March 2014

Orioles announce Opening Day plans

Per a team release…

*To allow fans the opportunity to experience the excitement of Opening Day, the entire ballpark will open at noon on Monday. Each fan will receive a 2014 schedule/car magnet at the gates. Roving musical groups will entertain fans on Eutaw Street and the main concourses.

*Fans are encouraged to be in their seats by 2:30 p.m., when pre-game ceremonies will begin. MASN personality JIM HUNTER will serve as emcee for the pre-game festivities.

*In a continuation of the Opening Day tradition, Orioles players and coaches will be introduced prior to the game. Orioles players will run through the center field gate on an orange carpet and take their places between first and second base. Manager BUCK SHOWALTER, coaches and staff will be introduced from the Orioles dugout. Members of the Red Sox will be announced and will run from their dugout to line up between second and third base.

OriolesREACH has arranged for 80 youth from Fort Meade to line the orange carpet holding Orioles flags during player introductions. These children are the sons and daughters of some of Fort Meade’s 10,000 service members and nearly 50,000 employees from all branches of military service. Fort Meade is the Nation’s Preeminent Center for Information, Intelligence and Cyber Operations, and has a long-standing relationship with the Orioles.

For the 21st straight season, one fan will be chosen to represent all Orioles fans as the team’s “10th man.” The fan will be introduced as a part of the Orioles starting lineup during the pre-game ceremonies.

*American tenor RICHARD TROXELL will perform the National Anthem. Troxell, a native of Thurmont, Maryland, has an extensive resume of film and theater performance experience both in the United States and abroad. Troxell will also sing “God Bless America” during the seventh inning stretch. This year marks the ninth time he has performed the National Anthem on Orioles Opening Day.

During the anthem, a 30’ x 42’ Star-Spangled Banner Flag will be unfurled over the batter’s eye wall in center field. The Maryland Historical Society recreated the Star-Spangled Banner flag this past summer during the same six-week time period that MARY PICKERSGILL did 200 years ago. With the help of more than 250 experienced stitchers and over one thousand members of the public, Maryland Historical Society’s flag was pieced together utilizing the same techniques as found in the original Star-Spangled Banner that flew over Fort McHenry during the Battle of Baltimore in September of 1814.

Colors will be presented by both the United States Joint Armed Forces Color Guard, provided by the Military District of Washington, and the Fort McHenry Guard.

*Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, ADMIRAL JAMES A. WINNEFELD, JR. will throw out the ceremonial first pitch. Admiral Winnefeld is a United States Navy four-star admiral and the second highest-ranking military officer in the US Armed Forces.

*The Orioles will honor the 13 members of the Orioles family who passed away since last Opening Day during a pre-game video tribute. Special pregame ceremonies will recognize Orioles investor TOM CLANCY, Public Relations Director MONICA BARLOW, and former outfielder PAUL BLAIR, each of whom passed away since the end of the 2013 season.

Additionally, throughout the 2014 season, the club will wear a name patch on the right jersey sleeve for the Baltimore-born Clancy.

*Rawlings established the Rawlings Gold Glove Award in 1957 to recognize the best fielders at each position. The award has evolved into baseball’s greatest measure of defensive excellence. Every year, managers and coaches of each Major League Baseball team select a squad of the best defensive player at each position in their respective leagues, excluding their own teams.

In 2013, shortstop J.J. HARDY, center fielder ADAM JONES and third baseman MANNY MACHADO were named Gold Glove Award winners at their respective positions. It was the first award for Machado, second for Hardy and third for Jones. In a pre-game ceremony, STEVE COHEN from Rawlings will present all three with their Gold Glove Awards. Additionally, Machado will be presented with the Platinum Glove, given to the best individual defender in each league.

*In honor of the club’s 60th anniversary, the Orioles will wear a 60th anniversary logo patch on the right jersey sleeve for all games (above the Clancy patch). Additionally, for all home games, the Orioles will use special 60th anniversary logo baseballs.

*On Thursday, Silver Sluggers Adam Jones, Chris Davis and J.J. Hardy will be presented with their awards.

News and notes Day 40

The Orioles will play a split-squad road contest today and there could be cuts after both games. In case you missed, it right-handed pitcher Brad Brach was optioned to Triple-A Norfolk last night which makes the roster picture a little clearer. It’s basically down to Evan Meek and Alfredo Aceves for the final bullpen spot, with Zach Britton and Josh Stinson both projected to be in the ‘pen as well. (My guess is it’s Meek).

