Tag Archive | "Zach Britton"

Handling Matusz interesting case for young, contending Orioles

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Handling Matusz interesting case for young, contending Orioles

Posted on 18 February 2013 by Luke Jones

Last August, the career of Orioles pitcher Brian Matusz appeared to be at a crossroads after the left-hander had been relegated to the minor leagues for the second consecutive season.

His numbers weren’t as bad as a historically-poor 2011 season in which his earned run average ballooned to 10.69, a major league record for a pitcher making at least 10 starts in a season, but the 2008 first-round pick had clearly been left behind by a club fighting to make its first postseason appearance in 15 years. In 16 starts, Matusz went 5-10 with a 5.42 ERA before he was optioned to Triple-A Norfolk shortly before the All-Star break.

That’s where it appeared he would remain for the final stretch of the season — with a token September call-up potentially being thrown in — before lefty relief pitcher Troy Patton suffered a sprained ankle in August. That prompted manager Buck Showalter to view the demoted Matusz in a new light as a left-handed setup man. Described by some as not having a receptive attitude toward coaching, Matusz embraced the new role, in part because he knew it was likely his only ticket back to Baltimore to pitch in a pennant race.

“For me, it was just being able to settle in and learn a lot from the guys and just go out and attack the zone and throw strikes,” Matusz said. “That was the big key for me — get ahead in the count and just have fun.”

Matusz thrived in the new role, pitching to a 1.35 ERA in 18 relief appearances. The southpaw appeared in all six of the Orioles’ playoff games last season, allowing the game-winning home run to Raul Ibanez in Game 3 of the American League Division Series but surrendering only one earned run in 4 2/3 innings.

With left-handed hitters holding a .219 career average against Matusz, Showalter used the former starter against key left-handed bats initially but expanded his role as he continued to thrive as a reliever. Matusz was throwing more strikes as a reliever (73 percent of his pitches compared to just 64 percent as a starter in 2012) and showed electric stuff as batters were swinging and missing on 16 percent of his pitches compared to just seven percent over his 16 starts.

The young pitcher admitted liking the need to prepare to be ready to pitch every day as opposed to the routine of a starter that left him on the bench for four straight days, allowing great spans of time to think about his struggles over the last two years. Last season’s turnaround has left many to wonder whether the Orioles would be wise to move Matusz to the bullpen permanently despite the fact that he enters the spring being stretched out as a starter once again.

“I have the opportunity to be a starter at the start of spring,” Matusz said. “That’s what I’ve been doing my whole life, and ultimately, that’s what I’d like to do. I have the opportunity, so I’m going to roll with it and just go out and pitch my game and have fun.”

You can understand the organization’s preference to keep Matusz in a starting role after investing the No. 4 overall pick and a $3.2 million signing bonus in the pitcher in 2008, and it’s not as though the Orioles’ starting rotation is set in stone with established big-league starters manning every spot. Jason Hammel, Wei-Yin Chen, Miguel Gonzalez, and Chris Tillman are the favorites to grab the first four jobs in the rotation, but the fifth starter spot is wide open as Matusz will compete with Jair Jurrjens, Jake Arrieta, Zach Britton, Tommy Hunter, and Rule 5 selection T.J. McFarland.

If 2013 is anything like last season, the Orioles are bound to see changes in their starting rotation, due to injury or ineffectiveness, so the confidence boost Matusz received after success in the final two months could go a long way in the lefty establishing himself as a viable starting pitcher. Even if Matusz were to start the year in Norfolk, the Orioles may need to turn to him as they did with Tillman and Gonzalez last season before the two right-handers became key contributors in the second half of the season.

Critics doubting Matusz’s ability to finally figure it out as a starter need only look at the revitalization of Tillman last season as evidence that the light could come on for the University of San Diego product, but perhaps the most interesting question will be how the Orioles handle the left-hander should he not emerge as one of the best five starters during spring training. Matusz has an option remaining, meaning he could be sent to Norfolk to continue working as a starter, but would Showalter and the Orioles leave his arm in the minors when they know how deadly he can be as a reliever against left-handed bats?

The manager has never been one to obsess over playing matchups, preferring pitchers who are effective against hitters from either side of the plate, but it’s difficult to ignore Matusz’s overwhelming success against left-handed hitters in his career. Patton is also the only left-hander projected to be part of the Baltimore bullpen to begin the season, making it an appropriate fit for Matusz to land there once again.

