April 2012

More from the clubhouse…

Lots of extras and quotes from the Orioles’ thrilling 10-4, 10-inning win. You can read the details and reaction in the game story, but here’s a little more from the clubhouse last night in Chicago..

ADAM JONES

[on the win] “We didn’t quit, that ninth-inning that closer coming up, throwing hard. Nolan [Reimold] got something up, hit it out. I got something up, hit it out. Once we tied the game and went to extra innings, we knew this is our game. let’s win this game. and we had a hell of a 10th inning, with six runs. I’m pumped right now, still pretty pumped.”

[don’t quit team?] “A couple years ago, we were down 4-2 on the road, we were probably losing 4-2.  It’s a different team, we’re a different breed right now. We are just enjoying taking one game at a time and not do anything else but play our style of baseball.”

[Nice to save starter Jake Arrieta from getting stuck with a loss] “Oh, definitely. He threw the crap out of the ball. We had some opportunities to put some runs on the board early and were unsuccessful. We kept chipping away and he kept us in the game, as a starting pitcher that’s all we ask. Just kept us in the game and kept us close.”

[On Reimold] “He’s feeling good. We are trying to get him in a crazy attitude of ‘who gives a [damn]’ And it’s slowly starting to work. He’s a work in progress, we are really trying to get him to maximize his opportunity. He’s one of the most talented athletes I’ve seen. He’s fast, strong, he just has to have that mindset that he can do it and he can.”

[on the comeback]
“It was awesome. Six runs in the 10th how many times have you seen that? I haven’t seen that since I’ve been here. it’s a different team, we have that we’re not letting up no matter what. It all comes down to our starting pitching and Arrieta always kept us in the game and kept us in striking distance.”

CHRIS DAVIS

“We had chances early in the game to score runs. I came up earlier in the game with two runners on and less than two outs and didn’t even put the ball in play, so that kind of stuff even early in the season when you’re trying to get in the groove and get a feel for your teammates and trying to put things together, those are the things you’ve got to do. You have to get your runners in early in the game, especially when your pitcher’s battling like the way Jake was. Things kind of built up and in the last few innings, we were able to unleash a little bit.”

[on expecting the late comeback] “I don’t think any of us ever thought about quitting. When we walked into the dugout later in the game we were a little deflated, but there were still guys rallying around each other. Saying come on let’s go. There are the kind of games that prove what kind of team you are and they help you out later in the season when you have to play close games in ones that really count.”

[on the team's defense] “The error that I had, right before Konerko hit the double, it was huge. That’s on me I have to catch the ball. Jake was out there battling, doing a great job. Those are little mistakes that can happen, it’s just lack of focus. I felt bad for that, but we were able to battle back and put up some runs and get the win.”

[watching the game unfold] “When we started hitting home runs, it was like, ‘Is this about to happen?’ But it’s one of those things. With our team, it’s not a selfish effort. We’re going to stand up for one another. We’re going to have each other’s back and we’re going to keep battling until our last out, and that’s what we did. This is a young team, but we have some veteran guys mixed in who have been around a little bit. I think you see that energy from the young guys. I think you saw that play out tonight.”

MATT WIETERS

“We’ve been battling every game just to make it close so it’s nice to finally have a big inning and put some things together. Fortunately we’ve been able to get some contributions from different guys at different times, which is why we’ve been able to win some games, but it’s aways nice when everything clicks.

It’s sort of like a snowball effect. Once you get some runs going and maybe you quit squeezing the bat as tight it seems to always come a little bit easier.”

[on saving Arrieta from getting a loss] “Jake threw the ball great. We didn’t play well defensively behind him. It was nice to not saddle him with a loss for a game he really threw well in. Had a couple throws where I could have thrown a couple guys out, It’s nice for him not to get a loss for as well as he pitched tonight.”

