May 2010

Turner to Buffalo

President of baseball operations Andy MacPhail just confirmed that Justin Turner has been claimed off waivers by the New York Mets. The Mets have out righted Turner to Triple-A Buffalo.

Turner was taken off the 40-man roster when the team purchased the contract of Scott Moore prior to Interleague play on Friday.

Orioles 1970 Reunion

Join members of the 1970 World Champion Orioles at a private luncheon at Oriole Park on June 26, including Hall of Famers Brooks Robinson, Frank Robinson, Jim Palmer and Earl Weaver, and 1970 AL MVP Boog Powell. You’ll receive your own personal photo taken with the attending members of the 1970 team and the 1970 World Series trophy, as well as an autographed baseball. Enjoy lunch, a question and answer session with the players, complimentary parking on Lot B/C (until 2:00 p.m.) and more.

For more details, check out the event’s press release

Change is a comin'

A few things could happen in the next day(s) for the Orioles given that Koji Uehara is expected to be placed on the disabled list and Alfredo Simon is likely to join him.  They’ll both got reevaluated today, which is why official word won’t be until later, but in Simon’s case the Orioles can’t afford to be down another arm for a few days. Hamstring issues can linger and Simon has had some in the past, which makes me think the team would lean toward putting him on the 15 day DL and hopefully nipping the issue in the bud.

I’ve gotten a lot of questions as to what the Orioles will do in their bullpen and who will be the closer. I’d say lefty specialist Will Ohman moves into the majority of save situations, given that he’s been the Orioles most reliable reliever and, according to manager Dave Trembley earlier this week, would relish the role.

As to who to recall, the Orioles tipped their hand a little last night when Triple-A Norfolk closer Frank Mata did not enter the 2-1 game. Mata has eight saves for Norfolk and is not on the team’s 40-man roster, meaning there would need to be a corresponding move made there, perhaps designating Pedro Viola or Pedro Florimon, Jr.  Mata is 2-1 with a 1.86 ERA and with appearances in 18 games. Given that he had last night off, you’d have to think the Orioles would recall him with full intent to use him on Tuesday if needed.

What about the second reliever spot that could open if Simon goes on the shelf? The crop down at Triple-A includes right-hander Ross Wolf (who is 0-2 with a 2.70 ERA in 15 appearances) and Alberto Castillo, who was just optioned back following Thursday’s Orioles loss. Since this is an injury situation, the club could recall Castillo and the usual 10-day rule doesn’t apply. Dennis Sarfate is also an option. Kam Mickolio is struggling at Norfolk and has been dealing with some back issues, so I’d rule out him getting the nod. 

The O’s could also move starter David Hernandez to the bullpen, a move which has been speculated about for a few days. With yesterday’s off day the team could go shuffle the rotation -giving Brad Bergesen Hernandez’s scheduled Thursday start on regular rest – and have Kevin Millwood open Friday’s series in Toronto.  That scenario would require a fifth starter for Saturday, which would be either Chris Tillman or Jake Arrieta (and the Orioles would option back a reliever.)

Tillman tossed  six innings of one-run baseball last night to become the first Orioles Minor Leaguer to five wins. Does he get a shot at six? I don’t think so.  Tillman could make Saturday’s start on regular rest and he’s on the team’s 40-man roster. Arrieta is scheduled to pitch tonight for Norfolk, which is a box score I will watch closely. If he gets scratched it’d be an easy guess as to why…

As for Hernandez to the bullpen, it’s an option that makes sense for several reasons, namely that it allows a promotion for Tillman/Arrieta and strengthen the O’s bullpen. As a starter, Hernandez has only pitched in the seventh inning four times in his career, tossing six full innings 10 times in 27 career starts.

Hernandez’s career ERA from innings 1-3 is 4.91 and number that jumps over a run – to 5.97 in innings 4-6. Obviously he has more innings in the first three innings ( 80 2/3) than later in the game (60 1/3). In his first 50 pitches, he is holding opponents to a career .254 batting average against, a number that goes up to .281 with pitches 51-75 and .306 with pitches 76-100. Those appearances are pretty even given that Hernandez has thrown at least 75 pitches in 28 games, lasting to the 76-100 range 26 times.

Hernandez struck out four in his only career relief appearance, tossing 2 2/3 scoreless innings on June 6 at Oakland. As of Sunday night, he said he hadn’t been told anything in regards to moving to the ‘pen, but if the move is made he won’t be mad about it. In my opinion, it’s something he probably saw coming.

Check back later this afternoon for some official moves as the Orioles get ready to square off with the Oakland A’s. 

A seething Trembley

Orioles manager Dave Trembley was very curt following his team’s 4-3 10th-inning loss to the Nationals, cutting off the media session by nearly running away as he called, “that’s about it.”

