January 2014

Rogers: Orioles postseason hopes depend largely on defense

An interesting take from MLB.com columnist Phil Rogers….

You knew the Orioles were in trouble a year ago, right?

During their great season in 2012, when they’d come from the pack to reach the playoffs and almost take down the Yankees, they had gone 29-9 in one-run games and 16-2 in extra-inning games. There was no way they could duplicate that much odds-defying success, was there?

Of course there wasn’t.

Last year, the Orioles were 20-31 in one-run games and 8-7 in extra-inning games, and their overall victory total dropped from 93 to 85. It would have dropped more except the Orioles did one thing extremely well.

Their pitchers and fielders worked together to allow only 31 unearned runs. That was 32 fewer than they had allowed in making the playoffs the year before and, notably, the fewest in the Major Leagues.

On the one hand, this is impressive, a nice feat for Buck Showalter and coaches Bobby Dickerson and Wayne Kirby, who worked with a group of fielders that included six Gold Glove finalists, including winners Adam JonesJ.J. Hardy and Manny Machado. On the other, it is a bit like that one-run game record in 2012 — a danger sign for the upcoming season.

Click here to read the rest of the column.

Os to hold ballball and ballgirl tryouts March 1

The Orioles will have an open tryout to find ballgirls and ballboys for the upcoming season at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on Saturday, March 1.

The judges will include members of the Orioles’ front office, former players and local media personalities.

Interested candidate should be outgoing and athletic, ages 18 and older, with tryout slated to begin at noon ET.

Candidates should dress casually, bring their own gloves, and use the Home Plate Plaza entrance to Oriole Park on the southwest corner of the ballpark. Resumes are also recommended. Complimentary parking will be available in Lot A.

In addition to being able to handle a glove and field ground balls, candidates should be personable, customer-service oriented and available to work the entire 2014 season.

Orioles make it official with Young

The Orioles announced earlier tonight that they have signed Delmon Young to a Minor League contract with an invite to big league Spring Training. See my post below for more on Young and Jack Cust.

Os interested in Cust and Young

The Orioles have interest in outfielders Jack Cust and Delmon Young, both players who could potentially sign as non-roster invitees and join big league Spring Training.

The plan is for Cust and Young to work out at the organization’s mini-camp —which officially begins Tuesday— joining about a dozen players who reported to the Ed Smith Stadium for an early workout Monday in Sarasota, Fla.

Baltimore currently has eight outfielders, including non-roster invitee Quintin Berry, and are expected to have a platoon in left field this season. David Lough is likely one half of that.

Cust, who will be 35 later this week, last played in the Majors in 2011 and batted .213/.344/.329 with the Mariners. He spent 2012 in Triple-A, with both the Blue Jays and Yankee organizations, and did not play last season. He is best known for his time with the Oakland A’s, when he hit .247/.381/.457.

Young spent time with the Phillies and Rays last season, hitting .260/.307/.407 in 361 plate appearances. The 28-year-old has hit lefties well over his career, posting a 303/.341/.471 line, and would primarily be a part-time designated hitter candidate.


Orioles have been unusually quiet this offseason

A good read from my MLB.com colleague Anthony Castrovince on the Orioles moves (or really lack of) this offseason…

It seems safe to say this was not the sort of winter Orioles fans wanted or expected.

Not on the heels of the organization’s return to relevance. While 2013’s outcome fell short of October, the 85-win effort did prove Baltimore’s 2012 breakthrough was no fluke.

Alas, while appearances tend to be deceiving this time of year, the O’s appear to have gone a bit backward, waving goodbye to Scott Feldman, Brian Roberts, Nate McLouth and Jim Johnson and countering those losses with the decidedly unsexy additions of guys like Jemile Weeks, David Lough and Alexi Casilla. 

It’s not that there isn’t value in the speed and defense Lough can add to the outfield or the middle-infield insurance Casilla brings to the bench. It’s just that, in the rather abusive relationship that accompanies residency in the American League East, where the Yankees are throwing money at every problem and the Red Sox are defending world champs and the Rays look like they’re keeping David Price and improving elsewhere, the Orioles’ moves don’t register high on the radar.

So, yes, a measure of moaning on the part of those who expected to see the O’s make a splash — particularly in an unsettled starting rotation — is understandable.