[on a six-run 10th] “This year nothing’s really come easy so far. We’ve had close games late and we’ve have had to tie some games up and go extras and we’ve had some extra-inning losses, so it’s been a lot of hard work do far this year.”

[on his first career grand slam] “The grand slam’s not in (your) mind, just trying to extend that lead a little bit because anything can happen in this game. You’re confident with JJ coming in but it’s nice to have a few more runs to play with.”

Showalter: Gregg will be better

Orioles reliever Kevin Gregg spent a good portion of Monday’s pregame in Chicago at a corner table watching video, at times consulting with pitching coach Rick Adair.  Fresh off Sunday’s nightmarish outing in a seven-run sixth inning –five runs of which crossed the plate with two outs and Gregg on the mound – manager Buck Showalter stood behind the veteran.

“I can’t sit here and say nonchalantly that there’s not something to it,” Showalter said of Gregg –who was originally signed to be the team’s closer — adjusting to being used in the earlier innings, “But Kevin’s pitched in different roles in his career, I know Kevin and he just wants to contribute and do whatever, we’ve talked about this and I think you will see him get better as we go on.”

Gregg was used less frequently as the closer toward the end of last season and it appeared clear this spring that Jim Johnson, if healthy, would be the Orioles’ ninth-inning guy. Showalter hasn’t made Gregg’s role as clear, using him in the sixth inning Sunday in Toronto to mark the first time Gregg had pitched earlier than the seventh since 2007.  He struggled mightily, allowing two of Brian Matusz’s inherited runners to score and another three runs on three hits, two walks and a hit batsmen.

“He understands what’s going on,” Showalter said of Gregg, who was signed to a two-year deal in January 2011 and has pitched to a 12.27 ERA in his first three outings. “I talk to him every day in some form or fashion, so I understand what he’s going through somewhat. But yesterday was a hiccup for us. Not to say that anybody else could have done anything differently but we are not and can’t pitch the same guys three days in a row. We are going to have to shoulder the load around to keep everybody good and healthy and contributing.”

Showalter also was asked if he felt the current bullpen’s construction was limiting given that the Orioles have no true long man and only one lefty in Troy Patton, who was used for two innings Sunday.

“That’s long, Long man in the American league is two innings,” Showalter said. “If you constantly need a four or five innings guy you are in for a long year. But the way our bullpen is constructed we can make adjustments if we need to do it. I hope we don’t. So far we’ve been able to withstand that, a lot of it is because our [starting] pitching has been getting fairly deep.”

Orioles @ White Sox lineups and pregame tidbits (updated)

*Manager Buck Showalter said of today’s lineup that he wanted to get both Endy Chavez and Nick Johnson in there to try to get the two “going a little bit”. With the Sox going with a lefty on Tuesday, Showalter wanted to give Nolan Reimold, (who had a hamstring cramp Saturday) another day. Reimold is expected to start the next three games.

“Definitely just wanted to be careful,” Showalter said of Reimold, who stayed in the game Saturday –hitting his second consecutive home run. “We got a left-hander [opposing starter on Tuesday] we definitely want him ready for, cold windy night, but I’ll use him tonight if I have to.”

Reimold said Monday afternoon he was available to play and said he had a similar cramp a few years ago while playing with Double-A Bowie. As he reminded reporters, he stayed in Saturday’s game and he’s been getting treatment on the area but didn’t have any ice or wrap on his leg pregame on Monday.

“Trying to get Endy going a little bit, same way with Nicky,” Showalter said of the pair of veterans who entered Monday hitting under .100. “We know they are going to be contributors, trying to give them a couple days in a row so they can get on track a little bit.”

Johnson had a scary moment in the eighth inning of Sunday’s game when he was hit by Luis Perez’s pitch in the right wrist, an area he’s had multiple surgeries on and had a long rehab process back.

“At first, because I’ve never been hit there, I was worried about it,” Johnson said of how his wrist would react.  “But when I went down the side [with athletic trainer Richie Bancells] and did everything, put a little wrap on it and it’s fine.”

