamentals. Every time a pitcher reaches 100 pitches Dave Trembley is quick with to pull them and I have a major problem with that. In his last start Brad Bergesen was at 103 pitches after 8 innings bust jut retired the side on eight pitches in the last inning. There is throwing 100 pitches and there is “laboring”, and Bergesen was not laboring. Just because you have a pitchers that are your “7th, 8th and 9th inning guys” doesn’t mean you need to put them in the game in those innings.

Normally, I believe that a Major League manager really only needs to make a few decisions a game and that the players win and lose the game. I think the main role of a manager is to manage the players ego’s and make sure they know the fundamentals and in that role Trembley has failed. Every game the Orioles commit a myraid of mistakes and Dave Trembely does nothing to correct this. I know these players are veterans and should know the fundamentals, however, if they continue to make mistakes without and repercussions then they will continue make them. Trembley needs to make a statement and start benching players or even call them out publicly to light a fire under them.

I have seen enough of Dave Trembley and I know the Orioles are better off without him.

I want to see some changes in the pitching staff.

I don’t know if the Orioles feel like they owe something to Chris Ray and Rich Hill by continuing to trot them out there, but personally I have seen enough of them. I tend to give Hill more rope then Ray because he has shown success starting previously and has had a few games this year where he has looked good, but I am now at the end of my rope with Hill. Chris Ray has been awful this season and was awful the season before his injury and I feel like he should not be on this team.

I would love to see the Orioles trade Jeremy Guthrie and bring up Troy Patton and Chris Tillman. If this happens the Orioles rotation of the “future” starts to take shape with Patton, Tillman, Hernandez, Bergesen and either Bereken or Arrieta. It is not doing anyone any good- the fans in particular- to keep trotting Rich Hill out to the mound and watching him get shelled. The Orioles need to make some changes sooner rather then later.

Concerns:

The Orioles are starting to give up and may go on a downward spiral.

After losing 3 of four games against the Angels in which they blew two four run leads I feel like the Orioles are on their way towards another dismal second half. Players like Brian Roberts and Melvin Mora seem to be disenchanted and it looks like the players have given up on the season.  

I think the Orioles may get swept by the Mariners and if this happens, I think any possibility of reaching the .500 mark goes out the window.

It looks like its going to be another “long” summer of Orioles baseball.

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Orioles’ July will be pivotal on different levels

Posted on 02 July 2009 by Luke Jones

Any baseball fan will tell you the 162-game schedule is filled with peaks and valleys.  You’re never as good as your highest point—such as a nine-run comeback win—or as terrible as your lowest moment—like a five-run blown lead in the ninth inning.

This year’s World Series champion is bound to undergo at least a five- or six-game losing streak, and even the worst team in the majors—I’m talking to you, Washington—will manage to win five or six games in a row at some point this season.

The difference between the good teams and the not-so-good teams in Major League Baseball is an ability to heighten the peaks while shortening the dark valleys.

The Orioles’ last two games are a perfect example of how exhilarating—and sobering—the game can be in less than 24 hours.  After completing the greatest comeback in franchise history Tuesday night, the club collapsed in the ninth inning on Wednesday, blowing a 5-1 lead in an eventual 6-5 loss in 11 innings.

How will the Orioles respond to these two polarizing contests?  If we look at the club’s body of work this season, the west coast trip—and the month of July—will not be pretty.

From the pleasant 6-3 start that was squashed in a four-game sweep at Fenway Park in April to the late-May sweep of Toronto and the electricity of Matt Wieters’ debut that fizzled into an offensive famine of historic proportions, the Orioles have lacked the consistency to show they are anywhere close to contention.

We’ve seen this club play well at times—creating optimism that it’s on the verge of turning the corner toward respectability—only to fall on its face completely thereafter.

The next month will tell whether the Orioles are capable of playing near-.500 baseball or that another summer swoon toward 90 or more losses is underway.

