March 2010

Koji says DL, new 'pen plans

SARASOTA, Fla. — With no real timetable of when he will get
back on the mound, Orioles reliever Koji Uehara said Monday that he expects to
start the season on the disabled list.

 “If it happens,
there’s nothing I can do about it,” Koji said through interpreter Jiwon Bang. “Obviously
we don’t have many days before [April 6's] Opening Day, so you kind of expect
it.”

Uehara exit March 18′s game 
against the Toronto Blue Jays with a left hamstring strain and hasn’t
thrown on the mound since suffering the injury. 
Prior to Monday’s game, manager Dave Trembley said Koji would have to be
able to show he can throw by mid-week to avoid the DL.

Koji ‘s progression has been slow and deliberate -mostly
just light catch and running – but he said starting the season on the DL
wouldn’t be too disappointing.

“The more important thing is to be ready physically,” he
said.

If Uehara starts the season on the disabled list, it would
open up an extra bullpen slot, perhaps for a guy like Jason Berken, who has
pitched predominantly out of the ‘pen. Berken tossed four scoreless innings in
relief of Chris Tillman in his most recent outing Friday, and could give the
Orioles a second long-inning man to go along with Mark Hendrickson.

Right now, I’d say Berken is on the team’s Opening Day roster, with Cla Meredith, Matt Albers and Will Ohman to round it out. Kam Mickolio is another option, but the big right-hander has been sidelined the last few days with a sore groin and Trembley acknowledged he hasn’t pitched up to expectations. 

Albers is out of options –and pitching better — so the logical thing to do is keep him and have Mickolio get some more work in Triple-A. 

“I think he’s had a very good opportunity to show what he can do,” Trembley said of Mickolio. “Whether it’s been the best he can do, I’m not so sure. I think it’s been
kind of an up-and-down for him. I don’t mean to be very critical, but I
think he’s capable of doing better more consistently. I think he’s
shown glimpses of it. Other times he’s pitched in too many three-ball
counts. I don’t know if his leg has been bothering him for a while and
this has been a reason. There’s an awful lot in there. We just need to
get it out on a more consistent basis.”

In 9 1/3 spring innings, Mickolio has allowed two earned runs on seven hits. He’s struggled with his command, issuing seven walks (against 10 strikeouts) and told me today he will try to get back on the mound Tuesday to test his groin.

Matusz sails through intrasquad outing

Brian Matusz
was pleased with his performance earlier this afternoon, saying he accomplished
everything he wanted in the intrasquad game. The Minor League game was rained
out so the Orioles made some tweaks to try to get a few of the scheduled
pitchers on track.

Matusz said he felt excellent,
particularly toward the end of his outing, noting his arm strength and the fact
that he only threw “one bad pitch” of the 92 pitches he tossed. That pitch was one that Billy Rowell sent out for a homer. He totaled seven innings, although they added some extra outs to help Matusz get his pitch count up.

Matusz didn’t pitch in the Orioles scheduled game Monday night against the Yankees because the Orioles wanted to avoid having their AL East foes see Matusz this late in the spring. The plan right now is for Matusz to make his final Spring
Training outing on April 3
against the New York Mets.

In five official spring starts, Matusz has allowed seven earned runs over 20 1/3 innings, pitching his way to a 3.10 ERA.  The 23-year-old lefty has struck out 19 and walked just three.

Matusz threw to Craig Tatum, which is worth noting because the backup catcher competition is much closer than anyone anticipated. Tatum and Chad Moeller are both being considered behind Matt Wieters, with the Orioles liking Moeller’s veteran mentoring ability and Tatum’s throwing arm.

Matusz said he and Tatum were on the same page Monday afternoon, noting that Tatum was “really communicating well” and encouraging him to throw his curveball more frequently to left-handed hitters.

