March 2011

Orioles/Yankees lineups & pregame tidbits (updated)

*Derrek Lee will take some at-bats after Vladimir Guerrero today at DH. Lee could go on the trip to Ft. Myers Wednesday but it’s not definite yet. He did take infield work with the team pregame and manager Buck Showalter said if it was the regular season he could play.

*Top pitching prospect Zach Britton will get the start with right-hander Chris Tillman pitching at Twins Lakes Park in a Minor League game. Bullpen hopeful Josh Rupe is also slated to throw at Twin Lakes.

As I said on 105.7 this morning, there’s a chance both Tillman and Britton –in contention for the fifth starter spot — both start the season at Triple-A. The O’s don’t need a fifth starter until April 10 and they could start the season with an extra reliever. They could also stretch a guy like Rupe out enough to give them a spot start and buy them some more time. Or Justin Duchscherer –who is slated to throw a bullpen Wednesday — could have progressed enough by mid-April to give them a start. Duchscherer said the team has talked about him being ready by April 10, so it’s a definite option for them at this point. 

There’s a whole bunch of things the Orioles could do and things are going to get interesting in the final week of camp. At this point, it would take two open spots for Britton to start the season in Baltimore. The O’s feel he can still work on some things in Triple-A and they don’t want to start his service clock.

*If you haven’t check out the story I did on pitching coach Mark Connor’s meeting with the five young starters, you can read it here. Definitely some interesting discussion going on. 

*In addition to Tillman, Koji Uehara, Rupe and Kevin Gregg with all throw at Twin Lakes Park today. There’s two Minor League games going on and pitching coach Mark Connor is over there with them.

Uehara threw one inning against the Red Sox minor leaguers. He struck out one in the 12-pitch outing, throwing 11 strikes. Here’s a quote courtesy of the team’s Twitter feed: “Physically I felt real good. The elbow felt good.”

Gregg faced five batters and allowed two hits and a hit batter. He also struck out two, throwing 23 pitches, 16 strikes.

And here’s a quote from him: “I felt good today, I got my mechanics back to where they need to be.”

*Brendan Harris is going to be sidelined a few days after getting a minor surgical procedure done. Harris had something removed from his back, but it’s nothing to be alarmed about.
 
Here are the lineups…  

ORIOLES LINEUP
Brian Roberts 2B
Nick Markakis RF
Matt Wieters C
Vladimir Guerrero DH
Luke Scott LF
Adam Jones CF
Mark Reynolds 3B
J.J Hardy SS
Jake Fox 1B

Zach Britton LHP Also slated to pitch: Clay Rapada, Michael Gonzalez and Jason Berken. Rapada and Gonzalez will go back-to-back today and Wednesday.

SP Zach Britton

YANKEES LINEUP
Melky Mesa CF
Nick Swisher DH
Mark Teixeira  1B
Andruw Jones RF
Jesus Montero  C
Greg Golson LF
Eduardo Nunez  SS
Ronnie Belliard 2B
Brandon Laird 3B

SP Sergio Mitre. Also scheduled to pitch: Joba Chamberlain, Mark Prior.

Lee on his foot

Orioles first baseman Derrek Lee met with reporters this morning and said he was going to take some swings and test his foot.

“It’s feeling good,” said Lee of his left foot, which he fouled a ball off of in his first at-bat Saturday. “I’ll test it out [Tuesday] and hopefully get in there. If not today, tomorrow.”

Lee said he wasn’t worried when he initially hit his foot because he figured any serious injury, like a broken bone, would hurt right away. His foot didn’t start bothering him until Saturday night, when the Orioles decided to do an X-ray.

“I was only concerned when the doctor was looking at the X-ray and said that he saw something suspicious,” said Lee, who had an MRI that came back fine on Sunday morning. 

“I said, ‘Oh boy.’ But it’s fine.”

Lee said as long as he can run and hit, he’ll play in today’s game against the Yankees. Manager Buck Showalter was also considering having Lee serve at designated hitter. There’s no Orioles lineup yet, presumably because they are waiting on Lee. 

More on the young pitchers meeting

I wrote a story this evening on the Orioles’ young pitchers and their meeting last week with pitching coach Mark Connor and bullpen coach Rick Adair. You can read all the details about it with the full story here.

As always, there’s some parts of the interviews that didn’t make it in the Orioles.com piece, so here’s some leftover reactions from the guys about the meeting. The best stuff is obviously up in the final story, but there was enough interesting quotes omitted that I thought I’d share. Enjoy.

