Tag Archive | "Zach Britton"

Orioles recall LHP Britton from Triple-A Norfolk for West Coast trip

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Orioles recall LHP Britton from Triple-A Norfolk for West Coast trip

Posted on 25 April 2013 by Luke Jones

With an open spot on the 25-man roster and needing an additional bullpen arm for the next game or two in Oakland, the Orioles have recalled left-handed pitcher Zach Britton from Triple-A Norfolk.

Britton replaces right-handed pitcher Josh Stinson, who was optioned to the Tides on Wednesday following the Orioles’ 6-5 loss to Toronto. Stinson allowed four home runs and will be replaced by Britton in the starting rotation.

The Orioles will not use Britton’s spot in the rotation until they travel to Seattle on Monday, meaning he will be available to pitch out of the bullpen over the next couple days with the club using their relievers extensively over the last week. Britton was scheduled to pitch for the Tides on Thursday night, so manager Buck Showalter will likely prefer to give the left-hander at least an inning or two of work in one of the next two games.

The 25-year-old southpaw was 1-0 with 1.98 earned run average in three starts for the Tides this season but had been dealing with a blister on his finger at the start of the season. Unlike Stinson, you would expect the Orioles to give Britton at least a few starts to assess whether he can handle a starting spot moving forward.

Since making his major league debut in 2011, Britton is 6-14 with a 4.74 ERA in 214.2/3 innings covering 40 games, 39 of them being starts. He was in contention for the final spot in the Orioles’ starting rotation this spring, but his final start of the spring when he allowed five earned runs in just 1 2/3 innings against Toronto.

Right-hander Jake Arrieta won the fifth starter job out of spring training but was optioned to Triple-A Norfolk after posting a 6.63 ERA with 16 walks in 19 innings over four starts.

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Familiar predicament emerging in back end of Orioles rotation

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Familiar predicament emerging in back end of Orioles rotation

Posted on 24 April 2013 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — The writing was on the wall for the Orioles after starting pitcher Jake Arrieta’s early struggles made it apparent he wasn’t going to stick in Baltimore.

As was the case for large portions of last season, the rotation carousel is in full motion as right-hander Josh Stinson was the first to receive an opportunity just a few weeks after being claimed off waivers from the Oakland Athletics. The 25-year-old had gone through that process two other times in the last year, giving off the impression that he’s talented enough to want but not good enough to keep for the long haul.

Manager Buck Showalter chose Stinson over other candidates Zach Britton and Freddy Garcia — citing positive reviews from Triple-A Norfolk manager Ron Johnson and Tides pitching coach Mike Griffin — and was asked whether this was a one-shot opportunity for the right-hander or if he would receive an extended look spanning a few starts. The Baltimore skipper’s response was familiar, especially when remembering the Orioles used 12 different starting pitchers last season.

“I’m looking at it as, ‘We’ll see,’” Showalter said. “Ask me after Wednesday if it was one shot. Would you like to have [only] one shot in the big leagues? I hope not. I hope he pitches well and he pitches again Monday in Seattle.”

It didn’t happen as Stinson was immediately optioned back to Triple-A Norfolk following the 6-5 extra-inning loss to Toronto to end a 6-3 homestand. Stinson showed a few impressive breaking pitches at different points but allowed four home runs and was lifted in the sixth inning. Another opportunity in Baltimore could lie ahead, but it’s clear Stinson will have to work his way back up the pecking order to do so.

Next man up to the plate — or to the hill, in this case.

As for Monday’s start, the Orioles will likely be looking at the same candidates they did this time around as these decisions are often based strongly on the timing of the start and how it coincides with the schedule of the Norfolk rotation. The club will call up an extra arm to pitch out of the bullpen for the next few days, but Mike Belfiore, their only reliever at Norfolk who is currently on the 40-man roster aside from Alex Burnett, hasn’t pitched well to begin the season. Burnett was optioned on Wednesday and isn’t allowed to be recalled for 10 days unless he is replacing a player sent to the disabled list.

Considering they’d only be bringing up a reliever for a few days, the Orioles would like to avoid making a 40-man roster move if possible.

The Orioles could also elect to simply recall Britton or select the contract of fellow Norfolk starter Jair Jurrjens and give that pitcher a couple innings on either Thursday or Friday, which would prevent an additional roster move and serve as a vessel to adjust their scheduled day to start to fall on Monday in Seattle. Garcia pitched on Tuesday night and would be going on only one extra day of rest if he’s deemed the guy for Monday, but he wouldn’t provide the same flexibility to pitch out of the bullpen for at least an additional day.

Right-hander Steve Johnson would earn strong consideration for the start under normal circumstances, but he just started a rehab assignment in Triple A on Wednesday, allowing four earned runs in five innings of work against Charlotte.

The options are there, but finding a good one is the real challenge. If any of these pitchers were proven solutions, they’d likely already be part of the Baltimore rotation or pitching elsewhere in the big leagues.

