April 2012

Postgame thoughts on the Orioles’ 4-2 win

On one of the first days of spring, Orioles right fielder Nick Markakis dutifully stood at his locker in Sarasota, Fla., and patiently answered questions about January’s abdominal surgery and the long road of rehab he still had ahead. He was unsure about his exact schedule, or how normal his recovery was, but the one thing Markakis never wavered on over seven weeks was that he would be ready to run out on the orange carpet with his teammates come Opening Day.

On Friday, Markakis — who routinely gets one of the loudest ovations in pregame introductions — didn’t just suit up and start. He stole the show; blasting a home run and a triple and picking up three RBIs in the Orioles’ 4-2 season-opening win over the Twins.

You can read quotes and reactions on the Orioles’ season-opening victory –which also included a stellar start from Jake Arrieta — up here on Orioles.com.

A few observations and notes post-game…

*The first-inning homer to left field was Nick Markakis’ first homer to left since 2008, according to Baseball Reference. That’s definitely good to see. Markakis, who also tripled, said he’s focused this season on finding a more consistent stance at the plate and not having 30 different stances up there.

*Chris Davis made a few nice plays at first base, including corralling in a throw from Mark Reynolds in the eighth that could have had damaging effects given that there were runners on base. Davis went 0-for-3 at the plate.

*Matt Lindstrom threw his hardest pitch at 96 mph, his first official pitch as an Oriole. Lindstrom hit the 97 and 98 range this spring, and it’s hard to tell a lot from his first outing with a new team, but he could end up being a guy who manager Buck Showalter turns to in the later innings. Lindstrom pitched around a pair of singles in the eighth to toss a scoreless frame.

*Jake Arrieta said he just wanted to set the tone. He also set the bar pretty high in going seven scoreless innings and allowing just two hits. The 26-year-old Arrieta left little doubt to those of us down in Spring Training that he was back –and better — since that offseason elbow surgery. He could be in line for a big year.

*The Orioles played in front of a sellout crowd this afternoon, something Showalter, Arrieta and Markakis all singled out post-game.

“That was great,” Showalter said of the atmosphere. “I’m an old fuddy-duddy. I get emotional a couple times today just seeing how much it means to the people in Baltimore. I’m not going to group everybody in baseball. This is different. They grow up with the Orioles. I’ll be the first to tell you, it gives me a lot more responsibility, anxiety, delivering what they deserve. For all of us. And we know how great it can be here. And it’s our responsibility – you’ve heard me say it 100 times – you see a game like that, you just hope that they keep that hope like we do. That atmosphere is special and I know it used to be like that every night. Our players, I know they get a taste of it. This group of guys talks about it. They know what this fan base is like and it’s up to us to tap deeper into it.”


Opening Day lineups & pregame tidbits

*How relaxed is Opening Day starter Jake Arrieta? He was on the field pregame with socks and sandals and a camera strapped around his neck. “I’m testing out my photography skills,” said Arrieta, who was taking in the moment like a fan, snapping shots of his teammates during batting practice. Arrieta has 12 people here for his first Opening Day starter, and second consecutive home opener.

*Manager Buck Showalter confirmed the obvious in naming Jim Johnson closer. As for Kevin Gregg, Showalter said he could be used in a variety of roles. Not exactly a ringing endorsement. Here’s what Gregg had to say..

“I knew that [Johnson would be the closer],” said Gregg, who said he spoke with Showalter this spring about it. “I’m going to be political; I’m here to help the team. I’ll pitch whenever Buck needs me to pitch.”

Pressed further on if he’s OK with not closing, Gregg said : “Do I have a choice? It’s not like I dictate when I’ll pitch.”

Gregg said Friday’s official announcement wasn’t a shock and he’s not sure how he will be used going forward. With relievers like Matt Lindstrom, Pedro Strop and Luis Ayala, Showalter has some options to bridge to Johnson.

“The strength of our bullpen depends on the strength of our starters and if they are solid they will allow us to be even better,” Gregg said. “We’ve got a great group of arms down there, but you have to have a solid rotation to be able to maintain that.”

*Given that it’s the 20th anniversary of the Opening of Camden Yards at Oriole Park, the team is showing the first game on Jumbo Tron here, along with the sound from the broadcast. Pretty neat. The new, lower out-of-town scoreboard also allows fans to lean over the railing in right field and get a better view of the game and batting practice.

