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Alvarez, Sisco highlight Orioles’ first wave of September call-ups

Posted on 01 September 2017 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — With September bringing the perk of an expanded roster, the Orioles have summoned an old friend and will provide the first major league taste to one of their top prospects.

Veteran slugger Pedro Alvarez and rookie catcher Chance Sisco headlined a list of promotions that also included outfielder Joey Rickard and right-handed relief pitchers Jimmy Yacabonis and Richard Rodriguez on Friday afternoon. Baltimore designated right-handers Tyler Wilson and Logan Verrett for assignment to make the necessary room on the 40-man roster.

Signed to a minor-league deal in March, Alvarez spent the entire season at Triple-A Norfolk and hit 26 home runs with a .737 on-base plus slugging percentage for the Tides. The 30-year-old spent 2016 in Baltimore and hit 22 homers with an .826 OPS, but his significant defensive limitations left him without a major league job this past offseason. He had been learning to play the outfield in the first half of the season at Norfolk, but the experiment was largely abandoned as he played first base in the second half.

Manager Buck Showalter confirmed that Sisco’s promotion is expected to be more of a learning experience rather than an audition, especially with incumbents Welington Castillo and Caleb Joseph playing so well. Ranked as Baltimore’s No. 1 prospect in Baseball American’s mid-season top 10 list, the 22-year-old hit .267 with seven homers, 23 doubles, and a .736 OPS at Norfolk this season and was invited to take part in the MLB All-Star Futures Game for the second straight year.

Sisco’s locker was placed next to Joseph’s, a deliberate move to help the highly-regarded talent better learn his trade from an above-average defensive catcher.

Rickard is back with the Orioles after a two-week stint at Norfolk that allowed the club to begin carrying Rule 5 outfielder Anthony Santander on the 25-man roster in mid-August. Yacabonis has also spent time with Baltimore this season, allowing five earned runs and walking six in 6 1/3 innings.

Rodriguez, 27, has yet to make his major league debut, but he posted a 2.42 ERA in 70 2/3 innings and recorded 10 saves for the Tides this season to earn the promotion.

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Jones remains sidelined with ankle, hip issues

Posted on 28 May 2017 by Luke Jones

As if a season-worst six-game losing streak weren’t bad enough for the Orioles, center fielder Adam Jones remained out of the lineup Sunday with ankle and hip soreness.

The veteran outfielder missed his second straight game as Joey Rickard took his place in center field for the series finale in Houston. After a strong April, Jones is hitting just .208 with four home runs and a .576 on-base plus slugging percentage this month.

Manager Buck Showalter told reporters in Houston that he expected Jones to return to the lineup Monday afternoon.

Of course, Jones isn’t the only Orioles hitter struggling as the club has scored just seven runs over its last 43 innings at the plate dating back to Monday night. Buck Showalter’s club entered Sunday ranked 19th in the majors in runs scored per game, one of the big reasons why the Orioles have dropped to third place in the American League East while losing 12 of their last 15 contests.

Prior to Sunday’s game, the Orioles recalled right-handed pitcher Logan Verrett and optioned right-hander Tyler Wilson to Triple-A Norfolk.

In other Orioles-related news, outfielder Nolan Reimold has apparently retired from professional baseball. The 33-year-old had been playing for the Long Island Ducks of the independent Atlantic League this season after hitting .222 with six homers for the Orioles in 2016.

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Twelve Orioles thoughts following 14-7 loss to Minnesota

Posted on 23 May 2017 by Luke Jones

With the Orioles dropping their second straight game at home in a 14-7 loss to Minnesota, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. If Monday wasn’t the end for Ubaldo Jimenez, it’s feeling closer and closer based on Buck Showalter’s post-game remarks. He’s had nine lives because of his bulky contract, but that may no longer be able to save him. It’s nothing personal, but a sunk cost is a sunk cost.

2. The final five pitches of his outing resulted in three singles and a double. It was batting practice for the Twins the third time through the heart of the order.

3. Showalter didn’t rule out the possibility of Jimenez pitching in relief like he did in parts of 2014 and 2016, but the current state of the Orioles bullpen without closer Zach Britton makes it extremely difficult to carry a pitcher without options or an ability to contribute meaningfully.

4. Monday’s loss marked the fourth time in the last month that the Orioles have squandered a lead of five or more runs. For a club that’s frequently succeeded despite a small margin for error over the last few years, that’s unacceptable.

