Tag Archive | "Wei-Yin Chen"

Buck Showalter

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The Baltimore Orioles Second Half Needs

Posted on 04 July 2013 by mattcostantini

 

 

 

85 contests into the 2013 campaign and the Baltimore Orioles find themselves 3 1/2 games back of the Boston Red Sox.  Although I’d rather see the Birds in 1st place as opposed to 2nd, it’s not the worst position to be in.  Especially considering their record against the Division Leaders.

 

5-2 in 2013, 18-7 since 2012.

Now I’m no genius, but it would seem to me that if the Birds of Baltimore are only a few games back come the end of the season, getting a series against the BoSox could only be advantageous.  Well what do ya know, we finish out the season with a 3 game homestand against those very chowderheads…  Anticipate on the yard being just a little bit electric for that set.

As you watch this team you get the feeling that they could be serious contenders for an ALCS Crown, or dare we ever imagine, a World Series Championship.  You only get that feeling on certain nights though.  It just so happens to be the nights that 1 of 3 players are on the field.

Chris Tillman, Miguel Gonzalez, or Wei-Yin Chen.

Don’t get me wrong; every time Chris Davis, Manny Machado, and Adam Jones walk into the batters box you get the feeling as well, but when you have the three pitchers mentioned above on the mound this team looks close to unbeatable.  In fact, when those same three pitchers are on the mound the team is 26-13.

So what is holding this team back from becoming a true World Series contender?

Hint: It’s not an acquisition from the Chicago Cubs of Scott Feldman (7-6, 3.43 ERA, 73 SO or if you like career numbers as a better barometer 46-50, 4.65 ERA, 506 SO)

It’s two starters you can trust handing the ball over to on the 4th and 5th game of a playoff series.

Right now Buck Showalter does not have that.  Unfortunately, Buck doesn’t have a problem placing that trust in Jason Hammel.  Lately that trust has been hard to attest for.  Last years “ace” has lost his last 3 decisions and hasn’t been credited with a win since May 27th, against the Washington Nationals.  Granted, in one of those losses he only allowed 2 earned runs in 6 & 2/3 innings, but without Wei-Yin Chen in the starting rotation and ????? ??????? as your fifth starter, this is the time when the Orioles needed Hammel to step up to his early 2012 caliber and he did not do it.

More of a problem than Jason Hammel, is the wishy washy assortment of bull pen/youngin’s vying for the 5th starting spot.  TJ McFarland is an awful starter.  He may become a solid bull pen guy, but I don’t want to see that guy starting a game EVER again (for the record can we get the mustache back please?)    Steve Johnson seems like a legitimate option but injuries have held him back from having the opportunity.  We don’t need to throw stones at the fragile head that is Jake Arrieta anymore, he’s just a “filthy stuff having” memory of our past that now resides in the Windy City.

Zach Britton and Kevin Gausman seem like the two most feasible options.  Gausman struggled in his first few starts but then in his last 3 outings has gone 10 & 2/3 allowing just 2 earned runs.  Buck obviously does not trust giving the starts to 22 year old at this point and it is being rumored that with Wei-Yin Chen’s return Gausman will be optioned back to the minors.  Zach Britton on the other hand, in 16 innings through June has only allowed 5 earned runs.

My take on the whole starting pitching ordeal.

1. Chris Tillman 2. Miguel Gonzalez 3. Wei-Yin Chen 4. Jason Hammel 5. Scott Feldman

1-4 is a no-brainer in my opinion.  Although Jason Hammel has had his struggles of late, to this point wearing the black and orange he has been solid for this team and I think he can get it back together.

While Wei-Yin Chen is getting his second rehab start down in Bowie give the former Cub Scott Feldman his chance and see if he can provide this pitching staff with a shot in the arm.  Give Zach Britton the starts until he proves he’s not worthy of them or until Chen returns and get Kevin Gausman regular work in the minors.

Best case scenario for the O’s, Zach Britton pitches well, Wei-Yin Chen returns to form, and Scott Feldman enters the bullpen as a long reliever.

That being said, Buck Showalter has forgotten more about baseball then I will ever know and until we are no longer battling for a top spot in the AL East, IN BUCK WE TRUST.

-Matt Costantini

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Orioles hoping returning players will stick — and produce

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Orioles hoping returning players will stick — and produce

Posted on 30 June 2013 by Luke Jones

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

BALTIMORE — If you needed more evidence, the Orioles’ 11-3 win on Saturday should have done the trick.

