March 2013

Orioles Opening Day roster is set

PITCHERS
JASON HAMMEL
WEI-YIN CHEN
MIGUEL GONZALEZ
JAKE ARRIETA
T.J. MCFARLAND
BRIAN MATUSZ
TROY PATTON
DARREN O’DAY
TOMMY HUNTER
PEDRO STROP
LUIS AYALA
JIM JOHNSON

POSITION PLAYERS
ADAM JONES
NICK MARKAKIS
NOLAN REIMOLD
NATE MCLOUTH
STEVE PEARCE
MATT WIETERS
CHRIS DAVIS
BRIAN ROBERTS
J.J. HARDY
MANNY MACHADO
ALEXI CASILLA
TAYLOR TEAGARDEN
RYAN FLAHERTY

DISABLED LIST
CHRIS TILLMAN
STEVE JOHNSON
WILSON BETEMIT
TSUYOSHI WADA

Os add Garcia and Proctor

The Orioles added to their pitching depth on Friday, signing starter Freddy Garcia to a Minor League contract and trading for right-handed reliever Scott Proctor.

Proctor, was acquired in exchange for cash from the San Francisco giants and is expected to be part of Triple-A Norfolk’s bullpen. Garcia, 36, is also expected to be at Norfolk and will get a chance in the Tides’ starting rotation.

Garcia had a 5.20 ERA in 17 starts with the Yankees last season before signing as a free agent with the Padres this winter. He was released by San Diego on Monday after going 1-4 with a 8.71 ERA in six spring games.

A 14-year veteran, Garcia is a former All-Star (2001 and 2002) and finished second in the Rookie of the Year balloting back in 1999. He has a career 4.15 ERA and is 151-101 in 344 starts with the Mariners, White Sox, Phillies, Tigers, and Yankees.

Proctor spent last season pitching in Korea, saving 35 games with a 1.79 ERA, and was signed to a Minor League deal by the Giants over the winter.

Proctor, 36, led the American League with 83 appearances for the Yankees in 2006. He was widely considered a respectable setup reliever until an ailing elbow forced him to undergo Tommy John surgery in May 2009, which sidelined him for that year. He last performed in the Majors in 2011 with the Braves and Yankees.

In 307 big league appearances since 2004, all but one in relief, Proctor is 18-16 with a 4.78 ERA. He has walked 167 and struck out 291 in 343 innings.

McFarland in, Steve Johnson to the (updated)

Rule 5 Draft pick T.J. McFarland has made the team as a long reliever and right-hander Steve Johnson will start the season on the disabled list with a right lat strain.

“I’m so happy, I’m ecstatic,” McFarland said. “It’s surreal. This is incredible. I can’t really sum it up into words right now. It’s a dream come true. Since 2007 when my career started, that’s what I’ve been hoping for and it finally happened. I’m just so excited.”

McFarland pitched four scoreless innings in Friday afternoon’s game against the State College of Florida and he went inside to the weight room to do shoulder exercises when manager Buck Showalter came in to tell him the good news.  Following the Orioles decision to DL Chris Tillman, it was widely speculated that McFarland would make the club. But the 23-year-old, selected from the Cleveland Indians organization this winter, said he didn’t think that way.

“I couldn’t,” he said. “No, I couldn’t, because if I did and it didn’t happen, it would have been even more of a disappointment. Really, I was just trying to keep a clear head with that and stay positive, but in the end, this happened.”

The addition of McFarland gives the Orioles an eight-man bullpen to start the season, including three lefties and while Mark Hendrickson is still in camp, he’s expected to start the season at Triple-A Norfolk. Jair Jurrjens is also still in camp although he’s expected to avoid the disabled list and start the season with Norfolk as well. Johnson will join Wilson Betemit and pitcher Tsuyoshi Wada on the DL to start the year.

“Obviously, I am disappointed,” Johnson, who was a candidate to make the club, said of the late-spring injury. “I definitely wanted to start out healthy, either way, wherever I ended up. But I’ll take some time, rest it and try to get healthy. I don’t know how long, but hopefully it’s only a couple days [before I can resume baseball activities].”

To recap a hectic day of activity, you can read the full story on the roster moves here.

