August 2012

Some Orioles quotes and thoughts

*The Orioles 7-5 win over the Tigers this afternoon was the kind of win that typically –especially in years past — would have the clubhouse celebrating after like it was the World Series. And while there was music playing and plenty of good moods all around in Detroit, more and more this team starts to give off the sense –at least to me — that it’s just another day’s work.

Manager Buck Showalter has gone to great lengths to keep his team focused, not on just being .500 or just winning the series, but on on winning every game, every day. And that feeling is becoming more evident among this group every day. Yes, they were happy to take two of three from a Tigers team that hadn’t lost a series since June 5-7 versus Cleveland. But multiple players still pointed out in their post-game interviews that they should have won Friday’s game.  That they didn’t let that emotion carry over, in what was arguably the most fired-up clubhouse I’ve seen all year, is a testament to the maturity this relatively young and inexperienced club has.

“That first game was tough,” said shortstop J.J. Hardy, who agreed taking the series puts the teams back on an emotional high heading to Texas.  “It was really tough. It was good to see this team bounce back the way we did.”

Twice now, the Orioles have rallied from five-run deficits in the first inning on the road: Detroit and New York. Those are tough places to play for any team and the kind of wins that build character.

*How good of a pickup has Wei-Yin Chen been for the Orioles? He has 12 wins now and is the first Oriole rookie since Daniel Cabrera in 2004 to hit that mark. On Sunday, Chen looked like he wasn’t going to make it past the first out — when Steve Johnson got up in the bullpen and started stretching — but managed to go five innings, earning high praise from Showalter, Tigers manager Jim Leyland and Chen’s teammates.

“He’s a tough dude,” reliever Darren O’Day said. “A lot of people don’t expect that, but he really is. He’s done it before, did it against the Rays earlier in the year when they were dropping bunts all over the field in the first inning, he came back and gave us five or six [innings] like that. So, he’s got a track record and sometimes you got to do that. It’s a pretty awesome job by him.”

And if there was still any doubt about Chen’s mentality, here’s his final quote from this afternoon.

“Every game is challenging for me,” Chen said through his interpreter. “And every game is challenging for this team. Right now, my only hope is to help the team get to the playoffs. That’s my only dream right now, my only goal.”

*The Orioles have a few roster decisions to make moving forward with an off-day on Thursday. The team is currently playing with an extra pitcher and a three-man bench.

With right-hander Steve Johnson — who last pitched on Thursday — serving as the long man, Showalter said the Orioles will continue to operate on a day-to-day basis. They are trying to keep their bullpen healthy and productive while also waiting to see if first baseman Mark Reynolds incurs any kind of suspension for his ejection on Friday.

It’s unlikely Reynolds is suspended and I think you will see Johnson serve as the long man in Texas, as needed with a short bench for now. The Orioles will pitch Miguel Gonzalez and Chris Tillman the first two games and if either has a short start, Johnson will be the guy. If he gets used in a long relief outing, I could also see them optioning him to get a fresh arm.  It’s important to note the Orioles haven’t ruled out Johnson as a starter for them this year, but with the way the schedule lines up it looks like the roster will continue to be a daily juggling act.

It seems likely the team will also keep Zach Britton –coming off his best start of the season — with the big league club, although what they will do with the rotation following Thursday’s day off is unclear. The Orioles could opt to stay with a five-man rotation and give each pitcher an extra day of rest, or option a pitcher and add either a reliever or another bench player.  You can read more on that here.

*I’ve been asked a few times about the status of some of the Orioles’ injured players so here’s what I’ve got. Wilson Betemit and Troy Patton are in Sarasota, Fla. receiving treatment and both are thought to be more than a week away. Jim Thome is home in Chicago and told me before he left he was going to be clear to swing a bat in early September. Since he doesn’t play the field, his return could be soon after that.

Jason Hammel is also still targeting an early September return and will throw another bullpen on Monday at about 90 percent effort. Hammel, who has been traveling with the team, hopes to do some fielding practice and test his knee more later in the week if all goes well on Monday. Showalter has been cautious with putting a timeframe on it, but did say that the team feels pretty good about where Hammel is so soon after right knee surgery. The key is really minimizing the soreness that is still back behind that knee.

