March 2012

Matusz’s fourth start

Making his fourth start of the season, Orioles lefty Brian Matusz allowed one run over five innings to a Philadelphia Phillies squad with three projected regulars (four if you count Freddy Galvis now that Chase Utley is out).

Matusz wasn’t particularly impressive, but he did manage to work his way out of several jams, getting three double play-balls and scattering seven hits and a walk in the 65-pitch outing. His fastball was consistently in the 91-92 range on the Ed Smith Stadium radar gun and he made a nice snag on Luis Montanez’s comebacker to the mound to end the fifth inning.

Matusz surrendered a first-inning run on former teammate Ty Wigginton’s one-out RBI single, snapping a stretch of eight scoreless frames over two spring starts prior to Tuesday. In addition to giving up seven hits, Matusz got pretty lucky on John Mayberry Jr.’s fourth-inning ball which was crushed to left-field but kept in the ballpark given the strong wind. Still, you have to think Matusz has done enough so far this spring to make a solid case for him being in the rotation.

Britton to see Dr. Andrews

Orioles lefty Zach Britton will see Dr. James Andrews on Wednesday morning in Pensacola, Fla. for a second opinion on his left shoulder inflammation. Britton said he just wants another look at his arm, given that he keeps dealing with the same inflammation. The 24-year-old Britton reiterated he won’t be ready for Opening Day, and right now the focus in on getting 100 percent healthy rather than rushing a return.

For more on Britton, you can click here to read my story from yesterday, which details his latest setback and MRI results, which don’t show any structural damage or tears in his shoulder area.

 

Orioles vs Phillies lineups & pregame tidbits

*Nick Markakis will make his first start in right field this afternoon.

*In case you missed it, Orioles lefty Zach Britton will see Dr. James Andrews in Pensacola Wednesday morning for a second opinion on his shoulder. Britton said yesterday that Opening Day is probably not going to happen, and you can read more about his injury status here.

*Jason Berken and Darren O’Day both threw bullpens this morning and the pair of relievers –who have been slowed by injury– will get into a Minor League game on Thursday.

*Tsuyoshi Wada will also pitch in that game, going three innings or 45 pitches, whatever comes first. Manager Buck Showalter said Wada is still a rotation candidate and he could get up to the 5 or 6 innings needed to be part of the team’s starting five.

*Speaking of heading north, the Orioles’ decision-makers will sit down after today’s game and make some cuts. The roster is at 46 right now, and Showalter said the team could get down under 40.

Here are your lineups…

ORIOLES LINEUP
Nolan Reimold LF
Nick Johnson DH
Nick Markakis RF
Adam Jones CF
Matt Wieters C
J.J. Hardy SS
Mark Reynolds 3B
Chris Davis 1B
Robert Andino 2B

Brian Matusz LHP
PHILLIES LINEUP
Freddy Galvis 2B
Lou Montanez LF
Hunter Pence RF
Ty Wigginton 1B
John Mayberry Jr. CF
Carlos Ruiz C
Kevin Frandsen 3B
Michael Martinez SS
Roy Halladay SP

Arrieta throws in a Minors’ game

Orioles pitcher Jake Arrieta threw four extended innings in a Minor League game on Monday, recording 16 outs and throw more than 60 pitches as he continues to build up toward the regular season.

“Today was primarily getting my work in out of the stretch, getting more comfortable with my timing,” said Arrieta, who was consistently in the 94-95 mph range with his fastball. “I changed my hand position a little bit, brought them in closer to the body. I’m a little bit taller over the rubber and it’s really helping me load and finish all my pitches and command the strike zone the way I can out of the windup.”

Arrieta has made it a point to work on improving his timing to the plate –he’s now at about a 1.2 as opposed to a 1.6 – and said Monday that he felt his tempo was much better than his last spring start.  After shutting out the Rays in his first two innings, Arrieta allowed four runs over 2 2/3 innings against the Phillies and said standing more narrow on the mound with his hands closer to his body has helped keep his upper and lower half in better sync.

