October 2011

Os trio up for Gold Gloves, quick LaCava note

The Orioles have three nominees for a Gold Glove –shortstop J.J. Hardy, catcher Matt Wieters and right fielder Nick Markakis — as the list of candidates was released in an ESPN press release Monday afternoon.

ESPN2 will televise the first-ever Rawlings Gold Glove Awards Show – emanating from ESPN’s Baseball Tonight studio in Bristol – Tuesday, Nov. 1, at 10 p.m. ET.  Hardy is up against the Angels’ Erick Aybar, and the Indians’ Asdrubal Cabrera while Wieters’ running mates are White Sox backstop A.J. Pierzynski and the Tigers’ Alex Avila.

Markakis was nominated along with the Angels’ Torii Hunter and Kansas City’s Jeff Francoeur. Of the three Orioles nominated, none have won the award previously. Baltimore’s center fielder Adam Jones –who is a previous Gold Glove winner – was noticeably absent from the ballot.

*Also, I can confirm FoxSports.com’s report that GM candidate Tony LaCava is back in Baltimore today to meet with the Orioles’ brass, including owner Peter Angelos. As I blogged earlier, LaCava is seen by many as the favorite to land the job. Although nothing is official, an announcement could come soon.

A few notes…

*First, the expectation is the GM situation will be resolved before the free agency period begins later this week. That’s a very fluid situation right now, and it could change –literally– hour by hour, or minute by minute.

I still believe Tony LaCava will be the Orioles’ hire, but as Yahoo Sports reported, De Jon Watson has met with the O’s brass several times as well. I’ve been asked if there’s a chance they both get hired on, either as co-GMs or as a president/GM tandem and the answer is no. It’s important to have one voice as the ultimate decision-maker and –particularly when you factor in the fact that manager Buck Showalter will have a lot of say, having more than one GM-type doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.

Toronto has been preparing for the possibility of life without LaCava –who is Alex Anthopoulos’ right-hand man –for the last few weeks. While it would be a very large blow for Toronto, there’s an increasing concern about what personnel LaCava –who is incredibly well respected in the organization — would take with him if he was to get the Orioles’ GM job.

*Now that the Cardinals are World Series champions –raise your hand if you saw that one coming– the free agency period is set to begin on Thursday. With a whole lot of stories about “so-and-so filing for free agency” I wanted to clear something up real quick:

Players with six years of playing time automatically become free agents after the World Series under MLB’s new rules. In the past, players had a 15-day period to decide whether to file for the privilege.

The Orioles two notable free agent eligibles — Cesar Izturis and Vladimir Guerrero — are among nearly 150 free agents this winter and neither are expected back.  Izturis was injured most of the season and was brought back to be a backup infielder last season, while manager Buck Showalter made it no secret he wasn’t a fan of being handcuffed with a DH-only type such as Guerrero.

So, what do the Orioles need this winter?

PITCHING, PITCHING and more PITCHING. That’s first and foremost and should be way before any Prince Fielder talk and the hoards of other rumors and speculation that will bombard baseball writers for the next few months.

*On a lighter little note, the Five Four brand has named Orioles outfielder Adam Jones the company’s first ever brand ambassador. More info on that, with Jones modeling some clothes, can be found here.

Os announce trio of roster moves

The Orioles announced Friday that right-handed pitcher Chris Jakubauskas and catcher Jake Fox  have cleared waivers and been outrighted to Triple-A Norfolk.

Catcher Craig Tatum, who served as the backup to Matt Wieters for most of the 2011 season, has been claimed on waivers by the Houston Astros.  The moves leaves the Orioles with 36 players on their 40-man roster, with right-hander Jeremy Accardo electing free agency after being outrighted earlier in the month.

The 32-year-old Jakubauskas was 2-2 with a 5.72 ERA (72.1IP, 46ER) in 33 games (six starts) for the Orioles in 2011.  Fox, 29, batted .246 (15-61) with two homers and six RBI in 27 games, while Tatum, 29, batted .195 (17-87) with three doubles and seven RBI in 31 games.

Os GM search just got thinner

Diamondbacks executive Jerry Dipoto is expected to become the next general manager of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, news first reported by FOXSports.com’s Ken Rosenthal, and confirmed by multiple other media outlets Friday afternoon.

The news of Dipoto’s new position comes as the Orioles are interviewing their fourth –and perhaps final—candidate for their GM/president vacancy, Baltimore’s current director of player development John Stockstill.  Dipoto, who is held in high regard for his impressive player development and scouting background, was widely believed to be the Orioles top choice in replacing president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail and was the organization’s first interview.

While it’s unclear exactly what Orioles timetable is for naming a new GM, Dipoto’s name off the board makes Blue Jays’ assistant GM Tony LaCava –the second interview after Dipoto– the next logical candidate in the pecking order.  There is still a possibility the organization conducts another interview after Stockstill, but most indications are that the Orioles are closing in on their search and would prefer to have a new GM in place shortly before the free agency period begins.

