June 2011

June 16 — Orioles vs. Blue Jays

I don’t know who scheduled this thing for a 12:37 start but those of us who worked last night’s game, caught what was left of game seven and then tried to get in a little bit of casual rioting are sorely unhappy about it.

But that’s beside the point — the Orioles aren’t particularly happy either at this point as they’ve dropped the first two games of this series and their last 16 consecutive in Toronto.

The O’s will merely look to salvage a victory today before they head out for a swing through the National League, travelling to Washington and Pittsburgh before welcoming the Cincinnati Reds at Camden Yards  in about a weeks time.

Yes — Leaving Toronto will be  a welcome development for these Orioles and not just because of the losing streak. This entire series was played in pretty close to full scramble mode for the O’s. The pitching coach quit Tuesday before a long extra innings game that night when the Orioles couldn’t find a clutch hit. Then it was back to work the following day with a key reliever hitting the DL and a young kid who pitched his way off the roster earlier this season rejoining the team. Of course, in that night’s loss the problem with hitting was the lack thereof.

And now here we are again, a mere 14 hours after the end of Wednesday night’s game ready to go. As far as we know, no one has resigned or been moved off the roster at this point, but we’ll keep you updated.

The one update I do have for you is some probable pitchers. The Orioles have been very tight-lipped about who will be getting starts in the coming series but here’s what I’ve gleaned. Zach Britton will start Friday’s series opener against the Nationals after  having his last start pushed back. Brian Matusz will start Saturday while Chris Jakubauskas will get the start Sunday for the series finale in Washington. That would set up Jake Arrieta to open Monday’s series in Pittsburgh. So there’s that.

Before I go, just want to say it’s been a pleasure to cover the team for the last three days. It’s a very easy-going clubhouse and a great group of guys.  Don’t forget to follow me on the twitter if that’s your thing. Until next time, Baltimore.

Today’s lineups:

Orioles

  1. J.J. Hardy SS
  2. Nick Markakis RF
  3. Adam Jones CF
  4. Vladimir Guerrero DH
  5. Luke Scott LF
  6. Derrek Lee 1B
  7. Mark Reynolds 3B
  8. Ryan Adams 2B
  9. Craig Tatum C
Starting pitcher: Jeremy Guthrie (2-8, 3.77 ERA)
Blue Jays
  1. Yunel Escobar SS
  2. Corey Patterson LF
  3. Jose Bautista RF
  4. Adam Lind 1B
  5. Aaron Hill 2B
  6. Edwin Encarnacion DH
  7. Jose Molina C
  8. Rajai Davis CF
  9. Jayson Nix 3B
Stating pitcher: Zach Stewart (MLB debut)

June 15 — Orioles vs. Blue Jays

Hello again — Arden Zwelling here covering the Orioles from beautiful Toronto. Brittany took this series off so she can watch game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals  take some much deserved time off. I’ll have all the news here, on Orioles.com and on twitter.

But about that Stanley Cup thing. We are in Canada so the attendance tonight might not be much. And those of us Canadians in the press box may be slightly distracted during the game. But we’ll do our best to catch the important stuff.

Of course, the Orioles don’t much care for Canada where they’ve lost their last 15 consecutive games, 20 of their last 21 and 21 of their last 24.  Buck Showalter said he likes Canada — ‘everything but customs’ he grumbled — but he’s only been with the Orioles for less than a year. The last time this team won in Toronto was August 7, 2009 which gave the Orioles a whopping 1-8 record in Toronto that year. Add an 0-9 in 2010 and the current 0-1 in 2011 to that and you’ve got a pretty good reason to dread border travel. More on that in today’s notebook which should be up on Orioles.com shortly after first pitch.

Yesterday was a strange day of mixed emotions for Rick Adair who took over for Mark Connor as Orioles pitching coach after Connor resigned Monday. Read more about that here.

Orioles manager Buck Showalter hopes the transition will be relatively seamless since the two men have similar pitching philosophies and Adair has over seven full seasons of previous experience as a pitching coach. Adair would have actually been the prime candidate to be the Orioles pitching coach this year had the team not hired Connor who Showalter called one of the most respected pitching coaches in baseball.

“It’s difficult circumstances, absolutely. It’s a little different today emotionally to say the least,” Adair said Tuesday. “Obviously [Connor] is more experienced than I am and if I can be half of what he has been I’ll be okay.”

Adair sat down with Showalter and Connor in Baltimore Monday as Connor delivered the news. The trio has known each other for decades and the conversation was emotional to say the least.

“I don’t know if I got as emotional as buck did but we go way back and have been through a lot of wars together,” Adair said. “Obviously going back to building the franchise in Arizona and then in Texas. We’ve been pretty good friends for a long time. We’ve known each other over 20 years.”

