Tag Archive | "jason berken"

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Tejada continues hot hitting for Norfolk in win

Posted on 27 May 2012 by WNST Staff

Durham plated two unearned runs in the top of the 10th inning, sending Norfolk to a 3-1 loss Sunday afternoon at Harbor Park.

With the score tied 1-1, Henry Wrigley opened up the 10th frame with a grounder to third base, but Miguel Tejada short-hopped his throw into the dugout, allowing Wrigley to advance to second. One out later, Reid Brignac plated pinch-runner Shawn O’Malley with a single to right off of Jon Link (0-2), giving the Bulls the lead. Former Tide Jeff Salazar later added a single to left-center to plate Brignac, extending Durham’s lead to 3-1.

Norfolk starter Jason Berken was extremely effective, but once again was left searching for his first victory of 2012. Berken, who entered the contest ranked 6th in the IL with a 2.50 ERA, allowed three hits and two walks while striking out five in seven shutout innings, lowering his ERA to 2.12.

Sunday was the third time this season that Berken left a game with a lead, only to see the opponents rally against Norfolk’s bullpen.

The Tides scored their only run of the contest in the seventh inning, as Joe Mahoney led off the frame with a walk and scored on a two-out triple by Blake Davis.

Tejada finished 1-for-3 and was hit by a pitch in the contest, and he’s now hitting .375 in seven games since joining Norfolk.

Hideki Matsui had a single in four plate appearances for the Bulls.

The Tides travel to Pawtucket on Monday to start a four-game set with the Red Sox. Zach Clark will be making his first start for Norfolk since being promoted from Double-A Bowie, and he’ll be opposed by right-hander Doug Mathis (3-2, 4.23). First pitch is slated for 4:05.

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Phillips joins Orioles bullpen, Berken back to Norfolk

Posted on 08 May 2012 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — It turns out pitcher Jason Berken’s second stint with the club will be shorter than his first one in Baltimore this season.

After a terrible inning of work in Monday’s 14-3 loss to the Texas Rangers, Berken has been optioned back to Triple-A Norfolk and replaced by left-handed reliever Zach Phillips. Berken allowed six hits and seven runs (two earned) in the ninth inning, which included a long home run by Josh Hamilton.

Manager Buck Showalter planned to only use three pitchers on Monday — starter Brian Matusz, Stu Pomeranz, and Berken — and will now turn to the southpaw relief pitcher he begrudgingly optioned to Triple-A Norfolk at the start of the season because he had a remaining option unlike a few other bullpen arms. Phillips had a brilliant Grapefruit League with the Orioles, posting a 1.35 earned run average in 13 1/3 innings of spring work.

Phillips owned a 4.15 ERA in 13 innings for Triple-A Norfolk so far this season.

He and Troy Patton give the Orioles two left-handers in the bullpen for the first time this season, but Showalter is not ready to designate one as a situational lefty and cited their backgrounds as starters and the ability for either pitcher to throw multiple innings when needed.

“I don’t think there’s enough track record there to [make either a lefty specialist] for sure,” Showalter said, “but both these guys – he and Troy – have the potential to do both, which is unusual.”

As for who will make Friday’s start in the series opener against the Tampa Bay Rays, Showalter is remaining tight-lipped but knows who he will call as long as rain doesn’t interfere over the next few days. All signs point to Norfolk starter Dana Eveland, who was pulled after 63 pitches on Monday despite throwing five shutout innings for the Tides.

The Orioles would have to put Eveland on the 40-man roster, but second baseman Brian Roberts could be transferred to the 60-day disabled list without any consequence to his efforts to return from concussion-related symptoms. Catcher Taylor Teagarden would also be a candidate for the 60-day DL as he continues to receive treatment for a back injury.

When asked about veteran infielder Miguel Tejada, Showalter confirmed the former Orioles shortstop and third baseman passed his physical without any concerns on Monday. However, the Baltimore manager deferred to executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette for more details.

“I don’t know what the process or the plan is at this point,” said Showalter, who was under the impression that Tejada served as the designated hitter during an extended spring training game in Sarasota on Tuesday.

Showalter admitted to not being familiar with Tejada, but he pointed to the positive reviews from former teammates of Tejada that are still on the roster.

Right fielder Nick Markakis is off to a difficult start in 2012, hitting just .230 with three home runs and 11 runs batted in in 113 at-bats. When asked whether he would consider moving the struggling outfielder from the third spot in the order, Showalter brushed it off for now.

“It’s too early,” Showalter said. “I think Nick has swung the bat well for us at times.”

Showalter went on to discuss the batting order in greater detail, acknowledging sabermetrics and varying philosophies on how to construct a lineup. With Nolan Reimold currently on the 15-day disabled list with a bulging disc in his neck, the Orioles lack any semblance of a prototypical leadoff hitter — if you could even label Reimold that to begin with.

Endy Chavez has received the most opportunities in Reimold’s absence, but the veteran outfielder is off to a miserable start with a .127 average. Chavez has a .310 career on-base percentage over his 11 years in the big leagues — not exactly what you’re looking for at the top of the order.

Here are tonight’s lineups…

Texas
2B Ian Kinsler
SS Elvis Andrus
CF Josh Hamilton
DH Adrian Beltre
3B Michael Young
LF David Murphy
RF Nelson Cruz
C Mike Napoli
1B Mitch Moreland

SP Neftali Feliz (1-1, 3.81 ERA)

Baltimore
LF Endy Chavez
SS J.J. Hardy
RF Nick Markakis
CF Adam Jones
C Matt Wieters
1B Chris Davis
3B Wilson Betemit
DH Mark Reynolds
2B Robert Andino

SP Jake Arrieta (2-2, 3.52 ERA)

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Orioles closer Johnson remains hospitalized with bacterial issue

Posted on 25 April 2012 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — Though Pedro Strop passed his first test as the interim closer in a 2-1 victory over the Blue Jays on Tuesday night, the Orioles still anxiously await the return of Jim Johnson, who remains hospitalized with flu-like symptoms.