MLB Network’s Jon Heyman also tweeted Friday afternoon that LaCava would “likely” be named the next Orioles GM, furthering speculation that Dipoto’s hire has bumped up LaCava’s standing. LaCava, 50, had a lengthy interview in Baltimore on October 19 and fits the profile the Orioles are looking for in a GM, most notably with extensive scouting and player development experience. Dodgers assistant GM De Jon Watson also interviewed in Baltimore on Wednesday.

A few Os notes

*I can confirm that the Orioles have reached out and been granted permission to interview Dodgers exec De Jon Watson, who is LA’s assistant GM and director of player development. That interview, first reported by the Baltimore Sun, will take place Wednesday in Baltimore and –since I’m sure this question will be brought up — I’m told to not take it as the Jerry Dipoto and Tony LaCava interviews didn’t go well, because by all indications they did.

But if manager Buck Showalter is really getting a heavy say, which it appears he is, he’s being every bit as meticulous and thorough as you would expect. I can’t imagine with the World Series coming to a close soon that they would interview more than five candidates total, particularly since they need a scouting director and could shuffle several more people internally, but I could see the Orioles bringing in another candidate or two after Watson.

Watson, who interviewed for the Arizona Diamondbacks GM job last year that went to Kevin Towers, just completed his fifth season in charge of the Dodgers Minor League system, which was named the best in baseball in 2010 by Topps. He joined the Dodgers from Cleveland, where he was scouting director, and also was scouting director for Cincinnati.

As of early Tuesday morning, the Orioles have not reached out to Dodgers exec Logan White to ask the organization for permission to interview him. Stay tuned for any news on that.

*There is still plenty of time to sign up for the second annual KidsPeace Trick-or-Trot 5K run/1M walk on Saturday, Oct. 29 in Canton Square.  Orioles manager Buck Showalter will be present, along with his wife Angela, and there are more details on this great charity event here.

Under Armour is providing shirts, so you know they will be pretty sweet. I’ve already signed up, and you can register on Active.com or come to the prerace party Friday to register. There will be some great food deals from the local restaurants, so come by and sign up, get a beer and say hi.

*Finally if you don’t want to run, but want to help another great cause I urge you to check out this link and make a donation to the Breathe Deep DC fundraising walk on November 6. The charity team is being head by Orioles PR whiz Monica Barlow, who will also speak prior to the walk, and they are trying to match the goal of $8,000 from last year.  All funds go toward raising money for lung cancer research. Once you get to the page through that link just click on the “donate” button to contribute. Every little bit helps and I can assure you they will be really grateful.

*To close, and get back to baseball for a minute, I’ve been asked a few times about how to fix the player development and Minor League system that has buried the Orioles for pretty much the last 15 years.

It’s important to note there will be some shuffling internally after the Orioles hire a new GM/president. There’s a reason every candidate they have considered has an extensive background in that area. Showalter understands this organization can’t compete without fixing the pipeline of talent and ensuring that these “can’t miss” prospects develop into Major League talent.

If they choose to go internally and fill the scouting director position, it will cause some changes and reshuffling regardless in the Minor League operations department. Bringing a new GM on board could also impact the number of scouts employed and change several positions on the development side of things.   Again, you have to start from the top here. Once a new GM is announced, I imagine things will start to fall into place in a hurry as the team tries to balance the future with fielding a competitive team for 2012.

As of early Tuesday morning, the Orioles have not reached out to Dodgers exec Logan White to ask the organization for permission to interview him.

A few Orioles notes & opinions

*You already know by now that Arizona Diamondbacks executive Jerry Dipoto had a lengthy interview with the Orioles on Tuesday for the vacant GM/president position. But it’s still helpful to reiterate what I said in Tuesday’s story: that Dipoto is a very strong candidate. The Orioles liked him a lot before and, from what I was told, that hasn’t changed. In fact, Dipoto –who has a solid background in player development and ties to the Virginia area — probably improved his standing.  Yesterday’s interview with Blue Jays assistant GM Tony LaCava also went very well and, in my opinion, both guys are great candidates and would be excellent fits for the organization.

It remains to be seen if the Orioles will have any more interviews, but –and again this is my opinion — if you already brought in two noteworthy candidates who are very well respected around baseball, why bother bringing in more people to interview? Let’s act swiftly- offer the job to one of them and then go from there. Dipoto is reportedly high on the Angels’ list as well,  so it would certainly benefit the Orioles to be speedy. And it would also make this reporter a little less paranoid when leaving my phone to go for a run.

