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Lost weekend sweeps away any glimmer of hope for 2017 Orioles

Posted on 17 July 2017 by Luke Jones

You may have talked yourself into there being hope for the Orioles coming out of the All-Star break after they’d defied logic so many times in the Buck Showalter-Dan Duquette era.

Then came the bucket of ice water to the face that was the weekend sweep at the hands of the Chicago Cubs. The reigning World Series champions may have entered Friday only a game ahead of Baltimore, but it was evident that these were two teams moving in opposite directions in 2017 and beyond.

Friday night felt like the final nail in the coffin for the 2017 Orioles, who impressively managed to erase an 8-0 deficit to tie the game in the eighth inning before Brad Brach surrendered the game-winning home run to Addison Russell in the ninth. In a season filled with painful losses, that one was the most deflating as the Orioles were outscored 18-3 the rest of the weekend to fall a season-worst seven games below .500.

Yes, it’s time for the Orioles to start thinking about improving their outlook for the future. It’s no secret that they’re set to fall off a cliff at the end of next season when the likes of Manny Machado, Zach Britton, Adam Jones, and Brach hit free agency, but going 20-39 since May 9 offers similar imagery.

Desperation has been there for a while now as we’ve seen Jonathan Schoop shift to shortstop to make room for journeyman second baseman Johnny Giavotella and Jones move back into the leadoff spot, a role not suited for someone with a .301 on-base percentage no matter what anyone tries to tell you about last year. The mere fact that Kevin Gausman, Wade Miley, and Ubaldo Jimenez started the first three games of the second half really says all you need to know about the state of the Orioles and their starting rotation. The four 20-game winners from 1971 aren’t magically walking through that clubhouse door.

The truth is that the Orioles haven’t played like contenders for a long time now despite qualifying for the postseason for the third time in five years last October. Dating back to the beginning of last July, they hold an 84-91 record. An offense once feared around baseball ranks an underwhelming 11th in the American League in runs scored over the last calendar year. Their minus-94 run differential for 2017 is the worst in the American League and indicates that the Orioles have actually been fortunate to be as good as 42-49.

Yes, there’s plenty of blame to go around, but the failure of the 2017 club begins and ends with a starting rotation on track to be the worst in club history — the 2008 Orioles currently own the worst starer ERA at 5.51 — and one of the worst in baseball in over 100 years. The Orioles entered Monday with an AL-worst 6.02 starter ERA that’s more than a full run worse than 14th-ranked Chicago and a staggering 1.3 runs worse than last year’s rotation that was already viewed as a major weakness.

The starting rotation has been astonishingly terrible.

Amazingly, Cincinnati owns an even worse starter ERA at 6.04. According to Baseball Reference, the Reds currently sport the seventh-worst starter ERA and the Orioles the 10th-worst in major league history going back to 1913.

Misery loves company, right?

It’s easy to view the Orioles as sellers at this point as FOX Sports insider Ken Rosenthal reported as much on Sunday, but will it happen to the degree that it needs to under owner Peter Angelos? The Orioles do not have to trade their biggest chips in the next two weeks if they don’t find the right deal, but the longer they wait, the more diminished the return will be — at least in theory. Everything should now be on the table, however, making the indication that the Orioles won’t even listen to offers for Machado disconcerting.

But there’s a bigger question that needs to be addressed, one that could shape the club’s outlook for the next decade.

Do the Orioles want to retain Duquette beyond 2018 and does he even want to stay? Allowing a lame-duck executive to begin a rebuilding process would be unwise, so you’d hope there’s some resolution — at least privately — in the coming weeks and months as we move toward the offseason. His successes and shortcomings have been discussed at length in recent years, but it’s certainly fair to question whether Duquette would be the right choice to undertake a rebuilding effort.

If he isn’t going to be around after next season, there’s no sense waiting to find his replacement at such a critical time for the organization. That’s also a potential argument for the Orioles to abstain from dealing their best pieces now and instead wait until a long-term general manager is in place.

