Tag Archive | "Zach Britton"

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Twelve Orioles thoughts following 5-4 loss to Detroit

Posted on 18 May 2017 by Luke Jones

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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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Orioles offense not making life easier for undermanned bullpen

Posted on 13 May 2017 by Luke Jones

We knew life wouldn’t be easy for the Orioles bullpen with two-time All-Star closer Zach Britton back on the disabled list.

But the sight of recently-recalled long reliever Vidal Nuno pitching in the eighth inning of a 2-2 game in Kansas City on Friday — the night after a rainout, no less — was jarring, and the result was predictable as he allowed the go-ahead run to score. The immediate reaction was to criticize the Orioles’ insistence on carrying a five-man bench in lieu of the seven-man bullpen that’s become standard in today’s game. The sentiment is more than fair when manager Buck Showalter regularly has just three or four relievers available on a given night with designs of keeping the bullpen healthy for the long haul.

Is the problem a lack of quantity or quality in the bullpen, however?

Sure, the Orioles could option Joey Rickard to the minor leagues, designate veteran Craig Gentry for assignment, or even look to trade the buried Hyun Soo Kim to open a roster spot for an additional bullpen arm. But does that merely open the door for another long reliever in the bullpen that Showalter can’t trust in close games or can the club find someone — at least in the mold of a Tommy Hunter or a Chaz Roe circa 2015 — that can be mostly trusted in the sixth, seventh, or occasionally the eighth inning? Perhaps that answer can become an Alec Asher or even a Norfolk reliever such as Stefan Crichton or Jimmy Yacabonis in the near future.

There’s another solution, however, that would help the Orioles as Britton continues to recover in Sarasota and Brad Brach and Darren O’Day try to regain their previous dominant forms of recent seasons.

The offense needs to pick it up.

The Orioles entered Saturday just 21st in the majors in runs scored per game (4.4) and have scored the fewest per game of the top 10 major league clubs in winning percentage. Known for the long ball, Baltimore ranks only 13th of 30 clubs in home runs so far in 2017.

They haven’t played an extraordinary number of one-run games –Baltimore does own a superb 8-3 record in that department — but the Orioles lead the majors with 21 save opportunities and just four of their 22 victories have come by more than three runs. In contrast, 11 of the New York Yankees’ 21 wins have been by a margin of four or more. In other words, the Orioles have needed to lean heavily on their best bullpen arms despite Britton now being absent for the better part of a month. Even when they’ve been successful in those tight games, there’s a price to pay for at least the next game or two after that.

Showalter wouldn’t have to worry about the availability of Brach or O’Day as frequently if his offense could provide more breathing room from time to time. Drop-off from the bullpen was inevitable with Britton on the shelf, but the Orioles lineup hasn’t really been at less than full strength beyond the current absence of catcher Welington Castillo, who has been more than adequately replaced by backup Caleb Joseph for the time being.

Now more than a fifth of the way through the season, the major league home run leaders from the last two years — Chris Davis (2015) and Mark Trumbo (2016) — entered Saturday with slugging percentages lower than Joseph’s and have hit a combined eight home runs. Shortstop J.J. Hardy has provided a timely hit or two, but his .534 on-base plus slugging percentage was the seventh worst among qualified major league hitters.

Is it more realistic to expect a collection of relievers on the Norfolk shuttle to start pitching like legitimate late-inning arms or to ask the offense to produce at a higher level to ease the relief burden? The Orioles will need some combination of both to continue playing at a high level in Britton’s absence, but the roster was built in the offseason with the vision of having an above-average offense that would hit a ton of homers.

Despite their overall success so far in 2017, the Orioles continue to wait for their lineup to fully awaken.

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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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Twelve Orioles thoughts following 5-4 win over Washington

Posted on 10 May 2017 by Luke Jones

With the Orioles earning their sixth straight win in a 5-4 final over Washington in 12 innings, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. The Orioles snatched a comeback victory from the jaws of defeat when Mark Trumbo singled in the winning run. It’s been a rough start to 2017 for the major league home run champion from a year ago, but the liner into left was his second walk-off hit of the season.

