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Dear Zach Britton: We’ll forever salute you as Mister ‘What If?’ in Baltimore

Posted on 25 July 2018 by Nestor Aparicio

Dear Zach:

Your time has come to leave Angelos Island and trade in the orange and black for your most unlikely second MLB franchise – the Evil Empire and the pinstripes of the dreaded New York Yankees.

Instead of back in black, you’ll be back in blue next week.

Start spreading the news, you’re leaving today! And much like Manny Machado, this is very likely the road to City Y on the way to City X.

On the grandest stage and pitching into October – well, we think they’ll actually put you in the game in The Bronx – you’ll have a chance to throw your way back into something that looks like the contract you probably deserved after what you did here from 2014 through 2016.

I remember Don Stanhouse from my youth. I saw Gregg Olson drop deuces on 33rd Street into his prime. And I watched all of the rent-a-hats from Don Aase to Lee Smith to crazy-ass Randy Myers around here and you are the king of the firemen in the Charm City.

The closest thing I ever saw to Eckersley – and that’s high praise even if you’re not on the Red Sox charter!

No one ever did it better than you, Zach!

And I’m not holding my breathe to think we’ve ever going to see it again, late into summer nights, as Orioles fans with games on the line in money spots. The first thing we’ll need to see to ever replicate anything resembling you will be late-inning leads. And methinks there won’t be a lot of those in the pipeline in the coming years in Baltimore.

There are so many “what ifs?” around your dozen years with the Baltimore Orioles organization. I’m sure you were taking that all in – out in the bullpen for the final time on Tuesday night. Like Machado and Markakis and a few others of the modern era who “made it out” with big-time productivity and contracts with lots of zeroes, you remember the slums of Fort Lauderdale every spring and that time long ago when all the organization that drafted you did was finish in last place.

We do, too!

You were a part of changing that around here and we’ll forever salute you!

I remember your youth and promise. The whole Arrieta, Matusz, Tillman class of “growing the arms.” And now a decade later, we start to see the history of buying the bats.

Those of us who have been paying attention can easily piece together who is where, and why?

As much as the folks who watched you dazzle and become the most automatic finisher this side of the best of Eckersley in his prime, you will always be remembered – and tied to – Buck Showalter’s epic fail in Toronto in October 2016. It will forever be the black hole of modern day Orioles baseball – how a baseball genius left Ubaldo Jimenez on the hill and you in your prime on the pine at Skydome with the season on the line in extra innings.

As you kinda pointed out last week on your media exit tour, it’s still inexplicable and irreversible. It always will be, even for Buck.

It took the Baltimore Orioles 14 years to solve the Armando Benitez-Tony Fernandez bomb in 1997.

Who knows how long this current back in (the) black hole era will last? And who made who?

We’re just getting started around here with the coronation of Dillon Tate, Josh Rogers and Cody Carroll and the eight new baby Birds on the farm from this July haul and heist of the Dodgers and Yankees.

In the future, the Orioles will need dirty deeds done dirt cheap in the late innings.

Buck will fairly get his chunky and complex #DearOrioles letter later – and it certainly would be unfair to judge him solely on a pitch you never threw in Canada – but his story and yours are forever tied to Toronto and that fateful night. It’ll be the last time the Baltimore Orioles will have a chance to win a postseason MLB game for a long

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Orioles trade two-time All-Star closer Zach Britton to Yankees

Posted on 24 July 2018 by Luke Jones

A week after dealing shortstop Manny Machado to signal the official start of a much-needed rebuild, the Orioles have traded another former All-Star selection set to become a free agent at the end of the season.

Baltimore sent closer Zach Britton to the New York Yankees in exchange for three minor-league pitchers on Tuesday night. Right-handed starter Dillon Tate headlines a return that also includes left-handed starter Josh Rogers and right-handed reliever Cody Carroll.

Britton remained in the Orioles bullpen during Tuesday’s game against Boston, but he didn’t pitch the ninth inning as Brad Brach instead recorded the save in the 7-6 win over the Red Sox. He met with reporters after the deal was announced shortly before midnight.

