August 2011

Hardy named AL Player of the Week

Orioles shortstop J.J. Hardy has been named the American League Player of the Week for the period ending August 14th.

In seven games last week, Hardy batted .323 (10-for-31) with two doubles, four home runs, six runs scored and a league leading 10 RBI en route to winning his first career A.L. Player of the Week Award.

The 28-year-old is the first Baltimore shortstop to garner the weekly honor since Miguel Tejada in 2006, and he joins teammate Nick Markakis (period ending July 18th) as the second Oriole to take home the award in the last month.

In addition to leading the A.L. in RBI, the Arizona native also paced the league with 24 total bases and finished second in the Majors in home runs. In the first of a four-game set against the Chicago White Sox on August 8th, Hardy doubled twice, homered and drove in a season-high-tying four RBI in a losing effort as the White Sox edged the
Orioles, 7-6, in Baltimore.

Hardy has 23 home runs on the year to lead all A.L. shortstops and tie for the overall lead at the position with Colorado’s Troy Tulowitzki. Hardy’s 10 home runs since the All-Star break also lead the A.L.

Draft deadline..

The Orioles have until midnight ET tonight to reach an agreement with their remaining Draft picks and they continue to negotiate with top pick (fourth overall) Dylan Bundy, Vanderbilt third baseman Jason Esposito (2) and high school third baseman Nick Delmonico (6).

The organization has remained cautiously optimistic that they can sign all three guys and scouting director Joe Jordan echoed that sentiment again Monday morning. It will be interesting, however, to see how things play out as we get closer to the deadline and the focus shifts to Bundy, who would be a huge upset if he didn’t sign.

Delmonico figures to command well above-slot, as a high school third baseman who was ranked by many publications as a late-first round talent, and Jordan has made it no secret that he hasn’t been pleased with how long Esposito’s negotiations have dragged on. It wouldn’t shock me if they sign Bundy and only one of the other two guys, especially as we get into later in the day.

“We got some work to do on both of them,” Jordan said of Esposito and Delmonico.

“But our energies are going to the player we took No. 1 [in Bundy]. I think we have the ability to sign the rest of them, but we may not.
We may decide that whoever we can get first is where we put our resources.”

Jordan has never not signed his top Draft pick and Bundy –a right-handed high-school pitcher– is expected to be an Oriole when the clock strikes midnight. Speculation has been that Esposito’s camp hasn’t been happy with the offer out and I could certainly see a case where the Orioles get fed up and talks break down to the point where they use the extra funds on Delmonico.

I wagered a guess earlier this month that they sign Bundy and one of the other two players, and I’m sticking with that now. Although, it is looking more feasible 12 hours before the deadline that the Orioles will get all three guys, which would bring their total to 22 of 50.

There isn’t expected to be any further signing announcements today for the Orioles outside of those three players. For total Draft Coverage, you can read MLB.com’s Jon Mayo’s story on all the decisions still looming for clubs here.

Orioles/Tigers lineups and pregame tidbits

*Zach Britton will make a rehab start Tuesday for Triple-A Norfolk. He is eligible to come off the 15-day disabled list on August 20, but Buck Showalter said he would not make his next start then.

*Jake Arrieta was in the Baltimore clubhouse Sunday to collect some personal belongings before heading home. He brought with him the bone spur that was taken out of his elbow with arthroscopic surgery.

*Brian Matusz will be back in Baltimore later today and will fly with the team to Oakland. Expect him to make the start Tuesday

-Avi Zaleon

ORIOLES LINEUP

(R) Nolan Reimold LF
(R) J.J. Hardy SS
(L) Nick Markakis RF
(R) Adam Jones CF
(R) Vladimir Guerrero DH
(R) Mark Reynolds 3B
(L) Chris Davis 1B
(R) Craig Tatum C
(R) Robert Andino 2B

Jo-Jo Reyes LHP

TIGERS LINEUP

(R) Austin Jackson CF
(L) Andy Dirks LF
(R) Maglio Ordonez RF
(R) Miguel Cabrera 1B
(S) Victor Martinez DH
(R) Jhonny Peralta SS
(S) Ryan Raburn 3B
(R) Alex Avila C
(S) Ramon Santiago 2B

Doug Fister RHP

Orioles/Tigers lineups and pregame tidbits

*Zach Britton will pitch in Class Single-A Frederick on Monday or Tuesday. He took a light bullpen session today and said it went well. He is eligible to come back off the DL on August 20 while the O’s are in Los Angeles.