*Did anyone see this coming with the bullpen? The Orioles are 51-0 when leading after seven innings this season and nearly every night the starting pitcher will single out the effort of the guys who come in after him. On Sunday afternoon Luis Ayala, Darren O’Day, Pedro Strop and closer Jim Johnson combined to post four scoreless innings lowering the ‘pen’s ERA to 1.56 over the last 16 games.

Johnson, who is on pace for a record-breaking season, picked up his 37th save, second most in the Majors and putting him in a tie for the second most in a single season in Orioles history with a 1-2-3 ninth. Showalter loves singling out how hard it is to close out one-run games on the road, and 23 of Johnson’s 37 saves this season have come away from Camden Yards.

He’s a guy who doesn’t want a lot of credit, but has had a heavy hand in this year’s success.

*Rookie Manny Machado has hit safely in seven of his first 10 Major League games, with three multi-hit efforts over that time. Seven of his 10 hits have been for extra bases with three doubles, three home runs and a triple. His defense has been equally impressive, with several of the Orioles noting how impressive his arm is. Showalter said it was “as advertised” this spring, although Machado took a lot of road trips and long bus rides as a rookie unofficially in camp, meaning a lot of the Oriole starters didn’t get to see him play much.

*Mark Reynolds, who won a lot of fans over with his comments following Friday’s ejection, has put together a nice stretch for the past two weeks. He is hitting .368 (14-for-38) with five walks, eight extra-base hits, seven runs scored and 10 RBIs over his last 13 games.

I don’t think it’s any secret what Reynolds is capable of doing for this club if he can keep hitting. There’s arguably no other Orioles player in the lineup with as much of an impact on their postseason chances than Reynolds.

Orioles vs. Tigers lineups and pregame notes

ORIOLES LINEUP
Nick Markakis RF
J.J. Hardy SS
Nate McLouth LF
Adam Jones CF
Chris Davis DH
Mark Reynolds 1B
Manny Machado 3B
Omar Quintanilla 2B
Taylor Teagarden C

Wei-Yin Chen LHP

TIGERS LINEUP
Austin Jackson CF
Omar Infante 2B
Miguel Cabrera 3B
Prince Fielder 1B
Jhonny Peralta SS
Delmon Young DH
Jeff Baker RF
Gerald Laird C
Quintin Berry LF

Doug Fister RHP

Orioles vs. Tigers lineups and pregame notes

*In case you missed it, the Orioles optioned Joe Mahoney to Triple-A Norfolk to clear room for tonight’s starter Zach Britton. Right-hander Steve Johnson will serve as the long man if needed and the O’s will employ a three-man bench for the time being.

*Mark Reynolds’ comments created a stir last night and he said this afternoon he hasn’t heard anything from Major League Baseball yet in regards to possible punishment. Reynolds said he was “sure something is going to happen” and said he didn’t have any remorse over his comments, with one exception.

“The only thing I regret that I said is that [the umpires] are probably laughing about it,” Reynolds said of the wrongly overturned call that got him ejected in the fifth inning Friday night. “Those guys, they work hard they try to make the right calls. Everything else, I was pretty hot after the game last night. Especially that we lost, it compounded it. I know they try to get the calls right. I know they aren’t over there laughing about it. I know they probably take it hard.

Everything else, I feel like I said what a lot of people think. So, we will see what happens.”

*Orioles pitcher Chris Tillman was fined by the league $750.00 for hitting Kansas City’s Salvador Perez with an 89-mph fastball in the sixth inning of August 11′s 7-3 Orioles loss. Perez homered in the second inning of the game and Tillman –who said the plunking was unintentional — was notified of the fine today.

*Jake Arrieta turned in his best outing in seven starts for Triple-A Norfolk, tossing 6 2/3 innings and allowing two earned runs –on a two-run homer — over the 98-pitch outing. The reports on Arrieta was he looked the best he has since being demoted, striking out eight and scattering three hits and a pair of walks.   He 16 of the final 18 batters he faced.