“You can tell the look in his face, as many troubles as he’s had with the wrist and hands and stuff. That was not a comfortable move out to first base to find out what we’re doing,” Showalter said.  “You could tell on his face, but he had good grip there. I think it was kind of important to get him back out there [Monday night] too. Kind of get that behind him.”

ORIOLES LINEUP

Endy Chavez LF
JJ 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

WHITE SOX LINEUP

Alejandro De Aza CF
Brent Morel 3B
Adam Dunn DH
Paul Konerko 1B
A.J. Pierzynski C
Alex Rios RF
Alexei Ramirez SS
Dayan Viciedo LF
Gordon Beckham 2B

RHP Phil Humber

Matusz: flat-out didn’t get the job done

I have a full story up on Orioles.com on the Orioles’ 9-2 loss to Toronto, but wanted to make sure this didn’t get lost in the shuffle.

Brian Matusz met with the small group of traveling reporters and was about as angry and frustrated as I’ve ever seen him after a start. He took fully responsibility for pitching poorly and held himself accountable, and you could really tell how badly he wanted to succeed today. Matusz has been unable to really shake off last season until he gets on track although his stuff looks leaps and bounds better than it did in 2011.  I’m around this team a lot, and probably the only other time I’ve seen Matusz this fired up was in New York at the end of last year, where Matusz –who was taken out of the rotation — stood outside the visiting clubhouse and  said simply, “I’ll remember this feeling, because I never want to have it again.” He  looked angry, he looked determined and he went out this winter and did everything in his power to make sure he was ready for the season.

And while he looked much better than in Monday’s outing, Matusz –who has worked harder than arguably anyone inside the clubhouse in his offseason preparation– wasn’t interested in giving himself kudos for incremental progress. Instead, the 25-year-old lefty gave an uncharacteristically critical assessment of Sunday’s 5 2/3 inning-start.

“Coming out with two straight wins against Toronto, I wanted to come out and get the sweep today,” said Matusz, who instead ran his career-high losing streak to 11, the longest-active losing streak in the Majors.  “This is so frustrating, you know. I know what went on last year, I know it was a horrible year and so far I’m off to a horrible start, at 0-2. And it’s building up. And it’s frustrating, and it’s flat-out not getting the job done.”

Matusz went 1-10 last year with a 10.69 ERA in 2011, dealing with both injury and underperformance, and dedicated himself this winter to getting back on track. He said before the season started that he had wiped last year from his mind, but acknowledged on Sunday that it’s been harder to shake given his start this year.  Matusz made the rotation after a solid spring, but –despite showcasing much better stuff than 2011– has been unable to replicate his camp success in his first two starts, allowing nine earned runs on 13 hits and eight walks over 9 2/3 innings.

On Sunday, Matusz was able to largely limit the damage, using three double-play balls to take the mound in the sixth with a 2-1 lead. But a pair of favorable counts went wayward, resulting in a two-run homer by Edwin Encarnacion, and Matusz exited after a two-out walk to Rajai Davis.

“I was really erratic out of the windup today, never found a rhythm,” said Matusz, who allowed seven hits and four walks with four strikeouts.  “At times when I got ahead in the count, I didn’t make the quality pitch to finish it. [I] just flat out didn’t get the job done.

“Those are key at bats right there, getting ahead of [Jose] Bautista and not being able to finish him off, leadoff double, and then getting ahead of Encarnacion and throwing a horrible slider that he hit out. I got to get that ball down and make better pitches.”

As for watching Kevin Gregg let both of his inherited runners score, Matusz said, “It’s tough because we were in that game all the way through,and to see the lead slip away like that it definitely hurts. Going into the sixth inning with a one-run lead, we had the momentum going and they jumped right back on top with a big inning. Things like that can’t happen. We are too good of a team to let that happen.”

What did manager Buck Showalter think about Matusz’s outing?

