March 2013

A few notes

*Orioles right fielder Nick Markakis hit off a tee, threw and ran at the team’s spring facility in his first day of baseball activities since suffering a small disk herniation in his neck earlier this month.

“He’s got that [sic] grin on his face where he’s going, ‘Why are we doing this? Why don’t we just start playing games?,” manager Buck Showalter said of Markakis, who last played March 1 and is targeting being ready for Opening Day.

To do that, he will play in a lot of games at the Minor League complex and Markakis will progress to some soft toss on Saturday and could hit live batting practice off some of the coaches on Sunday.

“Don’t hold me to it, but that’s what the plan is,” said Showalter, who sat down with Markakis several days ago to map out a schedule that will have him getting at-bats starting next week.

Markakis was cleared on Thursday after speaking with spine specialist Dr. Lee Riley and he’s been receiving regular treatment and is pain-free with full range of motion returned in his neck and upper back. He has played in four games this Grapefruit League season, going 3-for-12 with an RBI and two strikeouts and will probably lead off in multiple Minor League games to catch him up to speed quickly.

Slated to be the team’s starting right fielder, Markakis has played in at least 160 games in three of the last four seasons.

*Reliever Mark Hendrickson is due back in camp on Saturday after flying home on for the birth of  his daughter in York, Pa. on Wednesday.

*Ed Flaherty, the father of Orioles infielder Ryan, won his 800th game on Thursday which made him the 13th coach in NCAA Division III history to reach the milestone.  Flaherty’s overall career record now stands at 800-370-4 over 28 seasons.

*Tsuyoshi Wada threw today as did T.J. McFarland, who continues to impress the organization.

Spring Training news & notes 3/22

Greetings from Port Charlotte, where the Orioles will take on the Tampa Bay Rays.

In case you missed it last night, Nick Markakis was cleared for baseball activities and will start a progression to getting back into spring games today.

Wei-Yin Chen will start tomorrow’s game versus the Phillies. Zach Britton will start Monday and Jake Arrieta, who pitched last night, will go again Tuesday.

Jason Hammel and Tommy Hunter will both be stretched out and pitch at the Minor League complex today, with Brian Matusz starting Sunday’s game at Twin Lakes Park. Chris Tillman will pitch the Orioles game Sunday.

Here’s the lineup picture for today…

IMG_1322[1]

Arrieta makes strong statement

Jake Arrieta made a strong statement for the fifth rotation spot on Thursday night, tossing six scoreless innings and striking out nine in a Grapefruit League start against the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Last year’s Opening Day starter, Arrieta cruised through four innings and pitched out of the only jam of the night in the fifth. After issuing a leadoff walk and an infield single, Arrieta retired the next three batters, including fanning Pedro Alvarez for his eighth strikeout. The 27-year-old right-hander extended his scoreless inning streak to 14 2/3 innings in the process, allowing six hits and two walks in an impressive outing.

Arrieta, who also pitched in an unofficial game against Spain, has appeared in five spring games (four starts) and allowed three earned runs on 13 hits and eight walks with 16 strikeouts over 17 1/3 innings.

Thursday’s outing gives Arrieta the edge on the spot, for now, with the main competitors considered to be Brian Matusz, Steve Johnson and Zach Britton.

Valencia optioned

The Orioles optioned infielder Danny Valencia to Triple-A Norfolk on Thursday night, trimming their Major League spring roster down to 44 in the process.

Valencia, 28, was acquired from the Boston Red Sox this winter and he went 10-for-31 with a homer and 4 RBIs in 17 Grapefruit League games. He is expected to be Norfolk’s third baseman.

Valencia hit .188 with a .199 on-base percentage and a .299 slugging percentage in 44 Major League games in 2012 with Boston and Minnesota. He placed third in American League Rookie of the Year Award voting in 2010 and enjoyed his best season in ’11, when he hit .246 with 15 home runs and led the Twins with 72 RBIs in 154 games. He also led Major League third basemen that season with 260 assists.

In 326 career plate appearances against left-handed pitchers, Valencia is a .316/.359/.472 hitter, and he posted a .226/.214/.377 line in 56 such plate appearances in the Majors last season.

The O’s now have 12 non-roster invitees remaining in camp.

Spring Training news & notes 3/21 (updated)

*Nick Markakis will talk to spine specialist Dr. Lee Riley in hopes of being cleared to begin baseball activities in the next day or so. Markakis said the pain is gone and he has full range of motion in his neck/upper back.

*Chris Tillman will throw a bullpen session on Friday  and probably start Sunday’s game. He threw earlier this week in a Minor League game and continues to progress forward from some abdominal soreness. Brian Matusz will also start Sunday, with either him or Tillman pitching in the Minor League game.

