August 2011

Melvin stunned by Flanagan’s passing

Thought I’d pass along this note from A’s MLB.com reporter Jane Lee’s notebook yesterday…

Jane Lee/MLB.com

NEW YORK — Following Wednesday’s 6-4 win — his club’s second in as many games at Yankee Stadium — A’s manager Bob Melvin found a joyful night turn somber upon learning of the death of friend and former Orioles teammate Mike Flanagan, who was just 59.

The A’s skipper, nearly too shocked for words, returned to the ballpark on Thursday morning with fond recollections of Flanagan, a left-handed starter who spent 15 of his 18 Major League seasons in Baltimore.

“It hit me hard,” Melvin said. “He was a good friend of mine. My thoughts and prayers are obviously with his family. Watching some of the news stuff today, guys like Jim Palmer and Cal Ripken, guys like that were very close to him. You can see how this guy affected a lot of people. He was a leader on teams and taught me an awful lot.”

The batterymates shared a special moment in 1991, when Flanagan threw the last pitch in the history of Memorial Stadium to Melvin.

“That was a big day for him,” Melvin said. “He was honored to be able to pitch the last inning, and I was able to catch him, and I remember him striking out Travis Fryman on a 3-2 breaking ball and him walking off the mound. There was a picture caught at some point, and he had that framed for me years later. It’s one that I feature at home. It means a lot to me.”

Melvin and Flanagan were teammates for only one season, but their friendship spanned even longer.

“You have a lot of acquaintances in the game,” Melvin said. “I consider him a friend.”

Granderson perplexed by scheduling difficulties

Yankees player representative Curtis Granderson just released the following statement:

“Given the advance notice and the fact that other teams have adjusted their schedules ahead of time, we are perplexed at the current options we are being presented with in regards to making up any games postponed due to Hurricane Irene.

“The proposition to take away our only full off day in the final month of the season is not an option, even though the Orioles’ front office and the Commissioner’s office think this is an adequate solution. It’s a shame that the decision has now come down to possibly having to play four games in two days or having to come back to Baltimore for another makeup game.”

Orioles/Yankees lineups and pregame tidbits

*The Orioles will honor Mike Flanagan’s passing before tonight’s game, and I’ll try to post a few pictures on the ceremony and moment of silence up on the blog.  You can read more about what they are planning here. Above is the photo of the patch that will be worn in his honor on the sleeve of the Orioles’ jerseys for the rest of the season.

*Adam Jones is not in the lineup for the second straight game, and he said he’s dealing with some chest soreness that makes it tough to swing. Jones  was taken to the hospital Tuesday night in Minnesota after exiting in the first inning and said the chest pains and shortness of breathe literally came out of nowhere. He’s going to take the day off fully today, and will play the next few days by ear.

*The plan right now is for lefty Troy Patton to leave the team following Sunday afternoon’s game to attend a court hearing in Texas stemming from his arrest this winter for driving under the influence.  Original plans were that Patton wouldn’t miss a game, flying in before Monday night’s contest, but Hurricane Irene could change things this weekend in a hurry.

*Jason Berken (right elbow discomfort) hasn’t done any baseball activities yet, but came in pain-free for the first time today which is a good sign. His wife, Emily, will induce labor on the couple’s first child on Tuesday.

*The Orioles Wives will host silent auctions on Friday and Saturday (game two of the doubleheader) at Gate E from the time gates open until 8:00 p.m ET.

All of the proceeds will be split among three organizations: Unicef, to benefit those affected by the tsunami in Japan last spring; Texas Rangers Baseball Foundation Memorial Account in honor of Shannon Stone, a Texas firefighter who passed away from injuries suffered in the tragic accident at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington; and Habitat for Humanity of the Chesapeake, an organization that the Orioles Wives have supported throughout the season by volunteering at build events.

Among the many items of memorabilia to be auctioned off are autographed game-used bats, batting gloves, cleats, game day lineup cards, and many more items signed by players including Nick Markakis, Matt Wieters, J.J. Hardy, Mark Reynolds, Adam Jones, Chris Davis, Chris Jakubauskas, Kevin Gregg and manager Buck Showalter.

