April 2010

Where's Jason Berken been?

 

Well if they Orioles had tied the game last night, Jason Berken would have been in the game. Manager Dave Trembely had Berken warming up in the ninth inning in case that scenario became a reality, but the Orioles fell just short of a full comeback.

Berken who last pitched Monday in Seattle, is one of the most rested arms in the Orioles beleaguered bullpen. Prior to Monday, his last outing was April 14. But his minimal usage has been more of a result of the team’s good starting pitching, rather than Berken’s performance.

In his first season in the long relief role, Berken has allowed just two earned runs in four games, sporting a 1.50 ERA.

“I think coming to the field every day thinking I have a chance to pitch is a good thing for me,” Berken said.  “Overall, I feel like it’s been good [in the bullpen].

“One thing I’ve noticed, and Mark [Hendrickson] has talked to me about it, when I’m getting ready as a starter I tend to analyze my pitches a little more because I have more time to think about it. When I’m in the ‘pen, It’s kind of you are just trying to get loose you don’t really analyze your pitches or your location more or less, you are just trying to get loose and get in there.”

Berken’s longest outing has been a five-inning stint following  Brad Bergesen’s start on April 14 against Tampa Bay. He estimated he’s stretched out about to about 75 pitches, and if Bergesen fails to get back on track, Berken is a candidate to make a spot start May 1.

Pitching coach Rick Kranitz said Berken and Hendrickson are both options to get Saturday’s start, although the team would prefer to have Bergesen get on track and leave the pair of long men in the ‘pen.  Hendrickson and Berken have been the Orioles most consistent relievers and Trembley is hesitant to tinker with that.

“My choice has always been if you have someone who is doing well in an area, leave him alone, leave him there, don’t put him in another spot where you are unsure what he’ll do,” Trembley said.  But if the need arises and [Berken] would have to do it I am sure he would give you what he has, he’s that kind of guy. I would prefer to leave him where he is.”

A converted starter who pitched several times in relief this spring, Berekn made the Opening Day roster as the team’s second long man, and has said all along that he’s happy to fill any role.

“It’s clichéd but whatever they want me to do ill do,” he said. “I’ve enjoyed the pen so far and if that’s where they need me, that’s fine with me.”

More on Hughes

Update 2:35: Hughes doubled in his first at-bat in the second inning and scored the game’s first run courtesy of Craig Tatum, who had his first hit off the Green Monster. Cesar Izturis followed with a single. Raise your hand if you thought you’d see that sequence this season. Hughes also walked in the fourth.

Good thing his family stuck around. Rhyne Hughes is in the lineup again, and the Hughes clan -his parents and young brother — minus his sister -are back at Fenway Park for his second career start.

He singled in first career at-bat against John Lackey Friday night and also singled in the fourth. He hit a ball to the warning track in center field before ending the game courtesy of a strikeout from Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon.

While Hughes was understandably disappointed he didn’t come through at the end, it was an impressive debut nonetheless.

“He seems to be pretty well grounded being here,” manager Dave Trembley said. “I don’t see him being really out of control or nervous. He looks the same to me as in Spring Training. The same kind of approach, the same swing. I am sure it is really exciting for him.”

Hughes acknowledged it was nice to get his first hit out of the way and said instead of getting nervous or scared, he’s taking the attitude that he belongs.

“I don’t think they would have called me up if they didn’t think I was ready, so that’s the way I’m looking at it,” Hughes said.

“I was enjoying [being up in the ninth inning]. It’s one of those things where I feel like I belong so I’m going to go up there overmatched or anything like that. I knew what was on the line, it was neat to go up there with the game on the line; I just didn’t come through.”

Update 2:05: Hughes doubled in his first at-bat in the second inning and scored the game’s first run courtesy of Craig Tatum, who had his first hit off the Green Monster. Cesar Izturis followed with a single. Raise your hand if you thought you’d see that sequence this season.

Good thing his family stuck around. Rhyne Hughes is in the lineup again, and the Hughes clan -his parents and young brother — minus his sister -are back at Fenway Park for his second career start.

He singled in first career at-bat against John Lackey Friday night and also singled in the fourth. He hit a ball to the warning track in center field before ending the game courtesy of a strikeout from Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon.