Click here to read the rest of the article.

Orioles kick off mini-camp

The Orioles kicked off their four-day minicamp in Sarasota, Fla. on Monday, a voluntary event geared toward the organization’s pitchers getting ready and establishing a relationship with new pitching coach Dave Wallace and bullpen coach Dom Chiti.

The club’s Spring Training facility will be occupied by around 20 players and the organization hopes to also get a look at several notable rehabbers in third baseman Manny Machado and right-handed pitcher Dylan Bundy.

“There will be people that show up that we cant invite,” manager Buck Showalter said of baseball’s ruling on the camp, which dictates that any arbitration eligible players or multi-year contract guys cannot be formally invited. “Somehow, we get word to them and they’ll be there.”

That list includes Tommy Hunter, the team’s leading candidate at closer, Darren O’Day and newcomer Brad Brach. Catcher Matt Wieters – who owns a home down there- and Henry Urrutia are among the notable position players who will also be at the spring complex, with this year’s mini-camp separate than the team’s FanFest (which is in Baltimore on Feb 1).

“This is more about Dave Wallace and Dom getting a head start on some of the guys,” Showalter said of his new coaches, who will travel to the West Coast to see Zach Britton, Brin Matusz and Chris Tillman immediately  following this week’s camp.

“That allows us to have more people at this camp, instead of running those guys (working out in California) back and forth across the country. Dave and Dom will go directly to them with Brady (Anderson).”

Steve Johnson, TJ McFarland, Eduardo Rodriguez, Tim Berry, Parker Bridwell, Josh Stinson, Kevin Gausman, Mike Wright, Hunter Harvey, Ryan Webb, Michael Ohlman and Steele Russell were on the list of attendees as of Friday with Bundy and Wei-Yin Chen —who is rehabbing from a minor knee surgery— also expected to be in town.

Machado’s presence depends on his doctors’ schedule, although his rehab has progressed well so far and he’s on track to tentatively be ready by Opening Day. Chen isn’t coming along quite as fast as the team hoped, which is why they’d like to get their arms around where he is this week, while Bundy —who had Tommy John surgery last season— could be a factor for the O’s in the second half of 2014.

Showalter will be there for the mini-camp and to meet with the new groundskeeper in Sarasota and —aside from a  few face-to-face conversations he hopes to have— will largely be an observer as Wallace and Chiti become familiar with the organization’s pitchers.

Without a significant free-agent signing the Orioles are relying heavily on their new pitching/bullpen combo to help maximize what they do have. Wallace is a highly regarded baseball man known to be a great teacher, and will have his work cut out for him in managing a pitching staff in the American League East.

DH remains a concern for the Orioles

BALTIMORE — When the Orioles’ offseason began, one of the areas they needed to address was designated hitter.

But with a little more than a month until Spring Training begins, Baltimore is no closer to filling its DH void. The organization maintains interest in free agent Kendrys Morales, although giving up a Draft pick is — and likely will always be — an issue for a small-market team trying to build through the farm system. The O’s, who have prioritized adding a pitcher at this point in the offseason, are kicking around a few other available names, but none have even close to the impact that Morales would add to the lineup.

Morales, who rejected a qualifying offer from Seattle earlier this winter, is defensively limited but would add a significant boost to Baltimore’s offense. He posted a .277/.336/.449 line in 156 games for the Mariners last season, hitting 23 home runs, 34 doubles and driving in 80 runs.

It’s no secret that the Orioles struggled in the DH spot last year, mustering up two hits through the first 11 games and ranking last in the American League for a good portion of the season. O’s designated hitters (including times when a pinch-hitter stepped in for the DH spot) totaled a .234/.289/.415 line, a respectable middle-of-the-pack figure that’s a little deceiving, since a lot of that success was from everyday players getting a breather and the now-departed Danny Valencia.

Click here to read the rest of my story on the Orioles DH situation, including internal candidate for the spot.

Os sign Casilla

The Orioles have signed Alexi Casilla to a Minor League contract with an invitation to Major League Spring Training, the team announced on Friday night.

