April 2012

Hammel’s night

What will get lost in the Orioles’ 2-1 loss (and shouldn’t) is the performance of Jason Hammel, who turned in another quality start Monday night. Hammel held a lethal Yankees lineup in check over six innings, allowing five hits and two walks in his first loss this season. His one mistake was a two-seamer that never moved and Eric Chavez crushed for a two-run homer.

Making his first start against the Yankees in more than four years, Hammel — who has been the Orioles’ most effective starter  — kept right on rolling in giving Baltimore six strong innings. He hasn’t allowed more than six hits in a single start so far this year. Hammel was, as manager Buck Showalter pointed out, the reason they were in that game and he continues to show signs of being a reliable rotation guy this season. The 29-year-old has allowed two earned runs or less and pitched at least five innings in all five games this year and is 3-1 with a 1.97 ERA.

It’s still very early in the season, but Hammel’s rediscovering of the two-seamer — which, for the most part has been highly effective — and his newfound confidence really have him looking like a different pitcher than in years past. I covered him as an associate reporter for the Tampa Bay Rays in 2008 and, to me, he just looks like a different guy on the mound. Twice tonight two New York reporters brought up the same point.

Hammel has 30 strikeouts and 10 walks over his first 32 innings.

Bundy update

Orioles top pitching prospect Dylan Bundy tossed four scoreless innings Monday night in a start against the Rockies’ affiliate the Asheville Tourists. Bundy allowed his first hit as a pro and issued a walk, but faced the minimum batters thanks to a pair of double plays. The 19-year-old Bundy has thrown 17 scoreless innings to start his career, with 25 strikeouts and two walks.

Right now, the Orioles are being cautious with Bundy who is at low-A with Delmarva and he’s being asked to work on his changeup and not just rely on his fastball. While his promotion is a given –several, probably — it doesn’t appear to be on the immediate horizon to move Bundy to high-A Frederick.

Orioles @ Yankees lineups and pregame tidbits

Greetings from Yankee Stadium, where the Orioles open a six-game road trip with three games in New York and three in Boston (following Thursday’s off day). I’ve been on a brief hiatus from the beat, but am back and so are the daily blogs and continual Twitter updates to complement coverage on Orioles.com.

The O’s are coming off a 5-1 homestand, with series wins over Toronto and Oakland, and these next few weeks will be a big test to see where this Baltimore club is at. Here are a few pregame notes

*Brian Roberts is with the team in New York as he continues to travel on road trips and work out in progressing back from a concussion. Roberts was one of several Orioles out for early extra batting practice at Yankee Stadium, along with Nick Johnson, Mark Reynolds, Ryan Flaherty, Wilson Betemit, Nick Markakis, Mark Reynolds, Ronny Paulino and J.J. Hardy. There is still no timetable for Roberts’ return or any idea –beyond just guesses– as to when he could go out on a rehab assignment.

*Orioles lefty Zach Britton (shoulder impingement) threw his second bullpen session in extended spring this morning and he will throw another one on Wednesday before getting into a simulated game in extended spring Saturday. The 24-year-old Britton threw 50 pitches and said afterwards everything felt great. Britton’s schedule is largely up in the air depending on how he feels, but early June seems like a pretty good guess at this point. He threw his first bullpen — around 35 pitches — on Friday, throwing mostly fastballs with a few changeups mixed in.

*Closer Jim Johnson is available tonight and will be used in a save situation if necessary tonight. Johnson, who last pitched April 22, has been sidelined with food poisoning and was in the hospital for several days last week. He has throw a few times since and said Monday he feels like his old self again.

*Also, Orioles manager Buck Showalter is one win away from his 1,000th career victory. Will it come tonight? Showalter, who got his start in New York, got his first career managerial win as the Yankees skipper on April 7, 1992.

*No word on Orioles left-hander Tsuyoshi Wada, who flew to Los Angeles on Sunday for a second opinion on his ailing left elbow with Dr. Lewis Yocum. Showalter said Wada’s appointment was today but hadn’t gotten any word on how it went.

ORIOLES LINEUP

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

Jason Hammel RHP

YANKEES LINEUP
Derek Jeter SS
Curtis Granderson CF
Alex Rodriguez DH
Robinson Cano 2B
Mark Teixeira 1B
Raul Ibanez RF
Eric Chavez 3B
Russell Martin C
Eduardo Nunez LF

Hiroki Kuroda RHP

Matusz, Anderson make hospital visit

Teaming-up with the Casey Cares Foundation yesterday, Orioles pitcher Brian Matusz and special assistant Brady Anderson visited sick children in the pediatric oncology clinic at the Herman and Walter Samuelson Children’s Hospital at Sinai.  (Click the photo above for a larger shot.)