5. The Orioles won’t use it as an excuse, but the lineup went 2-for-14 with seven strikeouts in their four turns at the plate after the Twins tied the game in the fifth. Yes, they’re professionals, but the pitching staff continuing to blow so many sizable leads has to be deflating.

6. It’s a shame that Adam Jones becoming the all-time home run leader at Camden Yards didn’t come with a winning result. He passed Rafael Palmeiro with his 125th career long ball in the ballpark to give Baltimore a 5-0 lead in the second inning.

7. Tyler Wilson probably earned himself a trip back to Norfolk by allowing six runs (four earned) in 1 1/3 innings. Inheriting a bases-loaded, no-out situation in the fifth wasn’t fair, but the Orioles needed much better from him in the sixth inning of a 6-6 game.

8. Stefan Crichton’s balk to make it a 12-6 deficit in the sixth felt like an appropriate symbol of futility from the Orioles pitching staff on Monday.

9. Minnesota starter Kyle Gibson receiving the win despite allowing six earned runs in five innings is another example why a pitcher’s win-loss record is such a useless statistic compared to countless other measures of performance. Kill the win, please.

10. Jonathan Schoop’s sixth-inning error led to two unearned runs a day after his first-inning miscue opened the door for three unearned runs in Sunday’s 3-1 defeat. His defense hasn’t been as sharp this season as we’ve seen in the past, and he entered Monday at minus-three defensive runs saved.

11. The replay angles weren’t perfect on Brian Dozier’s leadoff double in the third inning, but how the powers that be in New York couldn’t use those shots in concert to determine the ball was clearly foul is baffling.

12. On a personal note, after missing the weekend series against Toronto because of a wedding, I couldn’t help but watch Monday’s performance and wish my sister could just get married all over again. That was brutal.

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Twelve Orioles thoughts following 8-3 win over Boston

Posted on 05 May 2017 by Luke Jones

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Twelve Orioles thoughts following 9-3 loss to Cincinnati

Posted on 18 April 2017 by Luke Jones

With the Orioles falling 9-3 to Cincinnati on Tuesday to begin the final series of a three-city road trip, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. Kevin Gausman turned in one of the worst starts of his career, matching a career high with eight runs allowed and lasting only 2 2/3 innings. Giving up a grand slam to Adam Duvall on an 0-2 pitch in the second inning summed up his night.

2. After seemingly straightening himself out in his last start, Gausman once again battled command problems with his fastball while walking three and throwing 79 pitches. He has now issued 12 walks in 18 2/3 innings this season after entering 2017 with a career walk rate of 2.5 per nine innings.

3. Gausman’s split-changeup continued to largely be a non-factor despite facing a Reds lineup featuring five lefty-swinging hitters. He’s throwing it less frequently in 2017, and the pitch hasn’t been very good when he has used it. That needs to change.

4. I had to chuckle at the suggestion that Bronson Arroyo’s home run rate would make him a favorable matchup for the Orioles. Arroyo was far from great over his five innings, but this lineup rarely has success against soft-tossing finesse pitchers.

5. The Orioles trailed 9-1 after three innings, but you wouldn’t know it from the play of Adam Jones. He made a superb running catch in shallow left-center in the fourth and then hit a two-run shot in the fifth inning.

6. The Reds didn’t really need it, but you can see how disruptive Billy Hamilton can be on the bases with his elite speed. His problem has been getting on base consistently in his career.

7. Seth Smith leaving the game with a right hamstring strain added injury to the insult of a blowout loss. Buck Showalter told reporters it could result in a trip to the disabled list, but the veteran outfielder expressed optimism that it wasn’t serious.

8. It was encouraging seeing Mychal Givens sit in the mid-90s with his fastball after his velocity was down in his last outing in Boston six days ago. Showalter said after the game that the hard-throwing reliever had been dealing with a back issue.

9. Credit Vidal Nuno and Tyler Wilson for eating 4 1/3 innings in a lopsided loss, but you would think that the Orioles will need to make a roster move for a fresh long man to back up Ubaldo Jimenez on Wednesday.

10. Facing the red-hot Yankees, ex-Oriole Miguel Gonzalez partied in the Bronx like it was 2012 by taking a shutout into the ninth. He has a 3.62 ERA in 154 innings with the Chicago White Sox since being dumped by Baltimore last spring in favor of Mike Wright and Wilson.

