August 2012

Orioles vs. Red Sox lineups and pregame notes (updated)

*The organization is going to try left-handed starter Brian Matusz as a bullpen option, with Matusz slated to make a few relief appearances for Triple-A Norfolk and see how it goes. Manager Buck Showalter said he would be surprised if Matusz doesn’t excel in the role and that the 25-year-old was very receptive to going to the bullpen because it’s an avenue that could help him help the big league club.

Why Matusz? Over his career, Matusz has held left-handed hitters to a .223/.281/.384 line with 23 walks against 103 strikeouts. The Orioles are trying to fill the multi-inning lefty role internally and they’ve had internal discussions about it for the last week or two. Matusz is expected to get a few outings in relief and then be re-evaluated from there.

*Jim Thome (herniated disk) in currently on the disabled list, but is still finding ways to help out. Thome is going to watch  top pitching prospect Dylan Bundy’s first start for Double-A Bowie tonight and Showalter said the veteran is really excited about giving him the full scouting report. As a reminder, associate reporter Greg Luca will be there live tweeting and reporting on Bundy’s outing. Give him a follow on Twitter: @GregLuca.

Thome will head home to Chicago after tomorrow’s team picture –since he’s not cleared for baseball activities just yet — while Ryan Flaherty is expected to play in his first rehab game with Triple-A Norfolk sometime this week.

*Jason Hammel threw about 20 pitches in his first bullpen since undergoing right knee surgery and he said everything went well. Hammel, who will remain with the team until he goes out on a rehab assignment, is still hoping to be back in early September. The plan is for him to throw another light bullpen on Thursday and possibly a simulated game after that.

*The Orioles will  place left-handed reliever Troy Patton on the disabled list as expected after Patton rolled his right ankle in the parking garage of his Baltimore apartment Sunday night. Patton had X-Rays done yesterday after his ankle swelled up pretty good overnight and nothing is broken, it’s just a minor injury. He seemed pretty confident it would be the minimum 15-day stay and said he’s rolled this ankle twice before. Patton will head to extended spring in Sarasota, Fla. after tomorrow’s team picture.

*In Patton’s place, Steve Johnson is here and the right-hander –who was slated to start for Triple-A Norfolk today — is listed out of the bullpen tonight. Wei-Yin Chen is still the starter, and the Orioles rotation will remain the same for the next three games with possible changes on Friday. Showalter said Johnson is a candidate for Friday or Saturday’s start. Tommy Hunter would presumably start one of those games.

While the Orioles considered starting Johnson today and moving back the rest of the rotation, having him in the bullpen gives the team some length for the next few days if needed.

*J.C. Romero is also listed as the Orioles’ lone lefty out of the bullpen. Romero was traded for yesterday and will be used in place of Patton, although he probably won’t be stretched out quite as much.

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

Wei-Yin Chen LHP

RED SOX LINEUP

Jacoby Ellsbury CF
Pedro Ciriaco DH
Dustin Pedroia 2B
Adrian Gonzalez 1B
Cody Ross RF
Ryan Lavarnway C
Carl Crawford LF
Alex Aviles SS
Danny Valencia 3B

Josh Beckett RHP

More on rotation, Britton note

The Orioles starting rotation could get pushed back a day with right-hander Steve Johnson expected to be recalled prior to Tuesday’s game as long as there’s an expected disabled list move. That move will be with reliever Troy Patton, who injured his ankle after yesterday’s game. The team is considering starting Johnson on his regular day –which is Tuesday –and pushing back the rest of the Orioles rotation which would solve the problem as to who starts on Saturday.

The team had been employing a four-man rotation and would have needed to make a move for a starter on Saturday if they do stay on turn. Johnson was scheduled to pitch Tuesday for Triple-A Norfolk already and if the Orioles push back the rest of the rotation Tommy Hunter would be scheduled to go on Saturday. Patton’s injury, which was first reported by MASNSports.com, enables the Orioles to recall Johnson from the Minors before his 10 days is up.

