July 2011

Around the O’s clubhouse

There’s been a lot going on the last 24 hours and some of these quotes would otherwise end up on the cutting room floor, so I thought I’d pass them along.

MANAGER BUCK SHOWALTER

[on new guys Chris Davis and Tommy Hunter]
“I think hopefully we can offer some things that Texas wasn’t able to, mentally and emotionally. It’s always reassuring on the players, and keep in mind these guys are 25 years old, these are really young players that have had some success in a tough division in the American league West. I think there’s some real potential here.”
[on losing well-liked veteran Derrek Lee being tough]

“Yeah, just like it was [with] Koji [Uehara]. They are good people. Pittsburgh is getting a good man, a good person and a guy that’s starting to play pretty well. So it’s a good move for them and a good move for us. We like the guy we got back.  But it’s bittersweet for us.

I’ve talked to Derrek a day or so ago about keeping him up to speed. He reads and hears, there’s no secrets in the game, he knows what’s going on…I have some sympathy as to what he’s going through. I don’t care if you are 35 or 25, it’s a tough thing. You try to dwell on the fact  that he’s coveted not only but us but by somebody else.”

[on being excited to get two new guys]
“Just the math alone, we got 2-for-1. If those two guys work out it’s a pretty good mathematical equation. Two gains to be had. I’m not going to say we would or wouldn’t have had Derrek back next year but two have two young players who are under control, you kind of know you can keep in the fold and kind of fit in to what we are trying to do. They are younger than some of the players that are still trying to establish themselves here. So, there’s quite an upside on them…I like both their makeup. Both get after guys.”

JASON BERKEN

[on being sent down]

“My stats coming back, since the last time I got sent down were pretty good. So, there’s a lot of positives, things to take out of the last six weeks. A lot of good things. Last night wasn’t so good obviously but I’m not going to let that dictate or influence the way I think I’ve been throwing. I feel like I’ve been throwing pretty good. Yesterday was a bad outing. It sucks getting sent down, but I don’t feel sorry for myself.”
[on what he will work on in Triple-A]

“Stay after it. Same thing I’ve been doing up here. Just fine tune things, stay consistent with my stuff. It’s not time to overanalyze things or worry about things. I’ve been throwing pretty well. So, I’m not going to sit here and reinvent the wheel.”
[on if he's hoping for a short stay]

“That’s not something I control. We will see how things play out. I’m not going to sit here and count the days down or put a timetable on things. I don’t think that’s fair, mentally more than anything. Its just a matter of when I’m down there, work, and hopefully soon I’ll be back up here and when I’m back up here I’ll be ready.

Orioles/Yankees lineups: Trade Deadline edition

The Orioles optioned Jason Berken to Triple-A Norfolk, selecting the contract of Mike Ballard from Double-A and recalled lefty Pedro Viola, also from Bowie.

One of those guys will take the roster spot vacated by Koji Uehara, who was traded for Chris Davis and Tommy Hunter yesterday. Davis is here and starting at first base, assuming the position of Derrek Lee, who was dealt to Pittsburgh late last night.

Got all that? Good.

Also, Hunter is expected to join the team in Kansas City. He wasn’t going to be available to throw on Sunday anyway. As I reported last night, Hunter will be stretched out as a starter.

Checked in with both relievers Michael Gonzalez and Mark Hendrickson, who are banged up after being hit while pitching last night. The X-rays on both pitchers came back negative and right now it’s looking like they will avoid a trip to the disabled list.

Here are your lineups, with the 4 p.m. Trade Deadline looming. The Orioles aren’t expected to make any more moves, but you never know…

 

ORIOLES LINEUP

J.J. Hardy SS
Nick Markakis RF
Adam Jones CF
Vladimir Guerrero DH
Chris Davis 1B
Mark Reynolds 3B
Felix Pie LF
Craig Tatum C
Robert Andino 2B

Jake Arrieta RHP

YANKEES LINEUP

Brett Gardner LF
Derek Jeter SS
Curtis Granderson CF
Mark Teixeira 1B
Robinson Cano DH
Nick Swisher RF
Eric Chavez 3B
Russell Martin C
Eduardo Nunez 2B

RHP Freddy Garcia

Sorting through the day..

It’s been insanity today so  I thought I’d try to recap the events and answer  a few questions that still linger for the Orioles.  Here goes..

