April 2011

Orioles/White Sox lineups and pregame tidbits

*J.J. Hardy (left oblique strain) took 25 tee swings, 20 flips, 30 groundballs and threw to bases with no problems. He’ll take Sunday off from baseball activities and conditioning only.

*Justin Duchscherer (left hip soreness) threw a live BP session with 30 pitches with no problem. He said that he felt great and He’d like to throw another live BP on Tuesday.

*Brian Matusz (left intercostal strain) played long toss and conditioning with no problems. He’ll throw a side around 40-45 pitches on Sunday.

*The D-backs sent catcher John Hester to the Orioles on Saturday to complete the December trade that brought right-handers David Hernandez and Kam Mickolio to Arizona for third baseman Mark Reynolds and a player to be named or cash.

Hester, 27, has been at Triple-A Reno to start the 2011 season, batting .263 with three doubles, a home run and five RBIs in 10 games. Hester will join Triple-A Norfolk in the Orioles organization.

A 6-foot-4 Stanford product, Hester spent parts of the last two seasons in the Majors with the D-backs, batting .220 (27-for-123)with three homers and 11 RBIs in 53 games. Over two-plus seasons at Triple-A, Hester has compiled a .335 average with 15 homers and 100 RBIs. Over 300 games in the Minors, he has thrown out 29 percent of baserunners attempting to steal.

*Jake Arrieta said his right hip felt much better on Saturday and got some treatment on it prior to the Orioles game. Asked if he thought it would change his schedule or alter his next start, Arrieta said no. Orioles manager Buck Showalter was equally optimistic, although he acknowledged that the situation will be more definitive after Arrieta –who was lifted after just 86 pitches last night– throws a between-starts side.

“As we stand today I expect him to make his start, but I think that question is more pertinent probably the next couple of days when he actually has his throw day, we can see what [pitching coach Mark Connor] and everybody else thinks,” Showalter said. “But I expect him to be fine. He has pitched with some of that feeling there and pitched very well. I don’t think, I’ve said many times, over 30-35 times, you very seldom go out there without something.”

*Just a regular day off for Orioles catcher Matt Wieters who has quietly been playing pretty much every day. The O’s have made good use of rain outs and off days to give Wieters some rest.

“We all know the level that he’s capable of playing at, which he is now,” Showalter said of Wieters. “Sometime I think we should all go squad down for three hours and go back and forth for four or five days in a row and see how you feel, regardless if you’re 24 or 25 years old and 6-foot-4 or 6-foot-5.

One thing about baseball players that amazes me, one of them is catchers, how they can do what they can do. It’s a very challenging position. I think it’s the most challenging position on the field. We’ll continue to pick spots for him.”

ORIOLES LINEUP
Brian Roberts 2B
Nick Markakis RF
Derrek Lee 1B
Vladimir Guerrero DH
Luke Scott LF
Adam Jones CF
Mark Reynolds 3B
Jake Fox C
Robert Andino SS

Chris Tillman SP

WHITE SOX LINEUP
Juan Pierre LF
Alexei Ramirez SS
Carlos Quentin RF
Paul Konerko DH
Adam Dunn 1B
Alex Rios CF
A.J. Pierzynski C
Mark Teahen 3B
Gordon Beckham 2B

SP PHil Humber

Pregame tidbits

*Brian Roberts has been slowed by right hamstring discomfort since the end of Spring Training but he said today it’s feeling a lot better and he hopes to regain his run game.

The O’s enter Friday tied with Atlanta for last in the Major Leagues in stolen bases (5) and having Roberts back running will certainly help.

Here are some other notable items from manager Buck Showalter’s pregame session…

*Starter Brian Matusz (strained left intercostal muscle) is scheduled to make an appearance in extended spring on May 7. The plan is for Matusz to throw 2-3 innings and he would need at least three rehab appearances with a Minor League team after that.

*Shortstop J.J. Hardy (left oblique strain) has been progressing in his rehab with no reported problems and he’s believed to be about two weeks away if he stays on schedule. Matusz’s return would be after that.

*White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen served the first of a two-game suspension on Friday night for his actions following an ejection at the new Yankee Stadium on Wednesday night.