“Still not quite where it’s going to be or needs to be [with fastball command]. He had some counts where he couldn’t quite put guys away. But I thought he was better.”

As for sticking with Matusz so far, Showalter said, “I don’t think it’s an open-ended [ticket]. It’s a competitive place. And so far, so good. It’s better than the way it ended last year, but he knows there’s another level he’s capable of. And for us to get to where we want to go he’s going to have to be a part of that.”

“You can’t hide the ability to do something here, if you’re good enough it’s going to show up, if you’re not, there’s no Cinderella’s here,” Showalter added.  “It’ll show up if you’re not. So all of your curiosity, and ours too a little bit, is all going to be satisfied. Keep running him out there and we’ll see.”

Roberts: if I’m here, I need to use it for a reason

Adam Jones knew he could improve his running game. So did Robert Andino, who is becoming increasingly more confident in his baserunning abilities as his offense continues to improve. That’s why the pair of Orioles enlisted the help of teammate Brian Roberts, a prolific basestealer who saw Jones working on it this spring and told Jones if he ever wanted to talk about the run game, Roberts was more than willing.

“They both seem very interested in that aspect and it’s something I feel like I have quite a bit of experience at,” said Roberts, who has 274 career stolen bases, including three consecutive seasons with 35 or more steals from 2006-08. “I think that if I’m here I need to use it for a reason. And sometimes when you are playing you are so focused on what you have to do that you don’t get the opportunity to really, as much as you should, take time to help other people with the things you are good at.”

“He’s been doing it for a long time,” Andino said of Roberts who is on the disabled list but still traveling with the team and is his lockermate. “Everybody knows the way B-Rob plays the game, he knows his stuff so why not pick at [his brain?] I’m not saying I’m trying to do everything he does, but just to learn the little games that you get from veteran players, Things about the game that you learn that you don’t realize. Me, I’m 27, I don’t know [a lot] about the game. I’m still learning.”

Andino does not have one of Baltimore’s five stolen bases, but Jones –who entered Sunday leading the American League in that category – has three. Nick Johnson and Nolan Reimold, who is the team’s leadoff hitter in Roberts’ absence, each have a stolen base so far this season as well.

“I think both those guys can be very good basestealers,” Roberts said of Andino and Jones. “A lot of it is a mindset and a mentality that you want to. And I think they are now starting to get that mentality that they want to because they think it is beneficial to the team and helping us win games.”

Orioles manager Buck Showalter is all for the running game and thinks guys are typically a little hesitant to start the season as they make the adjustment in intensity out of Spring Training.

“I’ve been very cognizant of making sure they know, 100 percent I’m going to be supportive of it,” Showalter said. “We’ve had some examples of good baserunning before, we’ve had a couple situations where I thought we should have pushed the envelope a little bit, but I think guys understand that’s what we want them to do. We are going to run into some outs here and there. But we are going to get that mentality. And believe me, [Roberts] talks about mechanics just as much as mentality. But he’s right, it’s both.”

Orioles @ Blue Jays series finale

*Rule 5 pick Ryan Flaherty will make his first Major League start this afternoon at Rogers Centre, playing second base and batting eighth. The O’s have a few regulars out of the lineup today with catcher Matt Wieters getting his first day off this season and Mark Reynolds, who came in this morning sick, getting a rest day as well.

Nolan Reimold had a leg cramp in-game last night and was almost taken out of the game early. His at-bat without batting gloves on was because he was putting on some cream to try to self medicate, according to manager Buck Showalter, and had to run out there quickly. He’s getting a day off today as well.

