March 2013

Markakis out another week with small tear

Orioles right fielder Nick Markakis has a small disc herniation (which is a small tear) in his neck area and he will be out for at least another week  although manager Buck Showalter said Tuesday the team doesn’t feel like Opening Day will be an issue.

Markakis, who had an MRI done in Florida on Monday, flew back to Baltimore Tuesday to be reexamined by spine specialist Lee Riley and he has already been sidelined a week in the 7-14 day healing process. Showalter said Markakis has been feeling better as of late and the news –while not good– isn’t the worst case scenario given that the rest of the area is structurally sound. The exact location of the injury is called a C4-C5 slight herniation.

The neck issue is the latest in an unfortunate injury bout for Markakis, one of the team’s toughest players, who had three surgeries (abdominal, right wrist and left thumb) in 2012. Slated to be the team’s starting right fielder, Markakis has played in at least 160 games in three of the last four years. He’s played in four games this spring, going 3-for-12 with an RBI and two strikeouts.

Post-game notes

*Nick Markakis underwent an MRI on his neck as planned on Monday afternoon, with no news of the results expected until Tuesday morning.

*Orioles starter Jake Arrieta went four scoreless innings, but manager Buck Showalter wasn’t exactly heaping on the praise.

“He only had four first-pitch strikes, that’s something he has to get better at,” manager Buck Showalter said of the 60-pitch outing in which Arrieta 34 strikes. “That’s why he had some deep counts he shouldn’t have. Statistically, results, you see zeroes out there. But he’s got to get some counts in his factor.

It was good though, don’t get me wrong. He threw the ball well. He was crisp; you can tell he feels good.”
*Zach Britton only went two innings, allowing a run, but will start on Friday to make sure he gets extended. Britton was throwing for quite a while in the bullpen before he came into the game and Showalter said he’s working on some stuff and the team wants to make sure he gets stretched out and stays on track with the rest of the starters.

*The intrasquad game starts at 10:30 a.m. and will be on the back fields, meaning the public can view it. Jason Hammel and Jair Jurrjens will start and it will be a controlled atmosphere, meaning they’ll play extra outs or have shorter innings depending on pitch counts.

Arrieta impressive for four innings (with quotes)

Orioles right-hander Jake Arrieta tossed four scoreless innings on Monday afternoon against the Pirates, the longest outing by an Orioles starter so far this spring.  Arrieta struck out five and didn’t issue a walk, allowing a pair of two-out hits and looking in complete control against a Pittsburgh lineup with several regulars.

“We didn’t really talk about it much but I assumed that I’d go four, depending upon where my pitch count was at that point in time,” Arrieta said of the 60-pitch outing. “As far as what’s in the tank, I feel like I could go six or seven innings right now. And that’s a good feeling to have, to know, when there’s that much left in the tank when you haven’t thrown four innings yet. So, everything is good. Mentally, right where I need to be, and I’ll be ready to go next time.”

Last year’s Opening Day starter, Arrieta is coming off a disappointing 2012 in which he went 3-9 with a 6.20 ERA and has said earlier this spring his focus is on making better in-game adjustments.

“From pitch to pitch, that’s a big thing for me and for most guys,” he said. “There will be times that I get away from my delivery on a certain pitches, but if I can get locked in on a 1-0 count or if I happen to locate a pitch but don’t feel great about the way I executed it, I can kind of bounce back and make that adjustment. For where I’m at in my career, I’m getting to the point where I can see those adjustments so much quicker and it’s a good feeling.

I just think today’s one step in the right direction. I’ve tightened some things up, especially the slider. The changeup’s still coming along. I want to get that mixed in a lot more. And I think next time out, extended a little further, I’ll be able to throw a lot more of those.”

Arrieta helped his cause Monday and hasn’t allowed an earned run in his last seven spring innings. Overall, Arrieta  has made four appearances (three starts) and given up four runs (three earned) on seven hits and four walks, with seven strikeouts over 9 2/3 innings.

“He only had four first-pitch strikes, that’s something he has to get better at,” manager Buck Showalter said of Monday’s outing. “That’s why he had some deep counts he shouldn’t have. Statistically, results, you see zeroes out there. But he’s got to get some counts in his factor.