When looking at the schedule, avoiding the latter will be a daunting task.  Starting with a four-game series against the AL West-leading Los Angeles Angels tonight, the Orioles’ next 19 games will come against teams with winning records.  All but three will be on the road where the club has struggled with an 11-23 record.

Brace yourselves; it could get ugly.

The next month will play a huge part in determining manager Dave Trembley’s fate beyond this season.  In his second full season as the skipper, Trembley has come under fire for his—at best—questionable management of the pitching staff and the club’s horrendous baserunning.  Whether Trembley is the man to lead the young talent into the future is in doubt.

A disastrous July could spell the end of Trembley’s stay in Baltimore, but it may not be prudent to fire another manager in the middle of the season, as the organization did with Lee Mazzilli in 2005 and Sam Perlozzo in 2007.

In both cases, the organization ended up retaining the interim manager instead of completing a more thorough search in the offseason when the chances of finding a more qualified candidate are heightened.

In addition to the manager’s future, the next few weeks will likely determine the fate of every pitcher not named Brad Bergesen in the starting rotation.  With Chris Tillman, Troy Patton, and Jake Arrieta waiting in the wings at Triple-A Norfolk, the pressure will be on the current staff to perform against rigorous competition.

Rich Hill (7.08 ERA) and Jason Berken (6.44 ERA) may only receive another start or two to prove themselves before the organization will be forced to look elsewhere for starting pitching.  Neither has shown the ability to put together a string of good starts and have been downright brutal at times.

With Koji Uehara likely out for the next two months, right-hander David Hernandez (4.19 ERA in three starts) will get an extended look against some of the best teams in the American League.  Hernandez has shown a lively arm, but it will need to translate to getting out big league hitters consistently.  With a run of strong starts this month, the 23-year-old could establish himself as a fixture behind Bergesen in the rotation.

Veteran Jeremy Guthrie will be the most intriguing pitcher to watch over the next few weeks as the July 31st trading deadline approaches.  Guthrie has failed to pitch with the same consistency he showed in his first two seasons in Baltimore when he was the club’s best pitcher.  His 5.11 ERA is a product of surrendering 17 home runs and failing to make quality pitches to finish off batters when ahead in the count.

If Guthrie can pitch well over the next few weeks, his value could possibly fetch a young corner infield prospect that the organization sorely needs.

Much like Guthrie, other veterans could be on the move depending on their performance in July.  Impending free agent Aubrey Huff would appeal to a contender looking for a power bat that can play both corner infield positions.  The streaky Ty Wigginton might be attractive to a National League club, but it’s unlikely he’d attract anything of significant value in return.

Regardless of whether the club rebounds from Wednesday’s deflating loss or tailspins into another July collapse, it will probably look quite different a month from now.

The club is focused on developing its young talent, as it should be, but a strong July performance might keep people somewhat interested in the second half.  Fans want to get excited about this team’s future, but the next month will be crucial in holding their attention.

If there’s another July collapse, it will be another crawl to the finish with nobody watching.

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Koji, Bergesen and some other Orioles musings

Posted on 01 July 2009 by Marco Romanell

The Orioles had the greatest comeback in team history on Tuesday night bailing out Rich Hill who was once again ineffective. Today the Orioles placed Koji Uehara on the DL while Brad Bergesen was once again stellar.

Here are some thoughts on Koji, Bergesen and other Orioles musings:

Changes likely plentiful in the Orioles rotation:

Earlier today news came in that Koji Uehara would be sidelined for 7-8 weeks all but ending his stay as a fixture in the Orioles rotation, for the present and future. Koji is not scheduled to return until early September and by that point the Orioles will likely just decide to shut him down for the season. As of now David Hernandez will take over for Koji but if he struggles, he may be moved down.

Koji may not be the only starter that will not be in the rotation by season’s end ; in fact I believe that nobody but Brad Bergesen is “safe” to keep their spot. Rich Hill has been flat out awful of late and a few more poor outings could land him in the bullpen.