Ranked as the Yankees’ ninth-best prospect by MLB Pipeline, Tate was the fourth overall pick of the Texas Rangers in the 2015 draft. New York acquired the 24-year-old in a trade that sent Carlos Beltran to the Rangers in 2016, but he’s dealt with shoulder issues and has not pitched above Double-A Trenton in his professional career. In 82 2/3 innings for the Thunder this season, Tate owns a 3.38 ERA and has struck out 8.2 batters per nine innings while walking 2.7 per nine.

The 24-year-old Rogers was New York’s 11th-round pick of the 2015 draft. He’s pitched to a 3.95 ERA in 109 1/3 innings for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre this season.

Carroll, 25, owns a 2.38 ERA in 41 2/3 innings at the Triple-A level and has struck out 11.9 while walking 3.9 per nine innings.

Trading Britton for anything of value appeared unlikely in December when he suffered a torn Achilles tendon during an offseason workout. The 30-year-old returned to action by mid-June and struggled initially, but the velocity and movement on his sinker have steadily improved as he’s sat between 95 and 96 miles per hour over his last six outings. Britton owns a 3.45 ERA with four saves in 15 2/3 innings this season.

The Yankees hope Britton will only strengthen what’s already been the best bullpen in the majors in 2018. The lefty had arguably the greatest season ever for a relief pitcher in 2016 when he posted a microscopic 0.54 ERA in 67 innings and went a perfect 47-for-47 in save opportunities. He was named to the American League All-Star team that season and in 2015 and ranks second behind Gregg Olson on Baltimore’s all-time saves list.

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Dear Manny Machado: Don’t let the door hit you between 1 and 3 en route to City X via City Y

Posted on 19 July 2018 by Nestor Aparicio

Dear Mr. Miami:

I’ve written a lot of #DearOrioles notes this summer ­– with many more coming to everyone in management and some of your poor teammates who shall remain on the S.S. Angelos for at least three more hours of the tour – and I needed to move yours a little earlier in the batting order than I wanted.

Let’s face it, you might not be here by the time I hit “publish” on this old-fashioned love letter.

So, if I stray off into the future tense or refer to your Orioles sweater in the past tense, well, that’s just me keeping it real.

You indicated earlier this week that your bags are packed but your head has been in the future here for a long time, Manny.

I’m not really sure how much time you ever spent thinking about remaining with the Baltimore Orioles after 2018 – my guess is you didn’t lose a lot of sleep over it because it never was a reality in the moment or a “decision to make” because my other guess is that the Angelos family never really approached you with anything you’d take seriously.

That’s the Oriole Way. As you can tell from my #DearOrioles letters, I’ve been at this a long time.

I honestly had to look up your birthday to put it in perspective.

I didn’t realize the week you were born was the worst week of my life.

I was sitting in the Oriole Park at Camden Yards press box on July 1, 1992 when I took an urgent call that my father had a stroke in Dundalk. You were born on July 6. My Pop died on July 11, 1992. I was sitting in a hospital watching my father leave the planet as you were in one in Hialeah, Florida entering this crazy sphere.

It’s really weird that you were born AFTER Camden Yards opened. You’re a baby, bro!

There’s no way you can understand what my eyes have seen professionally here in Baltimore as a sports journalist.

I’ve seen, talked about, written about and heard about everything except the story where the future Hall of Fame franchise every day player – the modern day Cal Ripken or Brooks Robinson – walks off at 26 to a rival franchise leaving behind whatever remnants that a desperate July fire sale will bring a MLB team with a lame duck leadership group.

I thought I had seen the worst of Orioles tragic in those 14 years of losing that made up your life from age 5 until you walked on the field in Texas that night in 2012 as a 20-year old. And when you lost in Game 5 in New York in the ALDS, you probably thought the playoffs would be a pretty regular occurrence around here just like Ripken did in 1983.

But here we are six summers later, your timer is about to go off and the franchise is 40 games under .500 in the summer of 2018 and holding an open auction for eight weeks of your services.

