January 2012

Orioles Videos

Here are a few videos from today’s FanFest…

*J.J. Hardy (who got engaged this offseason) shows Baltimore fans some love.

*Jake Arrieta shows his gratitude to Birdland.

*Nolan Reimold thanks Orioles fans.

FanFats higlights, notes and other notables

As those of who you follow me on Twitter already heard, my laptop greeted me this morning with the blue screen of death. So, my apologies on getting up what I wanted to be an early post on the Orioles Fanfest. Here are some of the highlights, notable events and other random musings from the annual event…

*Brian Roberts was not present, as expected, but executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette said he had spoken with Roberts who sent his regards to the fans in attendance. Roberts is on a workout program although –according to Duquette – the organization is going to have to show more patience on that front. Not exactly a rousing endorsement of where Roberts is at physically, but  –as I’ve said many times before – they really don’t have a choice at this point but to wait and see. Robert Andino is the primary contingency plan for Roberts with Matt Antonelli also capable of playing second.

*Duquette also said the club will continue to negotiate with their four unsettled arbitration cases in hopes of avoiding next month’s hearing. I asked about whether they would continue to explore long-term deals with any of the four –Jeremy Guthrie, Brad Bergesen, Adam Jones and Andino – and Duquette said they have to worry about what they are paying these guys next year first. Translation: any Jones extension talks have probably been tabled, although the centerfielder did refute any rumors that he would be against a long-term deal and would prefer to return to the West Coast.

“I like Baltimore,” Jones said.  “I’ve planted some roots here and I like working in the city. If I am fortunate enough to be here a long time, I can build trees from those roots. I’m from California, but that doesn’t mean anything about my career.”

As for any long-term plans, Jones said simply : “That’s up to them. The ball is in their court.”

For those wondering, Jones is under team control for two more years.

*Nick Marakakis expects to be limited in Spring Training until the first week of March with the Orioles starting right fielder –coming off abdominal surgery on Jan. 6 – focusing on being 100 percent come Opening Day.

*I wrote earlier this month about manager Buck Showalter’s plans for Mark Reynolds to play third base and Chris Davis to play first. (You can get a refresher on that here.) Showalter stuck by that statement today and Reynolds, to his credit, also stuck by his commitment to conditioning showing up on Saturday an estimated 15-20 pounds lighter.  Davis, who opted to not have sports hernia surgery and has recovered 100 percent from the injury, said he’s very happy with the move given that he’s more comfortable at first base anyways.

*Speaking of weight loss, Tommy Hunter is down to 254 lbs and made it known that he wanted his listed bio weight changed from 280. The outspoken Hunter, who always has a smile on his face, is also on Twitter now. You can follow him @TommyGoesBoom.

*Alfredo Simon, who was in a Dominican Republic jail at this time last season, is down about 10 pounds from the end of 2011 and said he’s preparing as a starter this winter. He’s been working out mostly in Florida and his early bullpens were impressive according to pitching coach Rick Adair. Simon is an interesting case to watch this spring, particularly with so many positions up for grabs.

*Brian Matusz had a good look about him today in talking about his commitment to offseason conditioning and getting back on track. Matusz has been working out with Brady Anderson, along with Hunter, Chris Tillman and Rick VandenHurk and one of the more interesting excercises involves doing handstands to strengthen each pitchers’ shoulders. Matusz said Anderson –recently named Duquette’s special assistant — can hold the position for a solid five minutes and is hands down the most impressive. Another unexpected good handstander? VandenHurk.

*Both Adair and Showalter commented on Jake Arrieta’s early bullpens, which is an encouraging sign for the right-hander coming off elbow surgery. You can read more about Arrieta’s progression and his goals in a story I did here.

Arrieta is throwing earlier than usual to see where he’s at, and one of the more interesting conversations I had today was with Adair, who noted that they were very limited in what Arrieta could do between starts last season. The bone spur that was removed was roughly the size of a golf ball and clearly bothered Arrieta far more than he let on publicly.