Doctors continue to run tests in trying to pinpoint the bacterial issue, so Johnson will be unavailable for the second straight night. Manager Buck Showalter revealed upwards of nine players are currently dealing with flu-related or upper respiratory issues stemming from a bug that swept through the Baltimore clubhouse in the latter portion of last week’s road trip.

Showalter has exchanged text messages with his closer but is more concerned with Johnson simply getting his body right before talking about when he will return to the mound.

“You’re talking about some things that you have to be careful with, but he’s in great hands — some of the best doctors in the world,” Showalter said. “At some point, he’ll rejoin us and then we’ll start talking about baseball.”

Nolan Reimold is out of the lineup for the fourth straight game but says his neck is improving after taking early batting practice on Wednesday afternoon. The left fielder is still experiencing stiffness in trying to move his head up and down, but his side-to-side movement has improved.

Second on the team with five home runs, Reimold is confident he will avoid the 15-day disabled list and return to the lineup sooner rather than later.

“I think we are being cautious,” Reimold said. “[The pain] was there when I played in Anaheim and then it just tightened up real bad after the game and the next morning. I think they want to make sure I’m right and can come back and remain back and not set myself back any further.”

Japanese pitcher Tsuyoshi Wada will receive a second opinion from Dr. Lewis Yocum regarding the ligament damage in his pitching elbow. Showalter confirmed the two options at this point of potentially resting and rehabbing the injury or undergoing a surgical procedure that would presumably end his season.

The Orioles manager had good news on left-handed pitcher Zach Britton, saying his rehab on the left shoulder is “right on schedule.” Britton is close to pitching bullpen sessions from the mound and has not experienced any setbacks since receiving platelet-rich plasma therapy in March.

Pitcher Jason Berken has been recalled from Triple-A Norfolk to take second baseman Robert Andino’s spot on the 25-man roster. As revealed on Tuesday, Andino has been placed on the paternity leave list to be with his wife as the couple gave birth to a daughter, Amarise Hazel, on Wednesday.

Andino joked with Showalter that the couple is now “three and out” after welcoming their third child and that he is planning to purchase a shotgun to keep the boys away since he now has a daughter. The second baseman also celebrated his 28th birthday on Wednesday.

Making three starts for the Tides, Berken would be on regular rest and is available to pitch multiple innings if needed over the next day or two before he presumably returns to Norfolk upon Andino’s return to the club.

“I’ll be in the pen,” said Berken, who credited a new commitment to his changeup in explaining his 0.60 earned run average in 15 innings at Norfolk. “I’m just here to pitch any time they need me, whether it’s one or five [innings].”

Catcher Taylor Teagarden remains in Sarasota and will receive a third epidural injection in his back. The organization hopes this will resolve the issue before needing to explore other treatment options.

Here are tonight’s lineups…

Toronto
SS Yunel Escobar
2B Kelly Johnson
RF Jose Bautista
1B Adam Lind
LF Eric Thames
3B Edwin Encarnacion
DH Brett Lawrie
CF Colby Rasmus
C J.P. Arencibia

SP Kyle Drabek (2-0, 2.00 ERA)

Baltimore
LF Endy Chavez
SS J.J. Hardy
RF Nick Markakis
CF Adam Jones
C Matt Wieters
1B Chris Davis
3B Wilson Betemit
DH Mark Reynolds
2B Ryan Flaherty

SP Jason Hammel (2-0, 2.37 ERA)

Follow WNST on Twitter for live updates and analysis throughout Wednesday’s game and visit the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault to hear more from Nolan Reimold, Jason Berken, and Buck Showalter here.

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Orioles shut down Japanese pitcher Wada

Posted on 21 April 2012 by Luke Jones

With starting pitcher Brian Matusz struggling in his first three starts of 2012, it looked like the Orioles might eventually turn to Japanese newcomer Tsuyoshi Wada in the near future, but that will no longer be the case.

The club announced Saturday it has shut down Wada’s rehab assignment, and the left-handed pitcher will return to Baltimore to see team doctors. Wada has been on the 15-day disabled list with an elbow injury and reportedly was dealing with neck spasms during a disastrous rehab start for Triple-A Norfolk on Thursday. Wada gave up six earned runs and walked four in just 2 2/3 innings in his only start for the Tides.

Wada was considered the primary option to potentially replace Matusz at the major league level, but there is no timetable for the injured pitcher to resume throwing. Starters Brad Bergesen (8.49 earned run average in 11 2/3 innings) and Chris Tillman (4.73 ERA in 13 1/3 innings) haven’t exactly excelled in their first three starts in the starting rotation for the Tides, meaning manager Buck Showalter might be more inclined to turn to journeyman Dana Eveland (2.41 ERA in 18 2/3 innings) or Jason Berken (0.60 ERA in three starts covering 15 innings) if the Orioles decide to demote Matusz in the near future.

Even if the Orioles weren’t planning to replace Matusz with Wada in the starting rotation, the 31-year-old rookie was considered the most logical choice for a long-relief role in the bullpen, which currently lacks a pitcher who can throw multiple innings at a time.

 

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Roberts, Britton to begin year on 15-day DL; Orioles make more spring cuts

Posted on 26 March 2012 by Luke Jones

With Opening Day less than two weeks away, manager Buck Showalter and the Orioles continue to sort out which 25 players they’ll be taking north to open the season against the Minnesota Twins on April 6.