It’s one option that’s being kicked around, as the Orioles are also expected to officially add lefty J.C. Romero to the bullpen prior to Tuesday’s game. Romero was acquired in a trade for the Cleveland Indians earlier today and had pitched with Norfolk before opting out earlier this season. Assuming Patton goes to the DL,  Romero will be the lone lefty in the ‘pen.

Left-handed pitcher Zach Britton made his first start tonight since being optioned to Triple-A and allowed six earned runs over 3 2/3 innings. He cracked a nail on his left index finger and struggled with command and finishing his pitches before being removed in the fourth inning. His next start day for the Tides would be Saturday as it stands right now and is another option if the Orioles decide to stay on turn in the current rotation.

As the roster turns (updated)

An Orioles club averaging more than a roster move a day continues to keep busy with transactions.

Baltimore announced Monday that it has acquired lefty reliever J.C. Romero from the Cleveland Indians in exchange for Minor League Carlos Rojas. Romero –in his second stint this season in the organization — will be officially activated and added to the Orioles’ 25-man roster prior to Tuesday’s game.

Romero will take the roster spot of right-handed pitcher Miguel Socolovich, who was optioned after Sunday’s game, and gives the Orioles another lefty in the bullpen along with Troy Patton.

It also might not be the only roster move the club makes prior to the Red Sox series. The Orioles are dealing with a potential disabled list situation and are prepared to activate right-handed pitcher Steve Johnson if needed prior to Tuesday’s game against the Boston Red Sox. Johnson was optioned back to Triple-A Norfolk a day after his first career Major League start and he would not be eligible to return to the club until Sunday unless there’s a DL situation.  He was originally scheduled to start for Norfolk on Tuesday.

The Orioles are also still in need of a starter for Saturday’s game and are currently employing a four-man rotation.

***

Also, in case you missed it: Manny Machado was named Co-American League Player of the Week for the period ending Sunday. You can read more about that here.

Associate reporter Greg Luca did a great job looking at the success of Wei-Yin CHen and how quickly he’s fit in with his new Oriole teammates. You can read that here.

Chen finding comfort zone a long way from Taiwan (FULL)

Greg Luca/MLB.com

BALTIMORE — A smile is supposed to be the same in every language, but that’s not the way it works for Wei-Yin Chen.

In the Orioles clubhouse, Chen’s smile can be one of the only signs of friendship the non-English speaker has to offer, a simple representation of the likable pitcher his teammates describe as goofy, outgoing and energetic.

In Chen’s home country of Taiwan, that same smile is one of a national hero and Esquire cover model, a role it would be tough to predict for a player who is “just one of the guys” in Baltimore.

“He’s very quiet and soft-spoken around here, so you don’t see him as that big Brad Pitt figure I guess he is over there,” catcher Matt Wieters said. “It’s kind of crazy how the same person in different worlds, everybody has a different view of it.”

Few athletes in America can move the needle the way Chen does in Taiwan.

Yu Chia Cheng of the Liberty Times and Guohua Zang of the Taiwanese CTI TV — two of the many Asian media members that flock to Chen’s starts — can attest to that. Every Chen outing has been their top story since the day he arrived, as the millions of fans who put up with the 12-hour time difference to watch him pitch still yearn for more.

Baseball is Taiwan’s most popular sport, but only eight Taiwanese players have ever made it to the Majors. The most successful of those eight was Chien-Ming Wang, who finished as the Cy Young runner-up with the Yankees in 2006. Back then, every one of Wang’s starts was a national event. The media scrutiny became so fierce that Wang began refusing interviews to Taiwanese reporters.

Chen’s stardom isn’t at that level quite yet, but his following is only growing with each successful start. Cheng described him as a “national hero.”

“I am so proud to be Taiwan’s national hero, but on the field I don’t feel any pressure,” Chen said through interpreter Tim Lin, adding that his fans give him a “really warm” feeling. “Off the field, I feel pressure. That’s part of my life right now.”