Adair got to make his first mound visit as the Orioles pitching coach in the bottom of the fourth last night to discuss strategy with Chris Jakubauskas who had just intentionally walked Jose Bautista to load the bases. Whatever advice he gave paid off as Jakubauskas worked the Blue Jays cleanup hitter Adam Lind to a 1-2 count before Lind weakly ground out to the right side.

Tonight’s lineups:

Orioles

  1. J.J. Hardy SS
  2. Nick Markakis RF
  3. Adam Jones CF
  4. Vladimir Guerrero DH
  5. Matt Wieters C
  6. Derrek Lee 1B
  7. Mark Reynolds 3B
  8. Nolan Reimold LF
  9. Robert Andino 2B
Starting pitcher: Jake Arrieta (8-3, 4.48 ERA)
Blue Jays
  1. Yunel Escobar SS
  2. Corey Patterson LF
  3. Jose Bautista RF
  4. Adam Lind DH
  5. Juan Rivera 1B
  6. J.P. Arencibia C
  7. Aaron Hill 2B
  8. Rajai Davis CF
  9. Jayson Nix 3B
Starting pitcher: Ricky Romero (5-6, 3.18 ERA)

June 14 — Orioles vs. Blue Jays

Hey folks — Arden Zwelling here. I’m covering for Brittany while she takes a much deserved series off. I’ll have all the news and notes on the Orioles here and on Orioles.com. And follow me on twitter @ArdenZwelling for everything in between.

The big news today is obviously the resignation of pitching coach Mark Connor. The full story is here. He was very well-liked and respected in the organization and his departure had nothing to do with any rifts or disagreements on the team or coaching staff. Unlike another MLB pitching coach who left his job today.

Connor spoke to Orioles manager Buck Showalter Monday afternoon for about an hour to discuss the situation. Apparently he had been considering it for a while and felt this was the right time to pull the trigger. He drove home to Knoxville, TN today.

Showalter and Connor knew each other for more than 20 years and, while Showalter certainly understood Connor’s reasons for leaving the team, watching his friend leave was tough to do.

“It was emotional for all of us because everybody has so much respect for Mark and the people that he’s impacted,” Showalter said. “I’ve known him forever and I’ve seen the impact that he had on pitching staffs and organizations in general. We were lucky to have him. I don’t think there’s a more respected pitching coach in baseball than Mark .”

But while Showalter is sorry to see him go, he’s happy Connor made the decision that he did.

I feel good that he had the guts to do what he did. It took a lot because I know how much this means to him,” Showalter said. “I don’t think that sometimes we completely realize the intensity level and the things that go on for major league coaches. I’d have been a little upset if he didn’t have the guts to make that decision, knowing what I know.”

Here’s your lineups for tonight’s game:

Orioles Lineup

  1. J.J. Hardy SS
  2. Nick Markakis RF
  3. Adam Jones CF
  4. Vladimir Guerrero DH
  5. Matt Wieters C
  6. Derrek Lee 1B
  7. Luke Scott LF
  8. Mark Reynolds 3B
  9. Robert Andino 2B
Starting Pitcher: Chris Jakubauskas (1-0, 4.58 ERA)
Blue Jays Lineup
  1. Yunel Escobar SS
  2. Corey Patterson LF
  3. Jose Bautista RF
  4. Adam Lind 1B
  5. J.P. Arencibia C
  6. Edwin Encarnacion DH
  7. Aaron Hill 2B
  8. Rajai Davis CF
  9. Jayson Nix 3B
Starting pitcher: Carlos Villanueva (4-0, 3.09 ERA)

Missing up north

As you may have noticed, I’m not in Toronto this series and will be taking a few days off. The rumors are false, I can legally leave the country. At least, I think so. ;-)

On a more serious note, what does that mean for you? Nothing. Other than a slower Twitter feed, you’ll hardly notice. All your news will still be on Orioles.com and you can follow associate reporter Arden Zwelling (@ArdenZwelling if you’re on Twitter) for breaking O’s news, lineups, etc.

The Orioles have already kicked off this road trip in newsy fashion, with pitching coach Mark Connor resigning and being replaced by bullpen coach Rick Adair. The full story is up here.

I’ll catch you all again on Friday for the series opener in D.C.

Hopefully Lord Stanley’s Cup will be safely resting in Boston by then…

–Britt

Off days odds and ends

*I addressed this in yesterday’s game story, but it deserves repeating. The Orioles are very concerned about the performance of pitcher Brian Matusz, who left after just 1 1/3 innings in Sunday’s loss, his third start off the disabled list.