Yankees-Orioles Lineups

ORIOLES LINEUP

Brian Roberts 2B
Adam Jones CF
Nick Markakis RF
Miguel Tejada 3B
Luke Scott 1B
Matt Wieters C
Garrett Atkins DH
Nolan Reimold LF
Cesar Izturis SS

Jeremy Guthrie RHP

 

YANKEES LINEUP

Derek Jeter SS
Nick Johnson DH
Mark Teixeira 1B
Alex Rodriguez 3B
Robinson Cano 2B
Marcus Thames LF
Randy Winn RF
Francisco Cervelli C
Greg Golson CF

Javier Vazquez SP

To be clear…

I wrote today on the site about how important the trio of
Brad Bergesen, Brian Matusz and Chris Tillman are to the Orioles future.

I also wrote several days ago that speculation has increased
that Tillman will start the year in Triple-A and David Hernandez will get the
fifth starter spot.

It might sound like a contradiction, but really the thought
is if Tillman doesn’t break camp, he will be up sooner rather than later. Given
the Orioles opening schedule -a stretch of 16 games without an off day – and
Tillman’s recent struggles, it makes sense to let Hernandez open the year.  The team has said it’s a competition, and
numbers-wise Hernandez has outpitched Tillman this spring.  Tillman is only 21 and you have to be careful
in bringing him along.

The sentiment is Tillman struggling at the Major League
level is more detrimental to his long-term success than Hernandez or Jason
Berken
going through that same thing. With about a week of spring games to go,
a lot could be riding on the final start for each of these guys.  Although if Koji starts the season on the DL,
I’m thinking Berken makes the team as the second long reliever.

Regardless, it should be an interesting final week.  As always, follow me here, on Orioles.com and
on Twitter to stay updated.

The O’s play the Yankees tonight at 7:05 p.m. with Jeremy
Guthrie
looking to get back on track. The game is on MASN.

O's Opening Day lineup

Manger Dave Trembley acknowledged on Sunday that he’s close to an
Opening Day lineup. He may or may not know the batting order, but he wasn’t
willing to divulge. Still, it seems Miguel Tejada will be the team’s clean-up
hitter with Nick Markakis preceding him and either Luke Scott or Matt Wieters
in the No. 5 hole.

 

“He is the most experienced guy,” Trembley said in regards to
Tejada, who has hit in the No. 4 spot more than any other player this spring.  

 

“That doesn’t mean he will be there all the time, but he is the
most experienced guy. But I am using Spring Training also to move guys around
and also, and you saw how I did it with Wieters last year. I tried to bring him
along slowly and then move him up toward the end of the year. I have said on
record that eventually he will be a middle of the order guy. Spring training
has been a great vehicle for me to do that, but that doesn’t mean Opening Day
he is going to be the four hitter. Eventually someday in his career he might
be. Maybe a couple times this year he might be, but I think that’s why you have
Spring Training.”

   

 

Assuming Nolan Reimold and Brian Roberts are both healthy, my
guess is April 6′s Opening Day lineup would go something like this: Roberts,
Jones, Markakis, Tejada, Wieters, Scott/Reimold (DH), Pie, Atkins, Izturis.

 

I picked Pie over Reimold because Rays’ starter James Shields is a
tough right-handed pitcher and I would imagine that turf at Tropicana Field isn’t
something the Orioles want Reimold running around on. But I could be wrong.

 

“I think there is one lineup I may go with against right handed
pitching and there might be another lineup that I might do something against
left-handed pitching,” Trembley said.  “I
think having both Pie and Reimold gives you some flexibility there, and there
are some other guys that give you that. I have thought about it. I know what I
want to do. We’ll just wait for the season to start.”

 

 

Rain ruins Orioles plans -Guthrie to go Monday

DUNEDIN, Fla. — Sunday afternoon’s
Blue Jays-Orioles Spring Training game was cancelled due to inclement weather.
Originally scheduled for a 1:05 p.m. ET start, the game was delayed for 22
minutes before officially being called off. No makeup contest will be played.

Sunday’s starter Jeremy Guthrie will
now pitch Monday’s game against the New York Yankees live on MLB.TV. That game
is scheduled to begin at 7:05 p.m. at Ed Smith Stadium, and Guthrie will be
opposed by right-hander Javier Vazquez.

Orioles manager Dave Trembley planned
on talking with pitching coach Rick Kranitz later on Sunday to work out a
pitching schedule that would keep Sunday’s relievers — a list that included
Jim Johnson and Matt Albers – on track to get their work in.