*Additionally, the third annual Orioles Pet Calendar is on sale now at http://www.orioles.com, with all proceeds benefiting the Baltimore Animal and Rescue Care Shelter (BARCS)

The 15-month, full-color calendars are $15 plus shipping and handling and are available in the ballpark on Friday, August 26 at Eutaw Street; Saturday August 27 at the Community Booth located at Gate D; and Monday, August 29 on Eutaw Street. Fans are encouraged to purchase them quickly, as they have sold out the past two years. Many of the animals featured in the calendar are available for adoption from BARCS.

ORIOLES LINEUP
Robert Andino 3B
J.J. Hardy SS
Nick Markakis RF
Vladimir Guerrero DH
Matt Wieters C
Mark Reynolds 1B
Ryan Adams 2B
Nolan Reimold LF
Matt Angle CF

SP Tommy Hunter

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

A.J. Burnett SP

MacPhail and Showalter on the Orioles’ future

I wrote a story up today on president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail’s contract expiring, and the uncertain state of the organization going forward. You can read the full story here.

To be clear, MacPhail has no comment on his future beyond 2011, although he admitted over the weekend he knows he’s going to have to address it soon. Even when principal owner Peter Angelos told the Baltimore Sun this spring that MacPhail “isn’t going anywhere,” MacPhail did not echo a similar endorsement and remains quiet on the subject as the season winds down.

More and more I have a hard time seeing MacPhail returning as president of baseball operations next season. Again, that’s completely speculation on my part and there could be a scenario where he returns in a different role. But, I’d be very surprised if the front office is intact next spring.

Look, it’s never fun to publicly speculate when you are discussing people’s futures, but it goes without saying that there needs to be some changes in the Orioles’ organization if they are going to turn this thing around.

Here are a few snippets from the story, as the state of the Orioles’ front office, and how it relates to MacPhail and Orioles manager Buck Showalter is a topic that will only gain more steam as the season winds down…

MACPHAIL

[on his future]

“We will have to see how events unfold. Eventually I know I’m going to have to talk about it. Just not now.”

[on his relationship with Showalter]

“I don’t think there are any issues in that regard,” said MacPhail, who was hired by Angelos on June 20, 2007.  “I’m not sure we are the odd tandem that people make us out to be. We have different personalities, but we really don’t see what transpires on the field very differently at all. Honestly, I can’t think of a single occasion, there might be one or two, where I would do things dramatically different or he would do things dramatically different from me. By and large, that’s really not an issue.”

[on Showalter’s relationship with Angelos]

“Let me answer that this way: Show me the general manager that prohibits his owner from talking to someone in this organization. Why would you do that? Every manager talks to the owner. I think it’s an important thing. It would be like Buck telling me that I can’t talk to Bobby Dickerson about infielders or talk to [hitting coach Jim] Presley about our hitters… it’s goofy.”

[on the season]

“It’s disappointing in two respects. The first is the amount of players we’ve had hurt and for the duration.

But the second thing, which is more unique to us, is our guys have a hard time sustaining a level of performance. Some of our guys, I should say. They show you something for two months, and then they will fall way off that. And you will see a flash again. It’s hard to evaluate, really, what’s real and what isn’t.”

[on looking back, if he wished he had added another few arms this winter]

“See, there’s the rub. Our situation is not one born out of preference, it’s born out of reality in that most of [starting pitching] has to come internally or through trades.  It’s hard to lure starting pitching through free agency, that avenue –that’s not unique to us – but it’s a difficult avenue for us, an unlikely avenue of real help. So it has to come from those other two processes.

And as it relates to trades there ain’t that many people giving it up.  So, that puts a real emphasis on your farm system, trying to develop from within.And the last two months last year, it looked like we made meaningful progress in that regard. But for whatever reason they’ve taken a step back this year.”

[Any reason why all the young arms have either taken a step back, gotten injured or both?]

“It would just be speculation. Nobody knows for certain.”

[on how to turn this thing around]

“Pitching is going to have to get better. It’s just that simple. Offensively we have gone from a below-average to about an average team. Our runs per game is the second-most improved in the American League, third in the majors last time I looked at it. And I have no reason to think that’s changed  dramatically.

That’s what we have to get back to that. It’s just that simple. You don’t have to look any further than that. Just to get a quality start. Like [Friday], you are down 4-0 after four hitters. The air gets out of the balloon. It’s human nature.”

