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Orioles sign nine to Minor League deals

The Orioles announced Wednesday that they have signed nine players to Minor League deals, including the re-signing of infielder Michael Almanzar and left-handed pitcher Chris Jones.

Almanzar was Baltimore’s Rule 5 Draft pick last year, from the Red Sox organization, and he came to Spring Training expecting to compete for a third base spot with Manny Machado’s injury. However, Almanzar was placed on the disabled list with tendinitis in his knee, later transferred to the 60-day DL, and when the O’s were unable to add him to the active roster after his rehab stint he was offered back to Boston. The Orioles acquired Almanzar again, along with Boston infielder Kelly Johnson, Jemile Weeks and Iván DeJesús, Jr. on August 30.

The O’s designated Jones in Spring Training to create a 40-man roster spot for Nelson Cruz and he was released from the organization several days later. They re-signed him to a Triple-A contract in March.

The Orioles also signed pitchers Frank Gailey, Tim Gustafson, Kenn Kasparek, Mikey O’Brien, and Ronan Pacheco, infielder/outfielder Derrik Gibson and made official the signing reported earlier this week of shortstop Ozzie Martinez.

Os add depth in Martinez

BALTIMORE— The Orioles have signed infielder Osvaldo (Ozzie) Martinez to a Minor League contract, a move that should help the organization’s depth, particularly at shortstop.

Martinez, 26, spent most of last year with Triple-A Gwinnett (Atlanta Braves) and he hit .288/.340/.350. He was acquired in a May trade from the Dodgers organization, where he played 33 games at Double-A to start the 2014 season.

Martinez has played in the Majors in parts of two seasons for the Marlins, in 2010 and 2011, and was originally drafted by Florida in the 11th round of the 2006 amateur draft. He will most likely slot in at the Orioles Triple-A affiliate in Norfolk with the organization wanting to upgrade at shortstop in the offseason.

Martinez has the most experience in his pro career at shortstop, although he has played second and third base as well as the outfield. He owns a career .258/.300/.348 line in 34 games in the big leagues.

Martinez’s signing was first reported by Baseball America.

Os, Markakis continue to negotiate

BALTIMORE— It would be tough to imagine Nick Markakis not in an Orioles uniform next season. And after Thursday’s latest batch of rumors, it’s looking more and more like that’s a scenario the O’s won’t have to worry about.

Markakis, a free agent for the first time in his career, has made it no secret he wants to remain in Baltimore and talks between his agent Jamie Murphy and the Orioles have picked back up according to multiple outlets. The Orioles immediately started negotiations with Markakis following their season, which ended in the American League Championship Series, and it appeared both sides were on the same page in working towards a new long-term deal. But the negotiations have taken longer than expected in working toward a four-year deal that would keep the veteran an Oriole through 2018.

On Thursday, CBSSports.com reported that the two sides rekindled on Wednesday and it looks like a deal could be reached fairly soon.

The 31-year-old Markakis is coming off a Gold Glove winning season and is a quiet leader in the Orioles clubhouse, taking over leadoff duties and priding himself on his durability in right field. Orioles executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette has said that re-signing Markakis wouldn’t automatically take the club out of the running on one of their other major free agents, Nelson Cruz, as Baltimore is preparing to increase its payroll from this past season.

Showalter wins AL Manager of the Year

BALTIMORE— Orioles manager Buck Showalter was named the American League Manager of the Year by the BBWAA on Tuesday night, putting Baltimore’s skipper in a special category following a spectacular 2014 season.

Showalter, who beat out finalists Mike Scioscia and Ned Yost, is the sixth manager to win the award three or more times and just the second —also Tony La Russa— to do it with three different organizations. He won with the Yankees in 1994 and the Rangers in 2004 and quipped he would definitely not be around in 2024 to see if the trend continues.

“I’m pretty speechless,” said Showalter on MLB Network, where the award was unveiled live. “It’s such a great reflection on our organization, our ownership that has been so rock solid.”

Despite missing three All-Stars in Matt Wieters, Manny Machado and Chris Davis, Showalter’s club exceeded expectations in going 96-66 and winning its first AL East title since 1997. He deflected praise to the players, saying they held themselves to a higher standard of preparation and play, mentioning several times that he was just lucky to get a good seat.

“It’s fun to watch,” Showalter said. “I am so thankful to get the opportunity every day. It’s something I never have taken for granted.”

