July 2012

A few more quotes

A few more quotes from manager Buck Showalter pregame..

With the Trade Deadline approaching, I asked Showalter how often he keeps in contact with what executive vice president of bsaeball operations Dan Duquette in regards to external moves.

“Not every day,” Showalter said. “He;s got a lot of different things going on in the organization. Most of them are about our moves immediately with the club but when it gets to the point where something’s getting ready to happen like we’ve done through the years, we certainly talk in exact terms. He doesn’t have to tell me everything. Sometimes I’ve got enough working in my brain every day.”

Much has been made of Showalter’s comment on Monday night that appeared to be aimed at new director of  pitching development Rick Peterson and his work with the young pitchers.  Following Chris Tillman’s start,  Showalter noted that Tillman’s fabulous season debut –followed by Monday’s clunker — was nothing new.

“He had a real good outing and he struggled tonight; he’s done that before,” manager Buck Showalter said of Tillman, who has posted back-to-back-quality outings just once in 38 Major League starts, dating back in 2009. “That’s why when guys always try to put everything in a little tight box like where he’s putting his foot or where he’s taking his hands out. This is a lot more than just mechanical things.”

Showalter speaks with Peterson frequently and did again on Wednesday to talk about the latest progress from Brian Matusz and Jake Arrieta, who are in Triple-A Norfolk working with Peterson and pitching coach Mike Griffin.

“Peterson, he’s been great,” Showalter said of the hire which was made by Duquette this winter.  “He’s engaged. We’ve put him in a tough spot with moving pitchers around too. But when we take these pitchers, somebody’s got to move. He’s involved in a lot of those decisions, we’re lucky to have somebody with the experience he has  not only there but in the major leagues. With some of the pitching prospects we’re excited about to have that type of instruction and continuity. We’ve been lucky because Rick is a commodity.

There are so many ways to do things, and what you find out is that everybody for the most part is talking about the same thing. It’s just sometimes different approach and different terminology and different things click with different players. It’s been good. It’s been very consistent and the players have seemed to embrace it.”

Young pitchers need to believe they belong here

With the Orioles’ young pitchers working hard –and rightfully so – on mechanical adjustments and being able to repeat their delivery, one of the less-talked about aspects of their growth comes in knowing they can pitch in the Major Leagues.

“It’s more of a mindset than it is mechanics for me,” said right-hander Chris Tillman, who like all of the team’s young pitchers, has struggled with consistency in the Majors. “I think at this level it’s more of a mental game. You go down to Double-A, Triple-A you can work on your stuff, but here’s it’s more having the mindset. You’ve got to know you can do it.  I’m very confident in my ability.”

Britton –who issued a career-high six walks in Tuesday’s season debut – admitted following the game that he was tentative at times and didn’t trust his stuff, which kept him getting behind in the count.  The 24-year-old lefty, along with

Tillman –who is also 24 – will both get at least one more start and the chance to show that they can help stabilize the team’s uncertain rotation.  Starter Jake Arrieta and Brian Matusz are currently in Triple-A Norfolk and Showalter said he spoke with director of pitching development Rick Peterson on Wednesday, picking his brain about the progress of those guys as well as the group of youngster as a whole.

“We talked about that [mental aspect], that there’s a lot of things that go into [having success in the Majors],” Showalter said. “You gain a lot of confidence by having a good delivery and mechanics. You can get yourself back on task, but the baseball rules don’t allow a pitching coach to go out there after every pitch.

Guys have to be their own pitching coach out there a little bit, too. I think Tilly and Britton will both pitch better as we go forward. I talked with Zach today a little. He’s in a good frame of mind. He’s going to be alright.”

The Orioles are looking to add another starting pitcher but, as executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette said Wednesday, there are expectations within the organization that their current crop of young pitchers can right the ship.