Second baseman Brian Roberts (concussion symptoms) and left-handed pitcher Zach Britton (left shoulder impingement) will begin the season on the 15-day disabled list. The veteran infielder continues to progress from the concussion symptoms he’s dealt with for the better part of 18 months but is not ready to resume his role as the Baltimore second baseman. Britton is currently receiving platelet rich plasma therapy in hopes of rebuilding strength in his pitching shoulder and will likely be out until at least May.

The decision to place Roberts on the 15-day disabled list means he will remain on the 40-man roster. Some speculated Roberts would be placed on the 60-day list, but it appears he will travel with the club to Baltimore to get re-acclimated to a major league environment before potentially going on a minor league rehab assignment.

The Orioles trimmed their spring roster to 35 on Monday by optioning infielder Matt Antonelli and pitchers Brad Bergesen and Jason Berken to Triple-A Norfolk. They also reassigned pitchers Dontrelle Willis and Armando Gallaraga, catcher John Hester, infielder Steve Tolleson, and outfielder Scott Beerer to minor league camp.

The demotions of Antonelli and Tolleson make it apparent that Showalter will keep Rule 5 selection Ryan Flaherty as his utility infielder since Robert Andino will be the starting second baseman. The 25-year-old Flaherty is hitting .279 in 43 spring at-bats with one home run and eight runs batted in.

As for the starting rotation, it appears Jake Arrieta, Jason Hammel, Wei-Yin Chen, and Tommy Hunter have locked up four of the five spots. Lefty Brian Matusz looks to be the favorite for the fifth spot, but Tsuyoshi Wada, Dana Eveland, and Chris Tillman remain in the mix over the final week and a half of spring training.

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After labeling Yankees ‘just another team’ all winter, Orioles still can’t beat them

Posted on 23 April 2011 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — The Orioles talked the talk throughout the winter months, in addition to upgrading their lineup with four new hitters.

They said all the right things about not putting the Yankees and the Red Sox on a pedestal, forgetting about the bloated payrolls and the World Series rings and the absolute domination those teams have held over the Orioles season after season. The game was decided on the field, they said, not with checkbooks, past results, or preseason predictions.

Buck Showalter invigorated a fan base with a confident way about him, building optimism after a 34-23 finish in the final two months of 2010. Make no mistake, his mindset still is the correct one for an organization trying to reverse the losing culture that’s poisoned the once-proud Orioles over the course of 13 years. But he doesn’t throw pitches or swing the bats.

His players bought into it, echoing the skipper’s sentiments about the two biggest foes in the most difficult division in baseball. It all sounded so great at FanFest, during spring training, and after a 6-1 start.

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But, as Showalter always reminds us, games are played between the lines, and the Yankees absolutely throttled the Orioles in a 15-3 massacre in front of 39,054 at Camden Yards, many of them Yankee fans as has become the frustrating custom in Baltimore.

After all the talk of the Yankees being just another team, they’re still one the Orioles can’t beat and are winless against in three games this season.

“It’s one game,” said catcher Matt Wieters about the Saturday night beating. “It doesn’t matter whether we lost 4-3 or 15-3. It’s one game. We’ll come back tomorrow and go after them.”

He’s right. It is only one game with 15 more to go against the Yankees this season. But after going 5-13 against New York a season ago and losing their first three this season, the Orioles have to start beating the Yankees at some point to turn this thing around in the direction toward competing. An 0-3 start against the Bronx Bombers can’t do much for your confidence going forward after blowing a 5-0 lead in the second game at Yankee Stadium nine days ago and giving up 15 runs in your home ballpark on Saturday night.

The spirited talk of Orioles fans “taking back The Yard” sounds great, but you have to make it something worth taking back first. Saturday was just the latest of many embarrassments at Camden Yards as the Yankees hit five home runs, including two by new catcher Russell Martin in the sixth and eighth innings and a grand slam by Alex Rodriguez to make it a 10-run laugher in the eighth.

The Bronx-supporting fans were as loud as ever as hometown fans, trying to fight the good fight, could only head for the exits with their heads down as they have so many times in recent years. Dealing with opposing fans and watching your team get dismantled doesn’t make for a fun experience at the ballpark on a warm Saturday night in April.

In all fairness, CC Sabathia was terrific, improving to 15-2 lifetime against the Orioles. He stifled the Baltimore bats over eight innings, his only blemish a three-run homer by Adam Jones in the seventh inning. However, the Orioles failed to even make it tough on the burly lefty early in the game, allowing Sabathia to get through six innings on just 56 pitches. It was Sabathia’s first win of the season after failing to record a victory in his first four starts of 2011.

Brad Bergesen, on the other hand, struggled at the onset, allowing three runs in the first before settling down to retire 14 of 17 hitters before giving up a three-run blast to Russell Martin in the sixth inning to make it a 6-0 game.

It was the Yankees ace going up against the Orioles’ fourth or fifth starter. No chance, right?

“I was in the dugout, and you could tell [Sabathia] had everything,” Showalter said. “Pitch count was so far down. I think he was less than 60 going into the sixth or seventh. He had that type of stuff. He had everything there for him tonight, and I thought Martin did a great job with him.”

But no excuses, either, as Showalter likes to remind us. Though Sabathia is one of the greatest pitchers of this generation, his career-long domination over the Orioles is downright ridiculous at this point and is a bitter pill to swallow, especially in the first home game against the Yankees in a season that’s supposed to be different.

The 6-1 start and early stay in first place seems like a long time ago as the Orioles (8-11) have now lost 10 of their last 12 and find themselves in last place after the surging Boston Red Sox — who were 2-10 not that long ago — beat the Los Angeles Angels on the west coast Saturday night.