BRIAN MATUSZ
[ever done anything like that before?]
“No. it was a great meeting. [Connor] pulled us in there, all the young guys. He just talked about the opportunity we have in front of us, being able to work with each other.”

[on his reaction the meeting]
“It gave you a good feeling of family and teammates and kind of how we click together. We are all friends. We are all teammates, but we are friends too. We got something special going and I think it was just a good time to sit down and talk about that and open it up a little if we have something to say. It was good.

We know that’s it’s time to get it going and get on track. The season’s only a couple weeks away, we are all well aware of that. We are all working away and grinding. It’s just nice to hear it over and over again, it’s nice to sit down and be able to talk as a group. Hopefully we will have the opportunity to do that multiple times during the season because it was good. A good thing for us.”

[on having Adair/Connor around]
“Working with those guys has been tremendous. So far, the pieces are fitting together. Just little pieces here and there they are throwing at [us], they are starting to come together. It just took sometime this spring for things to kind of fall together. It is for me, you can see that it is for other guys as well. And the result will follow.

We talked [in the meeting] about it’s a process and we are all trying to get ready because we know we are in it for something special. It’s an ongoing thing. It’s not a ‘Let’s talk about it today and then three weeks from now’. It’s a day-to-day to keep everyone on track and keep pushing each other and knowing that we don’t know it all. We pick up things here and there. I’ve learned so much since last week.”

CHRIS TILLMAN
[on the importance of being a unit]
“I think it’s huge. I think it all showed at the end of last year, we all started pitching well we all started feeding off each other, trying to do better than the next guy.”

[on the meeting being motivational]
“Absolutely. I told them I wanted to go throw a bullpen right after that, you know? I just had this burst. After those kind of talks I start shaking around you can’t even sit still.”

ZACH BRITTON
[on the meeting's message]
“We talked about baseball a lot but it was more of just us. Like, ‘What do you think? How do you go about your business?’ [Connor] asked us questions, and we were all silent.  We didn’t know if we wanted us to answer, but he wanted dialogue between us and Rick Adair and [Connor]. It was more about them really getting to know what they thought.

Connor wanted to know how we felt, what we thought. He praised everybody a lot. Which is always nice to hear, from the pitching coach. But it wasn’t all compliments, it was areas he felt we needed to improve as a group. It wasn’t singling out, it was what we need to do to get better as a group. He mentioned the Braves [rotation], how those guys set an example for the whole organization, from A-ball all the way to Triple-A and the big leagues. It was like, ‘We are about winning’.

He felt like the guys we have here that’s as good as we can be. We were all like, ‘Really?’ Because he’s dealt with [Curt] Schilling, [Randy] Johnson, some great players. And he felt like all of us have that ability which is pretty nice, pretty flattering.”

[on the meeting being motivational]
“Anytime you get that kind of feedback it makes you anxious to get out there and kind of do what they want you to do. And show everyone in the organization that you are out there to win.

It’s not just about being .500 this year. It’s about going to the playoffs and winning. It’s not about, ‘Oh let’s see if we can get to .500.’ You shouldn’t even be thinking about being average or just mediocre. It’s about taking it to the next level.  Be the best. Why can’t we be the best?”

[the importance of being one unit]
“Getting us all together I think was a good starting point of, ‘Hey it’s not about let me outdo this guy and outdo that guy.’ Because we all bring something different to the rotation. It’s about being there for each other and picking each other’s brains. When a guy does well, do better.

It’s not about you, it’s about the organization. They stressed that. It’s not about the big league team it’s about the organization. When the big league team does well, everyone does well. That’s the way it works.”

JAKE ARRIETA
[on the meeting]
“[Connor] kind of talked about guys he had in the past, what they had to do to get over that hump to be great pitchers. Each one of us has something like that that we have to overcome in order to take the next step in your progression as a big league pitcher.

I really enjoyed it. He told a few good stories, which I think we will all remember for a long time. He told a story about when Connor had [Roy] Halladay in Toronto, kind of the progression at the early stages of his career and how he was really able to turn things around. So, it kind of opened our eyes to the possibilities of what we can eventually accomplish in this game. It was a good meeting and I’m glad he had that for us.”

[on the benefits of doing it as a group]
“We each kind of went around and said a few things. He asked a few questions that were kind of difficult to answer, [he] kind of wanted to see what we thought about certain things, what it takes to be great, certain things like that.
 
