May 2011

Orioles/As lineups

*Brian Matusz threw 83 pitches and allowed a run on four hits over five innings (plus two batters in the sixth) in tonight’s rehab start for Triple-A Norfolk.

Manager Buck Showalter said the team will make a decision on whether Matusz will be activated or make another rehab start on Saturday, and cautioned that it isn’t a given that he will make his next start for Baltimore.

In three rehab starts, Matusz has allowed 2 runs on nine hits in 15-plus innings. He has four walks and 10 strikeouts.

Here’s what Matusz told The Virginian-Pilot following his start…

How he’s feeling physically:
“Physically I feel great, I feel really good. It’s just getting in the mix. This is my spring training, building myself up. That was a good outing out there, going out and being able to throw, get my pitch count up there a little bit and extending myself. Especially at the Triple A level against good hitters and a good team in Columbus. It’s fun coming out here to Norfolk, it’s a great atmosphere. I’ve never been here before. I had a great time out there.”

On command:
“Yeah, I felt good. I felt like I had good control of my fastball. At times where I got ahead of myself I was able to slow it down and get back into my own little groove. It felt good, it felt good. I’m right on track.”

On if he’ll meet the team in Seattle:
“I haven’t talked to anyone yet. I’m going to get on the phone with them here shortly and we’ll make a game plan and figure out what the next step will be and where I fit into the rotation depending on spots and arms they have up there. It hasn’t been talked about yet, but it will be.”

On if there are any kinks that still need to be ironed out:
“I feel good, I don’t feel like there are any kinks where I’m battling myself out there. Today I felt free and easy. As I said, as the game went on I felt I was able to take charge and get comfortable, and that’s what the game is all about is being able to have that good feeling and I was able to do that.”

*Derrek Lee is going to start baseball activities on Monday in Sarasota and given that he still needs to get some at-bats, making his debut on Wednesday is highly unlikely.

*Showalter said there’s also some talk about sending Brian Roberts to extended spring soon as well.

ORIOLES LINEUP
Robert Andino 2B
Adam Jones CF
Nick Markakis RF
Vladimir Guerrero DH
Matt Wieters C
Nolan Reimold LF
Mark Reynolds 3B
J.J. Hardy SS
Jake Fox 1B

Chris Tillman RHP

ATHLETICS LINEUP
David DeJesus Rf
Daric Barton 1B
Ryan Sweeney CF
Josh Willingham LF
Hideki Matsui DH
Kurt Suzuki C
Mark Ellis 2B
Andy LaRoche 3B
Cliff Pennington SS

Gio Gonzalez LHP

Snyder optioned for Tatum

Catcher Craig Tatum will be activated for Thursday afternoon game’s with the Royals, taking the roster spot of first baseman Brandon Snyder, who was optioned back to Triple-A Norfolk following Wednesday’s 9-2 win.

Snyder was recalled on May 18 and hit .222 in five games.

One of spring’s final cuts, Tatum’s arrival fills the need for a true backup catcher, as current backup Jake Fox can now be used off the bench in the corners and as a pinch-hitter.

With injuries to infielders Derrek Lee, Brian Roberts and Cesar Izturis, Baltimore can now use Fox and Luke Scott at first base, giving them a surplus of corner infield solutions. The team would prefer Snyder would get some consistent at-bats in Norfolk rather than sit the bench.

While rookie Ryan Adams was a consideration to be sent to Norfolk, he is the only other second baseman on the roster behind Robert Andino.

Os Military Appreciation Program

The Orioles have introduced a new military appreciation program. The initiative includes discount ticket offers and suite donations for active duty and retired military members and their families, complimentary Orioles caps for active duty military and complimentary welcome home scoreboard messages at Camden Yards. A complete list of the Orioles military offers can be found at http://www.orioles.com/military.

Orioles/Royals lineups and pregame tidbits

*Catcher Craig Tatum is here in the Orioles clubhouse and is expected to be activated for Thursday afternoon’s game. Tatum will likely take the spot of one of the team’s additional infielders with Brandon Snyder or Ryan Adams the most logical choices. Given that Adams can play second base and is the lone backup for Robert Andino, it would make more sense to option Snyder since both Luke Scott and Jake Fox can play first base,

*Speaking of Andino, his bunt last night was ordered by manager Buck Showalter. However, it was Andino who made the decision to try to bunt Danny Duffy’s high fastball, which ended up being a pivotal pop-up and double play. Andino said today he was frustrated with how poorly he executed and –as luck would have it — he had already scheduled extra bunting work with first base coach Wayne Kirby on Wednesday afternoon.

“You got to get that down in that situation in the game,” said Andino, who came to bat with no outs in the fifth inning and runners on first and second. “You got to get it down. I just picked a bad pitch to bunt, [and] hit the ball up.”