The only remaining decision is the final bench spot, which is between Steve Pearce and Conor Jackson. My guess is it goes to Pearce.

***

In case you missed it, there’s lot of coverage on Orioles.com today, including a feature on Opening Day starter Jason Hamel (which you can read here), a column by Richard Justice on the vibe from O’s camp (you can read here) and the decision to move Brian Roberts to ninth in the lineup (more on that here.)

Arrieta on winning the rotation spot

The Orioles moved one step closer to their Opening Day roster on Friday officially naming Jake Arrieta for the final rotation spot and putting Brian Matusz in the bullpen. Jair Jurrjens is expected to start for Triple-A Norfolk with a pending decision on right-hander Steve Johnson, who is expected to start the season on the disabled list.

Here’s what Jake Arrieta had to say after he was informed he was making the team…

[on if he ever had any doubt that he would make the team] “No, absolutely not. Whether that’s cockiness or overconfidence, whatever you want to call it. that’s just the way that I personally had to approach the situation, with that mindset. knowing that i had to go out and actually show it and not just know it in my mind. I think the combination of having that mindset and knowing I had to kind of prove myself helped me get to the point where I am now.”

[on if last year’s failures made him stronger] “100 percent. A lot of the things I went through last year, and even years prior, have helped me grow and turn into the person and player I am right now. I’ve told a lot of guys, that I’m not where I want to be. I’m still trying to get to that point, as all of us are as players. We are always learning and always trying to evolve and try to take our game to the next level even though we are at the highest level. Failure is a big part of this game and if you can’t find ways to turn that into positives, you are going to have a hard time continuing to develop as a person and as a player. So I’m fortunate and I’m thankful for everybody who has helped me along the way.”

[on if he knew there was only one rotation spot up for grabs heading into camp] “I knew there were going to be spots already locked up based on the way guys pitched last year and rightfully so. Guys have earned that. And I just knew coming in that I had a lot to prove. And I had the same mindset pretty much every year, proving myself and showing I belong. And regardless of if I’m Opening Day starter or the fifth starter I still want to prove that I belong and earn my spot.”

[on his reaction to making the team] “A couple things really. I’m much more focused and much better prepared this time around, Not that I wasn’t prepared or (didn’t have) focus going into this last season. But I think my preparation and focus is a little bit more fine-tuned. And now I am in this position and am ready to take the bull by the horns so to speak and keep my job all year. I think that’s what everybody wants and what everybody expects from me. That’s what I plan to do.”

[on starting the home opener for the third year in a row] “It’s exciting. A lot of excitement there. It’s a big honor to pitch that first game in front of the hometown fans. I know all of Baltimore is ecstatic and very excited for that moment. It’s something that a lot of emotions will continue to come out as that moment comes near. But a big honor, very very excited for the opportunity once again to throw the opening game there for the third year in a row. So I’t a big deal and I am looking forward to it.”

Arrieta wins final rotation spot, Flaherty also in

SARASOTA, Fla. — The Orioles moved one step closer to their Opening Day roster Friday, officially naming Jake Arrieta for the final rotation spot, solidifying their bullpen and leaving one more decision for the last bench spot in either Steve Pearce or Conor Jackson.

Arrieta will start the team’s home opener for the third year in a row, with the two remaining rotation candidates Brian Matusz going to the bullpen, and right-hander Jair Jurrjens reassigned to Triple-A Norfolk.

Did the 27-year-old Arrieta, who pitched to a 1.56 ERA this spring, ever had a doubt he would make the club?

“No, absolutely not,” said the right-hander who was last year’s Opening Day starter and is coming off a disappointing season in which he went 3-9 with a 6.20 ERA. “Whether that’s cockiness or overconfidence, whatever you want to call it, that’s just the way that I personally had to approach the situation, with that mindset, knowing that I had to go out and actually show it and not just know it in my mind. I think the combination of having that mindset and knowing I had to kind of prove myself helped me get to the point where I am now.”

Ryan Flaherty was also informed Friday that he will make the club, as expected, with Wilson Betemit’s injury opening up one more bench spot for either Pearce or Jackson. It’s a close call for the organization, with both players making a solid impression this spring.