And we all sorta know that by Opening Day 2019, you’ll probably wind up with the New York Yankees, which as you witnessed with Mark Teixeira will make you a “special” kind of visitor here in Camden Yards in the future.

But as you’ve learned, there’s no one “special” in the Baltimore Orioles organization except the owner himself. (Well, and maybe Chris Davis and Brady Anderson, but I’ll save their #DearOrioles love letters for long after you’re gone. They ain’t going anywhere.)

Manny, you’re unique – but you’re not “special.”

If I had my press credential and really knew you, we could talk all about the history of free agency and the decisions of Peter Angelos. I’ve only met you once – in the clubhouse at CitiField in New York before the 2013 All Star Game. You seemed like a decent, unassuming fellow then when I introduced myself. Like I said, a baby – you turned 21 that week!

Ten minutes later, Adam Jones asked me on the field why Peter Angelos hated me so much. It took me a book to explain it. It’s called The Peter Principles. You should check it out.

There’s certainly a lot of history in there that pertains to you as to why you’ve done what you’ve done and never been offered a couple of hundred million of Angelos money to stick around and be a part of something “special.”

I’m sure someone around there not named Brady Anderson has told you all about when Mike Mussina was invited by Peter G. Angelos very publicly to leave for the Yankees – and then Moose did! Mussina even refused a July trade, which is what Jonesey is gonna is going to be considering during his All Star break while you’re in Washington, D.C. figuring out the itinerary for the rest of your summer and fall plans for a rent-a-ring.

And, honestly, if these Orioles folks weren’t so crazy petty and vain and paranoid, you’d be wearing a Dodgers or Yankees or Brewers or Diamondbacks hat when you come out to tip it in D.C. next week. I’m betting the “over” on July 18th being your trade date.

The Orioles are gonna milk you for one more sideshow on the way out the door.

I don’t get it.

You are one rolled ankle or hamstring pull away from being a

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The Peter Principles (Ch. 11) – Letting The Moose Loose in pinstripes

Posted on 13 July 2018 by Nestor Aparicio

(Author note: This is Chapter 11 of my book “The Peter Principles,” which I was working to finish in March 2014 when my wife was diagnosed with leukemia the first time. I will be releasing the entire book for free online this summer – chapter by chapter. These are the true chronicles of the history of Peter G. Angelos and his ownership of the Baltimore Orioles. If you enjoy the journey, please share the links with a friend.)

 

 

11. Letting The Moose loose in pinstripes

 

“We’re not in the business of making arrangements with baseball players that border on economic insanity. We are in the business of putting a first-rate team on the field which is composed of athletes who are generously compensated. But when the demands of any one player or more than one player exceed what we believe to be reasonable, we are prepared to go in another direction. If we’re not able to do that, then we become the prisoners of the respective ballplayers. We aren’t going to do that. We don’t operate that way. We play fair. We pay generously. We pay what is generous and proper. I think $72 million to Mussina is plenty of money to Mussina.”

Peter G. Angelos

WBAL Radio

October 2000

 

 

 

 

THE PETER G. ANGELOS OBSESSION WITH INJURIES and medical reports was in full swing every offseason following the Xavier Hernandez incident in December 1998, when the journeyman pitcher walked away with $1.75 million of orange and black money without ever having to pull a jersey over his head. Angelos wasn’t just outraged and angry. He felt the Orioles had been fleeced and was once again feeling just how powerful the Major League Baseball Players Association was in the sport. In many ways, they employed even dirtier legal tactics then the word salad filth he was accustomed to with tobacco companies and asbestos cases in building his wealth.

