July 2012

Roberts to start rehab assignment tonight

Orioles second baseman Brian Roberts is expected to begin a rehab assignment Saturday night for short-season Aberdeen as the veteran infielder tries to avoid surgery on a labral tear in his right hip.

It’s unknown what Roberts’ exact schedule is but the 34-year-old had been working out at the team’s spring facility in Sarasota, Fla. and will begin a rehab assignment that –according to League rules – can only be 20 days.

Roberts has played in just 17 games this season, making his season debut on June 12 after being activated off the 60-day disabled list following a concussion. It was a triumphant return in which he went 3-for-4 with an RBI in his first Major League game since May 16, 2011. But he struggled to keep up that momentum, hitting the DL –with what was originally deemed to be a groin strain — with a .182 batting average, five RBIs and two runs scored.

The Orioles are also currently without the services of Robert Andino (left shoulder strain) who had been filling in for Roberts at second. MASNSports.com first reported the news of Roberts’ rehab.

Orioles remain focused on pitching (Greinke to Angels)

The Orioles continue to actively look to upgrade their starting pitching staff with executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette saying Friday that the organization has multiple conversations going with other clubs in advance of Tuesday’s Trade Deadline.

“We are more focused on a pitcher,” Duquette said of a rotation that is short on experience and has been inconsistent this season, particularly without right-hander Jason Hammel, who is expected to be sidelined until September.

“We’ve got several conversations going, whether they bear fruit or not, we’ll have to see.”

The Orioles have been rumored in all kinds of negotiations — including seeking a corner outfielder and leadoff hitter — and Duquette didn’t rule out the acquisition of a position player on Friday, calling it a “possibility”. Still it seems Baltimore’s preferred upgrade remains with the pitching, a competitive market around baseball as the extra Wild Card has made the buyers pool bigger with bubble teams still within reach of the postseason.

Without sacrificing top prospects Dylan Bundy and Manny Machado — who the club has already told teams are off the table– the Orioles don’t have enough chips to acquire a top-caliber arm.  And it’s a market that is all but dried up with Cole Hamels signing an extension with the Phillies and the Brewers sending Zack Greinke to the Angels.  Multiple outlets have reported that the Orioles have inquired about Twins pitcher Francisco Liriano and they also have shown interest in Seattle’s Jason Vargas, neither of whom would command close to what getting Greinke would.

But how much of an upgrade would it be?

Chris Tillman has pitched to a 1.66 ERA in four starts since joining the club, Tommy Hunter is coming off consecutive quality outings and Zach Britton –who made his third start Friday night – is also healthy and in the rotation. The Orioles have had trade interest in all their young starters, particularly right-hander Jake Arrieta, and Duquette won’t make moves simply to make them.

“The idea is to add and to be additive. So, anybody that we add we’d like to be an upgrade,” Duquette said.

“I was encouraged with how Tillman threw and Britton coming up from the Minors. Hopefully we can do some good work and [Triple-A Norfolk’s] Brian Matusz and Jake Arrieta can work out whatever they need to work out there. And if they’re back here, they can give us a shot in the arm.”

As for what the Orioles could give up, it’s unlikely they would deal any of their young starters without getting back a Major League-ready arm and Duquette said Friday there has been a lot interest in the club’s pitching depth both in the Majors and Minors. It’s far more likely the club parts with relievers and any prospect not named Machado and Bundy in any deals made before the Deadline.

“The important thing to keep in mind is the Trade Deadline, that is when you can add without a waiver,” Duquette said. “There will be some deals made after that. Again, I think we have some solutions already here with some of the people that we have here. And hopefully we can get it going.”

Wieters sits with sore bicep

Matt Wieters was not in Friday’s starting lineup as the Orioles’ catcher is dealing with some right bicep soreness that he felt during his first at-bat Thursday afternoon.

“We want to make sure we can get that full go,” Wieters said of the injury, which only bothers him on his left-handed swing. “We think if we get a day off today and we’ll be good to go [on Saturday]. We don’t want a one-day tightness to turn into something more.”

Orioles manager Buck Showalter was optimistic that it was just some cramping from Thursday’s game, which was played in temperatures that hovered in the upper 90s, and dismissed any notion that it came at an already opportune time to give Wieters a breather.

“No such thing as a good time to not have Matt in the lineup,” Showalter said of his starting catcher, who is in a 1-for-30 slump.  “We don’t look at it as the “s” word. We look at it as not currently performing with the level he has spoiled us with.”

Wieters spent the afternoon going over video and speaking with roving hitting coach Terry Crowley, who previously served as the Orioles hitting coach at the Major League level. He said Friday he hoped the day off would help get him healthy and back on track offensively.