The most intriguing situation is that of Jeremy Guthrie. Anointed the Orioles’ “ace” before the season( a role now occupied by Brad Bergesen), Guthrie has been incredibly inconsistent but could be a major trade tool for the Orioles. Guthrie has won his last two starts and will only cost a team $650,000 if they were to acquire him. With pitching being at a premium throughout the league it is likely many teams will be calling Andy MacPhail asking about Guthrie. If the Orioles like what they hear, don’t be surprised to see Guthrie dealt.

If Guthrie is dealt and Berken continues to struggle expect Chris Tillman and Troy Patton to be in the rotation earlier then expected, probably  sometime in early August. In addition to these two there are any number of pitchers at Norfolk and Bowie like Jake Arrieta that could be September call ups.

Who is the Orioles best trade chip?

By no means are the Orioles going to have a Florida Marlins like fire sale but they will be sellers as opposed to buyers at the deadline. Many names like Aubrey Huff, George Sherrill, Danys Baez, Melvin Mora and Jeremy Guthrie have all had their names floating amidst trade talks. Andy MacPhail is not going to give these players away for nothing but I expect to see at least two players that are starters or major contributors to the club, playing elsewhere come August 1st.

The players that the Orioles are likely to get offered the most for are Aubrey Huff and Jeremy Guthrie. Huff is power left handed bat that has shown he can play first base better then people expected which now has him garnering interest from National League teams. One of the teams supposedly interested is the Mets, who have the reputation of parting with prospects to win now. If the Mets are in contention for the Wild Card and the Division and Carlos Delgado is still on the DL expect them to offer a lot to the Orioles to acquire Huff.

Jeremy Guthrie, as I mentioned earlier, should peak the interest of many teams due to his low salary and the fact that pitching is at a premium. Despite being 6-7 with a 5.11 ERA Guthrie is more then a serviceable major league pitcher who could be a very effective 3rd or 4th starter for a contending ball club.

Is Ty Wigginton the answer at hot corner?

Ty Wigginton hit another home run on Wednesday afternoon giving him six on the season which is four more then Melvin Mora. Wigginton has 16 fewer at bats then Mora and has the same number of RBI’s on the season. Wigginton is starting to look like the 20+ home run bat that the Orioles hoped he would be, while Mora is having his worst year in an Oriole uniform. I do not believe Wigginton is the 3rd baseman of the future but he is better currently then Melvin Mora and he should play more because of this. Mora will continue to start because of his tenure with the club, but how long can his anemic run producing bat be plugged into the number 5 hole in the lineup before the Orioles realized it is time for a change.

Base running blunders galore!!

Felix Pie was thrown out by five feet while trying to “stretch” a first inning single into a double, quelling any chance for a big inning. Pie joins the long list of Orioles that have made base running blunders to run the Orioles right of the inning, a problem that looks to be getting worse before it gets better.

Poor fundamentals are a direct result of poor leadership and I believe Dave Trembley is a major part of the Orioles poor fundamentals. I know every big league player should know how to run the bases, but if they can go out there and continue to make mistakes with out repercussions from the manager, then they will continue to make those same mistakes. Maybe instead of having the promotion where the kids run the bases after the game, the Orioles should be the ones running the bases instead.

There are still many questions marks about the ball club and it will be interesting to see how things play out after the deadline.

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5 W’s and 1 H

Posted on 22 June 2009 by Luke Jones

The Orioles certainly didn’t show the Phillies any “Brotherly Love” by completing a three-game sweep this weekend.

I attended the first two games of the series on Friday and Saturday night and had a great time.  Citizens Bank Park may lack the charm of Oriole Park at Camden Yards, but the wide-open concourse is an excellent feature for those wanting to grab a snack or cold beverage without missing a pitch.

It was a pleasure meeting many of the rabid Orioles fans on the WNST/Miller Lite Bus Trip, and it was even better high-fiving and celebrating the closing moments of Saturday night’s comeback win with them!

Here are the 5 W’s and 1 H for the week:

1.  Who will be the best player not named Blake Griffin to come out of this year’s NBA Draft?

The 2009 NBA Draft takes place on Thursday night, and the Los Angeles Clippers have already committed to taking power forward Blake Griffin (Oklahoma), the surest thing in this year’s draft class, with the No. 1 pick.