The lineup continues to sputter despite the significant effort to increase run production by adding Derrek Lee, Vladimir Guerrero, and Mark Reynolds. The Orioles have now scored 74 runs in 19 games, good for only 3.9 runs per game. With a young pitching staff missing the injured Brian Matusz and clearly struggling in its own right, the offense hasn’t been nearly good enough to compete let alone carry this team to wins.

It’s still very early, but with new names in the lineup against Sabathia and the Yankees, the results looked similar to what we’ve seen over and over.

“It’s really tough to swallow, you know,” said Bergesen about the disappointment of the entire night. “You get beat by 12 runs and with that many Yankees fans, it’s not fun whatsoever.”

No fun is right.

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The Orioles 2010 All Star and Un-Star Representatives

Posted on 29 June 2010 by WNST Interns

With the All Star game fast approaching, it is time for the obligatory speculative blog to determine who will and who should represent the Orioles. Despite their four game winning streak, it’s still safe to say a team with a record this pitiful does not deserve an All Star. However, since each team must have at least a single representative at the Midsummer Classic, someone wearing the O’s cap will make the exhibition club.

By the way, why didn’t anyone mention the “each team must have an All Star” rule to Adam Jones? He certainly doesn’t seem aware of this in his omnipresent MASN commercial, in which he talks proudly of “earning the title All Star” while squatting an unimpressive 235 lbs.

Someone on the horrendous 25 man roster had to “earn” the title All Star, Adam. It’s like being the smartest kid to repeat the eighth grade.

Anyway, I wouldn’t look for Jones to repeat as the O’s lone All Star this year. He is on an eight game hitting streak, but his defense has been suspect at times, and he spent most of April and May whiffing at breaking balls. Time to up your squats, Jonesy.

Ty Wigginton was an early season favorite, as he got off to a hot start that nearly makes up for his pitiful 2009. But he has leveled off recently, hitting .266 on the season with no homers in the past month.

A few local writers are pulling for Jason Berken, but he’s a little-known middle reliever on a bad team. He has about as much chance of making the All Star team as you or me.

Miguel Tejada could act like he’s been there before because he’s been there before. Tejada is hitting .287 while making the move to third base. I wouldn’t be completely surprised to see him get the nod, if only for his name recognition.

The Oriole truly deserving the All Star nod is Nick Markakis. When he’s not calling out his underachieving teammates or dining with Peter Angelos, Markakis has been hitting .306 while exhibiting his usual stellar defense in right field. With only 3 home runs on the year, Markakis has not rediscovered his power stroke, but he is walking at a higher ratio than last year, posting a .398 OBP on the season. Most criticism of Markakis is due to the fact that he is a natural number two hitter forced to hit in the number three spot for this undertalented team. Hopefully his fifth season in the bigs will bring him his first of many All Star nods. He’s been one of the only bright spots both on and off the field this season.

While Markakis is the clear choice for the All Star game, a doppleganger “Unstar” game would have several Baltimore Orioles candidates. Here’s a partial list of underachievers.

Garrett Atkins – Gone but not forgotten. Atkins told The Sun’s Jeff Zrebiec, “Taking my [batting practice] and stuff the last month or so, it’s been pretty good. I’ve been driving the ball well. I just haven’t been able to transfer it over to the games.” You hear that, New York Yankees? Atkins is doing great in BP. Now if only he could hit in games.

Mike Gonzalez – An Andy MacPhail offseason pickup who may be the only Oriole to ever get booed in his Camden Yards debut. Last seen giving up home runs in short season A ball for Aberdeen. Seriously.

Brian Roberts – In year one of a four-year $40 million deal, Roberts had only 16 plate appearances in 2010 before going on the long-term DL. He can be seen giving video updates on MASN from local dog parks. Seriously.

Koji Uehara – another waste of money and roster space, Uehara’s most impressive achievement to date is his ability to hop on and off the disabled list. Enjoy ingthe humidity, Koji?

Matt Wieters – Nicknamed “switch-hitting Jesus,” Wieters is hitting .238 on the season.

Let’s hope that Nick Markakis’ name is called for the real All Star game. The real question is, who is your Orioles Unstar?

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Trembley, Orioles point to bad breaks instead of making own luck

Posted on 27 May 2010 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — As the Orioles fall further into the abyss of the 2010 season, Thursday night’s loss ranks near the top of the most painful defeats.

A 5-2 lead that appeared to be an almost certain victory transformed into an excruciating sequence of questionable decisions and bad luck in the eight inning. The final result was a 7-5 defeat and another sleepless night of asking how it went wrong for manager Dave Trembley and the Orioles (15-33).

The win-loss record plainly reflects how poorly the club has played over the first two months of the season, but the bad breaks once again manifested in the eighth inning on Thursday night.

A grounder deflecting off the leg of Mark Hendrickson led to an infield single and then a bad hop to Cesar Izturis kept the eventual five-run inning alive on two occasions. Later, a three-run double by Kevin Kouzmanoff sealed the Orioles’ fate as the club snatched defeat from the jaws of victory, a common theme as we approach the 50-game mark of the season.

“You hate to get a game taken away from a guy who has pitched as well as [Brad] Bergesen did and lose it under those conditions,” Trembley said. “It really is unfortunate that those things happen.”

Unfortunate? Very much so.

Preventable? It’s tough to say.

While the ball club reflected on its misfortune, two questionable decisions from Trembley certainly factored into the outcome of the game. The first being his choice to remove Bergesen in the eighth inning and the second the insertion of Mark Hendrickson for Jason Berken after only one batter faced.

There’s no way of predicting whether the Orioles would have met the same losing fate had Bergesen been allowed to continue after giving up back-to-back singles to begin the eighth inning, one a seeing-eye single beyond the reach of Miguel Tejada and the second a clean liner into left.