Here are your lineups…

ORIOLES LINEUP

Nick Markakis RF
J.J. Hardy SS
Nate McLouth LF
Adam Jones CF
Matt Wieters C
Chris Davis DH
Mark Reynolds 1B
Manny Machado 3B
Robert Andino 2B

Zach Britton LHP

TIGERS LINEUP

Austin Jackson CF
Omar Infante 2B
Miguel Cabrera 3B
Prince Fielder 1B
Jhonny Peralta SS
Delmon Young DH
Alex Avila C
Jeff Baker RF
Andy Dirks LF

Rick Porcello RHP

Orioles option Mahoney for Britton

The Orioles have optioned first baseman Joe Mahoney back to Triple-A Norfolk to clear a roster spot for Saturday night’s starter Zach Britton.

The move keeps an extra arm in the bullpen with right-hander Steve Johnson is presumably the long man tonight. Mahoney was with the Orioles for two games and entered int the bottom of the fifth inning when first baseman Mark Reynolds was ejected. Mahoney was recalled for the second time this season when the Orioles placed Wilson Betemit on the 15-day disabled list Thursday and Mahoney went 0-for-1 in his only at-bat on Friday. Mahoney played in one game in July, going 0-for-3.

The 25-year old Mahoney won the Orioles’ 2010 Brooks Robinson Minor League Player of the Year Award last season, when he hit .319/.378/.545 for Double-A Bowie. This season, he is hitting .263/.317/.390 for Norfolk.

Britton has gone 1-1 with an 8.10 ERA in five Major League starts and was scheduled to pitch on Saturday for Triple-A Norfolk before joining the team in Detroit on Friday. Johnson was also a candidate, but he pitched two innings of relief on Thursday and the team was worried about how much length he would be able to give them in a start two days later.

Reynolds: it’s almost like screw the Orioles by the umpires

Orioles manager Buck Showalter and first baseman Reynolds were ejected after a call on Tigers shortstop Jhonny Peralta was reversed, ruling Reynolds’ foot to be off the bag. The initial ruling by first-base umpire Jeff Kellogg was out but, the call was overturned several moments later after Peralta argued and Kellogg conferred with home-plate umpire Tim Timmons.

Reynolds spiked his glove and was immediately ejected, then was pushed aside by an angry Showalter, who was also tossed. Reynolds didn’t hold back in his post-game interview. Here’s what he said..

[on the play] “First of all, Manny made a hell of a play. Tough throw and I stayed on the bag and that’s why I got so upset.  I don’t understand how an umpire can miss a play at home plate that’s right in front of him and see that play from home plate at first base.  It’s embarrassing that they would overturn a call that obviously has an impact on the game in the middle of the pennant race. Obviously by the way I acted, it’s very frustrating. I’ve never seen it in my life an umpire reverse a call after the right call is made. And it’s obviously on the replay I kept my foot on the bag. I was pretty mad.”

[shocked?] “Definitely. I’ve never in my life seen someone reverse a call. The guy in Colorado, the guy was off the bag by three feet. And my foot was on the bag and they reversed it. And it’s a shame they don’t have accountability. They don’t have any, if they make a bad call it’s like, ‘Ho-hum, next day is coming.’ If we have a bad couple of games we get benched or we get sent down. They have nobody breathing down their throats. They have nobody, they are just secure in their jobs. And they are probably over there right now laughing about it because they don’t worry about it.  This game is way too important right now, where we are in the season, for these kind of calls to happen. And it’s very frustrating.”

[on being ejected after spiking his glove] “That’s terrible. Vic [Carapazza] has no authority to throw me out right there. all I did was an equipment violation, it’s a fine. You are supposed to point at it and the league offices decide what to do there. He just threw me out right there. I didn’t do anything wrong. If I go up to him and say something to him, that I shouldn’t say. That’s fine, throw me out there for that. But you can’t throw me out for throwing my glove. What’s the difference between a guy throwing his helmet after a bad call? It’s just part of it and everybody goes on their way. He had no right to throw me out there. There’s just so many words I can’t say on this camera right now.”

[on how tough this was to handle] “It’s almost like screw the Orioles by the umpires. I mean Jonsie was obviously safe at first base the other day, cost us a run against Boston. There’s got to be some kind of replay for this. It’s to the point where all these calls that get missed, cost people runs, cost people outs. Cost [starter Tommy Hunter] extra pitches.  I can’t say how I really feel but it’s pretty obvious.”

