March 2012

Eveland DFAed, Os claim Wheeler

The Orioles designated Dana Eveland for assignment on Thursday afternoon, claiming Zelous Wheeler on  waivers from the Milwaukee Brewers in a corresponding move. The 28-year-old Eveland pitched Wednesday and afterward said he felt he was out of the starting rotation competition. The journeyman, who has been a part of seven clubs, said the move was a little shocking given the timing but understood the  nature of the business.

“I felt like I could have pitched better,”said Eveland who went 1-2 with a 3.46 ERA in six games (three starts).”I don’t feel like I did bad at all. It’s a tough competition, but we’ve got guys who have to be on the team and I wasn’t one of those guys.

So, I kind of had not much of a shot.”

The move leaves the Orioles with three lefties in camp who could fill a bullpen role: Zach Philips, Troy Patton and Tsuyoshi Wada, although the preference remains for Wada to be a starter. The Orioles acquired Eveland from the Dodgers at December’s Winter Meetings and agreed to terms with him on a one-year, $750,000 deal later in the month. Eveland said he would accept an assignment at Triple-A Norfolk if he clears waivers, and while the team approached him about playing in Japan earlier this spring, he would prefer to stay and keep his family in the United States.

Wheeler, 25, is a .271 hitter with a .371 on-base percentage in five Minor League seasons. He’s primarily a third baseman but has also played shortstop, second base and left field, and dabbled in catching during down time in last year’s Arizona Fall League.

Hardy “no chance” it’s a DL situation

J.J. Hardy received a Cortisone injection in his right shoulder Tuesday to help alleviate nagging discomfort in the area, but the shortstop said Thursday that there’s “no chance” he wouldn’t ready to start the season April 6. Hardy took Wednesday completely off and said he will do the same thing on Thursday. He last played in Monday night’s game against the Pirates and said he’s hoping to “get over the hump” and play on Friday.

“There’s nothing structurally wrong with it, it’s just taking a while to get over the hump,” Hardy said of his shoulder discomfort.  “Every year, I’ve said it before, that I’ve had it and it goes away the first couple of weeks of spring. This year it’s just taking a while. So, we are just basically kind of taking it easy and hopefully a couple days off will get over the hump and I’ll be fine.”

Hardy said he’s hoping when he throws Friday he will feel “like nothing’s wrong” and he will be able to go from there. He has never previously received a cortisone shot in that area. Asked if that meant the discomfort was worse than in previous springs Hardy said not necessarily.

“It just wasn’t going away,” he said. “So it was kind of like, ‘OK we’ve got a week left until the season, I don’t want to be dealing with this once the season starts’. So, if that’s a good thing to do then I’ll do it.”

As for him possibly starting the season on the disabled list, Hardy said there’s no chance.

“Even the way it was this spring I was playing through it,” he said. “I can play through that.”

Hardy is hitting .278 with a .381 on-base percentage, including a  homer  and two RBIs in 36 at bats spread over 13 games. He reiterated Thursday he only feels shoulder discomfort when he throws game-speed and it doesn’t bother him at the plate.

Simon, Eveland struggle

The Orioles starting rotation picture got a little clearer following Wednesday’s 9-3 loss at the Blue Jays, with Dana Eveland and Alfredo Simon both struggling in their respective outings, furthering the idea that both pitchers are a long shot to be in the Opening Day rotation.

Simon — appearing his first game since exiting March 18’s start early with a left groin injury — was tagged with six earned runs on six hits and a walk over two innings and manager Buck Showalter admitted afterward that it would be “a push” for Simon to be ready physically to be in the rotation. Meanwhile, Eveland allowed three runs on six hits over four innings, marking the first time since March 16 that he has gone multiple-innings. Asked where he felt he fit in on the team, Eveland  –who was acquired in an offseason trade with the Dodgers – said he wasn’t sure if the rotation was a possibility.

“Honestly, I can’t see that I would be in the rotation because I haven’t been extended enough,” he said.  “It was my third start of spring but it was my first time really getting extended. I wouldn’t be ready to go seven innings next week, so I don’t know if that is a possibility.

If I could slide into the long relief job or the lefty guy in the pen, that would be great, but we have a lot of great competition in camp,” added Eveland, who has thrown 13 spring innings. “There are four left-handers who could possibly fill in that bullpen job. Who knows what’s going to happen. We’ll see.”

Manager Buck Showalter wasn’t so quick to dismiss Eveland from the starting competition, citing the team’s number of games left and ample opportunity to build up more innings.

“Everybody’s a candidate right now,” Showalter said. “We’ve got time for really two more starts if you look at the fifth starter, but if he sees it that way…I’m not sure. He had 60-some pitches today. If he was a little more efficient with his pitches, he could have pitched five innings today.”

Simon said after Wednesday’s outing that he felt physically OK, and he the right-hander purposely threw a lot of fastballs to make sure he could handle it.  Like Eveland, Simon is out of options –meaning he would have to clear waivers to be sent to the Minor Leagues – and his best shot at making the Opening Day roster seems to be in a long relief role.