*Pedro Strop is back in the clubhouse and strolled in with all his World Baseball Classic championship gear. Strop, part of the Dominican Republic team, got in late last night and slept until this afternoon. I’ll have more from him later, but he called the experience unbelievable and couldn’t say enough about the chemistry with his WBC teammates.

*Miguel Gonzalez threw five-plus innings at the Minor League facility at Twin Lakes Park and said he felt good. He will throw again on the 25th, but isn’t sure if that game would be a Major League one or not.
PIRATES LINEUP

Starling Marte LF
Neil Walker 2B
Andrew McCutchen CF
Pedro Alvarez 3B
Garrett Jones 1B
Russell Martin C
Travis Snider RF
Clint Barmes SS
Brad Hawpe DH

Jonathan Sanchez LHP
ORIOLES LINEUP
Brian Roberts 2B
Manny Machado 3B
Adam Jones CF
Matt Wieters C
J.J. Hardy SS
Chris Davis 1B
Nolan Reimold LF
Russ Canzler DH
Lew Ford RF

Jake Arrieta RHP

Britton struggles in Wednesday’s start (updated)

Orioles lefty Zach Britton, vying for the fifth and final rotation spot, didn’t help his case with a disappointing start against the Toronto Blue Jays Wednesday afternoon in which he allowed five earned runs  and didn’t make it out of the second inning.

But as Opening Day draws closer, the 25-year-old Britton said he “definitely” still thinks it’s possible he heads north with the team.

“I don’t think stats are everything they are looking at,” said Britton, who is competing primarily with rotation candidates Jake Arrieta, Steve Johnson and Brian Matusz and has a 6.10 spring ERA.  “Obviously you don’t want to have a game like this at all, whether it’s the season or Spring Training. But I think there’s other stuff they are looking at. I feel healthy, my stuff has been pretty good. Obviously the results today weren’t very good, but the velocity has been pretty good, movement on pitches has been pretty good.”

Making his third spring start, and fifth appearance, Britton gave up seven hits and a pair of walks, including Emilio Bonafacio’s two-run homer, in a dismal five-out outing. He needed 24 pitches to record an out, walking two of the first three batters in a 36-pitch first inning in which J.P. Arencibia smoked a bases-clearing double into left-centerfield to give Toronto an early three-run lead. Britton threw 59 pitches total with the Jays totaling four extra-base hits, including a leadoff double from Maicer Izturis and Bonafacio’s two-run homer in the second.

Britton said he was working on the four-seamer and acknowledged it’s tough to find the balance of trying to improve while fighting for a spot.

“Yeah, you’ve got to find the balance between them,” he said. “I wasn’t getting ahead, and there were probably sometimes where I could have gone to a sinker and maybe tried to get out of the inning instead of being stubborn and going with the four-seamer. But I trusted [catcher Matt Wieters] behind there. I kind of went with what he wanted to call. He knew the game plan and I think sometimes it’s more important that you work on it and if you do have a bad outings, it’s Spring Training. But I don’t have the luxury of having an outing like that when you’re competing for a spot.”

Britton has allowed seven earned runs this spring on 13 hits and four walks with seven strikeouts over 10 1/3 innings. He finished up his work Wednesday in the bullpen and may only get one more start before the team makes a decision on the fifth starter.

“I think you just have to show you bounce back, I think that’s the biggest thing here,” he said. “Showing that you are healthy. I felt like my rhythm was good on the mound it just wasn’t there, I didn’t really sync it up…it was just a matter of getting the ball down and locate it better.”

Britton, who began last year on the disabled list, is coming off a 2012 campaign in which he went 5-3 with a 5.07 ERA in 12 games (11 starts).

A few more notes (updated)

*The Orioles have optioned catcher Luis Exposito to Triple-A Norfolk and have reassigned left-handed pitcher Daniel Schlereth and right-handed pitcher Adam Russell to minor league camp. The trio of cuts brings Baltimore down to 45 players in Major League camp.

*Pedro Strop will probably not pitch before Saturday, with the challenge now slowing down the reliever, who is fresh off of the World Baseball Classic-winning Dominican Republic Team. Bullpen coach Billy Castro, who served as the team’s pitching coach, will also rejoin the team. (You can read more on last night’s game here.)

*Chris Tillman will make his next appearance in an actual Grapefruit League, although Showalter couldn’t remember exactly when he would go. Saturday or Sunday are two good guesses on that front. The important thing is Tillman, who threw three innings at the Minor League complex yesterday, feels good.

*Jason Hammel and Wei-Yin Chen -who will start Saturday– will throw in a pair of Minor League games next week. With the team scheduled for night Grapefruit League games, Hammel and Chen will throw in the afternoon instead to avoid having to face divisional opponents in New York and Tampa Bay.