The Orioles are better than the New York Yankees. They might be better even if — and that’s a big if — Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, and Curtis Granderson somehow manage to get healthy and regain their old form in the second half of the season. Until then, the Yankees lineup continues to languish to score even three or four runs on a given night while their capable but unspectacular pitching struggles to pick up enough slack.

Trailing the division-leading Boston Red Sox by just 2 1/2 games entering play on Sunday, the Orioles are one of the best clubs in the league — even with their pitching flaws. They can improve further depending on what lies ahead at the trade deadline with the potential to augment what’s already a formidable roster.

But the 25-man roster will begin undergoing an internal makeover much sooner as second baseman Brian Roberts, outfielder Nolan Reimold, and — most importantly — starting pitcher Wei-Yin Chen will potentially rejoin the Orioles at different points over the coming week. It looks promising on paper, but the Orioles are certainly keeping their fingers crossed that all three will stay healthy, particularly with Roberts and Reimold, a pair of players stricken by countless injuries in recent years.

The intense doubts over the ability of Roberts and Reimold to contribute are unavoidable and certainly understandable.

“It’s tough from a human being standpoint for them,” manager Buck Showalter said. “I’ll tell you we’re excited about getting Brian and Nolan and Chen back potentially. But by talking about it a whole lot, you jinx it.”

Even if the two position players and Chen manage to come back from the disabled list successfully, the Orioles are first faced with several decisions as it pertains to the players currently on the roster. Pitcher Jair Jurrjens would figure to be optioned back to Triple-A Norfolk after pitching 2 1/3 shutout innings in relief Saturday night to make room for Roberts, who is expected to be activated Sunday for his first action since suffering a severe right hamstring injury on April 4 that eventually required surgery in early May.

Making room for Reimold and Chen becomes trickier as Showalter and executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette must choose from a projected pool of pitchers Kevin Gausman and Zach Britton and infielders Danny Valencia and Ryan Flaherty to determine who goes back to Norfolk. All of them have minor-league options but bring value in different ways.

Struggling reliever Pedro Strop, who allowed an earned run in the ninth inning Saturday, is the wild-card candidate who could go at any time, but it’s well-documented the 28-year-old is out of options and would very likely be picked up by another club thinking it can fix him. However, the simple reality that reliable reliever Darren O’Day began warming up with Strop on the mound and the Orioles holding an eight-run lead spoke volumes about the lack of faith in the maligned pitcher.

Showalter and Duquette have tried to remain as patient as possible with his 2012 performance lingering in their minds, but hiding an ineffective arm in the bullpen is very difficult when he doesn’t even provide the ability to pitch multiple innings in a blowout situation like Kevin Gregg did last year before the organization ultimately parted ways with him late in the season.

Regardless of the direction they ultimately go, the Orioles must weigh the positives and negatives of shaking up a roster that’s already on pace to win 90 games.

“It’s a good problem if we can get these guys back,” Showalter said. “We tried to set up the organization with a lot of the moves where we had the potential to keep some flexibility there.”

Chen made his first rehab start for Double-A Bowie on Saturday, pitching five innings and allowing four earned runs and five hits while striking out five and walking two. The Taiwanese lefty told reporters after the outing that he continues to feel no effects of the oblique injury that’s sidelined him since mid-May. Showalter said earlier in the day that Chen was tentatively scheduled to pitch on Thursday in Chicago or Friday in New York if he was deemed ready after Saturday’s start.

It’s always concerning when a starting pitcher misses an extended period of time in the middle of the season, but Chen hasn’t experienced any setbacks after taking ample time to allow the injury to heal before he began throwing again. Expecting Chen to pick up right where he left off might be asking too much, but there’s no reason to think he won’t be successful after some time to get his legs back under him at the big-league level.

Chen is arguably the Orioles’ most consistent starter and would fit quite nicely with the strong work turned in by Chris Tillman and Miguel Gonzalez. He’s not the top-of-the-rotation starter the Orioles covet, but Chen regaining his pre-injury form would be a major boost to a rotation that’s been better of late but still lacks enough consistency to make you feel comfortable in the second half.

His return would leave the Orioles with an interesting decision over whether to keep Britton or Gausman as their fifth starter. The former pitched five shutout innings Saturday before melting down in the sixth inning for the second straight outing. Gausman turned in 4 1/3 stellar innings of shutout ball in relief to earn the win Friday night and only lost his job in the rotation a couple weeks ago due to short-term bullpen needs.

One of the two is all but certain to go, but figuring out what to do to activate Reimold will be the trickiest task.

Showalter has already said that Roberts will become the starting second baseman upon returning, meaning Flaherty could be expendable with the thought that you’d like him playing regularly in Norfolk. But do you really want to send down Flaherty’s red-hot bat that’s seen his average elevate from .133 upon his return from the minors on May 29 all the way to .215 only a month later?