If the Orioles elect to move Matusz back to the bullpen early on, it would likely mean he’d remain there for the rest of the season as it’s a dangerous line to walk with a pitcher’s health when moving back and forth between starting and relief roles — particularly when attempting to stretch out a reliever without the benefit of an offseason to prepare. At this stage of Matusz’s major league career, the Orioles would have to wonder whether it’s time to simply keep him in the bullpen if it means a third straight year of lukewarm results as a starter.

Regardless of the arguments some have made about Matusz having too much value in the Baltimore bullpen, there’s no disputing that it’s easier to find a left-handed setup man than it is to find an effective southpaw starter. A good starting pitcher is a far more valuable asset to a club than a bullpen arm, but Matusz needs to prove he can do the job over six or seven innings consistently and time is running out for that debate.

The Orioles are making the right move in at least stretching out Matusz in preparing him to start, but it will be interesting to see how quickly Showalter pulls the plug if he’s ineffective and moves the lefty to the bullpen with the memory of last year’s success in the manager’s mind. It’s the kind of problem the Orioles wouldn’t have had in the past when a pennant race was never on the radar and young pitchers could develop with little else on the line.

If it comes down to pitching in a pennant race again or riding buses in the International League, it’s likely Matusz won’t balk at a relief role again, even with his state — and understandable — preference to start.

“Obviously, at the end of last year, we were on a good roll with making the playoff push,” Matusz said. “Things were clicking at the right time and it was a lot of fun.”

A lot of fun, indeed, but you wonder if it was only a temporary detour in his career as a starter or a sign of what’s to come for a pitcher with plenty of unfulfilled promise entering his fifth season in the majors.

The D&L Window Tinting Morning Reaction discussed Brian Matusz in Monday’s Spring Training Spotlight. You can listen to the segment HERE.

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Five questions to ponder for Orioles spring training

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Five questions to ponder for Orioles spring training

Posted on 13 February 2013 by Luke Jones

The Orioles held their first workouts for pitchers and catchers to officially kick off spring training in Sarasota on Wednesday.

Trying to build on a 93-win campaign that included their first trip to the playoffs in 15 years, the Orioles have several questions marks after a quiet offseason void of significant moves.

Here are five questions to ponder as Baltimore begins preparations for the 2013 season:

1. Can Nolan Reimold stay healthy and be the impact bat the Orioles failed to acquire in the offseason?

Executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette failed in his quest to acquire a middle-of-the-order bat, but a healthy Reimold would go a long way in providing the extra offense the Orioles are looking for after they finished ninth in runs scored and 11th in on-base percentage in the American League last season. Of course, expecting Reimold to stay injury-free has only resulted in frustration over the years as the left fielder missed most of last season after undergoing spinal fusion surgery.

The good news is Reimold is already taking live batting practice and appears to be 100 percent for spring training as he will compete with Nate McLouth for the starting job in left field. McLouth is the superior fielder and has more speed, but few would argue Reimold’s ability at the plate as he hit .313 with five home runs in 67 at-bats last season.

The club could elect to use Reimold as the designated hitter more frequently to keep him healthy, and he would be an ideal fit in the No. 2 spot because of his plate discipline (a career .338 on-base percentage in 916 plate appearances in the majors) or in the fifth or sixth spot because of his power. At 29, Reimold appears to be running out of time as a viable option on which the Orioles can depend moving forward, but the club signed him for $1 million in the offseason and maintains control of him through the 2015 season.

Duquette didn’t acquire an established veteran bat and also parted ways with slugger Mark Reynolds, so this spring will be critical for Reimold to prove he can provide extra punch to the lineup. If he’s again unhealthy, the Orioles will be forced to lean more heavily on McLouth, who carries his own baggage despite a 2012 renaissance in Baltimore.

2. What will the starting rotation look like when the Orioles come north to Baltimore?

The starting rotation would appear to have a more definitive outline than it did as this time last year as Jason Hammel, Wei-Yin Chen, Miguel Gonzalez, and Chris Tillman all put forth career seasons in 2012, but none of those four come without questions this spring. Concerns over Hammel’s knee were eased with his ability to pitch effectively in the postseason, but the Orioles hope he can replicate his first half last season when he looked like an ace and was included in the fan vote for the final spot on the AL All-Star team.