Chen’s teammates see the way small pockets of fans with signs, jerseys and Taiwanese flags come out to support him at nearly every home and road start. They also notice the way he handles the throngs of media that have followed him since Spring Training.

But for Chen to appear on the cover of Esquire, a slot usually reserved for models, movie stars, world leaders and athletes on the level of Michael Jordan, Tom Brady and Muhammad Ali? That caught them a little off-guard.

“CHEENO!” Troy Patton shouts as Chen walks by, hailing him with his clubhouse nickname while waving a photo of the newly discovered Esquire cover at him.

Chen simply smiles and nods, the best he can do in a lot of these situations.

“Look at him!” Patton says, turning to Matt Lindstrom in the next locker over.

“Watch out,” Lindstrom cracks slyly.

“He carries himself with some swagger, but I didn’t know he was Esquire material,” Darren O’Day said. “That’s big time, man.”

For O’Day, this fresh nugget will make for useful ammo. The team’s resident jokester, O’Day will crack wise at anyone’s expense, and Chen is no exception.

Back in Spring Training, it would’ve been tough for Chen to keep up. Trying to adjust to a new language and a new job in a new country with new teammates, Chen had — and still has — a lot on his plate.

But he’s made strides. Chen took about 20 classes with an English tutor during Spring Training, and he said he picks up new phrases from his teammates, who teach him “some English slang or English sentence every day.”

Chen has been able to communicate in baseball terms and hand signals since the spring, and he can always have a discussion through Lin, but he’s started to take matters into his own hands.

“He’s always goofing around, calling me the few insults he knows,” O’Day said. “In Spring Training, he didn’t know a bit of English. Now you can go up and B.S. with him a little bit. I’m sure next year we’ll come back and Chen will be making fun of me in English, no problem.”

Chen has even engaged his teammates away from the clubhouse, taking pitcher Zach Britton and one of the team trainers to a Chinese restaurant to show off the traditional fare.

If the team goes out to dinner on the road, Chen will be there with Lin, making sure he’s caught up on every joke.

“Whether or not he’s speaking the same language, you can tell how much fun he’s having and how much he enjoys it,” Wieters said.

Chen even joined the O’s clubhouse fantasy football league, something that has become a yearly tradition for the group. He was a part of the meeting Saturday to determine the selection order, and when it comes time for the team-wide draft party, Chen is expected to be there.

“That’s when it hit me: I think he’s kind of fit in to America,” manager Buck Showalter said. “He doesn’t really know football. He wouldn’t know a football from a hockey stick.

“He’s kind of fitting in to the kidding part. He doesn’t take himself too seriously.”

The O’s had a feeling Chen would fit in like this.

Director of player personnel John Stockstill and the rest of the scouting department first noticed Chen back in 2007, as part of the Orioles general “coverage scouting.”

Stockstill estimates that over the past five seasons, the O’s saw Chen pitch about a dozen games in person, plus another 30 or 40 on video.

They saw a left-hander with four average or better pitches, even on a Major League scale. They saw an “American-type pitcher,” one without any of the pauses typically found in the unorthodox delivery of Asian pitchers. They saw him vary the speed and depth of his breaking ball, a trait that has kept opposing scouts from getting a read on him. And they saw the deception he masterfully employs, forcing opposing hitters to consistently swear that his fastball comes alive halfway to the plate. It may be only 88-93 mph, but Stockstill said it plays more like 95 or 96.

The O’s saw Chen post the lowest ERA in the Japan Central League of Nippon Professional Baseball since 1968 with a 1.54 in 2009, and they saw him capture back-to-back League pennants in 2010-11. They saw his contract expire at the end of last season, then saw him pass on about six other Major League offers to sign a three-year, $11.3 million deal with the O’s.

Since then, they’ve seen nothing but promise.

“He’s a great teammate and a great disposition, and we are glad to have him,” executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette said. “He had already proved he could make a transition and play in the big leagues in Japan and make all the cultural adjustments. I saw that as a plus, and his talent was clear.”