Spring Training 3/20 news and notes

I’m back from a brief hiatus and Nolan Reimold is back in left field. Brian Roberts, fresh off his first spring road game, is getting another start and Zach Britton will get a chance to keep up in the fifth starter competition.

Jonathan Schoop has returned from the World Baseball Classic, landing in Orlando in the middle of the night and driving to Sarasota to be here this morning. Schoop won’t play today, but he did hold court to talk about his experience playing for Team Netherlands this spring. I’ll have more on that later on Orioles.com.

Other pitchers listed today include Kevin Gausman and Daniel McCutchen, who both pitched yesterday so they don’t figure to be available. Gausman is still in camp although it’s not clear if he will get any more innings with the pitching battles going on and the Orioles all out of split-squad games. I wrote this some last year, but it bears repeating that  Gausman is a more polished pitcher than Dylan Bundy –who was optioned to Minor League camp– although they both have similarly high ceilings.

Gausman is older, has pitched in college and his secondary stuff is ahead of Bundy’s, who looked out of whack mechanically this spring and will try to get back on track over at Twin Lakes. Neither of the team’s two top prospects were expected to make the club out of camp and that hasn’t changed .

Chris Tillman is feeling good after throwing a few innings in the Minor League complex yesterday. There’s no plans for his next game right now, but the abdominal soreness seems to be behind him at this point.
ORIOLES LINEUP
Nate McLouth RF
Brian Roberts 2B
Adam Jones CF
Matt Wieters C
Chris Davis 1B
J.J. Hardy DH
Nolan Reimold LF
Manny Machado 3B
Alexi Casilla SS

Zach Britton LHP

Spring Training Day 29 news & notes

*Nick Markakis who has a small herniated disk, will be sidelined at least another 7-10 days and remains optimistic that he will be ready when the regular season starts next month. You can read more on that here.

*The Orioles and OriolesREACH, along with All Faiths Food Bank and media partner the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, will host the third annual Food Drive at Ed Smith Stadium this Friday, March 15. Fans attending the 1:05 p.m. game against the Boston Red Sox are encouraged to bring non-perishable food items with them for donation to the All Faiths Food Bank. In addition to food items, the Orioles will also collect monetary donations at ballpark entry gates.

All Faiths Food Bank gathers and, in co-operation with 160 partner agencies, distributes food to more than 7,100 people weekly in Sarasota and DeSoto counties. The past two food drives at Ed Smith Stadium collected over 2,000 pounds of food and $2,400 in cash donations for hungry people in the local community.

*Orioles right-hander Chris Tillman (abdominal soreness) said he’s feeling “much better” and he will throw in a simulated game of sorts tomorrow. Tillman still isn’t sure when he will get in an actual game, but he’s played catch with no problem and  continues to receive treatment on the area.

ORIOLES LINEUP
Alexi Casilla 2B
Ryan Flaherty SS
Manny Machado 3B
Jason Pridie LF
Taylor Teagarden C
Travis Ishikawa 1B
Danny Valencia DH
Chris Dickerson RF
Trayvon Robinson CF

Brian Matusz LHP

Markakis and Tilllman updates

Orioles right fielder Nick Markakis, who has a small herniated disk, will be sidelined at least another 7-10 days and remains optimistic that he will be ready when the regular season starts next month.

Markakis, who saw spine specialist Dr. Lee Riley in Baltimore on Tuesday, said the results of Monday’s MRI were confirmed and Riley said it’s a 2-3 weeks of rest and medication to let the inflammation and pain subside.

“It’s already been a week so we will see where are at in 7-10 days,” Markakis said. “But he also told me it could be 8-12 weeks before I’m completely symptom free. We’re looking on the positive side, we are going in the right direction with getting all the inflammation and pain out right now. And Opening Day definitely isn’t out of the picture, but if I’m not feeling good and I still have pain and discomfort in there, I got to get that fixed before anything.”

Markakis said once he finishes the medication in another five days his timetable is depending on how his body reacts and heals up. The 29-year-old last played in a spring game on March 1 and just stopping any baseball activity already has him feeling better.

“Ninety-five percent better from when it first happened,” he said. “So that’s a good thing. We just got to get that pain out of there and let it calm down.”

Markakis, one of the organization’s most durable players, had three three surgeries (abdominal, right wrist and left thumb) in 2012 and had played in at least 160 games in the three seasons prior to that. He has played in four Grapefruit League games this spring, going 3-for-12 with an RBI and two strikeouts.

***

Orioles right-hander Chris Tillman (abdominal soreness) said he’s feeling “much better” and he will throw in a simulated game of sorts tomorrow. Tillman still isn’t sure when he will get in an actual game, but he’s played catch with no problem and  continues to receive treatment on the area.

 

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