It was good though, don’t get me wrong. He threw the ball well. He was crisp; you can tell he feels good.”

“Overall, yeah, I liked the outing,” Arrieta said.  “I started out very strong. I talked to [pitching coach Rick Adair] about this a lot and we’ve continued to work, bullpen session after bullpen session, on getting much better from the stretch. It’s pretty funny to see that now, where I am from the stretch, I have to kind of catch up on the other side from the windup now, because everything has tightened up and gotten so much better from the stretch, now there’s a little bit of work to do from the windup. But all in all, today was a good day.”

Spring Training news & notes Day 27 (updated)

*The Orioles optioned right-handed pitcher Zach Clark, lefty Mike Belfiore and outfielder Xavier Avery to Triple-A Norfolk prior to Monday’s game. The moves put the Orioles at 53 players at Major League Spring Training, including 16 non-roster invitees.

Clark and Belfiore were both added to the 40-man roster this winter with Clark going 1-0 with a 3.86 ERA in five spring games (seven innings) while Belfiore went 1-0 with a 2.45 ERA in four games ( 7 1/3 innings). Avery hit .182 (2-for-12) with two RBIs in 12 games.

*Jonathan Schoop went 1-for-3 with a walk in the Netherlands 7-6 win over Cuba to advance in the World Baseball Classic.

*The Orioles pregame notes have Dylan Bundy or Kevin Gausman slated to start in Thursday’s game vs. the Rays. Both will pitch in the game, but the order is TBD. Brian Matusz will start Wednesday’s game with Tuesday’s intrasquad pitchers listed as: Jason Hammel, Steve Johnson, Mike Wright, Jair Jurrjens, Eduardo Rodriguez, Troy Patton and Daniel Schlereth.

*Jake Arrieta is starting with Zach Britton going second, which is a reversal of the original plan. The club had no reason for the switch.

*Chris Tillman is feeling better today and he plans on playing catch to see how the soreness in his abdomen responds. Tillman was scratched from yesterday’s start and was getting treatment on the area this morning.

*Taylor Teagarden got back into spring action on Sunday and he will play in Wednesday’s game against the Twins following Tuesday’s off day.

*The Orioles will hold an intrasquad game in lieu of any games Tuesday with several guys, including Jason Hammel and Jair Jurrjens starting, getting in their innings against some of the organization’s Minor League hitters. Nolan Reimold, Wilson Betemit and Teagarden will hit in that game at the top of the order to get in some extra at-bats.

*Second baseman Brian Roberts held court at his locker this morning and talked about a variety of topics, including being ready for Opening Day.

“If I was ready on February 24, I hope I’ll be ready on April 2nd,” said Roberts, who has been a full participant in spring games.  “I’m excited. [Orioles manager Buck Showalter] would probably tell you I’ve been champing at the bit in his ear; I want to play. It’s been hard to be held back almost. When you haven’t played in so long…I enjoy getting my work in on the days when I don’t play, but I enjoy the game more than I enjoy the staying back working. I’ve been back working for a long time so, but I know that’s it’s a long season, and we’re trying to take the approach that will have me ready to play.”

Does Roberts foresee himself diving in the field and on the basepaths still?

“I don’t foresee it being a problem,” he said. “I guess I haven’t necessarily; I dove for one ground ball, maybe. I haven’t dove headfirst on a steal yet.

My doctors don’t’ foresee it being a problem. I have the confidence now just in being out there every day and feeling very different than I did last year. I think moving forward everything is in the right place.”

ORIOLES LINEUP

Alexi Casilla SS
Lew Ford CF
Conor Jackson 1B
Steve Pearce DH
Russ Canzler RF
Danny Valencia 3B
Yamaico Navarro 2B
LJ Hoes LF
Luis Exposito C

Jake Arrieta RHP

PIRATES LINEUP
Sterling Marte CF
Jose Tabata RF
Neil Walker 2B
Pedro Alvarez 3B
Gaby Sanchez 1B
Felix Pie LF
Clint Barmes SS
Michael McKenry C

Jeff Locke LHP

Gonzo struggles with command

Orioles right-hander Miguel Gonzalez, making the start with Chris Tillman being scratched, struggled with his command in a two-inning outing in Sunday’s 5-2 loss to the Pirates.

