December 2011

Guthrie’s holiday spirit

As you may be aware, Orioles pitcher Jeremy Guthrie is getting in the holiday spirit and has taken to his ever-popular Twitter account to try to make fans wishes come true.

Guthrie, who has done things like consent to an interview or send a signed baseball to contest “winners”, will visit a third grade class at Pointers Run Elementary in Clarksville tomorrow.

Teacher Matt Noon contacted Guthrie in response to Guthrie’s Twitter question, “All I want for Christmas is…” and asked for Guthrie to meet his class. Guthrie will visit with the children and sign autographs from 9:00 – 10:00 a.m.

Guthrie said the idea came to him one day while home at night and he’s been granting wishes every Wednesday up until Christmas. If you aren’t on Twitter, or aren’t following him already, his Twitter name is @JGuthrie46 and I believe you have to use the #AllIwantforChristmas hashtag.

While you’re at it, you can follow me @Britt_Ghiroli. I don’t have any presents for you, but I do come with lots of Orioles news…

 

Orioles to host 2nd Annual Golf Classic

Per a team release…

On Wednesday, February 22, the Orioles will hold the 2nd Annual OriolesREACH Birdland Golf Classic at Lakewood Ranch Golf and Country Club in Sarasota to benefit the Miracle League of Manasota, an organization dedicated to providing an opportunity for every person to play baseball, regardless of their ability. The event begins with registration and lunch at 11 a.m. and a shotgun start set for 12:30 p.m.

The classic will feature a silent auction and the chance to play a round with current and former Orioles players and coaches. Manager Buck Showalter and current Orioles Jeremy Guthrie, Jim Johnson, and Matt Wieters are among the many Orioles scheduled to attend.

Registration is now open for golfers and corporate partners. There are multiple levels of participation available, including MVP Sponsor packages which consist of recognition as a presenting sponsor, a foursome with the opportunity to select your Orioles playing partner, four infield box seats to a 2012 Orioles Spring Training game, and more.  Last year’s event raised over $26,000 for the Miracle League of Manasota.

For the 14,000 school-aged children with disabilities and their adult counterparts in Sarasota and Manatee counties, a synthetically surfaced baseball field and all the requisite amenities is being built in Longwood Park, just off University Parkway in Sarasota. Sarasota County has committed $500,000 to the capital improvement of Longwood Park. The opening game of the Miracle League of Manasota is planned for Spring 2012. For more information, visit www.miracleleaguemanasota.org.

For more information or to register for the event, contact the Miracle League of Manasota at (941) 359-6891 or info@miracleleaguemanasota.org. The entry deadline is Wednesday, February 8.

Monday morning musings: non-tenders & other offseason rumblings

The free-agent pool is about to grow, and it will happen instantly at midnight ET tonight as teams must decide by the midnight deadline whether to tender a contract to unsigned players under team control. If they don’t, that player becomes a free agent.

It’s one of baseball’s lesser-publicized but intriguing and sometimes season-changing events, and for a team like the Orioles it could be a very valuable tool. Not all players who are non-tendered have performed poorly, often times they are due to make more money than a team decides they are worth to them.

Remember last season when the Twins were rumored to be non-tendering J.J. Hardy? It never got to that since the Orioles traded for Hardy at last year’s Winter Meetings, but you can see valuable Hardy is in Baltimore. David Ortiz was also non-tendered before landing in Boston.

Ty Wigginton was picked up off the scrap heap by the Orioles in 2008, and John Buck, Kelly Johnson and Matt Capps are all productive players who have been non-tendered by clubs. The Orioles have several non-tender candidates with the most interesting candidate being Luke Scott.

The team would like to bring Scott, who made 6.4 million last season, back at a lesser rate and that’s why non-tendering is their best bet to do that. Scott is coming off season-ending shoulder surgery.

According to baseball’s Basic Agreement, when teams tender contracts, they can’t cut any more than 20 percent of what a player earned in salary and performance bonuses the previous season, or 30 percent of those figures during the past two seasons. Non-tendered players, however, can be re-signed by their teams at larger cuts.