Flaherty hit his sixth homer of the season Saturday and currently sports an eight-game hitting streak with multi-hit efforts in six of those contests. He’s 14-for-29 with four homers and nine RBIs over that stretch and has played excellent defense at second base all season.

Fellow second baseman Alexi Casilla would need to give his consent to be optioned to the minors, meaning he isn’t a realistic candidate to go with Roberts returning. On top of that, Showalter prefers having Casilla on the bench as a late-inning pinch runner who can steal bases.

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Orioles recall Jurrjens, designate Ishikawa for assignment

Posted on 29 June 2013 by Luke Jones

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Garcia’s miserable June putting Orioles rotation in bigger bind

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Garcia’s miserable June putting Orioles rotation in bigger bind

Posted on 23 June 2013 by Luke Jones

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

Many celebrated the official start of summer over the weekend, but Orioles pitcher Freddy Garcia must wish the calendar had never turned over from May to June.

His horrendous outing in a 13-5 loss to Toronto on Sunday was his third start of the month in which he allowed five or more runs and left his record for June at 1-3 with a 10.19 earned run average covering four starts and one relief appearance. In 17 2/3 innings this month, Garcia has allowed nine home runs.

Garcia lasted just 2 1/3 innings on Sunday as he gave up seven earned runs before giving way to long reliever T.J. McFarland.

It was May 30 when Garcia turned in his best outing of the year with eight shutout innings in a 2-0 win over the Washington Nationals, but his body of work ever since has been nightmarish for the Orioles, who are already dealing with their fifth starter job being in flux. Left-hander Zach Britton will receive Monday’s start against the Cleveland Indians, but his standing in the rotation is tenuous at best after he earned his first win in 5 1/3 innings of work in Detroit last week.

How much longer can the Orioles afford to go with Garcia? His leash wasn’t exactly long when he was pitching at his best last month, but manager Buck Showalter and executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette may not find a better immediate option to allow Sunday to be the last start made by the 36-year-old.

The good news is left-hander Wei-Yin Chen is scheduled to pitch in a simulated game on Monday, which will allow him to potentially begin a minor-league rehab assignment next weekend. The bad news is that means Chen won’t be ready to make his potential return to the Orioles until the first week of July at the earliest and that’s only assuming the 27-year-old won’t experience any hiccups between now and then. Chen has been sidelined since May 12 with a strained right oblique.

Of course, rookie Kevin Gausman’s name will be mentioned, but his first start for Triple-A Norfolk in which he allowed seven earned runs in six innings didn’t make an emphatic statement for him to be brought back to the majors immediately as most assumed he would. It would be surprising not to see the 22-year-old in Baltimore sooner rather than later, but Showalter also expressed a desire for Gausman to work on some mechanical issues with Tides pitching coach Mike Griffin when he was sent down earlier this month.

Japanese left-hander Tsuyoshi Wada started for Norfolk on Sunday, allowing two earned runs in five innings of work, but have two solid starts against Triple-A hitters erased the memory of his immense struggles during his rehab assignment that forced the Orioles to convince Wada to give his consent to be optioned to the minors? Wada walked two and struck out none on his way to throwing 91 pitches in completing only five innings in a 4-3 loss to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on Sunday.

There appear to be no other current options at Norfolk that make sense.

Jair Jurrjens? He has a 5.60 ERA in three starts this month.

Josh Stinson? His 4.74 ERA in 12 Triple-A starts this season isn’t the answer.

Steve Johnson remains in Sarasota as he recovers from a strained left oblique and just began a throwing progression.

Looking back at the big-league roster, there’s always McFarland, whose name has come up as a starting candidate on a few occasions this year. However, the Orioles have refrained from removing the Rule 5 selection from his long-relief role to this point. The 24-year-old lefty gave up five earned runs in 4 1/3 innings on Sunday, but he’s pitched respectably over the course of his rookie season.

Beyond that and focusing on the big picture of contending in the American League East, the Orioles are in search of starting pitching help as names such as Miami’s Ricky Nolasco, Houston’s Bud Norris, Minnesota’s Mike Pelfrey, and even former Oriole Joe Saunders have been thrown out there as potential targets. However, these opposing clubs are fully aware that the Orioles need rotation help and it would be unwise to overpay for marginal pitching talent more than a month away from the trade deadline.

Regardless of whether it’s Monday or two weeks from now, it appears Garcia’s time is running out with the Orioles, which isn’t very surprising when remembering how he was available at the end of spring training on a minor-league deal.