Orioles centerfielder Adam Jones, who took to his Twitter account to post: “Bmore couldn’t be prouder of u Showalter,” also pointed out that this year’s award was a Beltway sweep with Nationals Manager Matt Williams winning in the NL.

Williams called Showalter the most prepared manager he’s ever been around in his acceptance interview and the O’s skipper, who had Williams as a player, said he was glad Washington gave him the chance.

Showalter, who took over in Baltimore in August of 2010, has posted winning seasons in each of the past three years and finished runner up to Bob Melvin for the Manager of the Year award in 2012.

Showalter’s managerial skills were best illustrated in his bullpen, which helped carry the O’s through offensive lulls, much like 2012. Together with executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette —who was honored Monday night as the Sporting News Executive of the Year— Showalter manipulated the roster, sending starting pitchers down prior to the All-Star break just to add an extra position player for a game or two.

Showalter has 1,259 career victories in 16 seasons as a major league manager, the third-most wins among active managers. He is 377-328 in Baltimore and the third O’s manager to be named Manager of the Year, joining Davey Johnson (1997) and Frank Robinson (1989).

A few notes

*Buck Showalter is a strong candidate for American League Manager of the Year, which will be announced tonight live on MLB Network. I stated the case for Showalter, who is going up against Ned Yost and Mike Scioscia, here.

*Orioles executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette was named The Sporting News “Executive of the Year” for 2014 and you can read more on that here.

*And finally, wishing the best of luck to Orioles public relations guy, Jeff Lantz, who is leaving the organization for a position with Minor League Baseball. Lantz, along with the rest of the O’s PR staff, stepped up admirably this year with the passing of PR director Monica Barlow and he will be missed.

Cruz turns down Orioles qualifying offer

As expected, Nelson Cruz has declined the Orioles qualifying offer.

All 12 eligible players in baseball declined their offers today, and it basically means that Cruz will officially test the free agent market and that the O’s get a draft pick as compensation should he sign somewhere else.

Hunter to play in Japan

Right-handed reliever Tommy Hunter will represent the Orioles later this month at the Japan All-Star series, which is made up five games between Major League players and Japan’s national team, the Samurai Japan.

Hunter is one of 14 pitchers on the roster, managed by Boston’s skipper John Farrell, with outfielder Adam Jones originally selected but unable to make it due to other commitments.

The All-Star Series will be preceded by an exhibition game on Tuesday and another one following the five-game series on Nov. 20. In between, the marquee matchup will take place from Wednesday through Nov. 18. 

MLB Network will televise every game of the Japan All-Star Series live starting with Tuesday’s exhibition game at 4:00 a.m. (ET).  MLB.TV subscribers also will be able to watch every game live and on-demand across any of its supported devices. Each game will re-air later the same day at 9:00 p.m. (ET).

Hunter, 28, went 3-2 with a 2.97 ERA in 60 games for the Orioles. He allowed 20 earned runs over 60 2/3 innings with 11 saves.

The 29-man Major League roster includes 14 pitchers, three catchers, seven infielders, two outfielders and three infielders-outfielders. Here’s the full roster:

PITCHERS (14)
Jeff Beliveau, Rays
Jerry Blevins, Nationals
Chris Capuano, free agent
Randy Choate, Cardinals
Jeremy Guthrie, Royals
Tommy Hunter, Orioles
Hisashi Iwakuma, Mariners
Mark Melancon, Pirates
Franklin Morales, free agent
Hector Santiago, Angels
Matt Shoemaker, Angels
Jose Veras, Astros
Tsuyoshi Wada, Cubs
Rob Wooten, Brewers

CATCHERS (3)
Drew Butera, Dodgers
Erik Kratz, Royals
Salvador Perez, Royals

INFIELDERS (7)
Jose Altuve, Astros
Robinson Cano, Mariners
Alcides Escobar, Royals
Evan Longoria, Rays
Justin Morneau, Rockies
Eduardo Nunez, Twins
Carlos Santana, Indians

OUTFIELDERS (2)
Dexter Fowler, Astros
Yasiel Puig, Dodgers

INFIELDERS/OUTFIELDERS (3)
Chris Carter, Astros
Lucas Duda, Mets
Ben Zobrist, Rays

Markakis, Hardy and Jones win Gold Gloves

BALTIMORE— The Orioles went a perfect 3-for-3 in Tuesday’s Rawlings Gold Glove awards with J.J. Hardy, Adam Jones and Nick Markakis each winning in their respective positions to tie Baltimore with Kansas City for most in the Majors.