After Griffin, there is plenty of talent but many question marks.  From Connecticut’s Hasheem Thabeet to international point guard Ricky Rubio to Davidson’s Stephen Curry, there is potential, but none are regarded as a sure thing.  Some NBA executives are calling this one of the worst drafts in recent memory.

If I had to choose a rookie from this class other than Griffin, I’d take a chance on Curry.  His heroic run in the 2008 NCAA tournament put him on the map, and he followed it up by leading the nation in scoring last season (28.6 points per game).

Though Curry lacks the ideal size (6-3) and athleticism for the NBA, his strong pedigree—he’s the son of former NBA player Dell Curry—and fundamentals will allow him to become a successful pro.  He won’t become an All-Star, but Curry will be a solid addition to an NBA team.

2.  What was the best Orioles game you ever attended?

Saturday night’s win has to be one of the top five or six Orioles games I’ve ever attended.  Yes, that’s pretty sad, but when you consider I was two weeks old when the Orioles last won the World Series, you can probably begin to understand.

My choice for the best game I’ve attended was a 7-5, 10-inning victory over the New York Yankees on June 3, 1997.  The Orioles were in the midst of their wire-to-wire run for the American League East title, and Rafael Palmeiro hit a walk-off home run in the bottom of the 10th inning to put the Orioles ahead by 8.5 games in the division.

Walking out of the ballpark while gloating among the Yankees fans was a great feeling—and is nearly a forgotten one 12 years later.

3.  Where is the best starting rotation in the Orioles’ organization?

Though the starting pitching in Baltimore has improved, I am still eagerly looking at the rotation in Triple-A Norfolk.  The Tides currently have four of the top pitching prospects in the organization with Chris Tillman, Jake Arrieta, David Hernandez, and Troy Patton.

While it’s doubtful that all four will crack the starting rotation by season’s end, I wouldn’t be surprised to see these four, along with Brad Bergesen, making up the starting rotation by this time next season.  Obviously, there’s no guarantee—and it’s quite unlikely—they’ll all become successful big league starters, but it’s clear the Orioles have come a long way from the days of counting on one prospect like Rocky Coppinger or Matt Riley to save the rotation.

We’ve heard quite a bit about these names over the last two years, so it’s exciting to see them at the Triple-A level and on the verge of making the jump to the big leagues.

4.  When was the last time the Orioles earned an interleague sweep on the road?

Before this weekend’s sweep of the Phillies, the Orioles last completed an interleague road sweep against the Atlanta Braves in June 1999.

The Orioles completed the three-game set by beating the Braves, 22-1, on a nationally televised Sunday night game.  This was Cal Ripken’s famous six-hit game that earned several standing ovations from the Turner Field crowd over the course of the night.

Mike Mussina earned the win over Atlanta’s John Smoltz, capping off one of the few highlights of the 1999 season.

5.  Why did Dave Trembley allow Danys Baez to pitch to Ryan Howard in the seventh inning on Saturday night?

I certainly was celebrating the exciting comeback win on Saturday night, but it didn’t excuse Trembley’s terrible decision to pitch to Howard with a base open and two outs in the seventh inning.  Yes, walking Howard would have put the go-ahead run in scoring position, but the pitcher’s spot was on deck, and the Phillies sent Carlos Ruiz to the plate after Howard’s three-run shot.  Howard is hitting .299 against right-handed pitching, so the matchup against Baez wasn’t favorable in that regard either.

Just a hunch, but I’d take my chances facing Ruiz with the bases loaded instead of Howard.

I was sitting with Nestor Aparicio and my friend Mike—two of the most knowledgeable baseball fans I know—and all three of us immediately said it was the wrong move.  A few moments later, Howard confirmed our fears.

Saturday’s win was a great example of a team bailing out its manager.  The decisions to allow Gregg Zaun and Oscar Salazar to hit in the ninth inning worked out, but they did not cancel out the decision to pitch to one of the best power hitters in the game—whether he had the flu or not.