Arrieta faced the Minnesota Twins Class A team and stayed on the field longer almost every inning to get his work in, with pitching coach Rick Adair, bullpen coach Bill Castro and manager Buck Showalter all on hand.

Asked if he liked where he was at, Arrieta said Monday was a “very good sign” and that he felt fresh from start to finish.

“I commanded the ball very well today, and the sinker was exceptional,” he said. I actually threw some backdoor sliders to left-handed hitters, [which is] something that I wouldn’t normally do until the season. Being able to command that pitch this early is going to be big for me.

“I’m ahead of schedule. I’m right where I need to be. My pitch count will get up, I would assume 80-90 pitches for the first start of the year. And like I told you guys before, I haven’t felt this good, and it still stays true. I feel good about it.”

Coming off of surgery to remove a bone spur on his right elbow, Arrieta has been a full-go since Day 1 of camp, and pointed out Monday morning how refreshing it is to not have to stretch and flex his elbow in between innings to stay loose.

“It’s a non-issue now,” he said of the procedure, which was done in August. “My first couple times out on the rubber, throwing close to full-speed, I had a little hesitation, a little unknown there in the back of my mind about how it was going to feel when I did let it go, especially on my breaking balls. But I was letting it go 90-95 percent today with no signs of pain. I’m very happy where I’m at.”

Britton: It would be “really hard” to envision being ready for Opening Day

Orioles pitcher Zach Britton continues to deal with left shoulder inflammation, the latest case which will likely cost the 24-year-old lefty a chance at being part of the Opening Day rotation.

“Personally, it would be tough for me to be ready to start the season,” said Britton, who was scratched from Monday’s Minor League start because of inflammation that developed Saturday night.

“There’s always that chance that you could be, but it’s really hard for me to envision being ready for Opening Day, especially not facing Major League hitters or even going more than two innings [this spring].  Everything would have to go perfectly, so I don’t think so.”

The Orioles best starter last spring, Britton made the team after an injury to Brian Matusz and he went 4-1 with a 2.84 ERA in his first five Major League starts. Britton –who has been dealing with the same left shoulder inflammation since August – said it’s been a frustrating spring for him as the team tries to figure out the exact nature of his injury.

“We went over the MRI again [on Sunday] and still from the pictures everything looks good in my shoulder, no tears, no nothing,” said Britton, who was reexamined by team orthopedist Dr. John Wilckens after he called head athletic trainer Richie Bancells Saturday night when he started to feel shoulder discomfort.  “Something in there is causing inflammation and it’s just trying to figure out what it is.”

Britton arrived to Sarasota early this spring to continue his offseason rehab program and the team had remained cautiously optimistic that he would be able to compete for a starting rotation spot in camp. He threw two innings in a Minor League game last week and there were tentative plans –if he made it through Monday’s game – for Britton to make his Grapefruit League debut at some point this week. But after throwing Saturday’s bullpen, the familiar inflammation crept back up and Britton called Bancells a few hours later.

“It’s been really frustrating,” Britton said of his spring. “Everyone’s going ‘Your MRI looks great, your arm strength looks good’, I’ve had 2, 3, 4 weeks of good progress and all of a sudden it comes right back.

If it was a tear, we would know how to treat it.  We just don’t know what it is, and it is frustrating to treat it because we are going to try a couple things now… If it was the season definitely I could be on a medication and try to throw through it, but at this point there’s no reason to push it and wind up with the same issue a month or two into the season.”

Britton received treatment on his shoulder on Monday morning and the plan right now is just to rest, see how he feels, and take it from there.  Britton –who hasn’t had any shoulder issues in his career up until now — said the good news is his velocity and command hasn’t been affected by the injury and the organization is taking a cautious stance in trying to completely get rid of the inflammation rather than just trying to manage it.

“If I’m not ready then I’ll [go to extended spring] or Triple-A to start the season,” said Britton. “But it’s beneficial to get everything down now, rather than have this issue creep back up a month or two into the year and have to go on the 15-day disabled list. I don’t want to have to deal with that.”