*Here’s a fun fact: Os pitching coach Rick Adair started his major league coaching career as pitching coach for the Cleveland Indians in 1992. So his first game as a Major League coach was here on the day Camden Yards opened.

*Second baseman Brian Roberts (pictured above) was taking infield work with a coaches helmet on. Roberts did not run out on the orange carpet, but was going to try to watch some of the game from the dugout.

Here are your lineups….

ORIOLES LINEUP

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

Jake Arrieta RHP

TWINS LINEUP

Denard Span, CF
Jamey Carroll, SS
Joe Mauer, C
Justin Morneau, DH
Josh Willingham, LF
Ryan Doumit, RF
Danny Valencia, 3B
Chris Parmelee, 1B
Alexi Casilla, 2B

Carl Pavano RHP

Buck on Phillips, J.J. welcomes a son

One of the pleasant surprises in spring was Zach Phillips, and it was a little shocking that he was the final cut from camp. Asked if it was a tough call to option Phillips to Triple-A, manager Buck Showalter said it wasn’t even a call.

“We sent guys down that last year would have made the club easily, Zach’s one of those guys,” Showalter said of Phillips who pitched to a 1.35 ERA over 13 1/3 innings in 11 spring games “It’s one of those things you don’t try to tell him why except the honest part of it. He’ll be back at some point. He had a great spring and we’re lucky to have him. And he’s unlucky to have an option.”

Phillips held left-handed hitters to a .095 batting average this spring and his optioning give the Orioles bullpen just one lefty in Troy Patton, who is out of options and on his first Opening Day roster.

*Also, a congratulations to Orioles reliever Jim Johnson and wife Elizabeth, who welcomed their second child, son Levi Michael, on Tuesday. Johnson was away from the team the last two days, but was back in the clubhouse for Thursday’s workout. The couple also have a daughter, Abigail.

Os rotation set…for now

The Orioles rotation order for the first five games will be Jake Arrieta, Tommy Hunter, Jason Hammel, Brian Matusz and Wei-Yin Chen. But, according to manager Buck Showalter that could change very soon.

“You may see us adjust that some after the off day [on April 12],” said Showalter, whose club will need five starters to open the season and not again until April 20.

The club’s first off day is also the first day left-handed pitcher Tsuyoshi Wada is eligible to come off the disabled list. Wada is expected to compete for a starting rotation spot and –along with lefty Zach Britton (shoulder impingement) is currently in extended spring.

Showalter said he doesn’t put a lot of stock into the theory of separating the two lefties –in Matusz and Chen – calling that idea overrated and citing the club wanting to give Chen as much rest as possible before he makes his first Major League start.

“If you can pitch, you can pitch doesn’t matter if you throw between your legs or with both arms, left, right, whatever,” Showalter said.

“You don’t get into saying, well you want this number of right-handers against this team and that team. It just fit best for us going forward, gave us the flexibility after the off day to do some things if we need to. And if you understand some of the dates in which people are eligible to come back or not come back, it falls best for us.”

Matusz will pitch the series opener against the New York Yankees, with Chen following on Tuesday.

Eveland clears waivers, outrighted to Norfolk

The Orioles announced Thursday afternoon that left-handed pitcher Dana Eveland has cleared waivers and has been outrighted to Triple-A Norfolk.

Eveland was designated for assignment on March 29 when the club claimed infielder Zelous Wheeler off of waivers from the Milwaukee Brewers. The 28-year-old Eveland was brought to Baltimore in a trade with the Los Angeles Dodgers for left-handed pitcher Jarret Martin and outfielder Tyler Henson at the Winter Meetings,

Eveland was 1-2 with a 3.46 ERA in six games (three starts) this spring and is expected to part of a Norfolk rotation that currently includes Brad Bergesen, Chris Tillman, Jason Berken, Armando Galarraga and Steve Johnson. It’s possible one of those pitchers will be bumped to the bullpen or Double-A to make room for Eveland, with a six-man rotation another possibility.