Andino said the sign was to bunt, and it wasn’t to bunt the first pitch at all costs.

“It was bunt a strike, and I think that’s what he should be and was frustrated with,” Showalter said of Andino. “I think the good thing is he understands that’s what he’s supposed to bring, one of the things. We should be able to assume certain things. It’s not easy to go up there and the whole idea, a pitcher’s going to throw a high fastball there, especially throwing 94-96 like that guy. It’s hard to do. It’s also hard to hit.

Showalter was happy to hear that Andino was still angry with himself on Wednesday and noted how far the infielder has come in maturing.

“Maybe in years past, Robby would’ve felt differently [about the failed bunt,” Showalter said. “It’s been well defined from Willie [Randolph] and everybody what he needs to bring, and for the most part, he’s been bringing it. Last night was an exception.”

*Brian Roberts is here and said while he’s getting better, he is still experiencing symptoms that are best described as motion sickness. Roberts will not do any baseball activity for two weeks and be reevaluated from there. More on that situation is here.

In Roberts’ absence the Orioles will use Felix Pie and Andino in the leadoff role. While J.J. Hardy is another option, for now Showalter wants to keep Hardy in the bottom of the order. As for Pie, he had some dental issues but Showalter said they were able to get them worked out in time to start him tonight.

*LHP Troy Patton cleared waivers and will report to Triple-A Norfolk.

*Top prospect Manny Machado (dislocated left knee cap) has been hitting in the cages and taking batting practice at extended spring training. The shortstop also started light running on Monday and is expected to remain in Sarasota for at least a few more days.

*Finally, if you haven’t already see this, please take a second to read about the Diamonds and Dreams project and visit the page or retweet my link. Your help is much appreciated.

ORIOLES LINEUP
Felix Pie LF
Adam Jones CF
Nick Markakis RF
Vladimir Guerrero DH
Matt Wieters C
Luke Scott 1B
Mark Reynolds 3B
J.J. Hardy SS
Ryan Adams 2B

Jake Arrieta RHP

ROYALS LINEUP
Alex Gordon LF
Melky Cabrera CF
Eric Hosmer 1B
Jeff Francoeur RF
Billy Butler DH
Wilson Betemit 3B
Matt Treanor C
Chris Getz 2B
Alcides Escobar SS

Luke Hochevar RHP

Roberts stil experiencing symptoms; taking it day-by-day

Brian Roberts flew in on a delayed flight from Pittsburgh this afternoon after seeing concussion specialist Dr. Michael Collins yesterday.

Roberts said doctors are still trying to figure out what triggers his reoccurring concussion-like symptoms and he will be reevaluated in two weeks. For now though, he is being careful with the situation, as he is still experiencing symptoms best described as motion sickness.

Here’s what he had to say…

[On the visit to Dr. Collins]:
“It was good, we got some information, we’re going to try and get our arms wrapped around this whole process and speed it up and try to get back on the field as soon as I can.”

[On how he's feeling]
“I have some symptoms depending on what I do, that’s what we tried to get figured out is what triggers them and what we can get them to go away as soon as possible.”

[Timetable for recovery]
“All I know is that I have some stuff to take care of for two weeks and I’ll go back to get reevaluated. I try not to look past that right now, just trying to take it day-by-day. It’s one of those things you don’t want to try and mess around with too much. Whenever you’re healthy and back to normal, that’s when you go back out there.”

Roberts has been on the 7-day DL with concussion-like symptoms and is at least three weeks away from returning, although Orioles president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail acknowledged on Tuesday that the organization could be without their starting second baseman for even longer.

Roberts, has not played in a game since May 16.

-Avi Zaleon

Diamonds & Dreams: Baltimore edition

Jake Arrieta will take the mound tonight as the Orioles go for a series win against the Kansas City Royals. Those of you who follow me on Twitter know normally I’m a pretty frequent in-game updater and hopefully today I can use all that Twitter activity for a good cause by “playing catch” online.

It’s an idea from the Diamonds & Dreams program, which is sponsored by Chevrolet and MLB. While many have the privilege of watching and playing baseball on well-equipped fields, there are many children across America that never get that opportunity. Diamonds & Dreams provides prizes, which include field makeovers, clinics and equipment packages for youth baseball communities across America.

Anyone can enter for a chance to win the prizes as well as a trip for four to the MLB All-Star Game or a new Chevrolet. You can find out more and even play a mini baseball game here: http://on.fb.me/g2H59j

Diamonds & Dreams Baseball Field Makeovers (Photo Montage :30)

If you’re on Twitter today or tonight, you can help by either retweeting my #playcatch tweet, or by starting a game on your own that includes the #playcatch hashtag and a link to the Diamonds & Dreams Facebook tab: http://on.fb.me/g2H59j

Every unique “thrower” or retweet today earns a real baseball for the Greater Baltimore Boys and Girls Club. It’s pretty simple and costs you nothing to help, just a click of the mouse. Hopefully, we can hit the top contribution today!

