Tag Archive | "Zach Britton"

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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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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Tillman continues to thrive on road with another victory

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Tillman continues to thrive on road with another victory

Posted on 19 June 2013 by Luke Jones

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

Orioles pitcher Chris Tillman wasn’t carrying his good stuff during his start on Wednesday, but a familiar pattern developed in his five innings of work before Baltimore blew the game wide open in a 13-3 win in Detroit.

As has been the case several times this season, Tillman struggled early as he threw 47 pitches through the first two innings before settling in to pitch more effectively. The 25-year-old told reporters after the game in Detroit that he lacked any feel for his pitches for most of the afternoon as he was pulled in the sixth inning after giving up a leadoff single and a walk to start the inning.

T.J. McFarland came on and allowed a two-run double — with both runs being charged to the starting pitcher — but it didn’t spoil the fact that Tillman once again gave the Orioles a great chance to win despite not being on top of his game. Tillman allowed three earned runs and seven hits in his five innings while walking three and striking out one.

In 15 starts this season, Tillman is 8-2 with a 3.71 earned run average and has struck out 69 while walking 32 in 87 1/3 innings. He’s allowed 83 hits and 16 home runs, the latter ironically being a career-high total.

It’s a stark contrast from a couple years ago when it seemed Tillman was only capable of being successful on the mound when all of his pitches were clicking for him. At that point in his career, Tillman appeared to lack the ability to cope and regroup when things weren’t going his way and he’s credited his maturity as well as a few adjustments made to his delivery last year for the career turnaround.

Tillman appeared to be trying to largely get by with his fastball against the Tigers, but there have also been plenty of times when he’s used his cutter effectively when his fastball wasn’t going where he needed it to. It’s been a nice development for a pitcher often criticized earlier in his career for throwing a four-seamer that didn’t have enough movement.

He improved to 6-0 on the road and has allowed only 13 earned runs in 42 1/3 innings (2.76 ERA) away from Oriole Park at Camden Yards this season. The right-hander is 2-2 with a 4.60 ERA in eight starts spanning 45 innings at home.

Dating back to July 4 of last year, Tillman is 17-5 with a 3.32 ERA in 173 1/3 innings covering 30 starts. He’s arguably become the club’s most reliable member of the Orioles rotation and will consistently provide a solid-to-good outing just about every trip to the mound.

It’s remarkable to think that Tillman was barely on the club’s radar at this time a year ago, but he’s now become a pitcher you generally feel good every time he goes to the mound.

Gausman roughed up in Triple-A debut

Manager Buck Showalter warned last week that the return of right-hander Kevin Gausman immediately after the 10-day waiting period wasn’t guaranteed and the 22-year-old’s Triple-A debut didn’t exactly make a statement on Wednesday that his return should be imminent.

Pitching in the opener of a doubleheader for the Tides, Gausman allowed seven earned runs and 10 hits in six innings as he took the loss in an 8-1 loss to Indianapolis. He struck out four and walked one while throwing 90 pitches, 59 of them strikes.

Gausman allowed a three-run homer in the sixth inning and also uncorked a wild pitch in the disappointing outing.

While acknowledging that Gausman was optioned to Triple A out of necessity after a 13-inning win over Boston in which the Orioles wore out their bullpen, Showalter acknowledged that the demotion would also give Gausman a chance to take a deep breath and make a few mechanical adjustments with Norfolk pitching coach Mike Griffin.

“I didn’t tell him, promise him [he'd be brought back immediately],” Showalter said last Friday. “I made sure he understood he could conceivably stay there the rest of the year. It’s all in his hands. We have other people we like, too.”

Gausman would be eligible to be recalled to Baltimore as early as Monday after the 10-day waiting period expires, but left-hander Zach Britton made his own statement for remaining in the rotation after a solid outing against the Tigers on Tuesday. Britton allowed one earned run in 5 1/3 innings to earn his first win of the season.

As for the rotation plans in Toronto this weekend, Jason Hammel will make his return to the hill on Friday, which will be his first start since last Wednesday after he dealt with the effects of a nasty stomach bug over the last week. A returning Miguel Gonzalez will start on Saturday and is expected back with the Orioles on Thursday night after his wife gave birth to their daughter Monday night.

Showalter hasn’t announced a starter for the series finale on Sunday, but he mentioned Britton and Freddy Garcia as the primed candidates. Garcia pitched a scoreless inning in relief on Wednesday afternoon.