After jumping out to a great start, Britton tired down the stretch, landing on the DL with left shoulder inflammation in August and ending his rookie season 11-11 with a 4.61 ERA in 28 starts. The hope is he can avoid a similar fate this year by getting healthy and staying strong throughout the season.

“I want just to pitch without any inflammation,” he said. “They just want to get it calmed down and [on Tuesday] we will talk about what the next step is. Me and Dr. Wilckens are on the same page in trying to figure out what it is and not trying to rush back.”

Arrieta on his outing, time to the plate and Opening Day

Orioles starter Jake Arrieta, coming off a solid spring debut, struggled in the second inning allowing the first four batters to reach base safely and leading to a four-run frame.  Arrieta went 2 2/3 innings, allowing four runs on five hits to go along with four strikeouts and was pleased with how he did in the first and third innings, noting that at times his tempo was out of whack.

Here’s what he had to say about his outing and making an effort to improve his time to the plate this winter…

[on the four-run second inning]: “I made quite a few good pitches, primarily when there were guys on second and third and no outs. Got those two big strikeouts. But the big thing in the second inning was just my timing in the stretch. Lower body and upper body were really out of sync and the main reason that was because, now that I’m a lot quicker to the plate this year, I have to generate more tempo and more rhythm with my upper body because my lower body, now that I’m a 1.2 to the plate as opposed to last year being a 1.6, there’s just a timing there and you’ve got to find that happy medium . When your upper body start clicking with your lower body, then things will kind of start falling into place. That’s the big adjustment I have to make this spring is trying to get those two in sync.”
[on what caused his body to be out of sync this afternoon] “I think it’s just a matter of repetition, just continue to work on it. In the offseason that was one of my main focuses and I knew that if I wasn’t under a 1.4 to the plate at the big league level, guys are just going to take advantage of that. Now being a 1.1 to a 1.2 really takes a lot of the running game out of the equation for a lot of the teams. Because of that, it’s going to help me be a lot more successful, keep those guys from getting big leads and avoid the stolen base attempt and constant throw overs because I am quicker. And really what it all boils down to is presetting my push off leg and being able to just pretty much lift and go to the plate.”

[on how it feels to throw pain-free]“It feels great. I was real happy with a lot today, especially the way I was able to throw out of the windup. Everything in the windup was incredible. It’s just a matter of finding that rhythm and that tempo from the stretch. And once I find that, things will really get rolling.”

[on if he’s thought about possibly starting Opening Day]: “Yeah, I think about it a little bit. I think a lot of guys do. It’s something that I’ve been thinking about for quite a while. We all knew that once Jeremy was traded, that spot was pretty much up for grabs. That’s really what we’re competing for. But the camaraderie  in our clubhouse, especially with the starting pitchers, we compete day in and day out with each other and whoever gets the nod, we’ll all be happy for him.”

[on being disappointed to not finish the third inning] “Not necessarily. I was just happy to…not necessarily happy to be in situations like that where I needed to work on things…but when the situation did arise, I really had to bear down and try to work through a jam there. My tempo just wasn’t good and that’s what led to the four-run second inning. But I bounced back in the third inning, and I think it was just a matter of pitch count. I think on Monday I’ll probably go four innings, so I think they’re just being cautious at this point in time.”

Markakis on his spring debut

Nick Markakis, serving as the DH, struck out in his first spring at-bat in the first inning and grounded out to first base in the second.  He reached on a fifth-inning walk, but never advanced. Markakis, who estimated he needed between 20-25 at-bats said everything felt good and he will take two days off and play again on Saturday. The biggest hurdle remains him playing the field, which he is slated to do on March 20.

Here’s what he had to say afterward…

[on finally playing] “I was just happy to get out there get some, at-bats and start this thing off right. And get it going in the right direction.”

[plan today?] “I just wanted to see one pitch. And, you know, timing’s a little off but that can be fixed pretty easy. Overall, I felt fine.”