11. Perhaps his status will change with Smith’s injury, but Joey Rickard is expected to go on a rehab assignment in the near future. With Trey Mancini hitting the way he is, there isn’t room on the current roster for both Rickard and Craig Gentry.

12. Consider this my annual complaint about how dull it is to watch the pitcher hit in National League-style baseball. Talk all you want about Madison Bumgarner and the five other NL pitchers who can actually swing the bat a little bit; I’ll enjoy the designated hitter.

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Twelve Orioles thoughts following 2-1 loss to Toronto

Posted on 15 April 2017 by Luke Jones

With the Orioles falling 2-1 on a walk-off home run from Kendrys Morales on Saturday, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. You won’t find a worse breaking ball than the one Tyler Wilson threw to Morales. Since Brad Brach warmed up in the top half of the inning, I was surprised to see Wilson still out there, but Brach was only available to close, according to Buck Showalter.

2. Marco Estrada labored early for the Blue Jays, but the starter gave the Orioles lineup fits with his changeup over seven shutout innings. Baltimore consistently has problems against pitchers who are more about finesse and changing speeds than velocity.

3. You never want to lose, but the performance of Alec Asher in his Orioles debut was an encouraging development for the big picture. Showalter couldn’t have asked for more from the former Philadelphia hurler, who was only acquired late in spring training.

4. Asher threw an impressive breaking ball to get some big outs when he needed them. He’s not going to overpower you with the two-seam fastball, so he needs his secondary stuff in order to compete.

5. The right-hander left a few too many fastballs up in the zone early as he benefited from some good defense behind him. The transition from the four-seam fastball to the two-seamer last year has paid dividends, but Asher clearly wants to live lower in the zone moving forward.

6. Asher certainly earned another opportunity as the fifth starter, but it’s fair to wonder how much of his success was the result of a Toronto offense that’s been woeful so far in 2017.

7. The Orioles certainly wasted early chances against Estrada, leaving five runners on over the first three innings. They went 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position on Saturday.

8. Jonathan Schoop missed a golden opportunity to double off Jose Bautista with two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning. I’m still not sure what happened there as Darwin Barney then picked up the go-ahead RBI single off Donnie Hart two pitches later.

9. Adam Jones made a strong throw to the plate on Barney’s run-scoring hit to almost nail Bautista, but the one-bounce throw skipped away from Welington Castillo. The Orioles likely would have gotten a cleaner hop if that game were being played on grass instead of turf.

10. Craig Gentry showed in the ninth why the Orioles like him, stealing second and tagging up on a fly ball to go to third before scoring on Schoop’s game-tying sacrifice fly. His speed is an asset if he can hit a little bit, but that’s a big question right now.

11. You could tell by Mark Trumbo’s reaction that he missed a very hittable pitch from Estrada as he flied out to end the top of the third with two runners on. He was 0-for-4 and doesn’t have an extra-base hit since his walk-off homer and double on Opening Day.

12. Seeing all uniformed personnel wearing No. 42 on Jackie Robinson Day has become one of my favorite traditions in recent years. The importance of this man to both baseball and America needs to be celebrated and remembered.

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Twelve Orioles thoughts following 7-3 loss to Yankees

Posted on 09 April 2017 by Luke Jones

With the Orioles suffering their first loss of the season in a 7-3 final against the New York Yankees, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. The Baltimore pitching staff tested its fate throughout the afternoon by walking a total of 11 batters before the floodgates finally opened in the ninth inning. Frankly, the Orioles were fortunate to even have a chance to win with that kind of pitching performance.

2. Darren O’Day getting off to a poor start is concerning after an injury-plagued 2016 season that included hamstring and shoulder ailments. He walked three and gave up four earned runs in the ninth inning and has now issued five free passes in his first two innings of 2017.

3. You won’t find many starts stranger than what Wade Miley offered as he matched a career high with seven walks while giving up one hit in five scoreless innings. For a guy with a career walk rate of 2.8 per nine innings, you don’t expect control problems like that.

4. Even with those optics, I’d guess most fans would have gladly taken five scoreless frames from the inconsistent left-hander. Of course, it didn’t help that Ubaldo Jimenez and Kevin Gausman had short outings the previous two nights.