SHOWALTER

[on if  his knowledge of the organization has increased this past year]

Yes.  I have every bit of knowledge about the organization and the players and what’s coming, what may not be timing-wise, it helps you make better decisions. I, basically this off season, I didn’t really know a lot of the players they were talking about, players from our organization, but I feel like I’m a lot more knowledgeable about it now.

There’s a lot of stuff that I’ve been exposed to that I wasn’t aware of. I guarantee you there’s some people here that no one’s talking about that are going to be players. But there’s a lot more to it than that. The bottom line in just about all these jobs is evaluating people and players and talent in about that order.

A lot of things have to fall right, I don’t care what your payroll is. But we’re not going to be able to do this without everybody pulling, whether it be the farm system, scouting. We got to have it all in place.”

[on his relationship with Angelos,who Showalter estimates he speaks to about once a month]

“There’s nothing more unattractive to me than someone who has an ear and abuses it. I’m not going to do that. We’ve got some good people here and I listen. I’m just not going to, not yet.

I’m the manager of the baseball team. That’s what they hired me to come in and do. I’m going to manage as hard as I can, we’ve had some good things happen and some challenging things happen. Some of it has been self-inflicted. And when the year is over, we will see how everything sorts out.”

[on his relationship with MacPhail]

“He’s been great to work with.  Andy’s my boss and he’s a good one. [Being a general manager] is a very demanding job. Look at the hours and time Andy puts in. They are all tougher jobs than you may think they are on the surface, until you walk a mile in a man’s shoes. So, I have a lot of respect for everybody’s job whether it be a scouting director, GM or farm director.

Look, Mr. Angelos owns our team. It’s what he decides, and he’s been very supportive and receptive of any ideas. But I haven’t really presented a lot of concrete ones, yet.”

[on if he still likes managing]

“I always get a, sometimes there’s a little more time in between them, but I always get a moment or something happens that reminds you of why you like it. Mostly a player getting something, [seeing it] through a players eyes’ or a players..you see anybody kind of that you might have helped a little or impacted by something you said or something you didn’t do. When you get that trust repaid, you have a little uncommon moment.

It’s so easy to throw guys under the bus. That’s the easy thing, the tough thing is to stay the course.  I know what it looks like when it’s right. You got to be on both sides of the mountain to appreciate the climb, you know? But you haven’t heard me talk about injuries and this and that, whatever. It just happens.”

Bell to Norfolk, Adams recalled

The Orioles optioned struggling third baseman Josh Bell to Triple-A Norfolk following Sunday’s 7-1 loss, and will recall infielder Ryan Adams in his place.

Adams will be making his second stint with Baltimore this season and is hitting. 283 with28 doubles, 10 homers and 37 RBIs in 93 games at Norfolk. He had his contract selected May 20, but made just six starts in 25 games, going 5-for-23 with an RBI before going back to Triple-A June 18.

Bell was hitting just .174 in 17 games, striking out 18 times, and has struggled defensively as well. The third baseman botched two plays in the 12th inning of Saturday’s 9-8 loss and has been officially charged with three errors.

Adams’ arrival will enable the Orioles to move current second baseman Robert Andino to third base to cover for Mark Reynolds, who has become the team’s everyday first baseman with Chris Davis on the disabled list.

Orioles/Angels lineups & pregame tidbits

*Jason Berken was seen by noted orthopedic surgeon Dr. Lewis Yocum yesterday and the initial report is that there is no structural damage in his right elbow region, which has been giving the right-hander nagging discomfort while pitching. Berken will fly see team orthopedist Dr. Wilckens tonight before flying back to Baltimore to undergo an MRA on Tuesday for more definitive results.

An MRA is like an MRI except dye is injected into the area for a better picture. It’s still early, but right now it looks like relatively positive news for Berken, who will be placed on the disabled list on Monday for pitcher Zach Britton.

*Matt Wieters is making his first career Major League start at first base today, a position he last played his freshman year of college. Wieters, who was also a pitcher at Georgia Tech, said he used to start the games at first base before serving as the team’s closer and was excited to change things up and play first base.