“I felt great in the ‘pen. Just one of those days,” said Gonzalez who allowed four runs (one earned). “Things weren’t working when I went on the field. Off-speed wasn’t there, my fastball was up.”

Gonzalez wasn’t helped by an error in left field from outfielder Nate McLouth, who fell trying to catch Brad Hawpe’s fly ball that changed directions, and the Pirates followed up the second-inning miscue with four hits.

“We counted five outs he got that the conditions change,” manager Buck Showalter said of Gonzalez, who is projected to be one of the Orioles starters this year. “You know a couple foul balls that would have been caught that [were] blown out. I don’t think anybody that was here today would have caught the ball that Nate tried to catch.

“[Gonzalez] was off from what he spoiled us with. But I’m ok with him. Arm feels good you can tell. I think the ball is coming out of his hand pretty good.”

Gonzalez, who pitched two scoreless innings in his first Grapefruit League appearance, struck out two on Sunday and allowed four hits and a pair of walks. He pitched around a leadoff walk to Russell Martin and was uncharacteristically wild in the 46-pitch outing, admitting later he’s still getting some of the rust off early in camp.

“I think he’s throwing the ball good,” Showalter said of Gonzalez, who is in his first Major League Spring Training. “ I’m really happy with Miguel. Can tell he’s had a good offseason. Looks stronger. Looks pretty fresh. Ball is coming out of his hand good.”

Spring Training news & notes Day 26

*Orioles right-hander Chris Tillman was scratched from Sunday’s scheduled start with left side soreness, although the 24-year-old expects to only be pushed back a few days and get an outing later in the week.

“It’s just a precautionary thing in my side, it kind of flared up the other day,” Tillman said. “I think just to be safe, I just want to take it easy for now. Nothing big, but I’m not going to downplay it either. Nothing I’m really worried about. Just want to be safe.”

Tillman said he wasn’t sure if he would have made Sunday’s start in the regular season, acknowledging that it would be the team’s –and not his—decision in that scenario. Projected to be one of the team’s starting five after going 9-3 with a 2.93 ERA in 15 games last year, Tillman said the issue isn’t in his oblique –which is a good thing—and the hope is some rest will calm down the area.

“It’s my left side [of my stomach],” Tillman said. “I had it early in camp and the more I threw the better it got and yesterday it just kind of was nagging me a little bit. And I’m thinking more risk and reward right now. What am I really going to gain from me going out there throwing and what am I really going to lose from not throwing? Do I like it? No. But is it the best decision? Probably.”

Miguel Gonzalez, who was originally scheduled to follow Tillman, will start Sunday’s game against the Pirates instead.

*Nick Markakis confirmed he will get an MRI on his neck tomorrow and said he isn’t that concerned right now  about the injury because he’s gotten some reassurance from the team doctors.

“I think it’s just some muscle tightness, but we’ll definitely find out tomorrow,” said Markakis who last played on March 1.

“I can’t pinpoint exactly what it was because I didn’t feel anything. I thought about what it could be. Maybe dehydration and working out and straining a muscle, or even sleeping on it or something along those lines, but I don’t know. We’ll see tomorrow, though.”

*Jonathan Schoop went 0-for-2 with a fielding error in the Netherlands loss to Japan in the World Baseball Classic. The Orioles top position player prospect, Schoop is batting .375 in the Classic so far, including a pair of homers.

*Speaking of the WBC, manager Buck Showalter said of last night’s brawl between Team Canada and Mexico ” [The] first time I saw it, I wasn’t paying attention to what was going on. I was looking for [Chris] Robinson.”

Robinson is in Orioles camp this spring and with Canada playing Team USA, the Orioles will get a player back shortly in either Robinson or centerfielder Adam Jones.

*The Orioles intrasquad game on Tuesday will be at 10:30 a.m. with the field to be determined.  Brian Matusz will start in Wednesday’s game opposite Twins righty Kevin Correia.