*Speaking of running, there is still plenty of time to sign up for the second annual KidsPeace Trick-or-Trot 5K run/1M walk on Saturday, Oct. 29 in Canton Square.  Orioles manager Buck Showalter will be present, along with his wife Angela, and there are more details on this great charity event here.

Under Armour is providing shirts, so you know they will be pretty sweet. I’ve already signed up, and you can register on Active.com or come to the prerace party Friday to register. There’s some great food deals from the local restaurants, so come by and sign up, get a beer and say hi.

*I’ve gotten a few questions about the coaching staff for next season, so this bears repeating as well. While none of the other coaching positions have been finalized — along with the scouting director job, they likely will not be until the GM situation is resolved — it is expected that John Russell will remain the team’s bench coach. Russell started the 2011 season at third base before switching positions with Willie Randolph in June. To be clear, Randolph was on a one-year deal and not asked back. He would have gladly accepted a position to return to the Orioles staff in 2012, but is now a free agent of sorts.

*The free agency period will begin before you know it, and the rumors and speculation will be everywhere: on Twitter, blogs, newspapers, websites. I’ll do my best to address them as accurately as possible and plan on speculating (everyone’s favorite winter word!) on possible Orioles targets in the next few days.

*Did the Orioles forget about the Brooks Robinson statue, which will be unveiled with little fanfare on Saturday? The answer is an emphatic no. The team actually has plans in the works for a much bigger celebration honoring their Hall of Fame inductees next season.

*I continue to believe that Koji Uehara will find a way back to the Orioles. Uehara, who was traded to the Rangers midseason, struggled mightily in a Texas uniform and was left off the team’s World Series roster.  It’s hard to not feel for the guy, particularly because I remember him blinking back tears when he was traded while the team was in New York. For all the ire directed at Michael Gonzalez –who has flourished since his August trade to Texas — he was genuinely remorseful for how his time unfolded here. And while Gonzalez, who is a free agent this winter again, won’t be coming back to Baltimore, Uehara still owns a home in the area and has talked with people close to him about wanting to return.

*As for my World Series prediction, I got to stick with the Rangers. The Cardinals are  a scrappy bunch, as evidenced from Game 1, but I’m still going Texas in a seven-game series. What do you think?

Showalters team up with KidsPeace for 5K event

Orioles manager Buck Showalter and his wife Angela have teamed up with KidsPeace to host the second annual KidsPeace Trick-or-Trot 5K run/1M walk on Saturday, October 29 in Canton. This family event is open to all ages and features Halloween activities in addition to the race.

The entry fee for individuals participating in the run is $35, which includes an Under Armour t-shirt for the first 400 registered runners. Families who plan to walk the one mile together will pay just $20 and are encouraged to dress in their favorite Halloween costumes. Pets are also invited and are welcome to dress for Halloween as well. Foster families and children walk at no charge.

Race day registration begins at 7:30 a.m., and the race will begin at 9:00 a.m. The course goes through the Canton and Patterson Park neighborhoods, beginning and ending at O’Donnell Square in Canton.

The top three registered teams who raise the most money will be eligible to win gift certificates, a complimentary wine tasting, 2012 Orioles tickets and more. In addition, there will be prizes for top runners, age group winners and most creative Halloween costumes for adults, children and pets. After the completion of the race, participants can join the Showalters, the Oriole Bird and the Chik-fil-A Cow for light fare and Halloween fun in O’Donnell Square.

In addition to race day, on Friday, October 28 from 5:00- 8:00 p.m. there will be a Pre-Race Party at O’Donnell Square. Participants may pick up their race packets, listen to live music, enjoy a discounted dinner at one of the race sponsors’ restaurants and browse the shops on the square.

The Showalters are enthusiastic supporters of KidsPeace, a private charity dedicated to serving the behavioral and mental health needs of children, families and communities. All proceeds from this event benefit KidsPeace Foster Care and Community Programs of Maryland.

To register online, visit www.kidspeace.org. For more information or for sponsorship opportunities, contact Gina Seyfried, 410-964-9329 or gina.seyfried@kidspeace.org.

 

Orioles ask permission for GM interviews, Randolph not returning

In addition to a new general manager, the Orioles will have at least two new coaches next season, as Willie Randolph was not issued a contract for 2012 according to a baseball source.  The organization also still has a vacancy for a permanent bullpen coach.

The decision to not retain Randolph comes on the heels of a flurry of organizational movement. Most notable was the departure of president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail last week, but it was also announced on Wednesday that scouting director Joe Jordan is leaving to take a player development position with the Philadelphia Phillies.

Randolph was originally hired on a one-year deal as manager Buck Showalter’s bench coach, but he switched to third base halfway through the season to accommodate John Russell. Russell had some knee issues and when asked about the coaching swap during the season Showalter said he felt Rusell was better served closer to the catchers on the bench.