Of course, we know how the Orioles typically proceed on matters such as these. It’s rarely conventional and can often be detrimental despite their overall success in recent years.

How they handle Duquette’s status would undoubtedly impact the future of Showalter, who will also see his contract expire at the end of next season.

With most attention shifting away from the ugly results on the field and toward what’s happening behind the scenes, the Orioles are at a crossroads full of uncertainty.

It became painfully obvious over the weekend that contention in 2017 isn’t in the cards.

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Twelve Orioles thoughts following 6-3 loss to Cleveland

Posted on 23 June 2017 by Luke Jones

With the Orioles concluding a disappointing 3-4 homestand with a 6-3 loss to Cleveland, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. The Streak continued with Baltimore giving up at least five runs for the 19th consecutive game, which is now one shy of the 1924 Philadelphia Phillies’ major league record. If it helps, try to envision the banner being unrolled on the Warehouse to some John Tesh music.

2. The pitching earned the headline, but the offense left a small village of men on base early. When you only manage two runs from a total of 10 baserunners in the first three innings, it’s going to haunt you. The Orioles were 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position.

3. Remember when Wade Miley was pitching to a sub-3.00 ERA because of so many escape acts over the first seven weeks of the season? His ERA has climbed nearly two whole runs over his last six starts.

4. Seth Smith hit his fourth leadoff home run of the season with an impressive opposite-field bomb into the visitors bullpen. Meanwhile, Seattle just moved Yovani Gallardo and his 6.30 ERA to the bullpen. I’d say that trade worked out well.

5. Unfortunately, Miley gave up the lead to the Indians in a matter of three batters to begin the second inning. That’s been an all-too-familiar theme for Orioles starters all season.

6. The third inning was even worse as Miley allowed four straight batters to reach — two via walks — after retiring the first two hitters to begin the frame. His poor command culminated with Austin Jackson’s two-run single that gave Cleveland the lead for good.

7. Miley went to three-ball counts to 10 of the 24 hitters he faced. As bad as that sounds, I honestly would have guessed a higher total than that. He needed 72 pitches just to record his first nine outs.

8. The most maddening at-bat of the night came from Ruben Tejada, who didn’t receive the memo that Indians starter Mike Clevinger was struggling with his command. After Hyun Soo Kim walked to put two men on with one out, Tejada grounded into an inning-ending double play on the first pitch.

9. Manny Machado had a superb night with two walks and two opposite-field hits, one being an RBI double in the ninth. Over the last six games of the homestand, he went 9-for-22 with three homers, three doubles, three walks, and eight runs batted in. He’s now hitting .302 in June.

10. Longtime “Wheel of Fortune” host and Orioles fan Pat Sajak tweeted what many of us were thinking watching a game moving at a glacial pace over the first several innings. There was little to enjoy about that viewing experience.

11. Adam Jones received the night off with the Orioles now going on the road to play their next six games on turf against Tampa Bay and Toronto. The veteran center field being more receptive to occasional days off says plenty about how he’s feeling right now.

12. Buck Showalter missed Thursday’s game to welcome his first grandchild into the world. Of course, that prompted some fans to ask how soon young Winston would be ready to pitch for his granddaddy. In all seriousness, I’m glad the Orioles manager was able to be there for the special day.

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Twelve Orioles thoughts following 15-7 win over St. Louis

Posted on 17 June 2017 by Luke Jones

With the Orioles scoring a season-high total of runs in a 15-7 win over the St. Louis Cardinals, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. The Orioles lineup took out some frustration by scoring nine runs over the first two innings and producing their highest single-game total since Aug. 16, 2015. With Baltimore scoring 10 or more runs twice in the last four games, you hope it’s the start of some extended prosperity.

2. Jonathan Schoop continues to be one of the club’s best players as he homered twice and tied a career high with four hits. He’s struggled defensively as an error led to a run in the first, but his .888 on-base plus slugging percentage is easily a career high thus far.

