June 2010

Atkins safe, Montanez to DL

Update: Interim manager Juan Samuel confirmed Lou Montanez did something to his oblique the other day and will likely go on the DL post game to clear a spot for Bergesen.

Garrett Atkins is in the Orioles lineup tonight and it’s looking increasingly like he will survive through the weekend. With the Orioles set to make two roster moves ,the team could opt to option a reliever like Frank Mata and put Lou Montanez on the disabled list. According to a team source, Montanez suffered a minor injury during some recent batting practice.

Off day

I’m off today, to catch up on laundry and grocery shopping and a few errands that I haven’t had a chance to do. But as always, all the Orioles news will be on Orioles.com.

Also, looking forward, I have an off day on Monday and am out of ideas. So, please, email me or send me a note on Twitter.

Tell me, what do you want to know about this team? What do you want to read about? Maybe I’ll be inspired.

Thanks,

–Britt

A true rebuild & Samuel's thoughts

ESPN.com’s Tim Kurkjian writes what most Orioles fans have been thinking most of the season: this could be the worst of 13 straight years of losing.

Last night Brian Matusz took the loss, his eighth of the year, and you have to wonder how long the Orioles will continue to flail about before a permanent successor to Dave Trembley is put in place. I don’t pretend to know when that will be. Heck, I don’t even know if Andy MacPhail knows. (He said yesterday it all depends on the process).

But I think we can all agree that at this point in the season it’s becoming damaging for these young guys to be marred in the losing culture that has swamped the Orioles.

My question is, how do you turn this around? Do you wait this season out, or do you make a move at the midseason mark and forget about the first 81 games? Do you get rid of everyone who isn’t a part of the Orioles’ future (ie. make a flurry of trades)?

******

I recently sat down with Juan Samuel for a little Q & A when I was in San Diego. It was going to be an off day story, but sometimes you have to let other news dictate what goes up. So, before this all gets stale, I wanted to share a few of his more interesting comments on what’s going on here and what he reasonably expects going forward…(Note: that this was done before Wednesday’s failed bunt attempt with Matt Wieters. So please spare me the emails about Samuel’s bunting strategy)

MLB.com: When you took over the team was already 15-39. How much of a challenge is it to managing a team that far in the hole, and how much can you, as a first-time manager feasibly expect to turn things around?
 
Samuel:  Honestly, I’ve taken the approach that anything that I can do to improve the attitude, to change the philosophy and mentality of some guys, is a plus for whoever might take over. Or whatever the decision might be.
 
To me, it’s a no- lose situation because we were already in the situation that we were in, and I’m using this as a learning experience. I’m enjoying it. I don’t think you know you can do something until you start doing it.  You see things that you could do and things that are working and you say, ‘Wait a minute, I think I can do this.’ But until you are put into this situation you aren’t sure how close you are.

That’s what I’m using this for. For me, its keeping those guys positive, continuing to push and encourage them and have them play a little better.

MLB.com: Given the Orioles injuries and lack of depth, you have a bench that’s short on big-league experience and productivity. Does it make you think twice to call on guys like Scott Moore, who is 1-for-19 with 10 strikeouts as a pinch-hitter, or Lou Montanez -who is batting .140 — in critical situations?

Samuel: Not at all. Because, to me, this is what I have. This is the right guy; a righty [pitcher] up there, Scotty is the left-handed guy we have right now. It’s not an easy job to come off the bench, but I’m going to do it.

Those guys are here. Yes, you’d rather have better choices, but this is what we have. And I’m going to use them in situations probably where they haven’t been used before. But I’m not afraid to throw guys out there. I’m really not.

MLB.com: With that being said, this team has yet to win a series since you took over. Have you seen any improvements, be it in the team’s fundamentals or the general attitude?

Samuel: One thing that I’ve noticed is we’ve been able to run a little bit, we’ve been able to sacrifice [bunt] a little bit.

I remind them, ‘Hey don’t just anticipate or think I’m not going to do certain things. Just be prepared because I do anything at any moment. Be looking for something. I always remind them, we need to stay the course, continue to do what we do and be ready to run. I’ve seen some of those things and some of those guys run the bases the way I think you should run it. [They do need] to take advantage of the mistakes; take the extra base a little more.

MLB.com: When you were named interim manager you talked about accountability and holding players responsible by calling them out. Has there been any of those situations with you as interim manager?

Samuel: Not yet. A lot of guys are passionate, a lot of guys are emotional. And sometimes when guys miss pitches down the middle, they show some passion, some frustration. And I played. I understand. But if you see certain things, repeating itself too much you have ways to get the message across.

