July 2011

On extending Hardy

It’s been no secret that the Orioles would prefer to sign shortstop J.J. Hardy to an extension rather than dealing him at the Trade Deadline, a scenario that would take place only if the two sides can’t reach an agreement.

Hardy, who is represented by LSW Baseball, won’t sign a deal that’s any less than three years and, according to a Tweet from ESPN’s Buster Olney, the two sides are talking about a contract in the $21-25 million range.

Hardy, who was acquired in an offseason trade with Minnesota, is making 5.85 million this year and will be a free agent at season’s end.

He’s never played with anything but a year-to-year contract and given that he has had an injury-prone career –most recently missing a month to start the season — signing an extension would give him stability. It would also help plug a hole for the Orioles, who are already looking at needing a first baseman, at least two starters and possibly other options at left field and second base.

Top shortstop prospect Manny Machado is believed to be about two years away, and if the Orioles are unable to extend Hardy they’d have to add shortstop to a long list of concerns. Either way, they will know before the Trade Deadline where thing stand with Hardy, although several recent reports have been positive the two sides can reach a deal.

Orioles/Indians lineups and pregame tidbits

*Vladimir Guerrero is out of the lineup after failing to get through a batting cage session Friday.  X-rays found a crack in his right hand, although initial X-rays in Boston, when he first sustained the injury, came back negative.  Manager Buck Showalter said the X-rays used in Baltimore were more in-depth and revealed the crack.  Nolan Reimold will fill in for Vlad at the DH spot, but will be batting seventh, while Matt Wieters will bat cleanup tonight.  It remains to be seen whether Vlad will go on the DL, but there is a good chance he will sit again tomorrow night.

“This is a guy that plays through a lot of things, he’s been hit multiple times,” Showalter said.  “You know that if he’s feeling that type of discomfort, there’s something going on there.”

*Buck spoke out on the lack of punishments handed down to Boston manager Terry Francona, after Showalter served his one-game suspension last night:

“Good for Terry. Saved him some money. If you got a nice charity let me know.”

“Nobody ever said baseball is fair. It’s pretty obvious we took the short end of it.”

*Nick Markakis is one hit away from 1,000, he could reach that mark tonight.

ORIOLES LINEUP

J.J. Hardy SS
Nick Markakis RF
Adam Jones CF
Matt Wieters C
Derrek Lee 1B
Mark Reynolds 3B
Nolan Reimold DH
Felix Pie LF
Robert Andino 2B
Jake Arrieta RHP

INDIANS LINEUP

Michael Brantley LF
Asdrubal Cabrerra SS
Travis Hafner DH
Carlos Santana C
Grady Sizemore CF
Orlando Cabrera 2B
Travis Buck RF
Matt LaPorta 1B
Lonnie Chisenhall 3B
Josh Tomlin RHP

–Avi Zaleon

Vlad out of lineup, crack found in hand

Designated hitter Vladimir Guerrero was out of the starting lineup Friday with an injured right hand, which X-rays found a crack in.  His batting cage session Friday afternoon did not go well and manager Buck Showalter said he is not sure if Guerrero will return to the field tomorrow.  Whether this will force Guerrero onto the disabled list remains to be seen.  In his absence, Nolan Reimold will DH.  Guerrero first sustained the injury to his right hand after getting hit by a pitch in Boston prior to the All-Star break.

Roberts improving, still no timetable

Orioles second baseman Brian Roberts is improving, but there is still no timetable regarding his return.

Roberts, who saw concussion specialist Dr. Michael Collins on Thursday was cleared to progress further with his workload, but he’s still not totally cleared for all baseball activities and at this point it’s almost impossible to guess when he will be ready.

Roberts would definitely need some rehab games after that, but Thursday’s news is some of the most positive to date on the O’s leadoff hitter, who hasn’t played in a game since mid-May.

 

Arrieta on his health, his elbow & not ruling out surgery

Orioles starter Jake Arrieta said he hasn’t had any right elbow issues beyond the usual soreness and believes near-daily treatment on the area –which became aggravated earlier this season and hampered him in several starts — has helped immensely.

Arrieta, who opted to not remove the bone spur in his elbow this offseason, said he is still optimistic he can avoid the surgery but acknowledged Thursday it’s not something he’s completely ruling out.

“If  I’m able to finish this year successfully and healthy I think it’s something we might talk about,” Arrieta said of the procedure. “But it hasn’t gotten any bigger in size since I first looked at it in college. So that’s a positive, that’s a plus. Just keeping an eye on it is where we are at now. And if it’s not getting any worse and it’s not causing discomfort than I think that we leave it alone.”