3. Even with 15 runs, Buck Showalter was forced to use his best two active relievers to record the final 10 outs after St. Louis had cut the deficit to five and loaded the bases with two outs in the sixth. The current state of this bullpen is frightening.

4. Mychal Givens cleaned up the mess created by others and calmed down a suddenly-uncomfortable situation with a strikeout of Eric Fryer to end the top of the sixth. He would throw a career-high 42 pitches in completing 2 1/3 scoreless innings. That was critical work.

5. Wade Miley would have liked to have been more productive after being staked to a 9-1 lead, but the standard is so low with this rotation right now that he received a standing ovation after 5 2/3 frames. At least his outing wasn’t as awful as others we’ve seen recently?

6. Manny Machado sent a 113.2 mph missile into the Orioles bullpen for a two-run homer in the second and made a fantastic defensive play to end the top of the eighth. Yes, he has struggled in 2017, but he’s still special to watch.

7. J.J. Hardy delivered a two-run double to begin the scoring in a seven-run second and later added another RBI double. Any offense you get from the 34-year-old shortstop is a rarity at this point, but he had a strong day.

8. Alec Asher was moved back into a relief role this weekend in an effort to help solidify the bullpen, but he couldn’t record an out in the process of giving up a home run and two singles in the sixth inning. Yikes.

9. Adam Wainwright has now allowed nine earned runs in two of his last three starts. I suppose it’s comforting to know Orioles starters aren’t the only ones putting ugly numbers on the scoreboard recently.

10. Had you ever heard of Paul DeJong before? The No. 9 hitter extraordinaire has looked like Babe Ruth against Baltimore pitching this weekend as he homered for the second straight game.

11. How often do you see a line drive just past a lunging shortstop go all the way to the left-center wall? Trey Mancini absolutely smoked that ball with a 108.7 mph exit velocity in the second inning.

12. Even in victory, the Orioles allowed at least five runs for the 14th consecutive game, which is a franchise record. The 1924 Philadelphia Phillies hold the major league record at 20 games, according to Baseball Reference play index data going back to 1913.

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Time for Orioles to reset bullpen — and find more quality

Posted on 17 May 2017 by Luke Jones

The idea of a six-man bullpen sounded good in theory for the Orioles.

Wanting to keep an extra position player for more flexibility off the bench late in games and having a collection of long relievers with minor-league options on the Norfolk shuttle, manager Buck Showalter tried to maneuver his way through games with at least one fewer reliever available on any given night. The plan may have worked had All-Star closer Zach Britton not re-injured his left forearm upon being activated from the disabled list in early May.

But the failure of the experiment came to a climax in Detroit Tuesday night with the kind of bullpen meltdown that’s been rare in these parts for a long time. Before putting Mychal Givens, Brad Brach, and Donnie Hart on full blast for their efforts in Detroit — and, yes, their performance was brutal — realize there are multiple reasons why the six-man bullpen hasn’t worked.

Many have fairly pointed to the lack of quantity in the bullpen, but the issue is as much about the need for more quality. You can argue that Showalter has relied too heavily on his top relievers in Britton’s absence if you want, but then you have to accept those times when he’s tried others in tight spots — like Alec Asher and Vidal Nuno during the recent four-game losing streak — and it hasn’t worked. Last year’s wild-card game in Toronto reminded us that the Orioles manager is hardly beyond reproach and maybe Darren O’Day’s recent shoulder issue should have landed him on the DL in favor of another healthy arm, but Showalter’s track record for managing a bullpen speaks for itself over the last five years and any skipper is going to look foolish when his top relievers perform like they have recently.

The Orioles need to find another bullpen arm — maybe two — who can be trusted in the sixth, seventh, or eighth inning of a close game, whether that guy is currently in their minor-league system or elsewhere. Frankly, a seventh pitcher in the bullpen isn’t going to help much if he can only be relied upon in mop-up situations.