“A lot of things happened in the game that have been repetitive, but the intent to play hard, to come back, the things that are very apparent, speak for themselves,” he said.
When asked about losing the game in the 10th, he chose to ignore the question by answering: “I thought we did a hell of a job in the ninth inning to get back in it.”

When asked about the lack of bench depth and having to use slumping Garret Atkins in a big spot in the ninth Trembley said: “I thought Atkins had a very good at-bat. He didn’t get the hit. The game, there’s a lot of stories, different chapters within the game. A lot of different things happened.”

Including Corey Patterson’s failure to tag up on a ball hit in the sixth. When asked about that, Trembley responded curtly: “That is about as plain as the nose on my face, what you should do. That was a mistake that was made by a guy with a lot of experience. You can go ask Corey Patterson instead of asking me because that’s an insult to my intelligence.”

Simon exits

WASHINGTON — Orioles closer Alfredo Simon exited with one out in the 10th inning after appearing to have pulled something in his left leg while running to cover the first base bag.
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Simon hustled over to cover the bag to record the out on Willie Harris, who hit the ball to diving first baseman Luke Scott.  Television replays showed Simon coming up short on his stride and after securing the out, Simon grabbed his left leg in pain. Head athletic trainer Richie Bancells and manager Dave Trembely both came out to see Simon and after several minutes he limped off with the aid of Bancells.
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Simon had tossed a 1-2-3 ninth to help send the game into extra innings. He was replaced by sidearmer Cla Meredith with the scored tied at 3. Meredith surrendered the decisive homer to Josh Willingham.

Orioles playing catch up

After a 2-16 start the Orioles became the first team in baseball to hit the 30-loss mark with Saturday’s 6-6 defeat at Nationals Park.  When asked if he felt the team was playing more like a .500 club manager Dave Trembley agreed.  But digging out of a terrible start has been a tough task in the season’s first month-and-a-half given the O’s inconsistency.
 
“It seems like every time we are ready to turn the corner something happens,” Trembley said.

“There’s a little setback, a little bump in the road so to speak. It’s been tough.”

Following their third win on April 25, the O’s started an 10-8 stretch before May 15′s heartbreaking loss. In that game, starter Brian Matusz’s seven scoreless innings went for naught as closer Alfredo Simon was charged with four ninth-inning runs, and Cla Meredith surrendered another four to give the Indians an 8-2 win.

“I felt like we were ready to turn the corner and we lost the game to Cleveland,” Trembley said. We had that lead and Simon came in, and we lost that one. That would have given us the opportunity to win back to back series and it didn’t happen. So we took a step backwards, we came in and split against Kansas City and that’s why [Sunday's] game I think is particularly important to us…going into [Monday’s off day.”

The Orioles have gone 12-14 since getting off to the second-worst start in franchise history and entered Sunday’s finale with a series record of 2-10-2.
 
“Any team in baseball is going to go through a losing streak, if it happens in the middle of the year it’s a little bit easier to accept,” Trembley said. “But when people wait all winter and it’s the start of the season and you start out as poorly as we did it becomes a lot more magnified.”

“So now we are trying to catch up. And in order to catch up we have to win as many series as we possibly can. And that’s what we are trying to do.”

Trembley on Koji, pending roster moves

There’s been speculation about what will happen if when Koji Uehara is placed on the disabled list. When asked point-blank if the Orioles would bring up a reliever, this is what manager Dave Trembley said….

“There’s all kinds of possibilities. And I couldn’t tell you which way we are going right now, but I understand what you are alluding to. I’m very much aware of it, [president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail is] very much aware of it,[pitching coach Rick Kranitz is] very much aware of it. I know Koji feels absolutely terrible. The timing of [his injury] couldn’t have come at a worse time for us.  

We know what the possibilities [are] but to be very honest with you I couldn’t tell you what we are going to do.”

“I know this, what you don’t need is another guy in the bullpen that throws one inning. That’s what you don’t need. You need somebody that can give you multiple innings because people are on [Matt] Albers, people are on [Cla] Meredith. You have to go with what you have. I’ve used those guys an awful lot and you need somebody to give you more than one inning. That’s just what you need.

“I was hoping to get that out of [Mark] Hendrickson yesterday, didn’t happen.  That’s why I stayed with [starter Brad] Bergesen, I’d like to see what everybody said if I had taken Bergesen out of after five. You can’t have your cake and eat it too. You got to understand what’s going on.”

This will be Koji’s fourth trip to the DL since he joined the Orioles last season. Given his success in Japan, this is not what anyone expected.

“All I knew was his history, that he pitched, he had a lot of innings and he pitched very well. And that’s what my expectation was. I think that’s what everybody’s expectation was,” Trembley said.

“The decision was made, the right one, to put him in the bullpen [this year]. Short stints, he was going to help our club, we slot him right in. We have what potentially looks like another setback and it’s difficult to deal with. I like putting him out there.

“For the most part he’s reliable, he gets your three outs and he doesn’t throw a lot of pitches. He’s good.”