The 25-year-old Arrieta, who stayed local for the All-Star break, threw a bullpen session at Camden Yards on Tuesday and described his arm as feeling “incredible” in comparison to where he was at in Pittsburgh last month which was the second start this season in which he dealt with right elbow inflammation.

“Over the course of my career I can count the number of times on one hand where it’s really been an issue,” Arrieta said of the spur.

“Now that I know how to deal with it,  I don’t really see it being a problem for the remainder of this year. And I think moving forward and into the future it’s something I can manage pretty easily.”

Arrieta went 9-6 with a 4.90 ERA in 18 first-half starts and said he doesn’t have any regrets regarding his decision to leave the spur.

” I definitely don’t regret not having it done,” he said.  “I think that as a player you want to avoid surgery at all costs. And something minor like this, if you can manage it and go out and be healthy every fifth day, I don’t think there’s any reason to go in there and have it taken out. The things down the road that it could lead to. And that’s one reason I really didn’t want to have it taken out. A lot of people tell me that down the road, even a year or two after the operation, people have Tommy John issues. And that’s something I want to avoid.”

Orioles/Indians lineups and pregame tidbits

*As I blogged earlier, MLB handed down punishment for the Boston series with Kevin Gregg given a four-game suspension and$2500 fine, Michael Gonzalez getting three games and $1500 and manager Buck Showalter one game and a fine. Reliever Jim Johnson was also fined $500.  Gregg and Gonzalez will appeal –which means they can play until their case is heard — while Showalter will serve his suspension tonight. (Bench coach John Russell will fill in.)

The Orioles were not thrilled with the Red Sox punishments, particularly given that David Ortiz received four games to go along with Gregg and he charged the mound which led to Friday’s on-field melee.

Red Sox manager Terry Francona was not suspended and you can find the rest of the details here.

*Vladimir Guerrero is not in the lineup today, as he came in and told Showalter he couldn’t play. Guerrero is still feeling the ill effects of being hit on the right hand by Red Sox rookie Kyle Weiland, who was ejected after hitting Guerrero with the third pitch of his fifth-inning at-bat. He will see team physician Dr. William Goldiner to determine whether there’s a need for further testing. The initial X-rays on both Guerrero and Mark Reynolds –who was also hit in the right hand– came back negative.

*Cesar Izturis (elbow surgery) has been progressing well in extended spring and in a perfect world he would get into games in the Gulf Coast League on the 20th. The tentative plan involves him going  to Double-A Bowie and being activated on the 23rd.

*The Orioles rotation following Jeremy Guthrie tonight is Jake Arrieta, Alfredo Simon and Mitch Atkins. Simon will leave the team on Sunday to tend to legal matters in the Dominican, but is expected to be back on Monday or Tuesday.

*Luke Scott has been resting and the team remains optimistic he will be ready close to his day of eligibility which would be the 19th.  Scott –who will get a Cortisone shot in his right shoulder Friday– would likely need to get some at-bats at an affiliate prior to being activated.

*No word on Brian Roberts’ appointment with concussion specialist Dr. Michael Collins today.  I will pass along news when I get it.

*The plan for Zach Britton is to throw the 15th and 20th for Double-A Bowie in what is expected to be short stints. Britton is slated to go three innings for Bowie Friday.

*Also Jake Arrieta, Friday’s starter, said he hasn’t had any right elbow issues beyond the usual soreness and believes daily treatment on the area –which became aggravated earlier this season and hampered him in several starts — has helped immensely.

Arrieta, who opted to not remove the bone spur in his elbow this offseason, said he is still optimistic he can avoid the surgery but acknowledged it’s not something he’s completely ruling out. The 25-year-old Arrieta will reevaulate things after the season and said right now he has “no regrets” in opting to keep the spur, which hasn’t grown in size since it was first diagnosed while he was at Texas Christian University.

ORIOLES LINEUP

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

SP Jeremy Guthrie

INDIANS LINEUP

Michael Brantley LF
Asdrubal Cabrera SS
Travis Hafner DH
Carlos Santana C
Grady Sizemore CF
Orlando Cabrera 2B
Travis Buck RF
Matt LaPorta 1B
Lonnie Chisenhall 3B

SP Justin Masterson

Orioles Gregg, Gonzalez suspended, Johnson fined

I’ll have more later, but per an MLB press release..