ORIOLES LINEUP
Brian Roberts 2B
Nate McLouth LF
Matt Wieters C
Chris Davis 1B
Wilson Betemit DH
J.J. Hardy SS
Chris Dickerson CF
Manny Machado 3B
Ryan Flaherty RF

Miguel Gonzalez SP
PIRATES LINEUP
Russell Martin C
ALex Presley CF
Jose Tabta LF
Pedro Alvarez 3B
Neil Walker 2B
Jerry Sands RF
Brad Hawpe DH
Matt Hague 1B
Clint Barmes SS

RHP Gerrit Cole

Markakis to get MRI on Monday

Nick Markakis  will get an MRI on his neck on Monday in what is being termed a precautionary measure for the right fielder, who has been bothered with neck stiffness since Sunday and isn’t getting much better.

“Just to be on the safe side on Monday,” manager Buck Showalter said of Markakis, who last played March 1 and was improving until reaggravating the area on Thursday. “Monday or Tuesday. Think it’s Monday.”

Markakis was scratched from Sunday’s lineup when he reported having a neck spasm that morning upon arriving at the team’s facility. It’s the latest in an unfortunate injury bout for Markakis, one of the team’s toughest players, who had three surgeries (abdominal, right wrist and left thumb) in the 2012 calendar year.

“I’m not going to downplay it. We’ll see,” Showalter said of Markakis’ injury. “When you get something that has kind of cropped up twice, information is a good thing…I haven’t been told anything to make me think there’s a sense of urgency with that. I asked Nick about it and he goes, ‘Whatever.’ We’ll see. It wasn’t much improved today though. About the same as yesterday. It gets better as the day goes on, and when he wakes up it’s real stiff.”

Slated to be the team’s starting right fielder, Markakis has played in at least 160 games in three of the last four years. He’s played in four games this spring, going 3-for-12 with an RBI and two strikeouts, and traditionally hasn’t needed a lot of Grapefruit League action to get ready for the season.

Spring Training news & notes Day 25 (updated)

Greetings from Jet Blue Park where the Orioles will take on the Red Sox under the lights in a 7:05 p.m. first-pitch…

*Nick Markakis  will get an MRI on his neck on Monday in what is being termed a precautionary measure for the right fielder, who has been bothered with neck stiffness since Sunday and isn’t getting much better.  You can read more on that here.

*Tsuyoshi Wada threw a bullpen session today and manager Buck Showalter was really encouraged with how Wada is looking in his rehab.  Wada did some stuff yesterday throwing-wise as well, mainly working on his mechanics, and he remains on track to return as early as May.

“He’s throwing the ball, fastball and changeup, and that’s pretty fun to watch him throw because it just reminds me of what he can be for us,” Showalter said of Wada, who was signed last winter and has yet to throw a pitch for the Orioles. “He’s got a chance to be pretty good. If we get him back in May it bodes well. I’m excited about where he is.”

*Manny Machado was originally supposed to play tonight, but Showalter opted to not have him make the trip and start Russ Canzler at third instead.

“John [Russell] and I looked at it yesterday. We keep that at-bats chart and plate appearances and innings played. Manny’s in great shape and I really wanted to get a look at Canzler at third base and get him some more at-bats. Manny’s going to get all the at-bats he needs here, for sure, but those at-bats are going to start diminishing for some of the guys here before too long and I don’t want to miss an opportunity. Also, the root canal a little bit. It had a lot to do with Canzler. Every three or four days we look at the plate appearances to make sure we’re on schedule to give everybody the same stuff, and Manny’s in a good place. And really want to take an opportunity to look at these guys as much as possible, make sure we make good decisions. Once we looked at it, it made more sense.”

*The Orioles would like to add some catching depth, beyond starter Matt Wieters and backup Taylor Teagarden (who has been slowed with a back injury) and they’re pretty short in camp right now. Luis Martinez, who was among the first cuts, will probably come back to big league camp to get a look once he gets back playing. Martinez was slowed with a left oblique strain from the early days of spring and hasn’t gotten in a game yet.

*Also slated to pitch tonight: Kevin Gausman, Zach Clark, Mike Belfiore, Todd Redmond, T.J. McFarland.

*Sunday’s pitchers at home vs. the Pirates are Chris Tillman, Miguel Gonzalez, Jim Johnson, Darren O’Day and Mark Hendrickson.