*Brian Matusz took a work day in Charlotte today and will travel with the team on thier West Coast trip beginning Monday. He remains an appealing option to make Tuesday’s start against Oakland.

*Minor league infield coordinator Bobby Dickerson will take over as Orioles bullpen coach starting Monday, in place of interim bullpen coach Mike Bordick. He becomes Baltimore’s sixth bullpen coach this season.

*Some lineup changes: Pie gets the start in left and bats leadoff, Reynolds is out, not due to any health issues, but just needed a day-off. Josh Bell gets the start at third, instead.
-Avi Zaleon

ORIOLES LINEUP

(L) Felix Pie LF
(R) J.J. Hardy SS
(L) Nick Markakis RF
(R) Adam Jones CF
(R) Vladimir Guerrero DH
(S) Matt Wieters C
(L) Chris Davis 1B
(S) Josh Bell 3B
(L) Blake Davis 2B

Jeremy Guthrie RHP

TIGERS LINEUP

(R) Austin Jackson CF
(L) Andy Dirks LF
(R) Maglio Ordonez RF
(R) Miguel Cabrera 1B
(S) Victor Martinez DH
(R) Jhonny Peralta SS
(L) Alex Avila C
(R) Ryan Rayburn 2B
(S) Wilson Betemit 3B

Max Scherzer RHP

O’s/Tigers lineups and pregame tidbits

*Nolan Reimold is batting leadoff tonight for the second time in his career, while Vlad is out of the cleanup spot with Jones taking that slot. The struggling Guerrero, who was not in the lineup yesterday, is batting fifth tonight against the Tigers

*The Orioles made it official today that they purchased the contract of right-handed reliever Willie Eyre from Norfolk and he will take Chris Tillman’s roster spot. He continues to have shoulder discomfort after attempting to throw this week.

*Brian Matusz and Brad Bergesen are the leading candidates to take the spot of Tillman and start on Tuesday

*Brian’s Baseball Bash, Brian Roberts annual charity event, was cancelled today as the Orioles second baseman is still struggling with concussions and trying to work his way back from Sarasota

*Top pitching prospect Dan Klein will see noted orthopedic surgeon Dr. Lewis Yocum on Monday. He continues to have shoulder discomfort after attempting to throw this week.

-Avi Zaleon

ORIOLES LINEUP

(R) Nolan Reimold LF
(R) J.J. Hardy SS
(L) Nick Markakis RF
(R) Adam Jones CF
(R) Vladimir Guerrero DH
(R) Mark Reynolds 3B
(S) Matt Wieters C
(R) Chris Davis 1B
(R) Robert Andino 2B

Alfredo Simon RHP

TIGERS LINEUP

(R) Austin Jackson CF
(L) Andy Dirks LF
(R) Maglio Ordonez RF
(R) Miguel Cabrera 1B
(S) Victor Martinez DH
(R) Jhonny Peralta SS
(S) Carlos Guillen 2B
(L) Alex Avila C
(S) Wilson Betemit 3B

Brad Penny RHP

On the roster move, Gregg, the young arms & accountability

*Quick Roster move: Chris Tillman was sent back to Triple-A Norfolk tonight, with right-handed reliever Willie Eyre expected to take his place. The 33-year-old Eyre will have his contract purchased from Triple-A Norfolk prior to Friday’s game.
*Also, top pitching prospect Dan Klein will see noted orthopedic surgeon Dr. Lewis Yocum on Monday. He continues to have shoulder discomfort after attempting to throw this week.

***
Orioles manager Buck Showalter talked the other day about how the team’s middle relief has fared well, although he prefaced that by saying that it’s not exactly an area you want to see a lot of work.

Still, it was good to see Brad Bergesen come in Thursday night and restore some order, throwing 4 1/3 scoreless innings in relief of Tillman, who was charged with six runs over 3 2/3 to start the game and handed a one-way ticket to Norfolk after the 6-3 loss.

Bergesen did what last night’s starter Tommy Hunter did: he consistently worked ahead.

Bergesen threw 48 pitches and 33 were strikes, helping him work quickly and give the Orioles offense a chance to try to get back in the game. The 25-year-old Bergesen has had a rocky season, like pretty much all of the Orioles young arms, but he has been working hard with pitching coach Rick Adair and making strides as a result.

I bring this up because it reminded me of a talk I had recently with closer Kevin Gregg, who is one of the most no-nonsense guys in the Orioles clubhouse. Gregg, who sat and talked with Zach Britton for two hours following his Yankee Stadium first-inning meltdown, has quickly earned a reputation for being brutally honest and receptive to guys who want to learn and don’t want to be coddled.