“They should be competitive,” Duquette said. “They all have the skills, they have the equipment to be Major League pitchers…I don’t see any reason why they shouldn’t be. We’ve got a lot of baseball left to go but I don’t see why these pitchers, I don’t see anything holding them back from being competitive Major Leaguers.

Whatever they need to do at to be at a competitive level that’s really what needs to be done. They have a good idea [of what that is], each one of them has things they need to do to be a competitive Major Leaguer ..they all have an awareness of what it is. We got consistent feedback from the hitters, and making consistent pitches is what gets hitters out. We see flashes, but the inconsistency is frustrating.”

“The way I pitched isn’t going to get it done,” Tillman said of Monday’s 2/3 inning outing. “I need to be more consistent like I was in Seattle. And you got to give your team a chance to win every time. Not just one time, or two times but every time.”

Showalter spent a long time Wednesday afternoon with Britton in his office and said another pitfall with young players is putting too much emphasis on being in the Major Leagues.

“You can’t put this [level] on too big a pedestal, either,” he said.  “I was talking to [rookie position player Ryan] Flaherty about it today. There are things they’ve got to do to be successful 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.”

Orioles @ Twins

*Brad Bergesen was designated for assignment to make room for tonight’s pitcher, Tommy Hunter. Bergesen has his contract purchased yesterday and did not pitch. He is on outright waivers and –assuming he clears — he will be optioned to Triple-A Norfolk. The Orioles chose to take him off the 40-man rather than just option him, which is why Bergesen was designated for assignment. The team’s 40-man roster is now at 39.

*The Orioles were awarded the fourth pick in the Competitive Balance Draft Lottery, which took place today. More on that here.

*In case you missed it, Orioles executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette said despite the team’s recent struggles he still expects the organization to be a buyer over the next few weeks leading up to the trade deadline. More on that here.

ORIOLES LINEUP

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

Tommy Hunter RHP

TWINS LINEUP

Denard Span CF
Ben Revere RF
Joe Mauer DH
Josh Willingham LF
Justin Morneau 1B
Trevor Plouffe 3B
Brian Dozier SS
Drew Butera C
Jamey Carroll 2B

Francisco Liriano LHP

TWINS LINEUP

Duquette says the Orioles are still buyers

Despite a stretch in which the team has lost 17 of its last 24 games, including six of seven, executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette said Wednesday the Orioles are still buyers on the trade market.

“We really need to stabilize our pitching, which is what we are looking for,” Duquette said in a phone interview with MLB.com Wednesday morning. “We still want to have another pitcher.”

Duquette said he doesn’t think “it’s feasible” for the club to add more than one starter given that there are too many other teams looking for pitching. The Orioles, who will not part with top prospects Manny Machado and Dylan Bundy, probably don’t have enough in their system to get more than effective rotation guy anyway.

The hope remains that the team’s young starters, who have all struggled mightily, can improve enough to help get the team on the right track. Despite rumors to the contrary, the Orioles aren’t looking to trade any of their young pitchers, but rather get them back on track. Currently, Brian Matusz and Opening Day starter Jake Arrieta are in Triple-A with Zach Britton struggling in his season debut and Chris Tillman unable to get out of the first inning in his second big-league start this year.

“My hope is that they establish themselves with the Orioles,” Duquette said. “That’s what they are trying to accomplish.

I think they should be competitive. They all have the skills, they have all the equipment to be Major League pitchers…I don’t see any reason why they shouldn’t be. We’ve got a lot of baseball left to go, but I don’t see why these pitchers, I don’t see anything holding them back from being competitive Major Leaguers.”

Middle infield depth remains a focus, Duquette said, but the Orioles are optimistic Robert Andino (left shoulder strain) will return in a few weeks and are going with a platoon of Steve Tolleson and Ryan Flaherty in the meantime.  While adding a bat atop the order is on the wish list, nothing takes priority over finding another starter pitcher.