[on if he is in any pain] “Yes I am, no pain. The biggest thing was I wasn’t too worried about baseball activity, I just wanted to see how my body would react to my natural reactions. It was fine, I didn’t get to run. But we still got time for that.

I would have liked to have run, just to see where I’m at. I ran the bases a lot prior to this and, you know, I think I’m where I want to be right now.”

[biggest challenge right field?]  “Yeah, I’d say so. Get my natural reaction of going side-to-side and see how I feel. Everything’s fine right now, it’s just a matter of getting in that situation and testing it.”

[on if he was overthinking his at-bats]

“I wasn’t up there thinking too much. I thought more about it on base. It’s one of those things you are just going to have to get used to and it is what it is when that point comes.”

[timetable good right now?] Yeah, I’m happy where I am right now. I’m not too far ahead and I’m not far back. I’m right where I want to be and just got to continue to get better and go out there and play.

[on how many at-bats he needs to be ready come April 6] “20-25.  And the way the schedule plays out right now I’d be getting right at that, so I’m pretty happy with it.”

[on what he thinking on the basepaths] “Just my crossover. My left leg over in front. It’s just one of those things that’s going to have to have to happen and we will see what happens when it happens.”

Orioles vs. Pirates (updated)

*Nolan Reimold and his wife are expecting their second child this weekend, with labor scheduled to be induced on 12:30 p.m. ET on Friday. He will rejoin the team for Sunday afternoon’s game in Orlando against the Braves, according to manager Buck Showalter.

*Taylor Teagarden got an epidural injection in his lower back, and he will be sidelined for a while as he rehabs back from that. The easiest way to describe what’s going on is a herniated disc in Teagarden’s back. As for his Opening Day readyiness being in jeopardy,  Showalter acknowledged it may be and that the team will have a better idea in the next week.

Ronny Paulino, who is the team’s backup catcher right now, will catch the final part of this afternoon’s game and start Thursday in Lakeland.

*Jake Arrieta and Zach Britton will both pitch in Monday’s Minor League game at Twin Lakes Park. The Orioles have a scheduled off day and will use their Class-A game as a chance to stretch out both guys. Britton is slated to throw two innings in a Minor League game on Thursday.

*Tsuyoshi Wada could also get in Monday’s game, and will be reevaluated on Thursday after throwing a 33-pitch simulated game this morning. Pitching coach Rick Adair said Wada’s location was much better than expected and he will throw next on Sunday or Monday. As for whether Wada has enough time to compete for a starting rotation spot, Adair said that remains “a possibility” as long as Wada is healthy. There has been talk about Wada possibly being used as a reliever, but I think right now the organization will at least give him a look as a starter, before making that decision even if Wada starts the year on the DL in extended spring.

*As expected, Nick Markakis is in the lineup for his spring debut at designated hitter. Markakis has been swinging the bat for a few weeks and the bigger test will come when he plays the field on March 20. He has said that moving side-to-side defensively remains the biggest issue, although the Orioles’ current plan for Markakis will have him ready for April 6’s Opening Day.

*Ryan Flaherty who is competing for one of the team’s bench spots will get some time at first base this spring, according to manager Buck Showalter. Flaherty, who is a utility guy capable of playing the infield and outfield, said he played 4-5 games at first in Triple-A last year. He also played it some as a college freshman at Vanderbilt.

*Good to see Willie Eyre in the clubhouse today after dealing with a scary situation yesterday that involved his three-year-old daughter Lily being found in the pool. Eyre said Lily is back with his family and she’s doing fine. Eyre will pitch on Friday in Fort Myers.

*In case you missed it yesterday, I wrote about new reliever Luis Ayala, who is sharing his experiences and helping his new teammates any way he can. You can read that full story here.