2. Trumbo’s heroics wouldn’t have been possible if not for J.J. Hardy tying the game with an RBI single with two outs in the ninth. The shortstop’s offense hasn’t been pretty, but he came through in a big way after stranding two in scoring position in his previous at-bat.

3. Logan Verrett is making a name for himself in extra innings as he tossed three scoreless frames less than two weeks after pitching two scoreless in an 11-inning win at Yankee Stadium. Unlikely contributions from pitchers on the Norfolk shuttle continue to make a big difference.

4. Ubaldo Jimenez deserves plenty of credit for pitching into the eighth inning against the best offense in baseball so far this season. Considering the defending NL Cy Young Award winner was dealing on the other side, he answered the challenge and then some for his club.

5. It’s fair to question Buck Showalter leaving Jimenez in to surrender a pinch-hit three-run homer to Adam Lind, but he’s trying to preserve the long-term health of a bullpen without All-Star closer Zach Britton and already a pitcher short overall due to a five-man bench. It just didn’t work out.

6. You have to feel for Max Scherzer, who was brilliant over eight innings for Washington. Amazingly, that was the 10th time he’s taken a no-hitter into the sixth since joining the Nationals in 2015. His slider is a thing of beauty and fetched 13 of his 22 swinging strikes.

7. Just when it looked like the Orioles were in real danger of being no-hit, Seth Smith delivered a one-out home run to right-center to tie the game in the sixth. I continue to be impressed with how consistently calm he is at the plate to have great at-bats.

8. It didn’t feel like it mattered much at the time, but Adam Jones homering off Scherzer in the eighth put the Orioles in better position to tie the game an inning later. He also got a great read going first to third on Manny Machado’s single in the 12th.

9. Considering the bullpen was short and it took great execution on Bryce Harper’s throw home to Matt Wieters in the 11th, I didn’t have nearly as much of a problem with Bobby Dickerson sending Hardy — as slow as he is — as most fans reacting on social media.

10. Even with Britton expected to miss more than a month and the real danger of overworking the likes of Brad Brach, Darren O’Day, and Mychal Givens, I’d still happily take the Orioles’ relief concerns over the Nationals bullpen. What a mess for an otherwise great team.

11. Daniel Murphy’s home run in the second gave the Orioles their first deficit since the fourth inning of last Thursday’s game at Fenway Park. It doesn’t get much better than that over a six-day period.

12. Despite their well-documented problems and so much weirdness to start the season, the 2017 Orioles currently have the best record in baseball and are 12 games above .500 faster than any other club of the Showalter era. Talent is paramount, but never question their intestinal fortitude.

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Orioles closer Britton to miss 6-8 weeks with re-injured forearm

Posted on 09 May 2017 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — The Orioles have said a second opinion confirmed their prognosis on Zach Britton’s left forearm strain, but that doesn’t mean the closer will be returning anytime soon.

According to MLB.com and multiple outlets, the two-time All-Star reliever will miss the next 45 to 60 days after re-injuring his left forearm pitching in Boston last week. Manager Buck Showalter said that Britton would be reporting to Sarasota after visiting with sports orthopedist Dr. Neil ElAttrache in Los Angeles on Monday, but he offered no details on the timetable for when the left-hander would begin a throwing progression and subsequent rehab assignment.

“Talking to the doctor, it’s laid out,” Showalter said. “In fact, I was just reading the email from [head athletic trainer Richie Bancells] per the doctors, our doctor, the people he’s seen. They’re all in agreement with the protocol and the way the program’s going to work down in Sarasota.”

Britton originally hurt his forearm throwing a breaking ball in Toronto on April 14 and was placed on the disabled list two days later. Acknowledging over the weekend that he returned too soon, Britton was activated on May 2 and completed two scoreless appearances despite lacking the usual sink on his two-seam fastball. He woke up Friday morning with recurring forearm discomfort and underwent another MRI that showed no structural concerns with his elbow, according to Britton and the Orioles.

Right-hander Brad Brach has handled most of the Orioles’ save opportunities in Britton’s absence with veteran Darren O’Day also receiving a few. Brach has gone 8-for-9 while O’Day is 2-for-3, but Showalter said he will avoid overworking any of his relievers despite it being a trying time for a bullpen without its standout closer.