Twins Opening Day lineup

Hopefully, we will get the Orioles side of this today but I wanted to pass along the Minnesota Twins starting lineup courtesy of MLB.com’s Twins reporter Rhett Bollinger. Here’s what O’s starter Jake Arrieta will face come 3:05 p.m. ET tomorrow..
TWINS LINEUP

Denard Span, CF
Jamey Carroll, SS
Joe Mauer, C
Justin Morneau, DH
Josh Willingham, LF
Ryan Doumit, RF
Danny Valencia, 3B
Chris Parmelee, 1B
Alexi Casilla, 2B

RHP Carl Pavano

 

Tides’ Opening Day roster

The Norfolk Tides and the Baltimore Orioles have announced the Tides opening roster for 2012.  The Triple-A team’s roster features 13 pitchers and 12 position players, and will be managed this season by Ron Johnson.

The pitching staff will consist of starters Brad Bergesen (slated to take the mound in tonight’s opener at Charlotte), Chris Tillman, Armando Galarraga, Steve Johnson and Jason Berken.  Norfolk’s relievers include Willie Eyre, Chris George, Zach Phillips, Jon Link, Pat Neshek, Miguel Socolovich, Oscar Villarreal and Dontrelle Willis.

The Tides will feature six infielders: Ryan Adams, Matt Antonelli, Josh Bell, Joe Mahoney, Steve Tolleson and Zelous Wheeler.  Manning the outfield for Norfolk will be Xavier Avery, Scott Beerer, Jamie Hoffmann and Jai Miller.  The Tides will open the season with two catchers: John Hester and Chris Robinson.   Pitcher Brandon Erbe will begin the season on Norfolk’s disabled list.

The Tides open their 2012 campaign on the road tonight against the Charlotte Knights, with first pitch scheduled for 7:15.  After a four-game set in Charlotte, the Tides open up their 20th season at Harbor Park on Monday, April 9 against the Gwinnett Braves, with first pitch scheduled for 7:15.

On Opening Night, the first 10,000 fans will receive a 2012 schedule magnet, courtesy of Cambridge College and ESPN Radio 94.1.  After the game, Taco Bell will present fans with free Doritos Locos tacos.  Tickets are currently on sale at the Harbor Park box office or online at norfolktides.com.

Welcome back, baseball

A good chunk of MLB teams kick off the season today and while I know there was already officially Opening Day with the Japan series, it’s still good to see baseball back. The Orioles have a workout today at Camden Yards in preparation for Friday’s season opener against the Minnesota Twins at 3:05 p.m. ET.

In case you missed it, here’s the team’s 25 man roster: Pitchers Jake Arrieta, Tommy Hunter, Jason Hammel, Brian Matusz  and Wei-Yin Chen will be the starting five–in order. Relievers Jim Johnson, Kevin Gregg, Matt Lindstrom, Luis Ayala, Pedro Strop, Darren O’Day and Troy Patton make up the bullpen. Position players are Mark Reynolds, J.J. Hardy, Robert Andino, Chris Davis, Wilson Betemit, Nick Johnson, Ryan Flaherty, Matt Wieters, Ronny Paulino, Nolan Reimold, Adam Jones, Nick Markakis and Endy Chavez.

I’ll have some notes and quotes from today’s workout up later on Orioles.com.

*Jake Arrieta will officially get his first Opening Day start on Friday, but for manager Buck Showalter Arrieta has already been here before.

*Robert Andino has come a long way from his days growing up in South Miami Heights and the matured 27-year-old is hoping to build on last year’s success.

For Andino, baseball was a way out of his neighborhood and those who knows him sense that he’s grown up a lot from when he was traded over to the Orioles prior to the 2009 season. You can read more about how baseball saved Andino, and why he’ll be the first to in line to hug second baseman Brian Roberts if he comes back, here.

*Brian Matusz is ready to put last season behind him and have a strong 2012. More on that, and the final roster moves following the team’s game in Norfolk, here.

Wrapping up the roster moves (updated)

There’s been a flurry of roster moves today, although nothing should come as a surprise for those of you who have followed along all spring. Alfredo Simon was claimed by the Reds, who will take his contract, while reliever Pat Neshek was optioned to Triple-A Norfolk and outfielder Jai Miller cleared waivers and was outrighted to Norfolk.

With 26 active players in camp the Orioles have really one decisions left:  one more bullpen cut out of Zach Phillips, Troy Patton and Darren O’Day.  The safe bet is on the two lefties, Phillips and Patton with Patton (who is out of options) being stretched out to serve as the long man of sorts. This is all barring any trades or a late-spring injury which, of course, would throw a wrench into things. O’Day has an option remaining and, like Neshek, could be sent down to Triple-A without having to be put on waivers.