But it doesn’t ease the Orioles’ starting pitching headaches for the immediate future.

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Orioles aiming to have Chen back prior to All-Star break

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Orioles aiming to have Chen back prior to All-Star break

Posted on 15 June 2013 by Luke Jones

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

BALTIMORE — Starting pitcher Wei-Yin Chen still has hurdles to clear in his recovery from a strained right oblique, but the hope is he will return to make at least a start or two prior to the All-Star break.

The left-hander threw off a full mound Saturday in Sarasota for the first time since the oblique injury occurred in a start against the Minnesota Twins on May 12. Chen threw 35 pitches without any reported discomfort or pain, according to manager Buck Showalter.

“We’ve kind of got his schedule mapped out now, so that’s good,” Showalter said. “I’m going to go over it with [executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette] out on the field and hopefully we’ll proceed with that.”

The Orioles had planned to have Chen accompany them on this week’s road trip to Detroit and Toronto, but it appears they will at least have Chen pitch in a simulated game in Sarasota before he takes the next step of either rejoining the club for a bullpen session or two or beginning a minor-league rehab assignment.

Showalter has a step-by-step plan mapped out that culminates with Chen making his return to the mound for the Orioles, but he wants to play specifics close to the vest for now.

“I’ve got the date that if everything goes well that he’ll be pitching for us,” Showalter said. “Hopefully, if things go well, he can make a couple starts before the break, at least. But we’ve got to cross a lot of bridges here.”

Roberts inching closer to rehab assignment as Reimold starts his Tuesday

Injured second baseman Brian Roberts will travel with the Orioles on the next road trip to Detroit and likely Toronto as he continues to take batting practice and ground balls at second base.

Sidelined since April 4 with a right hamstring injury that required surgery in early May, Roberts could begin a minor-league rehab assignment as early as June 24 if everything goes smoothly. Completing a running progression to test his surgically-repaired hamstring has been the final major hurdle in determining when he can return to game action.

Showalter has liked seeing Roberts with the club to closely monitor the final stages of the recovery process after spending the better part of the last two months recovering in Sarasota.

“We all like Sarasota,” Showalter said. “It’s been great for the organization, but it’s not Baltimore and it’s not around your team and your teammates. I think that’s been good for him too.”

Former Orioles hitting coach Terry Crowley will accompany Roberts on his minor-league rehab assignment that isn’t expected to last the full 20-day period a position player is allowed.

Crowley will also accompany outfielder Nolan Reimold when his rehab assignment with Double-A Bowie begins next week.

Showalter expects Reimold’s rehab assignment to be wrapped up prior to Roberts beginning his.

Hammel still under weather

Right-hander Jason Hammel was still under the weather dealing with a virus as the Orioles prepared for the third of a four-game series with the Boston Red Sox on Saturday.

He has been instructed to stay away from Camden Yards in fear of him being contagious, but the Orioles hope to have him back at the ballpark on Sunday to more closely evaluate his status for Monday’s start in Detroit. Showalter remained optimistic that the 30-year-old will take the hill against the Tigers, but nothing is guaranteed until head athletic trainer Richie Bancells gets a better read on his condition Sunday.

“Right now, that’s a little bit of a challenge for us. We’ll see,” said Showalter, who revealed Hammel received some intravenous fluids on Friday. “Right now, I’m planning on him pitching Monday. Talking to Richie, until he gets his arms around it, [we won't know and] we’re not going to bring him in the locker room until he’s past that [contagious] stage.”

Machado in historic company

Third baseman Manny Machado continued a remarkable season on Friday night, clubbing two more doubles to give him a major-league-leading 30 in 68 games this year.

According to Elias, since 1900, the earliest any major league under 21 reached 30 doubles was 81 games by Hall of Fame outfielder Ted Williams in 1939. Machado’s 30 doubles in 68 games are the most by any player under age 22 since 1920, topping Williams’ 25 in 1939 and the 24 hit by Yankees Hall of Famer Joe Dimaggio in 1936.

Machado is on pace to hit 71 doubles this year, which would top the major league record of 67 set by Earl Webb for Boston in 1931. The franchise record for doubles is 56, set by Roberts in 2009.

Jacoby Jones and WWE

Ravens wide receiver and “Dancing With the Stars” third-place finisher Jacoby Jones threw out Saturday’s, but WWE chairman Vince McMahon may have been a more appropriate choice based on the atmosphere of the late-afternoon game.

It was the brainchild of center fielder Adam Jones, but the Orioles used professional wrestling theme songs for their walk-up music during Saturday’s game. Jones assigned a song to each player in the lineup as well as starter Freddy Garcia and the relievers in order to have some fun at the ballpark.