Better pitching of late

Despite scoring a season-high 13 runs in Wednesday’s win over the Tigers to take two out of three and complete the season series against Detroit with a 4-2 record, the Orioles received another solid pitching performance against one of the most formidable lineups in the league.

It continued a recent trend in which the Orioles have received improved starting pitching and the bullpen has continued to thrive in the late innings. Baltimore has allowed 3.6 runs per game over their last 10 contests against the Los Angeles Angels, Boston Red Sox, and Detroit, going 7-3 over that stretch against three potent offenses.

The Orioles also made a major statement over the last week in taking three of four against Boston and winning the three-game series over the Tigers. This season, Baltimore is 12-5 against Boston, Detroit, and Oakland, the three first-place clubs in the American League right now.

As Nuke LaLoosh of “Bull Durham” would say, that’s what you call announcing your presence with authority.

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Orioles place Gonzalez on paternity leave list, designate Navarro for assignment

Posted on 18 June 2013 by WNST Staff

PRESS RELEASE

The Orioles today announced that they have recalled left-handed pitcher Zach Britton from Triple-A Norfolk, who is scheduled to start Tuesday at Detroit, and selected the contract of first baseman Travis Ishikawa from the Tides. To make room for Ishikawa on the 25 and 40-man rosters, right-handed pitcher Miguel Gonzalez was placed on the Paternity Leave List and infielder Yamaico Navarro has been designated for assignment.

Britton, 25, is 3-2 with a 3.28 ERA (60.1IP, 22ER) in 11 starts for the Tides this season. He is 2-1 with a 2.03 ERA (31.0IP, 7ER) over his last five starts, lowering his season ERA from 4.60 to 3.28. Britton has held left-handed hitters to a line of .204/.339/.347 in 49 at-bats against at Triple-A. He made one start for the Orioles earlier this season, taking the loss (6.0IP, 6ER) on April 29 at Seattle.

Ishikawa, 29, has batted .316/.413/.525 with 16 doubles, seven home runs and 31 RBI in 49 games for the Tides this season. He was named the organization’s minor league player of the month in May after batting .413/.489/.787 with all seven of his home runs in 21 games on the month. Ishikawa is a career .257/.329/.428 hitter in five major league seasons with San Francisco (2006, 2008-10) and Milwaukee (2012). He will wear uniform #45.

Gonzalez, 29, is 5-2 with a 3.75 ERA (74.1IP, 31ER) in 12 starts this season. He and his wife Lucia had their first child, daughter Leah, Monday night.

Navarro, 25, batted .286/.333/.357 in 28 at-bats for the Orioles earlier this season.

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Britton to be recalled to make Tuesday’s start in Detroit

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Britton to be recalled to make Tuesday’s start in Detroit

Posted on 17 June 2013 by Luke Jones

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

Needing to push back pitching Jason Hammel further as he continues to recover from a stomach virus, the Orioles announced they will recall left-handed pitcher Zach Britton to make Tuesday’s start in Detroit.

After right-hander Jake Arrieta was awarded a spot start against the Tigers on Monday, Britton was held out of his scheduled start for the Tides with the thought that Hammel might need more time to regain his strength after a virus required him to have intravenous fluids and kept him away from the ballpark for two days over the weekend.

Britton will be making his second start of the season for the Orioles after suffering a loss in Seattle on April 29. The 25-year-old allowed six earned runs and 10 hits in six innings of work before being optioned back to Norfolk after that start.

In his last five starts for the Tides, Britton is 2-1 and has allowed only seven earned runs in 31 innings while striking out 26 and walking 11. He is 3-2 with a 3.28 earned run average in 11 starts in Triple A this season.

One of Britton’s best starts in an otherwise disappointing 2012 season for the Orioles came against the Tigers on Aug. 18 when he pitched seven shutout innings to earn the victory in a 3-2 final. In two career starts against Detroit, Britton is 2-0 with a 3.75 ERA in 12 innings of work.

Reports from Detroit indicated right-hander pitcher Miguel Gonzalez received word that his wife was ready to give birth to the couple’s daughter and he departed for California on Monday evening.

The Orioles optioned Arrieta to Norfolk following Monday’s loss to presumably make room for Britton on the 25-man roster before Tuesday’s game. If the club wants to bring rookie Kevin Gausman back to Baltimore for further starter reinforcements, they could recall him prior to the 10-day waiting period’s conclusion if he were to replace Gonzalez, who is expected to be placed on the paternity leave list.