With Jason Hammel on the disabled list, Chen has become Baltimore’s de facto ace, leading the team with 140 innings pitched. Tommy Hunter is the next closest with just 112, and he’s already been sent to Triple-A three times in 2012. 

Still, for whatever reason, Chen has flown under the radar with American fans. Maybe it’s his pedestrian strikeout total. Maybe it’s easier to lump him in with the rest of the O’s struggling rotation, since he’s the only one to dodge both injury and Triple-A in 2012. Or maybe it’s because he’s overshadowed by Yu Darvish among Japanese imports and by Matt Moore among rookies even in his own division, regardless of the fact that Chen’s numbers — 10-7 with a 3.79 ERA — are on par with those of both marquee players.

But that’s just fine by Chen. With all the eyes in Taiwan peering at him from across the globe, getting out of the spotlight for a while isn’t all that bad.

Besides, he’s got other things to worry about. On top of dealing with a smaller strike zone and pitching on shorter rest in a longer season — which he said has been the biggest on-field challenge — Chen has had to labor through tasks as simple as getting food and finding a place to live.

All of it is a small price to pay to be living his childhood dream, something he’s reminded of every time Nelly’s “Just a Dream,” Chen’s walk out song, starts blaring over the Camden Yards speakers as he takes his warm-up tosses.

“It’s always been my dream to be here,” Chen said. “I know Major League Baseball is the highest level in the world, and that’s why I’m so glad I can be here and pitch.”

Not just pitch, but fit in and be an integral part of a team in the midst of the Wild Card chase.

One of the few periods he’s spent away was during the All-Star break, when a contact at Nike set him up for the Esquire shoot in Los Angeles.

“It was a pretty special experience for me,” Chen said, “because that’s totally not my style.”

Of course it isn’t. As he posed in dark jeans, a designer jacket and an expensive watch, with his collar flared and his hair thickly gelled, they didn’t even want him to smile.

Greg Luca is an associate reporter for MLB.com.

Machado wins Co-AL Player of the Week honors

Manny Machado mania continued with Monday’s news that the Orioles rookie has been named the American League Player of the week –sharing the honor with Red Sox slugger Adrian Gonzalez –for the period ending August 12.

The 20-year-old Machado batted .375 (6-for-16) with a double, a triple, three homers, seven RBI and five runs scored in his first four games in the Major Leagues, going 2-for-4 with a triple and a run scored in his debut on Thursday. Machado has hit safely in all four games and hit a pair of homers and picked up four RBIs in Friday’s 7-1 win over the Kansas City Royals.

Machado became the youngest Oriole since Jim Palmer in 1965 to homer, and he also became the youngest in club history to record a multi-homer game, breaking Boog Powell’s 1962 mark by 223 days.  Machado is just the 15th player since 1918 to have a multihomer performance in his first or second Major League game, and the second to do it this season, joining San Diego’s Yasmani Grandal.

“I was impressed,” Royals manager Ned Yost said of Machado, who closed the week with a two-run homer in the second inning on Sunday. “The scouting reports we got on him said he had a couple of holes in his swing, but we couldn’t find ‘em. He hurt us. He actually won two games against us with homers. He’s going to be a good player.”

The third overall pick in the 2010 First-Year Player Draft, Machado –a natural shortstop — has moved over to third base since joining Baltimore.  Prior to the promotion, Machado was named the Eastern League Player of the Week for the period ending Sunday after he went 10-for-21 on the week, including a cycle on Saturday.
In his final nine games with Double-A Bowie, Machado was 16-for-33 with three home runs, two triples, three doubles and seven RBIs.

Orioles vs Royals lineups and pregame notes

*Jason Hammel threw off an incline on Saturday for the first time since undergoing right knee surgery, and all of the reports coming back on Sunday were positive. Hammel woke up without any pain or swelling, leading manager Buck Showalter and pitching coach Rick Adair to plan for Hammel to throw off of a mound on Monday. 