The starting rotation hasn’t helped with Dylan Bundy being the only one offering both quality and length in his outings this season. Wade Miley’s 3.02 ERA looks good at first glance, but he’s averaging just over five innings per start and walking nearly six batters per nine innings. Kevin Gausman and Ubaldo Jimenez both have ERAs above 6.00 while Chris Tillman is still building shoulder strength in his recent return from the disabled list. It doesn’t take a pitching guru to figure out what strain that kind of a rotation can have on a bullpen.

Until scoring 21 runs over the last two games, the offense also deserved blame for scoring at a below-average level over much of the first six weeks of the season and putting so much pressure on late-inning relief. All those narrow, low-scoring victories that we saw in April and early May take their toll on higher-leverage relievers when the starting rotation is averaging 5.4 innings per start and the best closer on the planet is on the DL. This roster was constructed to have an above-average offense that will hit gobs of home runs to give the pitching some breathing room from time to time at the very least. Instead, the Orioles continue to lead the league in save opportunities.

You can only hope the recent awakening of Chris Davis and Mark Trumbo is a sign of better things to come for the offense.

Even without Britton, the rest of the bullpen is too good to continue like this. There’s little reason to think guys like Brach, O’Day, and Givens can’t return to pitching at a high level if they can stay healthy and relatively fresh, but they also have to take accountability for their own performance and rise up to get the job done without their normal ninth-inning man behind them.

The group must find a way to keep its head above water until Britton returns, which the Orioles hope will be sometime next month.

Still, you get the sense that the Orioles will need to average five or six runs per game more consistently to continue winning games in the short term. That and some reasonable improvement from the rotation would go a long way in calming the current relief crisis.

It’s time to reset the bullpen by adding a seventh man and auditioning the likes of Edwin Jackson, Stefan Crichton, and Jimmy Yacabonis for a legitimate middle-relief role. Perhaps the idea of using Mike Wright in middle relief should be revisited with several starting options ahead of him in the pecking order backing up the current rotation.

But a return to a seven-man bullpen may not matter if the group doesn’t get help from the rest of the roster.

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Even by Orioles standards, superb start to 2017 tough to explain

Posted on 11 May 2017 by Luke Jones

We’ve been here before talking about the Orioles.

After another offseason in which the projection models and pundits didn’t like their chances in the American League East, the Orioles are off to their best start of the Buck Showalter era. Now a fifth of the way through the season, Baltimore entered Thursday on pace to win 108 games despite playing 24 of its first 27 games against division opponents and 21 contests against clubs currently above .500. It’s hardly been a cupcake schedule for the Orioles, who own a winning record on the road and the best home mark in the majors.

Veteran starting pitcher Chris Tillman and All-Star closer Zach Britton have missed most of the season with the latter not expected to return until the latter half of June at the earliest. Opening Day starter Kevin Gausman has a 6.63 ERA through his first eight starts. Mark Trumbo and Chris Davis have a total of eight home runs and both have slugging percentages under .400 so far. Even Manny Machado is hitting just .227 despite leading the club in homers and RBIs.

Of course, the Orioles have had their share of surprises, too, with Dylan Bundy looking every bit the part of an ace over his first seven starts, Wade Miley overcoming a slew of walks to pitch to a 2.45 ERA, and Trey Mancini ranking second on the club in home runs, but how do you best explain a .667 winning percentage through the first 33 games?

The stock answer for most of their success since 2012 has been home runs and strong bullpen work, but even those assumed strengths have been only slightly above average through the first 5 1/2 weeks of the season.

The Orioles entered Thursday sixth in the AL in both home runs and bullpen ERA. The offense ranks seventh in the league in runs and eighth in on-base plus slugging percentage. The rotation has been better than expected without Tillman, but Baltimore still ranks just seventh of 15 AL clubs in starter ERA. It hasn’t been about elite defense, either, as the Orioles are tied for 12th in the AL in defensive runs saved.

In other words, everything about this club has been ordinary except its win-loss record, which is paramount and clearly nothing for which to apologize. An 8-2 record in one-run games and a plus-13 run differential reflect good fortune in amassing a 22-11 record, but the best way to describe the 2017 Orioles so far is to say they’ve been been really good at being opportunistic.