“If we got one starter and got a little bit better performance from who we have, we’d be OK,” Duquette said. “We need to be in contention, or we need to have the idea that what we are going to do will improve the team enough to make the playoffs. And you never know that for sure, but I think it’s important for us to have a good year. It’s important for us to finish strong and win more games than we lose and try to go for the pennant.”

Duquette has said previously that he has the ownerships backing to improve at the deadline and add pieces as he sees fit, and he didn’t back off that stance on Wednesday.

“Anything that we do we would do with the idea to strengthen the team for this year,” he said.

Even if the current club continues to falter?

“I hope we are in contention until the end of the month so we are adding,” Duquette said. “That’s the direction we are working on, and working toward.”

Bergesen here, Socolovich optioned

Seeking to bolster an overworked bullpen, the Orioles purchased the contract of right-hander Brad Bergesen prior to Tuesday’s game, optioning Miguel Socolovich to Triple-A Norfolk in his place.

Bergesen last pitched two scoreless innings on Saturday and has pitched to a 2.35 ERA in his last 10 games. Overall, the 26-yearold Bergesen has gone 4-3 in 22 games (10 starts) allowing 90 hits and 23 walks for 42 runs (36 earned runs). He has also struck out 41 over that 80 1/3-inning stretch.

“It was a real surprise,” Bergesen said of his first Major League time this season. “I was about to fall asleep [Monday night] and then I got the phone call about 12:30, 1 o’clock last night.  [Triple-A Manager Ron Johnson] called me, [and said] ‘You’re going up. Come get your bag. You’ve got a 9:30 flight.’

Bergesen is a career 17-24 with a 4.68 ERA  in the big leagues and is expected to be used as the right-handed long man –if necessary—behind Tuesday’s lefty starter Zach Britton, who is making his season debut. To make room on the 40-man roster, Nick Johnson (right wrist injury) was transferred to the 60-day disabled list.

“I felt bad, didn’t’ really want to send Socolovich out, but he was kind of dead in the water for a couple days,” said manager Buck Showalter, who used the right-hander for 2 1/3 innings in Monday’s game.  “Obviously with any pitcher, but especially a young pitcher starting the season [in Britton] you want to be able to be covered as much say you can. You want to have a long guy that’s able to go long, and of the possibilities we had there, Bergy was the best option.”

The Orioles also officially recalled Britton from Triple-A Norfolk, placing Robert Andino on the disabled list to make room on the roster. The team will make another move to officially recall Wednesday’s starter, Tommy Hunter, from Triple-A so Bergesen’s stay could be brief.

Orioles @ Twins

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

Zach Britton LHP

TWINS LINEUP
Denard Span CF
Ben Revere RF
Joe Mauer C
Josh Willingham LF
Justin Morneau 1B
Trevor Plouffe 3B
Ryan Doumit DH
Brian Dozier SS
Jamey Carroll 2B

Sam Deduno RHP

Andino out 3-4 weeks with left shoulder strain

The injury problems continue to pile up for the Orioles, who will be without second baseman Robert Andino for 3-4 weeks after Monday’s MRI revealed a left shoulder strain. Andino will be placed on the disabled list on Tuesday, with starter Zach Britton taking his roster spot, and his absence is another blow for an already-depleted Orioles team.

Baltimore’s Opening Day second baseman, Andino is batting .230/.292//325 with five home runs, 21 RBIs and four stolen bases in 79 games and has taken over full-time duties in the absence of veteran Brian Roberts. Andino got hurt in the sixth inning of Sunday’s game while diving for Alex Avila’s RBI single off starter Miguel Gonzalez, which gave Detroit a 3-0 lead. He dove to his left and stayed down after the ball went to right field and later exited the game, with immediate X-Rays on the area coming back negative.

The 28-year-old Andino stayed back in Baltimore and was put in a sling, according to manager Buck Showalter. Showalter also said that Andino will report to the team’s spring facility in Sarasota, Fla. after a few days of rest to let the area calm down. The initial timetable is 3-4 weeks and the good news is the injury isn’t on his throwing arm, but Andino will still need to get some at-bats with one of the team’s affiliates before he is activated.