I hope Trembley personally thanked Brian Roberts for saving his bacon.  Regardless of the big win, it was the wrong decision.

6.  How likely are the Ravens to make a serious play for Brandon Marshall?

Not very.

John Harbaugh, Ozzie Newsome, and the Ravens are very serious about avoiding players with questionable character, and Marshall—regardless of his immense talent—fits that description.  When you also consider the team would have to surrender high draft picks and doesn’t have the salary cap room to afford the $7-9 million per year Marshall is seeking, it really becomes an easy decision.

Marshall’s dispute with the Denver Broncos is different from quarterback Jay Cutler’s, because it is not based on a conflict with new head coach Josh McDaniels; it simply comes down to wanting more money.

The Pro Bowl receiver is scheduled to become a free agent after the season, but an uncapped year in 2010 would change his status dramatically.  Since an uncapped system would change the number of years before free agency from four to six, Marshall would remain under the Broncos’ control for two more years—as a restricted free agent—and would not become an unrestricted free agent until after the 2011 season.  The Broncos hold all of the leverage in this situation, so Marshall desperately wants a new deal before that happens.

When you consider all of these factors, I would be surprised to see Marshall in Baltimore—or anywhere else other than Denver—this September.

*****

I hope all of the fathers out there had a great Father’s Day.  This is a tough day for me after losing my dad in 2004, but I have numerous great memories—many centering around the Ravens, Orioles, and Terps—to cherish.

He deserves more credit than anyone for cultivating my passion for Baltimore sports.  I’m sure he would have loved this weekend in Philadelphia.

Have a great Monday.

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5 Ws and 1 H

Posted on 17 May 2009 by Luke Jones

It’s easy to call the 134th Preakness a failure, but it would be more prudent to give the Maryland Jockey Club another year or two to see what can be done to bring the masses back to Pimlico.  The decision to prohibit patrons from bringing their own alcohol was obviously a major change to the culture of the Preakness, but creative thinking should be able to revive attendance.

However, will officials have another year or two to accomplish this?  It remains to be seen with the bankruptcy of Magna Entertainment Corp., the owner of Pimlico.  The state government is taking measures to keep the Preakness in Baltimore, but nothing is a sure thing at this point.

Here are the 5 Ws and 1 H for the week:

1.  Who do you expect to be in the Orioles’ starting rotation by year’s end?  We’ve already seen two of the five Opening Day rotation members (Alredo Simon and Mark Hendrickson) replaced, and more changes are sure to come as the season continues.

The next starter on the chopping block would logically be Adam Eaton (2-4, 7.93 ERA).  The most likely candidates for a promotion at this point are Chris Tillman (4-0, 2.03 ERA at Triple-A Norfolk),  David Hernandez (3-1, 3.50 ERA at Norfolk), and Troy Patton (3-1, 1.32 ERA at Double-A Bowie).

Patton is the most intriguing option after missing all of last season with a torn labrum.  He was the top pitcher acquired in the five-player deal for Miguel Tejada.  The organization planned to keep him in the minor leagues for most of this season to regain his pre-injury form, but Patton’s numbers may force a promotion to the major leagues.  Patton has experience at Triple A and the major leagues, so the jump from Double A would not be much of a factor.

My guess for the Orioles’ rotation by season’s end is Jeremy Guthrie, Rich Hill, Chris Tillman, Troy Patton, and Brad Bergesen.

Though Koji Uehara has been the team’s most consistent starter, pitching in a five-man rotation—something he was not accustomed to doing in Japan—will likely cause him to wear down as the summer progresses.  Moving him to the bullpen by late August might save his arm and allow the Orioles to promote another young pitcher in the process.

2.  What are the odds that Derrick Mason’s revelation that he might miss most of training camp after undergoing shoulder surgery is related to his contract status?  Mason has made it known that he desires an extension with the Ravens beyond this season.