“A lot depends on health [and] how we feel they are physically,” Showalter said. “I’m hoping Mychal [Givens] gets into that mix and Donnie Hart might close a game out for us. I’m hoping another guy kind of steps forward as potential for that. It’s kind of a matchup thing and a health thing. I’m not ever going to broadcast who’s not available, but we’re going to continue to monitor that real closely.”

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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 4-2 win over White Sox

Posted on 06 May 2017 by Luke Jones

With the Orioles beginning a five-game homestand with a 4-2 win over the Chicago White Sox, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. The news of Zach Britton again experiencing left forearm discomfort took the fun out of an improbable win in which the Orioles lost their starting pitcher in the first inning. As I noted after Thursday’s win in Boston, Britton’s sinker didn’t look right in two appearances since being activated.

2. Wade Miley was hit by two vicious liners in a three-pitch period to force him out of the game with two outs in the first. Fortunately, he suffered only a contusion on his left wrist and doesn’t expect to miss his next start, but I’ve never seen anything like that.

3. Gabriel Ynoa couldn’t have been much better in his Orioles debut, turning in six scoreless innings of relief to collect the win. With Miley’s exit occurring two nights after Kevin Gausman was ejected in the second inning at Boston, Ynoa’s 101 pitches were a godsend for a strained staff.

4. Ynoa really impressed with his slider as he used the breaking pitch to record 10 of his 13 swinging strikes. His numbers at Triple-A Norfolk were less than impressive in April, but he showed the kind of stuff Friday that makes him an interesting option moving forward.

5. Few had faith in Baltimore’s starting pitching depth entering the season, but it should be noted that Alec Asher, Jayson Aquino, and Tyler Wilson have all turned in quality starts in addition to Ynoa’s quasi-start on Friday. Those contributions have been huge with other starters ailing or struggling.

6. Chris Davis hit his first home run — and collected his first multi-hit game — since April 14 in a 3-for-3 night that also included a walk. The Orioles hope that’s the kind of game that gets the big first baseman going after an extended slump.

7. It’s a bit more understandable after we learned that Britton wasn’t available, but I’m still surprised that Buck Showalter allowed the newly-recalled Stefan Crichton to start the eighth inning with only a 2-0 lead. His leadoff walk issued to Melky Cabrera led to the first White Sox run.

8. Joey Rickard’s RBI double in the eighth proved to be the winning run after Brad Brach ran into some difficulty in the ninth inning. Those insurances runs become even more critical now with the incomparable Britton sidelined once again.

9. Seeing J.J. Hardy mishandle two potential double-play balls in the ninth was disconcerting as he continues to look shaky in the field. His defense needs to remain strong to help offset the decline in his bat over the last few years.

10. Old friend Miguel Gonzalez turned in the type of performance we frequently saw over his four seasons with Baltimore. His outings were rarely fancy and he struggled in the second half of 2015, but jettisoning him last spring was an obvious mistake.

11. Chris Tillman felt good after his workday on Friday and will make his 2017 debut for the Orioles on Sunday. Of course, the results in his four minor-league rehab starts and his underwhelming velocity have everyone holding their breath over whether he can at least be close to himself.

12. They’ve still managed to go 4-4 going back to last Friday, but this is easily one of the strangest weeks of Orioles baseball that I’ve ever witnessed. What else can happen at this point? Well, maybe we shouldn’t answer that.

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Orioles closer Britton again experiencing left forearm discomfort

Posted on 06 May 2017 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — Orioles closer Zach Britton is again experiencing left forearm discomfort just days after being activated from the disabled list.

Manager Buck Showalter broke the news after Britton did not pitch the ninth inning and setup man Brad Brach instead collected his sixth save in Baltimore’s 4-2 win over the Chicago White Sox on Friday. After pitching a scoreless inning in Thursday’s win at Boston, Britton woke up feeling discomfort and underwent an MRI on Friday evening.

The left-hander was originally placed on the DL with a left forearm strain on April 16.

“There’s some talk about what the next step to take with him [would be],” Showalter said. “He woke up this morning and felt some discomfort. He came in today. It got a little better as the day went on, but we’re trying to decide what our next step is.”