“To be able to help the team out, it was kind of my goal coming into camp and I’m excited to get the opportunity,” said Flaherty, last year’s Rule 5 pick who will be on his second Opening Day roster. “You never know what’s going to happen. You can give the best effort and outside of that it’s out of your control so obviously you hear things. You hear this and hear that. The think I’ve learned is you can’t control everything so you’ve got to show up and play hard and be valuable to the team.”

Pearce has appeared in 25 games, going 15-for-44 (.341) with six homers and 17 RBIs, while Jackson has played in 22 games, going 16-for-53 (.302) with three homers and six RBIs. They both provide the team with a backup option for first baseman Chris Davis, as well as outfield depth, and that decision could come down to the wire although Pearce is believed to have a slight edge. The 25-man roster must be set by 3 p.m. ET on Sunday.

Outfielder Chris Dickerson was reassigned to Minor League camp Friday and is expected to play for Triple-A Norfolk. <p>

The Orioles’ bullpen could potentially have eight pitchers, given the move to put starter Chris Tillman on the disabled list in order to have an extra roster spot for the first four games before he returns. The decision could create an opening for Rule 5 pick T.J. McFarland to make the club. What is known is lefties Matusz and Troy Patton will join Darren O’Day, Pedro Strop, Tommy Hunter, Jim Johnson and Luis Ayala in the bullpen.

Tillman’s DL stay was backdated, and he will be activated and start the team’s fifth game on at home against the Twins. He threw 81 pitches over five innings Friday against the State College of Florida, allowing one run and striking out six with two walks.

“I think I’m ready [for April 6], especially after today,” said Tillman, who finished his outing in the bullpen. “Big step for me. It’s not the matter of pitches. It’s the number of times you get up and down. That’s a big reason I got up one more time in the bullpen.”

Backup catcher Taylor Teagarden will also have a spot on the bench, along with infielder Alexi Casilla. Betemit and pitcher Tsuyoshi Wada will start the season on the disabled list, with the expectation that right-hander Steve Johnson will as well.

Hammel travels long road to Opening Day start

Some of Jason Hammel’s earliest baseball memories involve games of catch in the backyard with his older brother, Bill. They would play other things, including home run derby in the cul de sac out front, but their father, William, had designed and built a pitching target for the two boys, complete with a strike zone and ball retrieval bucket, and most of their sessions were spent out there, with a makeshift pitching mound.

It was a rare treat when William, who worked for and later started his own own steel erection company, got out of work early enough to play and Jason, who was about 9 years old, remembers that day well. There they were, a perfect little trio relaying the ball back and forth in Port Orchard, Wash., when William asked his sons, “What do you want to be when you are grown-ups?”

Easy, the two young Hammels answered: Major League Baseball players.

“You’d expect your dad to be like, ‘Yeah, all right, we will keep working hard on it and see what happens,'” Jason said. “But he pretty much shot it down.”

The odds were against them, William explained to his sons. It was really hard to do, and they may want to consider doing something else.

“I can see it maybe as him trying to motivate us, but I can also see it now as me being like, ‘I told you so,'” Hammel said of the exchange. “That’s always been a motivating factor for me.”

In the journey from that tall, skinny kid from Washington to the Orioles’ Opening Day starter against the Rays on Tuesday at 3:10 p.m. ET, the 30-year-old Hammel has had plenty of other skeptics along the way. It makes the transition from his bullpen demotion in Colorado to Baltimore’s No. 1 starter in a year-and-a-half span even more incredible.

“I had heard that he wasn’t that competitive,” pitching coach Rick Adair said of Hammel, who came to the O’s in a trade with the Rockies on Feb. 6, 2012. “It’s just the opposite. He’s very competitive, he expects a lot of himself. He wants to be a guy that this club counts on. He wants that opportunity. He relishes it.”

And, most importantly, Hammel now knows how to handle it.

Read the full feature story on Hammel’s journey and how he turned around his career here.

Spring training news & notes 3/29 (w/ Roberts update)

*Orioles manager Buck Showalter discussed it with Brian Roberts before hitting him ninth against Rays ace David Price last night and Roberts said he will hit there on Opening Day. It could be more of a permanent move this season, and Roberts said he’s fine with it and is just glad he’s back playing baseball again.