Craig Tatum is catching with Blake Davis making his first career start at third base. Given that Mark Reynolds is a little dinged up from taking a hit from Mike Trout at first base last night –rolling his left ankle in the process — Wieters presented the best option for manager Buck Showalter, who also considered Nolan Reimold and Josh Bell, both who are struggling mightily at the plate.

*Chris Davis (right shoulder) will report to the team’s spring facility in Sarasota to start rehabbing his injury. The expectation is he will be activated at the end of the month to

*A night removed from suffering his fifth blown save, Kevin Gregg –who has not recorded an out and faced at least five batters in each of his last two games — will remain as the team’s closer. When posed the question, Showalter said “Kevin is our option” and given that Jim Johnson is expected to be slotted into the rotation in September the Orioles don’t really have any other choice.

Johnson threw three innings last night and given the team’s upcoming schedule, which includes a doubleheader on Saturday, the Orioles can’t afford to not have him in relief for the next week. Look for the team to continue stretching Johnson out after that.

*Jeremy Guthrie threw a bullpen today and assuming all went well he’s likely in line for Wednesday’s start, which would put Alfredo Simon in line for Tuesday. But nothing has been finalized beyond Britton.

ORIOLES LINEUP
J.J. Hardy SS
Nick Markakis RF
Adam Jones CF
Vladimir Guerrero DH
Matt Wieters 1B
Robert Andino 2B
Felix Pie LF
Craig Tatum C
Blake Davis 3B

Brian Matusz LHP

ANGELS LINEUP
Macier Izturis 3B
Peter Bourjos CF
Howie Kendrick 2B
Torii Hunter DH
Mark Trumbo 1B
vernon Wells LF
Erick Aybar SS
Mike Trout RF
Bobby Wilson C

Post-game notes on Gregg, Bell, JJ and Hunter

A few things that I wanted to point out after tonight’s brutal 9-8 loss to the Angels in 12 innings…

*The late-inning meltdown extended the Orioles’ streak to 15 series without a win, and dashed any hope of recording what would be their first road series win since May 13-15 at Tampa Bay. Baltimore’s continued backslide also has the club on pace to eclipse the 100-loss mark, a dubious distinction they have reached just once since 1954, and one that becomes more of a reality with Saturday’s heartbreaking defeat.

*Closer Kevin Gregg — who wasn’t helped by the continued struggles of young third baseman Josh Bell —  faced five or more batters without getting an out for the second time in four outings tonight.

Gregg has now allowed runs in three of his last four games, and despite allowing a leadoff single and hit batsmen, he seemed more concerned with Bell’s two botched plays than anything else.

“You got to take care of the baseball,” said Gregg who was lifted after issuing a bases-loaded walk. “Sacrifice bunt and you throw it away. You have [Peter] Bourjos running down to first. You have to know about his speed,” added Gregg who was removed after issuing a bases-loaded walk, which tied the game, to the next batter. “Obviously, a questionable call at first base [regarding if Bourjos was safe]. If both of those things are done, you’re looking at a different situation.”

*Angels starter Joel Pineiro, who taken out of the rotation following his third consecutive loss August 3, looked poised for another dismal outing after the Orioles jumped on him for a three-run second inning. The O’s offense recorded eight hits in the first three innings alone, but largely left Pineiro off the hook as the right-hander allowed only a solo homer to Adam Jones in recording the final 12 outs of his six-inning start.

That simply cannot happen if you’re the Orioles. I know a lot went wrong and the game kept getting uglier long after Pineiro’s six innings, but the O’s have lost three consecutive games in which they have posted 12 or more hits. That’s unacceptable.

*With a rare three-run lead to work, it took Orioles starter Tommy Hunter less than two innings to give it back. After allowing a run in the second, Hunter let five of the first six batters he faced to reach safely in a four-run third highlighted by Bobby Abreu’s two-run double.  Peter Bourjos connected for his second homer in as many games with a one-out   solo shot in the seventh that ended Hunter’s night.

*You want silver lining? This is all I got: reliever Jim Johnson tossed a season-high three scoreless innings, his longest outing since April 19, 2008, to mark just the third time in his Major League career he’s thrown at least three innings. Johnson, who will likely be stretched out and used as a rotation candidate in the season’s final weeks, didn’t allow a hit and pitched out of a leadoff walk in the eighth.