Cassila’s $3 million option for 2014 was declined earlier this winter  by Baltimore, but the departure of Brian Roberts and given that Manny Machado is coming off second-ending knee surgery gives the organization a need for more depth in the infield. Primarily a bench player last season, Casilla adds speed and versatility and can play second base, shortstop and third. The 29-year-old batted .214 in 62 games for the O’s in 2012.

Orioles announce Minor League staffing

The Orioles announced their coaching staff for all eight Minor League affiliates on Thursday afternoon, headed by the return of Triple-A Norfolk’s staff in manager Ron Johnson, pitching coach Mike Griffin, hitting coach Denny Walling and field coach Jose Hernadez.

Brian Graham will continue as the club’s director of player development —his second season in that role— with Rick Peterson returning for his third season as director of pitching development and Jeff Manto joining the organization as Minor League hitting coordinator.

Mark Shires will return for his 15th year as an athletic trainer in the Orioles’ system and his eighth year at Norfolk, with Tides’ strength and conditioning coach Ryo Naito back for a fourth year to round out the Triple-A staff.

Gary Kendall will manage Double-A Bowie for the fourth season, 15th in the organization, with pitching coach Blaine Beatty and field coach Butch Davis also returning to the Baysox. Athletic trainer Aaron Scott returns along with strength and conditioning coach Pat Armstrong.

Luis Pujols, a longtime Major League coach, will move up to manage High-A Frederick after managing the Delmarva Shorebirds last season, Pitching coach Kennie Steenstra returns for his third season with the Keys and his 10th in the organization while hitting coach Torre Tyson will return for his second year as hitting coach. Athletic trainer Pat Wesley and strength and conditioning coach Chris Cecere will also reprise their roles.

Ryan Minor, who managed Frederick last year, will return to Delmarva for the 2014 season. The former Orioles third baseman managed the Shorebirds from 2010-12. Former Oriole Alan Mills moves from Aberdeen to Delmarva in his third season as a pitching coach in the organization, while former Orioles farmhand Paco Figuero will serve as the Shorebirds’ field coach in his first year as a professional coach. Trek Schuler will return as the Shorebirds athletic trainer —where he spent the 2001-03 seasons-while Trevor Howell returns as strength and conditioning coach.

Matt Merullo, who lead Aberdeen to the playoffs in his first year in the organization, will return to his managerial post along with pitching coach Justin Lord, who spent the 2013 season with Delmarva.  Chris Poole will move from the Gulf Coast League to serve as athletic trainer for the IronBirds and Kevin Clark will serve as strength and conditioning coach.

Orlando Gomez returns to manage rookie-level Gulf Coast League Orioles for a second straight year, with Ramon Sambo (field coach) and Milt May (hitting coach) also returning. Former Major Leaguer Wilson Alvarez will again be pitching coach, with  Greg Svarczkopf athletic trainer.

Elvis Morel and Nelson Norman —who remains the direct of dominican baseball operations— will manage the two Dominican Summer League clubs, along with pitching coaches Robert Perez and Dionis Pascaul and coaches Benny Adames (hitting), Ramon Caraballo (field supervisor), Ramon Lubo (catching) and Ruben Francisco (field coach). Ludovino Marte will serve as athletic trainer.

Orioles Hall of Famer and MASN broadcaster Mike Bordick will be back as a special assignment instructor along with roving instructors Don Werner, Dave Anderson and Scott Beerer.

Scott McGregor returns for a third season as the Sarasota-based rehab coordinator with Dave Schmidt serving as the Florida and Latin America Pitching Administrator.  Felipe Alou, Jr. returns for his seventh year as coordinator of Dominican operations and Len Johnston will serve as administrator for Sarasota operations.

Dave Walker returns for a 12th year as Minor League Medical Coordinator while Ryan Crotin joins the organization full-time as Minor League Strength and Conditioning Coordinator. Ryan Driscoll returns for his fifth year as Strength and Conditioning Coordinator in Sarasota., while Jake Parker returns for his fifth season as Minor League Equipment Manager.

Orioles Opening Day to be broadcast on ESPN2

ESPN announced today that the Orioles-Red Sox game on March 31 will be televised on ESPN 2. The broadcast, which will run alongside of MASN’s own broadcast, is part of the network’s Opening Day lineup. Baltimore will host the defending World Series Champions for a 3 p.m. ET game at Camden Yards.