*Although both Clay Rapada and Michael Gonzalez are struggling, Showalter said prior to Friday’s game he wasn’t overly concerned about the team’s left-handed relief situation. “If Michael keeps taking that same approach [from Thursday], he’s going to have some return for it,” Showalter said. “I don’t know if Clay’s had a big enough sampling. Keep in mind when Clay comes in, he’s facing the heart of the order with left-handers. I still think he has a chance to present a good option for us down there.”

Roberts slowed by hamstring soreness

Second baseman Brian Roberts said Friday afternoon that there’s a good reason he hasn’t been stealing bases this season, and it had nothing to do with his back.

“I actually had a hamstring [injury] for about three weeks and nobody knew about it,” said Roberts, who said he started feeling discomfort in his right hamstring at the end of spring training.

“I wanted to be on the field and I knew if I was trying to run recklessly, I probably wouldn’t have been able to stay in the lineup. But it’s gotten a lot better,” said Roberts, who stole his second base of the season, and first since April 6, on Thursday.

“Yesterday was one of those times. I told Buck [Showalter] a long time ago, ‘Look, I want to play so I probably won’t be stealing much.’ Hopefully, that’s going to change now that I’m getting healthy.”

Roberts, who was limited to just 59 games last year with a herniated disc in his lower back, also rejected the theory that his game has evolved given his recent injuries. He was also slowed this spring by a neck muscle issue, but said Friday that both of those things have not hampered him this season and it’s been his hamstring “the whole time”.

“I was trying to be smart so I can maybe steal 30 [bases] the last 120 games and not the first 10,” Roberts said. “I told [head athletic trainer Richie Bancells] the other day, I said, ‘I finally may have used my head for a week or two.’ I wanted to run but I sat there and said, ‘Is this smart?’ I want to play 162 games or 159 or whatever.

Once I’m getting past that, no, I don’t want to be the new Brian Roberts quote unquote. I want to run and I think I still can run. I think I can still steal 30 bases and that’s what I’m hoping to do.”

Ozzie-less opener and lineups

White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen has been suspended for two games(and fined an undisclosed amount) according to a release from Major League Baseball Friday afternoon.

The suspension comes following his actions on the field following the top of the first inning of Chicago’s game against the New York Yankees on Wednesday at Yankee Stadium, and for his comments via Twitter following his ejection. Guillen’s comments were in violation of Major League Baseball’s social media policy and other regulations regarding the use of electronic equipment during the course of a game.

Guillen is expected to start serving his suspension tonight against the Orioles, and he will return on Sunday.

ORIOLES LINEUP
Brian Roberts 2B
Nick Markakis RF
Derrek Lee 1B
Vladimir Guerrero DH
Luke Scott LF
Adam Jones CF
Mark Reynolds 3B
Matt Wieters C
Robert Andino SS

Jake Arrieta SP

WHITE SOX LINEUP
Juan Pierre LF
Alexei Ramirez SS
Carlos Quentin RF
Paul Konerko 1B
Adam Dunn DH
AJ Pierzynski C
Brent Lillibridge CF
Mark Teahen 3B
Gordon Beckham 2B

John Danks SP

Beckett on Scott

Boston Red Sox starter Josh Beckett didn’t want to discuss Luke Scott’s two-run homer or the staredown he gave the O’s outfielder afterward.

“Is this TMZ? I thought we were talking about a baseball game,” Beckett told reporters after the Orioles 5-4 win. “You want to know about bat-flips and talking to umpires. I think we should probably just stick to the game. I thought we did a good job battling back, and we came up one run short.”

The Orioles were able to rattle Beckett –who had been dominant in the three starts prior – two outs into the fourth inning. Capitalizing on Jacoby Ellsbury’s miscue in centerfield, which allowed Derrek Lee’s pop-up to drop in for a double, Scott blasted a 1-0 pitch 426 feet into Eutaw Street. Scott, who was the last Orioles to hit a ball that landed over the centerfield wall on Sept. 1, 2009, flipped his bat and trotted around the basepaths as Beckett glared at him from the hill.

“That’s not my deal.” Beckett said when asked about Scott’s bat flip. “Those things have a way of working themselves out.”

Three pitchers later, Adam Jones completed the back-to-back shots with a ball that just barely cleared the left-field wall and Beckett shouted a few words toward the Orioles dugout as he walked off the mound.

Scott said he wasn’t aware of Beckett staring at him and was only told by teammates when he got to the dugout about how the Red Sox starter had reacted to his slow jog.