And here’s the umpire reactions
Jeff Kellogg (First base umpire and crew chief)

[on the play] “I went to the home plate umpire, who was coming up the line – Tim Timmons – I knew he was going to have a look at the edge of that bag coming up the line.”

Tim Timmons  (Home plate umpire)
“From when I saw the throw coming across, I knew that the throw was going to pull the first baseman that way. And at that point, that’s when I actually stopped and dropped anchor and looked for the foot. And when I saw the foot come up, the heel and the toe was on the bag. .. At the time he was going to glove the ball, when I saw the bottom of the whole foot and the foot dropped down onto the ground and I had daylight, I had him off the bag.”

“We just want to get the play right and that’s what we did there,” Kellog said. As to why he originally looked to Timmons, “The runner said something, the first base coach said something, [Tigers manager Jim] Leyland came out there.”

Reynolds and Showalter tossed

Manager Buck Showalter and first baseman Mark Reynolds were ejected in the bottom of the fifth inning of Friday’s game after a call at first involving Tigers shortstop Jhonny Peralta was reversed, with Reynolds’ foot ruled to be off the bag.

The play started with a great stop from rookie third baseman Manny Machado, who made a backhanded stab at the ball, pivoted and threw across the diamond to Reynolds on a short hop. But the throw was offline and Reynolds stretched to retrieve it, laying out fully. He maintained that his foot was still in contact with the bag.

The initial ruling by first-base umpire Jeff Kellogg was out. The typically mild-mannered Peralta got heated and started arguing and — although television replays were inconclusive — the call was overturned several moments later after Kellog confer with home plate umpire Tim Timmons.

Then it was Reynolds’ turn to get mad. He spiked his glove and was immediately ejected, with starter Tommy Hunter yelling from the mound. Reynolds, who kept conversing with Kellogg and the rest of the umpire crew, was pushed aside by an angry Showalter, who got in the umpires’ faces, turning bright red and animatedly stating his case before being tossed as well.

Hunter got out of the fifth inning unscathed, the Orioles’ two-run lead intact. The play was officially scored as an error on Machado.

It was Reynolds’ second career ejection — his first as an Oriole — and Showalter’s 24th and second of the season.

Orioles and Tigers lineups and pregame notes

*Zach Britton is here with the team in Detroit and the assumption is he will probably start tomorrow, although manager Buck Showalter hasn’t officially ruled out right-hander Steve Johnson. Johnson pitched two innings, throwing 28 pitches, to end last night’s game and he could be used in relief if needed again tonight. So, while nothing is official, you are likely looking at Britton for Saturday’s starter.

“He handled last night real well I thought,” Showalter said of Johnson, who had seven days off prior to pitching in Thursday’s game. “So, you know, I want to be fair to Steve too.  Sometimes being fair to somebody, because even if he got through tonight and [you] didn’t use him, how far can you expect to use him? You want some length there.

Asked if the Tigers are more vulnerable to left-handed pitching, Showalter said: “They are not susceptible to anything. they are good. No, I know Tommy’s had a good outing against them and I know Zach struggled in an outing here last year but our need supersedes that right now. For a starting pitcher. I wish we didn’t have to use Stevie last night, we didn’t have any choice.”

*Jason Hammel –recovering from right knee surgery– will throw a bullpen session on Saturday under the watchful eye of pitching coach Rick Adair and Hammel said the plan is to try to do more pitches than Wednesday, but at the same level of effort.

“The original injury when it actually hurt ,when I threw the pitch in the game that time, it hurt right back there [behind the knee],” Hammel explained. “So, it’s obviously dealing with getting past that. Because it’s still a little tentative to push off of it. But the first ‘pen I threw was like 70 percent, second ‘pen was about 90 percent so a little more effort and I was a little more sore that last time. But [that’s] to be expected when you’re putting more effort into it.”

Hammel and the Orioles are still targeting an early September return with the next step being for him to throw in a simulated game.