I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating that Britton isn’t a starting option if the O’s need one. By all accounts, from people in the organization and opposing scouts, Britton’s really found a niche in the bullpen and he looks like a different pitcher. I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s used in the late innings this season, his fastball has that much life coming out of the bullpen. It would also take a while at this point to stretch him back out, and the club has other options should they need a starter.

I’ll be at tonight’s game against the Rays, and will tweet out a few updates and any news that comes out of Fort Myers and manager Buck Showalter’s pre-game media session. For more game updates you can follow MLB.com’s Red Sox reporter Ian Browne: @IanMBrowne.

Orioles.com is also on Facebook and you can follow along here.

Norris on his outing

Orioles starter Bud Norris made his final Grapefruit League start on Tuesday afternoon, working 5 1/3 innings and allowing three runs (two earned) on seven hits and a walk. Norris also struck out two in the 78-pitch outing.

“Felt really strong,” Norris said of his outing. “A little windy, so you really have to control your body out there. I felt I did a really good job of pounding the strike zone. Steve [Clevenger] called a great game. We’re on the same page. Like I said, I’m healthy and I felt good and all of my pitches were working, so I’m happy.”

Norris finished up with a 2.65 spring ERA in five official Grapefruit League games and –like his teammates– is ready for the games to start counting.

“I’m excited. I think we all are,” said Norris, who will pitch the fourth or fifth game this season. “We’ve been champing at the bit. We’ve been working hard. Like I said, for us to get out of here healthy is the No. 1 priority. I’m excited to get this going.”

Asked to assess his spring as a whole, Norris said: ““It’s been pretty good. Like I said, you’ve got to take it one day at a time. You can’t get too far ahead of yourself. You can’t get too far behind yourself. You’ve got to take these six, seven weeks and take it one day at a time and get stronger. So, I think from a throwing program standpoint, from a body standpoint, I’ve gotten a lot stronger, and mentally stronger, too. I’m healthy, and that’s the number one priority, and would love to make 30, 35 starts.”

News & notes Day 39 (updated)

The Orioles lost 4-1 to the Twins today, with Bud Norris turning in a solid outing in his final spring tuneup. (You can read Norris’ quotes on that here.)

“He should have given up what, one run maybe at the most,” manager Buck Showalter said of Norris, who had some shaky defense behind him. “Was a good outing for him. Got his pitch count where he needed it to be. Got his ups where he needed to be. Bud’s a good fielding pitcher, just got to slow his clock a little bit. He’s one of our better fielding guys…Got a couple outs off the change up and also set up a couple with the change up. So, I like the progress with that. Now it’s a matter of if he’s going to carry it over into the season.”

*The O’s could make a few cuts tonight. So, stay tuned for that.

“They’re good tough,” Showalter said of the looming roster decisions. “In the past, we’ve had last man standing. These are quality pitchers we think if they are not here they are going to provide depth. I hope we don’t see anybody we sent down, but chances are [we will]. That keeps the competition (going). Sometimes people in the big leagues don’t think there’s anybody behind them that can take their place. We will have those this year.”

*Zach Britton and Tommy Hunter will pitch back-to-back outings and go again on Wednesday.

*The Orioles will likely have Norris and Miguel Gonzalez stay back and not travel to Norfolk on Saturday, and pitch in Sarasota that day instead. They’d meet the team in Baltimore.

*Ryan Flaherty was officially told that he made the club, which manager Buck Showalter joked was done partially so Flaherty could stop “walking on eggshells” around the facility. Flaherty will start the season at third base with Manny Machado on the disabled list.

It seems fairly obvious that the plan is to have Steve Lombardozzi start at second base, which puts Jonathan Schoop at Triple-A Norfolk to start the season. The utility infield spot will be either Jemile Weeks or Alexi Casilla, with the edge going to Weeks who can be sent down and has been able to stay healthy all spring. (Casilla has been limited with a pair of injuries.)

In that scenario, if the club needed a backup for J.J. Hardy, Flaherty could move to shortstop and Lombardozzi to third with Weeks at second.

*Wei-Yin Chen will start the third game of the season, as expected. Bud Norris and Miguel Gonzalez will follow, but the club isn’t sure of the order just yet.

*Michael Almanzar will be shut down for at least a few days after an MRI on his left knee yesterday revealed patella tendinitis. He’s a possibility to go to the disabled list, according to EVP Dan Duquette.