Among the themes heard during batting practice on Saturday were The Rock, The Big Show, Chris Jericho, Triple H, and D-Generation X. Jones promised a mix of some old-school themes as well and posed with a replica WWE title for the following photo prior to the game, courtesy of @PTisFLY on Twitter.

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Roberts returns to Baltimore for “homestretch” of recovery process

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Roberts returns to Baltimore for “homestretch” of recovery process

Posted on 10 June 2013 by Luke Jones

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

BALTIMORE — Injured second baseman Brian Roberts hadn’t been spotted in the Orioles clubhouse since early April when he was placed on the disabled list with a right hamstring injury, but the 35-year-old is glad to be home.

Even if he’s still a few weeks away from a potential return to major league action.

After rejoining the club during its three-game series against Tampa Bay over the weekend, Roberts has elected to continue his rehabilitation efforts in Baltimore after spending most of the last two months in Sarasota. The 35-year-old underwent surgery less than five weeks ago and described himself as being in the “home stretch” of the recovery process before going on a minor-league rehab assignment.

“It’s great to be back,” Roberts said. “You feel kind of isolated on an island down there. It is already good to be around the guys and feel like you are part of the team.”

Roberts has increased his activity level over the last couple weeks as he is taking batting practice, playing catch, and continuing to test his surgically-repaired hamstring as he works his way back to running at full speed. Roberts reiterated Monday what he said over the weekend about not anticipating a lengthy rehab assignment like the one he completed last year while returning from concussion-like symptoms.

Manager Buck Showalter seemed to agree with that assessment as long as Roberts felt he was ready, mentioning three to seven games as possible estimate. Meanwhile, Roberts is focused on testing the hamstring to make sure it’s 100 percent before he takes the next step of playing in minor-league games.

“Mainly the running progression,” Roberts said. “Just continuing to build up to where you can be explosive again [and] where you can cut, you can stop, you can backpedal. The running has really taken some good steps forward in the last couple of days and I’m hoping that is a sign we have reached the point where things can started moving a little quicker.”

Roberts hasn’t played since injuring his hamstring in St. Petersburg on April 4 and is fully aware of the doubts expressed over his ability to remain healthy as the Orioles have struggled to find production at second base with the combination of Ryan Flaherty and Alexi Casilla. The veteran infielder has played in just 118 games over the last four seasons combined.

For now, he’s happy to be back in a big-league environment while in the midst of the final year of a four-year, $40 million that obviously hasn’t worked out how either side had hoped.

“Nothing compares to being in this atmosphere,” Roberts said. “I don’t know how much longer I have left to be in it, and I want to be around it as much as possible.”

NOTES: Right-handed pitcher Dylan Bundy began a throwing progression in Sarasota on Monday, completing 25 throws from 60 feet without experiencing any discomfort, according to Showalter. … Outfielder Nolan Reimold (hamstring) could be ready to go on a minor-league rehab assignment by the end of the current homestand. Showalter offered a similar range of games for Reimold as he spelled out for Roberts. … Left-handed pitcher Wei-Yin Chen will be summoned to Baltimore as soon as he’s ready to begin throwing off a mound, according to Showalter, which should be in the not-too-distant future barring any setbacks. …Casilla was not in the starting lineup after jamming his right index finger sliding into second base on Sunday. Showalter revealed that he likely would have started Casilla against the Angels after the utility infielder went 2-for-3 with two RBIs in the series finale against the Rays.

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Chen, Bundy each taking big steps in potential returns; All-Star voting update

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Chen, Bundy each taking big steps in potential returns; All-Star voting update

Posted on 03 June 2013 by Luke Jones

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

As the Orioles enjoyed some much-needed rest and a travel day on Monday, they also received good news for two important pieces of their pitching puzzle who have been sidelined recently.

According to interpreter Tim Lin through his Twitter account, left-handed pitcher Wei-Yin Chen will take part in his first light-toss session in Sarasota on Tuesday to test the progress made from a strained right oblique that’s kept him sidelined for just over three weeks. Manager Buck Showalter revealed late last week that Chen reported no discomfort whatsoever for the first time last week and the pitcher had begun jogging work in a pool.

Chen hasn’t picked up a ball since leaving his start against the Minnesota Twins as strained obliques are often a difficult injury to rehab due to a bigger fear of setbacks. Showalter said Sunday that a mid-June return would be the best-case scenario for the Taiwanese southpaw, but the Orioles are expected to remain cautious to avoid the possibility of re-injury.

The Orioles will have a chance to reunite with Chen this weekend as they travel to St. Petersburg for a three-game set with the Tampa Bay Rays.