Chen and Gonzalez will need to prove their rookie campaigns weren’t flukes as the rest of the league will be more familiar with each and the latter’s 170-pound frame will always cause some to question his durability over a full season. Adjustments made to Tillman’s mechanics by director of pitching development Rick Peterson paid major dividends last year, but the 24-year-old will need to replicate that success over an entire season in the big leagues.

Even if those four pick up right where they left off, manager Buck Showalter and pitching coach Rick Adair must sift through a number of other candidates to replace the fifth spot in the rotation left behind by veteran left Joe Saunders, who signed with Seattle last week. Jake Arrieta, Brian Matusz, Steve Johnson, Zach Britton, and Tommy Hunter will all be in the mix, but each comes with their limitations and concerns.

The Orioles continue to point to strength in numbers as it pertains to the starting rotation as 12 pitchers made starts for Baltimore last season. And to offer some perspective on how quickly things can change due to injury or ineffectiveness, three-fifths of the rotation that began the 2012 season landed in the minor leagues by the All-Star break.

The top four will have the inside track for rotation spots entering the spring, but Showalter won’t hesitate to make changes quickly if anyone isn’t up to the task.

3. Who will step up to play second base?

Yes, Brian Roberts is still with the Orioles as he enters the final season of a four-year contract that’s seen him play 115 games combined in the last three years. The 35-year-old infielder appears to be recovered from hip surgery and an offseason surgery to correct a sports hernia, but viewing Roberts as a viable option feels more like you’re being polite than at all realistic.

The Orioles acquired the slick-fielding Alexi Casilla off waivers from the Minnesota Twins after the switch-hitting second baseman played in a career-high 106 games last season. The 28-year-old is a career .250 hitter and provides good speed (21 stolen bases in 2012), but it remains to be seen whether he can handle full-time duties at the plate or he’ll be exposed over a bigger sample of at-bats.

The most intriguing option from an offensive perspective would be Ryan Flaherty, who split duties at second base with the departed Robert Andino at the end of last season. Thought limited defensively, Flaherty hit six home runs in 153 at-bats as a Rule 5 player who stuck on the 25-man roster all season.

Because of Showalter’s preference for strong defense up the middle, Casilla would appear to be the favorite to handle the bulk of the duties at second base due to Roberts’ frailty and Flaherty’s limitations in the field. However, this will remain a very fluid position to watch as the spring progresses.

4. How will Showalter handle the designated hitter spot in the order?

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Orioles option Britton to Norfolk, will recall Steve Johnson for Wednesday’s start

Posted on 08 August 2012 by WNST Staff

The Orioles announced after Tuesday’s game that they have optioned left-handed pitcher Zach Britton to Triple-A Norfolk. Britton is 1-1 with an 8.10 earned run average in five starts for the Orioles this season.

A corresponding roster move will be announced Wednesday, but the Orioles are expected to recall Tides pitcher Steve Johnson to make the start after scheduled starter Tommy Hunter warmed up in the bullpen during the Orioles’ 8-7 win over Seattle that lasted 14 innings.

Johnson made his major league debut against the Detroit Tigers on July 15, pitching two innings and allowing an earned run on a home run by Miguel Cabrera. He was optioned back to Norfolk following that game.

The 24-year-old is 4-8 with a 2.86 ERA in 19 games at Triple A, 14 of those being starts.

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If the season ended today, how much better off would the Orioles be for the future?

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If the season ended today, how much better off would the Orioles be for the future?

Posted on 22 July 2012 by Luke Jones

With Sunday’s 4-3 win over the Indians, the Orioles ended the weekend tied for the American League wild-card lead on the heels of a five-game winning streak in Minnesota and Cleveland.

As I’ve written many times over the last few months, the 2012 season has been a fun and romantic ride for Orioles fans stricken with suffering through listless summers toward losing season after losing season. The late-inning comebacks and unlikely heroes have left nearly everyone scratching their heads in disbelief as the numbers suggest they shouldn’t be nearly as prosperous as they’ve been.

Left for dead less than a week ago after falling to only two games above .500 for the first time since April, the resilient Orioles suddenly have a pulse again with an impressive turn through the current starting rotation that started with Tommy Hunter on Wednesday and ended Sunday with Zach Britton, who tossed six shutout innings to earn his first victory of the season.

The winning streak will inevitably turn up the volume on trade deadline discussion and the Orioles’ wild-card chances, but a much louder question has sounded in my head over the last month as we’ve watched the offense struggle and Brian Matusz, Jake Arrieta, and Hunter be demoted to Triple-A Norfolk.