Their .303 batting average with runners in scoring position ranks second in the AL and their pitcher win probability added (WPA) leads the league, which are both indicators of “clutch” performance. The offense has been good when it’s absolutely needed to be while the pitching has been at its best in many high-leverage moments.

Even the most optimistic of fans would concede that the Orioles won’t continue winning two-thirds of their games, but such a strong start has given them some breathing room to tread water if we assume the young and surprising New York Yankees aren’t going to keep winning at their same impressive rate, either.

It’s reasonable to expect the likes of Trumbo, Davis, and Gausman to pick up their production while acknowledging the likelihood of regression for Bundy, Miley, and Mancini, but the bullpen has to be the biggest concern even before Wednesday’s meltdown in Washington. A healthy Britton was never going to be as dominant as he was in his historic 2016, but you just don’t replace the man who ranked second on last year’s club at 4.3 wins above replacement and led all major league pitchers in WPA by a wide margin. The 2016 AL Reliever of the Year made up for plenty of deficiencies last season that would have otherwise prevented the Orioles from qualifying for the postseason for the third time in five years.

Making matters more difficult for Showalter is the current five-man bench, which leaves the Orioles with just six arms in the bullpen on a given night. Yes, the organization has effectively used the Norfolk shuttle to receive some meaningful contributions in long relief, but you’d prefer having another reliable middle-to-late relief option to use in the sixth, seventh, or eighth inning in a given night. It’s a lot to ask of Brad Brach, Darren O’Day, Mychal Givens, and Donnie Hart to pick up the slack in Britton’s absence, and we’ve seen each struggle at times with Brach and his 10.29 ERA since April 28 most recently receiving the loudest criticism.

For now, the Orioles can feel good about their terrific start knowing they haven’t come close to firing on all cylinders yet. But if they’re going to continue to flourish, their old reliables must emerge sooner than later. The home runs need to start flying out of the ballpark more frequently and the bullpen must find a way to tighten up until Britton is hopefully ready to return early in the summer.

The latter is easier said than done, but if anyone can figure out the current relief puzzle, it’s Showalter. Once again, his club is showing to be greater than the sum of its parts.

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Britton admits returning too soon, will see specialist for forearm

Posted on 06 May 2017 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — A day after waking up with the recurrence of a left forearm strain, Orioles closer Zach Britton acknowledged that he probably tried to return to the mound too soon.

The two-time All-Star reliever was placed on the 10-day disabled list less than a week after being activated from his first stint. It remains unclear how long he’ll be sidelined after missing more than two weeks with the initial injury, but he and the club will be even more careful this time around.

“I think the doctors and the trainers wanted me to kind of be a little bit more cautious with it at the time — maybe take another week,” Britton said. “But I felt pretty good and wanted to come back to the team. I was kind of over sitting on the bench watching games, so I felt like I was in a good enough position to come back. Obviously, I wasn’t.”

According to Britton, his Friday evening MRI showed similar results to the initial one taken last month, but he will fly to Los Angeles to visit esteemed sports orthopedist Dr. Neal ElAttrache on Monday afternoon to get a better idea on a timetable for his return. ElAttrache performed both of third baseman Manny Machado’s knee surgeries a few years back.

Team orthopedist Dr. Michael Jacobs is also sending images of the pitcher’s forearm to the esteemed Dr. James Andrews for feedback.

Britton and the Orioles have repeatedly said there is no concern about the health of his left elbow as the location of the discomfort in his forearm is closer to his wrist.

“Thankfully, it’s the same issue. It’s not anything else with the elbow,” Britton said. “It’s just muscle, which is great because it’s going to heal. Ligaments and tendons, normally, you have to manage it and hope that nothing serious happens. But for muscle, they say it’s going to heal. It’s just a matter of time. I guess if there’s any positive, that’s it.”

After being activated from the DL on Tuesday, Britton threw two scoreless innings in the Boston series, but he was not getting the normal movement on his sinker, a sign that all was not right with his forearm. The lefty didn’t start feeling the discomfort again until Friday morning.