“When I got in the dugout the guys said he was yelling or something like that. Staring,” Scott said. “I have all the respect in the world for Josh Beckett. He’s one of the best pitchers in the game. And I respect everyone who takes the mound against me. He’s a tremendous competitor and emotions, you know I’m an emotional person as well. So I can understand people getting emotional, getting fired up before a game.”

Asked if he perhaps celebrated this homer –which was an absolute bombs — a little more than usual, Scott said no.

“I caught it, saw it and tossed my bat off the way and went into my trot,” Scott said. “[I was] just enjoying the moment.”

Orioles/Red Sox lineups and pregame tidbits

*J.J. Hardy (left oblique strain) reported to being a little sore today and took a lighter work day at extended spring. Manager Buck Showalter said it wasn’t described as a setback, but it’s safe to say Hardy won’t hit the 3-week mark, which would be this weekend. After he progresses enough in baseball activities and hitting he would need a few rehab games as well.

*Showalter also said Justin Duchscherer (left hip) has been throwing off a mound for a few weeks. They aren’t ready to send him out on rehab assignment, however.

*The club will make a decision on Brian Matusz and Chris Jakubauskas after each throws their respective bullpen sessions on Thursday. Matusz is likely ticketed to go back to extended spring and Jakubauskas for a rehab assignment, but that could change.

ORIOLES LINEUP
Brian Roberts 2B
Nick Markakis RF
Derrek Lee 1B
Vladimir Guerrero DH
Luke Scott LF
Adam Jones CF
Mark Reynolds 3B
Matt Wieters C
Robert Andino SS

Jeremy Guthrie SP

RED SOX LINEUP
Jacoby Ellsbury CF
Dustin Pedroia 2B
Adrian Gonzalez 1B
Kevin Youkilis 3B
David Ortiz DH
J.D. Drew RF
Jed Lowrie 2B
Carl Crawford LF
Jason Varitek C

Josh Beckett SP

Johnson’s night

Largely lost in tonight’s 4-1 Orioles’ win was the performance from reliever Jim Johnson, who needed just eight pitches (seven strikes) to get through the seventh inning and pitched around a leadoff double in the eighth. It wasn’t lost on Red Sox manager Terry Francona.

“Johnson was, for me, that was the Johnson we saw when he first came up,” Francona said. “He was overpowering. He got some movement. He had the changeup coming out of the same slot. That was impressive.”

Johnson struck out four in the two-inning outing which lowered his ERA to 2.79.

“Jimmy’s had a good look on his face since the first day of Spring Training,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “He’s healthy, feels good. Had a real low pitch count there in the seventh and there will be some times with some off-days where you’ll use him and Koji [Uehara] and Kevin [Gregg], but you’d like to stay away from one of them to have him tomorrow fresh.

As good as [Johnson] was in the seventh, the part of the order he went through in the eighth was pretty impressive, too. But there’s not a part of their order that’s not impressive.”

Orioles rookie Zach Britton, who was pretty impressive himself, had this to say about Johnson…

“His stuff is really good. I was actually in here watching it on video and it is pretty nasty to have him come in behind me,” Britton said. “I just feel pretty confident.”

Orioles/Red Sox lineups

*Brian Matusz (left intercostal strain) threw in front of the mound on Tuesday afternoon and was so excited afterward that he fist pumped teammate Chris Tillman. In case that wasn’t enough, he told reporters that he felt great. The next step on Thursday is to get to 60 feet and throw more of a true bullpen (although still not what a regular side session would be) including throwing some offspeed. The plan is still for Matusz to go to extended spring training and get at least one outing before going on a rehab assignment.

*Chris Jakubauskas (right groin strain) also threw a bullpen on Tuesday and will throw another one on Thursday. Assuming all goes well he will go out on rehab assignment after that and manager Buck Showalter said he’d likely need about two outings. The Orioles would then have to decide whether to Jakubauskas would join them on the road trip or be optioned back to Triple-A, where he was a starter.

*J.J. Hardy (left oblique strain) started baseball activities on Monday, easing his way in with dry swings. Showalter said that Hardy came through his first day feeling good, and he will continue to add more as he progresses.

*Given the Orioles offensive struggles, Showalter was asked if he’d given thought to a lineup change. Baltimore’s lineup virtually hasn’t changed since the season started and the O’s enter Tuesday’s game ranked second-lowest in the American League in runs scored.