Despite the improved stability of the starting rotation entering spring training, you knew the Orioles would find themselves in this spot sooner rather than later. Their best hope is that one of the many candidates they have in the farm system can emerge in the way Miguel Gonzalez and Chris Tillman did last year.

Until then, let the plethora of roster moves begin.

End of extras streak

An incredible stretch of 17 consecutive wins in extra-inning games in the regular season came to an end on Wednesday as closer Jim Johnson walked in the go-ahead run in the 11th inning.

It was the third straight day Johnson had pitched, but his outing started strongly enough by recording three straight outs. With two outs in the 11th, he allowed two soft singles and plunked Brett Lawrie before completely losing his command and walking Maicer Izturis on four pitches to force in Toronto’s sixth run.

Some questioned whether Showalter should have sent Johnson to the mound, but the reliever had experience pitching on three straight days — doing it on a couple occasions last year — and his previous pitch counts (14 on Monday and 13 on Tuesday) were reasonable enough to put him in the game in an extra-inning situation. Perhaps Showalter is only guilty of not having Brian Matusz ready to go sooner than he did when Johnson ran into trouble.

Regardless of Wednesday’s disappointment, the streak is a reflection of the outstanding bullpen work this club has received for more than a year. Many will focus on the All-Star performance of Johnson as well as setup men such as Darren O’Day and Brian Matusz, but a variety of contributors — from long relievers to current first baseman Chris Davis — have taken the hill in extra innings and performed at a high level since last April.

The 17-game winning streak in extra frames — which didn’t include their 12-inning loss to the New York Yankees in last year’s American League Division Series — left them tied with the 1949 Cleveland Indians for the second-longest run in major league history.

Setting up for the ninth

Johnson leads the major leagues with 66 saves since Sept. 7, 2011, but he can thank O’Day and Matusz — particularly the former — for playing such pivotal roles in getting him there.

O’Day is 2-0 with a 0.36 earned run average covering his last 23 appearances (including the postseason) that spanned 25 innings. The Orioles were 19-4 in those 23 games. Opponents are hitting just .111 (9-for-81) with one home run and eight singles over that stretch.

Those numbers are a major reason why the Orioles awarded O’Day with a two-year, $5.8 million contract in the offseason.

Matusz has also thrived in a relief role since being recalled last August, excelling when it comes to cleaning up messes created by his teammates.

The left-hander relieved Johnson in the 11th and retired Rajai Davis to strand the bases loaded and leave the Orioles trailing by only one. Remarkably, he hasn’t allowed an inherited runner to score since moving to the bullpen last August. He’s stranded 10 inherited runners on base this year and has prevented all 24 inherited runners he’s encountered since the start of the 2012 season from scoring.

Many — including me — wondered whether the Orioles were making the right decision in immediately sending Matusz back to the bullpen after failing to earn a starting job in spring training. With the overall uncertainty in the back end of the rotation, it seemed wise to keep Matusz stretched out in case you needed him as a starter, but it’s difficult to argue with the overwhelming results in his late-inning role.

Odds & ends

Showalter clarified that right-hander Dylan Bundy will not see Dr. James Andrews until next Monday. The 20-year-old will be examined by team orthopedic Dr. James Wilckens in Baltimore on Thursday. He examined Bundy back on April 2 and the initial MRI came back clean in regards to his right elbow. … The Orioles bullpen threw 9 2/3 scoreless innings in the series before Johnson issued the two-out, bases-loaded walk in the 11th inning to break a 5-5 tie. … The four homers allowed by Stinson were the most ever surrendered by a pitcher making his club debut. The last Baltimore starter to give up four home runs in an outing was Jason Hammel against Toronto on May 30, 2012. … Center fielder Adam Jones went 1-for-5 and has reached base safely in 20 of the club’s 21 games to begin the 2013 season. He has at least one hit in 19 of those contests. … The Orioles are now 4-4 in one-run games after finishing with an incredible 29-9 record in that department last season.

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Britton, two others optioned to Triple-A Norfolk

Posted on 23 March 2013 by WNST Staff

The Orioles announced Saturday that they have optioned left-handed pitcher Zach Britton and infielders Jonathan Schoop and Yamaico Navaroo to Triple-A Norfolk and have reassigned right-handed pitcher Daniel McCutchen to minor league camp.

In five spring appearances covering 10 1/3 innings, Britton posted a 6.10 earned run average with four walks and seven strikeouts. He allowed 13 hits and two home runs as he struggled to command his two-seam fastball.

Schoop played for the Netherlands in the World Baseball Classic and had a home run and four runs batted in in six spring at-bats with the Orioles.

With this latest assignment, the Orioles have 40 players remaining at major league spring training, including 11 non-roster invitees.

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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?

CONTINUE ON NEXT PAGE >>>>>

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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.

Continue >>>

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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.

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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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