Staying several hours, they took their time to talk to each of the patients, autographing and distributing over 200 t-shirts, bandanas and pins to the children and their siblings while giving them words of encouragement. The Casey Cares Foundation provides uplifting programs with a special touch to critically ill children and their families.  To learn more, visit CaseyCares.org.

Britton to throw first bullpen Friday

Orioles left-handed pitcher Zach Britton will throw his first bullpen session on Friday in Sarasota, as the 24-year-old continues to progress back from left shoulder impingement that put him on the disabled list to start the season. Britton, who has been on a long toss program at the team’s spring facility, has reported no problems in his recovery and his first ‘pen was actually moved up a day from its original schedule, which is encouraging news. He will throw between 20-25 pitches, with the plan being mostly fastballs with some changeups mixed in.

Britton received two rounds of platelet rich plasma (PRP) therapy last month, a new and increasingly popular procedure that he hopes will help heal the inflammation in his left shoulder that has plagued him since August. The plan for him moving forward remains very tentative, but the organization should have a better idea when to expect after he throws a few bullpens in the next week. Britton would need 20-25 days on rehab assignment to build up innings wise, so my best guess –and that’s really all it is — is an early June return.

The PRP procedure consists of putting the patient’s blood through a centrifuge to isolate platelets and growth factors. Those are then injected back into the injured area to accelerate both healing and tissue growth.

Britton went 11-11 with a 4.61 ERA in his rookie season in 2011.

 

A few off day notes (updated)

*Following Sunday’s 3-2, 10-inning win, the Orioles are off today after arriving back in Baltimore from the West Coast, where they finished a 10-game road trip 6-4.

Here are a few notes and stories to keep you going until Tuesday’s homestand begins…

*I keep getting questions on the progress of Orioles lefty Zach Britton, who is working closely with Chris Correnti in Sarasota. Britton has been building up arm strength since getting platelet rich plasma treatment in his left shoulder and until he starts to throw bullpens it’s impossible to handicap when he might return. However, it is important to note that he hasn’t had any setbacks so far and hasn’t needed to schedule a return visit to Dr. James Andrews, who performed the PRP. Correnti has remained in contact with Andrews and right now Britton isn’t in any pain, so the treatment appears to be working.

*New Oriole reliever Matt Lindstrom is focused on using all of his pitches and avoiding a pattern of predictability as a fastball-only guy. His command has improved the past few seasons as a result and Lindstrom, who hails from Idaho and speaks fluent Swedish, has a pretty interesting story. You can more about him here.

*In Minor League news, the Orioles released right-handed pitcher Ross Wolf from Double-A Bowie  and have signed Bill Hall to a Minor League deal that is expected to be made official on Tuesday. Hall, a utility player who elected free agency after not making the Yankees, played for the Giants and Astros last season. The 32-year-old would presumably add depth organizationally and the Orioles like his defense at third base and power against left-handed pitching.

*Finally, Orioles lefty pitcher Dontrelle Willis has  left Triple-A Norfolk without the organization’s permission after being placed on the Minor League restricted list. Willis was signed to a Minor League deal by Baltimore after being released this spring by the Phillies. Orioles executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette confirmed the news, first reported by CBSSports.com, and said there are no plans for the team to release Willis who is currently on the restricted list.

 

Showalter ejected

Orioles manager Buck Showalter was ejected two outs into the sixth inning of Sunday’s game against the Angels for arguing balls and strikes. Showalter was tossed immediately upon coming on the field by home plate umpire Angel Campos, after the O’s manager came out to voice his displeasure on the first strike called on Nick Markakis.

Replays showed the first pitch by Angels starter Dan Haren was outside, in the other batter’s box, and Showalter spoke with Campos and crew chief Dale Scott for several minutes after he was ejected. It was Showalter’s first ejection of the season — the 20th of his career — and comes on the heels of him voicing his displeasure over the strike zone in the first two games of the series.

At the time Showalter was tossed, the Orioles were down 1-0.  Markakis struck out for the second consecutive at-bat, stranding a runner at first.

Orioles @ Angels lineups and pregame tidbits

*Nolan Reimold is out of the starting lineup with neck spasms again, and manager Buck Showalter said he’s available in some capacity if needed. Reimold has missed three of the team’s last four games with the injury, but Showalter said on Sunday Reimold is getting better.

ANGELS LINEUP

Erick Aybar SS
Howie Kendrick 2B
Albert Pujols DH
Torii Hunter Rf
Mark Trumbo 1B
Vernon Wells Lf
Alberto Callaspo 3B
Bobby Wilson
Peter Bourjos CF

Dan Haren RHP

ORIOLES LINEUP

Endy Chavez LF
J.J. Hardy SS
Nick Markakis RF
Adam Jones CF
Chris Davis 1B
Mark Reynolds DH
Wilson Betemit 3B
Ronny Paulino C
Robert Andino 2B

Wei-Yin Chen LHP

Showalter on Arrieta: ‘It’s time to win those type of games’

Orioles manager Buck Showalter was clearly disappointed in right-hander Jake Arrieta’s outing Saturday night, a fact evidence by his post-game quotes in Baltimore’s 6-3 loss. The thing that strikes me the most about what Showalter said was that in last night’s game he praised Brian Matusz for making progress after going five innings and seemed much less willing to publicly criticize.