“I wouldn’t tip my hand if I was [considering changes],” Showalter said. “They certainly don’t need to be seeing and reading and whatever about it. I trust them but they understand at some point we are going to have to be a little better. But to hang it all around one person? No. We have had periods where we have done well offensively and will again. I hope it starts tonight. But I am not going to certainly be threatening or talking about what some of the thoughts are, but I still like the potential of what our lineup could bring. We’ll see.”

*Orioles top prospect Manny Machado hit his first home run for Delmarva last night. If you missed it, I wrote yesterday about the young shortstop’s budding friendship with Yankee slugger Alex Rodriguez. You can read that story here.

ORIOLES LINEUP
Brian Roberts 2B
Nick Markakis RF
Derrek Lee 1B
Vladimir Guerrero DH
Luke Scott LF
Adam Jones CF
Mark Reynolds 3B
Matt Wieters C
Robert Andino SS

Zach Britton SP

RED SOX LINEUP
Jacoby Ellsbury CF
Dustin Pedroia 2B
Adrian Gonzalez 1B
Kevin Youkilis 3B
David Ortiz DH
Jed Lowrie SS
J.D. Drew RF
Carl Crawford LF
Jason Varitek C

Clay Buchholz SP

Arrieta’s impressive start

Largely lost in Sunday’s 6-3 11-inning loss to the Yankees was the guts showed by Orioles starter Jake Arrieta.

After Saturday’s starter, Brad Bergesen, put his team in a two-run hole through just 10 pitches, Arrieta put the O’s in the same spot after four. Following a leadoff single from Derek Jeter, Curtis Granderson sent Arrieta’s 1-1 pitch 380 feet for a two-run homer. Arrieta followed that by issuing a pair of walks to Teixeira and Rodriguez, starting a potentially damaging rally that brought pitching coach Mark Connor out to the hill. But Arrieta settled down nicely after that, retiring 13 of 15 after that and finishing with a career-high nine-strikeouts.

He allowed another run in the fifth, and was able to keep the Orioles within striking distance and the game from getting out of hand.

“I was really proud of Jake the way he battled and kept us in the ballgame,” manager Buck Showalter said of Arrieta who has thrown quality starts in all four of his career games against the Yankees.

“We got to use his breaking ball more than we’ve used in his other starts so far,” catcher Matt Wieters said. “[Arrieta] really had a good feel of it today. That’s something that he can take into future starts and keep using that.

The 25-year-old Arrieta (2-1) finished the 97-pitch outing with three earned runs on five hits and three walks and said he was bothered most by the pair of free passes in the first. Asked what the difference was between the first few batters and the rest of the game, Arrieta was succinct.

“Just made good pitches,” he said. “Even the slider to Granderson wasn’t a bad pitch. He’s swinging the bat well now, a lot of those guys are putting good swings on the ball, even quality pitches. And that was the case there.

[I] just kind of beared down and made pitches when I needed to. Didn’t really let things get out of hand there [in the first] and was able to get out of it with only two runs there.”

Orioles/Yankees lineups and pregame tidbits

*Brian Matusz threw from 120 feet pain-free today and the plan is for him to get up on the mound on Tuesday. Matusz said he will get more in front of the mound to get some elevation and see how it goes.

*Given last night’s plunking of Russell Martin, manager Buck Showalter acknowledged there might be some retaliation by the Yankees for Josh Rupe’s pitch.

“We’ll deal with it,” Showalter said. ” [It was] self-inflicted.”

However, he stood by Rupe’s claim that the pitch was not intentional.

*The Orioles have discussed the possibility of adding an extra position player and getting rid of another arm, as recently as this morning. Right now, Showalter said there is “nothing imminent” on that front.

Happy Easter! Here are the lineups…

ORIOLES LINEUP
Brian Roberts 2B
Nick Markakis RF
Derrek Lee 1B
Vladimir Guerrero DH
Luke Scott LF
Adam Jones CF
Mark Reynolds 3B
Matt Wieters C
Cesar Izturis SS

Jake Arrieta RHP

YANKEES LINEUP
Derek Jeter SS
Curtis Granderson CF
Mark Teixeira 1B
Alex Rodriguez 3B
Robinson Cano 2B
Nick Swisher RF
Jorge Posada DH
Russell Martin C
Brett Gardner LF

Freddy Garcia RHP

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