March 2013

Spring training news & notes 3/28

*As Spring Training winds down, the Orioles say they are ready once again to prove the critics wrong. You can read my season preview here.

*X-rays done this morning on Jair Jurrjens’ ribs came back negative and the right-hander is just really sore today after being hit by a line drive last night. Jurrjens will take today off and could throw again later in the week.

*Chris Dickerson is OK today and is dealing with a sore right Achilles, injured last night, but said he could be used in tonight’s game. Trayvon Robinson continues to be slowed with a glute injury and is day-to-day.

*Wei-Yin Chen pitched five innings today in a Minor League game on the back fields at Ed Smith Stadium and he said, through interpreter Tim Lin, that all went well. It’s his final tuneup before starting the second game of the season on Wednesday.

“I feel stronger this year and I feel like it’s easier this whole Spring Training, just because I have experience from last year,”  Chen said. “This year is so much easier for me to prepare, to make adjustments.”

*The Orioles haven’t released a lineup but word out of Rays camp is that Jesse Beal will start for Baltimore. Beal, who will come over from Minor League came, pitched for Class-A Delmarva last year and went 2-4 with a 4.70 ERA in 27 games. The 22-year-old right-hander is from Fairfax Station, VA and has impressed the organization this spring.

Desmond Jennings DH
Sam Fuld CF
Ben Zobrist RF
Evan Longoria 3B
Matt Joyce LF
Yunel Escobar SS
James Loney 1B
Jose Lobaton C
Kelly Johnson 2B

David Price LHP

Jurrjens leaves game with injury (updated)

Orioles starter Jair Jurrjens exited in the second inning of Wednesday night’s game against the Yankees after being struck with a comebacker off the bat of Thomas Neal.

Jurrjens is day to day with a rib contusion on his right side and he will get a precautionary X-ray Thursday morning.

“I tried to come back and tried to catch it,” Jurrjens said. “It was just hit so hard. Forget it.”

“I’m just happy, thank God, that so far it’s not serious. I hope when I get the X-Ray tomorrow everything will be fine. I’m just going to play it day-by-day. And see how it goes.”

Jurrjens, who walked off with the help of head athletic trainer Richie Bancells, threw 21 pitches before exiting and admitted it was “pointless” to discuss his abbreviated outing given that he didn’t even get a chance to throw all his pitches. He allowed two runs (one earned) on two hits and a walk, facing seven batters and recording three outs.

It wasn’t exactly the impression Jurrjens –who has an outside shot at making the Opening Day rotation– wanted to leave his new organization with in his final spring start.

“Yeah, that [stinks],” said Jurrjens, who made his first spring start since Feb. 28.  “I finally got a start again and I wasn’t able to go deep in the game because I got hit, but whatever.”

“I’m happy [with my spring]. Last year, I wasn’t even close at this point. Now I feel strong and I’m getting better and better, and that’s motivation to keep pushing and keep working and just keep getting better.”

Jurrjens entered the game 1-1 with a 4.61 spring ERA and was replaced by right-hander Tommy Hunter.

Hammel OD starter and other pregame notes

*As expected, the Orioles have named Jason Hammel the Opening Day starter and he will be followed by Wei-Yin Chen and Miguel Gonzalez.

*Chris Tillman will start the fourth as long as he avoids the disabled list that is. Tillman will pitch Friday’s game first and manager Buck Showalter said that decision is still “close”. If he does get DL’ed, he would be eligible to come off and pitch the fifth game of the season because they can backdate when he went on.

*Jake Arrieta, Brian Matusz and Jair Jurrjens are all options for the fifth rotation spot, with Arrieta considered the frontrunner. Matusz is expected to be a bullpen guy if he doesn’t make the rotation with the Orioles informing Tommy Hunter today that he has made the team as a reliever.

The decision on Rule-5 Draft pick T.J. McFarland is also expected to go down to the wire and it could change depending on what the team does with Tillman.

*Kevin Gausman was reassigned to Double-A Bowie today, with first baseman Travis Ishikawa and catcher Chris Robinson also reassigned to Minor League camp.

*Pitcher Steve Johnson has been shut down with a strained right lat and he could start the season on the disabled list. Johnson is not expected to pitch again this spring, and he said earlier this afternoon that the issue first crept up in the bullpen he threw in advance of Friday’s start.

Johnson was supposed to start on Thursday and now it will be a combination of a couple different guys, probably some from Minor League camp.

*Lefty Mark Hendrickson has made an impression this spring and he will be a final decision in camp. Showalter said he would be surprised if Hendrickson, who has reinvented himself as a sidearmer, didn’t help the big league club at some point this season.

*The team’s final bench spot is still up for grabs with Conor Jackson and Steve Pearce the leading candidates on that front.