The other main competition was for the fifth starter spot, which will go to Brian Matusz since manager Buck Showalter told reporters in Sarasota that pitcher Tsuyoshi Wada will (as expected) start the season on the disabled list and work his way back in extended spring camp. Check Orioles.com later for more on that.

For those curious about why Neshek was optioned when he didn’t allow a run all spring, it’s more a function of roster management (he’s on a Minor League deal) and how the bullpen is set up right now (without a long man) than anything else. Neshek definitely impressed the Orioles and I have no doubt he will be up in the Majors sooner rather than later. You can read more about him here.

The bench is set with Endy Chavez, Ryan Flaherty, Ronny Paulino and Nick Johnson. To read more on Flaherty — the O’s Rule 5 pick from Maine– making the team, click here.

Another feel-good story is Nick Johnson, a non-roster invitee who showed up to camp for the first two in two years with no pain in his right wrist. That’s a big deal considering he has had three procedures on that wrist over a four-year period and, in talking to the veteran earlier this week about the prospect of making the Orioles’ Opening Day roster, you could tell it was a big deal for Johnson.

“It would be awesome,” Johnson said of running out on the orange carpet at Camden Yards Friday.  “Just because the last couple years have been pretty tough. Just to keep fighting and keep pushing when things weren’t going right. And all those times, rehabbing it. You know, it’d be great.”

Johnson has had nine separate stints on the disabled list in nine Major League seasons, missing the entire 2007 season recovering from a broken leg and spending last year with Triple-A Columbus (Indians) trying to get his wrist right.

“It was tough,” Johnson said when asked if he ever pondered calling his career quits last season.  “Especially trying to hit with this wrist, when it was [hurt]. It’s a fine line, you try to go through it and you try to play through the pain. And there were some difficult times.

But I worked on getting it stronger, took some rest. And it’s worked out.”

Orioles manager Buck Showalter told reporters that Johnson used to sleep with his bat while with the Yankees and when asked about it, the mild-manner Johnson let out a rare laugh.

“No, I don’t sleep with my bat,” he said. “I have bats at home.”

So, he’s not pulling out bats under his pillow and bringing them to the park?

“No,” Johnson said, “But close.”

The 33-year-old Johnson, if healthy, could be a big boost for the Orioles. He is a plus-defender at first base, with a career .992 fielding percentage, and he’s an on-base machine at .401 over nine big league seasons. Johnson’s patience at the plate makes him a menace for opposing teams and he will be used primarily at designated hitter and filling in for starter Chris Davis at first. You often hear the words “professional hitter” used to describe Johnson because of his approach, he sees an average of 4.24 pitches per plate appearance, and he had a .393 OBP this spring to go along with a .292 batting average.

“Physically he feels good,” Showalter said. “Mentally you can see, I think he’s kind of holding his breath as far as every day physically he answers another question. But, we all know what he’s capable of doing if he’s healthy.”

***

On an unrelated note, I’m officially signing off from Florida. It’s been a busy Spring Training, but now the real fun begins as I head back to Baltimore to begin my third season on the Orioles beat. The feedback here on the blog, on Twitter and comments on Orioles.com have been great so far, and I appreciate the constant lines of communication.

I hope to bring back my weekly inbox, and you can always email submissions to brittany.ghiroli@mlb.com with “inbox” in the subject. (Please include your name and hometown.)

Ready for Opening Day? Check out my Orioles’ preview, which has an easy drop-down menu for all 30 clubs to get you informed on all the happenings heading into the season.

Simon update

The Orioles aren’t planning on hearing anything new on Monday regarding the status of pitcher Alfredo Simon, who was placed on outright waivers on Friday. It’s still very likely Simon gets claimed –in which case the claiming team would take him and his salary — but if he doesn’t get claimed the Orioles can assign him to Triple-A Norfolk. It was previously thought he would become a free agent, but that’s not the case.

It’s also very unlikely there’s a trade if he’s claimed. Simon isn’t making a lot of money and the claiming team would just assume his contract at this point. The Orioles deemed Simon expendable when they placed him on outright waivers, and there should be a resolution on that situation on Tuesday.

This process is quicker than when you designate a player for assignment, which is a 10-day period that gives the club a chance to trade, release or ask waivers for that player.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 323 other followers