No one can question the 35-year-old receiver’s toughness after playing the second half of last season with a painful shoulder injury, but it wouldn’t be farfetched for Mason to take it easy during training camp to rest the shoulder and protect his health as he enters his last season under contract with the Ravens.

Even if this were more about his contract and less about his health, it wouldn’t figure to cause many problems, given his excellent timing with quarterback Joe Flacco.  It could even be a long-term plus, forcing Flacco to work more closely with the other receivers on the roster.

3.  Where would you most like to watch a baseball game?  The Orioles travel to the new Yankee Stadium for a three-game series beginning Tuesday, and WNST is even taking a bus full of Orioles fans to the Yankees’ new palace.

I’ve been to a few classics such as the old Yankee Stadium, Fenway Park, and Wrigley Field as well as new beauties Citizens Bank Park and Camden Yards (of course!).

Watching two games at Wrigley was my favorite experience, especially sitting in the right-centerfield bleachers for an afternoon game.  It’s a great atmosphere, and Wrigleyville is a special baseball town.

Next up on the list of parks I want to see?  Dodger Stadium, but I’ll pass on a ticket in the Mannywood section.  Of the newer generation of parks, AT&T Park in San Francisco has been referred to as the Camden Yards of the West.  Hopefully it doesn’t get inhabited by Yankees and Red Sox fans in the same way.

4.  When was the last time the men’s lacrosse Final Four did not have a school from the state of Maryland competing?  The answer had been 1994 before Maryland and Johns Hopkins fell this weekend in the quarterfinals.  The 2009 Final Four at Gillette Stadium includes Syracuse, Virginia, Cornell, and Duke.

Dave Pietramala’s Blue Jays had gone to the Final Four six of the last seven years before falling to Virginia on Sunday.

5.  Why do the Orioles continue to play so poorly in the final game of nearly every series?  They had a chance to take three out of four from the Kansas City Royals, leading 3-1 on Sunday before Uehara gave up three runs in the sixth, and reliever Jim Johnson sealed the Orioles’ fate by surrendering three in the eighth.

The Orioles are now 2-11 in series-concluding games this season.  Their longest winning streak of the season stands at two games.  It’s hard to put together a successful stretch of games if you cannot finish off an opponent in a three- or four-game series.

In case you were thinking back to the dreaded Sunday record from last season, the Orioles are 1-5 in Sunday games this year.

6.  How unlucky was the injury to Maryland goalie Brian Phipps?  The junior injured (and likely tore) his left ACL after making a save late in the first quarter in the Terps’ loss to Syracuse on Saturday.

The injury drew the attention of ESPN who compared it to the Gus Frerotte human battering ram experiment and former Cardinals kicker Bill Gramatica’s “tear-up-your-knee” celebration.

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Wandering Thought Of The Day 5/1

Posted on 01 May 2009 by Neal Bortmes

Just a quick topic here as I was in class today thinking back to the Orioles draft of 2008, I know what you’re thinking but it was a terribly boring class.  I actually watched the draft coverage that year because I was really interested in the Orioles’ selection in hopes that they might choose a savior to lead them into the next decade and hopefully competitive seasons.  One might ask why anybody would watch the MLB draft, especially considering many of the players are high schoolers whom no one has probably heard mention of before, and the answer my friends is a simple one, I really love the Orioles that much.  I strive to find any bit of good news in order to placate my desire for a winning baseball team and since the product on the field has been horrendous for over a decade I have to look to the future.

 

 

I find it incredibly interesting that they chose Brian Matusz that year.  Yes I think we can all agree that the Orioles have lacked a decent pitching staff since the Mike Mussina and Scott Erickson days or even before then, but Matusz is a younger version of Jamie Moyer.  And as birds fans know Jamie Moyer was a baseball nomad until he mastered the art of pitching, which he finally was able to do only after years of getting knocked around the ballpark like a piñata.  Like Moyer, Matusz is a left-handed pitcher with a high 80’s (occasionally low 90’s) fastball who has to rely on painting the corners and mixing pitches in order to be effective.  Unlike Moyer, Matusz has no big league experience and is 22 as compared to 46.  I am not saying that Matusz is a bad pitcher I am merely pointing out that the Orioles’ first round draft pick has the potential to be at best a number three guy in a decent rotation.  His draft status was further helped by the fact that the 2008 draft was devoid of prime pitching talent thus making him the most polished and highest rated pitcher of the bunch. 