I’ve seen him go over video with Jason Berken after a bad outing and before starter Jake Arrieta left for California he made it a point to seek out Gregg and thank him for all of his help this season.

“I hope they don’t have that sense of entitlement anymore,” Gregg said of the Orioles young pitchers, who have all taken their lumps this season.

“You can do that when you are young but before you know it you are going to be 26, 27 and in this game you are not considered young anymore. It’s ‘figure it out or get out.’ But, luckily we’ve got young guys who are really trying to make that adjustment, really trying to go in the right direction to move forward there.

I think Bergesen has done an outstanding job with that. Where he was at, at the beginning of the year was not somebody who was going to stay in the big leagues. But as he’s progressed and learned and put a lot of time and effort into things, he’s putting himself in a better spot to be able to stay here. And if you make those adjustments, you are going to see better results in your outings.”

As for his interest in video, Gregg said it started in Anaheim when bench coach Joe Maddon (who is now the Rays manager) had his little area set up in the team’s video room. Maddon, who is well-known to be a deep thinker, analytical type guy, would sit for hours and go over video with Gregg and former Major Leaguer Aaron Sele, who is now a pitching coach in the Dodgers Minor Leagues.

“I was just trying to learn the game,” Gregg said. “Learn reactions of hitters, learn reactions of pitches, what’s causing what when your pitch does a certain thing is part of it. It’s part of making adjustments as you go through each year. I can’t sneak up on anybody, everybody knows what I do. So there’s an execution, a game plan, I have to decide what the hitter is trying to do at the plate in the moment.

That’s kind of what helps. Recognizing, these younger guys need to recognize what’s going on. Not just better sequences, but how to pitch. It’s going to make them more successful.”

On the flip side of that was what Tillman did on Thursday, as the 23-year-old didn’t pitch inside enough and left the White Sox hitters practically skipping to the plate.

“When you are throwing the ball on the outer half of the plate it looks middle to them because I’m not throwing in enough,” Tillman said. “It doesn’t work out in your favor very often when that happens.”

Coming off a great seven-inning start his last time out, Tillman has been maddeningly inconsistent and has struggled to take advantage of the wealth of opportunities he’s had to be a permanent fixture in the Orioles’ rotation.

“Having to go to the bullpen in the third, fourth fifth inning, ain’t going to cut it,” Tillman said. “No excuses here. I got to get better. That’s the bottom line. I know I can pitch here, but what happened tonight wasn’t enough.”

Tillman is far from the only Oriole starter who has struggled this year, as Britton recorded just one out in New York, Bergesen has been back-and-forth between Triple-A and Brian Matusz has been in the Minors for over a month. The quartet –along with Jake Arrieta, who is having season-ending surgery Friday morning — were all deemed as the Orioles answer to all this losing. As Showalter likes to say, they were “run up the flag pole” somewhat prematurely and are all having trouble –in varying degrees — of dealing with failure.

There have been multiple times this year Showalter has singled out Gregg’s contributions in the clubhouse and how the veteran has provided some sage advice in a trying year for the Orioles budding young talent.

“The hard part for these guys is they’ve never failed,” said Gregg. “You are not going to dominate [in the Majors Leagues] all the way through, even the good ones have gone through struggles. But it’s how you react, the confidence you have in yourself, in your plan. And I’m really trying to establish that with some of these younger guys and try to teach them to come up with that game plan.

I think they have been so broad in just trying to get to the big leagues, their goal wasn’t really to stay in the big leagues. Now they’ve got to figure out how to stay.”

When asked what his conversation with Britton entailed, Gregg said it was pretty to the point: he told the young lefty how terrible his pair of starts –in which he didn’t get out of the first inning — truly were.

“I’m very blunt when it comes to a lot of things,” Gregg added. “To me, there’s no reason to beat around the bush with an answer, if somebody sucks. I’m going to say, you suck. I’m not going to come up and say, you’re ok, that was alright. No, it wasn’t…They need to know when they are doing something wrong and what it is. It’s time be held accountable for it.”

I know people have varying opinions on Gregg and his role on this team. But I do think his presence in the clubhouse and the bulldog-type mentality in the players the Orioles are slowly acquiring (Jim Johnson and Tommy Hunter spring to mind as other examples) is something that desperately needs to continue if the organization is going to ever turn things around.

Ozzie explains his exchange

Passing along this note from my colleague over at WhiteSox.com, Scott Merkin, who is an OK guy despite being a University of Michigan grad…

Scott Merkin/MLB.com

BALTIMORE– A postgame report on a Baltimore Sun blog Wednesday night centered on an exchange of words between Orioles center fielder Adam Jones and White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen following Nolan Reimold’s walk-off home run. Jones termed it as “part of the competition” on Wednesday and played it down gain Thursday before the series finale.