While Hughes was understandably disappointed he didn’t come through at the end, it was an impressive debut nonetheless.

“He seems to be pretty well grounded being here,” manager Dave Trembley said. “I don’t see him being really out of control or nervous. He looks the same to me as in Spring Training. The same kind of approach, the same swing. I am sure it is really exciting for him.”

Hughes acknowledged it was nice to get his first hit out of the way and said instead of getting nervous or scared, he’s taking the attitude that he belongs.

“I don’t think they would have called me up if they didn’t think I was ready, so that’s the way I’m looking at it,” Hughes said.

“I was enjoying [being up in the ninth inning]. It’s one of those things where I feel like I belong so I’m going to go up there overmatched or anything like that. I knew what was on the line, it was neat to go up there with the game on the line; I just didn’t come through.”
Update 2:05: Hughes doubled in his first at-bat in the second inning and scored the game’s first run courtesy of Craig Tatum, who had his first hit off the Green Monster. Cesar Izturis followed with a single. Raise your hand if you thought you’d see that sequence this season.

Good thing his family stuck around. Rhyne Hughes is in the lineup again, and the Hughes clan -his parents and young brother — minus his sister -are back at Fenway Park for his second career start.

He singled in first career at-bat against John Lackey Friday night and also singled in the fourth. He hit a ball to the warning track in center field before ending the game courtesy of a strikeout from Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon.

While Hughes was understandably disappointed he didn’t come through at the end, it was an impressive debut nonetheless.

“He seems to be pretty well grounded being here,” manager Dave Trembley said. “I don’t see him being really out of control or nervous. He looks the same to me as in Spring Training. The same kind of approach, the same swing. I am sure it is really exciting for him.”

Hughes acknowledged it was nice to get his first hit out of the way and said instead of getting nervous or scared, he’s taking the attitude that he belongs.

“I don’t think they would have called me up if they didn’t think I was ready, so that’s the way I’m looking at it,” Hughes said.

“I was enjoying [being up in the ninth inning]. It’s one of those things where I feel like I belong so I’m going to go up there overmatched or anything like that. I knew what was on the line, it was neat to go up there with the game on the line; I just didn’t come through.”
Update 2:05: Hughes doubled in his first at-bat in the second inning and scored the game’s first run courtesy of Craig Tatum, who had his first hit off the Green Monster. Cesar Izturis followed with a single. Raise your hand if you thought you’d see that sequence this season.

Good thing his family stuck around. Rhyne Hughes is in the lineup again, and the Hughes clan -his parents and young brother — minus his sister -are back at Fenway Park for his second career start.

He singled in first career at-bat against John Lackey Friday night and also singled in the fourth. He hit a ball to the warning track in center field before ending the game courtesy of a strikeout from Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon.

While Hughes was understandably disappointed he didn’t come through at the end, it was an impressive debut nonetheless.

“He seems to be pretty well grounded being here,” manager Dave Trembley said. “I don’t see him being really out of control or nervous. He looks the same to me as in Spring Training. The same kind of approach, the same swing. I am sure it is really exciting for him.”

Hughes acknowledged it was nice to get his first hit out of the way and said instead of getting nervous or scared, he’s taking the attitude that he belongs.

“I don’t think they would have called me up if they didn’t think I was ready, so that’s the way I’m looking at it,” Hughes said.

“I was enjoying [being up in the ninth inning]. It’s one of those things where I feel like I belong so I’m going to go up there overmatched or anything like that. I knew what was on the line, it was neat to go up there with the game on the line; I just didn’t come through.”

Fenway Finale

Opening day 029.jpg


Greetings from Fenway’s finale,
where the Orioles look to salvage a game and snap a five-game skid in the
process. This will be Tim Wakefield’s last start before moving to the bullpen
to clear a spot for Dice-K (who has been on the DL with a neck strain). David
Hernandez
will oppose Wakefield, and like every Orioles starter not named Brian
Matusz
, he’s hoping to get his first win.

*Nolan Reimold is batting leadoff for the first time in his Major
League career. “Now, I just need to bat 9th and I’m all set,”
Reimold said. Yes, the lineup’s been shuffled that much lately.   A patient hitter by nature, Reimold said he
will steal if the position presents itself, pointing out his one stolen base
this spring.