If the season were to end today, how much better off would the Orioles be for the future than they were at the start of the 2012 campaign?

My answer — at least entering the final week of July — sounds like the ultimate wet blanket, especially when you remember where the Orioles currently sit in the standings after 95 games.

But truthfully, I’m not sure the club is markedly improved in terms of being able to compete long-term.

Yes, we can discuss the potential psychological breakthrough of ending a spell of 14 straight losing seasons and the effect it might have on potential free agents viewing Baltimore as a more viable destination, but that only matters if majority owner Peter Angelos and executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette make the financial commitment to capitalize in the offseason.

The bullpen has been outstanding with Jim Johnson leading the way to eliminate any doubts that may have lingered last offseason about his ability to close out victories. However, the collective performance of a bullpen from season to season is as dependable as the stock market, meaning the likelihood of getting the same outstanding performances from each Orioles reliever next year and beyond is highly unlikely.

Offensively speaking, center fielder Adam Jones is enjoying a career year and received a six-year contract to keep him in Baltimore, but his production since early June has leveled off, suggesting 2012 is a year of steady improvement for the 26-year-old rather than a quantum leap to MVP candidacy on an annual basis. Catcher Matt Wieters is having another good season in becoming one of the best catchers in baseball, but his offense hasn’t taken a step forward from his first All-Star campaign a year ago. Of course, that’s not a knock on either player as they’re the Orioles’ two most dependable run producers, but we already knew that entering the season.

Aside from the surprisingly versatile Chris Davis looking like a solid — but unspectacular — everyday player, some combination of injury, ineffectiveness, and poor defense has hamstrung every other regular in the Baltimore lineup. The club needs to address multiple positions in the offseason, with the corner infield positions, second base, and left field all included.

And that brings us to the starting pitching, the area in which the Orioles have been most disappointing beyond the surprising performances of newcomer Jason Hammel and Taiwanese rookie Wei-Yin Chen. The regression of Matusz and Arrieta has been discouraging at best and devastating at worst when considering the high expectations for each pitcher.

As encouraging as this last turn through the rotation as been, I’m not ready to sign off on Miguel Gonzalez, Chris Tillman, or Britton as mainstays of the rotation a month from now let alone a year from now.

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Orioles officially recall Britton, add Bergesen for bullpen help

Posted on 17 July 2012 by Luke Jones

The revolving roster door swung open again Tuesday as the Orioles officially recalled left-handed pitcher Zach Britton and purchased the contract of right-hander Brad Bergesen to add a fresh arm to a weary bullpen prior to the second of a four-game set with the Minnesota Twins.

Right-hander reliever Miguel Socolovich was optioned to Triple-A Norfolk and second baseman Robert Andino was placed on the 15-day disabled list after Monday’s MRI revealed the infielder would miss at least three weeks with a left shoulder injury. To clear room for Bergesen on the 40-man roster, designated hitter Nick Johnson (right wrist) was moved to the 60-day disabled list.

Britton’s 2012 debut came much later than anyone expected after the 24-year-old opened the season on the disabled list with a nerve impingement in his left shoulder. Upon being activated on June 6, the left-hander was optioned to Triple-A Norfolk where the Orioles wanted to see him continue to build arm strength as well as work on commanding his breaking pitches better.

In eight starts with the Tides, Britton was 4-1 with a 4.15 earned run average over 47 2/3 innings. In his final tuneup in Triple A on July 12, he pitched seven shutout innings while striking out six and allowing four hits in a 7-0 victory for the Tides.

The addition of Bergesen brings a fresh arm to a tired Baltimore bullpen that pitched 7 1/3 innings Monday in an embarrassing 19-7 loss to the Twins. He is 4-3 with one save and a 4.03 ERA in 80 1/3 innings over 22 games (10 starts) with Triple-A Norfolk this season.  He has pitched to a 2.89 ERA in 28 innings out of the bullpen this season, including a 2.35 clip in his last 10 appearances since June 9.

Socolovich made his major league debut on Saturday and allowed four earned runs in four innings of work for the Orioles.

With Jim Thome now holding down the designated hitter duties for the Orioles, Johnson’s future with the club remains in doubt, but he’s been on the disabled list since June 28 and has a history of chronic wrist issues.

Right-handed pitcher Tommy Hunter will make Wednesday’s start in Minnesota, meaning the Orioles will be making yet another roster move in the next 24 hours.