The Orioles had several teams interested in Koji Uehara, but it became really evident in the last day or so that the Rangers were clearly the best match given that they had a wealth of  Major League-ready starting pitchers and some solid position players.

Koji’s trade to the Rangers netted the O’s first baseman Chris Davis and Tommy Hunter and you can read my interview with them here, as well as the full story on the new guys up shortly on Orioles.com.  For the Orioles, it was what manager Buck Showalter called an “emotional scene” in saying goodbye to the well-liked Uehara, who was trying to hold back tears in his exit interview with the media. You can read that here.

Then before Game 2 started, Derrek Lee –who was pulled in the eighth inning of Game 1 — wasn’t in the starting lineup. Trade rumors started to pick up and the Diamondbacks and Pirates emerged as the two logical landing choices. A deal was reached –pending some medical stuff — before Saturday’s nightcap ended and it was announced shortly after.

Lee –who was on a one-year deal– wasn’t surprised by the news and you can read his farewell interview here.  His exit means Davis will be the Orioles primary first baseman and Hunter is expected to join a rotation badly in need of stability. The O’s got back Minor League first baseman Aaron Baker.

With Sunday’s Trade Deadline at 4 p.m. the Orioles appear to be done making any moves in that period. Their top remaining trade chip in right-hander Jeremy Guthrie hasn’t gotten them the return they wanted and the sense in the organization is that they can hold off until the offseason in entertaining offers for Guthrie.

But that doesn’t mean the roster shuffling is over. The Orioles do have several players –Michael Gonzalez and Vladimir Guerrero jump to mind — who could be dealt after the Trade Deadline.

After the deadline passes, deals involving players on the 40-man roster cannot be made unless the players already have cleared waivers. In other words, the player must be offered to the other teams in reverse order of the standings, and if he is claimed by one of the teams, he cannot be traded. The club that placed the player on waivers can either withdraw the request and keep the player, or let the player go to the claiming team, which would then have the rights to the player.

On the more immediate front, the Orioles will make at least two roster moves to add arms after getting a part of disappointing starts from Chris Tillman and Zach Britton in today’s doubleheader. So, who goes? There’s a bunch of options in infielders Blake Davis, Josh Bell, as well as pitchers Jason Berken, Chris Jakabauskas and Troy Patton.

If Chris Davis starts, which is a possibility,  the O’s would need to make another move there as well. Mike Gonzalez’s X-ray on his left wrist came back negative and the team was still waiting final word on fellow reliever Mark Hendrickson, who was hit in the hand.

Lee’s farewell

By now you know Derrek Lee was traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates for Minor League first baseman Aaron Baker.  Here’s what Lee had to say as he hugged goodbye to teammates.

DERREK LEE

How do I feel about it? It’s the business of baseball.

[on joining Pittsburgh]
Yeah they are playing good. They turned it around so good for them.  I’m still playing baseball, so that’s always a good thing.

[heard about this trade potential before tonight?]

“Oh yeah, of course I heard it. You guys asked me about it the last few days.  No, I knew coming into the year there was a pretty good chance I wasn’t going to finish it here. So, I understood all of it.”

[on his time in Baltimore]
“I enjoyed it. I enjoyed these guys. I enjoyed Buck. Always have enjoyed Andy [MacPhail]. Ballpark is beautiful.

We didn’t play s as well as we wanted to, I didn’t play as well as I wanted to. But I enjoyed my time here.”

Hunter, Davis on joining the Os

As you know by now, the Orioles traded Koji Uehara and $2 million to the Texas Rangers in exchange for infielder Chris Davis and starting pitcher Tommy Hunter. I spoke to Davis and Hanson tonight and will have a full story up later on Orioles.com, but wanted to pass along some initial quotes and reactions from the two newest O’s, who are slated to fly into New York around 9 a.m. tomorrow morning.

HUNTER

[on the shock of being traded]
“I was definitely blindsided. It was definitely one of those things where you look at it and, at first, you wonder what you didn’t do. You start to question, ‘Am I not good enough or something?  It’s definitely a shock, I don’t know how else to put it. I was drafted by this team, I came up through their organization. We went to the World Series last year and now I’m getting traded. It’s different. It’s definitely something that I didn’t think about.  But it’s an opportunity and that’s how I look at it.”
“It’s kind of crazy when it’s the first time you go through this. But it’s something that happens in the game of baseball. I couldn’t be happier getting the pitching coach and the staff over there.  Me and Rick Adair have a pretty good relationship, he was actually my first pitching coach ever. [in Texas’ Minor League system].”