ORIOLES LINEUP
Endy Chavez RF
J.J. Hardy SS
Nick Markakis DH
Matt Wieters C
Adam Jones CF
Nick Johnson 1B
Mark Reynolds 3B
Nolan Reimold LF
Robert Andino 2B

Jake Arrieta RHP

PIRATES LINEUP

Alex Presley LF
Jose Tabata RF
Andrew McCutchen CF
Neil Walker 2B
Garrett JOnes 1B
Pedro Alvarez 3B
Clint Barnes SS
Michael McKenry C

James MacDonald RHP

A few post game notes

A few items following the Orioles’ and Rays’ 7-7 tie this afternoon..(which you can read more about on Orioles.com.)

*Taylor Teagarden had a CT scan on his back on Tuesday, and manager Buck Showalter confirmed the backup catcher will “be out for a while”. Teagarden visited a specialist on Tuesday to discuss treatment options after having an MRI performed on the area on Monday. Showalter said earlier on Tuesday that surgery wasn’t an option that was being discussed, although the team plans to have a clearer picture of Teagarden’s timeline in the next few days.

Ronnie Paulino, who played in his first game today at DH, is considered third on the catch depth chart but he’s rising quick. Paulino missed half of camp with visa issues, and that he could be the team’s backup catcher –depending on Teagarden’s health — speaks to the organization’s lack of depth.

*Nick Markakis, who will make his spring debut at DH tommorow, is slated to make his first start in right field on March 20.

*Showalter mentioned yesterday and again today that Ryan Flaherty is a fill-in 1B option.  Flaherty, the Orioles’ Rule-5 pick, will get work there in some upcoming spring games. He’s had a nice spring so far, particularly on the offensive side, including a game-tying two-run homer in the ninth inning today.

*Reliever Willie Eyre left the team before batting practice on Tuesday to tend to his three-year-old daughter, Lily, who his wife found in the pool. Lily was taken to a local hospital and X-rays came back negative. She is recovering well.

Orioles vs. Rays (updated)

*Good to see Brian Roberts out on the field taking pregame batting practice. While Roberts has done coaches’ BP and taken infield on the backs fields, it’s considered incremental progress that he was out with the O’s regulars getting ready as if he was playing in the game.

*Taylor Teagarden (lower back) went to see a specialist today to discuss some other treatment options after getting an MRI on the area yesterday. Right now, surgery is not one of them.

*Darren O’Day is still sidelined with a groin issue, but manager Buck Showalter said the team feels they might have caught it early enough that it’s not anything serious.

*Nolan Reimold is back in the lineup for the first time since taking a pitch to the left cheek from Rays’ righty Alex Cobb. Reimold had one of his back molars fixed at the dentist on Monday and also worked out with no problems. He said today he doesn’t plan on wearing any protective shield over the area.

*Matt Lindstrom (lower back) will get into Wednesday’s game for the first time since dealing with some back spasms. Nick Markakis is also slated to make his Grapefruit League debut at designated hitter.

*Troy Patton, who had his appearance pushed back because of some arm fatigue, said he’s fine and will throw today.

*The Orioles will make the next round of cuts on Wednesday or Thursday.

*Always good to see the Rays, where I got my start in 2008, and former-Oriole Luke Scott has made the trip to Sarasota here today. Don Zimmer, one of the Rays special assistants, said Nick Johnson told him that his wrist hasn’t felt this good in years. Johnson echoed that sentiment to Showalter, and if healthy he’s a strong candidate to make the Orioles out of camp. Zimmer, a baseball lifer, called Johnson one of his favorite players, which is definitely high praise.

Here are your lineups….

ORIOLES LINEUP

Nolan Reimold LF
Robert Andino 2B
Adam Jones CF
Chris Davis 1B
Matt Wieters C
J.J. Hardy SS
Mark Reynolds 3B
Ronny Paulino DH
Jai Miller RF

Jason Hammel RHP

RAYS LINEUP
Sam Fuld CF
Carlos Pena 1B
Evan Longoria 3B
Luke Scott DH
Matt Joyce RF
Sean Rodriguez 2B
Jose Molina C
Reid Brignac SS
Brandon Guyer LF

David Price LHP

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