Designated hitter David Ortiz of the Boston Red Sox and pitcher Kevin Gregg of the Baltimore Orioles each have received four-game suspensions and undisclosed fines for their actions in the Friday, July 8th game, which included inciting the benches to clear on two occasions during the bottom of the eighth inning and fighting during the second bench-clearing incident.  Unless appealed, Gregg is scheduled to begin serving his suspension tonight, when the Orioles host the Cleveland Indians, and Ortiz is scheduled to begin serving his suspension tomorrow, when the Red Sox play the Tampa Bay Rays in St. Petersburg.
Orioles pitcher Mike Gonzalez also has received a three-game suspension and an undisclosed fine for intentionally throwing at Ortiz during the bottom of the sixth inning of the Sunday, July 10th contest after warnings had already been issued earlier in the game.  Unless appealed, Gonzalez’s suspension is scheduled to begin on Monday, July 18th, when the Orioles are to host the Red Sox.  Orioles manager Buck Showalter has received a one-game suspension and an undisclosed fine for the intentional actions of Gonzalez during Sunday’s game.  Showalter will serve his one-game suspension during tonight’s game against the Indians.

If any player chooses to appeal, then his discipline will be held in abeyance until the process is complete.

In addition, three players have been fined undisclosed amounts for their actions during the series.  Pitcher Jim Johnson of the Orioles and catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia of the Red Sox have been disciplined for their aggressive actions during the second bench-clearing incident in the eighth inning of Friday’s game.

Pitcher John Lackey of the Red Sox has been disciplined for intentionally throwing at Derrek Lee of the Orioles during the top of the seventh inning of the Saturday, July 9th game.

Showalter on the team’s struggles & where they go from here

I wrote a midseason piece for Orioles.com that recaps the first half of the year and looks ahead as to what’s to come. You can read that here, and below are some leftovers or interesting quotes from my sitdown with manager Buck Showalter.  Some of these were also used in the story that I didn’t want to get lost along the way.  Enjoy.

[on if taking this job was harder than he thought]

No, I’m a pretty realistic guy. I’ve been able to keep things, a grip on [things]. No, it’s not harder. It’s not easier. But I came into it with a pretty realistic view of it. You don’t get..I mean, 13 years [of losing], that doesn’t happen overnight. We’ve got some good things going on, that aren’t always really blatantly apparent every day.

I won’t give in. I’m not going to give in.  It’s a challenge. You look at it more as an opportunity. I tell guys all the time when you are playing a really good team, like Atlanta or Texas or Boston. You look at it as an opportunity to really compete against some of the best. You compete. It shouldn’t be nearly as complicated as everybody makes it out to be.

Ive always done a thing for years, I line up each team’s roster and I go down the list, ‘Their first baseman against our first baseman, their second baseman against our second baseman, their right fielder against our right fielder…That keeps you a grip on reality. We have some places where I’d take our guys. So, you don’t paint a broad brush that everything is good or everything is bad here. That’s a bad road to go down.”

[on if the first half has changed the timetable this organization had for winning]

“I’m not a big timeframe guy. When I hear somebody say we are on a two, three, five year-old plan, it’s just somebody trying to cover their rear.’ You grind like heck each day and try to get closer to your goal. I understand the job description, I understand what we are trying to do, the task. I don’t find it daunting. I find it challenging.  But don’t tell me it can’t be done. Every day that passes, I feel that we are more sure about who is and who isn’t.”

[on the concerns over the young pitching staff]

“That’s why it’s so important to have a big pile. You got to look at the innings. Jake Arrieta hasn’t even thrown 200 innings in the big leagues yet. Keep in mind, they don’t all come at the same time. You don’t throw a blanket over it. Some guys are later, [they] come later. And some guys have to have a little setback to see if they are going to bite back or if they are just going to pull in the dirt around you.

Like I told them, they are presented an opportunity, if they don’t take it and run with it we will keep on sifting.”

[on if .500 is still a feasible goal]

“I don’t put, if we win X number of games, it’s been a success. The true definition of success is if we win the division and get to the playoffs and to be the last man standing. That’s the bottom line of the job description.

And I understand because of the struggles for a long time, I feel like and I hope that we will be better than we were last year. And I feel like and hope that we will be better than we are next year.  It’s a constant upgrade, and I hold hope that we get hot and guys get healthy and Brian [Roberts] comes back and [Brian] Matusz comes back and all this. And I can give you 10 other things that happen, and we win the division.  I don’t give in. I don’t plan to, I don’t surround myself with people that feel that way.

I try to dwell on the positives. It’s tough, I have some private moments where I close the door and go, ‘Wow. Really?’. But the more I’m here, the more I understand some of the challenges we’ve had.”

[on the playoffs]
I hope and pray our guys get a chance to taste that because once you taste it, you have a little different drive to it. And you got to have enough bullets to do it too.

It’s not fun, it’s not enjoyable to manage or go through a game where you are just trying to get through the game, as far as health-wise. Where you are trying to present enough people in the bullpen to try to win the next game, if you get a chance. It’s not fun.