Given how poorly the Orioles have pitched in recent weeks, the barrage of moves feels like little more than rearranging the deck chairs on the sinking Titantic with so few appealing options at their disposal.

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Hammel leaning toward knee surgery to have loose cartilage removed

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Hammel leaning toward knee surgery to have loose cartilage removed

Posted on 14 July 2012 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — After undergoing an MRI that revealed the loose cartilage in his right knee has moved to a more uncomfortable place, Orioles pitcher Jason Hammel appears to be leaning toward having surgery.

No decision will be made until Sunday, but all signs point to the 29-year-old being placed on the 15-day disabled list. Hammel could elect to rest the knee in hopes that the loose cartilage will move away from the joint, which is causing him more pain than where the cartilage rested before. The MRI did not reveal any new structural damage from what he’s already been dealing with throughout the season.

“At this point, it’s kind of like a thing where you’re done dealing with it,” Hammel said. “I don’t know yet.”

Manager Buck Showalter estimated a surgical procedure would leave Hammel with a projected return in early September. His loss will further decimate a starting rotation that’s seen three of its Opening Day members sent to Triple-A Norfolk in the last two weeks.

Hammel said the knee had felt much better in recent weeks, especially after coming back from the All-Star break for a team workout on Thursday. However, he felt the cartilage move delivering a 1-2 pitch to Brennan Boesch in the top of the fourth inning of Friday night’s loss.

“It’s got to be soon because I don’t want to miss too much time,” Hammel said. “It’s a pretty simple procedure to go in there — it’d just be a regular scope. I could let it rest and I’d miss a little bit of time that way, but I think it’d be better to kind of just get it taken care of.”

With Hammel likely going to the disabled list on Sunday, the Orioles could elect to call up another bullpen arm after the entire bullpen sans Luis Ayala — who pitched 1 1/3 innings on Friday — worked in the 13-inning win over the Tigers on Saturday night.

The right-hander has been the club’s best starter in his first season in Baltimore, going 8-6 with a 3.54 earned run average in 18 starts. Hammel was one of five finalists for the American League’s “Final Vote” spot for the 2012 All-Star Game.

The latest development with Hammel will force the Orioles to continue making roster moves as Chris Tillman is scheduled to be recalled to pitch in Minnesota on Monday. The club will also need starting pitchers for Tuesday and Wednesday, with Zach Britton and Brian Matuz the likely candidates for those assignments.

“We’re going to have to make room for Tillman on Monday,” Showalter said. “The options are dwindling because [Jason] Berken pitched for [Triple-A Norfolk on Saturday].”

Reliever Steve Johnson is on the 40-man roster and hasn’t pitched since July 8, making him a strong candidate to be recalled temporarily to take Hammel’s spot on Sunday and give the Orioles an extra arm in the bullpen.

Visit the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault to hear more from Jason Hammel about his right knee injury right here.

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Britton primed for Tuesday call-up after strong Norfolk start

Posted on 12 July 2012 by Luke Jones

Opportunity has been ringing like an alarm clock pitcher Zach Britton has slept through for the better part of the last five weeks.

With three-fifths of the Opening Day rotation now working in Triple-A Norfolk and the Orioles needing a starter on Tuesday in Minnesota, it appears the left-hander is finally ready to answer the bell after struggling with consistency upon being activated from the disabled list.

Britton pitched seven shutout innings for Triple-A Norfolk against Lehigh Valley on Thursday, putting himself in position to be recalled for the first time this season. The southpaw allowed four hits, struck out six, and walked none over his 93 pitches of work in the 7-0 victory for the Tides. He also induced 10 groundball outs compared to three fly outs and reportedly showed excellent fastball command in the lower half of the strike zone.

The stellar outing improved Britton’s record to 4-1 and lowered his earned run average to 4.15. Over his last five starts, the 24-year-old has allowed 10 earned runs and 24 hits in 32 innings while striking out 23 and walking 12.

The organization has wanted to see Britton improve his command while continuing to build strength in his pitching shoulder. Now, it appears he’s on the verge of regaining his spot in the Baltimore starting rotation.

Britton would also be working on regular rest Tuesday when the Orioles play the second game of a four-game set against the Twins.

Jason Hammel, Wei-Yin Chen, and Chris Tillman will be the starters against the Detroit Tigers this weekend while Miguel Gonzalez is scheduled to take the ball in the series opener in Minnesota on Monday night.