It’s easy to look at Matusz’s first two starts off the DL as not that bad, but –as manager Buck Showalter pointed out — they were only OK outings statistically. Matusz has not had his usual stuff in any outing this year and, to be honest, didn’t look comfortable this spring.

The Orioles drew it up so Matusz –who missed two months with a left intercostal muscle strain — could face the offensive-light lineups of Seattle and Oakland the first two times around. The Rays took advantage of Matusz and afterwards several players commented on his dipping velocity. So did Rays manager Joe Maddon, who took it a step further.

“I think there might be something not quite right about Matusz,” Maddon said of the Orioles’ lefty, who has been a shell of his former self since returning from the disabled list on June 1. “He’s not throwing as hard as he used to. So, I’m certain he’s not 100 percent.”

Showalter –who was as terse post-game as I’ve seen him all year — wouldn’t commit to whether Matusz was making his next start and made no bones about how unacceptable it was that the Rays had four steals in the first inning off Matusz. Shouldn’t the Orioles be seeing some improvement with him given his four rehab starts and three Major League outings off the DL?

“There should, there should, Yeah,”‘ Showalter said. “He’s telling us he feels fine. Just not a whole lot coming out right now.”

*The Brooks Robinson All-Star game will be played Monday at 2 p.m. at Camden Yards. Admission is free and spectators can enter the park through Gate D. Given yesterday’s weather the original game was delayed.

*As expected Brandon Snyder was optioned to Triple-A Norfolk following Sunday’s loss, with Derrek Lee expected to return and fly with the team to Toronto. Lee was on bereavement over the weekend to attend his grandfather’s funeral in California.

*Mark Reynolds said yesterday that an X-ray taken on his left forearm was negative and he was optimistic he would be back in the lineup after Monday’s off day. Reynolds was hit by Sean Rodriguez’s liner in the fifth inning and exited a few frames later after the area started to tighten up and get sore.

*Felix Pie trying to steal in the eighth inning with the Orioles down three runs and a 1-2 count at the plate? Not smart, not smart at all. Asked if that was sign, Showalter was brief: “That’s a mistake,” he said. There were plenty in Sunday’s loss, with Reynolds charged with a a pair of errors and Adam Jones letting Evan Longoria’s ball tail away for a two-run inside-the-park homer.

Orioles/Rays lineups and pregame tidbits

*The Orioles will skip Zach Britton’s start on Tuesday in an effort to keep his innings in check and have him pitch in September instead of being shut down. He’s on pace right now to throw 200 innings, and the Orioles definitely won’t let him go anywhere near that mark.

Britton’s career high in innings is 153 1/3 and the expectation is for him to end the year around 175-180. He will start again on Friday in D.C. and will stay on his regular bullpen schedule in the meantime. Britton said he might also throw to live hitters to stay sharp at some point this week.

Chris Jakubauskas will make Tuesday’s start in Toronto instead.

*Justin Duchscherer will take a work day in extended spring on Tuesday and pitch five innings on Friday. Orioles manager Buck Showalter clarified that today.

*Derrek Lee is expected to rejoin the team and fly to Toronto on Monday. Lee has been on bereavement to attend his grandfather’s funeral in California.

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

LHP Brian Matusz

RAYS LINEUP
Johnny Damon DH
Ben Zobrist RF
Justin Ruggiano LF
Evan Longoria 3B
B.J. Upton CF
Sean Rodriguez 2B
Casey Kotchman 1B
Elliot Johnson SS
Kelly Shoppach C

RHP Wade Davis

Reynolds heating up

Lost in the final outcome of Saturday’s 7-5, 11-inning loss was the pair of homers from Orioles third baseman Mark Reynolds, who is starting to show exactly why the organization traded this winter to bring his power bat to Baltimore.

Both homers hit by Reynolds came off Rays starter David Price, who he entered the game hitless against, going 0-for-6 with four strikeouts.

“He’s not fun to face,” Reynolds said of the Rays’ ace. “I got two fastballs out over the plate. One was a 3-0 count and he just kind of grooved it in there. Buck [Showalter] gave me the green light so I was able to take advantage of that.”

Reynolds said this was the first time he’s been given the green light on 3-0 this season, and the decision was made with good reason as he’s the team’s hottest hitter.

“I was kind of happy that he gave it to me,” Reynolds said of the one-out, one man on situation in the sixth. “I know [Price] doesn’t want to put a runner in scoring position right there so he gave me a heater.”

And Reynolds sent it 421 feet, marking his sixth homer in 11 games and extending his team lead to 12 long balls. Saturday marked the third multi-homer night of Reynolds’ career, his first as an Oriole.