*Zach Britton is the opposite; he hasn’t thrown yet and was so over-prepared last season he burnt out down the stretch. Britton has said to me before, and reiterated on Saturday, that he was in midseason form last spring and this year wants to come into camp and build off that in hopes of pitching well the entire season.

*Nolan Reimold has a chance to win the everyday left field job, according to Showalter. While the thought was Reimold would platoon with Endy Chavez, seems now there’s a way he could play his way into a starting job.

It will be a very interesting year for Reimold, who is out of options (meaning he would have to pass through waivers to be sent to the Minors) and looks as if he will get ample opportunity this season to show the organization what he can do.

*Another interesting name to watch? Darren O’Day, who was picked up by the Orioles on waivers this winter. O’Day had hip surgery last April and rushed back, only to struggle mightily upon his return. One of those outings was against Baltimore, when Mark Reynolds clobbered a pair of homers. O’Day said him and Reynolds laughed about it Friday night and he’s glad to have him on his team now instead.

The 29-year-old O’Day –when healthy– has been very successful out of the bullpen, pitching to a 1.94 ERA in 64 appearances for Texas in 2009 and posting a 2.03 ERA in 72 games in ’10.  He could end up being a nice pick up off the scrap heap.

Markakis will be limited in camp, but Opening Day-ready

Nick Marakakis expects to be limited in Spring Training until the first week of March with the Orioles starting right fielder –coming off abdominal surgery on Jan. 6 – focusing on being 100 percent come Opening Day.

Markakis, speaking at the team’s FanFest on Saturday afternoon, said that next month’s camp coincides with the seven-week week mark of his rehab and he will be eased into baseball activities from there. The 28-year-old Markakis is currently doing a lot of aqua therapy to strengthen the lower core and recently incorporated light jogging into his workouts, which is a far cry from his typical offseason activity.

“This could be a good thing,” Markakis said of allowing his body time to heal. “I’ve never actually taken off a full offseason to rest. I talked to Aubrey [Huff] before I had my surgery, and he came off his best year after the surgery, and he was kind of on the same routine I’m on. He rested the whole off-season and he got back in the swing of things after he had his surgery in January. I’m not saying I’m expecting to go out there and have my best year, but we’ll see how things play out and we’ll go from there.”

Markakis suffered the injury — initially diagnosed as a deep bruise until a second MRI revealed further damage – diving for a ball down the right-field line and continued to play the rest of the season. It wasn’t until the Orioles final game that Markakis, who prides himself on never missing time, finally divulged the injury that sent sharp shooting pains throughout his lower abdomen region. Now pain-free, Markakis –one of baseball’s premier defensive outfielders — said Saturday he won’t stop diving for balls.

“It’s fixed now, so if it were to happen again, there’s nothing I can do about it,” he said. “I’m not going to alter the way I play out there.”

A few notes

EDIT- As a few people have pointed out, Guthrie wasn’t on the original autograph list, so he there won’t be any further changes.

*Orioles pitcher Jeremy Guthrie tweeted this morning that he will be unable to attend Saturday’s FanFest due to a “family commitment”. Guthrie joins second baseman Brian Roberts as the latest veteran who will be missing at the annual event.

*A reminder that the deadline to apply for the Orioles open PA announcer job is Jan. 26. The organization has recieved more than 300 entries to date.

*It’s been a slow offseason news-wise, but hearing that Jake Arrieta is on track to be ready for Spring Training has to be some relief for Orioles fans. Arrieta, who had a bone spur removed from his right elbow, has started throwing bullpen this week and said his primary goal is to make it deep into every game this season and post a 200-inning 2012.  It’s been written a million times before, but having Arrieta and some of the O’s other young arms, step up this season would go a long, long way toward the organization’s future success. The full story is up here.