*After starting every one of the team’s first 114 games in center field, Adam Jones is in the lineup as the O’s designated hitter for the first time in his career on Sunday. With Sunday’s game set to start barely 12 hours after Saturday’s ended, Showalter also gave Matt Wieters, Wilson Betemit and Chris Davis the day off. With Monday’s scheduled off day, Showalter was able to essentially give each of those players a two-day break. 

ROYALS LINEUP

Alex Gordon LF
Alcides Escobar SS
Mike Moustakas 3B
Billy Butler DH
Lorenzo Cain CF
Jeff Francoeur RF
Eric Hosmer 1B
Brayan Pena C
Chris Getz 2B

Bruce Chen LHP

 

ORIOLES LINEUP

Nick Markakis RF
J.J. Hardy SS
Nate McLouth CF
Adam Jones DH
Lew Ford LF
Mark Reynolds 1B
Manny Machado 3B
Robert Andino 2B
Taylor Teagarden C

Tommy Hunter RHP

Orioles vs. Royals lineups and pregame notes

*Jason Hammel is with the team today and said he was optimistic about returning to the Orioles rotation in early September. Hammel has been on the 15-day disabled list since July 15 due to a right knee injury that required surgery, but he said he’s feeling substantially better. As long as the knee can hold up, Hammel said his arm feels healthy and it shouldn’t be too difficult for him to get back to full strength.

*Ryan Flaherty will likely begin a rehab assignment this week, possibly as early as Tuesay. Flaherty has been on the disabled list since Wednesday with a bacterial infection, and manager Buck Showalter said Flaherty would likely report to Triple-A Norfolk on Tuesday but not play until later in the week. Flaherty, however, said he thought he’d be playing with Double-A Bowie on Tuesday.

*Manager Buck Showalter continues to tinker with the lineup on a day-by-day basis, moving Nate McLouth up to third on Saturday. McLouth had hit seventh in each of his four previous starts.

*Hitting coach Jim Presley is likely to return to the team on Tuesday after leaving on Thursday due to the death of his father.

ROYALS LINEUP

Alex Gordon LF
Alcides Escobar SS
Mike Moustakas 3B
Billy Butler DH
Lorenzo Cain CF
Salvador Perez C
Jeff Francoeur RF
Eric Hosmer 1B
Chris Getz 2B

Luis Mendoza RHP

ORIOLES LINEUP

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

Chris Tillman RHP

Machado makes history

a

(Manny Machado doing his post-game interview on MASN with a face full of shaving cream.)

 

BALTIMORE– Manny Machado held up the ball from Thursday night’s triple — his first career Major League hit — and grinned as he remarked he was hanging on to the keepsake forever.

The way this is going, Machado might want to rent out some extra locker space. The Orioles rookie connected for his first Major League home run in the fifth inning on Friday night against the Royals, then went deep again the following frame, hitting a three-run shot to chase Royals starter Luke Hochevar from the game.

The pair of homers — which invoked chants of  “Manny” from 17,277 at Camden Yards — culminated with a standing ovation and an eruption of cheering as the young Machado came out for a quick curtain call during just his second Major League game.

“Jonsie pushed me out there,” Machado said of centerfielder Adam Jones, part of a tag-team with infielder Robert Andino that –not even 30 minutes later –enveloped the rookie in a shaving cream pie that perhaps has never been more celebrated.

“They got me real good,” Machado admitted with the Orioles cap hanging in his locker still completed covered. “I think I’ve still got some in my ears.”

But no amount of shaving cream could drown out the exuberant chants of an Orioles’ fanbase witnessing history as their long-awaited “infielder of the future” became the youngest player in franchise history — at 20 years and 35 days old — to post a multihomer game smashing the previous record set by Boog Powell, who was 20 years and 258 days old when he hit a pair of homers on May 2, 1962.

“It was the best feeling ever,” Machado said after depositing Hochevar’s pitch into an already-standing crowd and simply putting his head down and running, allowing the fan’s chants to take hold of the stadium. “The crowd here loves me and for them to support me like that, after my first home run, it just felt great.”