Willie Eyre was a non-tender candidate, but he was designated for assignment to make room for newly acquired arm Dana Eveland. Pitchers Brad Bergesen and Jo-Jo Reyes are also possibilities to not be offered a contract.
On the flip side, it might be a good avenue for the Orioles to explore other pitchers who are non-tendered. Arizona’s Joe Saunders and  Washington’s Tom Gorzelanny are interesting names and there should be plenty more (52 players were non-tendered last year) for the Orioles to weigh taking a flyer on.

*I’m mentioning just arms because of all the stats that stood out to me in compiling a season in review, this one was most alarming.

The Orioles were last in the majors in starters’ ERA (5.39),  innings pitched (881), quality starts (60), strikeout-walk ratio (1.77) and starters’ pitches per inning (16.9). They were also last in the AL in home runs allowed by starters (134).

It goes without saying that the Orioles need to upgrade the rotation and bullpen in a hurry. Edwin Jackson, Paul Maholm, Saunders, etc. Anyone who will boost the rotation, which undoubtedly put way too much of a workload on an already-depleted bullpen corps. And preferably with arms who are more than a one-year stopgap.

*The only move the Orioles have made in terms of pitching is last week’s trade for Dana Eveland. The 28-year-old Eveland will be arbitration eligible for the first time this winter. He agreed to a Minor League split contract with the Dodgers last November and was only in the bigs for a September callup this season.

*I continue to believe the Orioles are not going to throw large sums of money at a free-agent position player. Do they have interest in Prince Fielder and Cuban outfielder Yoenis Cespedes? Absolutely. But I think the market would have to drop off for them to be in serious play. The only X-factor is if somehow principal owner Peter Angelos decides he has to have one of those players and gives the front office go-ahead to go overboard, similar to the case with Vlad Guerrero last year.

*Here’s the contract info for INF Matt Antonelli: Agreement for Major League contract for $100,000. $450,000 in Majors. Major League invitation to Spring Training.

Britton putting rookie lessons to use

I’ll have a full story up later on Orioles.com, but wanted to pass along a few quotes from pitcher Zach Britton.

I caught up with Britton while at the Winter Meetings as the 23-year-old stopped by to meet with his agent and made it  a point to seek out and meet new executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette as well. The fact that he did that certainly wasn’t lost on Duquette, who seemed to be impressed with Britton’s poise and maturity already.

Here are a few quotes from Britton on his offseason regimen and what he learned from his rookie season…

[on being labeled one of the more consistent young arms]

“I don’t think it’s necessarily a compliment, it’s kind of an indication of how we didn’t perform last year like we should have.  If I was the most consistent person other than Jeremy [Guthrie] who went out there again and threw 200 innings, that’s not what you are looking for.

You need better than that. I didn’t pitch as good as I should have [last season]. So, I want to be way more consistent.”

[on what he's learned]

“I think at the beginning of the season I showed that I was really consistent than all of a sudden, I started messing around with stuff that I could never find then. And as the season wore on I started getting tired. This year it’s about going into spring training with, [the mindset], ‘hey im sticking with these mechanics or these pitches and I’m not changing that’. Just sticking with that. You know, making adjustments here and there but not making drastic ones to my mechanics. And I think that’s going to let me go out there and let me be consistent the whole year. And as well as getting in shape a little bit better.”

[on how he's getting in better shape]

“I noticed that towards the end of the year, I was so tired every day. Not necessarily just [from] throwing, but I was like, ‘Gosh my body is so tired’. Now I know what it’s like to go through the whole season. I know that I need to add strength, total body strength.”

[on if his mindset this spring is still to win a spot]

“I think you have to. Like I said, im not going to be in almost mid-season form, and everyone was kind of telling me [later on], ‘I think you did too much.’

But I think you have to have that mindset. I don’t think anybody other than a guy like Guthrie, who has obviously established himself, everyone else needs to come in there knowing that they have to earn a spot. We didn’t perform well enough to earn a spot. I don’t think any [of the young arms] did. So we have to go in there and show that we’ve made adjustments, and we can be a big part of the rotation that’s going to help the team win. Because that’s what they are looking for.

They are not looking for someone to develop in the rotation, they are looking for you to finally make adjustments and go out there and give the team a chance to win.”