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Arrieta to start Monday in Detroit with Hammel pushed back

Posted on 16 June 2013 by Luke Jones

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

Following Sunday’s 6-3 win over the Boston Red Sox, Orioles manager Buck Showalter revealed right-hander Jake Arrieta will take the hill in place of scheduled starter Jason Hammel Monday night against the Detroit Tigers.

Hammel has been dealing with a stomach virus since late least week and was even instructed to stay away from Camden Yards on Friday and Saturday. The 30-year-old hopes to start Tuesday, but his strength was zapped after the illness required him to receive intravenous fluids over the weekend.

Recalled from Triple-A Norfolk on Friday to act as a fresh arm in the bullpen, Arrieta didn’t pitch over the weekend and will make the start Monday because Norfolk lefty Zach Britton remains on call to pitch on Tuesday if Hammel needs more time to recover. Either he or lefty reliever T.J. McFarland would be options if the latter doesn’t need to be used in long relief in the series opener against the Tigers.

Right-hander Kevin Gausman also remains on the radar as Miguel Gonzalez will be placed on the paternity list as soon as his wife goes into labor. Her due date falls on Wednesday and there has been some talk that she could be induced if labor doesn’t begin by then, but the Orioles are obviously respecting the family’s privacy by not wanting to divulge too much information.

Arrieta has struggled mightily in recent weeks for the Tides, allowing 15 runs and 19 hits in 10 1/3 innings over his last two starts. He owns a 3-3 mark with a 5.50 earned run average in seven appearances at the Triple-A level.

Of course, the 27-year-old began the season in the Orioles’ starting rotation but went 1-1 with a 6.63 ERA in four starts and was optioned to Triple-A Norfolk in late April.

 

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Orioles’ starting rotation remains in flux for next several days

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Orioles’ starting rotation remains in flux for next several days

Posted on 14 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 — Trying to figure out what the Orioles’ starting rotation will look like over the next week is anybody’s guess.

That includes manager Buck Showalter, who certainly will be prepared for all possibilities and options in front of him but is waiting for factors out of his hands to play out. It started with the need to option rookie Kevin Gausman to Triple-A Norfolk after Thursday’s 13-inning affair and continues with the uncertainty surrounding right-handed pitcher Miguel Gonzalez, who is slated to start on Saturday but is on call as his wife could give birth to the couple’s daughter any day.

“We’re kind of in the mode of, let’s see what tonight brings and smoke clears and see what presents itself,” Showalter said prior to Friday night’s game against the Boston Red Sox.

All we know is right-handed pitcher Jake Arrieta was recalled to provide a fresh arm and length in a taxed bullpen that pitched 7 2/3 innings in the Orioles’ 5-4 win in the series opener Thursday night. How long he’ll be here is anybody’s guess, but you wouldn’t expect Arrieta to be here for more than a day or two considering he’s struggled mightily for the Tides recently, allowing 15 earned runs and 19 hits in his last two starts covering 10 1/3 innings.

Since Arrieta last pitched on Sunday, he was the freshest of the arms in the Norfolk starting rotation and is the best immediate fit, according to Showalter. You could conceivably see Arrieta optioned back to Triple A as soon as the conclusion of Friday night’s game if he needed to be used behind starter Chris Tillman.

Showalter also confirmed what most assumed about Gausman’s demotion in that it was solely based on the need in the bullpen after every reliever other than right-hander Pedro Strop pitched in the 13-inning game. The manager made that clear to the 22-year-old, but that doesn’t guarantee Gausman will return to Baltimore as soon as possible, either.

“If we had played nine innings, [Gausman] would have stayed,” said Showalter, who revealed Gausman will indeed travel to Norfolk and not remain in Baltimore despite Gonzalez’s shaky status. “I told him that last night — probably a little too up front about it. I also told him there were no assurances. The good side of it is, he leaves with a good outing and it gives him a chance to take a deep breath and kind of think about some things.”

After being optioned, Gausman is required to remain at Triple-A Norfolk for at least 10 days unless he is replacing a player placed on the 15-day disabled list. With Gonzalez’s unique situation in which he will be placed on the paternity list, the Orioles would be allowed to recall Gausman before the 10-day window concludes. Gonzalez’s wife is not due to give birth until June 19, making it uncertain whether he could be removed from the roster in time for Gausman’s turn in the rotation slotted for Tuesday.

In addition to Arrieta, Showalter also mentioned long reliever T.J. McFarland and Triple-A lefty Zach Britton as potential options for Sunday or Tuesday’s start in Detroit. Gausman is among the candidates for that start in Detroit should the Orioles have the means to return him to the roster, but Showalter made it clear there’s no guarantee that Gausman will be back for that start or even immediately following the expiration of the 10-day waiting period.