That’s not [the way to manage] and it happens a lot in the AL. Sometimes you make a mistake because you’ve lost X number of game and your record is whatever it is that everything there is bad. I think that’s a mistake.

And that’s one thing I said when I came in here, the environment and the culture, there’s things you want to hold yourself to and there’s things that I think drastically improved. It may not be apparent on a stats sheet, but there’s some things where I go, ‘OK, yeah, this guy gets it.’ This guy is a keeper, you can see him jumping on a pile in the seventh game of the World Series.”

Birds By the Numbers Part II: Bang for your Buck?

With half of the baseball season in the books, there’s been a lot of talk about how the Orioles’ offseason acquisitions have panned out and if their hefty salaries were worth it.

Below is a rough way of measuring each players’ value based on their performance at the plate so far. I took the salaries of Derrek Lee, J.J. Hardy, Vladimir Guerrero, Mark Reynolds and the lone O’s All-Star, Matt Wieters and divided them by the major offensive statistics (RBI, home runs and batting average). Obviously Wieters is not an offseason pickup, but he provides a nice contrast given his small salary.

Basically, the calculations reflect how much each RBI/HR/BA point has cost Baltimore so far this season. Every total is rounded to the nearest dollar.

Entering this season, the Orioles had the 17th highest team salary and 3rd highest in the AL East with a payroll of $85,304,038.

Note: The annual salary numbers come from ESPN and USA Today

Cost per RBI

1. Matt Wieters: $13,301
2. Mark Reynolds: $108,844
3. J.J. Hardy: $177,273
4. Vladimir Guerrero: $245,531
5. Derrek Lee: $258,929

Cost per Home Run

1. Matt Wieters: $56,531
2. Mark Reynolds: $266,667
3. J.J. Hardy: $450,000
4. Derrek Lee: $805,556
5. Vladimir Guerrero: $1,087,351

Cost per Batting Average point

1. Matt Wieters: $1,713
2. J.J. Hardy: $ 21,043
3. Mark Reynolds: $ 23,495
4. Vladimir Guerrero: $ 27,281
5. Derrek Lee: $ 30,851

And here is the raw data, ranked by highest salary to lowest. The number preceding the player’s name indicates his yearly salary rank within the Orioles. The rank in parenthesis following his RBI/HR/BA total also reflects where he sits within the team.

2. Vladimir Guerrero: $7,611,455
31 RBI (6th)
7 HRs (T-7th)
.279 (6th)

3. Derrek Lee: $7,250,000
28 RBI (7th)
9 HRs (T-4th)
.235 (13th)

5. J.J. Hardy: $5,850,000
33 RBI (5th)
13 HRs (2nd)
.278 (7th)

7. Mark Reynolds: $5,333,333
49 RBI (T-1st)
20 HRs (1st)
.227 (15th)

All-Star
13. Matt Wieters: $452,250
34 RBIs (4th)
8 HRs (6th)
.264 (8th)

Also interesting to note, reliever Michael Gonzalez has the fourth highest annual salary at $6 million. Meanwhile, Orioles wins-leader Jake Arrieta is near the bottom of the payroll list, with the 17th highest salary at $419,000.

-Avi Zaleon

From the Sox side

I blogged earlier about the Orioles’ reaction to an ugly series sweep by Boston, which included eight ejections stemming from Friday’s on-field fight between David Ortiz and Kevin Gregg.

Here’s some reax from the Red Sox side…

DAVID ORTIZ

[on the pitch Michael Gonzalez threw behind him]
“I was surprised absolutely. Especially after you have a few warnings, situations happen I guess people make their own decisions so whatever.”

[on Gregg talking about the Red Sox payroll Friday night]
“Well all I can say about that is that’s why everybody has history. This is part of the game, there are going to be good things there are going to be bad things. There are superstars that make a lot of money/”

[is Gregg jealous?]
“I don’t think he’s jealous. I think it’s just the moment. That’s why I didn’t want to talk to you guys the first night [on Friday] because I didn’t want to say anything stupid. Everybody’s fired up and when you’re fired up your reaction is pretty much not the right one. I think it was all the momentum and that’s what got into him. And I’m pretty sure he would love to play for a team like this.”

JASON VARITEK
[on other teams jealous of Sox payroll]
“We have some youth, too. So people can literally kiss my rear end.”

TERRY FRANCONA
[On the Ortiz ball]
“It looked a little — it makes you think. The ball was three feet behind him. That’s where somebody gets hurt. That’s the point where somebody can really get hurt if you do something like that.”

The Orioles host the Red Sox next week in a second-half series that should be interesting to say the least..

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