Asked if he thought Simon –who has pitched just nine innings this spring — was rusty, Showalter was frank.

“I hope so,” he said.  “He pitched like a guy who had nine days off. He’ll be better next time out.”

Hardy gets cortisone shot

Orioles shortstop J.J. Hardy continues to be bothered by right shoulder discomfort and he received a Cortisone shot Tuesday, according to manager Buck Showalter, to try to expedite the process.

“He’s a little sore from (the injection) today, but he’s getting there,” Showalter said of Hardy, who last played Monday night.  “I’m hoping he’s a Friday player.”

Team orthopedist Dr. John Wilckens examined Hardy’s shoulder Tuesday and Wilckens and head athletic trainer Richie Bancells believe that the cortisone injection should resolve the issue completely.

“Just go ahead and not take any chances [with it],” Showalter said. “Go ahead and get it resolved. [I] hope that’s the case. I’m hoping that he’s a player on Friday.”

Hardy was slowed by the same issue last spring and has said that he deals with shoulder soreness in camp every year. It only effects him throwing at game-speed and isn’t an issue swinging the bat.

Orioles @ Blue Jays

*Shortstop J.J. Hardy has a cortisone shot in his right shoulder on Tuesday and the hope is he can get back into games by Friday. Hardy, who last played Monday at the Pirates, has been dealing with some discomfort in that area when he throws at game speed.

*Tommy Hunter will pitch in a Minor League game on Sunday. Wei-Yin Chen will start the Orioles’ game.

*Jai Miller is DH’ing in his first game back since being sidelined with a knee injury, while Endy Chavez (groin) remains out. Chavez is not on Thursday’s travel roster so you are looking at Friday at the earliest.

*Orioles manager Buck Showalter said yesterday he was sending an “all-prospect” team to Dunedin and he wasn’t kidding. Here’s the O’s lineup for this afternoon, which has been changed because the Blue Jays changed pitchers from Brett Cecil to Ryan Tepera.

ORIOLES LINEUP

Johnny Ruettiger CF
Scott Beerer RF
Ryan Flaherty 1B
Ronny Paulino C
Jai Miller DH
Manny Machado SS
LJ Hoes LF
Jonathan Schoop 2B
Jason Esposito 3B

Dana Eveland LHP

BLUE JAYS LINEUP

Yunel Escobar SS
Kelly Johnson 2B
Jose Bautista Rf
Edwin Encarnacion 1B
Eric Thames LF
Brett Lawrie 3B
J.P. Arencibia C
Colby Rasmus CF
Yan Gomes DH

Ryan Tepera RHP

Post-game notes

*Troy Patton followed Tsuyoshi Wada’s disappointing start with an impressive fourth inning. Patton threw nine pitches, all strikes, and retired the Twins in order including a strikeout of Denard Span. A bullpen hopeful, Patton has not allowed a run in eight games, spanning 9 1/3 spring innings. I wrote more about Patton and the Orioles’ bullpen situation here.

*O’s lefty Wei-Yin Chen, facing the Twins’ Triple-A team, faced 26 batters at Twin Lakes Park and allowed four runs on six hits and two walks with five strikeouts. He threw 85 pitches, 50 strikes and manager Buck Showalter said pitching coach Rick Adair had Chen working on a few things and he told him to not worry about the results.

*Chris Tillman allowed one run over three innings, laboring considerably in the outing. The 23-year-old Tillman allowed three hits and a walk and didn’t have a clean inning until the seventh.

Asked to assess Tillman’s outing, Showalter was frank.

“Little frustrating, for him. And for us a little bit,” Showalter said.  “Coming off  a real impressive outing, had a good last inning, but the level we are getting ready to perform at, our people are, we just got to be a little more consistent than that. The makeup part of it, all the other things, [he's] just inconsistent with a lot of parts of what he’s capable of, and what he needs to bring.

But he’s had some good innings here, and today, showing it at the end. But if you look at the actual body of work and what he gave up, if he would have started that game he would have been out of it in the fourth, fifth inning because of pitch count.”

*Third baseman Mark Reynolds slammed into the concrete wall chasing down a foul pop-up in the sixth inning. and will have a pretty nice bruise on his left knee after today. Reynolds said he was fine and just got a Charley horse, joking afterward that he purposely ran into the wall because didn’t want to travel to tomorrow’s game in Dunedin.

Wada stumbles in first start

Orioles lefty Tsuyoshi Wada struggled mightily in his second Grapefruit League appearance –first start- and was charged with four runs on four hits and a pair of walks against the Minnesota Twins Tuesday afternoon.

Wada was pulled after three innings (the team wanted him to originally go four) in a subpar outing that he admitted could cost him a chance at heading north. Here’s what he had to say about the 62-pitch start, with athletic trainer Seob Yoon serving as the interpreter…

[On how he felt this afternoon]  “It didn’t go that well. I’m not satisfied.”

[on what went wrong?]  “I wasn’t able to throw correctly with my normal form today. The first-pitch strike with the fastball I pitched was hit easily. I have to work on it more.”