[on how he evaluates his rookie season]

“I break it into two different areas. One being how much I learned last season and kind of, how can I apply it to what I need to do next year to be successful. And, [secondly] stats-wise because baseball is a stats game. From a stats perspective I was really disappointed. I knew I could have done better and there were situations where I kind of let the game speed up on me and kind of got out of hand. So, I was very disappointed with the stats.

I look back,  and I was just talking with [pitching coach] Rick Adair a couple days ago, about what I learned and putting that toward being successful next year. I think I learned a lot. And I can see the way I’m working out, I’m kind of applying what I’ve learned during the season into getting me ready for next year.”

[on if the Orioles have a specific offseason plan]

“It’s pretty much individual. I’ve talked to Rick about what he thinks I need to do to be ready and I kind of give my opinion. But for the most part its, ‘go with what you feel’.  He taught us so much during the season, now it’s kind of up to us to take the next step. He can only do so much, the rest is what am I going to do to get better.

Really it just falls on my shoulders. Knowing what I have to do to be successful next year and going out there and applying that and getting ready for Spring Training.”

Orioles trade for Eveland (updated)

The Orioles have acquired left-handed pitcher Dana Eveland from the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Eveland, a non-tender candidate, netted the Dodgers a pair of Minor Leaguers in left-handed pitcher Jarret Martin and outfielder Tyler Henson.

The 28-year-old Eveland has a career 19-24 record with a 5.52 ERA in parts of seven Major League seasons. Signed to a split-contract by the Dodgers last season, Eveland spent most of 2011 with their Triple-A club and went 3-2 with a 3.03 ERA in five big league starts as a September callup.

The move gives the Orioles another potential starter and clears a roster spot for the Dodgers, who were reportedly close to an agreement with free-agent right-hander Aaron Harang according to several reports Thursday morning.

Los Angeles also signed lefty Chris Capuano to a two-year deal and the pair of deals –coupled with their returning starters — would have most certainly ticketed Eveland for Triple-A next season.

To make room for Eveland on the 40-man roster, the Orioles designated Willie Eyre for assignment.

The team also announced that Minor League infielder Greg Miclat is the player to be named later that will go to Texas to complete the trade for backup catcher Taylor Teagarden.

Duquette on the Orioles making a deal or two

Executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette just met with the Orioles media and seemed pretty certain he’d be able to pull off “a deal or two” before leaving Dallas Thursday night.

Duquette, who said the team “didn’t get much feedback” on their free-agent offers (they met with several more agents Wednesday and have offers out to pitchers and positions players),  also said the club has been discussing several trades that would net them pitching. He didn’t anticipate a trade occurring until at least tomorrow morning, saying only that these things take time and it’s a process that involves putting a considerable amount at stake.

Given that Duquette has said the last few days that there are more relievers on the trade market than starters, my guess is they upgrade the bullpen following Thursday’s Rule 5 Draft.

As for the payroll –and the perceived notion that Baltimore can’t compete in the American League East with their financial constraints– Duquette said the organization’s budget doesn’t matter.

“There’s appropriate funding to field a competitive team here, but we have to make good choices,” Duquette said.

“It doesn’t matter what the budget is. It doesn’t matter to the fans. They are interested in seeing the product, they are interested in seeing the players. And our job is to put the best team we can, within the constraints of the market. So, you are not going to hear me talk about the budget or numbers. Because it’s, to me, it’s not important to the fans. They want to see a good product.”

Orioles announce coaching staff

Per a team release…

The Orioles officially announced Wednesday that they have hired DeMarlo Hale as their third base coach and Bill Castro as bullpen coach to fill the two vacancies on their 2012 coaching staff. John Russell (bench coach), Jim Presley (hitting coach), Rick Adair (pitching coach) and Wayne Kirby (first base coach) will return from the 2011 staff.

Hale has spent 10 seasons as a major league coach, most recently serving as bench coach (2010-11) and third base coach (2006-09) for the Boston Red Sox. He was first base and outfield coach on Buck Showalter’s staff with the Texas Rangers from 2002-05.

Hale managed Texas’ Triple-A Oklahoma club to second-place finishes in the Pacific Coast League’s East Division in 2000 and 2001. He began his professional coaching career with the Red Sox organization at Double-A New Britain in 1992 and in seven seasons from 1993-99 as a manager with Boston’s minor league teams compiled a 491-471 record (.510 winning percentage) and reached the postseason three times.