[on playing for Showalter]
“I’ve heard nothing but good things, so I’m excited. I’m ready to go.”

[on bouncing back from his right groin strain]
“I had a pretty significant groin strain in Spring Training, and on my last rehab assignment I did it again. So, it kind of pushed me back and then they put me in the bullpen…I would definitely still consider myself a starter. This was a weird situation in Texas, there was a lot of pitchers and nowhere else to put people. It’s a different situation and its opportunity to start fresh in Baltimore.”

[on how he feels now]
“I’m totally healthy right now. I’m a little sore because I’ve been throwing lot lately. But, I’m ready to go, I’m ready to hopefully move back into the rotation, but if there’s other plans [in the Orioles organization], it is what it is.”
“My arm’s in pretty good shape. In order to build me up [to start] it’s not going to take long. My last rehab start, I went seven innings.”

[on Chris Davis]
“Chris Davis is probably the most athletic person I’ve ever met in my life. He’s a beast. He’s 6-foot- 3, he’s 240 pounds and he hits bombs. I watched him when he was in Triple-A and I was on rehab assignment. And the numbers he was putting up there…he was  probably the most impressive baseball player I’ve ever seen in my life.  You can quote me on that. He was hitting .368 with 24 home runs and 66 RBIs and had like [193] at-bats. So you can do the math on how that works out. He’s going to be good. He definitely has the capability to be a superstar if he gets the chance.”
DAVIS
[on his reaction to the trade]
“I think I was a little surprised that it was Baltimore. I didn’t know how much they were willing to trade me after Adrian [Beltre] got hurt, but I felt like the last few weeks that a few teams asked me about and the Rangers would be willing to trade me. I had heard, San Diego, Oakland, I think when Adrian got hurt and I got called back up they were trying.  It was a little bit of a shock, but I kind of expected to be traded.”
[on having a fresh start]
“It was getting to the point with Texas where it was like, ‘Ok, am I ever going to get the opportunity here again? I think [Baltimore] is a great opportunity for me. It’s one that, I had an opportunity in ‘09 to really solidify myself as the everyday first baseman and ran into some troubles and had to learn how to mature as a baseball player.  There were things I didn’t really run into in the Minor Leagues.

After that it was kind of a shuffle with [Justin] Smoak and myself , I was kind of thrown around from first to third to the outfield. It was tough. But [being traded] really does feel like a fresh start and a legitimate opportunity to play every day at the big league level. I had heard a few things early about Baltimore that it was a possibility…I’m excited about it.”

[on his playing style]
“I feel like I’m a very athletic guy. I’m a big guy, but I’m a very athletic for my size. I move around well for my size. I have a lot of power, I think I have the ability to hit for average and power and I think that’s going to translate the further along in my career I get.

I’m constantly learning about myself and making adjustments up here. I’m pretty confident, pretty easy going, but when it comes to baseball I’m focused. I can’t tell you how excited I am to be a part of the Oriole organization and ready to start playing.”

***

Here’s what Rangers GM Jon Daniels had to say earlier..

“Baltimore was interested in acquiring a controllable young starter and Tommy has shown he can get the job done,” Daniels said. “Except for a couple of minor injuries, he has shown he can get the job done. He’s durable, he throws strikes and has a good makeup. Fortunately for us we have a rotation that’s performing at a high level 1-5 and we’ve got Scott Feldman and we have a lot of guys (in the Minors) coming behind them that we really like.”

As for Davis…

“Chris is in a good spot,” Daniels said. “He understands where we are as a club and our winning expectations. Other guys have come along and claimed spots and it was unlikely that he will get a regular job here barring injury. Where he is in his career, he has a better chance of performing at a high level somewhere else. Baltimore was looking for a corner bat. I wish him all the luck in the world.”

Koji’s farewell

When the interview finally ended and the media dissipated, Oriole reliever Koji Uehara took a deep breath looked down at the floor and tried to blink back the tears slowly welling up behind his eyes. But the emotion of Saturday afternoon –in which Uehara was traded to the Texas Rangers in exchange for first baseman Chris Davis and pitcher Tommy Hunter – was too much for the well-liked right-hander, widely considered one of the best available arms on the trade market, as he said goodbye to the organization that signed him out of Japan.