5. You knew the Orioles wouldn’t have their full bullpen Sunday after closer Zach Britton and setup man Brad Brach had pitched four times in the previous six days. Buck Showalter confirmed after the game that those two as well as Oliver Drake were not available for the series finale.

6. Of course, the offense didn’t help matters by managing only three runs before the final 14 Baltimore hitters were retired in the defeat. With Miley on the hill and a short bullpen behind him, the Orioles had to figure they’d need plenty of runs to stay undefeated on Sunday.

7. Tyler Wilson snapped the bullpen’s streak of 17 1/3 scoreless innings to begin the season by giving up a two-run triple to Ronald Torreyes in the sixth. Showalter leaned heavily on his pen to secure the first four wins, but it will catch up to you, especially without much offense.

8. It was good to see Mychal Givens get a key out against lefty-swinging Chase Headley to end the seventh, but he blew his second save by giving up the game-tying home run to right-handed bat Aaron Judge in the eighth. My main concern with Givens is still getting out lefties.

9. The Orioles haven’t seen a ton of Matt Holliday as he’s mostly played in the National League, but the new Yankees designated hitter capped off an impressive weekend by drawing a career-high five walks. The 37-year-old remains a dangerous hitter.

10. Caleb Joseph had a chance to end his long RBI drought, but he grounded out with runners at second and third in the second. He showed in 2014 and 2015 that he can be a good backup catcher, so I’m rooting for him to get through this embarrassing spell.

11. There had to be plenty of groaning in both dugouts after the clubs combined for just two runs despite 13 hitters reaching base over the first three innings. This one was hardly a classic.

12. Some uneasiness about O’Day’s performance is fair after Sunday’s defeat, but the Orioles still finished off a 4-1 homestand to begin the season. The irrational dream of a 162-0 season is over, but you’ll gladly take that kind of a week against two AL East foes.

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2017 Orioles preview: Tyler Wilson

Posted on 03 April 2017 by Luke Jones

With Opening Day nearly upon us, we’ll take a look at a member of the 2017 Orioles every day as they try to return to the postseason for the fourth time in six years.

Manny Machado
Kevin Gausman
Adam Jones
Darren O’Day
Seth Smith
Mike Wright
Caleb Joseph
Donnie Hart
Jonathan Schoop
Mychal Givens
Ryan Flaherty
Brad Brach
J.J. Hardy
Ubaldo Jimenez
Mark Trumbo
Wade Miley
Welington Castillo
Zach Britton
Chris Davis
Dylan Bundy
Hyun Soo Kim
Joey Rickard
Vidal Nuno
Trey Mancini
Oliver Drake
Craig Gentry
Chris Tillman

RP Tyler Wilson

Opening Day age: 27

Contract status: Under club control through the 2021 season

2016 stats: 4-6, 5.27 ERA, 1.43 WHIP, 5.3 K/9, 2.3 BB/9, 15 HR, 94 innings

Why to be impressed: Wilson found more success in a relief role than as a starting pitcher, posting a 3.86 ERA out of the bullpen compared to his 5.67 mark as a member of the rotation. The right-hander also improved both his strikeout and walk rates from his rookie season, showing good control to try to overcome his lack of overpowering stuff.

Why to be concerned: Opponents posted a .324 average and a 1.007 on-base plus slugging percentage when facing Wilson for the third time in a game, which would suggest he’s better suited to pitch in long relief. Even with the improvement from the previous season, Wilson still didn’t miss bats and sported the lowest strikeout rate on the club among pitchers completing at least 30 innings.

2017 outlook: Wilson has the poise and control to potentially settle into a long-relief role in the major leagues, but it’s difficult to envision him doing more than that with such limited stuff. He figures to be part of the Norfolk shuttle that will cycle long relievers — and perhaps even starting pitchers — through the 25-man roster over the course of a six-month season.

2017 not-so-scientific projections: 2-3, 4.58 ERA, 1.38 WHIP, 5.9 K/9, 2.5 BB/9, 6 HR, 41 innings

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Orioles send Alvarez, Verrett, five others to minors

Posted on 30 March 2017 by Luke Jones

The Orioles made a series of roster moves as they wrapped up Grapefruit League action on Thursday and continue counting down to Monday’s season opener.