 

 

The problem however is that the 2008 MLB draft was a like cornucopia of hitting prospects, something which the Orioles also desperately needed at the time.  I was quite upset that the Orioles did not select Justin Smoak, which is the reason for my post today.  Smoak happened to go to the Texas Rangers with the 11th pick that year, and Texas as you know is a ball club that effectively evaluates offensive players.   Tim Kurkjian currently has an interesting article up about the Rangers’ offensive prowess over the years (http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/columns/story?columnist=kurkjian_tim&id=4117980) but if you don’t feel like reading an article on them just try to think back to the Aug. 22, 2007 beat down of the birds by a final score of 30 to 3.  I know we have all repressed that memory but it did actually occur.  If MLB was not so bereft of catching talent Smoak would have surely went higher in the draft that year because he is a switch hitting first baseman with adequate defensive skills who will hit for lots of power and a high average.

 

 

Just as a comparison Smoak is currently in AA playing for the Frisco RoughRiders where he is raking to the tune of .351 with 4 HR and 13 RBI with .467 OBP, .568 SLG, 1.035 OPS, while the soft-tossing Matusz is in single A playing for the Frederick Keys where he has a 2-1 record with a 3.32 ERA.  The reason for this article is not to disparage Brian Matusz because like all O’s fans I am hoping that he will develop quickly into a major league caliber pitcher, but rather to point out the mistake of not drafting Smoak.  The Orioles have a long history of selecting first round players who have never even sniffed the big leagues, players they poorly scouted whom they shouldn’t have selected, and others who were abject failures when they did make it such as Beau Hale, Chris Smith, and Wade Townsend to name a few from this decade.

 

 

If we had drafted Smoak then instead of Matusz we would be able to move Aubrey Huff at the deadline possibly for some decent prospects, as it stands we have no one in the organization ready or capable of supplanting Huff in the near future.  Smoak has a chance to be a fixture in the middle of the lineup for years to come providing 30-40 hr/year power, and while Matusz could be good we have guys like Chris Tillman and Jake Arrieta who have loads more upside that will be ready in the next few years.  I suppose it all comes down to the fact that you can’t really teach someone to pitch left-handed, but if given the chance I think Andy MacPhail could swing a great deal involving someone like Huff and bring back some left-handed prospects.  Plus I am still holding out hope that Troy Patton will recover and pitch like the number one prospect he was anointed to be during his time in Houston.

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How ’bout dem O’s!

Posted on 16 April 2009 by Neal Bortmes

The Orioles are continuing their modus operandi from the past few years and are teasing us with winning baseball at the beginning of the season.  If you are a true orange and black fan it is hard not to get excited at the start of a new season, especially when they have started off so well winning each of their first three series.  Opening Day was an incredible experience this year and it surpassed past years due to the uncertainty of the weather and the eventual payoff at the end of the game.  The clouds threatened to rain on our parade and one of the best parties of the year in Baltimore.  The sun peeked out for a while in mid-afternoon but the rains came again right before game time which seemed like an omen representing the big bad Yankees hanging over our heads.

 

As you know by now the game was not rained out after all and the Orioles were like a bright ray of sunshine cutting through the clouds.  The bats came alive for 10 runs that day and chased Cy Young award winner and 161 million dollar mercenary CC Sabathia in the 4th inning.  It was an absolutely fantastic day for baseball and it was made even better by the fact that loyal Orioles fans did not let the Yankee supporters in attendance drown out their cheers.  The infamous lets go Yankees chant that can be clearly heard at Camden Yards in the later months of the season as the seats turn from orange to green was overpowered by boos for Tex-liar.  For the first time in over a decade I could feel the camaraderie of O’s fans permeate the stadium.  The way the O’s dominated the majority of that game made the Boog’s BBQ and the ample amount of brew taste that much sweeter.