“[I’ve] been watching video all year, just trying to get that swing locked in,” Wieters said. “Hopefully today I can just get more [away from the] mental strain and try to figure out the swing a little bit and be ready to go.”

A two-time All-Star selection, Wieters is hitting .238 with 12 homers and 46 RBIs in 90 games. He is batting .197 (14-for-71) in 19 games in July with three extra-base hits.  Taylor Teagarden got the starts in Wieters’ place Friday night, working with lefty sinkerball Zach Britton for the second consecutive outing.

Orioles vs. Athletics lineups and pregame notes (updated)

*The Orioles continue to actively look to upgrade their starting pitching staff with executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette saying Friday that the organization has multiple conversations going with other clubs in advance of Tuesday’s Trade Deadline.

“We are more focused on a pitcher,” Duquette said of a rotation that is short on experience and has been inconsistent this season, particularly without right-hander Jason Hammel, who is expected to be sidelined until September. “We’ve got several conversations going, whether they bear fruit or not, we’ll have to see.”

More on the Trade Deadline from Duquette can be found here, with updates on all 30 clubs on MLB.com’s Trade Blog.

*Robert Andino (left shoulder strain) could rejoin the team as early as Tuesday with the infielder slated to start a rehab assignment for Triple-A Norfolk on Sunday . The original plan was for Andino to go to the team’s extended spring facility in Sarasota, Fla. but the team’s training staff no longer felt that was necessary and had him penciled in to play for Double-A on Tuesday. But Andino has progressed much quicker than expected and could join the team Tuesday in New York.

*Jake Arrieta went 5 1/3 innings tonight for Triple-A Norfolk, allowing three runs on six hits and three walks. Arrieta, who served up a home run, also picked up two strikeouts in the 100-pitch outing (57 of which were called strikes).

*Matt Wieters is dealing with right bicep soreness and is not in tonight’s starting lineup. Wieters has been in a 1-for-30 slump and said the bicep issue only bothers him while trying to extend his left-handed swing. He expects it to be just a day or two.

*The Orioles designated lefty reliever Dana Eveland for assignment for the third time –second in 11 days– prior to Friday’s game, recalling Miguel Socolovich in his place. Socolovich’s 10-day required stay in the Minors was up today and the club feels he’s a better option as a long man out of the ‘pen. Although Socolovich is a right-hander, manager Buck Showalter said his changeup has enabled him –at least at Triple-A — to also be effective against left-handed hitters.

If Eveland clears waivers he will know by Sunday at 1 p.m. ET and the Orioles have him slated to pitch his first game for Triple-A Norfolk on Tuesday.

*Shortstop J.J. Hardy is back in the lineup a day after taking a ball off the ribs. Hardy said he’s got a pretty big bruise, but X-rays were negative and he didn’t anticipate having any problems throwing or taking pregame batting practice.

ORIOLES LINEUP

Nick Markakis RF
J.J. Hardy SS
Jim Thome DH
Adam Jones CF
Chris Davis LF
Wilson Betemit 3B
Mark Reynolds 1B
Omar Quintanilla 2B
Taylor Teagarden C

Zach Britton LHP

ATHLETICS LINEUP

Coco Crisp CF
Johnny Gomes DH
Josh Reddick RF
Yoenis Cespedes LF
Chris Carter 1B
Brandon Inge 3B
Derek Norris C
Brandon Hicks SS
Jemile Weeks 2B

Jarrod Parker RHP

Orioles vs Rays

*Dana Eveland had his contract purchased prior to this afternoon’s game with infielder/outfielder Steve Tolleson optioned to Triple-A Norfolk to clear a roster spot. Eveland –who cleared waivers earlier this month — didn’t pitch well in his one outing in Triple-A, but he will add length and insurance for starter Chris Tillman.

Given that the Orioles bullpen had to pick up 6 1/3 innings last night, with Miguel Gonzalez’s struggles, the O’s had to cover themselves in the event Tillman struggles today. Speaking of Gonzalez, he’s been sick said was throwing up yesterday morning but did not alert the team until after his outing. The 28-year-old Gonzalez said he was hoping to pitch through it.
RAYS LINEUP
Desmond Jennings LF
B.J. Upton Cf
Ben Zobrist 2B
Matt Joyce DH
Ryan Roberts 3B
Carlos Pena 1B
Sam Fuld RF
Jose Molina C
Eliott Johnson SS

James Shields RHP

ORIOLES LINEUP
Nick Markakis RF
J.J. Hardy SS
Jim Thome DH
Adam Jones CF
Matt Wieters C
Chris Davis LF
Wilson Betemit 3B
Mark Reynolds 1B
Omar Quintanilla 2B

Chris Tillman RHP

Orioles @ Rays lineups and pregame notes

*In the wake of Cal Ripken Jr.’s mother, Vi,  being abducted —and returned safely — by an armed man from her home outside Baltimore, Orioles manager Buck Showalter said Wednesday afternoon that he had a similar event occur in his family several years ago

“My mother had somebody break in, middle of the night, tied her up with the cord to the radio,” Showalter said of the break-in which occurred in his childhood home in Century, Fla.  “She was listening to the game. We were in Atlanta, I think, a few years back. She found out later she knew the guy. She took him around and showed him where all the cash was…that dog [she had] didn’t stay around much longer, didn’t do a very good job.