“I didn’t think that was going to happen, especially so soon after coming back,” Britton said. “I knew I wasn’t back with like extension or finish with my pitches all the way. Talking with Caleb, it seemed like after my pitch count got around 10, the ball started flattening out a little bit more. For something that happens so natural for me to sink the ball, when that’s not happening, it’s not like I’m manipulating the ball to do something.

“If something that I do is so natural and I’m having a hard time doing it, I want to get that issue fixed, so I can get back and do what I do well. I can’t help the team if I don’t do what I do well.”

To take Britton’s place on the 25-man roster, the Orioles recalled right-handed pitcher Alec Asher.

NOTES: Second baseman Jonathan Schoop was out of Saturday’s lineup after being hit in the hand by a pitch in Friday’s game. X-rays were negative, but he did experience some swelling, prompting manager Buck Showalter to sit him in favor of utility man Ryan Flaherty. The 25-year-old had played in 190 consecutive games, the second-longest active streak in the majors. … Starting pitcher Wade Miley expects to make his next start despite leaving Friday’s game with a left wrist contusion from a line drive in the first inning. … Right-handed pitcher Gabriel Ynoa (right hamstring strain) was also placed on the DL, which allowed the Orioles to recall right-handed pitcher Logan Verrett before the 10-day minimum requirement. Ynoa likely would have been optioned back to Triple-A Norfolk anyway after throwing 101 pitches in emergency relief on Friday. … The Orioles traded right-handed pitcher Damien Magnifico to the Los Angeles Angels in exchange for right-handed pitcher Jordan Kipper on Saturday. Magnifico had been designated for assignment on Tuesday.

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Twelve Orioles thoughts following 7-4 win over Yankees

Posted on 30 April 2017 by Luke Jones

With the Orioles avoiding a three-game sweep in a 7-4 win over the New York Yankees in 11 innings, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. In what was sure to be one of the strangest games of the entire season, the Orioles battled back to salvage a win in what was a pretty miserable series. I’d imagine that Buck Showalter and his club couldn’t have been happier to leave the Bronx on Sunday evening.

2. The game would have ended in the 10th inning had Welington Castillo not made a terrific short-hop pick on J.J. Hardy’s throw to the plate for a force. Castillo added to that effort with three hits and an RBI single to give the Orioles more breathing room in the 11th.

3. If someone had told you Friday afternoon that Logan Verrett would be pitching in the 10th inning on Sunday, you’d guess that the series didn’t go well, but the right-hander did great work despite his mental gaffe on Brett Gardner’s bunt. He pitched two scoreless frames to collect the win.

4. The Orioles bullpen had done superb work in Zach Britton’s absence prior to this weekend, but Darren O’Day joined Brad Brach in blowing consecutive save chances against the Yankees. Fortunately, the All-Star closer is expected to be activated this week.

5. The Yankees handling an 11th-inning rundown like a Little League team allowed the third run of the inning to score. After what happened in the ninth, the Orioles needed all the scoring they could get to make Verrett’s job easier.

6. Joey Rickard’s stolen base was the pivotal moment in the 11th and the third of the game for the Orioles, the first time they’ve swiped that many in a single contest since Aug. 19, 2015. As former Kansas City nemesis Jarrod Dyson once said, “That’s what speed do.”

7. You won’t find too many pitching lines weirder than what Wade Miley produced as he gave up only two runs in five innings despite allowing a whopping 13 baserunners. His escape acts in the second, third, and fourth innings kept the Orioles in the ballgame.

8. Walks continue to be an issue for Miley and the Orioles staff as he walked at least five for the third time in five starts and Darren O’Day walked two in a brutal ninth. Baltimore is walking 4.2 batters per nine innings this season, up from 3.4 in 2016.

9. Before the blown save and extra-inning theatrics, Jonathan Schoop had been the player of the game for the Orioles with the go-ahead RBI double in the sixth and a sensational defensive play in the seventh. His .538 slugging percentage is tops among Orioles everyday players.