*Rhyne Hughes is starting again today after an impressive two-hit
Major League debut. Manager Dave Trembley
noted that Hughes didn’t seem overwhelmed by the moment Saturday night and when
I talked to him briefly this morning he had the same ear-to-ear grin he’s been sporting
since

*For what Garrett Atkins thinks
about being bench for Hughes, check out my story yesterday. This is an
interesting situation to keep an eye on…

*Down in Triple-A Brad Bergesen will try to get back on
track and make his first start for Norfolk.  The Orioles are hoping he can get his
confidence back, refind his sinker and make that May 1 start. If not, they
could use either long men Jason Berken
or Mark Hendrickson to make a spot
start, or call up a guy like Jake Arrieta. That scenario isn’t likely since
they don’t really want to mess with Arrieta’s development, but it’s not something
I would rule out, either.

ORIOLES LINEUP

Nolan Reimold LF
Adam Jones CF
Nick Markakis RF
Miguel Tejada 3B
Luke Scott DH
Ty Wigginton 2B
Rhyne Hughes 1B
Craig Tatum C
Cesar Izturis SS

David Hernandez RHP

RED SOX LINEUP

Marco Scutaro SS
Dustin Pedroia 2B
Victor Martinez C
Kevin Youkilis 1B
David Ortiz DH
JD Drew RF
Adrian Beltre 3B
Jeremy Hermida LF
Jonathan Van Every CF

Tim Wakefield RHP

Can't stop the Wiggy

Ty Wigginton, who has assumed primary second base duties in lieu of injured Brian Roberts, has hit six of the Orioles’ 15 homers and has a team-leading 12 RBIs.
Saturday marked the seventh time he has had four hits, his first since July 17, 2007 against the Angels.

“He’s certainly got some very big hits and he’s taken advantage of the opportunity that’s been given him,” manager Dave Trembley said. “He’s really picked the club up since Roberts got hurt.”

 

Ty Wigginton, who has assumed primary second base duties in lieu of injured Brian Roberts, has hit six of the Orioles’ 15 homers and has a team-leading 12 RBIs.
Saturday marked the seventh time he has had four hits, his first since July 17, 2007 against the Angels.
“He’s certainly got some very big hits and he’s taken advantage of the opportunity that’s been given him,” manager Dave Trembley said. “He’s really picked the club up since Roberts got hurt.”

Matusz continues to generate buzz

Brian Matusz has posted quality starts in each of his last two outings, going 1-0 with a 4.38 ERA in that time. He gave up his first home run of the season to Jason Varitek in the fifth inning of Saturday’s game, but again showed why he is an early candidate for Rookie of the Year.  Red Sox manager Terry Francona raved about Matusz pitching older than his years and showed him some respect by shuffling the lineup to feature just one left-handed hitter. It seems every time he pitches, the opposing team raves about him.

Here are some of the Red Sox thoughts after seeing Matusz for the first time in a regular season game:
 
Terry Francona
“The way the game was going, Matusz was doing what we hoped he wouldn’t do, throwing his changeup, keeping it down, mixing speeds, getting us to hit ground balls.”

Jeremy Hermida
“He’s a pitcher. He was locating everything he threw and really impressed me. He was as good as we heard he was. You don’t see many rookies who can really pitch like that.”

Marco Scutaro

 “Their starter wasn’t giving us much. Getting him out in the seventh inning was big for us.”

Hughes' debut & other tidbits

Welcome to Fenway Park Day 2, where Brian Matusz will take the hill opposite John Lackey.

*Matusz has never faced the Red Sox and wanted to get a feel of what pitching at Fenway Park was like. So, he and Jeremy Guthrie used Thursday’s off day to go to the Red Sox game vs. the Texas Rangers. Dave Trembley said it best : he’s just a special kid.

*Tonight’s game will also be Rhyne Hughes’ Major League debut. Hughes got the nod last night and didn’t know he was in the starting lineup until he walked in to the visiting clubhouse around 4:30 p.m. ET.  The news broke thanks in part to his younger brother, Hoyt, who announced it on Rhyne’s Facebook fan page. 