The manager of the New York Mets for four seasons, Randolph spent two years as the Milwaukee Brewers bench coach before joining Baltimore, where he worked predominantly with the infielders and made particular strides with Robert Andino. A lifelong New Yorker, Randolph played for six teams in an 18-season career, starting with the Pittsburgh Pirates and ending with the Mets. He has made it no secret in the past that he would like another managing opportunity, although those jobs are scarce for next season.

The rest of the Orioles coaching staff will likely remain intact, with both hitting coach Jim Presley and pitching coach Rick Adair on two-year deals –although Adair could take on a new role — as well as first base coach Wayne Kirby and Russell still under contract. There remains a hole in the bullpen coach role, as Adair slid over from that position after Mark Connor’s midseason resignation as pitching coach. The Orioles used a rotating group of temporary fill-ins at bullpen coach for the remainder of the season.
Showalter has been in Baltimore the last few days finalizing his coaching staff and giving input on the team’s general manger search, which is still in the preliminary stages of asking permission from other clubs to interview potential candidates. The  Orioles are expected to start conducting interviews when Showalter comes back into town next week with Arizona Diamondbacks senior vice president Jerry Dipoto, Marlins assistant GM Dan Jennings, Blue Jays assistant GM Tony Lacava, and Dodgers assistant GM Logan White some of the most heavily rumored names.  ESPN.com’s Buster Olney also reported on Twitter on Thursday that former Toronto GM J.P. Ricciardi is also on the Orioles’ “short list” of candidates.

Davis on not needing surgery & the 3b job

Orioles infielder Chris Davis will not undergo sports hernia surgery as previously planned as the 25-year-old told MLB.com in a phone interview Wednesday that the plan is to rest and rehab the injury, treating it as an extreme groin strain instead.

Davis, who had originally planned on getting the procedure done in mid-October, saw specialist Dr. John Preskitt at Baylor University Medical Center about a week ago and was told that there wasn’t a pressing need to operate.

“I was pretty relieved,” Davis, who will see Preskitt again in early December, said of avoiding surgery. “At some point, I probably pulled my groin during the season and being on the DL with my [right] labrum injury probably helped, but basically [Preskitt said], ‘What you need is rest.’  And that’s something I haven’t done in two years. I played winter ball last year. I can feel a difference in the two weeks the season has been over already.”

Acquired in a non-waiver Trade Deadline deal from Texas, along with starting pitching Tommy Hunter, Davis admitted it was frustrating to come into a new opportunity at less than 100 percent. He was diagnosed with a slight right labrum tear –a preexisting injury aggravated by playing every day – shortly after coming to Baltimore and also played down the stretch with the groin issue, hitting .276 with two homers and 13 RBIs in 31 games as an Oriole.

“That was my No. 1 concern going into the offseason, was to build some momentum,” Davis said. “And I felt like I did that individual and we did that as a team. We knocked off some of the better teams in baseball [in the season’s final few weeks] and played with the best of them…I don’t think of us were ready for it to end.”

Now that it has, the attention shifts to next spring where Davis’ focus is cracking the Orioles’ starting lineup on Opening Day.

“I’m just looking forward to getting healthy and winning the third base job,” said Davis, who is getting married next month in Dallas. “That’s where my goals are at right now.”

As for his labrum injury –which he also opted to not get surgically repaired – Davis said he hasn’t had a problem since rejoining the Orioles for the season’s final month and he doesn’t expect his shoulder to be a problem going forward, so long as he continues to incorporate his rehab exercises into his offseason program.

Jordan to Phillies

Orioles scouting director Joe Jordan is leaving the organization and will be the Philadelphia Phillies director of player development starting in 2012.

Wednesday’s news that Jordan will not be back, which was first reported by MASNSports.com, isn’t entirely unexpected given the uncertainty in the Orioles front office. Jordan, who was hired by the Orioles in November 2004, has a current contract that is up at the end of the year and his future with Baltimore was already in jeopardy given last week’s announced departure of president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail.

Prior to joining the Orioles, Jordan spent eight years with the Montreal Expos and Florida Marlins and he will take over the Phillies position vacated by last month’s departure of assistant general manager Chuck LaMar. While the 49-year-old Jordan has come under recent scrutiny as the Orioles Minor League system has lagged behind with a frightening lack of depth, he is responsible for Drafting current Orioles’ catcher Matt Wieters and young starters Brian Matusz, Jake Arrieta and Zach Britton.

Jordan’s biggest miss in the Draft was selecting high school infielder Billy Rowell, who just finished his first season in Double-A, with the ninth overall pick in 2006. He drafted infielder Brandon Snyder (13th) with his first first-round pick in 2005, and is coming off a pair of highly- regarded selections in this year’s first-round pitcher Dylan Bundy (fourth overall) and last year’s Manny Machado (third overall), who is already considered the organization’s best position prospect.

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