Spring training 3/27 news & notes (updated)

*Wei-Yin Chen and Miguel Gonzalez will pitch the second and third games of the season, with Jason Hamel expected to officially be named the Opening Day starter later this afternoon.

Hammel threw five innings in a Minor League game today.

*Steve Johnson is still dealing with soreness –which is more in his right lat area than lower back– and the right-hander doesn’t have a timetable to get back throwing. Johnson, who tried to throw yesterday, is still taking things day by day and said he first felt discomfort in the bullpen he threw in advance of Friday’s start.

*’The Orioles have announced details for their exhibition game against the State College of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota (SCF) Manatees, this Friday, March 29 at 2 p.m. at Ed Smith Stadium.

Entry to the game is free.  Reserved tickets for seating near the SCF dugout are $5. Proceeds will benefit SCF Manatees Athletics to support scholarships and athletic department operations.

Free parking will be available in the East Lot.
Brett Gardner CF
Eduardo Nunez SS
Lyle Overbay 1B
Brennan Boesch RF
Ben Francisco LF
Jayson Nix 2B
Thomas Neal DH
Ronnier Mustelier 3B
Bobby Wilson C

David Phelps RHP

Nick Markakis RF
Brian Roberts 2B
Adam Jones CF
Matt Wieters C
Chris Davis 1B
J.J. Hardy DH
Nate McLouth LF
Manny Machado 3B
Alexi Casilla SS

Jair Jurjens RHP

Gausman on his final spring outing & post-game notes

If Tuesday was Orioles prospect Kevin Gausman’s final spring game, the 22-year-old will leave his first Major League Spring Training with a lot of experience and a good impression on an organization that selected him as the fourth overall pick in last year’s Draft.

Gausman  -who allowed three runs over 3 2/3 innings in a start against the Twins — pitched to a 3.43 ERA in seven spring games, lasting until the final week of Spring Training. The long look, particularly when the Orioles sent out fellow top pitching prospect Dylan Bundy on March 16, was a surprise even for Gausman.

“To be honest, I thought I was going to be in big league camp for maybe a week or two,” Gausman said.  “Right after [Dylan] Bundy left I thought, “Alright, a couple more days. But I’m definitely happy with it. Don’t get me wrong, it’s been a blast. I definitely wasn’t expecting it.”

Using a fastball that topped out at 97 mph, Gausman showcased his stellar changeup on Tuesday and picked up three strikeouts on an incredibly windy afternoon. He threw 69 pitches, 50 strikes, and scatted six hits with no walks. Gausman pitched 16 innings this spring, allowing seven runs on 17 hits and six walks with 17 strikeouts.

“I’ve learned a lot,” he said. “Probably learned more in my ‘pens and things like that then the games. Things happen in the game that you can’t really control. But you know I’ve learned so much, pounding the strike zone, keeping guys off balance, guys at this level, you can make great pitches and they are going to hit doubles. So, not much you can do about that.

“It was fun to be around, a fun group of guys. I would say most of these guys are pretty young and that’s why it was so much fun to be around them. You don’t get any  guys who have huge heads or don’t want to talk to you because you are the rookie. Stuff like that. It’s been awesome on the field. It’s been fun to just face guys that I watched on TV last year, and get some success against them is definitely good going forward.”

Gausman is expected to start the season at Double-A Bowie, but –along with Bundy– he could be an option for the big league club at some point in 2013.  Asked if it will be a letdown to be reassigned to Minor League camp, he said: “Yeah, of course. But I really wasn’t expecting to make the team. But, going forward, I guess I will see what happens. I definitely won’t have any bad taste in my mouth or anything like that.”

*Nick Markakis, playing in his first game since March 1 at designated hitter, went 1-for-5 on Tuesday afternoon. Markakis is expected to play right field on Wednesday night against the Yankees.

*The Orioles will have a pair of games at noon tomorrow with Jason Hammel getting in his innings in that game. Wei-Yin Chen will pitch in a Minor League game, also on the back fields at Ed Smith Stadium, on Thursday. As expected, Chris Tillman will start Friday’s game.

MASN to broadcast “The BUCKle Up Birds” DVD

The Orioles today announced that MASN will broadcast The BUCKle Up Birds: An Underdog Story, the Orioles 2012 season highlight video. The program will debut on MASN tomorrow evening at 10:00 p.m. and will reair on Saturday, March 30 at 6:00 p.m. and again on Friday, April 5 at 12:30 p.m. before the Orioles home opener vs. the Minnesota Twins at 3:05 p.m.

The movie, which was produced in house by the award-winning Orioles Productions department, is available for purchase at Highlights include both in-game footage and off-field interviews of key moments throughout the year, from dramatic wins to each of the six Orioles Legends Celebration Series unveilings. Additional bonus content found exclusively on the DVD includes footage from the Orioles’ post-game Wild Card celebration in Arlington.