“That’s obviously the next step from throwing in a bullpen, but who knows?,” said manager Buck Showalter who was careful to put an exact timetable on Hammel’s return. It could be two or three times more down there. I’m going to leave it up to Rick and Richie and Ham because they’re aware of each other and what he needs to do.  But so far, so good. If you had told me when the surgery happened that we would be sitting here this close to talking about [his return], I’d feel real good about it. “

*Wilson Betemit had a cortisone injection in his sore right wrist yesterday in Sarasota, Fla. while reliever Stu Pomeranz had one today in his back to try to speed up the healing process. Troy Patton has reported to the team’s spring facility as well and is getting treatment on his right ankle.

Here are your lineups..

ORIOLES LINEUP

Nick Markakis RF
J.J. Hardy SS
Nate McLouth LF
Adam Jones CF
Matt Wieters C
Chris Davis DH
Mark Reynolds 1B
Manny Machado 3B
Omar Quintanilla 2B

Tommy Hunter RHP

TIGERS LINEUP

Austin Jackson CF
Andy Dirks LF
Miguel Cabrera 3B
Prince Fielder 1B
Alex Avila C
Delmon Young DH
Brennan Boesch RF
Jhonny Peralta SS
Omar Infante 2B

Justin Verlander RHP

Orioles vs Red Sox lineups and pregame notes

*Wilson Betemit has been placed on the 15-day disabled list due to a bone bruise and a small cartilage tear in his right wrist that were uncovered in an MRI taken Thursday morning. Betemit is heading to Sarasota to rehab, where he will be inactive for a week before hopefully returning to baseball activities. Manager Buck Showalter said he hopes to get Betemit back on Aug. 27, the first day he would be eligible to return.

*Joe Mahoney has been called up to take Betemit’s place on the active roster. Mahoney started at first base and was scheduled to hit fifth for Triple-A Norfolk this afternoon before being pulled in the second inning. Mahoney caught a flight to Baltimore to try to avoid traffic and is expected to arrive around 4:40 p.m. ET, which would allow him to participate in the final round of batting practice. His status with the team is day-to-day, as Showalter said the bullpen is fresh and does not require another arm at this point. 

*Steve Johnson will be available out of the bullpen on Thursday, but the Orioles also list him as Saturday’s probable starter. Showalter expressed confidence in some of the starting options the O’s have at Triple-A. Norfolk’s scheduled starter for Saturday is Zach Britton, but Britton would not be an option for the O’s since he would not have spent the required 10 days in the Minors following his Aug. 8 demotion. Jake Arrieta is scheduled to start for Norfolk on Friday. 

*Nolan Reimold is doing well in his recovery from surgery to repair a herniated disc in his neck. Reimold has been on the disabled list since May 5 and underwent the surgery on June 25. Showalter said Reimold is in the fourth week of an eight-week recovery program, meaning he is where he needs to be and potentially a little ahead of schedule. Showalter said Reimold is gaining strength, the the team is too far away from a recovery to start thinking about a timetable for his return. 

*Steve Tolleson returned after a stint the disabled list due to a broken right index finger, starting at shortstop for Norfolk on Thursday. He finished 1-for-4 with a pair of RBIs.

*Ryan Flaherty also played for Norfolk on Thursday as he continues his recovery from a bacterial infection, finishing 0-for-4. He is 0-for-12 in three games at Norfolk. 

*After saying that Jason Hammel was just “OK” in Wednesday’s bullpen session, Showalter elaborated on Thursday to say that Hammel didn’t feel as strong pitching only two days after his Monday bullpen. A simulated game would likely be Hammel’s next step, although Showalter indicated that step was not likely to be made this weekend. 

ORIOLES LINEUP

Nick Markakis RF
J.J. Hardy SS
Nate McLouth LF
Adam Jones CF
Matt Wieters C
Chris Davis DH
Mark Reynolds 1B
Manny Machado 3B
Omar Quintanilla 2B

Chris Tillman RHP

RED SOX LINEUP

Jacoby Ellsbury DH
Carl Crawford LF
Dustin Pedroia 2B
Adrian Gonzalez 1B
Cody Ross RF
Jarrod Saltalamacchia C
Nick Punto 3B
Pedro Ciriaco SS
Scott Podsednik CF

Clay Buchholz RHP

Duquette on Matusz, infield help & external options

Orioles executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette said prior to Wednesday’s game that the team still views Brian Matusz as a starter long-term, with the move to Triple-A Norfolk’s bullpen because of team need.