Despite having retired 14 batters in a row entering the eighth inning, Trembley removed Bergesen from the game with a 5-2 lead, citing Baltimore’s long bottom of the seventh in which it sent eight batters to the plate and scored two runs as the primary reason for taking out his young starting pitcher.

“It was a long inning, but again, something like that will happen,” Bergesen said. “You’ve just got to mentally stay strong and stay focused, and I felt like I did.”

Bergesen recovered from a shaky start in the first two innings, including a two-run homer from Gabe Gross in the second, to settle into a groundball groove that pushed the starter through seven innings with only 80 pitches. After the two singles to open the eighth, Trembley removed Bergesen at the 93-pitch mark.

“I don’t think the pitch count enters into it,” Trembley said. “He had a long inning to sit after the seventh. You certainly don’t want to put him in a situation where he’s going to lose the game.”

The move was certainly debatable and not unprecedented from Trembley. At some point, the training wheels need to be removed for these young starters—especially with a bullpen that’s far from dominant at the back end—but the long delay between the seventh and eighth innings was a reasonable factor in shortening Bergesen’s leash.

However, what transpired a batter later after Jason Berken came on to retire Rajai Davis on a fly out to right was far less defensible. Instead of sticking with Berken, Trembley again went to the bullpen for the lefty Mark Hendrickson against left-handed batters Daric Barton and Ryan Sweeney.

After retiring Barton, Hendrickson allowed three straight singles, opening the floodgates for the Athletics to take the lead on Kouzmanoff’s double off Cla Meredith later in the inning.

“You’re going to go left against left there,” Trembley said. “I think that’s really what you’re going to do. Berken hasn’t faced these guys a lot. Their two best hitters are their two lefties right there. Berken’s a flyball pitcher. You don’t want Berken to give up a home run there. He’s never been in that situation before. Hendrickson has.”

Trembley continues to go with the “by the book” situational matchups instead of sticking with the most effective option on any given night, regardless of what a deeper look at the numbers might say.

Left-handed batters are hitting just .194 against Berken this season but are batting .333 against Hendrickson.

Where’s that lefty against lefty advantage again?

The Orioles’ bullpen woes are well-documented with injuries playing the primary role in their inconsistency. Continuing to run pitcher after pitcher to the hill not only taxes the bullpen but increases the probability of running into a poor outing or two from a staff that lacks quality, proven arms.

If a pitcher is getting the job done on a given night, why take him out?

“I was confident that those guys were going to get it done,” the manager said. “I think we’d be talking a different story here if there isn’t a bad hop to shortstop. I would have put [Will] Ohman in the [ninth] instead of them putting Andrew Bailey in the game.”

We’d all like to be talking about a different story this season. If only it were that simple.

The eighth inning certainly played cruel tricks on Trembley and the Orioles—some of it out of their hands—but the management of the bullpen is within the skipper’s complete grasp, and it reeked of managing not to lose instead of playing to win and exuding confidence.

Would different choices have written a happier ending instead of a painful 7-5 loss?

We’ll never know for sure, but sometimes you need to make your own luck instead of dwelling on the events that are out of your control.

Check out the box score here the pre-game notes below.

________________________________________________

***Join us in the Orange Crush chat right now***

BALTIMORE — After splitting the first two games of the series, the Orioles (15-32) will look to win their third(!?) series of the season tonight against the Oakland Athletics (24-23) at 7:05 p.m.

Brad Bergesen will take the hill in hopes of rebounding from his last two outings in which he allowed 24 baserunners over his last 11 2/3 innings. He pitched to a no decision against the Nationals on Saturday afternoon, allowing six runs in five innings. Bergesen was previously scheduled to start Friday night’s game in Toronto before the club elected to move David Hernandez to the bullpen and recall 22-year-old starter Chris Tillman from Triple-A Norfolk to start the opening game against the Blue Jays.

The A’s will send lefty Gio Gonzalez to the mound in search of his sixth win of the season. He pitched a gem against the San Francisco Giants on Saturday, pitching eight innings of shutout ball in a 1-0 victory. As if that isn’t impressive enough, Gonzalez also retired the last 20 batters he faced before being lifted for closer Andrew Bailey.

The Orioles are without Nick Markakis tonight, so he can be with his wife who will give birth to their second child today. Taking his place in right field will be Lou Montanez.

Luke Scott is once again out of the starting lineup with a strained left shoulder, but he is available to pinch-hit tonight and is expected to return to the order in Toronto on Friday.

Here are tonight’s lineups:

Oakland
CF Rajai Davis
1B Daric Barton
RF Ryan Sweeney
C Kurt Suzuki
DH Jack Cust
3B Kevin Kouzmanoff
LF Gabe Gross
SS Adam Rosales
2B Mark Ellis

SP Gio Gonzalez (5-3, 3.46 ERA)

Baltimore
LF Corey Patterson
2B Julio Lugo
1B Ty Wigginton
3B Miguel Tejada
C Matt Wieters
CF Adam Jones
DH Garrett Atkins
RF Lou Montanez
SS Cesar Izturis

SP Brad Bergesen (3-3, 6.10 ERA)

Don’t forget to join us in the Orange Crush chat tonight at 7:00 p.m., as WNST personalities will discuss tonight’s action from Camden Yards. As always, remember to follow us on Twitter (@WNST) for the quickest updates and quips about tonight’s game.

Check back right here for updates (time-stamped below) leading right up to first pitch at 7:05 p.m.

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6:10 p.m. — The Orioles will go with a heavy balance of right-handed bats against Gonzalez. Corey Patterson is the only left-handed hitter in the lineup while switch hitters Matt Wieters and Cesar Izturis will obviously bat from the right side.