*Jake Arrieta will start Monday’s opener in Chicago with Wei-Yin Chen getting extra rest and being pushed back to Tuesday. The rest of the rotation will remain the same after Chen, with Tommy Hunter and Jason Hammel going the final two games of the four-game set against the White Sox. Hunter had a successful side session today and he seems to be pretty much over some of the discomfort he had in his side earlier this year, that caused Showalter to wait before announcing his rotation order the first two times through. Hunter, who was also slowed with a back issue earlier this spring, has made both of his starts as scheduled and after Sunday’s bullpen –which went well according to pitching coach Rick Adair — it appears the Orioles are out of the woods with that injury.

*Speaking of injury recoveries, it was good to see Nick Markakis dive for a ball in right field and get right back up on Saturday. Markakis didn’t get any treatment on the area postgame and said the best part is he’s no longer thinking about his offseason ab surgery he’s just reacting to the ball.

Happy Jackie Robinson Day, everybody.

ORIOLES LINEUP

Endy Chavez LF
Nick Johnson DH
Nick Markakis RF
Adam Jones CF
Wilson Betemit 3B
Chris Davis 1B
Ronny Paulino C
Ryan Flaherty 2B
Robert Andino SS

Brian Matusz LHP

BLUE JAYS LINEUP

Yunel Escobar SS
Kelly JOhnson 2B
Jose Bautista RF
Edwin Encarnacion 1B
Brett Lawrie 3B
Ben Francisco DH
Colby Rasmus Cf
Rajai Davis Lf
Jeff Mathis C

Kyle Drabek RHP

Postgame thoughts

*Nolan Reimold wasn’t lying when he said Friday that he was starting to get more comfortable in the leadoff spot.

Reimold doubled in his first at-bat Saturday and followed it up with a huge, tie-breaking, two-run homer in the ninth inning to give the Orioles a 6-4 win and their first series victory in Toronto since June 6-8, 2008.

“We talked to him since the day we contemplated it,” manager Buck Showalter said of Reimold being the team’s leadoff hitter in Brian Roberts’ absence.  “I don’t want him to start being chop-shop, I want him to be Nolan Reimold and get deep into some counts and when it’s time to square up a ball and do something with it, go ahead and do it. Don’t change anything. Just bring what he brings.”

In the first two games of the series Reimold has brought out his power stroke, going 5-for-10 with two doubles, two homers, four runs scored and three RBIs. He said having Showalter’s reassurance has helped him warm up to the idea of hitting leadoff, a notion which at first conjured up visions of playing small ball.

“At this point in your career, you know what you’re good at and what you’re not good at,” said Reimold who isthe team’s every day left fielder for the first time in his career. “I’ve never been much of a bunter or anything like that. It’s good to have the manager say, ‘Don’t change anything and just go out and play’.”

With one out and the score tied at 4, Reimold got the hit-and-run sign with pinch-runner Ryan Flaherty at first, and he made solid contact on Francisco Cordero’s 1-0 slider, sending it over the left-field wall for his second homer in as many games. Showalter joked the team was going to change the sign to the “hit and trot”.

*The confidence is evident in the Orioles clubhouse after going 2-0 in Toronto, a city they had dropped 29 of their previous 34 games. Here’s a sampling of what was said postgame..

Manager Buck Showalter

“There’s a lot of good karma around our club, has been since Spring Training started. It’s kind of a quiet, competitive emotion. And if we can continue to stay in ballgames with our starting pitching we can have some fun. “

Chris Davis

“We never thought that we were going to be a team that was going to finish in the cellar and just go out there and play dead for nine innings. We obviously believe in the product we have, and like I said in Spring Training, if you don’t believe you have a winning ballclub whenever you start the season, there no point in you going out there and playing the game. We’re happy with the way things are going and we’re going to try to keep it rolling.”

Jason Hammel

“We’re confident. We’re not here to just roll over and go play baseball. We are out to play good baseball and inside the clubhouse we know we can compete in this league and we are very, very proud of that.”

Nolan Reimold

“Every question seems to be prefaced with how we’ve struggled here, so it’s good to come in here and have some close ballgames that we can do the little things you have to do to get the win.”