Britton was activated on Tuesday after missing more than two weeks of action. He completed two scoreless one-inning appearances in the Red Sox series, but his two-seam fastball lacked its typical sinking action, making it possible that his forearm was bothering him before Friday.

In the standout closer’s absence, Brach has gone 6-for-7 in save opportunities while veteran Darren O’Day has gone 1-for-2. Both blew saves in last weekend’s series with the New York Yankees, a reminder of how remarkable Britton’s 2016 campaign was in which he converted all 47 of his save opportunities and posted an amazing 0.54 ERA on his way to being named the American League reliever of the year.

The two-time All-Star closer underwent an initial MRI on April 21, but he and Showalter said that exam did not reveal any structural concerns with his left elbow. The Orioles hope the second test will not show any new damage, but the recurrence of the forearm discomfort is obviously concerning.

“How we proceed will probably be derived from those findings,” Showalter said. “We’ll just compare it to the one they just took [last month]. It’s the same – forearm strain – I think. That’s what I was told. I talked with Zach today and Dr. [Michael] Jacobs and Richie [Bancells] and Roger [McDowell] and just trying to gather all the information to decide which direction to go.”

Despite allowing 12 hits and four walks in nine innings this season, Britton has converted each of his five save chances.

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Twelve Orioles thoughts following 8-3 win over Boston

Posted on 05 May 2017 by Luke Jones

With the Orioles finishing off a rocky 3-4 road trip with an 8-3 win over the Boston Red Sox, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. The Orioles didn’t enjoy their four-game series in Boston for a variety of reasons, but you had to be impressed with their fortitude when it would have been easy to just look forward to going home Thursday night. Salvaging a split really showed something underneath the hood.

2. Considering he found out he’d be starting less than 24 hours before first pitch, Tyler Wilson turned in a crucial six-inning performance to not only give the Orioles a good chance to win but also save a pitching staff that had its rotation turned upside down a day earlier.

3. Retiring 12 of the final 13 hitters he faced, Wilson again showed he isn’t intimidated pitching at Fenway, the same place where he threw eight shutout innings in a win last season. It remains to be seen whether he can succeed in the majors long term, but the kid battles.

4. His profanity-laced rant garnered some unflattering attention — even if he made very sound points — but Manny Machado can hold his head up over how he handled himself on the field. He clobbered his third homer of the series to give the Orioles the lead in the fourth.

5. An unusual number of opposing lefty starters has limited the at-bats for Seth Smith early on, but the veteran collected four hits to raise his average from .222 to .286. His .397 on-base percentage thus far is exactly what the Orioles were looking for when they acquired him from Seattle.

6. Smith’s swipe of home on the back end of a double steal gave the Orioles their eighth and ninth stolen bases of the year after a total of 19 in 2016. With the offense not exactly firing on all cylinders, it’s been good to see them force the issue some.

7. I’m guessing more than a few fans were afraid early on that the Orioles were going to be shut down by Kyle Kendrick in his first major league appearance since 2015. It took a little while, but the third time through the order did the trick.

8. It paled in comparison to what happened at Yankee Stadium last week, but the Orioles bullpen made it interesting in the seventh as Donnie Hart and Mychal Givens combined to load the bases with two outs. You hope the group now being back to full strength will stabilize things.

9. Joey Rickard received praise for his inning-ending catch in the seventh, but Statcast rated the play as having a routine 96-percent catch probability. It wasn’t a graceful grab, but Buck Showalter was certainly relieved that he made the play.

10. Zach Britton allowed one hit and struck out Jackie Bradley Jr. on an impressive slider in a scoreless ninth inning, but he didn’t get much movement on his sinker for the second straight outing since his return from the disabled list.

11. Just over nine months removed from Tommy John surgery, Hunter Harvey will complete a 25-pitch bullpen session on Friday. That’s certainly encouraging news for the former first-round pick who’s just 22 years old.

12. Given how mentally draining these last seven games with New York and Boston were, the Orioles have to be happy to conclude a season-opening stretch of 24 of 27 games against the American League East. Nineteen of their next 22 come against opponents outside the division.

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