10. He hasn’t been asked to pitch the ninth inning, but Mychal Givens has been the MVP of the bullpen while Britton has been sidelined. Asked to pitch more than one inning again on Sunday, the right-hander pitched two scoreless to lower his season ERA to 1.29.

11. I don’t recall watching a game in which a pitcher threw an inning, moved to another position, and then returned to the mound like Bryan Mitchell did for the Yankees. It was creative maneuvering by Joe Girardi, but Mitchell gave up three in the 11th inning to take the loss.

12. After Mark Trumbo drove in the go-ahead run in the 11th and hit a grand slam on Friday night, the Orioles can only hope that he’s finally getting the bat going after a difficult start to 2017.

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Twelve Orioles thoughts following 2-0 loss to Tampa Bay

Posted on 26 April 2017 by Luke Jones

With the Orioles being shut out for the first time this season in a 2-0 loss to Tampa Bay, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. The Orioles lineup couldn’t even create opportunities with just two hits and three runners reaching scoring position — two in the second inning — over the course of a damp night. The Rays retired 18 of the final 19 Baltimore hitters.

2. Failing to score runs or collect hits is one thing, but the Orioles hit only four balls out of the infield in the entire game. It doesn’t get much worse than that.

3. You couldn’t have asked for much better from Wade Miley, who allowed two runs over seven innings to register his third straight quality start. He won’t sustain his 2.08 ERA, but Miley regaining the form of his early years in Arizona would go a long way in helping Baltimore contend.

4. For the second time in four starts, the walk was Miley’s Achilles heel as he walked six with both runs originating as free passes. For a pitcher with a career walk rate of 2.8 per nine innings, it’s strange to have outings of seven and six walks already this season.

5. After Ubaldo Jimenez gave the Orioles only 3 1/3 innings on Monday, Miley throwing 116 pitches over seven innings was a bulldog effort to spare the bullpen. He’s averaging 6.5 innings per start so far in 2017.

6. It doesn’t excuse the punchless bats, but Rays manager Kevin Cash scratching scheduled starter Erasmo Ramirez 20 minutes before first pitch because of “uncertain weather conditions” was unusual since there was very little rain until late in the game. I’m guessing that didn’t sit too well with the Orioles.

7. Manny Machado and Mark Trumbo are hovering at the Mendoza line, but the former can chalk up some of that to bad luck as he’s hit a number of balls hard with little to show for it. The same can’t be said for Trumbo, who hasn’t homered since Opening Day.

8. Chris Davis struck out looking for the 14th time this year, which is more than his 13 swinging strikeouts. With him going down looking a career-high 79 times last year, it’s becoming apparent that the first baseman needs to be more aggressive with two strikes.

9. Caleb Joseph had another opportunity to collect his first RBI since 2015 with runners on second and third and two outs in the second, but he struck out looking. He continues to do a good job defensively, but the RBI drought has to be torturing his mind at this point.

10. Darren O’Day turned in his fifth consecutive scoreless appearance and is really quelling the concerns stemming from his poor outings over the first week of the season.

11. The Rays turning Tuesday into a bullpen game worked beautifully, but seeing Cash change pitchers with two outs in the fourth and no serious scoring threat fetched more than a few eye rolls in the crowd and the press box on a less-than-ideal night at Camden Yards.

12. The next few days will be big for Zach Britton and Chris Tillman. Britton will complete a bullpen session on Wednesday and may have a rehab outing on Friday. Tillman is scheduled for a 75-pitch outing for Single-A Frederick on Thursday. If all goes well, both could return very soon.

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Twelve Orioles thoughts following 7-3 loss to Yankees

Posted on 09 April 2017 by Luke Jones

With the Orioles suffering their first loss of the season in a 7-3 final against the New York Yankees, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. The Baltimore pitching staff tested its fate throughout the afternoon by walking a total of 11 batters before the floodgates finally opened in the ninth inning. Frankly, the Orioles were fortunate to even have a chance to win with that kind of pitching performance.