Pregame notes

Lots of odds and ends today pregame…

*The Orioles have reassigned Lew Ford to Minor League camp, bringing the spring roster to 37, including nine non-roster invitees. Obviously yesterday’s injury to Wilson Betemit changed some things and the Orioles will probably take a first base/outfield type with Ryan Flaherty likely making the team in Betemit’s spot. Conor Jackson and Steve Pearce are two options in camp and manager Buck Showalter –while not completing ruling out starting the season with an extra pitcher and short bench– said he’s prefer not to.

*Steve Johnson’s start on Thursday is in jeopardy as the right-hander –who had the original start pushed back a day– is still dealing with some lower back discomfort. Given how late it is in camp, it’s probably safe to say that Johnson –who already had an outside shot to break  with the Opening Day team — will likely start the season with Triple-A Norfolk.

*The Orioles are still mulling over whether to place right-hander Chris Tillman on the disabled list, which would be backdated to his last spring start, and they should have more on that tomorrow. The team has floated the idea to Tillman, who is a little behind after dealing with some abdominal soreness, and a move there would open another roster spot to start the year.

It could also allow the Orioles to keep Rule 5 Draft pick T.J. McFarland, who Showalter confirmed today will only make the team in a long relief role. That would free up right-hander Tommy Hunter, should he make the club, to be used in another role and also give them two lefties –in Brian Matusz and Troy Patton– to use in the later innings.

The Orioles need a fifth starter just once before April 21 and Matusz, who has been stretched out as a starter this spring, could be a candidate to make that spot start if they do DL Tillman. Jake Arrieta appears to be the guy who will win the rotation spot with Jason Hammel, Wei-Yin Chen and Miguel Gonzalez also penciled in.

*Jim Johnson and Darren O’Day will throw at the Minor League complex today, along with Arrieta, to give the pair of relievers back-to-back outings.

*The plan today is for Kevin Gausman to go four or five innings today and get up around 70 pitches.

*Mark Hendrickson will not stay in extended spring and the lefty- who is working on a new sidearm delivery– is still in camp and an outside option to make the club. If not, Hendrickson could be assigned to Triple-A Norfolk or Bowie, which is a lot closer to his York, PA home.

*There are a lot of balls up in the air but Miguel Gonzalez will start Saturday’s game vs. the Mets.

*Jake Arrieta threw six innings at the Minor League complex and is scheduled to throw again on the team’s off day, March 31.

*Showalter called the Wilson Betemit news “as good as we could have expected”. To read more on that, click here.

Roberts healthy, ready to go for Opening Day

When he finally walks out of the visitors’ clubhouse at Tropicana Field, down the tunnel steps and onto the turf come April 2, Brian Roberts won’t forget how he got here.

Roberts will try to remember, while standing down the third-base line for his first Opening Day since 2011, more than 700 days that have passed since he last occupied second base for the Baltimore Orioles in a season-opening game. He will recall the sleepless nights, the dark times he thought he had played for the last time and the moments of desperation when even living a normal life seemed out of reach.

And at some point Tuesday night, perhaps during the national anthem or pregame introductions, Roberts will stop reminiscing about the ups and downs of a stellar career marred with concussions and last season’s hip surgery. He will look around at the long line of teammates and coaches standing there with him and feel the emotion of being here — healthy, happy and ready to help the Orioles.

“I’ve always tried to be OK with whatever was going on,” said Roberts, the longest-tenured Oriole who hasn’t played a full season since 2009. “Not that it was fun by any means, but I’ve always believed that what was going on was for a reason and God was doing it through the process. And if I never did make it back, I felt like I needed to get back to a place where I was OK with that mentally. That baseball wasn’t the end-all be-all. At one point, I just wanted some normalcy in my life back, and then when baseball started to come back, yeah it’s been something that has been incredible.

“To feel the way I do, and have it come back as much as it has, it’s been as much as I could ask for.”

Click here to read the rest of the feature on Roberts, which is part of several extra stories I’ll have on in advance of Opening Day.

Spring Training news & notes 3/26 (w/ Betemit update)

*Wilson Betemit just held court with reporters, sporting a large brace on his right knee, and he will be sidelined at least  6-8 weeks and then reevaluated from there.

Betemit, who was diagnosed with a Grade 2/3 PCL (posterior cruciate ligament) tear, will remain in Sarasota and rest for a few weeks before starting a rehab program. He was told following Monday night’s MRI that the injury won’t require surgery and it’s certainly better news than any injury to his ACL, which is what the team was fearful of as Betemit was carted off the field in the fifth inning.