It was his second home run, a 1-2 curveball, that propelled Machado into greatness. Since 1918, only 11 players younger than Machado have recorded a multihomer game, with the most recent having come on Aug. 30, 2011, when Angels superstar Mike Trout was 20 years and 23 days old.

“It’s one of those nights that you’re really honored and lucky just to watch,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “I look at it more from a city of Baltimore standpoint. [Machado will] put it behind him and realize there’s another challenge tomorrow.”

In his first two days, Machado has passed every test, and made quick work on the record books. His first homer marked the youngest by an Orioles’ player since Hall of Famer Jim Palmer did it as a 19-year-old on May 16, 1965.

His second –which also scored Wilson Betemit and Nate McLouth – amazingly landed in the same spot: Adam Corder’s hands. Corder, 15, is a Millersville, Md., native who currently lives in the United Arab Emirates caught both of Machado’s homers from section 78, row 14 at Camden Yards.

“I was surprised,” said Machado, who met with Corder after the game and exchanged some autographed balls and a bat for his first home run ball. “I heard it in the dugout, somebody told the officer the same kid caught both balls, I was like, what? That’s crazy.”

So is the immediate effect Machado –whose promotion was heavily debated around baseball – is having in Baltimore. Coming off a 2-for-4 debut, Machado was back in the starting lineup on Friday night, playing third base and moving up a spot to eighth in the batting order, with struggling infielder Mark Reynolds shifted to the bench.

With the Royals starting Hochevar, Betemit made his first start at first base since July 3, while Reynolds — batting .188 with seven of his nine homers against righties — the odd man out. Betemit entered the game batting .306 with 11 home runs against right-handed pitching, and Friday’s start marked his 12th start at first base, with the Orioles having gone 7-4 in the previous 11 games.

While Showalter has stuck with Reynolds despite a prolonged power outage, the arrival of Machado at third base could change things. Chris Davis has taken over most of the team’s designated-hitter duties as Jim Thome recovers from an injured neck on the disabled list, and with the Orioles trying to shore up a defense that leads the Majors in errors, Reynolds’ playing time could diminish, particularly against right-handed starters.

“We’ll take each day as it comes,” Showalter said when asked if Friday’s lineup was an indicator of things to come. “We’re going to serve our team’s needs first and then keep in mind where Manny is in his day-to-day development. So today, it worked best this way. We’ll see what tomorrow brings.”

Machado, a right-handed hitter, tripled and scored a run in Thursday’s debut, and both Showalter and executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette made it clear that the promotion was made because they feel he can help the club win games.

While Machado’s natural position is shortstop, he held his own at third base on Thursday, recording a pair of putouts and an assist, and he fared well again on Friday night.

Reynolds started the season as the team’s third baseman before being moved to first base, shifting Davis, who has played all over the diamond, to third base, left field and some time at DH. The team’s leader in home runs (37) and RBIs (86) last season, Reynolds entered Friday with a .210/.327/.378 line, including nine homers and 34 RBIs in 87 games. Friday marked just the second game Reynolds did not start since July 4.

Machado starts, Reynolds sits

Orioles rookie Manny Machado — coming off a 2-for-4 debut –was back in Baltimore’s starting lineup Friday night, playing third base and moving up a spot to eighth with struggling infielder Mark Reynolds on the bench.

With the Royals starting right-hander Luke Hochevar, Wilson Betemit made his first at first base since July 3 with Reynolds –who is batting .188 with seven of nine homers against righties – the odd man out.  Betemit is batting .306 with 11 home runs against right-handed pitching and Friday’s start marked his 12th start at first base, with the Orioles going 7-4 in the previous 11 games.

While manager Buck Showalter has stuck with Reynolds despite a prolonged power outage, the arrival of Machado at third base could change things. Chris Davis has taken over most of the team’s designated hitting duties with Jim Thome on the disabled list and –with the Orioles’ trying to shore up a defense that leads the Majors in errors – Reynolds’ playing could diminish, particularly against right-handed starters.