Gonzalez has struck out 46 batters in 54 2/3 innings this season, an average of 7.57 per nine innings. He has done a tremendous job of avoiding bats in his career, striking out 189 batters in 187 1/3 innings. However, patience can also reap rewards against the lefty, as he’s issued 24 walks in 54 2/3 innings, just under four per nine innings.

With the grounder-inducing Bergesen on the hill for Baltimore, inserting Julio Lugo into the lineup at second base with Ty Wigginton again playing first has to work in the club’s favor defensively.

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Bullpen implodes as Orioles fall 8-6 to Tampa Bay

Posted on 13 April 2010 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — The Orioles looked to be cruising toward their second win of the season behind the left arm of Brian Matusz, leading 3-0 in the top of the eighth and the left-hander in control of the game.

However, after striking out Willy Aybar to start the eight, Matusz gave up four straight singles, losing the shutout and turning the game over to the Baltimore bullpen with the based loaded and one out.

From there it completely fell apart.

Despite 7.1 sparkling innings from Matusz—striking out eight, walking one, and surrendering six hits—the bullpen imploded, allowing all three inherited runners to score and giving up four runs of its own as the Orioles fell to the Rays in 10 innings, 8-6.

“Tonight was similar to what we’ve been seeing for the last week,” said manager Dave Trembley. “We’re not closing the games out out of the bullpen. We’re not getting outs when we need to get outs. It’s no one guy [alone].”

The Orioles (1-7) have now given up at least one run in the eight or ninth inning in every game this season, a dubious stat playing a large part in why they’re already six games below .500 a little over a week into the season. The club has now allowed an astonishing 21 runs in the eighth inning or later in just eight games.

While Mike Gonzalez’s two blown saves have earned him the most notable goat horns to begin the season, the lefty hasn’t thrown a pitch since Friday. And the Orioles have lost all four games in which he hasn’t appeared since.

Jim Johnson, the man some have called to replace Gonzalez as the closer despite struggling in the role late last season, pitched just a third of an inning before giving up a two-run single to Evan Longoria to complete the Tampa Bay comeback, tying the game at 3-3. Lefty Will Ohman followed Johnson and gave up two more hits, allowing the go-ahead runs to score as the Orioles fell behind 5-3 entering the bottom of the eighth.

A tremendous night from the talented young starter was completely wasted, because the bullpen could not pick him up.

The pen even received a chance at redemption as Luke Scott’s clutch, pinch-hit two-run homer tied it in the bottom of the eight as the game eventually moved to an extra inning.

In the 10th, despite having a fresh Jason Berken available to pitch, Trembley again went with a struggling Matt Albers, pitching in his third consecutive game after giving up a run on Monday. Albers did not retire a better, walking two before giving up a three-run shot to Carlos Pena, sealing the Orioles’ fate of a fifth straight loss and a 1-7 record.

Since his impressive Opening Day performance at Tropicana Field last week, things have fallen apart quickly for the long reliever, who was considered a question mark to make the team entering spring training before an injury to Koji Uehara opened a spot for him. Albers has walked five in 4.1 innings, pitching to a 10.38 ERA.

“The ball’s not down, and his curveball is just being taken,” said Trembley about Albers, who is out of options. “It’s not being thrown for a strike.”

The collective implosion of the bullpen is just another problem to add to the pile plaguing the Orioles as they complete the home stand Wednesday afternoon before traveling to Oakland Thursday to begin a seven-game West Coast trip (and finishing the road trip with three in Boston).

The little things continue to build up. An ineffective bullpen, failure to hit with men in scoring position, and critical errors have all contributed to heartbreaking losses for the Orioles over the last week.

You only begin to wonder how long the starting pitching is going to hold up. It’s arguably the one bright spot for this club right now.

“We’re playing hard one through nine,” said Matusz. “You could see it with Luke’s homer. We’re just coming up short and have to battle through this.”

– The Orioles went 1-for-6 with runners in scoring position Tuesday night and are just 10-for-63 (.159) on the season. The club is even worse with two outs, hitting just 1-for-29 (.034) in the first eight games.

– Longoria’s two-run single that tied the game in the eighth inning gave him eight RBI on the season, all of which have come against the Orioles.

– Scott’s pinch-hit home run was the first for the Orioles since Ty Wigginton did it on Sept. 30, 2009 against James Shields of the Rays.

Five of the club’s eight homers have either tied the game or given it a lead.

– The Orioles will send Brad Bergesen to the hill looking to avoid the sweep tomorrow afternoon at 1:35 p.m. Lefty phenom David Price will take the ball for Tampa Bay.

Check out the final box score here and the pre-game notes below.

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Good evening from a cold, rainy Oriole Park at Camden Yards as the Orioles (1-6) prepare to face the Tampa Bay Rays (4-3) in the second of a three-game set, scheduled to get underway at 7:05.

The major news of the day is the new lineup filled out by Dave Trembley in hopes of pumping a pulse into an offense that has scored only three runs in its last three games and is 1-for-17 with RISP over the same stretch.

Miguel Tejada will hit second, Matt Wieters will slide into the cleanup role, and Adam Jones will now hit from the No. 5 spot in the order. The move comes as no surprise as the Orioles manager said in his post-game press conference last night that he had to “show a different look” to get things going.

Here are tonight’s lineups:

Tampa Bay
SS Jason Bartlett
2B Sean Rodriguez
RF Ben Zobrist
3B Evan Longoria
1B Carlos Pena
CF B.J. Upton
DH Willy Aybar
C Dioner Navarro
LF Gabe Kapler

SP Jeff Niemann (0-0, 0.00 ERA)

Baltimore
LF Felix Pie
3B Miguel Tejada
RF Nick Markakis
C Matt Wieters
CF Adam Jones
DH Nolan Reimold
1B Garrett Atkins
2B Ty Wigginton
SS Cesar Izturis

SP Brian Matusz (1-0, 3.60 ERA)

The tarp is currently on the field, but the weather forecast does look promising in terms of seeing baseball this evening. How many people will be in the stands is an entirely different story.