Meanwhile, top pitching prospect Dylan Bundy will also begin a throwing progression on June 10 after a followup exam with the renowned Dr. James Andrews on Monday, the club announced.

The fourth overall pick of the 2011 draft hasn’t pitched since spring training due to discomfort in his right forearm and received a platelet-rich plasma injection on April 29 that was followed by six weeks of rest. Should Bundy make it through the throwing program without any signs of pain or discomfort, the 20-year-old would presumably rejoin Double-A Bowie’s starting rotation.

Bundy and the Orioles had reported no discomfort and full range of motion with the elbow prior to Monday’s meeting with Dr. Andrews.

Davis, Jones among leaders in All-Star balloting

Having a career year with a .357 average, 20 home runs, and 52 RBIs, Chris Davis leads all American League first basemen in All-Star voting with a slight edge over Detroit’s Prince Fielder.

With just under 1.2 million votes in the update provided by Major League Baseball on Monday, Davis would become the first Orioles first baseman to start the Midsummer Classic since Eddie Murray in 1985.

Center fielder Adam Jones is second behind the Angels’ Mike Trouth in AL voting for outfielders, which means the 27-year-old would be one of the All-Star starters if voting concluded now. Jones is hitting .313 with 11 home runs and 37 RBIs so far this season and is a two-time All-Star.

Right fielder Nick Markakis is sixth among AL outfielders while left fielder Nate McLouth currently ranks seventh.

Third baseman Manny Machado ranks second in the voting at his position, trailing only 2012 Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera, who leads in the overall AL vote. The 20-year-old is hitting .327 with a major-league-leading 25 doubles in his first full season in the major leagues.

Matt Wieters currently trails only Minnesota’s Joe Mauer among AL catchers and is vying for his third consecutive All-Star appearance.

Shortstop J.J. Hardy is second in voting at his position, narrowly behind Elvis Andrus of the Texas Rangers.

Despite playing in just three games this season before suffering a right hamstring injury, Brian Roberts ranks fifth among AL second basemen.

Sunday home game against Yankees moved to Sunday Night Baseball

The Orioles’ June 30 home game against the New York Yankees has been moved from 1:35 p.m. to 8:05 p.m. and will be a nationally-televised event on ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball.

Baltimore and New York squared off on a Sunday night in the Bronx back in April.

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Chen making slow progress on road back from oblique injury

Posted on 28 May 2013 by Luke Jones

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WASHINGTON — As rookie right-hander Kevin Gausman was making his second major league start on Tuesday night, the Orioles continue to wait patiently on the recovery of left-hander Wei-Yin Chen.

Chen was eligible to return from the 15-day disabled list on Tuesday, but the Taiwanese southpaw has yet to pick up a baseball as he rehabs a strained right oblique injury in Sarasota. The 27-year-old exited his start in Minnesota on May 12 after throwing five shutout innings and was officially placed on the disabled list two days later.

Oblique injuries are problematic with a high rate of setbacks because it’s difficult for training staffs to determine whether the muscle has truly healed until the player begins throwing again. Manager Buck Showalter and Chen both expressed the need to be cautious to make sure the lefty is healthy for the duration of the season.

“There’s a little progress, but not anything big,” Showalter said. “Little by little. It’s so hard to handicap that, but he’s doing OK.”

Chen is 3-3 with a 3.04 earned run average in eight starts covering 47 1/3 innings this season and had been the club’s most consistent starter at the time of the injury.

In other injury-related news, second baseman Brian Roberts has begun hitting off a tee and is on schedule for the projected six-week recovery laid out after he underwent surgery on his right hamstring nearly three weeks ago.

“He’s on schedule,” Showalter said. “He started increasing his baseball activities, his tee work, and soft toss, and he felt fine. I know him, he wants it to happen tomorrow, but I don’t think it’s ‘if,’ it’s ‘when’ with Brian.”

Infielder Wilson Betemit has finally begun some baseball-related activity as he is now playing catch and could continue to increase his level of activity. He has been sidelined since March with a Grade 2/3 PCL tear in his right knee and originally expressed hope that he would return in eight weeks.

With the Orioles struggling to find production at the designated hitter spot for much of the season, Betemit would be an ideal option against right-handed pitching after batting .302 and posting an .859 on-base plus slugging percentage against right-handed hurlers last season.

“Wilson’s a little bit of a forgotten guy in this [lineup],” Showalter said. “He did a lot of good things for us last year and we’re looking forward to getting him back.”