*Hughes is playing first base tonight in place of Garrett Atkins, who has struggled as of late and twice left the bases loaded in Friday’s loss. Atkins said he’s not taking Hughes’ presence as anything other than a hot bat and a team who needs some offense. But it will be interesting to see what happens if Hughes starts to hit. Trembley said he will not consider Hughes in the outfield (he started to take reps out there at the team’s request this spring) so the only choice besides designated hitter is Hughes’ primary position at first base.

*Koji Uehara threw an inning today and will go to Double-A Bowie on a rehab assignment starting April 27. He will also throw on the 29th and there are no plans beyond that right now.


ORIOLES LINEUP
LOU MONTANEZ LF
ADAM JONES CF
NICK MARKAKIS RF
MIGUEL TEJADA 3B
MATT WIETERS C
LUKE SCOTT DH
TY WIGGINTON 2B
RHYNE HUGHES 1B
CESAR IZTURIS SS

BRIAN MATUSZ SP

RED SOX LINEUP
MARCO SCUTARO SS
DUSTIN PEDROIA 2B
VICTOR MARTINEZ DH
KEVIN YOUKILIS 1B
MIKE LOWELL 3B
JASON VARITEK C
BILL HALL RF
JEREMY HERMIDA LF
DARNELL MCDONALD CF

JOHN LACKEY SP

Hughes to join the O's

In desperate need of an offensive shakeup, the Orioles summoned outfielder Rhyne Hughes from Triple-A Norfolk late Friday night. Hughes, who also plays first base, is on his way to join the team in Boston.

A former Rays prospect, Hughes was acquired as the player to be named in the deal that sent Gregg Zaun to Tampa Bay. The 26-year-old wields a powerful bat, but he is also a high-strikeout hitter. He is lighting up Triple-A pitching and, despite an 0-for-3 performance for Norfolk on Friday, is hitting .353 with three homers and 11 RBIs in 15 games. He also has a .667 slugging percentage.

The move is not official and the team has not announced a corresponding roster move. If I had to guess, it would be to send down reliever Alberto Castillo. Since the team has a few off days, an extra bat off the bench is more important than the extra reliever right now. Reserve infielder Julio Lugo or second baseman Justin Turner are also candidates.

While manager Dave Trembley raved about Hughes’ power potential this spring, there’s a big difference between Spring Training stats and regular season stats. If the team does make the move and add Hughes to the active roster, we’ll find out shortly whether he’s a legit power threat or a great Triple-A hitter.

The Orioles went 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position Friday, dropping their season RISP average to .150. They stranded a season-high 12 runners and have lost 11 of 15 games by three runs or less. If they’re looking for an in-house solution, giving Hughes a shot makes sense.

Guthrie and all things starters

Lost in the shuffle of Wednesday’s loss was starter Jeremy Guthrie, who outpitched Red Sox starter Jon Lester despite the no-decision.

“I felt like I had pretty good command of my pitches, especially the change up,” said Guthrie, who battled through a 104-pitch outing to turn in his fourth straight quality outing.

To his credit the only hard hit ball was David Ortiz’s homer. The Sox had three infield hits and blooper otherwise and Guthrie continued his streak this season of not allowing a first-inning run.

The right-hander yielded three runs on six hits, and his ERA is 3.46. Still, Guthrie is searching for his first win of the season. He has posted quality starts in 9 of his last 13 outings, dating back to last year, but is just 3-7 over that stretch.

He deserved a win Wednesday night. Then again, given Baltimore’s offense -which lowered its runners in scoring position average to .150 this season – don’t all the Orioles starters deserve better?

So far, starting pitching has been a bright spot in a glum 2-15 start. And considering the Orioles just kicked off a 12-game stretch against the Yankees and the Red Sox, the next few weeks will be a true barometer of where the rotation is.

“Anytime you are facing the caliber of those lineups, those hitters, it’s obviously going to test you,” pitching coach Rick Kranitz said. “You are going to have to step up and get it done, that’s just the bottom line. They are no different than us, we make pitches we execute pitches, we get them out. That’s the bottom line.”