Originally selected by the Red Sox in the 17th round of the 1983 June draft, Hale played five minor league seasons as a first baseman/outfielder in the Boston (1983-86) and Oakland (1988) organizations.

Castro joins the Orioles after 37 seasons with the Milwaukee Brewers organization, the last two as Pitching Advisor for Latin America. Castro spent 18 seasons on the Brewers’ Major League coaching staff, including the first part of the 2009 season as pitching coach. He previously served as bullpen coach from 1992-2008 and was the pitching coach for the Dominican Republic during the 2006 World Baseball Classic.

Prior to joining the major league staff, Castro was the organization’s Minor League Pitching Coordinator from 1988-91 and a member of the Brewers’ scouting staff from 1985-87.

 “The additions of DeMarlo Hale and Bill Castro add winning experience and diversity to our coaching staff,” said Orioles Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations Dan Duquette.

Hale out in Boston, expected to join Showalter’s staff

It’s Day 3 of the Winter Meetings here in Dallas — the last full day of activity since Thursday is just the Rule 5 Draft — and the Orioles remain hopeful they can swing a deal.

They did get closer on the coaching front, with manager Buck Showalter’s staff all but official as of late Tuesday night. The holdup was over bench coach DeMarlo Hale, who is under contract in Boston for next season but is expected to negotiate a deal that frees him up to join the Orioles as third base coach.

ESPN Boston first reported that Hale was out as bench coach, news that hardly comes as a shock given the managerial change from Terry Francona to Bobby Valentine.  Hale, who is close with both Showalter and executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette, will join a staff that include hitting coach Jim Presley, pitching coach Rick Adair, bench coach John Russell and bullpen coach Bill Castro.

The expectation is once the two sides work out a contract, the Orioles will officially unveil their entire staff. The Baltimore Sun was the first to report the Orioles interest in Hale.

 

Orioles trying to bring back Koji

The Orioles and Rangers, who lately seem to be their preferred trade partner, met today in Dallas and one of the things discussed was a possible Koji Uehara reunion with Baltimore, according to two sources.

I wrote earlier this season that Uehara, who was traded to Texas at the July 31 deadline, had expressed a desire to come back to the Orioles, where he still owns a home. And O’s executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette has made it no secret that the club is trying to upgrade their pitching staff any way they can, with trades being the most likely route.

Duquette reiterated today that there seems to be more relievers available than starting pitchers on the trade market, and –although the two sides didn’t reach a resolution today — it’s certainly a situation to monitor. It’s not known what Texas would want in return.

Uehara was scouted and signed out of Japan by the Orioles and was first used as a starter in 2009 before moving to the bullpen the following season.

Duquette quick hits

Here are some quick hits from tonight’s meeting with executive VP Dan Duquette…

*The Orioles advanced several trade proposals –most of which are pitching – and also have offers out to several free agents. Some of those offers are out to position players and some to pitchers, Duquette wouldn’t get into specifics.

*He did note that the Orioles were in on Minnesota’s Kevin Slowey before he was traded to the Rockies earlier today, and Baltimore has met several times with the Chicago White Sox –who have since taken some of their arms off the market — as well. Asked about right-handed hitting outfielder Carlos Quentin, Duquette said it was an interesting name, but wouldn’t comment any further.

*The Orioles resigned right-handed pitcher Brandon Erbe to a Minor League deal. Erbe, a local product, was taken off the 40-man roster earlier in the year and became a free agent.

*Duquette seemed relatively confident he will make a deal before these meetings are over, and he also noted that the team has several things in the works that involve different players, meaning they aren’t restricted to make just one trade. All things the Orioles are trying to do involve fortifying their Major League club. So while it’s possible they get a prospect or two in a potential trade, don’t look for it to be the centerpiece of their return.

*And one more note that didn’t come out of Duquette’s session, but is certainly interesting: executive director of international recruiting Fred Ferreira  and manager Buck Showalter will go to the Dominican Republic later this week, with the plan being to watch free-agent outfielder Yoennis Cespedes workout on Saturday. MLB.com’s national reporter Jesse Sanchez breaks down the market for Cespedes here.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 308 other followers