The Orioles needed pitching heading into the 2000 season and big right-hander Aaron Sele was on the marketplace as a free agent. Thift and the Angelos boys, who were clumsily heading up the baseball evaluation for the Orioles, both liked his solid makeup and track record with the Boston Red Sox and then the Texas Rangers. He had won 37 games the past two years in Arlington and, at 29, was hitting the peak of his career. He finished strong at 10-3 for the Rangers and helped lead them – along with former Orioles manager Johnny Oates and GM Doug Melvin – to the American League West title in 1999. This was his first big chance to cash in on free agency and the Orioles were considered a prime suitor. Other starting pitchers Andy Benes, Omar Olivares and Darren Oliver were also on the market, but Sele would be a perfect fit for the No. 3 spot in the rotation behind Mike Mussina, who was entering his final year under contract to the Orioles, and Scott Erickson, who struggled in 1999.

On Jan. 7, 2000, Roch Kubatko of The Sun reported that Orioles had agreed with Sele on a four-year deal worth $29 million, with the veteran turning down a four-year deal for $28 million to remain in Texas. Thrift, who was only negotiating a portion of the club’s deals because Angelos always had his hands on the phone as well, told the newspaper, “There’s always the possibility of something not happening.”

Thirft’s words were prescient.

After agreeing verbally to the deal with the Orioles, Sele was administered a physical that the team said raised questions regarding the strength of his arm. Angelos demanded that two years be taken off of the deal. Angelos said that Orioles doctors believed that Sele only had 400 innings left in his right arm.

One of Sele’s agents, Tom Reich, told The Associated Press there was a difference on interpretation with the Orioles on medical tests. Sele had never undergone arm surgery, but missed most of 1995 with an arm injury. But that was five years earlier.

“The dealings with Baltimore were very cordial from beginning to end and it just didn’t work out,” Reich said. “To me, Peter Angelos is a good guy.” This was after his client lost $14 million in guaranteed money and was branded in MLB circles as “damaged goods.”

Two days later, Sele signed a two-year, $14.5 millon deal to pitch for his childhood hometown team, the Seattle Mariners. Once again, a former Angelos employee was involved.

“This thing is like a star falling out of the sky,” said new Mariners general manager Pat Gillick, who felt he got a bargain. “We’re satisfied Sele is as healthy as he was when he finished the season with the Rangers. He underwent a physical on behalf of us with another physician, and our physician talked with that doctor and is satisfied. There is going to be normal wear and tear. You really have to rely on your medical people. They know which bumps along the road you have to watch for and which you can work through.”

Of course, Gillick got in a nice shot on Angelos to the media at the Sele press conference 3,000 miles from Baltimore.

“I’m not aware of exactly the concerns were with Baltimore,” Gillick said. “I think there were some differences of opinion there. I think this is a business where timing is very important. You only have a very small window. You have to react very quickly. Those who hesitate, as they say, are lost.”

By now, the complaints about Angelos were long and varied from any of the long list of qualified baseball

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Twelve Orioles thoughts on approaching trade deadline

Posted on 10 July 2018 by Luke Jones

With the non-waiver trade deadline just three weeks away, I’ve offered a dozen Orioles thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. Manny Machado wasn’t pleased being asked by New York media about the Yankees’ reported trade interest after Monday’s doubleheader, but I don’t blame him after he’d answered multiple questions about his future earlier in the day. He’s handled the endless trade questions very well all season.

2. Machado has repeatedly stated his desire to stay at shortstop, but that’s a bigger issue for free agency than a contender needing a third baseman for 2 1/2 months. He was a pro deferring to J.J. Hardy for years, so this shouldn’t be any different, especially having a chance to win.

3. Any serious objection to trading Machado to the Yankees is based only on emotion. If theirs is the best offer, the Orioles would be foolish not to accept. Refusing to trade him to the Yankees won’t prevent him from signing in the Bronx if that’s where he wants to be.

4. The idea that the Orioles will deliberately keep Machado until after the All-Star Game in Washington was only a theory presented by another baseball executive to ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick, but that even being a possibility speaks to the negative perception of the organization. That must change.

5. Zach Britton has averaged a season-best 95.8 miles per hour on his sinker in each of his last two outings. That’s an encouraging sign and should ease some concerns about his poor performance and underwhelming velocity over his first eight outings of the season.