“We’ll take each day as it comes,” Showalter said when asked if Friday’s lineup was an indicator of things to come.  “We’re going to serve our team’s needs first and then keep in mind where Manny is in his day-to-day development. So today it worked best this way. We’ll see what tomorrow brings.”

Machado, a right-handed hitter, triple and scored a run in Thursday’s debut and both Duquette and executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette made it clear that the top prospect’s promotion was because they feel he can help the Orioles win games. While Machado’s natural position is shortstop, he held his own at third base on Thursday –recording a pair of putouts and an assist – and he look to current shortstop J.J. Hardy for guidance in making the proper adjustments.

Reynolds started the season as the team’s third baseman before being moved to first base, shifting Davis –who has played all over the diamond – to third base, left field and some time at DH. The team’s leader in home runs (37) and RBIs (86) last season, Reynolds entered Friday with a .210/.327/.378 line, including nine homers and 34 RBIs in 87 games.

***

Friday marked just the second game Reynolds did not start since July 4 and –while it’s very early — it will be interesting to see how Machado’s arrival effects things. Wilson Betemit is hitting more consistently, with a better average and more home runs and –while Reynolds has held his own defensively at first base — is it enough to justify him playing over Betemit against right-handed starters? Probably not.

The Orioles have placed emphasis on trying to upgrade their defense, in fact, it was the thing manager Buck Showalter wanted to improve the most in the second half of the season. If Machado can hold his own at third base, and with the bat, you could certainly see him take an every day role with Betemit and Chris Davis rotating in and out of the 1B/DH spots. I don’t think this is necessarily the end of Reynolds’ playing time period, but he desperately needs to regain his power stroke.

For those of who you asked about Betemit and Reynolds’ contract status, Reynolds has a club option for $11 million next season with a 500,000 buyout. If the Orioles opt to not pick it up he would be arbitration-eligible and, if they offer him arbitration, they cannot cut his salary more more than 20 percent.

Betemit signed a two-year deal this winter with a 2014 option that vests if he hits 700 plate appearances combined in 2012 and ’13. He is due to make $1.75 million next season.

Orioles vs. Royals lineups and pregame notes

*Manny Machado starts at third and bats eighth today against right-handed starter Luke Hochevar. Wilson Betemit had been playing the majority of games at third base versus right-handed starters — mostly due to his .306 average with 11 home runs against righties this season — but will start at first tonight. Friday will mark Betemit’s 12th start of the season at first, where manager Buck Showalter said he takes grounders almost every day. Showalter plans to “take each day as it comes” with regards to Machado and the O’s lineup, saying Chris Davis is also an option at first. Mark Reynolds is not in Friday’s lineup.

*Jason Hammel is expected to be with the team tomorrow, at which point Showalter said the right-hander will throw down a slope, but not off the mound. Hammel’s first action off the mound could potentially come Monday and Thursday. Hammel has been on the disabled list since July 15 because of a right knee injury that required surgery, and Showalter said Hammel’s return date will be based entirely on what he can handle. Once Hammel’s knee is healthy, the team believes he will be able to progress very quickly through his recovery.

*Ryan Flaherty said he went through a miserable 36 hours because of the bacterial infection that forced him to the disabled list on Wednesday, but has seen significant improvement since going on antibiotics. He said his energy level feels fine, but he and the doctors are just waiting for the swelling in his tonsils to subside. Showalter said he would go out on a rehab stint “not before Sunday.”

*Jim Thome, on the disabled list since July 31 with a herniated disc, has been running in a pool and doing light upper-body work.

 *Endy Chavez has opted to remain with the team rather than becoming a free agent after he was designated for assignment on August 4. Chavez will be reporting to Triple-A Norfolk on Tuesday, and Showalter said Chavez would be a September call up “at worst.”

ROYALS LINEUP
Alex Gordon LF
Alcides Escobar SS
Mike Moustakas 3B
Billy Butler DH
Salvador Perez C
Eric Hosmer 1B
Jeff Francoeur RF
Chris Getz 2B
Jarrod Dyson CF

Luke Hochevar RHP

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

Miguel Gonzalez RHP

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