“I’m sure I’ll always be thinking of Baltimore,” said Uehara, who signed a two-year deal with the Orioles in January 2009, through interpreter Jiwon Bang. “There are two contradicting feelings. Part of me says that a contending team wants me, and that’s gratifying. At the same time, Baltimore–I’ve been there for two years. It’s really sad.”

Signed to be a top-of-the-rotation starter behind ace Jeremy Guthrie, Uehara went 2-4 with a 4.05 ERA in his first 12 Major League starts but was riddled with injury and deemed a better fit for the bullpen. The move –which was enacted last spring – gave the Orioles a potent late-inning arm as Uehara emerged as the team’s closer, compiling a 2.86 ERA to go along with 13 saves.

But the injury issues continued as Uehara found himself on the disabled list twice in 2010 and the Orioles cautiously signed the free agent to a two-year deal heavily incentive-based. A new conditioning program and very light spring workload kept Uehara –who was used sparingly to start the season – healthy and productive and he quickly established himself as one of the best right-handed relievers in the American League.

The 36-year-old Uehara has pitched to a 1.02 ERA in his last 32 games, allowing just four earned runs over a 35 1/3 innings-span and his walk to strikeout ratio is an incredible 62-8.  Using a fastball that tops out in the upper 80s, Uehara is a deception artist with pinpoint control and he will join a Rangers team badly in need of late-inning relief.

“They have a great lineup and great starting pitching,” Uehara said of the Rangers.  “They give me a chance to pitch, and I’ll do my best.”

Texas had been talking to the Padres about Heath Bell, but Uehara has better numbers, he has been successful in the American League, and he has a vesting option for next season. If he pitches in 12 more games this season, he becomes a signed player for 2012 at $4 million. The Orioles also sent $2 million to Texas as part of the deal.

Asked if there was any anxiety over pitching in the Texas heat, a place Uehara has struggled in, he admitted it could be a challenge down the line.

“Maybe. That’s one big concern that I may have,” Uehara said. “I’m not sure, yet.”

What he was sure of was the fondness he will always have for the organization, his teammates and the city of Baltimore. Asked if he had a final message for the Orioles’ fan base, Uehara expressed his gratitude.

“We’re not going to be on the same team anymore, but if they have time to check me out, that would be great,” he said. “I just want to thank the fans for their cheers and everything.”

Os trade Koji for Davis, Hunter

The Orioles traded reliever Koji Uehara to the Texas Rangers on Saturday afternoon, completing a deal that will net them first baseman Chris Davis and pitcher Tommy Hunter.

The deal, which was first reported by the Baltimore Sun and confirmed by a source to MLB.com, comes in between a doubleheader with the Yankees and gives the Rangers one of the best right-handed relievers on the market. Uehara has pitched to a 1.02 ERA in his last 32 games, allowing just four earned runs over a 35 1/3 inning-span.

A first baseman, Davis gives an Orioles system devoid of upper-echelon position players another option given that veteran Derrek Lee is on a one-year deal and is also considered trade bait. The Rangers’ fifth-round pick in the 2006 Draft, Davis is hitting .250 with three homers and six RBIs in 27 games for Texas.

Hunter  is 1-1 with a 2.93 ERA in eight relief appearances for the Rangers. He was a 13-game winner as a starter for the Rangers last year but strained his right groin muscle at the end of Spring Training, missed three months and was never able to regain his spot in the rotation. The Rangers have been using him in middle relief since he came off the disabled list.

The right-hander went 13-4 with a 3.73 ERA in 22 starts for the Rangers last season, and will likely be stretched out in Baltimore. The Orioles starting pitching has been inconsistent and they’ve made it no secret that they were looking for a Major League-ready arm in any deal.

The Rangers had been talking to the Padres about Heath Bell but Uehara has better numbers, he has been successful in the American League and he has a vesting option for next season. If he pitches in 12 more games this season, he becomes a signed player for 2012 at $4 million.

Orioles/Yankees DH

It’s going to be a long day of baseball today and with the Trade Deadline 4 p.m. tomorrow, I’ll keep you updated on all happenings as they relate to the Orioles.

As expected, Brad Bergesen was placed on the paternity list today with Chris Tillman taking his spot on the 25-man roster. Bergesen can stay on that list for three days under MLB’s rules.

Cesar Izturis is still here working out with the team, but it’s highly unlikely that he’s activated before Sunday at the earliest.  The O’s will have to make another roster move for tonight’s starter, Zach Britton, with Tillman being optioned back to Norfolk a possibility as well as sending out infielders Blake Davis or Josh Bell.