Meanwhile, Arrieta — who was dominant through four innings and than fell apart — seems to be held to a higher standard, with Showalter making it clear there was “no way” Arrieta shouldn’t have made it through five innings.

“He’s not a young pitcher anymore, alright?,”  Showalter said of the 26-year-old Arrieta, who was the Orioles’ Opening Day starter and had quality starts in two of his first three games heading into Saturday.  “It’s time to win those type of games. We shouldn’t have that type of problems we had. We need a shutdown inning there [in the fifth] and let’s go.  He’s had enough experience to get through that. And he will.”

Working with a two-run lead courtesy of Matt Wieters’ homer in the top of the inning, Arrieta took the mound to start the fifth inning with just 51 pitches thrown and just one baserunner allowed. He had allowed a leadoff single to Erick Aybar –committing a throwing error on a pickoff play — but retired the next 12 straight before Torii Hunter’s single to open the fifth.

The inning went downhill in a hurry. Hunter advanced to second on Arrieta’s second error  — both attempted pickoff throws — and took third on a wild pitch, scoring on Mark Trumbo’s RBI single. Arrieta walked two of the next three batters, and the Angels put together a five-run frame on five singles and three walks before the second out was recorded.

“I hate to think that was it,” Showalter said when asked about the possibility of Arrieta’s second error causing the wheels to fall off. “I know you guys [in the media] are looking for something that pushed the button. But I don’t know if that’s it. I’m more interested in the mentality of a shutdown inning after your team scores two runs off one of the best pitchers in the American League [in Angels ace Jered Weaver]. You got to pitch that next inning like the seventh game of the World Series.”

“It’s very frustrating,” Showalter said of the 35-pitch inning in which Arietta lasted just one out. “I know for him…there’s no way he should be out of that game in the fifth inning the stuff he was carrying. It’s something where we know he’s better than that.

His command got away from him there. Wasn’t getting the ball where he was supposed to, he had a good, liberal strike zone tonight that guys like Weaver take advantage of. Hopefully Jake will learn a lesson from it.”

To his credit, Arrieta took full responsibility for the outing, calling his second error a “very, very tough mental mistake” and the whole game frustrating. It’s no secret that Arrieta is one of the most competitive guys on the team and Saturday’s performance was a letdown to him, to Showalter, and the rest of the Orioles.

“It’s just frustrating that when we put up two runs in the fifth and I am not able to have a shutdown inning and extend my outing even further,” Arrieta said.  “It’s frustrating. Not really [only] for myself, but for the team. We get two runs off a guy like Weaver we need to do what we can to win the game.

That’s what was pretty shocking about the whole fifth inning. I felt like I was in complete control there. Torii [Hunter] hit a good slider down in the zone for a base hit to start the inning and it kind of got out of hand from there. So it’s something that won’t happen a lot, I’ll assure you that. I just need to do a little bit better job of commanding the ball especially when I am behind in the count.”

Orioles @ Angels lineups and pregame tidbits

*In case you missed it, we’ve had some pregame news this afternoon in Anaheim. Pitcher Tsuyoshi Wada is slated to get an MRA on his left elbow Tuesday in Baltimore and third baseman Josh Bell was traded to the Arizona Diamondbacks for a player to be named later. You can read more on Wada here, and more on the Bell trade here.

*Nolan Reimold is out of the lineup again as he continues to deal with neck spasms that have been lingering the past few days. Reimold could barely move his head this afternoon in the clubhouse and said it got progressively worse last night and felt better after post-game treatment. But his neck locked back up overnight, which is frustrating given how well Reimold has hit as of late.

*It was a pretty neat moment this afternoon in the O’s visiting clubhouse with pretty much the entire 25-man roster crowded around the TV to watch  Chicago’s Phil Humber’s perfect game in the ninth. When Humber got it, the players went nuts, cheering and yelling in disbelief. Humber, as you recall, faced the Orioles in his last start. It’s always cool to watch baseball players transform into fans of the game and that’s exactly what happened this afternoon in Anaheim.

Here are your lineups..

ORIOLES LINEUP

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

Jake Arrieta RHP

ANGELS LINEUP

Erick Aybar SS
Bobby Abreu LF
Albert Pujols 1B
Kendrys Morales DH
Torii Hunter RF
Mark Trumbo 3B
Maicer Izturis 2B
Chris Iannetta C
Peter Bourjos CF

Jered Weaver RHP

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