That’s good news for a pitcher like Britton, who has allowed only seven earned runs in 31 innings (2.03 ERA) over his last five starts for the Tides. He last pitched on Monday, meaning he would be a logical candidate for Sunday if the need arises or could conceivably work out of the pen for a day or two and be available for Tuesday. Should he get the ball against the Tigers and pitch well, he could remain in Baltimore for at least the foreseeable future while Gausman continues to hone his craft at Triple A, a level where he’s never pitched.

“We’ll see what the needs are going to be here,” said Showalter, who mentioned that Norfolk pitching coach Mike Griffin will work on a few specific points of emphasis with the 2012 first-round pick. “I told [Gausman] to go down there and present himself as an option for us. It’s all in his hands. We have other people that we like, too, and that’s good to know. That’s a good feeling. He could go down there and pitch well and present himself as a good option and still not [be back]. That’s kind of the way it works.”

As if the starting rotation wasn’t in enough flux, Jason Hammel came down with a virus Friday morning and was not at the ballpark for the second game of the series against the Red Sox. Fortunately, he is not scheduled to pitch again until Monday and the club hopes the illness will have run its course by then.

The way things are going for the starting rotation, you just hope no one steps on a nail at this point. Bonus points to you if you were able to figure out that reference.

In other rotation-related news, left-hander Wei-Yin Chen will throw 35 pitches off a full mound in Sarasota on Saturday. If all goes well, he could rejoin the Orioles on the next road trip to continue his rehab work, but Showalter said there are “a lot of hurdles” before the Taiwanese pitcher is back on the mound for the Orioles.

Outfielder Nolan Reimold will begin his minor-league rehab assignment with Double-A Bowie on Tuesday, according to Showalter. He completed a series of sprints with no setbacks in what was viewed as a final test for the right hamstring injury he’s nursed since spring training.

Second baseman Alexi Casilla took batting practice and was available without any real limitations for Friday’s game, according to Showalter. He’s dealt with a jammed right index finger since the finale of the Tampa Bay series last weekend.

Brian Roberts held up well after taking batting practice Thursday and was taking grounders at second base prior to Friday’s game as he continues rehabbing his surgically-repaired right hamstring.

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Orioles’ decision to option Gausman about immediate need in bullpen

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Orioles’ decision to option Gausman about immediate need in bullpen

Posted on 14 June 2013 by Luke Jones

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

You may have been surprised to learn that Orioles pitcher Kevin Gausman was optioned to Triple-A Norfolk despite allowing just two earned runs in 5 1/3 innings of the 13-inning marathon win on Thursday night.

His demotion has very little to do with his performance in his fifth major league start as the Orioles are in need of an extra bullpen arm after the group pitched 7 2/3 innings Thursday night and has three more games against the heavy-hitting Red Sox at Camden Yards this weekend. Baltimore will announce the corresponding move prior to Friday night’s game.

The 2012 first-round pick allowed two earned runs in 5 1/3 innings against Boston, striking out five and allowing six hits. The only blemishes on his night came in the fourth inning when David Ortiz and Mike Carp hit solo home runs off the right-hander. In five starts with the Orioles, Gausman is 0-3 with a 7.66 earned run average, 20 strikeouts, and six walks in 24 2/3 innings.

Gausman would be required to stay in the minors for a minimum of 10 days before he can return to the big leagues, but there could be a way to get him back on the 25-man roster sooner than that. In addition to the possibility of another pitcher being placed on the 15-day disabled list — which would waive the 10-day waiting period for the rookie — the Orioles will be placing starting pitcher Miguel Gonzalez on the paternity list at some point in the near future.

Scheduled to make his next start on Sunday, Gonzalez has told reporters his wife’s due date falls on June 19. If the birth of Gonzalez’s daughter comes a day or two early, Gausman would be a prime candidate to replace Gonzalez upon the latter being placed on the paternity list. Of course, that circumstance is out of the Orioles’ hands and is not something they can count on as the possibility exists that he won’t even make the start against Boston should his wife go into labor even earlier.

As for which pitcher the Orioles are likely to promote, left-hander Zach Britton appears to be a very logical choice. He last started for Norfolk on Monday, meaning he would be able to pitch a few innings out of the bullpen if required on Friday night. He could also be on call to replace Gonzalez for Sunday’s start should the right-hander receive word from his wife over the next day or two. And if Gonzalez does make his start against the Red Sox, Britton could take Gausman’s turn in the rotation Tuesday in Detroit, a place where he had a tremendous outing in what was otherwise a very disappointing 2012 season for the 25-year-old.