*Closer Jim Johnson picked up his fourth save of the season and is 12 for his last 12 in save opportunities dating back to last year.  Seems when the lights come on, Johnson really is ready, as he told reporters all spring.

*Hammel and the Orioles got a big break in the second inning when Brett Lawrie made the puzzling decision to try to steal home with two outs, the bases loaded and the menacing Jose Bautista at the plate.

“I don’t have any regrets about that situation,” said Lawrie, who was tagged out by catcher Matt Wieters to the end the inning, “But at the same time I never want to take the bat out of Jose’s hands, especially in that situation with the bases loaded and one of the best hitters in the game up. I don’t want to take the bat out of his hands but at the same time I’m going to continue to be aggressive, just have to be a little bit smarter next time.”

Lawrie’s blunder helped Hammel –who allowed three straight hits and a run to already cross the plate – get out of a tough spot, and the right-hander was all for it.

“I was surprised,” said Hammel, who called the decision more of a “thank-you” to him than anything else. “I was very calm, stepped off and actually gave Wietey a bad throw and he was able to get the tag down and out of the inning. That was a big spot in the game.”

“Probably not the best decision to make at that time, particularly with who’s at the plate,” Blue Jays manager John Farrell said of Lawrie. “We were in an extended inning with Hammel and he felt like he had good timing … in terms of the beginning of his delivery to the point of releasing the baseball. He felt like he could steal a bag, which shutdown a potential big inning.

He has the green light but the awareness to the situation has to be a little more keen.”

*Wilson Betemit’s sixth-inning error lead to a pair of unearned runs off reliever Matt Lindstrom, but Showalter wasn’t so sure that Edwin Encarnacion shouldn’t have been given a hit.

“They score that an error?,” Showalter said.  “I’d like to see the score guy stand on that turf then see what he wants to score it, but Wilson’s been playing long enough he doesn’t dwell on things like that. You like to see how guys respond and stuff like that but we didn’t really look at it like something he had to respond to. That’s a tough play.”

Matusz preps for second start

Orioles lefty Brian Matusz admitted Saturday he got caught in the moment a little bit in Monday’s debut and was “trying to blow guys away” with his fastball rather than pitch his game. So, the emphasis heading into his second start of the season, Sunday’s series finale in Toronto, unsurprisingly is for the 25-year-old Matusz to do what he does best: locate.

“It’s just being able to stay calm, get those nerves down and go out with confidence and attack the zone and try not to do too much,” Matusz said of his gameplan. “In that Yankee game [on Monday] I was just trying to throw it by guys, [trying to] do a little bit more than I had in Spring Training. So, for me it’s just settling in and making the pitches.”

Matusz lasted just four innings in his first start of the season, allowing four runs on six hits and four walks, and he’s looking to put that behind outing behind him as well as reverse the trend when it comes to Toronto. In three career starts against the Blue Jays, Matusz is 0-2 with a 18.56 ERA. He has not completed three innings in any of those starts, although one of them was injury-shortened, skewing some of the stats.

“I remember the second start of my career was against Toronto here against Roy Halladay,” Matusz said of his only career start at Rogers Centre August 9, 2009. “That other start I had against Toronto I was hit by a line drive in the first inning, came out of the game. But, that’s the goal is to go deep in the game and take it inning by inning.”

What Matusz has taken from each outing this year, Spring Training included, is his physical strength, which is much improved over last season and has kept him from tiring on the hill. His velocity has been steady since he reported and Matusz’s fastball was still clocked at a steady 92 mph during his final inning Monday.

“It definitely helps out a lot, not having to try to do too much because of that strength,” he said. “Even that last game against the Yankees I threw 96 pitches, wasn’t even sore the next day. Physically I felt good, and that definitely helps.”

Orioles & Blue Jays lineups and pregame tidbits (updated)

Welcome back from Rogers Centre, where the Orioles are fresh off a 7-5 series-opening win on Friday. You can read the full game recap here.