Lefty Brian Matusz will pitch in the
team’s Minor League game on Monday at the back fields of Ed Smith Stadium. That
contest is a camp day, which means the Double-A and Triple-A squads will play
against each other.

Infielder Brian Roberts was scheduled
to make his second spring start on Sunday, and Trembley said the original plan
was for the second baseman to play back-to-back games Sunday and Monday. Now,
Roberts will start Monday night’s game, with Tuesday’s afternoon’s contest a
possibility.

Roberts has been slowed by a herniated
disc in his lower back suffered during offseason workouts in Arizona, and the
Orioles are hoping to get their leadoff hitter 25-30 spring at-bats to have
Roberts ready for April 6′s Opening Day.

Orioles-Blue Jays lineups

It’s cloudy with a chance of rain at Dunedin Stadium, but here are
today’s lineups, with Brian Roberts make his second start this spring:

ORIOLES LINEUP

Brian Roberts 2B
Felix Pie CF
Nolan Reimold RF
Luke Scott 1B
Garrett Atkins DH
Lou Montanez LF
Scott Moore 3B
Chad Moeller C
Robert Andino SS

Jeremy Guthrie RHP

BLUE JAYS LINEUP

Jose Bautista RF
Aaron Hill 2b CF
Adam Lind DH
Vernon Wells CF
Randy Ruiz 1B
John Buck C
Edwin Encarnacion 3B
Travis Snider LF
John McDonald SS

Ricky Romero LHP

*Also, in case you missed it, I wrote yesterday about the increasing sentiment around camp that the fifth starter job might not be Chris Tillman’s to open the year.

*And yes, I’m wearing green along with MLB.com’s Blue Jays writer (and MSU Alum) Jordan Bastain. Hoping my Spartans will end today in the Final 4!

Millwood for the Opener

milly.jpg

This is highly anticlimactic, especially when compared to
the new wrinkle in the fifth
starter competition
,  but still worth
 a note. Manager Dave Trembley came as
close as he has all spring to naming Kevin
Millwood
the team’s Opening Day starter.

” I don’t think there’s any doubt now who’s going to be
the No. 1 guy,” Trembley said. “I guess he threw eight scoreless
innings in the back. Monday I’ll be able to tell you who that guy is.”

If you read my previous
blog post
, you’d know that guy is Millwood.

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This is highly anticlimactic, especially when compared to
the new wrinkle in the fifth
starter competition
,  but still worth
 a note. Manager Dave Trembley came as
close as he has all spring to naming Kevin
Millwood
the team’s Opening Day starter.

” I don’t think there’s any doubt now who’s going to be
the No. 1 guy,” Trembley said. “I guess he threw eight scoreless
innings in the back. Monday I’ll be able to tell you who that guy is.”

If you read my previous
blog post
, you’d know that guy is Millwood.

This is highly anticlimactic, especially when compared to
the new wrinkle in the fifth
starter competition
,  but still worth
 a note. Manager Dave Trembley came as
close as he has all spring to naming Kevin
Millwood
the team’s Opening Day starter.

” I don’t think there’s any doubt now who’s going to be
the No. 1 guy,” Trembley said. “I guess he threw eight scoreless
innings in the back. Monday I’ll be able to tell you who that guy is.”

If you read my previous
blog post
, you’d know that guy is Millwood.

Could Tillman be left out?

Although it has been widely speculated that Chris Tillman
will be named the Orioles fifth starter out of Spring Training, manager Dave
Trembley and president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail both said Saturday
that no decision has been made.

If anything, the decision has gotten tougher and more
multi-faceted as camp has progressed. Jason Berken and David Hernandez have
both turned in solid performances as of late, furthering speculation that
Tillman could start the season at Triple-A.

“The thing we try to impress on the kids is the obvious fact
that nobody uses the same 12 pitchers all year,” MacPhail said. “The beginning
of the season is just a snapshot in time.”

MacPhail said that Hernandez and Berken are “absolutely” still
in contention for the team’s fifth spot and acknowledged that the heated competition
has been a welcome one.