*The Astros designated former Orioles backup catcher Craig Tatum for assignment yesterday.

Updates on Galarraga, Machado and Arrieta

*I’m told that the Orioles haven’t officially reached an agreement with right-hander Armando Galarraga, despite several reports that he signed a Minor League deal.  They are still talking to him and there’s a good chance a deal get’s done, but as of early Wednesday evening there’s no agreement in place.

*In case you missed it, O’s prospect Manny Machado was named the top shortstop prospect in the game. Read more on that here.

*Orioles pitcher Jake Arrieta, coming off season-ending surgery to have a bone spur removed on his right elbow, threw to a a catcher for the first time on Monday and expects to be 100 percent with no restrictions for Spring Training. I’ll have a full story up on Arrieta, his rehab and his goal of reaching the 200-inning mark, up on Orioles.com later today.

 

Os announce changes to FanFest & 2012 Promotions

The Orioles announced changes to their  FanFest autograph lineup yesterday. (My apologies for not passing them along in a more timely manner). Most notably absent will be second baseman Brian Roberts, and the new schedule’s changes are listed in italics below.

STATION 1
11:20: Jim Johnson, Joe Mahoney, Mark Reynolds, Pedro Strop

STATION 2
11:20: Ryan Adams, Jason Berken, Brian Matusz, Alfredo Simon
12:40: Kevin Gregg, Adam Jones, Darren O’Day, Jim Palmer

STATION 3
12:40: Matt Angle, Mike Bordick, Al Bumbry, Nick Markakis
2:00: Jim Johnson, Troy Patton, Buck Showalter, Alfredo Simon
3:20: Mike Bordick, Adam Jones, Joe Mahoney, Brian Matusz

Please call 888-848-BIRD to speak with an Orioles representative if you have any additional questions.

****

And here are the cliff notes on the 2012 promotions schedule…

The highlight of this year’s schedule includes giveaways of replicas of each of the sculptures of the six Hall of Famers who will be honored as part of the Orioles Legends Celebration Series. All fans in attendance at the game in which each sculpture is revealed will receive an exact miniature replica sculpture of FRANK ROBINSON, BROOKS ROBINSON, EARL WEAVER, JIM PALMER, EDDIE MURRAY or CAL RIPKEN on the night he is honored.

The larger-than-life bronze sculptures will be unveiled each month during the season in the order in which each player’s number was retired by the Orioles – Frank Robinson on Saturday, April 28; Brooks Robinson on Saturday, May 12; Earl Weaver on Saturday, June 30; Jim Palmer on Saturday, July 14; Eddie Murray on Saturday, August 11; and Cal Ripken on Thursday, September 6. At each of these games, all fans in attendance will receive the seven to eight inch replica sculpture of the Orioles player being recognized.

*During the early stages of the 2012 season, for the first time in Orioles history, fans will be able to select the player they want to be immortalized in a bobblehead giveaway, scheduled to be distributed during Fan Appreciation Weekend.  The Fans’ Choice Bobblehead presented by AT&T will be given away to the first 20,000 fans 15 and over on Saturday, September 29. More details on the voting process will be announced in the coming weeks.

*Two Birdland favorites return this summer, both featuring the new cartoon bird. First, on Sunday, July 15, the first 15,000 fans 15 and over will receive a Cartoon Bird Home Cap. Then on Friday, July 27, the first 20,000 fans 21 and over will receive an Orioles Maryland Flag Floppy Hat, featuring the cartoon bird logo on the front and a Maryland flag design on the top panel, courtesy of Miller Lite.

*The 2012 promotions schedule also includes several additional apparel giveaways. For Memorial Day weekend on Sunday, May 27, the first 10,000 fans 15 and older will receive an Orioles Camouflage Script T-Shirt. The first 15,000 fans 15 and over will receive a MATT WIETERS orange replica jersey on Friday, July 13. And T-Shirt Thursdays will return each month of the season in 2012, with the first 10,000 fans 15 and over attending the games on April 26, May 10, June 28, July 26, August 9 and September 13 receiving an Orioles t-shirt, with a different design revealed each month.