[on issuing two walks in the second] “I was missing a lot of two-seamers in the second inning. I couldn’t throw a strike, a lot of walks in that inning. That inning wasn’t good, I feel really bad for the position players about it. I said sorry about it.”

[on if this outing was a step back in his progress this spring] “I think so. If I keep pitching like this, I know I won’t be able to throw and be in the starting rotation, I might not even be able to throw in general  [for the Orioles] if I keep up throwing like this. I have to work on it.”

[physically-ok?] “Yeah, physically I am fine.”

[is this an adjustment to make?] “For today, first-pitch strike was getting hit, the two-seamer I couldn’t throw for a strike. I have to work on that adjustment so I can throw a lot more innings and pitch better next time.”

[on if he felt uncomfortable on the mound] “I was trying to have fun today, and it wasn’t awkward or anything. I liked the atmosphere, I was really looking forward to pitching today. That’s why I feel sorry for the crowd that came here to watch me.”

[on if he feels he’s running out of time to make the team] “Yes, I do.”

[elbow issue a cause of being behind and throwing bad?] “Today’s pitching is not because of that. I don’t want it to be because of that.”

Orioles @ Twins

*Tsuyoshi Wada will make his first Grapefruit League start against the Twins this afternoon. As I blogged yesterday, Wada’s performance today will be important in determining his role on the team. He does have to approve to be sent to Triple-A, and right now could slot in as a long reliever or starter on the team’s Opening Day roster, although the preference remains for him to start. Wada last pitched three innings in a Minor League game on Thursday and he could get two more starts after today, according to manager Buck Showalter.

*Showalter hasn’t officially named his Opening Day starter, but there’s been some clues lately that have added to the speculation that it will be Jake Arrieta. You can read more on that here.

*Not much in the way of pregame news today, but here are your lineups…

ORIOLES LINEUP

Nolan Reimold LF
Nick Johnson DH
Adam Jones CF
Matt Wieters C
Mark Reynolds 3B
Wilson Betemit RF
Chris Davis 1B
Robert Andino SS
Ryan Flaherty 2B

Tsuyoshi Wada LHP

TWINS LINEUP

Denard Span CF
Jamey Carroll SS
Joe Mauer 1B
Justin Morneau Dh
Luke Hughes 3B
Chris Parmelee RF
Ben Revere Lf
J.R. Towles C
Alexi Casilla 2B

RHP Anthony Swarzak

Opening Day hint?

The Orioles will have Brian Matusz start Friday, which pushes Jake Arrieta back to Saturday, possibly lining up the 26-year-old Arrieta for April 6′s Opening Day on five days’ rest. Arrieta has been heavily speculated as the Orioles’ choice to start the season, although manager Buck Showalter has remained mum on naming an official Opening Day starter. Showalter did confirm after Friday’s game that Arrieta would start Saturday’s game against the Pirates’ split-squad.

Right now, the rotation looks to be Jake Arrieta, Wei-Yin Chen, Jason Hammel and Tommy Hunter with Brian Matusz a strong candidate for the fifth spot and  Wada, Simon, Dana Eveland and Chris Tillman also possibilities.

You can read about Hunter’s outing tonight here.

*Also, it’s worth noting that reliever Jim Johnson topped out at 94 mph with his fastball in the seventh inning tonight. Johnson, who allowed an unearned run, said Friday  that he was confident he would be back to regular-season form for Opening Day. Seems he’s getting better every time out, which is certainly good news for the Orioles.

Hunter throws six scoreless

Orioles starter Tommy Hunter turned in a stellar second Grapefruit League start Monday night, holding the Pittsburgh Pirates to just one hit over six scoreless innings.

Hunter issued a leadoff walk to Alex Presley but erased it with a double play ball and proceeded to strike out Andrew McCutchen on three pitches. He cruised from there, retiring 9 of the next 10 batters –the lone except reaching on error – until Neil Walker broke through with a double that centerfielder Adam Jones appeared to have lost in the lights.

“I threw against these guys, two years ago maybe, 2010. So, [I] wasn’t too familiar with them,” said Hunter, who got into an early rhythm with catcher Matt Wieters. “I go, ‘Wiety I’m all you, all game’. We threw a couple back-to-back 0-0 changeup sand then [a] 1-0 changeup too. So, we worked on a couple things to that kind of made me smile out there on the mound. But, all in all, it felt good.

The 25-year-old Hunter, who was slowed earlier this spring with lower back discomfort, said in his previous outing that he needed to work on location, which was much improved in Monday’s outing. Of the 70 pitches he threw, 48 were strikes and his only walk was to Presley.

Asked if he felt like he  had caught up to the other starters this spring in terms of workload, Hunter  –who has also made several Minor League appearances – said he was right on track.

“l definitely [have] something to work on from here,” said Hunter, who allowed two runs over five innings on Wednesday, and finished up Monday’s outing with 15 additional fastball in the bullpen.  “It was definitely fun. This was baseball, going out for six innings and still having something left.”

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