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matusz

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Matusz falters, Johnson recalled – Who do the Orioles call up next?

Posted on 02 July 2012 by hopebirchfield

After the abysmal performance of starter Brian Matusz in Sunday’s loss to the Cleveland Indians, he was optioned to Norfolk immediately following the game. In only four innings, Matusz gave up 7 hits on 5 runs (4 earned) and walked four. With the loss, Brian Matusz was awarded his tenth loss of season and fifth loss in a row. It was announced that Steve Johnson would be recalled from Norfolk to join the Orioles bullpen on the road in Seattle. In his last four outings cumulatively totaling 12.1 innings, Johnson has given up only five hits on no runs and has fanned 20. The Orioles are obviously looking to add a long-lasting reliever with the hesitant performances of the starting rotation as of late. Within the next week however, the Orioles will likely need to recall a starting pitcher. Who are the best two options to call up from the Norfolk Tides? Zach Britton and Chris Tillman (Read on before you send hate mail).

Zach “Sinker” Britton

Zach was the starting pitcher on Sunday evening as the Tides looked to best the Syracuse Chiefs. Watching him come out of the gate strong retiring the side in the first (including striking out two), you can not help but wonder whether Britton had heard of the upcoming rotation spot. In five innings, Britton yielded one earned run and struck out seven. There were times when his control and command were not at its best and times when he visibly struggled. All in all, it was not his best performance but it certainly was not his worst performance either. He exited the game losing so even though the Tides won, he did not register a decision.

In the last four games, Britton’s ERA is 4.80 and he has struck out 13 in 21 innings of work. Britton primarily relies on his sinker with velocities in the low to mid 90s, much to the chagrin of the opposing offense. His arsenal also includes an above-average slider and a below-average (but improved) changeup. Typically, Britton throws his sinker as he often has trouble commanding his changeup. With a sinker with such high velocity, when Britton is on his game, he is almost un-hittable. While pitching with the Baltimore Orioles last year; he split the season with eleven wins and eleven losses. His final ERA was 4.61 on the year and he recorded 97 strikeouts. Due to an impingement of his left shoulder, Britton was added to the disabled list in March and has been rehabbing with the Norfolk Tides since June 6th.

It is obvious that eventually Zach Britton will go back to the Baltimore Orioles but when is the more pertinent question. While he still is throwing well, his ERA is similar to the one that yielded a split 11-11 decision with the Orioles. In the most recent game against the Chiefs, Britton commanded the ball extremely well but he is still finding his rhythm. A few more starts at the Norfolk Tides could make him an even better addition for when down the stretch.

Why not Chris Tillman?

Before the collective sighs from Orioles fans who remember his 5.60 ERA, 7-15 record in the 2009 through 2011 season, let me just say that in his last four outings (21-plus innings), he recorded 27 strikeouts. No, that’s not a typo – He has fanned 27 people in 21 innings. Chris Tillman is a different player this year. Farm teams were created to develop player mechanics and before you discount him just because he’s Chris Tillman, his mechanics have greatly improved and made him an elite competitor.

In his recent performances, Tillman has won his last four decisions with a 2.57 ERA, including one shutout performance in Toledo. His fastball has picked up some stream and reaches 94-95 mph pretty consistently. He also has an above-average curveball and an average cutter. In the past, Orioles fans have seen Tillman struggle with commanding the ball, often flustered with runners on base and seeming to quickly unravel with base runners. This year, however, the Chris Tillman that takes the mound is more disciplined with better control. Often Tillman is overlooked because of his performances at the big club but he clearly lives by the mantra – “Practice makes perfect.” Surely his command and control have improved, as can be seen with his ERA dropping and shutout appearances. Like most pitchers, there are times when he still struggles, but unfortunately that can be said about the majority of pitchers currently on the Orioles. There is a reason why farm teams exist and Tillman may be the poster child for their success in developing mechanics of young players. At 24, Tillman may be one of the future pitchers in this organization if he continues to pitch as he has been in his recent outings. If the Orioles actually take the proverbial leap of faith and recall him, Tillman may surprise a lot of people. The numbers in his recent three seasons with the Orioles are not a good indication of his skill level or his recent development. Perhaps this is the case when it’s the 4th time that is a charm.