Asked if he would alter his approach hitting ninth versus leadoff, Roberts joked he’d try to hit more home runs.

“No,” he said. “I am who I am…nothing changes.”

Except, he joked again, he’ll have to wait an hour to hit.

*No news on the final roster decisions with Jake Arrieta and Ryan Flaherty –who are both assumed to be on the team– awaiting official word from the club. Steve Pearce, who started last night against Price, also hasn’t been told anything and he’s considered a front-runner for the team’s final bench spot.

*Henry Urrutia is starting his first spring game at Ed Smith Stadium and the Cuban outfielder –who was signed earlier this spring– will bat sixth and play right field.

*Nick Markakis will bat leadoff for the State College of Florida so that he can get some at-bats against Major League pitching. Chris Tillman, who was placed on the disabled list yesterday, will get the start and he’s expected to pitch April 6 for Baltimore assuming all goes well today.

*MLB.com columnist Richard Justice wrote about the Orioles’ confidence this spring and how the club is eying a deeper run into October and you can read that here.

*In case you missed it, I previewed the Orioles’ season and mindset entering 2013 here.

ORIOLES LINEUP

Lew Ford DH
Jason Pridie CF
Russ Canzler LF
Travis Ishikawa 1B
Chris Robinson C
Henry Urrutia RF
Niuman Romero SS
Buck Britton 3B
Tucker Nathans 2B

Chris Tillman RHP

Post-game notes

*Henry Urrutia is expected to play in tomorrow’s game against the State College of Florida. It will be the first appearance in Major League camp for the Cuban outfielder, who was officially signed earlier this spring and has been at Minor League camp. Nick Markakis will serve as designated hitter for State College to get some at-bats against big-league pitching.

*Chris Tillman was placed on the disabled list prior to tonight’s game which creates another roster spot possibly for Rule 5 pick T.J. McFarland, although manager Buck Showalter said it doesn’t necessarily mean that McFarland has made the team. There’s still a few things to be worked out roster-wise.

Tillman will still start tomorrow’s game.

“If he’ s healthy tomorrow and things go well, he will join us,” Showalter said of Tillman, who is slated to pitch the fifth game of the season. “He’s got a chance to be one of our five starting pitchers.

*The team will sit down tomorrow to discuss Steve Johnson’s situation and whether to start the right-hander –who has been dealing with a right lat injury– on the disabled list or not.

 

Orioles lineup

The Orioles were a little late in releasing their lineup tonight but here’s what we’ve got. Could manger Buck Showalter be tipping his hand for the final bench spot in starting Steve Pearce? Pearce is competing with Conor Jackson and he’s getting the nod tonight against David Price, who will start for the Rays on Opening Day..
ORIOLES LINEUP
Nick Markakis RF
Manny Machado 3B
Adam Jones CF
Matt Wieters C
Chris Davis 1B
J.J. Hardy SS
Nolan Reimold LF
Steve Pearce DH
Brian Roberts 2B

Jesse Beal RHP

Tillman placed on DL, to start fifth game

Orioles manager Buck Showalter announced Thursday pitcher Chris Tillman, who was placed on the disabled list retroactive to March 22, will start the fifth game of the season.

Tillman, who has been slowed with abdominal soreness, is slated to start Friday’s game against the State College of Florida and the 24-year-old’s readyiness for the season has been closely monitored. The move to put him on the DL frees up another roster spot for the Orioles to start the season, and could give them an avenue to keep left-handed pitcher T.J. McFarland in the Opening Day bullpen. The team likes Rule 5 Draft pick McFarland, 23, and is exploring ways to trade for him or trade another reliever to clear a spot.

Tillman has pitched in unofficial spring games, which is why the team can backdate his DL trip, and he is expected to take the mound in Baltimore on April 6 assuming he doesn’t have any further setbacks.

The team’s fourth starter, which is still unannounced, is expected to be right-hander Jake Arrieta and would line up for April 5’s home opener. Should Arrieta get the nod it would mark his third consecutive home-opening start.

Last year’s Opening Day starter, Arrieta has had an impressive spring going 1-0 with a 1.56 ERA in five games (four starts). Lefty Brian Matusz is also technically still in the running for the rotation, although he’s likely to be in the team’s bullpen to start the season.

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