6. Meanwhile, Brad Brach’s trade value has been torpedoed by a 4.63 season ERA and a 7.50 mark since June 7. At this point, I’m not sure he’ll fetch much more than what the Orioles got for Tommy Hunter in 2015, a deal that brought only “Quad-A” outfielder Junior Lake.

7. In this era in which minor-league prospects are valued more than ever, packaging Machado and Britton together seems like a sound approach to land the two or three talents you really covet from another organization. Contenders can never have enough bullpen help, making that a formidable rental duo.

8. It’s hardly shocking there hasn’t been more out there about Adam Jones as marquee talents like Machado dominate headlines, but he remains a solid trade piece. His defense in center is a big topic of discussion, but don’t forget the remainder of his $17.33 million salary owed for 2018.

9. With that in mind, you’d like to see the Orioles be willing to eat some money in an effort to sweeten the pot of prospects coming their way. Including some cash could really improve a deal with a team like the Los Angeles Dodgers, who are trying to stay under the luxury tax threshold.

10. Time will tell what talent the Orioles secure in trades, but it’s encouraging seeing them target a number of prospects at the Single- and Double-A levels. The worst thing they could do is insist on major-league ready talent — with a lower ceiling — in an effort to be competitive in 2019.

11. His defensive struggles and a $13.5 million salary for 2019 are major obstacles, but Mark Trumbo is doing what he can to present himself as a long-shot trade piece. He entered Tuesday second on the Orioles with 12 homers and owns an .803 on-base plus slugging percentage. It’s still doubtful.

12. When you’re 40-plus games under .500 in July, all trade possibilities should be on the table, including players with years of club control remaining. Are the Orioles really going to be back in contention by the time Kevin Gausman (post-2020), Dylan Bundy (post-2021), and Mychal Givens (post-2021) hit free agency?

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Machado nostalgia tour in full effect as Orioles trade talks heat up

Posted on 09 July 2018 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — It felt different this time as Manny Machado and the Orioles returned home 41 games below .500 on the heels of an 0-6 road trip.

Monday was one of numerous instances going back a couple of years that the four-time All-Star infielder was asked to discuss his future — or lack thereof — in Baltimore, but the finality is rapidly setting in as he began what could be his final homestand at Oriole Park at Camden Yards with the trade deadline just three weeks away. The 2018 season was all but mathematically over for the Orioles in late April, but the Machado nostalgia tour is now in full effect as trade discussions have turned from exploratory to intense in recent days.

The “when” may have replaced the “if” months ago, but the time is here to start saying the goodbyes.

Perhaps it was the presence of the New York Yankees — the club many believe to be the favorite to land Machado in free agency — to begin a four-game series, but the sight of Machado still wearing an Orioles uniform is now bordering on surreal with the end so close. He delivered one of his patented doubles in the first game of the twin bill and partook in his usual clowning with Jonathan Schoop between innings, but all focus is now on what the organization might fetch from the likes of the Los Angeles Dodgers, Milwaukee, Arizona, or even the Yankees in a trade while the games themselves — losses more than 70 percent of the time — are inconsequential and the 2018 Orioles are on pace to be one of the worst clubs in major league history.

Machado is sounding more and more like part of the Orioles’ past with the only chapter left to be written being what prospects the front office gets in return to try to improve a bleak future. As each day passes, the Orioles and their fans simply hold their breath that he doesn’t get hurt before a deal is finalized.

His final notable act as an Oriole will be serving as the starting American League shortstop in next week’s All-Star Game if he isn’t traded before then. He described the news as “bittersweet” in the context of the club’s historic struggles and his anticipated departure.

“We’ve gone through some good times and some bad times, and it’s just made us better and brought us closer together,” said Machado as he reflected on his seven seasons with the Orioles. “This organization means a lot, and I’ll never be ungrateful for the opportunity and everything they’ve given to me.”

Hearing such nostalgia from a talent who just celebrated his 26th birthday stings, even if the prospects coming back in a deal prove to be fruitful. The current feeling of resignation shouldn’t forgive how poorly the Orioles handled this situation, beginning with not being more aggressive to try to extend Machado years ago and continuing with the decline of his once-massive trade value when it became apparent two winters ago that a long-term contract wasn’t going to happen.