*On Wednesday, August 15, the first 10,000 fans 14 and under will receive an Orioles Collectible Truck, presented by W.B. Mason. Other promotions designed specifically for younger fans include two post-game Kids Run the Bases events on Sunday, June 24 and Sunday, August 12; Little League Days on Sunday, April 29 and Sunday, May 27; Boy Scout Night on Saturday, May 12; Girl Scout Day on Sunday, June 24; and Day Camper Day on Thursday, July 26. A popular attraction for school groups over the last several years, Field Trip Day presented by MASN & WJZ returns for pre-registered school groups on Wednesday, May 23.

*Other giveaways scheduled for the upcoming season include a 2012 Schedule and Car Magnet, featuring the cartoon bird, for all fans at Opening Day on Friday, April 6; a Mother’s Day Sun Hat for the first 10,000 women 18 and over on Sunday, May 13; a Drawstring Bag presented by MLB Network for the first 10,000 fans on Wednesday, June 13; and an Oriole Park 20th Anniversary Tumbler for the first 10,000 fans 15 and over on Saturday, June 23.

*The family-friendly, post-game Fireworks Nights return on five Friday nights this season – May 25, June 29, July 27, August 24 and September 28. Fireworks will begin shortly after the completion of the 7:05 p.m. games.

*The club’s annual Fan Appreciation Weekend is scheduled for the final home series of the season, September 28-30 against the Boston Red Sox.

Os reportedly add Galarraga

In a continuing effort to add to their starting pitching depth, the Orioles have reportedly agreed to a Minor League contract with right-hander Armando Galarraga.

The news was reported from multiple media outlets in Venezuela on Tuesday –where Galarraga makes his offseason home — and featured in the transactions section of CBSSports.com.

According to the reports, the 30-year-old Galarraga will be at Major League Spring Training. He is coming off a 3-4 season in which he posted a 5.91 ERA in eight starts for the Arizonan Diamondbacks. Galarraga is best known for pitching a near-perfect game while a member of the Detroit Tigers, only to have a blown ninth-inning call ruin his chances.

 

Recapping arbitration

In case you missed it today, the Orioles officially announced that they have agreed to terms on a 2012 contract with three arbitration-eligible players: pitchers Jim Johnson, Willie Eyre and Darren O’Day. More on that here.

That leaves four players who will face a possible arbitration hearing next month: Adam Jones, Jeremy Guthrie, Robert Andino and Brad Bergesen. Below is the list of what each player made in 2011, what the player is seeking, and what the club is offering.  All of the players can continue to negotiate with the club all the way up until their arbitration hearings, which will be scheduled sometime during the first three weeks of February.

Robert Andino  $421,500 (2011) 1,600,000 (player)   1,000,000 (club)

Brad Bergesen     $434,00 (2011) 1,200,000(player) 800,000 (club)

Jeremy Guthrie   $5,750,000 (2011) 10,250,000(player) 7,250,000 (club)

Adam Jones         $3,250,000(2011) 7,400,000(player) 5,000,000 (club)

Peterson finally on board, Os arbitration update

Rick Peterson officially agreed to join the Baltimore Orioles organization on Monday and is expected to serve as the newly-created pitching development coordinator, a hybrid of the Minor League pitching coordinator position that will provide added responsibilities in areas of players development and the farm system.

The long-rumored announcement news was reported as a done deal by MLB.com analyst Jim Duquette, and confirmed by a baseball source to MLB.com. Monday’s news ends a lengthy negotiation process in which Peterson was interviewed several times over a month-and-a-half period before the one-year deal was reached.

Executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette was optimistic throughout the process, saying last week that he felt the two sides would be able to reach a deal. The patience and persistence paid off, netting the Orioles a highly-respected pitching guru in Peterson, who is known for implementing techniques that focus on reducing injury risk.  A former pitching coach with the Oakland Athletics, New York Mets and Milwaukee Brewers, Peterson was let go after the 2010 season when the Brewers made a managerial change.

Peterson will assume the job vacated by Alan Dunn –who left the organization in June 2011 to accept Louisiana State University’s pitching coach job–  although the exact details of his new title and additional responsibilities are still a work in progress.

***

With Tuesday’s noon ET arbitration deadline looming, the Orioles avoided arbitration with two players today: Jim Johnson and Darren O’Day. Johnson will get a substantial raise in 2012, agreeing to a one-year deal worth 2.625 million. He avoided arbitration last season as one of a handful of players eligible for Super Two status (based on service time), and made $975,000.  With the starting pitching depth the Orioles have added, both Duquette and manager Buck Showalter confirmed last week that the organization views Johnson as a bullpen arm, and he’s a strong candidate to take over closing duties. The Baltimore Sun was the first to report the pair of arbitration agreements on Monday.

The Orioles still have four arbitration-eligible players: Jeremy Guthrie, Adam Jones, Robert Andino and Brad Bergesen. If they can’t reach an agreement, each side submits a figure and a hearing is set for next month. However, the two sides can continue to negotiate up to that hearing as well.

A few notes..

I know, I know: it’s NFL playoffs today. But before I head off to watch some football, I wanted to pass along a few quick notes…

*The Orioles have signed Japanese lefty Yoshihiro Doi to a Minor League contract, according to NPB Tracker’s Patrick Newman. The 35-year-old Doi became eligible for international free agency a year ago, but ended up sitting out the 2011 season due to knee problems. I don’t know much about Doi, and it appears he’s been used in a myriad of roles in his career, but I’d guess he’s more of a bullpen guy than more starting depth. Either way, should be an interesting case to watch this spring.

*I keep getting asked about the Orioles’ and free agent Johnny Damon –first rumored by CBS Sports — and was told  they are interested in the veteran. At this point, it’s fair to say they’re kicking the tires of bringing the well-liked Damon aboard. But how much they like him, and whether they are willing to fill the DH role with an aging veteran, remains to be seen.

*Cuban outfielder Yoenis Cespedes told the AP last week that the Orioles are one of the six teams that are most interested  in him. The Orioles –who sent a small contingent to watch Cespedes work out last month are staying mum on the topic and their level of interest, but the organization was very impressed with his workout.  A source said of Cespedes, who became a YouTube sensation, “Let’s put it this way: that video wasn’t exaggerating.”  According to the AP report, the Marlins, Tigers, White Sox, Indians and Cubs are among the other Major League clubs who have shown the most interest in the 27-year-old.

*The next offseason deadline is Tuesday, which is the cutoff for salary figures to be exchanged for arbitration-eligible players. Those players and teams who actually go to hearings will engage in that process from Feb. 1-21 in St. Petersburg, Fla.  For more details and explanation, see the full story on Orioles.com here.

It will be interesting to see how executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette handles the team’s arbitration-eligibles.  Former president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail always prided himself on avoiding having a hearing, and former director of baseball operations Matt Klentak –now the Angels’ assistant GM — played an integral part in helping that process go smoothly.

*Finally, MLB Network has a neat new show going on in Baseball IQ, the Network’s first-ever game show, which premieres Tuesday, January 24 at 9:00 p.m. ET. The show, which began filming this weekend, is a recall-based trivia show featuring two participants, 30 minutes and a chance to win up to $45,000 for charity. Questions will cover all things baseball, from current players and managers to World Series champions, MVPs, Cy Young Award winners, Hall of Famers, milestones and more.

It’s a bracket format that will take place across 31 episodes with one representative from each team. Best of luck to the Orioles participant, coordinator of baseball information Jay Moskowitz. You can find more details on the show here.

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