Roberts out at least 3 wks

Brian Roberts (concussion-like symptoms) is at least three weeks away from returning, although Orioles president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail acknowledged Tuesday that the organization could be without their starting second baseman for even longer.

Robert, who has not played in a game since May 16, saw concussion specialist Dr. Michael Collins in Pittsburgh on Tuesday afternoon and the recommendation is he continue to rest for the next two weeks and then be reevaluated.

“He could come quickly after that or not,” MacPhail said of Roberts. “They don’t know.”

The best case scenario at this point would be for Roberts –who is still experience some symptoms that stemmed from a headfirst slide in the first inning of his final game – to be ready to resume baseball activities after two weeks. Under that scenario, he would need at least another week to be eased back in before being activated. But at this point there is no way of knowing if Roberts’ symptoms will linger, particularly since he felt the ill effects of last September’s concussion until Christmas.

“The fearing is not going to get anything done,” MacPhail said of the concern over Roberts’ DL stay being a long one. “It could [linger] or it couldn’t. You just have to let things play out. I think there are different indications, different players that historically they missed much longer than people expected and others came back relatively quickly. You got to take them individually.”

Roberts is expected to be transferred from the 7-day disabled list to the 15-day one, which is a minor housekeeping matter. The bigger issue for the Orioles relies on filling the hole at second base and in the leadoff spot. Robert Andino and rookie Ryan Adams are the team’s two options on the 25-man roster, although MacPhail said that the team isn’t necessarily handcuffed with what they have presently.

“There are a variety of ways we can go [in replacing Roberts],” MacPhail said. “Particularly now it’s complicated because we have guys coming on the DL, off the DL, you don’t know exactly when they are coming off. There are some moving pieces and I would expect the roster is going to be in flux for the next week or two as we make whatever adjustments we think we have to make.”

Roberts was limited to just 59 games last season because of a herniated disc in his lower back, and was slowed this spring by back and neck injuries, including one that originated from a headfirst slide against the Yankees. Asked on Saturday if he may have to consider avoiding that part of his game in the future, Roberts didn’t rule it out.

“I just never knew or dreamed that sliding headfirst would cause something like this,” he said. “I always assumed that I’d have to actually have a head collision of some sort in order to experience these sorts of things again. … I guess it’s one of those things I learned in a way that I didn’t really want to learn.”

Matusz to make 3rd rehab start

Orioles starter Brian Matusz (strained left intercostal muscle) will make a third rehab start Friday for Triple-A Norfolk and could be activated as early as June 1’s series finale in Seattle.

Right now, it’s about 50-50 whether Matusz’s next outing will be his last for an affiliate as the team has been cautious in bringing the 24-year-old Matusz along. Given the amount of time Matusz has missed –he was placed on the disabled list retroactive to March 30 — manager Buck Showalter likened Matusz’s rehab to a full Spring Training of sorts.

“If he pitches well and the people that are evaluating like what they are seeing … then he can come back and pitch for us on the first,” Showalter said of Matusz, who has logged 10 Minor League innings in addition to a pair of starts at extended spring. “If not, he’d take another start on the first somewhere else other than here, or in Seattle in that case.”

Matusz, who is scheduled to throw around 90 pitches Friday, said he felt it was the “right move” for him to get at least one more start.

“I think it will be good for me,” said Matusz, who threw a side session prior to Tuesday’s game. “I’d like to go out there and throw more than six innings, and get a little more pitches under my belt as far as far as coming up here and competing at the big league level.”

The team’s No. 2 starter, Matusz went 6-0 with 1.57 ERA in his final eight starts in 2010, leading American League rookies in strikeouts (143), innings pitched (175 2/3) and games started (32). He went six innings or more in 20 of those starts, and will help add consistency to the Orioles rotation.

Matusz tossed six scoreless innings for Double-A Bowie Saturday night, allowing three hits and a walk in the 70-pitch outing. His activation will force Chris Tillman or Brad Bergesen to Triple-A or to the bullpen.

Orioles/Royals lineup and pregame tidbits

*Brian Roberts saw concussion specialist Dr. Michael Collins this afternoon in Pittsburgh and the plan of action is to rest for another two full weeks. Roberts’ return won’t come for three weeks at the earliest, which means the best-case scenario is the end of May.

President of baseball operations Andy MacPhail said the team will continue to explore other options at second base, including externally, and that the team will move Roberts from the 7-day disabled list to the 15-day DL.

There’s not much else to report other than the fact that Roberts’ symptoms are getting better, although they aren’t totally gone. He will see Colllins in two weeks to be evaluated again.

*Orioles pitcher Jason Berken, who was demoted to Triple-A Norfolk after Friday night’s game, made his first start for the Tides this afternoon pitching three innings with no earned runs on five hits and three strikeouts.