“What I was telling our staff is we got guys competing for
our spots and we don’t have spots competing for guys,” MacPhail said. “And that
is a pleasant development particularly as it relates to our pitching.”

Trembley has called the team’s bullpen competition a
dogfight, and following Hernandez’s five shutout innings on Saturday, he used a
similar comparison to describe what’s going on with the back end of the
rotation.

“I would say we’re going to go 15 rounds with it,”
Trembley said. “We’re going to go the distance and keep battling and keep
running these guys out here and try to make the right decision and the best
decision. Guys are answering the bell and they’re making it real tough for me.
And I like it.”

The Orioles schedule to open the 2010 season makes middle relievers, specifically long-inning men, a necessity. Since the team will go with a 12-man pitching staff this season having  flexibility in the bullpen, which a guy like Berken could potentially provide, is a must. A scenario such as April 8 and 9, where the team will play a night contest in Tampa before their home opener at 3 p.m. in Baltimore the next afternoon, puts extra emphasis on having guys who can toss multiple innings of relief.

Baltimore plays 16 straight games starting April 6 in Tampa Bay, which leaves no opportunity to skip a rotation slot since there are no off days. It also puts the O’s bullpen in a tough spot should a starter falter and force an early exit.  Berken, who tossed four scoreless innings to follow Tillman on Friday, has been stretched out this spring and could provide another option as a long relief or spot starter. Right now, the team’s only option in that role would be lefty Mark Hendrickson.

Hernandez thrust his name to the forefront of the No. 5 starter job with his most recent outing. He retired nine of the first 10 Red Sox batters he faced Saturday, allowing four hits over five scoreless innings with six strikeouts. He lowered his ERA to a 3.00 in the process and impressed Trembley with his tenacity and ability to escape several key jams -including a bases-loaded, no outs, scenario in the fourth.

Although he started the season pitching out of the ‘pen, Hernandez has capitalized on the recent opportunities he’s been given to start. He made his first appearance as a starter on March 16 and is 1-1 in two official spring starts, excluding a 75-pitch outing in a Minor League game last week.  In 15 innings, Hernandez has allowed five earned runs and has 20 strikeouts to three walks. He said Saturday he has not been given any indication as to where -or in what role — he will start the season.

“I’m just trying to go out there and do the best I can every performance,” Hernandez said.  “Whether it’s good enough or not, all I can say is I went out and gave it my best effort. And [Saturday] the results indicated that.”

To his credit, Tillman has said all along that he has approached this spring as a situation he must win, rather than have it handed to him. The 21-year-old was visibly frustrated with Friday’s performance, which was an 88-pitch outing that yielded two runs on four walks and four hits.  It’s worth noting that Tillman’s struggles came against a Minnesota lineup that didn’t have the power bats of Justin Morneau and Joe Mauer, two Twins who would certainly be in a regular season game. 

In five spring games, Tillman has a 3.86 ERA, allowing seven earned runs over 16 1/3 innings.  His strikeout-to-walk ratio (9k/10BB) is a glaring statistic, particularly given the fact that the Orioles have made it clear the kid gloves are off and they won’t carry that extra 13th pitcher.

Although Berken is still considered more of a long shot to swoop in for the fifth spot, he has pitched his way into recognition, particularly in that sorely-needed middle relief role.So far, he has not been stretched as far as the other two, but Berken has had a solid spring and certainly has built up enough arm strength to pitch for long stretches out of the ‘pen.

Berken has a 2.84 ERA this spring, with seven strikeouts against three walks.

Millwood/Gonzo update

The media just caught up with Kevin Millwood as he was
walking in from his Triple-A start. He said he threw 102 pitches over eight
scoreless innings and overall was pleased with his performance.

“I would take that stuff any day on a big league field,”
said Millwood, who worked in all of his pitches, including the change-up he’s
been focused on improving this spring.

The Orioles likely Opening Day starter, Millwood said he
will scale back in his next — and final — spring tune-up, estimating that he would
only throw 50 or 60 pitches.

Closer Mike Gonzalez started the Double-A game on the field next
to Millwood and reportedly threw around 25 pitches, although I didn’t get a chance
to confirm that or see him throw.

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