2. Darren O’Day getting off to a poor start is concerning after an injury-plagued 2016 season that included hamstring and shoulder ailments. He walked three and gave up four earned runs in the ninth inning and has now issued five free passes in his first two innings of 2017.

3. You won’t find many starts stranger than what Wade Miley offered as he matched a career high with seven walks while giving up one hit in five scoreless innings. For a guy with a career walk rate of 2.8 per nine innings, you don’t expect control problems like that.

4. Even with those optics, I’d guess most fans would have gladly taken five scoreless frames from the inconsistent left-hander. Of course, it didn’t help that Ubaldo Jimenez and Kevin Gausman had short outings the previous two nights.

5. You knew the Orioles wouldn’t have their full bullpen Sunday after closer Zach Britton and setup man Brad Brach had pitched four times in the previous six days. Buck Showalter confirmed after the game that those two as well as Oliver Drake were not available for the series finale.

6. Of course, the offense didn’t help matters by managing only three runs before the final 14 Baltimore hitters were retired in the defeat. With Miley on the hill and a short bullpen behind him, the Orioles had to figure they’d need plenty of runs to stay undefeated on Sunday.

7. Tyler Wilson snapped the bullpen’s streak of 17 1/3 scoreless innings to begin the season by giving up a two-run triple to Ronald Torreyes in the sixth. Showalter leaned heavily on his pen to secure the first four wins, but it will catch up to you, especially without much offense.

8. It was good to see Mychal Givens get a key out against lefty-swinging Chase Headley to end the seventh, but he blew his second save by giving up the game-tying home run to right-handed bat Aaron Judge in the eighth. My main concern with Givens is still getting out lefties.

9. The Orioles haven’t seen a ton of Matt Holliday as he’s mostly played in the National League, but the new Yankees designated hitter capped off an impressive weekend by drawing a career-high five walks. The 37-year-old remains a dangerous hitter.

10. Caleb Joseph had a chance to end his long RBI drought, but he grounded out with runners at second and third in the second. He showed in 2014 and 2015 that he can be a good backup catcher, so I’m rooting for him to get through this embarrassing spell.

11. There had to be plenty of groaning in both dugouts after the clubs combined for just two runs despite 13 hitters reaching base over the first three innings. This one was hardly a classic.

12. Some uneasiness about O’Day’s performance is fair after Sunday’s defeat, but the Orioles still finished off a 4-1 homestand to begin the season. The irrational dream of a 162-0 season is over, but you’ll gladly take that kind of a week against two AL East foes.

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Orioles place Rickard on 10-day DL with sprained finger

Posted on 09 April 2017 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — Mulling a difficult roster move to make room for starting pitcher Wade Miley, the Orioles instead saw the decision take care of itself with outfielder Joey Rickard injuring his left middle finger.

Baltimore placed Rickard on the 10-day disabled list Sunday after he sprained the finger sliding into second base on a stolen base attempt in the seventh inning of Saturday’s win. Buck Showalter said the hope is that Rickard will not miss more than the 10-day minimum and will not need a minor-league rehab assignment. The manager added that the new 10-day period for the DL from the former 15-day minimum made the decision easier instead of potentially waiting a few more days to see how Rickard’s finger would respond. The 25-year-old will travel with the Orioles to Boston as they begin a three-city road trip and is eligible to be activated as early as April 19 in Cincinnati.

Miley was activated from the 10-day DL to start against the New York Yankees in Sunday’s series finale.

Rickard’s injury leaves the Orioles with a conventional four-man bench after Showalter was able to have both an extra man on the bench and an eight-man bullpen with two off-days in the first week of the regular season. Miley’s activation claims one of those luxury spots, and the Orioles will need a fifth starter for the first time in Toronto next Saturday.

With Rickard now sidelined, veteran Craig Gentry was leading off and starting in left field against Yankees left-hander CC Sabathia on Sunday afternoon.

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