September 2010

More Millwood

In what is likely Kevin Millwood’s final start in an Orioles uniform, he turned in one of his best outings of the season, holding the Rays to two hits over seven scoreless innings in Wednesday’s 2-0 series win.

Brought to Baltimore in an offseason trade with Texas, Millwood was always professional and upbeat despite turning the worst statistical season of his career. You could tell it was important to him, manager Buck Showalter –who he has been friends with since his Rangers days — and the rest of the team to send off Millwood with a win.

“I don’t think I’ve ever pulled for anybody in my life as much as I did [Millwod] in that seventh inning with [BJ} Upton at the plate,” said pitching coach Rick Kranitz. “He really deserved that. He gave everything he had. He emptied his tank right there. He threw the ball extremely well tonight. He mixed speeds well, he was down. It was a good win for him and for the club.”

“I really feel good for Kevin. He’s had his challenges this year,” Showalter said of Millwood’s career-high and American League-leading 16 losses. “That was the right way to end it. Very quietly, this guy pitched 190-plus innings this year.”

“He’s proud from the standpoint where he doesn’t have to [have outings like Wednesday] for people to have respect for him in the game and in this clubhouse,” Showaler added. “You see the way he has handled adversity individually and from a group standpoint. That’s probably the baseball Gods shining on him at the end of the season, I think. Like I said earlier this guy threw 190 innings this year and about two weeks ago I thought he had a pretty good shot of getting his ERA under 5. He got pretty close tonight [with a 5.10].

“[He was] the same guy every day regardless of what’s happening. There’s a lot of stuff going on inside for a guy to do what he’s done through the course of his career. I hope the rest of his career treats him as well as he’s treated the game.”

Millwood has maintained that he would like to pitch again next year if someone wants him. The 35-year-old had an rocky year, but he still can get by on guts and gumption, putting together seven quality starts in his last 10 outings.

“He had us off balance,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said. “We just had bad swings at him. I looked at the quality of the swing and the quality of the at-bat, a lot of off-speed pitches. Change-ups, sliders, back-door breaking balls. You know this guy doesn’t have the same stuff he used to have but he’s got the same mind. He knows how to pitch. And he out pitched us. He out-thought us, he out performed us tonight. He was very good.”

A free agent this offseason, Millwood would prefer to go somewhere where he has a chance to win and play in October. Whether he would accept a Minor League deal somewhere remains to be seen.


Orioles/Rays series finale

*Brian Roberts is still dealing with headaches and isn’t in the lineup for the second consecutive game. He is expected to see a doctor in Baltimore on Thursday.
*I blogged earlier about Alfredo Simon’s suspension being reduced to two games. He will start serving that tonight.
*Wondering when the last time Nick Markakis was a DH? Never. This is his first Major League DH start. Manager Buck Showalter was equally surprised.
*Heavy rain is expected for Thursday’s series opener in Detroit, so the Orioles are tentatively talking about doing a doubleheader on Friday, although there’s no word yet on whether it would be back-to-back or a day and night contest with a break. All this, of course, depends on Thursday’s weather and if the game gets called.
Corey Patterson LF
Ty Wigginton 3B
Nick Markakis DH
Luke Scott 1B
Matt Wieters C
Adam Jones CF
Felix Pie RF
Robert Andino 2B
Cesar Izturis SS

RHP Kevin Millwood

John Jaso C
Ben Zobrist 2B
Carl Crawford LF
Dan Johnson 3B
Carlos Pena 1B
Matt Joyce RF
B.J. Upton CF
Brad Hawpe DH
Jason Bartlett SS

RHP Jeff Niemann

Orioles pregame notes on Arrieta, Simon and coaches

Orioles rookie Jake Arrieta will not undergo surgery on the bone spur on his right elbow, after a second opinion from Dr. Lewis Yocum (who looked over the MRI images from LA) concluded the same thing the team doctors did. The thought is, don’t fix what’s not broken and the spur doesn’t hamper Arrieta at all right now.

Alfredo Simon’s three-game suspension was reduced to two and he will begin serving that for tonight’s game against the Rays. Having a short ‘pen also makes it likely that Chris Tillman will get Friday’s start in Baltimore, since the Orioles might need the services of long man Rick VandenHurk.

No coaching decisions will be made until after the season, with manager Buck Showalter saying he would “be shocked” if anything was decided on before the World Series. But, Showalter won’t just leave the Orioles current coaches pondering their future for the next four weeks, and will sit down with each of them individually to discuss things before the season concludes on Sunday.

Showalter has an idea of what he’s going to do, but wasn’t going to tip his hand. He did say he was impressed with the work ethic and professionalism from the O’s current staff. If you look at his track record, he doesn’t tend to just dismantle coaching staffs, so while he could want to bring in some of his own people, I wouldn’t be surprised if he retains some of the current crop of coaches.

Lugo tossed

Orioles infielder Julio Lugo was ejected from Tuesday’s game
following his strikeout in the top of the fifth inning, an animated display
that home plate umpire Joe West took offense to.