“It’s for right now,” Duquette said of the decision to try Matusz as a lefty reliever. “I think if he can be a starter we can have more value and develop a better career for himself.   For now, he can certainly help us in relief in that role.

We always look internally and externally at the same time. With the players we have internally a lot of times if we take the time to look at what they do well, a lot of times the answer is right there. Like Matusz has a great record against left-handed hitters. His whole career. Not just this year, but his whole career. So, with  [Troy] Patton’s injury there’s an opportunity. We’ve been looking for another left-hander out of the bullpen. It’s an opportunity for him to help us.”

Duquette didn’t seem overly optimistic that the organization would have any external help on the horizon, despite the season-long search to add starting pitching.

“A lot of the pitching is not available that was available at the time of the Trade Deadline,” said Duquette, who did not make a move at this year’s deadline. “[Jason] Hammel looks good. So if we can get him back and keep the others going that will be very helpful. If we can get [Hammel] back that would be the equivalent of bringing in a veteran pitcher to help the team.”

The 29-year-old Hammel is scheduled to throw another bullpen Thursday and if all goes well he will throw in a simulated game sometime over the team’s next roadtrip. The Orioles are targeting an early September return for Hammel, who will help boost a rotation that currently includes Wei-Yin Chen, Miguel Gonzalez and Chris Tillman.

Asked if the club is still looking for external corner infield help, which Duquette said was still an emphasis after promoting top prospect Manny Machado, the play of Machado and improvement of Mark Reynolds seems to have softened his stance.

“You like Machado you like what he’s done?,” Duquette said with a grin about the 20-year-old Machado, who was named Co-American League Player of the Week last week. “How about [second baseman Omar] Quintanila you think he’s done a good job? So, do they look like every day players? OK.”

Quintanilla has three home runs since joining the Orioles, and had three total in 592 career at-bats prior to coming to Baltimore. Asked if he was surprised about the offense from Quintanilla –thought to be a defense-first player — Duquette was coy.

“He has a good fundamental approach to hitting. So generally when you have a good fundamental approach you get good results.”

 

Orioles vs. Red Sox lineups and pregame notes

*Wilson Betemit is scheduled to under go an MRI tomorrow morning on his wrist, manager Buck Showalter said. Betemit is bothered by the wrist whenever he tries to swing, but at this point the team is hoping that the injury is just tendinitis.

*Showalter said the O’s would like to add another left-handed arm to the bullpen in September. Troy Patton was the only lefty out of the pen for most of the year before being put on the disabled list on Tuesday. That led to the O’s acquiring lefty J.C. Romero from Cleveland on Monday. Still, Showalter believes the team may have some options at the Minor League level. Brian Matusz, who started with the O’s for most of 2012 and posted impressive splits against lefties, will be pitching out of the pen for Triple-A Norfolk and could take on a similar role with the O’s. Showalter also mentioned Zach Phillips, who allowed only one run in eight innings last September and has posted a 3.42 ERA out of the bullpen for Triple-A Norfolk this season.

*Jim Thome and Troy Patton will both be leaving the team after Wednesday’s game to continue their rehab away from Baltimore. Thome has been on the disabled list since July 31 due to a herniated disc in his neck, while Patton went on the DL Tuesday due to a sprained right ankle.

*Jason Hammel is still scheduled to throw a second session off the mound on Thursday. Showalter said Hammel has been able to manage the swelling extremely well, to the point where there are hardly any issues at all.

*Ryan Flaherty is starting at third base and hitting third for Triple-A Norfolk tonight, the next step in his rehab from a bacterial infection that landed him on the disabled list on August 8.

ORIOLES LINEUP

Nick Markakis RF
J.J. Hardy SS
Nate McLouth LF
Adam Jones CF
Matt Wieters C
Chris Davis DH
Mark Reynolds 1B
Manny Machado 3B
Omar Quintanilla 2B

Miguel Gonzalez RHP

RED SOX LINEUP

Jacoby Ellsbury CF
Carl Crawford LF
Dustin Pedroia 2B
Adrian Gonzalez 1B
Cody Ross DH
Jarrod Saltalamacchia C
Mike Aviles SS
Scott Podsednik RF
Nick Punto 3B

Aaron Cook RHP

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