Orioles/Angels lineups and pregame tidbits

*Jeremy Guthrie, who has been dealing with right shoulder soreness, is planning on throwing a bullpen on Sunday, which would slot him back to Tuesday or Wednesday to face Minnesota.

The uncertainty around Guthrie, who was originally tonight’s starter but was pushed back due to the soreness,  is also keeping the rest of the O’s rotation in flux. Beyond Brian Matusz and Zach Britton, who will throw Sunday and Monday, respectively, the Oriole rotation for the rest of the week is still up in the air.

Alfredo Simon is available for emergency use in the bullpen tonight, although Showalter will try to stay away from using him since Simon –right now — is still part of the rotation.

*No word yet on the results of Jason Berken’s MRI, although the plan remains for him to see Dr. Lewis Yocum later today to check out the discomfort in Berken’s right elbow.

ORIOLES LINEUP

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

RHP Tommy Hunter

ANGELS LINEUP
Peter Bourjos CF
Alberto Callaspo 3B
Bobby Abreu DH
Torii Hunter RF
Mark Trumbo 1B
Howie Kendrick 2B
Erick Aybar SS
Mike Trout LF
Hank Conger C

RHP Joel Pineiro

Orioles/Angels lineups & pregame tidbits

*Chris Davis saw noted orthopedic surgeon Dr. Lewis Yocum in Los Angeles yesterday and the diagnosis on the partial tear in his right labrum remains the same. Davis said the plan right now is to rest and come off the disabled list when his 15 days are up to test his shoulder again.  If that doesn’t work obviously they’d have to reevaluate but right now the hopes is Davis can avoid surgery and he said Friday he plans on coming back this season.

*Brian Matusz will start Sunday’s game with Zach Britton (who is with the team in Anaheim) the likely candidate for Monday’s game in Minnesota.  No new update on right-hander Jeremy Guthrie, who is dealing with shoulder soreness.

*Jason Berken is dealing with discomfort in his right elbow region and will see Yocum on Sunday in what looks to be another DL case.  The Orioles have tried to stay away from him, but it hasn’t gotten any better and Berken’s discomfort –which started around his forearm — has crept up toward the elbow region.

He is 1-2 with a 5.80 ERA out of the bullpen this season and spent this past offseason rehabbing from a partially torn right labrum. Berken also missed his entire junior year at Clemson after undoing Tommy John ligament surgery on his right elbow. Team orthopedist Dr. John Wilckens is flying to the West Coast on Saturday night and he will examine Berken and Davis at some point this weekend as well.

If you’re counting, Berken will be the fourth Oriole to be examined by Yocum in a 10-day span with Davis,  Jake Arrieta and top prospect Dan Klein also on that list.

ORIOLES LINEUP

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

Jo Jo Reyes LHP

ANGELS LINEUP
Peter Bourjos CF
Alberto Callaspo 3B
Howie Kendrick 2B
Torii Hunter DH
Mark Trumbo 1B
Erick Aybar SS
Mike Trout RF
Bobby Wilson C

Dan Haren RHP

View from the press box: The Intern’s Farewell Column

(quick disclaimer that the following column is a reflection of my thoughts and mine alone.  It is not to be  associated with Britt, orioles.com or MLB.com)

   It was one of the happiest days of my life up to that point. Sunday, Aug. 24, 1997 -the Ironman’s birthday and the day my dad got him and I seats a few rows back from the O’s dugout to see a 1:35 p.m. game against the Twins.

I don’t recall if Cal patiently appeased throngs of autograph-seeking fans before or after the game, but that evening I went home with a big smile on my six-year-old face and a signed glove from my childhood idol.

But like that signature which sits in a display case on my shelf at home, my love for the Orioles has faded. And, as I’m sure you know, it’s not just me. The floundering Baltimore franchise –overshadowed by a more successful football team- is in danger of losing an entire generation of fans.

When I took the internship as an “associate reporter” (let’s not kid ourselves here, it’s a euphemism for intern) a lot of people asked me how I would be able to cover the Birds without an inherit bias from growing up in the suburbs of Baltimore, going to Camden Yards and rooting for the team.

I told them the truth -that not being a fan while covering the team would not be a problem. (more…)

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