 

I have been impressed with the way the Orioles are swinging the bats this season.  Izturis capped off the great Opening Day win with his first and probably only homerun this season, but aside from that he is the only player who needs to significantly increase his offensive production.  He was signed to upgrade a poor up the middle defense and has been a drastic improvement over 2008’s garbage group barring last evening’s boot in the third inning against the Rangers.  Zaun has not dominated with the bat so far but as all O’s fans know he was signed to mentor Matt Weiters once he is called up, and Zaun has done an adequate job in his stead.  We are however waiting with bated breath for Weiters’ arrival.

 

Aubrey Huff has impressed me with his transition to full-time first baseman.  Like I said he will never be mistaken for JT Snow over there but he is serviceable, and a significant upgrade over Kevin “Red Sox” Millar.  Huff won a Silver Slugger at first base last year which is a significant accomplishment considering first base is typically an offense first position.  The way he has been swinging the bat lately I really think the O’s should try to sign him to an extension.  Three or four years might get it done and they don’t have anyone in the minors even close to ready to supplant him in the near future.  Gone are the days of guys like Calvin Pickering and Ryan Minor toiling in the minors waiting to get a shot.  Lets get over our huff about what Aubrey said (it really wasn’t all that bad to start with) and embrace what he has been doing for the ball club.

 

Speaking of toiling in the minors, the trade for Felix Pie, who has been yanked up and down by the Cubs over the last few years, was a low risk/high reward deal.  Pie represents a potential impact player on defense, and a capable offensive player with speed.  The only thing the O’s gave up was Garrett Olsen a below average lefty who had virtually no upside, and unless he pulls a John Maine and comes out of nowhere to be a decent end of the rotation guy this is a can’t lose scenario.  The mastermind of the Orioles recent terrific player personnel decisions Andy MacPhail has really outdone himself on his two biggest trades.  Trading a steroid using, older than he claimed to be, unhappy player with declining power and range for 5 players including Houston’s best pitching prospect in Troy Patton, Luke Scott our starting DH, as well as Matt Albers and Dennis Sarfate who are strong bullpen contributors has to be one of the biggest hoodwinks of all time.  It is only outdone by MacPhail’s other conquest over former Seattle Mariner’s GM Bill Bavasi.  A trade in which he dealt a disgruntled, no heart, only wants to pitch six innings crybaby who never lived up to the potential of his great stuff in Erik Bedard for 5 players including future face of the franchise centerfielder Adam Jones, as well as stud pitching prospect Chris Tillman and All-Star closer George Sherrill. 

 

O’s fans may not agree with everything MacPhail has done but no one can argue that this team has not improved significantly over past couple years, especially with building depth in the minor leagues.  The one complaint that I would raise is to question why they are starting guys like Adam Eaton and Mark Hendrickson who are guaranteed to have an ERA over 6.00 in place of young players like Brad Bergesen.  Bergesen could give up a ton of runs and be chased in the early innings just as easily, however Bergeson is in his early 20’s and actually has some upside.  With a little bit of experience he is almost destined to be better than those two stiffs.   Hendrickson was drafted by the 76’ers, 31st overall in the 1996 NBA draft, to quote EJ Pipkin’s 2004 campaign catchphrase “Who Knew?”  Maybe he should think about a return engagement with the NBA and put us out of our misery.  Prospect Radhames Liz is thought to be a starter and has recently been recalled; however he is a bullpen guy, period.  Liz has no upside as a starter but as a reliever he may find some late inning success.

 

The off-season signings of Nick Markakis and Brian Roberts seem like a harbinger of good things to come.  As the team continues to develop I hope that MacPhail will be able to sign our young players to long-term deals and keep the core guys together throughout their careers from the minors to major league success.  Let’s hope the O’s can continue to remain competitive for the remainder of the season, I want to see a game that matters in September for a change.

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