Final Thoughts

Jason Hammel and Wei-Yin Chen cannot be the only reliable pitchers in the starting rotation. With the recent departure of Tommy Hunter and Brian Matusz, Showalter has made it clear that sub par performances will only be tolerated for so long. Personally, I would like to see both Britton and Tillman at the big league level later this season. They both are dominating pitchers who can throw the ball well with good movement. Who knows? With Tillman being a righty and Britton being a lefty, perhaps they can create a duo that we can deem “Hammel and Chen, Version 2.0.”

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Orioles faced with interesting roster decision in last stretch before All-Star break

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Orioles faced with interesting roster decision in last stretch before All-Star break

Posted on 26 June 2012 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — Fresh from a day off before a stretch of 13 games in 13 days that will lead them into the All-Star break, the Orioles will be faced with interesting roster decisions to conclude the first half.

Reliever Matt Lindstrom is back in Baltimore and is expected to be activated prior to Wednesday’s game against the Los Angeles Angels. On the 15-day disabled list since May 11 with a partially torn ligament in his middle finger, Lindstrom will be examined by team doctors and hopes to pick up where he left off after allowing only two earned runs in his first 13 appearances (14 innings) this season.

However, who he replaces on the 25-man roster remains up in the air with left-hander Dana Eveland returning to the team on Tuesday night. The Orioles planned to place Eveland on the paternity leave list to buy some time on a roster decision, but the long reliever is back sooner than expected.

Further complicating the decision is the Orioles’ need for a fifth starter on Saturday, with Tommy Hunter the most likely candidate to receive the ball in the third of a four-game set against the Cleveland Indians. With Eveland not available against the Angels on Tuesday, Hunter was available to pitch in the bullpen.

If Hunter is need in the bullpen, Saturday’s starter would likely come from Triple-A Norfolk. Miguel Gonzalez is slated to pitch Saturday for the Tides and left-hander Zach Britton made the start for Norfolk on Tuesday night.

Aside from electing to go without a long man in the bullpen, the only other relief pitcher you would even consider shipping out would be former closer Kevin Gregg, but his status is well documented with a $5.8 million salary owed to him in 2012. With the trade deadline just over a month away, the Orioles would like to see if they can move Gregg — understanding they’d likely have to pay some of his salary — and at least get something modest in return.

The most realistic option might be to go with a shorter bench with the club not having another day off until the All-Star break. Infielder Steve Tolleson would be the most likely player to be optioned in that scenario. However, the Orioles will travel to the West Coast next week, making it more difficult to summon someone from the minor leagues in the event of an injury to a position player.

Markakis not swinging yet

Right fielder Nick Markakis had hoped to begin swinging a bat on Monday, but he’ll have to continue waiting impatiently.

The surgical incision on his right hand hasn’t closed completely, and the club wants it to be fully healed before he begins taking swings. Manager Buck Showalter hopes Markakis can begin doing so Friday, meaning his chances of returning before the All-Star break are growing dimmer.

“It’s frustrating, but that’s the time the body needs to heal up,” Markakis said. “You can’t rush it. It’s just a matter of healing up and getting this incision closed up all the way. It’s close, a couple more days — we’ll see.”

Though Markakis and Showalter both expressed hope that the outfielder would be able to return by the final series of the first half in Anaheim, he will need to go on a minor league rehab assignment. With the 28-year-old not beginning to swing until Friday at the earliest, a return before the start of the second half seems very ambitious.

Markakis would begin with dry swings before progressing to tee work and live batting practice. He would then likely play in at least a couple minor league games before rejoining the 25-man roster.

“It’s going to be close on the All-Star break,” Showalter said. “I don’t see us getting him back before the Anaheim series at their place.”

Injury updates

Outfielder Endy Chavez is making little progress on the hamstring injury that landed him on the 15-day disabled list on June 14. He is currently rehabbing in Sarasota.

A forgotten man after dealing with a back injury since spring training, catcher Taylor Teagarden is ready to go on a rehab assignment. He will begin playing with the Gulf Coast League team and could be activated shortly after the All-Star break if all goes well.

Showalter said outfielder Nolan Reimold had already regained strength in his arm and hand just a few hours after Monday’s neck surgery. He also revealed the herniated disc may have stemmed from an April game in Chicago in which Reimold dove into the stands after a foul ball.

Visit the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault to hear more from Nick Markakis and Buck Showalter.

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Some free advice for Britton, Newsome, Davis, more

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Some free advice for Britton, Newsome, Davis, more

Posted on 14 June 2012 by Glenn Clark

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