*Steve Clevenger was also told yesterday by Showalter that he has made the club. It was pretty much a formality with the club designating Johnny Monell for assignment, but still makes the roster picture a little clearer. Clevenger, a local product, said it still won’t feel official until he puts on his uniform on Opening Day.

*The Orioles roster is starting to take shape with Showalter planning to make cuts after tomorrow afternoon’s game and again after the nightcap.

*In case you missed it, the big news out of Orioles camp yesterday was the trade of Alex Gonzalez in exchange for Lombardozzi. More on that from the Orioles side is up here, and here is what Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski had to say about the swap which –at first blush–looks really, really good for the Orioles…

“We like Steve. what really happened for us is our situation changed dramatically for us at shortstop when we lost [Jose] Iglesias. So it’s a situation where we had a guy that we thought would play 150 games at shortstop and that he could play whenever Brad would want to play him. We don’t have that luxury now, the way we’re set up. We need a couple guys that can play shortstop on a regular basis, and in our mind, we don’t think that he can do that.

So when you look at it, yes, we do like him. Is it a lot to give up? Perhaps. People may look at that he’s younger. We looked at him as a real good utility player when we got him, and that’s how we looked at him now. We figured he’d play that role, but we’re somewhat in a jam. And we’re getting a guy that we like and we think can do the job. The other way to look at it is we’re trading a guy that we do like for a guy that we think can play the majority of our games at shortstop. [Gonzalez] was going to make the Orioles club.”

*MLB.com columnist Richard Justice previewed the AL East and you can read that here.

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ORIOLES LINEUP
David Lough CF
Steve Lombardozzi 2B
Henry Urrutia RF
Delmon Young LF
Steve Clevenger C
Nolan Reimold DH
Ryan Flaherty 3B
Steve Pearce 1B
Alexi Casilla SS

Bud Norris RHP

TWINS LINEUP
Brian Dozier 2B
Kurt Suzuki C
Joe Mauer 1B
Josh Willingham LF
Jason Kubel DH
Trevor Plouffe 3B
Oswaldo Arcia RF
Aaron Hicks CF
Pedro Florimon SS

Mike Pelfrey RHP

News and notes Day 38 (updated)

*The Orioles have acquired infielder Steve Lombardozzi from Detroit in exchange for Minor League Alex Gonzalez, who fills Detroit’s need for a shortstop. To make room on the 40-man roster catcher Johnny Monell has been designated for assignment. More on that trade here.

“He gives us good depth at second and third, and with his switch-hitting capability, he gives us some good options,” executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette said of Lombardozzi, who also has Minor League options available. “He’s already got two years of experience and he’s only 25 years old.”

Could Lombardozzi, a natural second baseman, be in the mix for the Orioles’ starting job? It looks like it.

“We are taking him right now with that in mind. We’ll see how it goes in the next couple days, but our reports are that he can play second, third and in the outfield. And he can contribute offensively from both sides of the plate. Good fundamental player.”

Duquette said it wasn’t so much the news of Manny Machado starting the season on the disabled list, but that the club needed more infield depth.

“We could have taken Alex (Gonzalez) and put him on our 25-man roster and he could have played,” Duquette said. “We had a solution in camp. But I think the Tigers needed a shortstop more than we needed a veteran third baseman. We have some other options, players that can play third base other than Alex.”

*Michael Almanzar is dealing with some swelling in his left knee and will get an MRI on the area today. Orioles manager Buck Showalter said the club will not try to stash Almanzar, a Rule 5 pick, on the disabled list. If he’s hurt they’ll DL him, if not they will see if he fits on the Opening Day roster.

*Both Dylan Bundy and Johan Santana got their throwing in today before the rain got bad. Bundy will throw one more time off flat ground before advancing to the half mound.

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ORIOLES LINEUP
Nick Markakis RF
J.J. Hardy SS
Adam Jones CF
Chris Davis 1B
Nelson Cruz LF
Matt Wieters C
Delmon Young DH
Jonathan Schoop 3B
Jemile Weeks 2B

Brian Matusz LHP

RED SOX LINEUP
Daniel Nava RF
Jonny Gomes LF
David Ortiz DH
Will Middlebrooks 3B
Mike Carp 1B
Ryan Lavarnway C
Jackie Bradley Jr. CF
Jonathan Herrera SS
Mike McCoy 2B

Drake Britton LHP

Orioles announce pair of rallies in advance of Opening Day

Per a team release…

The Orioles announced dates for two “Operation Orange” rallies to generate fan excitement as the team prepares to open the 2014 season. The rallies will include ticket giveaways, trivia and raffles for Orioles-themed gear and other promotional items.