For what it’s worth, Britton has been very good in his last five starts for the Tides, allowing seven earned runs in 31 innings (2.03 ERA) and posting a 2-1 record. Beyond the numbers, the narrative reports on Britton from Norfolk manager Ron Johnson and pitching coach Mike Griffin have been very favorable, according to Orioles manager Buck Showater.

Of course, Britton’s potential promotion is just a guess and certainly not the only pitcher to which the Orioles could turn. Norfolk pitchers Josh Stinson and Jair Jurrjens are scheduled to make starts in a doubleheader Friday night, so both of them could be candidates to pitch out of the bullpen as well.

We’ll find out for sure by Friday afternoon.

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Ten Orioles thoughts with April in the books

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Ten Orioles thoughts with April in the books

Posted on 01 May 2013 by Luke Jones

With the Orioles concluding the opening month of the 2013 season by tying a franchise record with 16 wins in April, here are 10 thoughts to ponder as May begins:

1. Jason Hammel leads the club with four wins, but we’ve yet to see the 2012 version of the de facto ace show up this season. That’s not to say the right-hander hasn’t been one of the Orioles’ better starting pitchers, but the two-seam fastball that led to his renaissance last season hasn’t shown nearly the same bite through six starts this year. Despite a 3.79 earned run average, Hammel is averaging just 5.9 innings per start and his 5.3 strikeouts per nine innings is down dramatically from the 8.6 rate he held last season. Always possessing strong breaking stuff, Hammel needs to find a better feel for his two-seamer in order to make the rest of his repertoire more explosive. There was little debate that 2012 was a career season for Hammel prior to the knee surgery in July, but the Orioles didn’t actively pursue an impact starting pitcher with the thought — wise or not — that they had a pitcher with top-of-the rotation stuff. They’ll need better from Hammel over the next five months of the season.

2. Chris Davis’ historic opening-week start gained the most attention, but the free-swinging first baseman also collected 16 walks in April. His nine home runs have garnered plenty of press as opponents are pitching the left-handed slugger very carefully since the beginning of the season, but the walk totals have led many — including me — to praise Davis for an improved level of patience at the plate after he walked only 37 times during the 2012 season. However, the 27-year-old is seeing just 3.79 pitches per plate appearance after averaging 4.00 pitches per trip to the plate a year ago. Part of this can be explained by Davis’ strikeout rate decreasing (one every 3.5 at-bats compared to one per 3.0 at-bats last year), but it also indicates his walk numbers may not be sustained as his bat inevitably cools off at different points in the season. Regardless of just how much more patient Davis has become at the plate or not, it’s difficult to dispute how much of a force he’s become since the beginning of last season, making his acquisition in the Koji Uehara deal in 2011 a brilliant one by former president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail.

3. The decisions to let go of Mark Reynolds and Joe Saunders weren’t the problem, but electing not to replace them is looking more and more like a mistake. Anyone who expects the former Orioles first baseman to continue hitting .300 like he did in his first month with Cleveland will likely be disappointed, but his eight home runs would look very good in the Baltimore lineup right now. Considering Orioles designated hitters batted .144 and posted a .502 on-base plus slugging percentage in April, Reynolds occupying that role or first base — with Davis handling the other — would be a major boost to the lineup. Meanwhile, Saunders pitched a complete game against the Orioles on Monday night but has been abysmal away from Safeco Field (12.51 ERA) so far. As I said during the offseason, letting go of Reynolds and Saunders was fine if the intention was to upgrade each of their spots and executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette expressed the desire to acquire a middle-of-the-order bat and a veteran starting pitcher. However, neither of those goals were accomplished and that could continue to plague the Orioles throughout 2013.

4. Zach Britton turned in a poor 2013 debut, but his quick demotion sends the wrong message to the organization’s young pitchers. No one expected the 25-year-old left-hander to have a long leash given the higher expectations in Baltimore these days, but I can’t subscribe to the idea of sending down a pitcher who you hope will fit into your future after only one rough start. This creates the impression that young pitchers looking for their chance in Baltimore need to be perfect, which isn’t a mindset conducive to being successful. I also wonder what kind of message it sends to Norfolk manager Ron Johnson and pitching coach Mike Griffin, who gave their recommendation for Britton to be the next call-up after Josh Stinson’s failed start last week. A spot start for an organizational depth guy like Stinson or even a journeyman like Freddy Garcia is fine, but if the expectation all along was for Britton to only receive one chance, the club would have been better served leaving him in Norfolk and not messing with his head. Again, allowing six earned runs in six innings was far from acceptable, but it wasn’t the type of disastrous outing that warranted an immediate exit.