Here are your Game 1 lineups…

YANKEES LINEUP

Brett Gardner CF
Eduardo Nunez SS
Mark Teixeira DH
Robinson Cano 2B
Nick Swisher RF
Eric Chavez 3B
Jorge Posada 1B
Chris Dickerson LF
Francisco Cervelli C

Bartolo Colon RHP

ORIOLES LINEUP

J.J. Hardy SS
Nick Markakis RF
Adam Jones CF
Vladimir Guerrero DH
Derrek Lee 1B
Mark Reynolds 3B
Felix Pie LF
Craig Tatum C
Blake Davis 2B

Chris Tillman RHP

Orioles/Yankees lineup and pregame tidbits

*I’m back on the beat (after missing a few days in Toronto) for what should be a newsy series. Sunday’s Trade Deadline is 4 p.m. ET and the Orioles will also play a doubleheader with the Yankees on Saturday, with both starters –in Zach Britotn and Chris Tillman — here with the team from Double-A and Triple-A, respectively.

There won’t be any roster moves today, but if I had to venture a guess it’d be infielders Josh Bell and Blake Davis being that having four games in 48 hours places a premium on having a stocked up bullpen.

Brad Bergesen and his wife Shea, are also expected to welcome their first child (a son) as early as Saturday, which would likely involved putting Bergesen on the paternity list for a few days and giving the Orioles the ability to keep an extra arm around in the meantime.

*Cesar Izturis is here as well and will work out with the team although he is not expected to be activated until at least Sunday.  If Davis and Bell do get sent out before then, Izturis’ return will likely bump an arm off the 25-man roster.

*Mark Worrell has cleared waivers and was outrighted to Triple-A Norfolk. Worrell was demoted to make room for Vladimir Guerrero to come off the DL in Toronto.

Here are your lineups..

ORIOLES LINEUP

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

Jeremy Guthrie P

YANKEES LINEUP

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

A.J. Burnett SP

July 26 — Orioles vs. Blue Jays

Hello again Baltimore Orioles faithful. Arden Zwelling here. I’ll be covering the team for the next three days as they take on the Blue Jays in beautiful Toronto.

Let me start by saying I’m sorry. Last time I covered this team it was a manageable 30-33 and there was even talk in the clubhouse of taking a run at climbing the standings. But on the day I took over the beat Mark Connor quit, Alfredo Simon hit the DL and the team went 10-25 in its next 35 games as the season completely derailed. So, sorry about that one guys.

But! If we’re going to call Baltimore’s last visit to Toronto the starting point of the complete disintegration of this Orioles season then why not see this visit as the start of something good? After all, Vladimir Guerrero and Cesar Izturis will likely return from injury as some point during the series, perhaps as early as tonight. The mercurial Zach Britton will likely be up again soon for a start, possibly this coming weekend in New York. And Nolan Reimold, a second round pick a mere six years ago, is slated to get an extended look over the remainder of the season with Luke Scott out for the year. Maybe this is the stretch when he finally fulfills his potential and gives Orioles fans something to look forward to for next year.

Or maybe none of that happens. That, as they say, is why they play the games. All I’m saying is that as far as wishful thinking and blind optimism go, you could do worse. And the midweek attendance in Toronto is typically dreadful so chances are there won’t be too many witnesses if this Baltimore season continues to tailspin.

Guerrero, as it turns out, is in fact in the lineup tonight, batting cleanup as the designated hitter. And Matt Wieters is penciled in after battling a nasty cold this weekend. Izturis, on the other hand, is not and isn’t even with the team. More on that to come later tonight in the Orioles notebook on Orioles.com.

For now, here’s your lineups for the 99th game (Gretzky!) of this 2011 Baltimore Orioles season.

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. Mark Reynolds 3B
  8. Nolan Reimold LF
  9. Robert Andino 2B
Stating Pitcher: Jake Arrieta (9-7, 5.02 ERA)
Blue Jays Lineup
  1. Yunel Escobar SS
  2. Eric Thames RF
  3. Jose Bautista 3B
  4. Adam Lind 1B
  5. Edwin Encarnacion DH
  6. Travis Snider CF
  7. Aaron Hill 2B
  8. Corey Patterson LF
  9. Jose Molina C
Starting Pitcher: Brandon Morrow (7-4, 4.34 ERA)
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