One of the most talented players in club history getting so close to free agency is bad enough when you’re a contender, but allowing Machado to play his final two seasons in Baltimore on last-place clubs speaks to the organization’s lack of vision. That’s a bigger problem moving forward than the departure of any given player, and there’s no way to spin that truth until the Angelos family reveals some semblance of a long-term plan as executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette and manager Buck Showalter continue to work on expiring contracts.

The Orioles know what they need to do as the losses pile up in embarrassing fashion. Perhaps they’ll find a better-than-anticipated return for Machado, but being in this position with such a generational talent makes for a sobering trade deadline.

“I’d very much like to be adding, and we feel like, potentially, we will add really well [for the future],” Showalter said. “Either way, you’re just adding for a different purpose and subtracting for a different purpose. I think there’s a great opportunity here in a lot of ways.”

Great is hardly the word to describe it, but the Orioles now have no other choice.

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The Peter Principles (Ch. 7) – Wren not zen, a Ray of darkness and Frank malaise sets over Orioles

Posted on 04 July 2018 by Nestor Aparicio

(Author note: This is Chapter 7 of my book “The Peter Principles,” which I was working to finish in March 2014 when my wife was diagnosed with leukemia the first time. I will be releasing the entire book for free online this summer – chapter by chapter. These are the true chronicles of the history of Peter G. Angelos and his ownership of the Baltimore Orioles. If you enjoy the journey, please share the links with a friend who loves the team.)

 

7. Wren was not Zen: A Ray of darkness and a Frank malaise casts franchise adrift

 

“He called me and told me the pitching coach should be the manager’s prerogative. We tried his prerogative. It didn’t work. I don’t think he ever got over that.”

 – Peter Angelos (re: Davey Johnson) in  December 1997

 

WHEN THE DAVEY JOHNSON VS. Peter Angelos divorce letters finally hit The Washington Post – after two weeks of “he said, he said” – the newspaper literally just published the two faxes next to each other and let the fans and sportswriters read between the lines – the children, in this case the fans, were left behind in the nasty public divorce.

Angelos and Johnson simply let the peanut gallery and sportswriters pick a side after the split. And, now, just four years after buying the Orioles and seeking his fourth manager, Angelos was beginning to lose his initial honeymoon popularity and Johnson would be become a martyr to the team’s fan base for years to come.

Davey Johnson had his own demons entering the relationship and had a well-established, anti-establishment, competitive arrogance that he brought into every room. But, most folks around the 1986 New York Mets’ magical World Series run would tell you that the manager whose nickname was “Dumb Dumb” was actually always the smartest guy in the room. And Peter G. Angelos was developing a well-earned reputation as a supreme meddler, an intimidating life force and a bad guy to work for in Major League Baseball. He was making the antics of George Steinbrenner circa 1978 look like a sick, reprised role in Baltimore.

In the spring of 1998, with Johnson still unemployed after walking away from a $750,000 job and the third year of his

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Twelve Orioles thoughts following 8-7 win over Yankees

Posted on 08 April 2018 by Luke Jones

With the Orioles securing their first series victory of the season in a dramatic 8-7 win over the New York Yankees in 12 innings, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. After pitching 14 2/3 innings the previous three days, the Orioles bullpen received the reins with two outs in the first. While allowing the offense to erase an early 5-0 deficit, six relievers combined to throw 186 pitches to cover 11 1/3 innings and allowed two runs. What an effort.

2. Brad Brach did quite a Don Stanhouse impersonation by loading the bases with no outs in the 12th, but he induced an Aaron Judge comebacker and a heady Caleb Joseph turned a 1-2-5 double play. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen that, especially in such a critical spot.

3. After preserving a 7-7 tie with his difficult catch in the 10th inning, Craig Gentry capped off a three-hit, two-steal day with his game-winning RBI single off Adam Warren. The reserve outfielder has certainly pulled his weight early this season.