The Orioles are stretching Berken out to be a starter, not necessarily as a role change, but because they think it’s best right now.

*Brian Matusz (left intercostal muscle strain) will start Friday for Triple-A Norfolk and it’s 50-50 if he gets activated from there. The earliest he could return to the team is June 1, but it depends on how he feels after his next start, which will be around 90 pitches.

*Derrek Lee (left oblique strain) will report to extended spring tomorrow and is also targeting a June 1 return. Lee will have to get some at-bats, but the team would prefer he gets those at an affiliate.

*The Orioles are weighing the possibility of calling up Craig Tatum, who would add a true backup catcher to the staff. With Matt Wieters slated to catch tonight and Wednesday night, and a day game on Thursday, it’s possible Tatum is up here and behind the plate Thursday afternoon.

*Brad Bergesen will start Saturday’s game in Oakland and will be preceded by Chris Tillman on Friday. with Monday’s off day the Orioles were able to skip Bergesen and will instead have him available in the bullpen tonight and Wednesday. So the rotation will be Jake Arrieta, Jeremy Guthrie and Tillman following Zach Britton tonight.

*Cesar Izturis had successful surgery this morning. Izturis had the ulnar nerve moved in his right elbow and the team is still hopeful he can play for them at some point this season. Right now, Izturis is on the 60-day DL.

*Justin Duchscherer is still at extended spring, although there are no plans right now for him to get back into a game. Duchscherer was shut down last week.

ORIOLES LINEUP
Robert Andino 2B
Adam Jones CF
Nick Markakis RF
Vladimir Guerrero DH
Matt Wieters C
Nolan Reimold LF
Mark Reynolds 3B
J.J. Hardy SS
Brandon Snyder 1B

Zach Britton LHP

ROYALS LINEUP
Alex Gordon LF
Melky Cabrera CF
Eric Hosmer 1B
Jeff Francoeur RF
Billy Butler DH
Wilson Betemit SS
Alex Aviles 2B
Brayan Pena C
Alcides Escobar SS

Danny Duffy LHP

Showalter on the young starters

Since manager Buck Showalter evaluates the season in month-long increments, I thought it’d be interesting to examine the Orioles’ next stretch.

There’s a full story going up on Orioles.com later this afternoon, but I wanted to make sure Showalter’s comments on the young starters, made prior to Saturday’s game, didn’t get lost in the shuffle.

While the Orioles offense and bullpen have both underperformed in the first quarter of the season, a trio of starts that didn’t go past the fifth inning and a 15-inning loss provided a brutal stretch –and a flurry of roster moves for fresh arms – in a four-game skid last week. Chris Tillman became the latest starter on Sunday to go five innings in an effective but hardly economical outing.

“The problem is there is a lot of unknown about what you’re getting,” said Showalter, who spoke with the team’s current four young starters –Tillman, Jake Arrieta, Zach Britton and Brad Bergesen – on Saturday to remind them that this opportunity isn’t open-ended.

“They’ve had enough exposure, enough time up here over the last couple of years that they need to step forward one way or the other. There will be another guy running up the Baseball America hot list behind all of us,” Showalter added. “Sometimes, they need to be reminded that some things are unacceptable – all of them. I’m not a big start watcher until a certain part of the season, but you look at some of the hits to innings and ERAs and stuff, it’s not good enough. It’s not going to work. It falls underneath the heading with some of them, ‘yeah, I got it.’ But sometimes it’s a little bit more than just whistling in the graveyard.

It’s unacceptable, not good enough. The see-sawing, back-and forth, it’s tough for a team to really get into a consistent flow of playing good baseball over a long stretch of time when you got those inconsistencies. [And] just not with [starting] pitching. I’m not going to hang it all on them.”

I brought up the talk with Showalter again on Sunday morning and he said Saturday’s message wasn’t unusual as the O’s manager is frequently doling out that sentiment while walking around the outfield pregame, or behind closed doors in his office.

“I think we all need to be reminded of it,” Showalter said. “It’s just a reminder, it’s not an open-ended ticket. For any of us.”

Largely thought to be baseball’s toughest division, the Orioles are playing above .500 (14-12) ball outside of the AL East and while ultimately they will have to learn how to beat the Yankees (0-6), they have held their own against the Red Sox (2-2) and the Tampa Bay Rays (5-4) so far this season, taking both series at Tropicana Field.

Five of their next seven opponents entered Monday below .500, making now as good a time as any for the Orioles — who have been unable to string together a winning streak longer than the season’s first four games — to start a consistent stretch.

“We will look back at some things and say that maybe someone overachieved compared to their record, or they underachieved,” Showalter said. “You are always going to have that. Whether it’s the team or an individual. You aren’t going to have everybody operating at the top of their level all the time.”

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