Showalter said Steve Tolleson and Ryan Flaherty are the two internal options on the roster to replace Andino, with Tolleson getting the start for Monday’s series opener in Minnesota. Tolleson, who came up through the Twins Minor League system, last played second base in the Majors in 2010.

Orioles @ Twins lineups and pregame notes (updated)

Greetings from Minneapolis, where the Orioles are kicking off a two-city eight-game road trip with stops here and in Cleveland.  It’s insanely hot here, with temperatures expected to hover in the upper 90s before breaking slightly the next three days. There were a lot of players already out hitting and taking early batting practice when I arrived at Target Field at around 2:15 CT. Those I saw : Wilson Betemit, Endy Chavez, Steve Tolleson, Mark Reynolds, Chris Davis, Ryan Flaherty, Steve Pearce, Taylor Teagarden, J.J. Hardy and Jim Thome.

*The big news out of today’s pregame session is second baseman Robert Andino will be out  3-4 weeks after Monday’s MRI revealed a left shoulder strain. Andino will be placed on the disabled list on Tuesday, with starter Zach Britton taking his roster spot, and his absence is another blow for an already-depleted Orioles team. More on that here.

*Nick Johnson tried to hit today in extended spring in Sarasota, Fla. with some discomfort in his wrist, so he continues to be out indefinitely. Stu Pomeranz –who had a back issue that kept him from going out on rehab– resumed throwing today in Sarasota, as he continues to make his way back from an oblique strain.

*Jason Hammel underwent successful surgery on his right knee today at John Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. The 29-year-old Hammel had the area scoped out and also had a few loose bodies removed in the area. He will also report to Sarasota, but not immediately since there’s nothing he can do initially but rest. The timetable for Hammel remains the same.

*Ronny Paulino has accepted his assignment and will remain in the organization, forgoing free agency to stay with Triple-A Norfolk and split catching duties with Luis Exposito. Paulino was outrighted on Saturday to make room for Taylor Teagarden.

*The Orioles have yet to announce a starter for Wednesday, although Tommy Hunter seems like the most logical choice given that he’s slated to pitch for Norfolk that day. Reliever Miguel Socolovich is also an option out of the bullpen and is stretched out enough to make a spot start, but that depends on how Tillman and Britton pitch these next two games.

*The Orioles officially recalled right-hander Chris Tillman, who will start tonight, from Double-A Bowie. Tillman was with the team yesterday and made a start at Bowie over the All-Star Break. He will be making his second start of the season and try to solidify a spot in the team’s uncertain rotation. The 24-year-old Tillman has never pitched at Target Field.

*Dana Eveland has cleared waivers and been outrighted to Triple-A Norfolk. Eveland was placed on waivers on Saturday and is expected to be stretched back out to join Norfolk’s rotation.

*Zach Britton is here with the team in Minnesota and is expected to be officially recalled from Triple-A Norfolk to make Tuesday’s start. It will be the first Major League start for Britton since September 27, 2011. Britton was projected to be part of the team’s starting rotation, but was plagued with left shoulder discomfort that started last August.  He struggled initially for Triple-A Norfolk after being activated off the disabled list, but his last few outings had the organization optimistic he can return to form.

ORIOLES LINEUP

Nick Markakis RF
J.J. Hardy SS
Adam Jones CF
Matt Wieters C
Mark Reynolds 1B
Steve Pearce LF
Chris Davis DH
Wilson Betemit 3B
Steve Tolleson 2B

Chris Tillman RHP

TWINS LINEUP

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

Scott Diamond LHP

Orioles vs. Tigers, Hammel to have surgery

A few pregames notes and lineups for you following last night’s marathon win

*Jason Hammel announced this morning he will have surgery –likely on Monday morning — at Johns Hopkins Hospital to scope out his right knee and remove some of the loose cartilage that is causing him discomfort. The 29-year-old Hammel will be operated on by team orthopedist Dr. John Wilckens and said the initial timetable for his return is 3-4 weeks. Manager Buck Showalter, who said last night that he was hoping to have Hammel back by early September, reiterated that sentiment on Sunday. Showalter said he wasn’t counting on Hammel any sooner than that and an early return would be a gift.