Lugo, who singled in his third-inning at bat, went down looking
on three pitches from Rays starter David Price, promptly him to strike his
helmet into the ground and toss his batting glove to the side as he walked out
to the field, prepared to go to second.  But
West motioned to Lugo that his night was over, granting Lugo – a last-minute
addition with Brian Roberts’ illness – his first ejection of the season.

Orioles manager Buck Showalter came out of the visiting
dugout to argue briefly with West, as Lugo walked off. Brandon Snyder entered
the game at first base and the Orioles moved first baseman Ty Wigginton to
second in Lugo’s absence.

Rays/Orioles lineups and tidbits

*The Rays are giving out 20,000 tickets for Thursday’s game to help boost the dismal attendance. Tickets will be on a first-come, first-served basis starting at 4:45 pm and will be given away at the Trop. Gates will open then as well. The team will announce plans for those who paid already.
*Jeremy Guthrie will start Thursday’s game, Chris Tillman or Rick VandenHurk for Friday and Brian Matusz and Brad Bergesen will finish the season.
*Brian Roberts was a late scratch with illness.

Julio Lugo 2B
Robert Andino SS
Nick Markakis RF
Ty Wigginton 1B
Jake Fox DH
Adam Jones CF
Matt Wieters C
Nolan Reimold LF
Josh Bell 3B

RHP Brad Bergesen

John Jaso C
Ben Zobrist 2B
Carl Crawford LF
Dan Johnson DH
Matt Joyce RF
Carlos Pena 1B
BJ Upton CF
Reid Brignac SS
Sean Rodriguez 3B

LHP David Price

Where are all the fans?

Earlier this afternoon, several of the Rays players were joking in the clubhouse about Monday’s giveaway being a seat as the initial attendance was only expected to be half-full. It wasn’t even that, as the announced attendance of 12, 446 was the fourth-lowest crowd at Tropicana Field all season, despite being a potential clinching game.

Following the Orioles 4-0 win, lefty David Price tweeted the crowd size was “embarrassing” while Evan Longoria, who has been sidelined with a left quad strain, spoke about the issue at length.

“We’ve been playing great baseball all year,” Longoria said. “Since I’ve been here in ’06, the fans have wanted a good baseball team. They have wanted to watch a contender. And for us to play good baseball for three years now and be in a spot to clinch again and go to the playoffs, I think it’s just, we’re all confused that there’s only 15 or 20,000 in the building.

“I mean we figured if we have a chance at the beginning of September than maybe the fans will come. Now it’s the end of September and it’s almost October and we’re still kind of looking up at the seats and saying, ‘Where is everybody?'”

Longoria discussed the disappointing attendance for some time, smiling throughout as he explained how he’d thought about expressing himself for some time.

“I’m not trying to take a low blow at the fans, I’m just trying to rally the troops and get more people in here,” Longoria said. “I’m not trying to say that we have bad fans or any of that, because believe me, I’ve been here since ’06 and I love the Tampa Bay community. It’s just tough to see and I feel like I was the right guy to say that.”

Orioles manager Buck Showalter, who was serving a one-game suspension and watched from the visiting GM suite, said he wasn’t surprised at the crowd size.

“I’ve been coming to Tampa for a while,” Showalter said. “I don’t know what does it have to do with…I just know that it’s a really good baseball team going to the playoffs again. From a baseball fan, I’d like to see them get a lot more support. They deserve it. But the 12,000 people that were here were very supportive, I can tell you that. They were certainly screaming at me. I kept going back as deep as I could where I could see the game.”

Fan Appreciation Week details

I’ve gotten a few questions about this on Twitter, so I figured I’d just let the Orioles do all the talking. Per a team press release….
The Orioles will hold their annual Fan Appreciation Weekend during their last homestand of the 2010 season when they host the Detroit Tigers for four games, Thursday, September 30 through Sunday, October 3. The following events have been planned for the weekend.

During each game of the series, nine fans will be randomly selected to take the field and stand with an Orioles player during the National Anthem. On Sunday, the Orioles will randomly select nine Junior Orioles Dugout Club Members for this event.

During each game of the series, the Orioles will have locations set up around the ballpark where fans can make a donation to the Orioles Charitable Foundation and receive a grab bag in exchange. Inside each grab bag, fans will have the opportunity to win either a baseball autographed by a current or former Orioles player, or the opportunity to go on the field following Sunday’s game to receive a ‘shirt off the back’ of one of the current Orioles. The ‘Shirts Off Our Backs’ ceremony will immediately follow the 1:35 p.m. game on Sunday, when each winner will receive a game-worn and autographed jersey of an Orioles player.

During the first three games of the weekend series, the Orioles will randomly select one fan who will have the opportunity to go on the field in the middle of the 5th inning and ‘Steal Second Base’. The fan will run from the warning track by the bullpen to 2nd base, grab the bag and bring it back to the warning track. The selected fan will receive an Orioles jersey and also win a game-used base.