4. Not only did Richard Bleier pitch a third consecutive day for a taxed bullpen, but he tossed three scoreless frames to collect the victory. His post-game comments reiterated how easy it is to root for the 30-year-old.

5. You have to be impressed with the way Anthony Santander hit the go-ahead home run on a 3-0 pitch in the seventh. I’m not sure he’ll remain in the majors for good after his Rule 5 requirement expires next month, but he has definitely flashed potential.

6. Speaking of Rule 5 picks, Pedro Araujo not only kept the Yankees off the scoreboard over 2 1/3 innings, but he struck out five and allowed only one hit. I stand by my position on carrying two Rule 5 pitchers in the bullpen, but Araujo at least shows upside.

7. Fans in the Bronx booing Giancarlo Stanton just a handful of games into his Yankees career are silly, but he had a brutal series going 2-for-19 with eight strikeouts. He registered his second five-strikeout game in six days on Sunday. Ouch.

8. After grounding into a double play to short-circuit a rally in the third, Danny Valencia made amends by clubbing a two-run shot in the fifth to make it a one-run deficit. He needs to produce against lefty starters and did exactly that against Jordan Montgomery.

9. The tying run was charged to Tanner Scott in the seventh, but the rookie did a solid job over 1 2/3 innings in his 2018 debut. That inning likely would have gone to Mychal Givens if he hadn’t thrown 59 pitches on Thursday and Friday.

10. His team bailed him out, but Mike Wright trying to turn a double play on a comebacker instead of throwing to the plate was a bad decision and the throw was even worse. He completely crumbled after that in what was likely his last start before Alex Cobb is recalled.

11. Wright had a competitive outing against Houston, but Sunday’s performance has happened too frequently in his major league opportunities. He’s tried to make adjustments over the years with his two-seam fastball and mixing in a cutter, but I just don’t see the stuff or temperament of a major league starter.

12. The Orioles entered this series struggling and were rarely even competitive at Yankee Stadium last year. They didn’t play perfectly and now return home with an exhausted bullpen, but that was an impressive statement this weekend. A 4-6 record doesn’t look so bad after being 1-5.

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Twelve Orioles thoughts following 8-3 loss to Yankees

Posted on 07 April 2018 by Luke Jones

With the Orioles seeing their brief two-game winning streak stopped in an 8-3 loss to the New York Yankees, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. This one didn’t look encouraging on paper considering the starting pitching matchup and how short the bullpen was after Friday night’s 14-inning win. Buck Showalter admitted after the game that he wasn’t going to use five relievers. It went how you’d expect.

2. Chris Tillman was OK through the first four innings and missed some bats with eight swinging strikes while throwing some effective breaking pitches, but he faltered in the fifth and sixth. The real problem is this is about the best you get from the right-hander going back to last year.

3. It was apparent that Tillman had lost his command to start the sixth inning after a shaky fifth, but Showalter was clearly trying to steal extra outs with his bullpen so short. Ideally, you could have turned a 3-3 game over to the bullpen to start that inning.

4. Even after falling behind 5-3, the Orioles wasted a golden opportunity in the seventh as Yankees reliever David Robertson struck out Manny Machado and Jonathan Schoop with runners at second and third. Baltimore was 1-for-7 with runners in scoring position on Saturday.

5. Sonny Gray’s curveball was really working as he completed six innings for the win. It will be interesting to see if he can stay healthy and be consistent enough to realize the enticing potential he showed in Oakland a few years ago.

6. Of course, forcing Gray to throw only 11 pitches over the first two innings set him up for a successful afternoon. Knowing how stretched New York’s bullpen was from Friday night, you’d think Orioles hitters would have tried to make him work more early on.

7. After a huge two-homer night on Friday, Machado followed that with a two-run double into the left-field corner in the third. I guess he heard everyone discussing his lack of an RBI over the first week of the season.