MLB.com: President of baseball operations Andy MacPhail has made it no secret that he values experience for the next Orioles manager. Given that this is your first shot at the helm, do you view this as a job interview, not just for the Orioles, but for the rest of baseball?

Samuel: Exactly. And if it doesn’t work out [in Baltimore] at least I know, ‘OK I could have done this differently. Next time I get a job I will do this’. You find out where things don’t work and you say ‘OK, I needed to do this’.

I got an opportunity from Andy to basically show to the folks out there to take notice, maybe a Latino player could manage. Because there’s not a whole lot of us
 

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What about Fredi? or Kelly?

With the Marlins dismissal of Fredi Gonzalez on Wednesday afternoon, I’ve gotten a few emails about whether he’d be considered for the Orioles job.

The simple answer is: no. Gonzalez is the favorite to replace Bobby Cox in Atlanta, and even if he was to interview with the Orioles (and that’s probably not going to happen) he’d definitely want to wait out the season and see what happens with the Braves.

The Orioles also won’t be coaxing former Minnesota Twins manager Tom Kelly out of retirement.

MacPhail on Valentine, Showalter

BALTIMORE–Orioles president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail confirmed on Wednesday evening that the organization interviewed Buck Showalter earlier in the afternoon for Baltimore’s vacant managerial position.

MacPhail also confirmed previous interviewee Bobby Valentine officially withdrew his name from the Orioles’ search, in a report first made public by ESPN.com’s Tim Kurkjian.

MacPhail said he spoke with Valentine’s agent but had not read the statement in Kurkjian’s article, which quoted Valentine as saying he thought he should turn elsewhere.

“I am honored and flattered that the Orioles reached out with this potential opportunity, but at this time in my career, I feel I should direct my energies in another direction,” said Valentine said in the story.

With the dismissal of Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez on Wednesday morning, Florida president David Samson confirmed that he has already been in talks with Valentine, and it’s well known that the organization will try to find a long-term replacement as soon as possible.

“I could speculate [why Valentine withdrew], but we are still in the middle of the process,” said MacPhail who reiterated he does not have a timetable for finding a permanent replacement for Dave Trembley. “We are at the beginning of the middle of the process.”

That process will start to include reaching out to other Major League teams to inquire about currently employed members of another club’s staff. The first phase, according to MacPhail, was to reach out to candidates who weren’t employed, with Showalter and former Indians manager Eric Wedge each getting an interview.

“I think we want to get it right, whether it’s in two weeks or two months [is] probably not as important as getting the right guy,”said MacPhail who didn’t anticipate making a hire prior to the All-Star Break. “I don’t think, frankly given our place in the standings, urgency is as paramount as it might be to a team like the Marlins who are still a few game within striking distance.”

Showalter’s interview lasted around three hours and MacPhail called it both educational and enjoyable to exchange ideas with the current ESPN analyst.

Showalter was the American League Manager of the year in 1994 with New York and in ’04 with Texas. He also spent three years with the D-backs, leading the second-year team to a 100-win season in ’99.

MacPhail declined to divulge any further details of the meeting with Showalter and said he had no other meetings planned in the near future. Although, even if he did, the notoriously close-to-vest MacPhail admitted he probably wouldn’t share that with the media.

“I’ve taken the position right or wrong that the more low-key we can go the better, “MacPhail said.

“It’s really awkward in these in-season [searches] because you have an existing manager.”

That manager is former third base coach Juan Samuel, who was promoted to Orioles interim skipper following Trembley’s dismissal on June 4. MacPhail said first-time manager Samuel will still be considered for the job, although he has made it no secret that the organization will place an emphasis on experience. MacPhail wasn’t sure if the League would require him to officially interview Samuel, given that he gets to show the organization firsthand what he can do. The Orioles (19-51) entered Wednesday 4-12 under Samuel.

Former Oriole and current MASN broadcaster Rick Dempsey is expected to meet with MacPhail sometime in the near future, according to a report in the Baltimore Sun. The Sun also said no interview date has been set.

Tillman Thursday in Norfolk

Orioles right-hander Chris Tillman, who was optioned back to Triple-A Norfolk yesterday, will start tomorrow for the Tides.

Pitching coach Rick Kranitz said he wasn’t sure how long Tillman’s outing will be given that he hasn’t pitched in a game since June 14. Tillman also had a stomach bug on Sunday –the last day of the O’s West Coast trip — and didn’t throw at all.

Kranitz said they will probably evaulate Tillman on an inning-by-inning basis down in Norfolk, but guessed he’d probably throw around 80 pitches.

Orioles-Marlins lineups

As most of you know, tonight’s game is the Marlins first under interim manager Edwin Rodriguez who assumed the helm with the dismissal of Fredi Gonzalez.