During each game of the series, the fan that is chose as ‘Fan of the Game’ before the bottom of the 5th inning on the Orioles Video Board will receive an ‘Ultimate Orioles Prize Pack,’ featuring a pair of 2011 Opening Day tickets, an Orioles Batting Practice visit,  Orioles autographed memorabilia and Orioles giveaway items.

OriolesREACH will hold a silent auction during each game of the series on the main concourse at Gate D, beginning when gates to the park open. The auction will last until 8:30 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, and until 3:00 p.m. on Sunday and will feature sports memorabilia, collectibles and unique experience packages. The auction will benefit the Baltimore Orioles Charitable Foundation.

On Sunday, the final game of the 2010 season, the Orioles encourage all Junior Orioles Dugout Club members to wear either a Halloween costume or their favorite orange and black outfit for a chance to be randomly selected to win prizes throughout the day. The Orioles are also asking kids to bring their own Trick-O-Treat bag or bucket, as there will be stations set up throughout the ballpark where they can collect goodies and candy.

More pregame notes

*The Orioles have not received Dr. Lewis Yocum’s opinion on Jake Arrieta’s bone spur, so right now the surgical procedure remains on hold. As a quick recap, Arrieta has a spur in his right elbow area that he’s hesitant to remove given that he hasn’t been bothered by it in the past.The O’s have taken the approach that they’d rather be safe and get the procedure done, instead of worrying about it down the road. Yocum is providing a second opinion on Arrieta’s MRI.
*Kevin Millwood will make his final start Wednesday with Thursday and Friday’s starters up in the air. One of those will be Jeremy Guthrie but if the O’s tab Chris Tillman to start, they will give him Thursday. If they go Rick VandenHurk, he will go Friday and Guthrie will go Thursday since VandenHurk pitched on Sunday in Toronto. Tillman will not pitch out of the bullpen if the Os elect to give VandenHurk another start.
*Brian Matusz and Brad Bergesen will be the last two games, with Bergesen finishing up the season.
*Jim Johnson is not campaigning to start. He was asked if he liked starting better than relieving, which is a fairly obvious answer for most pitchers. Who wouldn’t like to get four days off and pitch one day? But he is not going to approach manager Buck Showalter about wanting to start. It’s also important to keep in mind Johnson has elbow issues and was available to avoid surgery with rehab. Having him serve as a bridge in the bullpen instead of a starter throwing over 100 pitches an outing, is probably best for the O’s – and JJ – long term.

Bucks defends Simon, Jays still not happy

The Blue Jays took issue with Alfredo Simon plunking Jose Bautista in the fifth inning of Sunday’s game, a sentiment manager Buck Showalter understood. But the O’s manager was puzzled as to Toronto’s thinking that it was intentional.

“Let me get this straight, we have one right-handed pitcher down there, we already
knew he was going to spell [Rick VandenHurk] And  I was going to call down there and say, hey, you
are my only guy and I want you to hit Bautista after throwing two balls away?,” Showalter said prior to Monday’s opener against the Rays.

“But I understand  how
it looks and I would have been upset about it too. And I would have done what the
umpire did.”

 Showalter was fined and suspended –served during Monday’s game — while Simon appealed his three-game sentence and is expected to hear back on Thursday. Both Simon and Showalter reiterated on Monday that they did not want to hit Bautista, who Simon called his friend.

“It can look that way I and I can tell you it wasn’t intentional,
but I understand it might look differently,” Showalter said. “When [Simon] hit him it really put us in
a tough spot, we really dint want to use [Matt] Albers or [David] Hernandez or any of the guys
we had to use yesterday.”

Bautista said the suspensions did not necessarily bring him any satisfaction.

“They were going to get what they deserved regardless,” he said to reporters. “I think they knew what they were doing. The second time I got
hit it was pretty obvious. I don’t care what their comments were after
the game. I did read them. I don’t believe what they said.”

“I think everybody felt that [hitting Bautista] was intentional,” said pitcher Shawn Marcum, who was fined for grazing Luke Scott with a pitch as rebuttal. “He was a seventh, eighth-inning guy throwing
in the fifth. I think he came in for one reason and one reason only.
Like I said, I guess that’s how they want to do things over there.”

Showalter, Simon suspended

Major League Baseball suspended Orioles pitcher Alfredo Simon for three games on Monday for intentionally throwing at Jose Bautista in the fifth inning of Sunday’s game at Rogers Centre.

Simon also received an undisclosed fine for the incident, which occurred
after a warning had been issued earlier in the game. Simon has elected
to appeal the league’s decision, and that is scheduled to be heard on Thursday. As a result, his suspension will be put
off until his appeal process is complete.

The league also issued manager Buck Showalter a one-game suspension and an undisclosed fine, for Simon’s actions. He’ll serve his suspension tonight (there are no appeals for managers) while his club takes on the Rays. Bench coach Jeff Datz will manage in his place and Bobby Dickerson will take over Datz’s spot.

MLB also fined Jays pitcher Shaun Marcum an undisclosed amount for intentionally throwing at the Orioles’ Luke Scott in the top of the fourth, which caused the initial warning.