Tonight is Matt Wieters T-shirt night, so I would imagine the promotion gave a boost to advanced sales for tonight’s game.

As always, please join WNST.net’s Orange Crush chat, beginning at 7:00 p.m. with Comcast Morning Show host Drew Forrester hosting and a variety of other WNST.net personalities chiming in throughout the evening. Also, remember to follow us on Twitter (@WNST) for the quickest news and updates from Camden Yards.

Check back right here for updates (time-stamped below) leading up to the scheduled first pitch at 7:05. At that point, I’ll be switching over to the Orange Crush to provide my thoughts.
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6:55 p.m. — I’m about to move over to the Orange Crush chat, but I thought I’d leave you with this surprising nugget of information.

The Orioles’ .158 average with runners in scoring position ranks 30th out of 30 teams in the big leagues.

I’m floored.

Things HAVE to turn around tonight, don’t they? See you in the live chat.

6:50 p.m. — While Brian Roberts has been the focal point on the injury front, we received word today that Koji Uehara was scheduled to throw another bullpen session in Sarasota this afternoon. As he did on Sunday, the Japanese righty was expected to throw 25 pitches in the session as he works his way back in shape after a left hamstring injury sidelined him during spring training.

6:30 p.m. — In an effort to change up their luck, the Orioles will wear their orange batting practice jerseys for tonight’s game. Let’s hope it works.

Of course, it’s not quite the same look as this:
Orioles

It’s sad to think three of the four 20-game winners are no longer with us.

5:56 p.m. — The grounds crew is currently removing the trap from the field, so it looks like we’ll have baseball tonight as expected.

Despite the less-than-ideal conditions, tonight’s game provides an attractive pitching duel as Brian Matusz gets the ball in his second start against right-hander Jeff Niemann. Matusz was uncharacteristically wild in his first start in Tampa, walking five batters while striking out seven in five innings. However, the young lefty finished strongly and secured the only victory of the season for the club.

On the opposite side, Niemann was knocked out in the second inning after taking a line drive to the pitching shoulder from Tejada. It was a scary scene at the time, but the Rays pitcher sustained only a bruise and is not expected to be limited tonight. Niemann had a successful 2009, going 13-6 with a 3.94 ERA. The 6-9 righty will definitely provide a challenge to the Baltimore lineup, as if it needed one currently.

Much has been said about the high hopes for Matusz as a potential No. 1 in the future, but the Orioles will need him to pitch like an ace tonight. At 1-6 and a seven-game West Coast trip looming after the series finale against Tampa Bay tomorrow afternoon, the club needs something to feel good about to hopefully build some momentum.

If not, things could spiral even further out of control.

No pressure on the 23-year-old though, right?

5:23 p.m. — Mike Gonzalez is back with the team after traveling back to Arizona to be with wife for the birth of his daughter, so the big question on everyone’s mind is whether he’ll received the ball in the ninth inning in a save situation.

Trembley has implied that Gonzalez will be eased back into the closer role while working on his mechanics with pitching coach Rick Kranitz, citing a preference for the team to have a big lead in the final inning.

Any lead in the ninth inning would be acceptable at this point, but that’s just me.

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Orange Chatter: 10 Questions for 2010 (Part 2 of 2)

Posted on 03 April 2010 by Luke Jones

In Part 1 of my 10 Questions for 2010, we pondered the health of Brian Roberts, the status of Jeremy Guthrie and Chris Tillman, and the platoon of Felix Pie and Nolan Reimold.

Here are my second five of 10 questions entering the 2010 season:

6. Is the bullpen up to par?

Following the trade of George Sherrill last summer, it was clear the Orioles struggled in the late innings with Jim Johnson better suited in his previous role as a setup man. Andy MacPhail responded by signing free agent closer Mike Gonzalez to a two-year, $12 million contract, the club’s largest signing of the offseason.

Gonzalez has 54 career saves in a seven-year career, including 10 last season in Atlanta. While the lefty seems capable of closing games–keep in mind Sherrill was never a closer before the trade to Baltimore–Gonzalez battled a stiff back and appeared hesitant to cut it loose in Sarasota until recently. He closed out the spring with a perfect outing against the Mets on Saturday, striking out two and lowering his spring ERA to 5.14.

Gonzalez is joined in the bullpen by two mainstays in Johnson and lefty Mark Hendrickson, who thrived in the bullpen (3.44 ERA) after being moved out of the starting rotation (5.40 as a starter) last season.

However, after these three, the bullpen becomes a bit murkier, especially with Koji Uehara on the disabled list (hamstring) to begin the season. Cla Meredith had a tremendous spring (0.84 ERA) and pitched well in Baltimore after being acquired from the Padres last season but is certainly not a household name with a track record. Newcomer Will Ohman figures to provide plenty of laughs, but Trembley would like to see him evolve into an effective left-handed situational arm (a career 4.25 ERA in seven seasons).

And with three pitchers 25 or younger in the starting rotation, the club will go with two long men in Matt Albers and Jason Berken. Albers was very effective in 2008 (3.49 ERA), but a shoulder injury (torn labrum) and questions surrounding his conditioning led to an abysmal 2009 season in which he pitched to a 5.51 ERA and was demoted to Triple-A Norfolk on three different occasions.

Berken shifts to a long-relief role after starting 24 games last season (6.54 ERA). While the 26-year-old lacks the stuff of an effective starting pitcher, Trembley will look for him to eat innings should a starter be knocked out early. Of course, Berken could find himself back in the starting rotation should there be an injury or two over the course of the seaosn.