The first “Operation Orange” rally will be held at Dempsey’s Brew Pub and Restaurant on Wednesday, March 26 from 6:00 – 8:00 p.m. The Operation Orange rally crew, the Oriole Bird, Orioles PA Announcer Ryan Wagner and former Orioles catcher CHRIS HOILES will attend. In addition to numerous giveaways, a Q&A session with Hoiles will be held for fans as well as Orioles trivia hosted by Wagner.

Orioles Radio Network flagship station WBAL Radio and host Brett Hollander will be broadcasting from Dempsey’s beginning at 3:00 p.m. with live sports updates during the Maryland News Now program. When the rally starts at 6:00 p.m., Hollander will host a special version of Sportsline live before the Orioles pre-game show begins at 6:30 p.m.

Guests can also enjoy extended happy hour specials on food and beverages, including an exclusive drink special for those adults who wear orange or Orioles apparel, before watching the Orioles battle the Rays at 7:05 p.m.

On Saturday, March 29 the “Operation Orange” rally crew will travel with the Oriole Bird to Canton Square to greet fans from 4:00 – 6:00 p.m. The rally crew will giveaway special “Operation Orange” t-shirts, ticket vouchers and additional Orioles promotional items.

The Orioles will open the 2014 season at home vs. the Boston Red Sox on Monday, March 31 at 3:05 p.m.

Machado to continue scheduled rehab

BRADENTON— Prior to Thursday’s game, manager Buck Showalter hadn’t received any word on Manny Machado’s appointment with a doctor on his left knee, although he won’t be cleared to start playing in games when he returns. Machado’s surgeon, Dr. Neal ElAttrache, was quoted by ESPN saying Machado’s knee is tracking normally and he can continue with his scheduled rehab progression.

“Nothing’s changed,” Showalter said after the Orioles’ game, having been updated on the appointment mid-game. “But it’s good news to heard someone else say what our training staff is saying.”

The Orioles, irked that Machado’s appointment was discussed with a national media outlet for a second time, will dictate the schedule moving forward. (Head athletic trainer Richie Bancells did speak with Dr. ElAttrache, but Showalter wasn’t sure if that was before or after he was quote by ESPN.) Machado has been dealing with some discomfort-causing scar tissue and has been unable to run the past week. He would need to continue to progress and begin running again before being cleared to play.

When Machado does start playing games, it is likely that he only appears in Minor League games so the Orioles can backdate the disabled list stint for him to start the season.

Norris on his outing

Orioles starter Bud Norris’ main goal this spring has been to stay healthy. But the right-hander has done more than just that, as Norris tossed five strong innings against the Pirates on Thursday night to continue what has been a successful spring campaign.

“As a starting pitcher, you pitch deeper in the games and you get more comfortable with [where you’re at],” said Norris, who has pitched in four games. “You’re building your pitch count.  Early on, the first time, you get a little jitters the first couple starts, but I feel comfortable. I’ve been working hard and getting closer to closer to Opening Day, I feel pretty good.”

Norris allowed two hits, including a solo homer to Andrew McCutchen, and struck out five under the lights of McKechnie Field for a rare Grapefruit League night game. It helped the exhibition contest feel more like a real game.

“Absolutely. We’re used to playing 7 o’clock games compared to one,” Norris said. “Just the adrenaline, we know we’re breaking camp here soon and those last couple spots are out there to go get, so everybody’s been working real hard and kind of getting antsy because we know there’s still work to be done.”

Norris is expected to be in the Orioles rotation and is coming off a 2013 season in which he went 10-12 with a 4.18 ERA in 32 games (30 starts), including a 4-3 record with a 4.80 ERA after a midseason trade to Baltimore. He also battled elbow soreness down the stretch with his new club.

“I’ve said to you guys all along, staying healthy is the biggest thing for me,” Norris said. “A lot of guys can go too fast or too slow and not be where they need to be. I’ve worked real hard to be healthy and feel as good as I do, so I’m hoping to carry that over to the season as well.”

So far this spring, Norris has pitched 11 2/3 innings and allowed three earned runs on nine hits. His only poor outing came against the Yankees, when he lasted just 1 2/3 innings and gave up three runs (two earned) after doing in with five scoreless frames.

“Considering the way New York went, I was pretty happy to get through five,” Norris said of reaching pitch count and getting up around 75. “The ups and downs are really important and I felt pretty good out there.”