The O’s are 6-29 in their last 35 games in Toronto, but 4-4 in their last eight. Nolan Reimold was asked  last night whether the O’s are starting to reverse the curse against the Blue Jays with their recent play.

“They got a good team, they’re a good hitting team a good pitching team, a good all-around team,” Reimold said. “If you want to win, you are going to have to play very good baseball. So, we are starting to do that more consistently. Played pretty well tonight and were able to get the ‘W’ and I think it’s something to build off of.”

Reimold went 3-for-5 with a double, homer, RBI and three runs scored last and he said he’s starting to settle into the leadoff role.

“I’m starting to get more comfortable,” he said. “We will see how it goes. Trying to take a few more pitches, [I] got a little antsy at the beginning of the year. So, just trying to find my groove a little bit and hopefully I can build off of [Friday's] game.”

*Mark Reynolds is at DH again today, with Wilson Betemit at third base again.  Since Ryan Flaherty is not in the starting lineup, we can assume he’s going to start Sunday’s finale. Reynolds took some balls pregame at first base, a situation that could become more common as I wrote yesterday.

*Tsuyoshi Wada (left elbow discomfort) pitched against the Tampa Bay Rays in extended spring earlier, going six innings and allowing two hits, five walks and seven strikeouts. He didn’t allow any runs in the 100-pitch outing and the team is leaning toward Wada starting for Triple-A Norfolk, who will be in Gwinnett,  on Thursday. The thinking is it’s a day game and it’s also warm weather down there. Wada could be activated after that.

*Zach Britton has had a ball in his hands and played catch for the last three days down in extended spring, with no pain. That’s definitely a very good sign.

*Catcher Matt Wieters is scheduled to get his first game off this season Sunday’s series finale in Toronto.

ORIOLES LINEUP

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

RHP Jason Hammel

BLUE JAYS LINEUP
Yunel Escobar SS
Kelly Johnson 2B
Jose Bautista RF
Adam Lind 1B
Edwin Encarnacion DH
Eric Thames LF
Brett Lawrie 3B
Colby Rasmus CF
J.P. Arencibia C

Henderson Alvarez RHP

Reynolds to get first base work

Orioles third baseman Mark Reynolds will start to get some work back at first base, a somewhat surprising move given that manager Buck Showalter has said previously he wanted Reynolds –who committed 31 errors last season – to focus exclusively on third.

Reynolds lead the league in errors committed in 2011 and made a cognizant effort –after Showalter announced he would be the team’s starting third baseman heading into the spring –to improve his defense, shedding 20 pounds to help aid his mobility in the field.  While the 28-year-old Reynolds showed some improvement this spring and was constantly out for early work, it hasn’t shown up in the season’s first week. Reynolds has made two errors in his first 15 chances at third base, and served as the team’s designated hitter on Friday.

“We’ve got a little versatility and we’re going to continue to take advantage of it,” Showalter said of his lineup. “I just want everybody to feel like they are a part of it, ‘cause they are and I want everybody to know we are going to ask them to make contributions.  You know, we stay away from the mule lips sometimes when a guy’s not playing, because it’s what’s best for the Orioles. That’s what it’s all about.

I had a good conversation with Mark the other day, he was talking about the most fun he ever had in baseball was the year he went to the playoffs in Arizona. And how much he wants to be a part of that again, he’ll do whatever it takes. He’s going to do some ground balls and he’s going to get some work in at first base to make sure he’s ready to do anything.”

Reynolds made 26 errors in 114 games at third base last season, compared  with five in 44 games at first. Still, Showalter felt that the team defense was strongest with Chris Davis at first base and Reynolds at third, an decision reach this winter and one that –until now – has looked pretty set.

“Mark’s a guy that’s capable of playing a lot of different places,” Showalter said. “I want to take advantage of his versatility. He can do a lot of things, he can play outfield. I feel like he can do a lot of things.”

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