Backup catcher Taylor Teagarden (left thumb) caught five innings in an extended spring game on Monday and could be ready to go on a minor-league rehab assignment within the next few days. He will catch once again on Wednesday after serving as the DH in Tuesday’s extended spring training contest.

Infield prospect Jonathan Schoop will get a second opinion on his lower back in California on Wednesday after executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette revealed last week that the 21-year-old is dealing with a stress fracture in his back. That type of injury would likely keep Schoop sidelined until after the All-Star break, according to the initial prognosis.

 

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Orioles have no choice but to circle back patiently with starting options

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Orioles have no choice but to circle back patiently with starting options

Posted on 19 May 2013 by Luke Jones

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

It’s never a good idea to definitively assess any team in the midst of its worst stretch of the season in the same way that you shouldn’t ignore weaknesses while enjoying the prosperous times.

With the Orioles suffering their first four-game losing streak of the season and surrendering a staggering 30 runs and 45 hits over their last three games, it’s easy to panic over such an ugly stretch of baseball. Early questions over starting pitching have transformed into serious concerns as the club has endured the losses of Wei-Yin Chen and Miguel Gonzalez to the disabled list and the recent struggles of Opening Day starter Jason Hammel while attempting to piece together the back end of the rotation.

The poor starting pitching has placed even more reliance on the bullpen as the Orioles have seen All-Star closer Jim Johnson blow consecutive saves this week. Showalter insists the bullpen hasn’t been overworked and is very meticulous with everything from innings pitched down to the number of times a reliever even gets up to throw during games, but that won’t remain the case if the poor performance of the starting pitching continues into the summer.

Chen is sidelined indefinitely with the always-unpredictable strained oblique injury, meaning Chris Tillman is the only starter on which manager Buck Showalter can currently rely as Orioles starting pitching has allowed 32 earned runs in 39 1/3 innings — a 7.32 earned run average — over the last eight games. The club hopes the 2012 version of Gonzalez will surface beginning with his scheduled return on Tuesday and that Hammel will find the proper release point to improve his fastball command after a miserable recent stretch.

Beyond those concerns, the picture becomes even more frightening with the final two spots in the rotation. Yes, it’s easy to look back at the offseason and criticize executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette for not acquiring any impact starters — I shared that very sentiment at the start of spring training and again at the beginning of the season — but Duquette and Showalter also expressed great faith in their internal options.

Now, one time through a lineup of “second-tier” starters that includes Jake Arrieta, Zach Britton, Steve Johnson, Freddy Garcia, Jair Jurrjens, and Josh Stinson, only Arrieta and Garcia have received more than one start to this point. Arrieta doesn’t really fall into the same category as the others after beginning the season as the fifth starter, and a strong debut in Anaheim bought the 36-year-old Garcia two more starts that have been underwhelming at best.

Understanding that even the brightest pitchers in the game will have a handful of less-than-stellar outings over the course of a season, is a one-start audition really the best way to determine if a pitcher can be an asset for the major league rotation?

Make no mistake, gone are the days when a young prospect such as Brian Matusz will be afforded the opportunity to accumulate a 10.69 ERA in 12 starts as he did over two different stints in the 2011 season. Higher expectations are here to stay and competition is paramount with Duquette and Showalter as they look beyond the 25-man roster while viewing Triple-A Norfolk and Double-A Bowie as essential partners in fielding a competitive club in the American League East.

However, the problem with higher expectations is the emphasis it places on smaller sample sizes when trying to evaluate. And you wonder if the possibility of such a short audition for the likes of Britton and Johnson creates too much of a mindset of looking over your shoulder and trying to be too perfect. It also devalues their minor-league performances that earn them their chance in the first place.

Showalter acknowledged this weekend most of these immediate demotions couldn’t have been avoided due to the strain placed on the bullpen as a direct result of the short outings. There is plenty of merit to that explanation, but at some point, the Orioles need to find the proper balance between having higher expectations and exercising the faith expressed this offseason in their internal options by showing just a bit more — brace yourself for that all-too-familiar word — patience.

No one is endorsing that Britton or Johnson or whichever pitcher sitting at the top of the totem pole for the next chance automatically receives six weeks’ worth of starts in the big leagues, but a reasonable opportunity of three or four starts might be more conducive to the potentially fragile psyche of a young pitcher. Fringe pitchers such as these certainly need to feel urgency playing for a contending club, but trying to be too perfect in fear of being sent down isn’t setting them up with the mindset for success, either.

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Jurrjens in line to get ball for Orioles on Saturday

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Jurrjens in line to get ball for Orioles on Saturday

Posted on 14 May 2013 by Luke Jones

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

BALTIMORE — With Memorial Day still almost two weeks away, the Orioles appear on the verge of using their 10th starting pitcher of the season as Jair Jurrjens appears to be next in line to take the ball for a shorthanded rotation.