A player to keep an eye on at Norfolk is Kam Mickolio, a hard-throwing righty (part of the Erik Bedard trade with Seattle) who appeared to have a good chance of making the 25-man roster before a groin injury limited his opportunities in the spring. He projects as a late-inning man with closer potential.

As is the case with any bullpen on any team, the starting pitching will ultimately decide its fate. If starters are unable to reach the sixth or seventh inning on a consistent basis, this bullpen will inevitably wear down as we’ve seen just about every summer over the last 12 years. Improved starting pitching will hide the weaknesses in the bullpen and allow more opportunities to finish games.

7. Will Miguel Tejada and Garrett Atkins prove to be capable stopgaps?

The corner infield positions were two of MacPhail’s biggest priorities to address in the offseason, and he responded by adding two veterans accustomed to playing different positions than they will in 2010.

Tejada’s return to Baltimore was a controversial decision, but his ability to adjust to third base will be critical to the infield defense and pitching. Most seem to think Tejada will become a capable third baseman, but it’s hard to forget the initial struggles of both Cal Ripken and Melvin Mora when they shifted to the hot corner. One would expect Tejada to struggle in the first month or two of the season before settling in to be an average third baseman.

Tejada will also be asked to handle the cleanup spot in the order, at least until Matt Wieters is ready to grab the reins. While no longer capable of hitting 25 home runs per season—he hit just 27 in two combined seasons in Houston—Tejada led the National League with 47 doubles in 2009.

Across the diamond, Atkins shifts to first base after primarily manning the hot corner in his seven seasons in Colorado. Atkins has played 105 career games at first, so the transition should not be as drastic as Tejada’s.

The acquisition of Atkins was a curious one with the 30-year-old coming off the worst season of his career (.226, 9 home runs, 48 RBI) and safer options such as Adam LaRoche available. The club hopes Atkins can regain his pre-2009 form when he averaged 25 home runs and 110 RBI over three seasons.

Neither player figures to be in the fold when the Orioles aim to contend in the next few years—both signed one-year deals—but with prospects Josh Bell and Brandon Snyder likely a year away from the big leagues, Tejada and Atkins will be depended on for offense and steady defense on the corners. At the very least, neither contract will come back to haunt the club should either player prove ineffective.

8. How good will Brian Matusz be?

Though the hype hasn’t rivaled the insane expectations for Wieters, Matusz appears set to contend for the 2010 American League Rookie of the Year after starting eight games down the stretch, going 5-2 with a 4.63 ERA.

His 2009 minor league numbers look like something out of a video game, as he went a combined 11-2 with a 1.91 ERA at Single-A Frederick and Double-A Bowie. In fact, Matusz was even better after being promoted to Bowie, going a perfect 7-0 record with a 1.55 ERA in eight starts.

Matusz was fantastic in the spring, finishing with a 2.59 ERA while striking out 21 and walking just three in 24.1 innings.

There’s a reason why he’s on every top-10 prospect list you’ll find this spring. Though Matusz would be hard-pressed to match Mike Mussina’s numbers in his first full year in 1992, don’t be shocked if he’s the Orioles’ best pitcher by mid-season. He might be already.

A scout was recently asked about Matusz in Baseball Prospectus: “He might have been the best pitcher I saw all spring, and I’m not just talking about prospects.”

Need we say more?

9. Is Dave Trembley managing his last season in Baltimore?

While many wondered about Trembley’s job security as the Orioles collapsed down the stretch last season, which included a 13-game losing streak that nearly pushed the club past the 100-loss mark, MacPhail retained Trembley while also declaring the 2010 season would be judged more critically on wins and losses.

It’s clear Trembley has had a near-impossible task trying to win with inferior talent in the AL East, but the skipper cannot expect a free ride either. Baserunning gaffes, poor fundamentals, and questionable bullpen management were major issues in 2009, regardless of who was on the field. It’s no secret the Orioles lack the talent of the Yankees, Red Sox, and Rays, so playing fundamentally-sound baseball is an absolute necessity if the club wants to improve in 2010.

Trembley’s supporters continue to claim he hasn’t had a chance to compete in his three seasons as manager, but the lack of talent cannot excuse some of the problems witnessed in 2009. Having bad players doesn’t mean you’re a bad manager, but it doesn’t mean you’re a capable manager either.

It’s imperative for the club to make significant improvement in 2010, or Trembley will be shown the door at the end of the season—if not sooner.

10. Will the Orioles make it an unlucky number 13?

Twelve years.

Twelve painful, long years.

The Orioles begin the new decade after closing out the first 10 years of the century without a winning season, their last winning campaign coming in 1997.

But unlike most of the last 12 years, it really looks as though the team will improve from where it was a year ago, though it’s difficult to go any direction but up after a 98-loss season. The problem is even a 15-game improvement–a tremendous accomplishment—would only create a 79-83 mark and a 13th straight losing season.

If the Orioles have any hope of a .500 season, they not only have to thrive against the AL Central and West but must find a way to avoid the utter embarrassment experienced last year against the Yankees and Red Sox.

The Orioles were 5-13 against the Bronx Bombers, and the results were even worse with the Red Sox, as Baltimore was an egregious 2-16 against Boston. Another 7-29 mark—far and away their worst record against the two AL East powers over the last 12 seasons—is unacceptable, if not unfathomable.

Forget about money, competitive imbalance, or recent history. A .194 winning percentage over 36 games against the Yankees and Red Sox should never happen.

When it all adds up, the Orioles can make significant improvement in 2010, but it looks like a 13th consecutive losing season is almost inevitable.

A record in the neighborhood of 77-85 will not rejuvenate the fan base immediately, but it would be a sizable step in the right direction.

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