I assume we will continue to do things like that just to reiterate certain things. But it’s great to have Connor and Adair here, I think they are going to be very beneficial to the growth and development of the young guys.”

[on the meeting being motivational]
“It made you want to get out there and get to work right after that meeting. I know there’s a few things that I got to continue to do to get better.”

BRAD BERGESEN
[on the meeting]
“[Connor] and Rick, they’ve been around for so long, they’ve seen every type of  pitcher, they’ve seen what it takes. They’ve seen guys that have all the ability in the world that don’t do anything with it.

Really what it amounted to was really kind of motivational for me. We talked about it being a process, how we have to get behind one another to be successful and we have to really encourage each other to go along and do what we want to do.

The thing that I really liked the most was we talked about the mental side of it, using certain words like I can’t. I can’t do this. Little things like that. Just trying to start training the mind how to work in a certain way. For me that was the biggest thing that I took away from it.”

Bergesen on his outing

Orioles starter Brad Bergesen allowed two runs on eight hits over five innings this afternoon against the Rays. His line was much improved from his previous spring performances and Bergesen was happy with his progression overall this spring.

Here’s what he had to say about the outing.

[on how he felt]
“I was much more pleased with how I worked my fastball. More down in the zone, when I was missing, I was missing down rather than up, right over the plate. That was positive. The slider wasn’t there for me. Need to work on it. I talked to [pitching coach Mark Connor] afterward and there are a couple adjustments we want to make with that but as far as overall feeling, I felt better with the previous adjustments I made. My mechanics felt a little more natural today.”
 
[on it being a relief to see a better line]
“Absolutely. Early on, I think some of you guys stressed a little bit (with the results), but it really is getting our work in early on. Not worried about the results, not panicking, but as we do get closer to the season, like we are, for me it is nice to have the results there and to try to keep going now into the season and carry that through.”
 
[on retiring Manny Ramirez to end the fifth with the bases loaded]
 “That’s a test I would always like to pass there. The guy is a future Hall of Famer. Again, it is only spring training, you are not too excited or, if things don’t go right, you are not too down. But to get in that situation and do damage control early, like I did, and getting in a situation like that and being able to get out of it, could help confidence at this point.”

Here’s what manager Buck Showalter had to say about Bergesen…

“He had some counts in his favor and couldn’t quite finish it off,” Showalter said. “He had 0-2 count, two outs and nobody on and gave up one and borderline two runs. I’d like to see, when he gets himself in some good counts, and not necessarily strike the guy out, but make a quality pitches.

There were some firm balls hit off him today. Hopefully, we’re getting there. I thought his plane was a little better. I’ve seen him more crisp, which is normal. He’ll get the ball at least a couple more times and we’ll see where we are with it.”

More pregame notes and Orioles lineup

*Derrek Lee fouled a ball off his left foot during his first plate appearance on Saturday, and he’s not likely to play Sunday. An X-ray and MRI did show positive results, more info on that here.

*Brian Roberts will get 2-3 at bats today in his first spring game since March 7.

*Zach Britton will throw Tuesday’s game against the New York Yankees with Chris Tillman making a Minor League start. The O’s would prefer to give Britton –who has yet to make a Major League start– more experience in a bigger arena and it’s also his turn since he threw to Class A players the last time out.

*Several relievers will go to Twin Lakes to pitch today: Adrian Rosario, Rick VandenHurk, Jeremy Accardo and Jim Johnson.

*Koji Uehara will pitch in a Minor League game on Tuesday. The team would prefer to control the setting in his first time out, which is why he’s pitching in a Minors game.

*There will be a third round of cuts on Wednesday or Thursday. 

ORIOLES LINEUP:
Brian Roberts 2B
Adam Jones CF
Nick Markakis RF
Luke Scott DH
Mark Reynolds 3B
Felix Pie LF
Jake Fox 1B
J.J. Hardy SS
Craig Tatum C

Brad Bergesen RHP

   

Lee fouls ball off foot, X-Ray/MRI come back ok

Orioles first baseman Derrek Lee was not in Sunday’s starting lineup and wasn’t likely to play at all in the O’s contest in Port Charlotte after fouling a ball off his left foot Saturday afternoon.

Lee had an X-ray on his foot Saturday night and there was an area that the doctors
were concerned about so Lee had an MRI Sunday morning, which came back OK. Manger Buck Showalter didn’t rule out Lee playing in Sunday’s game, although it’s not likely.