*The Orioles officially recalled Steve Johnson to take Hammel’s spot on the 25-man roster. Johnson is in his second stint with the Orioles and was called up for the first time –but did not pitch — during the team’s series in Seattle.  He could have a short stay again with the team expected to activate Chris Tillman for Monday’s start and recall Zach Britton for Tuesday.

Tillman, who was with the team today to travel to Minnesota post-game, said his back is feeling much better and he’s good to go for his second start with the Orioles. He had his original start pushed back a day to err on the safe side.

*Brian Matusz will pitch for Triple-A Norfolk today as scheduled and is no longer considered an option for Wednesday’s game. Showalter said he spoke with Rick Peterson on the phone this morning for about 45 minutes and –after also talking with Norfolk’s manager Ron Johnson and pitching coach Mike Griffin — the sense is Matusz needs to continue to pitch for the Tides and improve. So, who goes? It’s Tommy Hunter’s day to pitch for Norfolk, so he seems to be the most logical candidate now.  I also wouldn’t rule out Johnson or Miguel Socolovich as potential candidates for that start.

*Right-handed reliever Stu Pomeranz was scheduled to start a rehab assignment today, but he had what Showalter deemed “a hiccup” with his back and will need another day or two. Pomeranz has been sidelined with a left oblique strain since the end of May.

ORIOLES LINEUP

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

Miguel Gonzalez RHP

TIGERS LINEUP

Austin Jackson CF
Quintin Berry LF
Miguel Cabrera 3B
Prince Fielder 1B
Brennan Boesch DH
Jhonny Peralta SS
Alex Avila C
Ramon Santiago 2B
Don Kelly RF

Justin Verlander RHP

Hammel leaning toward right knee surgery

The Orioles are expected to place right-handed pitcher Jason Hammel on the disabled list on Sunday, with the 29-year-old saying following Saturday’s game that he is “leaning toward” surgery on his right knee that would likely sideline him until September.

“Honestly, I just want my knee to feel normal again,” said Hammel, who exited Friday’s start in the fourth inning and had an MRI on the area on Saturday.  “So I’m kind of leaning toward surgery, but I haven’t made that decision yet.

“[The decision has] got to be soon because I don’t want to miss too much time. It’s a pretty simple procedure to go in there and just let it be scoped but like I said I could let it rest. And it could be fine that way, but it’d be better just to get it taken care of.”

Hammel said the MRI showed no further damage but the cartilage –which would be removed — has moved to an area that is right up against the joint and causing him discomfort every time his bends his knee.  The loss of Hammel for any length of time is devastating for the Orioles and their already-shaky rotation.  A Final Vote All-Star  candidate Hammel has been the team’s best starter — entering Friday’s game 8-5 with a 3.47 ERA — and is one of two dependable rotation guys along with Wei-Yin Chen.

“I feel like I am letting the guys down if I miss starts,” said Hammel, who has been a pleasant surprise in his first season with Baltimore. “I want to be part of this. It’s tough because my body is letting me down right now and I feel so good. A lot of hard work to get where we are right now. It is what it is.

If something does happen [surgically], the other guys are going to step up. It’ll be an opportunity for somebody else. And as soon as I can come back and help the team I am going to do that.”

The Orioles’ leading candidate to take Hammel’s spot on Wednesday is lefty Brian Matusz, who is fresh off a complete-game shutout for Triple-A Norfolk. Matusz, who is scheduled to pitch Sunday for the Tides, went 5-10 with a 5.42 ERA in 16 Major League starts before being sent to the Minor Leagues.

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