The former Atlanta Braves right-hander will have his contract selected to make his club debut against the Tampa Bay Rays on Saturday afternoon, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. Manager Buck Showalter predictably wouldn’t confirm Jurrjens to get the ball, only labeling him as “an option” to make the start.

Signed to a minor-league contract at the start of spring training, Jurrjens became the obvious candidate when the Orioles elected to recall relief pitcher Alex Burnett to take injured left-handed starter Wei-Yin Chen’s place on the 25-man roster. Right-hander Steve Johnson would have been eligible to be recalled — waiving the 10-day waiting period for being optioned last Saturday — had he been taking the place of a player going to the disabled list.

As part of his agreement upon signing with Baltimore, Jurrjens had a June 15 opt-out clause that allowed him to become a free agent had the club not promoted him to the 25-man roster by then. In seven starts for Triple-A Norfolk, the 27-year-old is 4-1 with a 3.14 ERA in 51 2/3 innings. He has allowed 44 hits, struck out 36, and walked 15 batters in his work with the Tides.

Jurrjens was a National League All-Star just two years ago when he went 13-6 with a 2.96 ERA in 23 starts for Atlanta, but he was demoted to the minor leagues last year as he dealt with a strained groin and finished 3-4 with a 6.89 ERA. In his seventh major league season, Jurrjens has also dealt with knee issues, which was one of the reasons the Orioles opted not to sign the right-hander to a major-league contract this offseason.

The Braves did not offer Jurrjens a contract last offseason as he became a free agent after going 50-36 with a 3.58 ERA in five years with Atlanta.

Chen’s timetable for return unknown

The Orioles officially placed Chen on the DL prior to their series opener with a strained right oblique, which is an injury that could keep him sidelined beyond the 15-day minimum requirement.

Both Chen and Showalter are trying to remain optimistic, but the risk for re-aggravating the muscle often makes the recovery time slower than you’d like to see. Chen will travel to Sarasota toward the end of their current eight-game homestand, but he is not expected to begin throwing again until ample rest has been provided.

“I think there will be some things Wei-Yin will be able to do other than throw, but the actual throwing motion is the last thing that you do,” Showalter said. “It’s a challenge for the people that do it to decide when to do it. If it’s too early, you get another setback. It’s a slippery slope.”

Chen’s absence opens a gigantic hole in the starting rotation as the 27-year-old left-hander is 3-3 with a 3.04 ERA in eight starts this season. In addition to having the lowest ERA among Orioles starters, he was the only starter the club had last season to make more than 20 starts (32) and win more than nine games (12).

Obviously disappointed that he’s unable to pitch for the foreseeable future, Chen understands the importance of taking it slow with an injury commonly known to linger when a hurler tries to come back too soon.

“Fingers crossed for me,” Chen said through his interpreter. “This is a day-to-day progress. I cannot push myself too hard. I just will try to do my best.”

Gonzalez still an option for early next week

Right-hander Miguel Gonzalez (blister) played catch on Tuesday and hopes to go on a minor-league rehab assignment later this week, which would keep him in line to return early next week.

Placed on the 15-day DL retroactive to May 4 with a nasty blister on his right thumb, Gonzalez’s progress has been slower than the club hoped, but the plan is for him to throw a bullpen session on Wednesday without the bandage he’s used to cover the tender area while playing catch. Showalter said Gonzalez wouldn’t necessarily need a length rehab outing on Thursday or Friday to put him in line to return on Tuesday when the Orioles will need a fifth starter.

However, the Orioles will be careful in fear of the skin breaking and beginning the recovery process all over again.

“If we rush it and I had to miss another two or three weeks, we don’t want to do that,” Gonzalez. “I want to be ready to go and be able to perform 100 percent.”

Odds & ends

In addition to Burnett replacing Chen, infielder Yamaico Navarro was recalled to take Mike Belfiore’s spot on the 25-man roster and give the Orioles an extra bench player for the next few days. … Left-handed pitcher Tsuyoshi Wada will begin his injury rehab assignment with a start for Triple-A Norfolk on Thursday afternoon. … Right-hander Jake Arrieta threw a bullpen session on Tuesday to test out his sore right shoulder. … Brian Roberts has begun riding a stationary bike in Sarasota as he recovers from right hamstring surgery. … Right-handed veteran Freddy Garcia will make the start against San Diego on Wednesday afternoon and Jason Hammel will start Friday in the series opener against Tampa Bay.

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