“He’s starting to swing the bat like we thought that he had the potential to,” Showalter said. “He’s going to have his periods, but he’s not missing many mistakes right now.”

Brooks on his health

Here’s a statement from Hall of Famer Brooks Robinson on his health….

“As you may recall, I was hospitalized in April for a routine procedure. I was recently hospitalized for a follow up procedure, also routine, and am expecting that I will undergo two additional procedures over the next several months that will provide me with a complete recovery from a prior abdominal surgery.

These are routine and expected procedures and I continue to remain cancer free. My wife, Connie and I are asking for privacy with respect to my medical care. Thank you for your kindness.”

Orioles/Rays lineups and tidbits

*Justin Duchscherer will try to go five innings in an extended spring game either Tuesday or Wednesday

*The Orioles have agreed to terms with draft picks Matt Taylor (5th round), Cameron Edmund (29), Zachary Fowler (34) and Jerome Pena (38)

ORIOLES LINEUP

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

RHP Jeremy Guthrie

RAYS LINEUP

Johnny Damon DH
Ben Zobrist 2B
Matt Joyce RF
Evan Longoria 3B
Casey Kotchman 1B
B.J. Upton CF
John Jaso C
Justin Ruggiano LF
Reid Brignac SS

LHP David Price

-Avi Zaleon

Jordan on the Draft, Bundy negotiations, etc

Orioles scouting director Joe Jordan held court this afternoon to talk about the Draft overall, the effect of having less affiliates, slotting bonuses, and –of course — the contract negotiations with top pick Dylan Bundy.

With one less affiliate and Dominican team, the Orioles will sign far less than in previous years, a process that Jordan said should help the organization better streamline their assets. The organization has already agreed to terms with two of their top 10 draft picks, although Bundy negotations have not started yet.

Here are some of the highlights from Jordan’s talk…

[on if he expects Bundy to get a record signing bonus for the Orioles]
“I don’t look to set any records. I don’t expect to. And expectations on their side are pretty good right now but that’s OK. I mean, he is a talented kid and we will work through it and see where it goes.”

[on if he would surprised if Aug 15 comes and Bundy is already signed?]
“No, I don’t think it is totally impossible for that to happen. But we haven’t done anything on that yet. I am going home the next couple of days, I am going to have dinner with he and his family some time next week. I think he is coming up to this area to visit his brother for a while at some point in time. So we’ll give it a little bit of time and then we’ll kind of lay the groundwork to getting things going and hopefully it won’t take as long. It will take a while.”

[on if the perceived public demands, such as Bundy's $30-million price tag, bothers him]
“It doesn’t have any impact at all. They’ve all gotten the same playbook this year. If you could hear some of the numbers, it wasn’t just out guy. It was others. The numbers are all inflated now and we’ll have to wait until August to see where they all come in. It’s not real. It’s not relevant. They know it. We know it. It’s just the way the game is played, I guess.”

[on if the team got everything they needed from 3B Anthony Rendon's medical report. They chose Bundy instead of Rendon]

“I don’t know how deep I want to go into that one. Here’s a player, again, we scouted since high school and everyone knows what that player did at Rice University for three years basically. At the end of the day, when we started looking at the two players ability-wise and health-wise and just everything together, we just felt like the right thing to do was take the player we took.

“Did we have everything we needed as early as we wanted it? No. Again, at the end of the day, it may not have been the deciding factor anyway. I probably have gone too far I don’t need to say a whole lot. They were both on our board. We took the guy we wanted.”

[On the influx of pitchers taken in the Draft]
“We have some good pitching prospects in our system, starting pitching wise we felt like it had gotten thin at the top of the organization, because of some promotions to the big leagues and maybe some guys at the lower level that haven’t had time.”

“So the way the Draft came off, and I went back and looked at it, we targeted [Mike] Wright. We targeted guys like [Kyle] Simon, college pitchers that we thought we could get in the system and if they do what we expect them to do we can get them to the middle of the system fairly quickly. And from there you just see what happens. But I like the arms and we talk all the time about grow the arms, buy the bats, I guess. But I like that. And I think we accomplished that.”

[on if he anticipates sixth-round high school third baseman Nick Delmonico being a tough sign]
“Yes. He’s the type of player that if you look at three years from now if he goes to school and does what we expect him to do, his draft position will be better than it was this year. But he is also a player that … he is going to be tough. He has got some talent, we like him, but again that’s a long way down the road, there’s a lot of work to be done on pretty much most of our draft, if not everything until we can really see if that is going to be a possibility.”

[on if he will be get leeway to do things like sign guys overslot, as has been the case in the past]

“I think when this thing shakes out in August, we will look back and say, you know they had all the support that they needed to do what they wanted to do.”

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