Vi Ripken, 74, was kidnapped between 7-8 a.m. on Tuesday by a man who forced her into her car, according to multiple reports. She was found unharmed nearly a full day later, around 6:15 a.m., in her car near her home in Aberdeen, Md.

“Obviously our thoughts and prayers go out to the Ripken Family,” Showalter said of the ordeal. “It’s tough. Crazy world. But I know the Ripken family and I know the stock, not only [Cal Ripken] Sr. but Vi.”

“This has been a very trying time for our family, but we are grateful and relieved that mom is back with us, safe and healthy,” the Ripken family said in a statement. “We want to thank everyone for their tremendous support, especially all of the law enforcement agencies that worked so hard and quickly. This is [an] ongoing investigation, so we hope everyone understands that we cannot comment further at this time. Thank you.”

*Showalter said Joel Pineiro’s surgery was “more extensive” than initially thought. Dr. James Andrews operated on Pineiro yesterday, who was diagnosed with a SLAP tear in his right labrum and he will be out the rest of the season.

*Robert Andino (left shoulder strain) is progressing better than expected, with head athletic trainer Richie Bancells reporting to Showalter that the infielder is ahead of schedule.

“Doesn’t surprise anybody that knows Robert,” Showalter said. “When we go on the trip [after Sunday's game], the plan is for him to go to [extended spring in] Sarasota.”

*The Rays acquired Ryan Roberts in a trade with Arizona last night and their  new addition is starting and playing first base. The Orioles are trying to stack some right-handed hitters in there against lefty David Price, opting to go with Steve Tolleson in left field over slumping Chris Davis.

ORIOLES LINEUP

Nick Markakis RF
J.J. Hardy SS
Adam Jones CF
Matt Wieters DH
Wilson Betemit 3B
Mark Reynolds 1B
Taylor Teagarden C
Omar Quintanilla 2B
Steve Tolleson LF

Miguel Gonzalez RHP

RAYS LINEUP

Desmond Jennings LF
B.J. Upton CF
Ben Zobrist 2B
Matt Joyce RF
Jeff Keppinger DH
Carlos Pena 1B
Ryan Roberts 3b
Jose Lobaton C
Elliot Johnson SS

David Price LHP

Orioles remain buyers, but at what cost?

With baseball’s Trade Deadline a week away, the Baltimore Orioles find themselves involved in a firestorm of rumors that support executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette’s statements that the organization remains in buyer mode.

But at what cost? The Orioles –who have made it known that top prospects Dylan Bundy and Manny Machado are virtually untouchable — have also drawn significant interest in their young starters, particularly Jake Arrieta and Brian Matusz.  Both Arrieta and Matusz were part of the team’s Opening Day rotation and have struggled this season, — resulting in separate demotions to Triple-A Norfolk — but the club remains encouraged the pair of young pitchers can get on track and, according to two industry sources, is unlikely to deal either pitcher.

Duquette has made it no secret that the club would like to acquire a starting pitcher, but he told MLB.com last week that that the team there’s a lot of competition in that regard with the extra Wild Card team in each division making some teams reluctant to go into sell-mode.  The team does appear satisfied with its middle infield depth, acquiring Omar Quintanilla from the New York Mets Friday, particularly given that Robert Andino’s injury isn’t expected to sideline him more than 3-4 weeks.

They would like to shore up the defense– a facet of the team that manager Buck Showalter singled out as the most disappointing part of the first half — and with that comes the obvious questions and availability of other players at the corner infield spots.

“I know the names that are probably floating around there like they do every year,” Showalter said of the trade talk.  “I’d love for somebody to keep a tally sheet what they’re right about [in the media]. I keep in mind the old, throw it up against the wall, and if one sticks then ‘I told you, so’ [mentality].

It’s good for the fans [the Trade Deadline excitement]. That’s the bottom line. They like it, it keeps them engaged, and everybody plays fantasy swap. The old would you do this for him? Well of course I would, but they won’t do it.”