Hardy, Markakis and Jones —who was interviewed live on the ESPN2 award show—will be presented with the award later this week in New York.

Hardy won the American League shortstop Gold Glove for the third consecutive year, edging out Chicago’s Alexei Ramirez and the Royals Alcides Escobar. Hardy is the first Oriole to win Gold Gloves in three straight years since pitcher Mike Mussina did it with four from 1996-2000.

Hardy led AL shortstops in Total Zone Runs (14), was second in range factor per game and double plays turned, third in fielding percentage (.978) and assists (394), and fifth in putouts (187).  Hardy’s three career Gold Gloves are second-most among active shortstops, trailing only Jimmy Rollins (four).

“This is a special award for me because of the fact that the opposing managers and coaches are the voters,and obviously I have a lot of respect for them and their knowledge of the game,” Hardy said in a statement released by the team. “A lot of the credit goes to Bobby Dickerson, who puts in a lot of time and effort with us and puts us in a position to be successful.”

It is Jones’ fourth career Gold Glove Award, also his third straight, after a 2014 in which he led AL center fielders in games played (155), was fourth in assists (7) and fifth in putouts (374).  Paul Blair (seven straight, 1969-75) is the only O’s outfielder to win a Gold Glove in more consecutive seasons than Jones.

Jones said in a statement he was honored to receive the award and, like Hardy, took pride in the fact that he was recognized by opposing managers and coaches.

“I also want to acknowledge the efforts and dedication of Wayne Kirby and Bobby Dickerson,” Jones said. “Their tireless and diligent efforts to help me and all of our players on the defensive side of the game cannot be overlooked or underestimated.”

It is the second Gold Glove for Markakis, who also won in 2011, and he joins Paul Blair and Jones as the only outfielders to win a Gold Glove in club history.  This season, Markakis led AL right fielders in games (147), putouts (295), and fielding percentage (1.000) while ranking second in assists (11). 

“It is a great honor to win the Gold Glove,” Markakis said in a statement. “It is an individual award, but a lot of people contribute to it. Wayne Kirby is a great influence on the outfielders and does a great job preparing us and putting us in the right position to make plays.”

The Orioles have won a total of 70 Gold Glove awards, most of any AL team and second in the majors to the St. Louis Cardinals.

Showalter finalist for AL MOY

BALTIMORE— Orioles manager Buck Showalter has been nominated as a finalist for the BBWA A(Baseball Writers Association of America) American League Manager of the Year Award.

Showalter’s name was unveiled Tuesday night on MLB Network along with Angels’ skipper Mike Scioscia and the Royals Ned Yost. He won the award with the Yankees in 1994 and the Rangers in 2004.

In 2014, Showalter helped lead the Orioles to their first American League East pennant since 1997 and the O’s advanced to the AL Championship Series where they lost to the Royals. Ballots were submitted before the postseason.

Showalter was last nominated for the award in 2012, and he finished second to Oakland’s Bob Melvin that year.


The BBWAA winners in both Leagues will be announced on Tuesday. The National League finalists are Bruce Bochy, Clint Hurdle and Matt Williams.

Orioles pick up 2015 options on Chen and O’Day

As expected, the Orioles have exercised their 2015 club options on pitchers Wei-Yin Chen and Darren O’Day and declined the options of right fielder Nick Markakis and catcher Nick Hundley.

Chen, 29, set career-highs with 16 wins and a 3.54 ERA in 31 starts for the Orioles last season. The lefty will make $4.75 million in 2015

The 32-year-old O’Day went 5-2 with four saves and ranked seventh among American League relievers with a career-best 1.70 ERA over 68 appearances. He was a critical part of the backend of the O’s ‘pen, allowing just 13 earned runs over 68 2/3 innings and will make $4.25 million next season.

Markakis, who will now become a free agent along with Hundley, had his $17.5 million declined but both sides remain hopeful that he can remain an Oriole. The longest-tenured active player on the O’s, Markakis will get a $2 million buyout per the terms of his contract. Hundley, who had a $5 million club option, will not get a buyout. Both players now join the list of O’s free agents, which also includes Nelson Cruz, Andrew Miller, Delmon Young, Kelly Johnson, Johan Santana, Alexi Casilla and Joe Saunders.

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