*Monday’s pitchers @ the Pirates are Zach Britton, Jake Arrieta, Luis Ayala and Adam Russell.

*The Orioles will have an intrasquad game on Tuesday’s off day with Jason Hammel, Steve Johnson, Mike Wright, Jair Jurrjens, Eduardo Rodriguez, Troy Patton and Daniel Schlereth all scheduled to pitch. The game will start at 10:30 a.m., with the field still TBD and the hitters guys from the Minor League camp.

Here are your lineups…
ORIOLES LINEUP
Alexi Casilla SS
Lew Ford CF
Nolan Reimold DH
Conor Jackson RF
Steve Pearce LF
Russ Canzler 3B
Danny Valencia 1B
Yamaico Navarro 2B
Luis Exposito C

Dylan Bundy RHP

RED SOX LINEUP
Brock Holt 2B
Jonny Gomes LF
Jackie Bradley, Jr. CF
Mike Napoli 1B
Jarrod Saltalamacchia C
Will Middlebrooks 3B
Mike Carp DH
Mitch Maier RF
Jose Iglesias SS

Felix Doubront LHP

Spring Training news & notes Day 24 (updated)

*Orioles right fielder Nick Markakis reaggravated his neck on Thursday and will not play in any of the team’s games through Sunday.

“He was playing with his kids yesterday and had it flare up again,” manager Buck Showalter said of Markakis, who came in last Sunday with a neck spasm and hasn’t played since.  “He was back, by the time I left [Ed Smith Stadium complex], he was back to where he was before yesterday.

So, he’s still close but I wouldn’t say Sunday. I’ll probably wait a little bit on that one just to be sure.”

Nolan Reimold, who has been dealing with a sore right shoulder, was throwing at the team’s complex on Friday although there are no immediate plans for him to get back in the field.

Reimold exited last Friday’s game after two innings and Showalter said he’s available right now as a designated hitter only as the team is also erring on the slower side with that injury.

Catcher Taylor Teagarden (lower back) said Friday he is feeling better and Showalter said he could return to spring games on Monday if all goes well up until then.

“I was pretty much a full participant in yesterday’s workout and I’m going to do it again today,” Teagarden said. “Make sure that the back feels good. It’s responding well and I’m not waking up feeling stiff and achy. I feel all right today. I’m going to go out there and hit BP again and run around and do all  my stuff, catch bullpens, and I suspect that I’ll feel pretty good tomorrow morning.

Hopefully, and at some point I’ll get in a game. Soon, I believe. The way things are going, I’m progressing. We’ll just see what happens this weekend, and I assume I’ll get in a game soon if everything goes all right.”

*Tsuyoshi Wada threw a bullpen session today and will go back-to-back for the first time in his rehab tomorrow. Wada isn’t throwing full bore, but he is working on getting his mechanics back to where they need to be.

“I’m finding a lot of things out about my mechanics right now,” Wada said through interpreter Seob Yoon. “I think I’m getting closer than what I was at, and it’s going to gradually get better and better day-by-day. I’m not sure how it’s going to look next week, too. But I think it’s going to be gradually getting better.”

Manager Buck Showalter said earlier this week Wada will not get in a big league spring game, and the target date for him to return is May or June.

*Some members of the organization were surprised right-handed reliever Pedro Strop was used for multiple innings for Team Dominican Republic on Thursday night. Strop did only throw 20 pitches and it wasn’t under a lot of stress, but he still recorded five outs.

*Showalter got his first glimpse of Cuban outfielder Henry Urrutia in the batting cages at the Minor League facility on Friday morning and was impressed with his swing, noting his solid wrist action.

*In case you missed it, Orioles prospect Jonathan Schoop had a three-run home run in the sixth early Friday morning and finished a triple away from hitting for the cycle to help bring Team Netherlands to the brink of a berth in the semifinals with a 6-2 win over Cuba in the first game of the second round  at Tokyo Dome. You can read more about that game here, but Schoop is certainly turning heads.

“I think with Jonathan, it’s nothing but good,” Showalter said of the World Baseball Classic exposure. “And from an organizational standpoint, a lot of people are seeing what a good player and prospect he is.”