Guillen, who has as much fun as anyone during the course of a given game, said he was playfully getting on Jones during the course of the extra-inning loss. But he never even saw Jones after Reimold connected. In fact, Guillen never saw the ball land 436 away.

“As soon as the ball left the bat, I knew it was a home run and I left right away,” said Guillen with a laugh. “I was right behind (bench coach) Joey (Cora).”

The situation wasn’t closed out by Guillen Thursday without one more comical shot at Jones, his Wednesday foil.

“What is he going to celebrate?” said Guillen with a wry smile. “Someone else did it.”

Matusz speaks

Here are some Brian Matusz quotes from his complete-game shutout for Triple-A Norfolk this afternoon.

The 24-year-old lefty, optioned back to Triple-A after a rough start in Baltimore, threw 74 of his 105 pitches for strikes in his third straight quality start. He walked one and hit a pair of batters  in the eight-strikeout outing.

“My velocity is back up, it’s getting better with every start in Triple-A, and that comes with having confidence and having a good feel on the mound and letting the ball come out of my hand without effort,” he said. “My strength and conditioning program has improved and I’m working hard to go deep and be able to go back up, and it’s been fun the last couple weeks.”

Matusz has steadily improved with each outing and was able to get out of several jams Thursday afternoon.

“Absolutely, I’ve made tremendous progress,” he said. “Especially in the last couple weeks, to get that groove and consistency back, to be able to throw all four pitches for strikes. I’ve been keeping hitters off balance and just have confidence being myself. Being confident to let it fly and have fun, and it’s been a good feeling.”

Orioles/White Sox lineups & pregame tidbits

*As written below, Brian Matusz pitched a complete game shutout today for Triple-A Norfolk. Manager Buck Showalter said it would not “shock” him if Matusz pitched for Baltimore in 5-10 days.

“If everybody feels like he’s ready to come back, he will,” Showalter said of Matusz. “At some point that will happen. But until we get all the [information], I’ve got other things going on. But I’m just proud that he pitched well today.”

*The Orioles have until Monday at midnight to agree to terms with their draft picks and, most notably, first rounder RHP Dylan Bundy, second round selection 3B Jason Esposito and sixth round infielder Nick Delmonico are still in negotiations. Buck said he spoke to director of scouting Joe Jordan who expressed optimism in getting things done.

*In case you missed it, Jake Arrieta will have surgery to remove the bone spur on his right elbow by Dr. Lewis Yocum tomorrow in California.

*Zach Britton (left shoulder inflammation) threw a 30-pitch bullpen session–his first since going on the disabled list — and said he felt good.  He’s on track to make a rehab start Sunday in  Double-A Bowie.

*I got a few questions about whether White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen and center fielder Adam Jones exchanged words last night in the 10th inning. Guillen, who routinely barks at players, told reporters today the banter with Jones was all in good fun. Also, it didn’t happen after Nolan Reimold hit the walkoff homer since Guillen immediately walked into the tunnel before Reimold’s ball even landed.

 

ORIOLES LINEUP

(R) J.J. Hardy SS
(L) Nick Markakis RF
(R) Adam Jones CF
(R) Vladimir Guerrero DH
(S) Matt Wieters C
(R) Mark Reynolds 3B
(L) Chris Davis 1B
(R) Nolan Reimold LF
(R) Robert Andino 2B

Chris Tillman RHP

WHITE SOX LINEUP

(L) Juan Pierre LF
(R) Alexei Ramirez SS
(R) Paul Konerko DH
(R) Carlos Quentin RF
(L) A.J. Pierznski C
(R) Alex Rios CF
(L) Adam Dunn 1B
(R) Gordon Beckham 2B
(R) Brent Morel 3B

Mark Buehrle LHP

Matusz tosses CG shutout

Orioles lefty Brian Matusz threw a complete game shutout against Lehigh Valley IronPigs this afternoon, allowing five hits and striking out eight in the process.

The 24-year-old Matusz threw 74 of his 105 pitches for strikes and showcased a fastball that sat consistently around 90-91 mph. Matusz is now 2-3 with a 3.46 ERA in nine Triple-A starts and has been much better as of late.  He is coming off seven innings of  one-run baseball on August 6 and has allowed four earned runs in his last 22 innings at Norfolk.

Whether his next start is in Baltimore or not remains to be seen.

 

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