5. It’s safe to say Nolan Reimold has yet to adjust to his new role as the club’s primary designated hitter. Reimold has two home runs, five RBIs, and a 1.029 OPS in 29 plate appearances as the club’s left fielder, but the 29-year-old has posted an ugly .477 OPS with one homer and two RBIs in 52 plate appearances while serving in the DH spot. The problem for Reimold is the remarkable play of Nate McLouth, who has been more productive at the plate and is better defensively in the outfield. Manager Buck Showalter can’t justify taking McLouth out of left field, so Reimold needs to adjust to his new role, which can be difficult for individuals accustomed to being in the game as a defensive player. The good news for Reimold is that he’s remained healthy after undergoing spinal fusion surgery last year, but the Orioles must get better production from the designated hitter or will need to begin looking at other options for the role. It’s fair to acknowledge he’s still regaining strength and is adjusting to not having quite as much range of motion in his neck after the surgery, but Reimold would be the first to tell you he needs to be better at the plate.

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Orioles recall RHP Clark, option Britton to Triple-A Norfolk

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Orioles recall RHP Clark, option Britton to Triple-A Norfolk

Posted on 30 April 2013 by Luke Jones

Continuing to need extra help in their overworked bullpen, the Orioles recalled right-handed pitcher Zach Clark and optioned left-hander Zach Britton to Triple-A Norfolk before Tuesday night’s game in Seattle.

The club also officially selected the contract of veteran catcher Chris Snyder and designated fellow catcher Luis Exposito for assignment to make room for Snyder on the 40-man roster.

The 25-year-old Britton made his first start of the season on Monday, allowing six earned runs in six innings as the Orioles suffered a 6-2 loss to the Mariners. The Orioles will need a starter for Britton’s spot in the rotation on Saturday in Anaheim, which means they will likely be using their fourth different pitcher in the last four starts for the fifth spot in the rotation.

Though Britton’s performance hardly inspired confidence, his demotion after just one start doesn’t speak well for his overall standing and likely doesn’t send the best message to young pitchers in the organization. The mentality that you need to earn a spot is fine, but holding too short of a leash could also make pitchers feel they need to be perfect, which isn’t conducive to being successful.

Some had thought the club would elect to send out reserve outfielder Chris Dickerson, who has seldom been used as the fourth player on the bench. Manager Buck Showalter hasn’t shied away from using a short bench in the past, so it seemed like an appropriate time to replace Dickerson with another arm to help the bullpen.

The question now becomes whether Showalter and the Orioles will turn to veteran right-hander Freddy Garcia, who pitched eight strong innings on Monday night and currently has a 2.67 ERA in five starts covering 33 2/3 innings of work. The 36-year-old agreed on Monday to extend his opt-out clause to May 14.

Right-hander Jair Jurrjens is scheduled to start for the Tides on Friday, meaning he would also be a candidate for Saturday’s start against the Los Angeles Angels.

Clark, 29, was born in Delaware and is a UMBC graduate who will be making his major league debut if and when he appears in a game for the Orioles. He is 1-2 with a 4.56 earned run average in five starts covering 25 2/3 innings with Norfolk this season. Last season, he went 15-7 with a 2.79 ERA in 28 games (26 starts) with Double-A Bowie and the Tides.

The rookie will wear No. 64.

The 32-year-old Snyder was acquired in a trade with the Angels on Sunday. He is a career .225 hitter in nine major league seasons with Arizona, Pittsburgh, and Houston. He has thrown out 29 percent (141-for-488) of attempted base stealers in his career. Snyder was batting .342 with seven home runs and 21 RBIs in 21 games for Triple-A Salt Lake this season. He will wear No. 48.

Exposito didn’t appear in a game during his two-day stint with the 25-man roster following the weekend injury to backup catcher Taylor Teagarden.

In other roster news, right-handed pitcher Steve Johnson was reinstated from the 15-day disabled list and optioned to Norfolk after making two rehab starts for the Tides. He was placed on the DL on March 23 with a right lat strain.

Optioning Johnson to the Tides means he will not be an option for Saturday’s start as he will need to remain with the Tides for 10 days barring an injury on the 25-man roster that forces a player to the disabled list.

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