Jake Fox, who was scheduled to play first base instead, would move to catcher in that scenario.

Lee injured his foot during his first swing in Saturday’s first plate appearance, which was also his Grapefruit League debut. Lee eventually walked off Phillies starter Cole Hamels. He remained in the game for 4 1/2 innings and said afterward that his right wrist and thumb both felt “great”.

Lee had offseason surgery to repair a torn ligament in his right thumb and most recently had been sidelined by tendinitis in his wrist. Saturday was his first spring game and Showalter said if Lee did not play on Sunday the team would hope to get him some Minor League at-bats in Monday’s game, which is a scheduled off day for the big league club. Right now, it’s too early to tell what his timetable might be. 

Arrieta will work on improving game speed

There were times Orioles starter Jake Arrieta looked really good, and there were times on Saturday when he struggled to execute and was slow from the stretch.

“Stuff -wise he was in pretty good shape,” manager Buck Showalter said of Arrieta who was charged with four runs on four hits and two walks in 4 1/3 innings.  “He’s going to have to increase his tempo from the stretch.  [It's] something he got a lot better at last year. But what happens a lot of time,  they come in here [in camp] and they are working so much on just pitching.”

Arrieta said it’s something he will focus on this upcoming week and is confident he can minimize the jump that baserunners are getting on first base. The Phillies had two stolen bases when Arrieta was on the mound.

“We’ve seen he’s capable of doing it,” Showalter said of Arrieta speeding up that part of his game.  “He’s a real athletic young man. He will get better at it. It shouldn’t be where we have to give a sign that says be quicker to the plate.”

Arrieta walked the first two batters in the fifth and exited one out later. He was charged with four runs, although two of those runs came after on Shane Victorino’s homer off reliever Clay Rapada. Arrieta threw 48 of 79 pitches for strikes on Saturday and was most unhappy about John Mayberry Jr’s second-inning home run.

“I did a really poor job of execution there,” Arrieta said. “[I] pulled a lot of pitches out of the zone, didn’t throw a breaking ball for a strike and ended up having to throw him a fastball that caught too much of the plate. He put a good swing on it. Other than that, the two walks in the fifth, You just can’t walk the eight and nine hitters. You can’t do it, but that’s something I am not too worried about. I know that my command has gotten a lot better and I have been really able situations like that for the most part.
 
Take those three things out and I think there are a lot of positives in there.”

Roberts could return Suday

Orioles second baseman Brian Roberts is tentatively scheduled to play Sunday’s game against the Rays in Port Charlotte.

Roberts — who was on the field taking batting practice pregame — has been sidelined by back spasms since March 7 and has been on a similar schedule to Derrek Lee, who made his Grapefriut League debut Saturday.

[The] plan is for [Lee] and Robby to play tomorrow over in Port Charlotte if everything goes well today,” manager Buck Showalter said prior to Saturday’s game.  

“[We will] see how they are in the morning. It’s that time of year, I’m going to take most everybody over there [Saturday].”

The Orioles leadoff hitter, Roberts has played in four spring games and gone 3-for-12 (.308) at the plate. While there’s a chance both Lee and Roberts could play in Monday’s Minor League game, Showalter said right on he’s leaning against is.

“I’d rather give them that day,” Showalter said of the scheduled off day.  “Keep in mind they haven’t been playing, but they’ve been conditioning, the whole nine yards forever. So I’d like to give them that day if they can. We will see how they feel.

They might get through that game [Sunday] and come in and say, ‘Hey I want to get some [more]at -bats. It’s a moving target.”

*Also Koji Uehara has a side today and if that goes well he could progress to the mound next.

Os make four cuts

The Orioles trimmed their spring roster by four today, optioning OF Matt Angle and INF Brandon Snyder  to Triple-A Norfolk and Ryan Adams and RHP Armando Gabino to Minor League camp.

Adams will likely start the season with Double-A Bowie.

D Lee could debut Saturday

Orioles manager Buck Showalter said as long as Derrek Lee feels good when he comes in Saturday morning, the first baseman will make his Grapefruit League debut. The plan is for Lee to get 2-3 at-bats. Lee has been taking swings in the cages the last few days, but Friday was the first day he hit on the back fields. 

Brian Roberts isn’t that close yet, but Showalter said the second baseman came through his first live batting practice on Friday feeling fine. Also, Showalter had an “encouraging” talk with Justin Duchscherer, and they will work on a plan that gets him up on the hill.

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