“Oh yeah, it felt like my legs, my bones, felt like I had broke everything,” said Betemit, slated to be the team’s left-handed hitting designated hitter.  “And then yesterday after they took me to the MRI they told me it was my ligament in the back, everything is connected, but it’s stretched too much. That’s why I have to wear this [brace] so I can connect them back.”

Betemit is not sure how exactly he suffered the injury, which came while he was running back from second base, and said maybe his cleat caught something. But it was a frightening sight as his knee buckled and he went down to the ground, writhing in pain and putting a damper on the Orioles’ 12-9 win.

“It’s disappointing,” said Betemit, who opted to not play in winter ball to be ready for spring. “I come in this year ready. I know I wasn’t having a good Spring Training, but I started to feel good the last couple of days. It’s tough for me. It was tough for me last year, I had my wrist [injury] and then at the end of the year I had my ribs. And then this year I got a ligament. It’s tough for me this year.”

The PCL is located in the back of the knee and, similar to the anterior cruciate ligament [ACL}, it connects the femur to the tibia. There are different grades to classify the type of injury and typically Grades 1 and 2 don’t require surgery, while Grade 3 does.

“No, they didn’t tell me about surgery,” Betemit said. “They just told me to do some rehab, do some ice and some treatment over there and see what happens in six to eight weeks.

They said my ACL, in the front, they told me everything is good in there. It’s the back, the PCL.”

*Betemit will obviously start the season on the disabled list and that likely solidifies a spot for Ryan Flaherty — who was already competing for a bench spot — to give the Orioles another left-handed hitter option. That in turn potentially opens a spot for another outfielder/first baseman to make the club as a reserve. Possible candidates in camp include Steve Pearce and Conor Jackson, assuming the Orioles don’t go with a three-man bench to start the season.

*Another potential issue with the Opening Day roster is that Baltimore needs a fifth starter just once in the first few weeks of the season –the second time is April 21– and they could potentially fill that with a spot starter, keeping just four pitchers in the rotation and an extra arm in the bullpen. That avenue could bode well for keeping Rule-5 Draft pick T.J. McFarland, who made his first spring start on Monday.

Chris Tillman, who threw in a Minor League game earlier this week, is a little behind the other starters given that he was slowed with an abdominal issue and putting him on the DL to start the season is an option being discussed internally as well.

*Miguel Gonzalez threw six innings in a Minor League game yesterday and everything went well there.

*The Orioles acquired minor league right–handed pitcher Jairo Asencio, 28, from the Brewers last night in exchange for a player to be named later. Asencio is expected to report to Sarasota today.


Nick Markakis DH
Brian Roberts 2B
Adam Jones CF
Chris Davis 1B
Matt Wieters C
J.J. Hardy SS
Nate McLouth LF
Nolan Reimold RF
Manny Machado 3B

Kevin Gausman RHP
Aaron Hicks CF
Brian Dozier 2B
Josh Willingham LF
Justin Morneau DH
Ryan Doumit C
Miguel Sano 3B
Chris Parmelee 1B
Wilkin Ramirez RF
Pedro Florimon, Jr. SS

Liam Hendriks RHP

McFarland on his outing

Orioles lefty T.J. McFarland allowed four runs on eight hits with five strikeouts in his first spring start Monday afternoon against the Red Sox. The Orioles’ Rule 5 Draft pick, McFarland has been impressive after a rocky start to camp and the organization is mulling over a way to keep him, with the most logical solution putting him in the bullpen. 

The 23-year-old McFarland threw 65 pitches (43 strikes) in the game –which was televised by ESPN– and faced a Boston lineup full of regulars.

“Results weren’t really necessarily what I wanted to do, but in the game I felt good,” he said. “Had a real good changeup. Was around the zone, throwing strikes. Really going into the game that’s all I was asking for was to get a good feel for all my pitches and throw strikes.”

McFarland had faced only Brock Holt and Will Middlebrooks before and he pitched on an incredibly windy day, with the two teams launching numerous homers, including Christian Vazquez’s two-run shot off McFarland.

“For me I mainly am a sinkerballer and of course I left it up a few times today and the wind caught hold of it,” he said. “But you think about [the conditions] and you are aware of it and you try to pitch down in the zone and sometimes you leave it up.”

McFarland said he always gets some nerves before he pitches and he was able to calm himself down on Monday so it felt like any other outing. Monday was the eighth appearance this spring for McFarland, who has pitched to a 4.70 ERA  which includes a stretch of eight scoreless innings entering the game.

Did he think it was important to show the Orioles he could hold his own as a starter? McFarland said yes.

“That’s a big part of my game as well, my versatility in terms of being out of the ‘pen and if there’s a necessary spot start I can handle it,” he said.  “I think I went out there and showed them that I could start a game, with some more pitches maybe get through five, six innings.”