The Tillman/Arrieta Factor

The Orioles haven’t said anything, but Koji Uehara will almost definitely go to the disabled list. He saw team physician Dr. Wilckens prior to Sunday’s game and has been diagnosed with a flexor prontator strain. While he said the pain was around the same area of his previous injury in his right elbow, the prontator is associated more with the forearm.

As an example of that kind of injury, Mariners closer J.J. Putz developed a flexor-pronator strain during Spring Training ’07 but was available to pitch by the start of the regular season. The Phillies J.A. Happ also deal with a “mild flexor prontator strain” and missed a start. He was eventually placed on the disabled list.
 
So what do the Orioles do now? They won’t call up another one-inning guy, a fact manager Dave Trembley confirmed prior to Sunday’s game. They need someone who can go multiple innings in the bullpen, someone like David Hernandez.
 
At this point, moving Hernandez to the bullpen is pure speculation. But it makes sense given the team’s cautious nature regarding top prospects Jake Arrieta and Chris Tillman. Hernandez has typically been a guy who can throw hard and who is better in short bursts. He usually falls victim to one bad inning after throwing three or four great ones. I know Orioles fans have been calling for this move for years, but it finally appears like it might happen.
 
President of baseball operations Andy MacPhail was in Norfolk last week to watch both Tillman and Arrieta pitch. I haven’t seen either guy since the spring, and I’m not sure who would got the nod over who at this point. Tillman is on the 40-man roster and his service time clock is ticking since he was with the big-league club last year. But while Tillman got off to a slow start, Arrieta has been dominant since the beginning of the year.
 
Of course, MacPhail could also opt to put one of those two guys in the bullpen, or move another starter. But Hernandez is a guy who projects well out of the ‘pen given that he throws hard and really gets himself into trouble when he goes to his offspeed stuff. Seeing a batter (or lineup) one time through would allow him to use his best stuff.  And given how the team hasn’t hesitated to pluck a prospect from Triple-A and put them in the starting rotation in seasons past, it appears that move is imminent.

Os/Nats finale

*Red hot Ty Wigginton is batting cleanup today, following a four-RBI performance in Saturday’s loss.
*I don’t expect a roster move with Koji today. The O’s are off on Monday and Millwood prides himself on going deep into games. Even if he doesn’t the O’s gave most of their pen the night off, with Mark Hendrickson throwing after starter Brad Bergesen.

ORIOLES LINEUP:
Corey Patterson LF
Nick Markakis RF
Miguel Tejada 3B
Ty Wigginton 2B
Luke Scott 1B
Adam Jones CF
Matt Wieters C
Julio Lugo SS
Kevin Millwood RHP

NATIONALS LINEUP:
Nyjer Morgan  CF
Cristian Guzman 2B
Ryan Zimmerman 3B
Adam Dunn 1B
Josh Willingham LF
Roger Bernadina RF
Ian Desmond SS
Wil Nieves C
John Lannan LHP

Koji's status could effect Tillman, Arrieta

Orioles reliever Koji Uehara wasn’t available for the third consecutive game on Saturday and is dealing with right elbow pain similar to the injury that ended his 2009 campaign.  Uehara said he first felt something during Wednesday’s 30-pitch outing in Texas and although nothing is official, the Orioles right-hander could be facing another trip to the disabled list. Uehara hasn’t pitched since Wednesday, leaving an already-short Orioles bullpen further depleted.

The question is what do the Orioles do now? Koji has to go to the DL if he can’t pitch (which would be his 4th trip to the DL since last May). And Trembley said he wouldn’t be available tomorrow which again leaves the bullpen in a bind. They’ve had to get 40 outs in the last three days and with Alberto Castillo being optioned back following Thursday’s loss, you really can’t blame Trembley for the decision to leave in Brad Bergesen in the sixth and then go to long man Mark Hendrickson.

Was it the right move? No. But it was his only move. 

The Orioles starters have failed to make it out of the sixth inning for the last three games, and before that Jeremy Guthrie went six on Wednesday. That puts more pressure on winless veteran Kevin Millwood, who basically needs to throw a complete game to help the pen catch up.

If there isn’t a roster move tomorrow, Monday’s off day could get interesting. Do the Orioles bring back up Castillo, who was largely ineffective in his last stint ? Do they move David Hernandez -who is most effective early — to the bullpen and call up Chris Tillman or Jake Arrieta? Or do they move one of those two young guys up the bullpen to ease them into the rotation and bolster the ‘pen’s depth?

Make no mistake- Tillman and Arrieta are close. So close that president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail paid a visit to Norfolk to watch their last start. When they do come up, what role they have is largely uncertain. But if it were up to me, I’d put Hernandez in the ‘pen and give Tillman or Arrieta a starting spot. Given Hernandez’s stuff, he could be scary good out of the bullpen. And right now, the Orioles don’t have too many relievers you feel good about going to in a tight spot. 
 

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