Schoop has been playing second base, although his future position in the big leagues is still up for debate. Showalter said Friday he thinks Schoop can play shortstop or third base as well.

“He’s going to be able to play infield in the big leagues,” said Showalter, who dismissed the notion of Schoop projecting as a potential corner outfielder. “He’s got plenty of arm strength, he’s got good hands, he’s got good habits. You put him in a foot race, I can tell you five or six infielders in the big leagues that he’s a comparable runner with. But they are not going to hit potentially the home runs he’s going to hit.”

When Schoop returns from the Classic, he will remain in Major League camp for a while.

“He will get some reps here,” Showalter said. “I think as much for our sake as his. We miss him here. There’s a lot of times I’d love to play him….Nothing wrong with him going right from here into the season. Make sure his knees feel good and everything. I don’t know what [the organization's] plan is for him, whether they are going to put him in Double-A or Triple-A, they will figure it out.”

* The Orioles today announced that they have agreed to terms with 17 players on one-year contracts, completing agreements with all players on the 40-man roster. It just a formality of spring.

Here are the agreements:
RHP: JAKE ARRIETA, ZACH CLARK, MIGUEL GONZALEZ, STEVE JOHNSON, PEDRO STROP and CHRIS TILLMAN LHP: MIKE BELFIORE, ZACH BRITTON and T.J. McFARLAND
CA: LUIS EXPOSITO
INF: RYAN FLAHERTY, MANNY MACHADO, YAMAICO NAVARRO, JONATHAN SCHOOP and DANNY VALENCIA
OF: XAVIER AVERY and L.J. HOES

ORIOLES LINEUP

Alexi Casilla SS
Ryan Flaherty 2B
Wilson Betemit 3B
Jason Pridie DH
Travis Ishikawa 1B
Trayvon Robinson LF
Chris Dickerson RF
Jose Gil C
Xavier Avery CF

Wei-Yin Chen LHP

Also scheduled to pitch for the Orioles tonight: Brian Matusz, Tommy Hunter, Daniel Schlereth and Troy Patton.
PIRATES LINEUP    
Sterling Marte CF
Jose Tabata LF
Neil Walker 2B
Pedro Alvarez 3B
Gaby Sanchez 1B
Brandon Inge DH
Jerry Sands RF
Michael McKenry C
Clint Barmes SS

Kyle McPherson RHP

Ripken speaks

Cal Ripken, Jr. is here and he threw out the ceremonial first pitch as part of a tour for the third installment in the New York Times best-selling “Cal Ripken, Jr.’s All-Stars” series titled “Wild Pitch”. The series is also co-authored by Baltimore Sun columnist Kevin Cowherd.

Ripken was impressed with the Orioles’ spring facility, he had never been to Ed Smith Stadium before and got a tour from head athletic trainer Richie Bancells, and all 400 copies of his book brought to the stadium on Thursday were sold.

Asked if he would ever consider a move to get back into baseball’s front office, Ripken said: “It’s always flattering to be thought of in the way that I’ve been thought of, I’ll put it that way. And there’s a side of me that wants to be challenged in a big league way. What that is I’m not sure. I did make a choice when I got away from baseball to be there to get my kids off to college, that was my mindset. And now that they are off to college, could be a time in your life where you think about those things coming up. [I] don’t know yet.”

But could he see himself donning an Orioles uniform again like several former teammates?

“I’d have to get a little bit bigger uniform these days,” Ripken joked. “But I don’t know. That’s a weird feeling…There’s something special about putting that on and going out there and doing what you did for all those years.”

Ripken remains close with vice president of baseball operations Brady Anderson and admitted that sometimes he gets a “little jealous” hearing about Brady being on the inside and still so involved in things.

“But I have kept myself pretty busy and I’m not quite ready to give up what I’ve been doing or my availability,” said Ripken. “But certainly my conversations with Brady time to time, feels like you are on the inside and in the know a little bit more than you have been in the past.”

Could Anderson be pushing his old buddy to rejoin Baltimore as well?

“Is he recruiting  me? No, I don’t think so,” Ripken said with a laugh.  “At least he hasn’t shown his hand yet if he was.”

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