8. The hero from Friday night, Pedro Alvarez walked and hit an RBI double in his first two at-bats, finally giving the lineup some left-handed production that’s been sorely lacking so far. His lack of versatility is clear, but Alvarez can still hit right-handed pitching.

9. We hadn’t really seen Machado shine at shortstop so far, but his backhanded grab off a Tim Beckham deflection and strong throw to get Aaron Judge in the sixth was a beautiful play.

10. Jimmy Yacabonis didn’t make a good statement to stay in the major leagues after allowing three runs in the seventh inning. He couldn’t keep his club close and didn’t provide much length after throwing 27 pitches, prompting Showalter to use Nestor Cortes in the eighth.

11. After some poor baserunning the night before, the Yankees ran into four outs on the bases on Saturday. You’d like to see the Orioles take better advantage of that.

12. Perhaps his hip — which was surgically repaired in 2016 — has hindered his performance, but Colby Rasmus struck out 13 times in 23 plate appearances before going on the disabled list. It’s fair to wonder if he makes it back on the roster after he walked away from baseball last summer.

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Twelve Orioles thoughts following 5-2 win over Yankees

Posted on 06 April 2018 by Luke Jones

With the Orioles snapping their five-game losing streak with a 5-2 victory over the New York Yankees, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. The five runs plated in the seventh inning exceeded the club’s total in five of its first six games and came after the Orioles had only one baserunner in the previous five frames. It was a brutal opening week, but that was a good stop-the-bleeding win to begin the series.

2. After Orioles pitching surrendered an inexplicable 102 runs in 10 games at Yankee Stadium last season, Andrew Cashner set the tone with six strong innings as an Aaron Judge solo homer was the only blemish. It was the first quality start of the season from someone not named Dylan Bundy.

3. Cashner used five pitches effectively with his slider and changeup standing out in key spots. His declining strikeout rate was a major topic when he signed, but he’s struck out 10 in 11 innings. You’ll take that outing against the Yankees lineup any day of the week.

4. Adam Jones continued his hot start to the season with the big two-run homer off Masahiro Tanaka to give the Orioles the lead in the seventh. All three of his long balls in 2018 have given Baltimore a lead in the sixth inning or later.

5. Trey Mancini responded favorably to the leadoff spot with three hits, including a two-run single to right off Chad Green to extend the lead to 5-1. In a perfect world, you’d like to keep Mancini in more of a run-producing spot, but he’s the man for the job right now.

6. It was a cold night in the Bronx and Tanaka pitched well over the first six innings, but the Yankees starter still threw some hittable pitches that went unharmed until the seventh. Opposing pitchers continue to give Orioles hitters a heavy diet of off-speed and breaking stuff.

7. A bullpen that’s already carrying two Rule 5 picks and trying to survive without All-Star closer Zach Britton can hardly afford to have Mychal Givens struggling. The right-hander has now been scored upon in each of his last two outings to put further strain on the bullpen.

8. After cleaning up Givens’ mess in the seventh, Darren O’Day found trouble of his own an inning later by issuing a walk and hitting two batters before escaping unscathed. He sure seems to love pitching with the bases loaded, doesn’t he?

9. Brad Brach issued a walk before striking out Brandon Drury and Brett Gardner to collect the save. I do have reservations about Brach as a closer, but some of the reaction to his blown save on Opening Day was over the top. No current options are going to be Britton.

10. Chris Davis collected his second hit of the season in his final at-bat, but he looks lost at the plate right now. You expect him to strike out and to even be victimized by the shift, but he’s not making any hard contact, hitting a slew of weak grounders.

11. Colby Rasmus singled as part of the five-run seventh, but he’s looked as lost as Davis, striking out 11 times in 20 plate appearances. Rule 5 outfielder Anthony Santander did deliver an RBI double, but the Orioles need to start getting something from their veteran left-handed bats.

12. Before going hitless with two strikeouts, Manny Machado reiterated his desire to play shortstop beyond 2018 and took a dig at the New York media about the Aaron Judge tampering controversy. He’s not wrong, but I’m not sure that’s the best idea if he envisions wearing Yankee pinstripes.

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