As one young Marlins player put it, “It’s sad, but I’m starting to realize this is a business.”

*Koji Uehara will throw a simulated game prior to Thursday’s Orioles game at Camden Yards. Interim Orioles manager Juan Samuel said he and pitching coach Rick Kranitz want to see Koji throw before they make any determinations of whether he should go on a rehab assignment or not.

ORIOLES LINEUP:
Corey Patterson LF
Miguel Tejada 3B
Nick Markakis RF
Ty Wigginton 1B
Luke Scott DH
Adam Jones CF
Matt Wieters C
Scott Moore 2B
Cesar Izturis SS
Brian Matusz LHP

MARLINS LINEUP:
Chris Coghlan LF
Gaby Sanchez 1B
Hanley Ramirez SS
Jorge Cantu DH
Dan Uggla 2B
Cody Ross CF
Mike Stanton RF
Wes Helms 3B
Ronny Paulino C
Ricky Nolasco RHP

Gonzalez's timetable

An update to what I mentioned previously on Michael Gonzalez’s rehab program. He will throw another inning in the Gulf Coast League on Friday and then will need about three outings in Double or Triple-A next week. If he has no setbacks, he will join the team for the road trip that starts July 2 in Boston.

Tillman back to Norfolk

BALTIMORE– Chris Tillman was optioned back to Triple-A Norfolk prior to Tuesday’s Orioles game, a move which cleared a spot on the 25-man roster for newly acquired Jake Fox.

“He needs to go and pitch more frequently than what we were able to offer him,” president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail said of Tillman, who hasn’t appeared in a game since he was taken out of the Orioles rotation following June 14’s start.

Tillman dropped to 0-3 with an 8.40 ERA with that abbreviated outing against the Giants, which marked the second time in four starts that he failed to make it to the third inning. The 22-year-old’s lack of velocity — he didn’t break 90 mph — was particularly frustrating and the Orioles moved him temporarily to the bullpen. The move to the ‘pen was more out of necessity, with both interim manager Juan Samuel and pitching coach Rick Kranitz reiterating that Tillman’s future in the organization is as a starter.

“To continue the development of those guys, they need to go down there [to Norfolk] and pitch,” Samuel said.

At the time of his recall on May 29, Tillman was 5-4 with a 3.12 ERA in 10 starts for the Tides. On April 28, he pitched a nine-inning no-hitter against Gwinnett.

“Talking to some of the people that had [Tillman in the Minor Leagues, they said that he kind of eases his way into it and then later in the game, he starts adding velocity,” Samuel said last week. “We need to have it the other way around. I think he needs to pitch with more conviction. He needs to get in there and move those hitters, make them move their feet.”

Samuel wasn’t sure of Tillman’s schedule in Norfolk and given that it’s been more than a week since he’s started, Samuel said the Minor League staff will work on mapping out an exact plan.

Fox on joining the O's

As you know by now, Jake Fox was traded to the Orioles today in exchange for Minor League pitcher Ross Wolf and cash considerations. The full story is here.

Below are some of Fox’s comments that didn’t make it in the story…

On his reaction to the move…

“I’m excited about it. It’s always good to have a change. It’s good to go someplace where hopefully you fit in because where I came from [in Oakland], it just wasn’t the right fit for anybody. I didn’t fit into their style and it’s very difficult to change your style at this point. You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.

So I’m happy to be here. It seems like they want me to be here. It’s always nice to go to a place that wants you to be there. I know a lot of people [in Baltimore] from some from former organizations. It’s just great to be here. It’s great to have a fresh start, it’s great to get going and I’m excited.”

Fox said he found out yesterday and got on a plane, arriving in Baltimore late Monday night. When asked what he thinks drew in the Orioles, Fox said it was his versatility.

“They like the fact that I can play multiple positions,” he said. “I just talked to Juan [Samuel] and he said, ‘I’m going to use you around the diamond where I can put you in, but basically you’re going to earn your way.’ You’re going to earn your playing time and I’m used to that. I’m ready for that and I’m ready to accept that challenge. So I’ve got to go out, put some good innings together and hopefully I’m going to earn some more playing time.”

Samuel said having Fox as a third catcher could help spell more time at DH for Matt Wieters, who has struggled at the plate this season. Fox said a year ago he wouldn’t have been comfortable back behind the plate but the A’s got him back into catching.

“I’ve had seven games behind the plate with the A’s, so I feel good about that,” Fox said. “The hardest part about coming to a new organization is learning the pitchers, learning what pitches they have, learning their strengths, learning their weaknesses so we can get on the same page, you can call a good game and I think that’s going to be the most difficult part about it.” 

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