As expected, veteran Pedro Alvarez was reassigned to minor-league camp and will begin the season at Triple-A Norfolk to continue his transition to the outfield. Fellow outfielder Chris Dickerson and infielders Robert Andino, Johnny Giavotella, and Paul Janish were also reassigned to minor-league camp.

Baltimore optioned right-handed pitchers Logan Verrett and Alec Asher to Triple-A Norfolk. Asher was acquired from Philadelphia in exchange for a player to be named later or cash considerations earlier this week.

Manager Buck Showalter told reporters in Sarasota that starting pitcher Wade Miley will be placed on the new 10-day disabled list and remains in line to start the fifth game of the season on April 9. Miley is still building up his stamina after using costly time due to an upper respiratory illness. Because of two off-days next week, Opening Day pitcher Kevin Gausman will be able to make two starts on regular rest before the Orioles need their fourth starter behind him, Dylan Bundy, and Ubaldo Jimenez.

Outfielders Joey Rickard and Craig Gentry as well as first baseman and outfielder Trey Mancini are expected to make the Opening Day roster and will go north with the club to Baltimore. It remains to be seen how long Showalter will be able to carry 14 position players, but the Orioles will not need a No. 5 starter until April 15.

Showalter also said his plan is to carry left-hander Vidal Nuno and right-hander Tyler Wilson as long relievers to begin the regular season, but that could change if the organization were to add any other pitchers between now and Monday.

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“Rounding the Bases” in Orioles’ 6-3 loss to Colorado

Posted on 27 July 2016 by Luke Jones

What went wrong in the Orioles’ 6-3 defeat to the Colorado Rockies on Tuesday night?

In trying to identify the top three losing factors with the addition of home plate for any not-so-honorable mentions and other notes, we go around the bases after the 99th game of the 2016 season.

1st — After spoiling the Orioles with an outstanding 1.29 ERA in four July starts, Chris Tillman just couldn’t put away hitters with two strikes in the four-run third inning. The right-hander appeared to be carrying good stuff early, but he ran into trouble with one out in the third as Colorado loaded the bases with three singles all coming with two strikes. After Nolan Arenado popped out, Carlos Gonzalez hit a two-run double to the opposite field on a 2-2 count and Trevor Story singled in two more runs on a 1-2 pitch. Tillman credited Colorado for hitting some good pitches, but he got a couple key pitches up and just didn’t have the good swing-and-miss slider that we’ve seen so many times in 2016. His six runs allowed matched his season high as he took just his third loss of the season.

2nd — Rockies starter Chad Bettis effectively used his sinker and hard slider, and the Orioles just couldn’t take advantage of the few opportunities they had against a pitcher who entered the night with a 5.31 ERA. Going 1-for-5 with runners in scoring position is rarely going to get the job done unless you’re hitting the long ball, but the No. 3 through No. 8 hitters went a combined 1-for-23 with one walk. On a rare off-night for Tillman, you would have liked to see his offense be able to pick him up.

3rd — He wasn’t the only one who struggled on Tuesday night, but Chris Davis continues to look lost at the plate. The first baseman is hitless in his last 24 at-bats and has seen his average plummet to .223. His most frustrating at-bat came in the eighth with runners at the corners, one out, and the Orioles trailing 6-2. After getting ahead 2-0 against lefty reliever Boone Logan, Davis expanded the strike zone and struck out on the next three pitches. Of course, we’ve seen Davis go through plenty of stretches like this in the past before going on a monster tear, but you wonder if a day off to clear his head might help.

Home — It was correctly ruled a wild pitch, but Matt Wieters failed to backhand a pitch that could have been blocked, allowing Colorado’s sixth and final run to score. … The Orioles saw their five-game winning streak snapped as they suffered their first loss at home since July 8. They had won six straight contests at Camden Yards. … Adam Jones hit a two-run homer in the fifth and walked twice as he’s already eclipsed his walk total from 2015. … In his return from the disabled list, Hyun Soo Kim went 1-for-3 with a walk and now owns a .412 on-base percentage to lead the team. … Tyler Wilson pitched four perfect innings of relief to save the rest of the bullpen after Tillman lasted only five innings. … Buck Showalter announced that Ubaldo Jimenez will make Thursday’s start in Minnesota as the manager wants to give the other members of his rotation an extra day of rest. … Dylan Bundy will take the hill on Wednesday in search of a series win while right-hander Jon Gray will start for Colorado.

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