Kevin Gregg and Mark Reynolds have been heavily speculated as potential players to trade, but neither figure to command a return that would significantly help the Orioles. Baltimore is willing to move parts of the bullpen –the team’s strength for most of the first half –given its depth at Triple-A and ,outside of Bundy and Machado, Duquette hasn’t eliminated any of the organization’s other prospects in the right deal. The sense remains that the Orioles will make a trade before the deadline, although it’s highly unlikely it involves a marquee name.

Showalter was mum on any options and potential avenues on Tuesday and he spoke with his team the day after the All-Star Break to prepare them for the barrage of rumors and speculation involving their future.

“That’s another good thing about having a guy like [Jim] Thome and other [veteran] guys around,” Showalter said. “Obviously to get somebody, somebody leaves. Not only in your organization, but in that locker room. I think the last things players need to hear is the manager weighing in on that. Because I’ve ask them to keep their focus on [playing].”

Orioles @ Rays

Not a whole lot of pregame notes today, but I’ll have a blog and story up on Orioles.com later on the upcoming Trade Deadline and the latest rumblings. Here’s all I got for you…

*Jason Hammel (knee surgery) is still resting and has “the right kind of soreness” according to manager Buck Showalter. He is expected to report to Sarasota, Fla. along with infielder Robert Andino (left shoulder strain) to start rehab exercises as the next step.

*The team officially signed Cuban outfielder Henry Urrutia to a Minor League contract. He will be assigned to Double-A Bowie after reporting to Sarasota.

RAYS LINEUP
Desmond Jennings CF
BJ Upton DH
Ben Zobrist 2B
Jeff Keppinger 1B
Matt Joyce RF
Sean Rodriguez SS
Sam Fuld LF
Jose Lobaton C
Brooks Conrad SS
Jeremy Hellickson RHP

ORIOLES LINEUP
Nick Markakis RF
J.J. Hardy SS
Jim Thome DH
Adam Jones CF
Matt Wieters C
Wilson Betemit 3B
Chris Davis LF
Mark Reynolds 1B
Omar Quintanilla 2B

Wei-Yin Chen LHP

A few links, etc…

Amazing how pitching turns things around.

Miguel Gonzalez rebounded from a shaky first inning to win Friday’s series opener and Chris Tillman gave up a leadoff homer and settled in en route to another quality start Saturday, the Orioles fourth consecutive game with a quality start. Jim Thome is getting hot –homering in back-to-back games — and you can read more about last night’s win here.

This is a road trip the Orioles needed to get back on track. They went 2-2 in Minnesota and are now guaranteed at least a .500 trip. But looking at their tough upcoming schedule, it would certainly behoove them to take another two games from a reeling Indians club.

Baltimore does not have an off day until August 2, which will mark the first day since the All-Star Break. Following this series, the O’s will welcome the Tampa Bay Rays and the red-hot Oakland Athletics before going to New York and Tampa Bay.

Zach Britton will take the mound later today for his second start this season after issuing a career-high six walks in his first start in Minnesota Tuesday night.  Orioles manager Buck Showalter had a long talk in his office with Britton on Wednesday and said later that afternoon the 24-year-old Britton “was going to be alright.”

Here’s the rest of what he said…

“Every sport has a jump in levels of play,” Showalter said.  “There are a lot of things that if you do well there play well up here. We were looking at a stat, when Zach is down in the strike zone, the opponent’s batting average is like .160, .165 off him. That plays anywhere. But you can’t put this on too big a pedestal either. I was talking to [rookie Ryan] Flaherty about it today. They things they’ve got to do to be successful play and you don’t want them to get timid. You can want something too much. You’ve just got to stay in the process and the pitch-to-pitch execution and the at bat and move on to defense. It’s so easy to sit here and say it’s easy to do, whether it’s J.J [Hardy]. or Nick Markakis or [Chris] Tillman or Zach Britton. Everybody has challenges. This is a mentally challenging game and it challenges your emotions.”

Orioles @ Twins

*It’s a quick turnaround from last night’s 2-1 win, so it was pretty slow pregame. Here are your lineups for the series finale in Minnesota, where the Orioles are going for a four-game split…

ORIOLES LINEUP

Nick Markakis RF
J.J. Hardy SS
Jim Thome DH
Adam Jones CF
Matt Wieters C
Wilson Betemit 3B
Chris Davis LF
Mark Reynolds 1B
Ryan Flaherty 2B

Wei-Yin Chen LHP

TWINS LINEUP

Denard Span CF
Ben Revere RF
Joe Mauer C
Josh Willingham DH
Justin Morneau 1B
Trevor Plouffe 3B
Ryan Doumit Lf
Brian Dozier SS
Alexi Casilla 2B

Cole De Vries RHP

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