News & notes Day 35 (updated)

*Prior to Thursday’s game, manager Buck Showalter hadn’t received any word on Manny Machado’s doctor appointment on his left knee, although he won’t be cleared to start playing in games when he immediately returns anyhow. Machado’s surgeon, Dr. ElAttrache was quote by ESPN saying Machado’s knee is tracking normally and he can continue with his scheduled rehab progression.

The Orioles will dictate that moving forward and Machado, who has been dealing with some scar tissue causing discomfort, has been unable to run the past week. He would need to continue to progress and begin running again before being cleared to play.

If/when Machado does start to get into games before camp ends, there’s a pretty good chance that he only appears in Minor League games so the Oriole can backdate the disabled list stint for him to start the season. The team hasn’t formally ruled out Machado, but it’s likely headed that way for Opening Day.

*Alex Gonzalez had something come up on his physical and the team wanted to check into it so he had an endoscopy and colonoscopy. Showalter wanted to wait until those results came back before playing Gonzalez again.

*No official word on Luis Ayala, who the Orioles are close to signing to a Minor League deal. The veteran right-hander wouldn’t be in big league camp and would add depth to Triple-A Norfolk.

*The Orioles met today to talk about roster decisions and could have another round of cuts as early as tomorrow, though Showalter wasn’t positive.

“You got a Rule 5 decision, you got bullpen decisions that affect a lot of it,” Showalter said of the meeting that included his coaching staff and some of the front office. “When we talk up there, we talk about the best 25. All the rest of it, Dan [Duquette] knows the other dynamics of it. I try to keep my mouth shut, and let the coaches talk about what they hear, what they see. I thought it was good. For Dan to here, for Lee [Thomas]. A finite group of people. The coaching staff and Dan and Lee.”

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PIRATES LINEUP
Starling Marte LF
Andrew Lambo DH
Andrew McCutchen CF
Pedro Alvarez 3B
Russell Martin C
Neil Walker 2B
Gaby Sanchez 1B
Jose Tabata RF
Jordy Mercer SS
Francisco Liriano LHP

ORIOLES LINEUP
Alexi Casilla SS
Nolan Reimold DH
Adam Jones CF
Nelson Cruz RF
Steve Pearce 1B
Delmon Young LF
Jonathan Schoop 2B
Caleb Joseph C
Michael Almanzar 3B
Bud Norris RHP

Orioles option Yoon, Monell, reassign Paul to Minor League camp

The Orioles made a trio of cuts on Wednesday, optioning pitcher Suk-min Yoon and catcher Jonny Monell to Minor League camp and reassigning outfielder Xavier Paul to trim the spring roster to 43.

The Monell moves leaves Steve Clevenger as the leading in-house candidate to backup Matt Wieters, although manager Buck Showalter certainly left open the possibility that the club make a move externally. Showalter said a lot of things presented themselves over the last 10 days of spring.

“Stevie’s done a nice job down here,” Showalter said. “So has John. I thought he really came on as a catcher the past seven or eight days. Hopefully he can carry that on. He’s got a chance to hit. I thought his catching skills have really improved since he got here.”

Monell played in 11 games, batting .278 (5-for-18) with a homer and six RBIs, while Clevenger has gone 12-for-22, also with a homer and six RBIs, in eight spring games.

“I feel very comfortable with what I’ve done,” Clevenger said. “Hitting, the main thing is catching. They made it a starting point from the beginning, it was going to be the catching that determined the job, and I feel like my catching has been up to par so far in Spring Training.”

Clevenger’s locker is right next to the already cleaned out previous home of Monell’s but he won’t take it easy the rest of camp.

“I’m going to go out there and show [Showalter], basically until my name is announced on Opening Day, that’s when I’ll be on the team,” he said.

The Yoon move is to allow the right-hander to be stretched out more and there won’t be that many innings left in camp given that the starters need to keep working deeper. Yoon went two innings in Wednesdays loss —surrendering a solo homer— and said he got the sense he will be a starter for Triple-A Norfolk.

“I’ve thought about it, but I really wasn’t expecting it,” Yoon said through interpreter Justin Yoo about being optioned. “

I actually feel good right now. I want to maintain where I’m at.”

Yoon was limited by visa issues that delayed his first outing and forced him to leave camp for a couple days to go to Canada.

“He’s not going to start with us, but we think he has a chance to be with us at some point,” Showalter said. “I think he said it the other day and in talking to him, he needs to go down there and pitch innings. They are starting to go away.”

Paul played in 15 games, going 6-for-28 with a double and five RBIs in a crowded outfield camp.

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