Ohman/JJ face the music

Will Ohman and Jim Johnson were both right at their
lockers following Wednesday’s loss. It’s always appreciated, especially given
how they both had a hand in the O’s heartbreaking demise in the eighth. Ohman
came on with two outs and threw eight straight balls, intentionally walking Victor
Martinez and giving David Ortiz a free pass to load the bases and bring on
Johnson. The Orioles’ de facto closer, Johnson walked Adrian Beltre on five
pitches to score the game’s decisive run.

Here
are their post-game quotes, most of which didn’t make it into my game story due
to space.

Ohman

 “You
decide the game in the seventh or eighth inning, I didn’t get it done. This
isn’t anybody’s fault but mine, personally. I gave [the Red Sox] momentum when
they didn’t necessarily have it. There’s a runner on third with two outs and I
have got two chances to get a guy out and I don’t even throw a pitch close
that’s on me.”

 

What
exactly went wrong?

 “I
just stuck it up. I didn’t get it done.”

 “It’s
frustrating in that we needed a pick-me-up and I gave us a let-me-down. I
didn’t get it done. Nobody’s fault but mine.”

 “I
gave them a position where JJ had to come and pick me up and it shouldn’t have
been there. I don’t care what park we are in or who we are facing I did not get
it done.”

 

Johnson

 “We
didn’t throw a whole lot of strikes, and you obviously can’t defend against the
walks. That’s inexcusable. That’s terrible. You can’t lose a game on walking in
a guy with the bases loaded. That’s just horse[ bleep] on my part.”

 

On
how frustrating it was to see the Orioles tie the game and then have the ‘pen
give it up…

 “We
battled back, Jonesy hits the two run shot to get us back in it. We scrap, not
a favorable call during that one inning [with Reimold in the top of the eighth]
that we did score but we still grounded it out and then that eighth inning
things got away from us.

 “Look
at how many guys did we walk in the eighth inning You can’t do that. You can’t
do that at the end of the game.”

 “You’ve
got to be able to close the book on those guys, You can’t let them get on base
without swinging the bats.”

 

 Five of the Orioles’ six arms issued a walk. What was going
on?

“It’s
not like we are tryin’ to do that. We’ve got to figure it out. I’m trying to
throw a ball down the middle and it just isn’t going there. That last pitch to
Beltre. I’ve got to make him try to hit the ball and put it in play.”

Will it ever go the O's way?

“This
can’t continue the whole year,” Nolan Reimold said following the Orioles’ 15th
loss Friday night. “That would be a pretty frustrating year. We’re going to
keep battling and things will turn around eventually.”

They
have to…right? At least that’s what the Orioles have to be thinking after that
4-3 series-opening loss to the Red Sox.

 “If
you look back and you get [Jon] Lester out in the sixth and Jonsie hits the
home run [in the seventh] you had to think we were going to come around and
win,” Ty Wigginton said. “It just didn’t happen.”

If
you had told me Jeremy Guthrie was going to outpitch Jon Lester, I probably
wouldn’t have believed you. But that’s exactly what Guthrie did, allowing David
Ortiz’s second homer as the only hard hit ball by the Red Sox in his six
innings. Lester managed to keep the O’s scoreless (not exactly a hard feat
lately) despite four walks and a hit batter in 5 2/3 innings. He’s undefeated in
13 career starts against the Orioles, going 10-0 with a 2.22 ERA in that
stretch.

“We
got [Lester's] pitch count way up, I thought we had a good plan going in,”
manager Dave Trembley said.  “We didn’t
chase a lot of pitches out of the strike zone, we made him come in. But we
couldn’t bunch hits together.”

More
specifically, Garrett Atkins couldn’t. He stranded four runners in scoring
position with two outs and went 0-for-4 on the night, including three
inning-ending outs. Atkins was one of the few Orioles unavailable for post-game
comment, (he was in the training room) but -to be fair – the team did strand 12
runners total so he can’t shoulder all the blame.

“I
think you are starting to see signs [of the offense returning],” Wigginton
said. “Jones hits a big home run. Nick makes an aggressive play, trying to go
for second off the wall [in the ninth]. Sometimes you got to tip your hat.”

Jones’ two-run homer snapped an 0-for-16 blast. Meanwhile, Markakis had two hits to raise his average to .270 and continues to show signs of coming back.

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