Orioles Opening Day news & notes (updated with lineups)

20140331-095531.jpg

20140331-095543.jpg

(The Orioles players and staff will wear the bracelets above today in honor of public relations director Monica Barlow, who passed away this spring due to lung cancer. The other photo is from my spot in the press box at Camden Yards.)

Greetings from Camden Yards, where the Orioles will open the season and take on the Boston Red Sox. The forecast is sunny all day– though it still feels freezing after spending six weeks in Sarasota–after a lot of rain over the weekend.

The 2014 marks my fifth season covering the Orioles for Orioles.com with daily notebooks, features and game stories on the website along with lineups, pre game notes and other in-game news/analysis available on this blog. Follow along on Facebook for more news/commentary and pictures and Twitter for up-to-the-minute updates. Looking forward to bringing you all the very best in Orioles coverage in 2014.

***
*Nick Markakis took batting practice and will play this afternoon. Markakis has been dealing with some neck spasms that started on the team flight to Norfolk on Saturday.

“I’ve been here long enough to know which injuries I can baby and which injuries I need to take care of,” Markakis said. “This is one that is kind of in between.”

Delmon Young will be designated hitter today with Jonathan Schoop starting at second and Ryan Flaherty at third base.

*Tommy Hunter has officially been named the team’s closer, with Showalter talking to the right-hander yesterday.

*The primary long man is expected to be Josh Stinson with lefties Zach Britton and Brian Matusz also capable of doing that job if needed.

*Manny Machado has not started running yet and said this morning the primary focus is on building back up strength in his calf and quadriceps. Machado will get his Gold Glove and Platinum Gold Glove today, and he’s expected to fly back to Sarasota to continue his rehab on Tuesday.

RED SOX LINEUP
Daniel Nava RF
Dustin Pedroia 2
David Ortiz DH
Mike Napoli 1B
Mike Carp LF
Grady Sizemore CF
Xander Bogaerts SS
A.J. Pierzynski C
Will Middlebrooks 3B

Jon Lester LHP

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

Chris Tillman RHP

Os still unsure about Markakis for Opening Day

Orioles manager Buck Showalter has two lineups made out for Monday’s Opening Day: one with Nick Markakis and one without. Which one Showalter will use won’t be decided until later on Sunday as Markakis -dealing with neck spasms- has improved but still isn’t 100 percent.

“Still a little sore, hopefully it will get a little better,” Showalter said of Markakis, who was a late scratch from Saturday’s exhibition game in Norfolk. “Theres some thought about him getting the benefit of another day with it. We will have our arms around it by the end of the day I hope.”

“I was hoping it would manage a little bit overnight better than it did. It’s a touch better. We’ll see if it’s enough to play tomorrow.”

Markakis had the issue occur on the team’s plane from Sarasota to Norfolk on Saturday and was getting treatment on the area on Sunday afternoon. The right fielder prides himself on being in the lineup every game, so it would take something considerable to keep him out. But with the team’s off day on Tuesday, it could be an easy way to make sure it’s not a lingering issue.

With Boston sending lefty Jon Lester to the mound, Nelson Cruz –who played Saturday– is expected to play left field. David Lough could play the outfield in Markakis’ absence if needed.

*Jonathan Schoop will likely start tomorrow with Lester on the mound.

*Tommy Hunter, widely thought to be closer, said he hasn’t been told one way or the other. Hunter should get the ball in the ninth, and joked that everybody is going to find out together.

*New Oriole Evan Meek, who won the final bullpen spot, is no stranger to Camden Yards. It was almost exactly two months ago that Meek threw a ‘pen over here while a free agent. He ended up signing with the O’s several days later.

*Neither team worked out this afternoon due to rain, though the Orioles did have some guys throw and hit indoors.

***

Follow along on Facebook for more news and pictures and Twitter for up-to-the-minute updates.

Aceves cut, will opt-out

Right-handed pitcher Alfredo Aceves will not make the Orioles and will exercise the opt-out clause in his contract on Friday to leave the organization, according to an industry source.

The move makes it likely Evan Meek will get the final bullpen spot, assuming there aren’t any other trades or waiver wire pickups. The Orioles came close to acquiring an unknown player on waivers on Wednesday. Zach Britton and Josh Stinson, who are both out of options, figure to make the bullpen as well. Meek has allowed one run on two hits over eight innings this spring.

Aceves, 31, was signed to a Minor League contract this winter and allowed five earned runs over 10 innings on 11 hits and two walks. He also had six strikeouts. The move would leave the O’s with 35 players in camp.

Cruz leaves game (CT scan fine)

Nelson Cruz took a pitch to his helmet on Thursday afternoon by Rays pitcher Alex Cobb and exited the game in the bottom of the fifth inning, but appears to be just fine after a CT scan came back clean.

“Take a look and see how he feels tomorrow, but he feels pretty good,” manager Buck Showalter said of Cruz, who was hit by his left ear. “It cracked the helmet.”

“It sounded hopefully worse than it was. He seems to be fine, I’m going to talk to him when I get up there…like to say we dodged a bullet, but he didn’t. It’s a little early, but I think he’s going to be fine.”

Cruz was able to walk off the field by himself and was fortunate in that it was an off speed pitch from Cobb. He was replaced by Delmon Young and walked to the training room with head athletic trainer Richie Bancells where he was further examined before being taken to a local hospital for a scan, per MLB protocol.

“I don’t want to make excuses, but it slipped a little bit,” Cobb said. “It was a curveball and just got away from me.”

“Not just me, I don’t think any pitcher wants to hit a guy in the head. It was a curveball, you know. If anything, any pitch you could hit him with, you’d prefer it to be that. It still stinks to see a guy go down like that. I’ve heard he’s OK, so that’s good.”

Cruz is 11-for-39 with six doubles and four RBIs this spring and his availability for Opening Day doesn’t seem to be in jeopardy.

“I’m not projecting that,” Showalter said. “we will see what the next few days bring.”

News & notes Orioles Grapefruit league finale (updated)

Greetings from Sarasota, where the Orioles lineup today looks like it could be their regular lineup, at least against right-handed starters.

Manager Buck Showalter said again today David Lough will probably not start against lefties, with Nelson Cruz shifting to left field and Delmon Young at designated hitter a likely scenario. As for who will bat second in Manny Machado’s place, Showalter said J.J. Hardy is probably not an option. Young could be a possibility against righties, with Nick Markakis against right-handers given that David Lough would be back in the lineup to lead off.

*The Orioles are not expected to make any cuts today. The team is still deciding between Jonathan Schoop and Jemile Weeks. Alfredo Aceves and Evan Meek are still fighting for that last bullpen spot, although the clear edge goes to Meek.

Zach Britton and Josh Stinson look like sure bets in the bullpen. T.J. McFarland and Kevin Gausman are also still in camp.

Young and Steve Pearce appear to be locks with yesterday’s news that Nolan Reimold will be on the disabled list to start the season.

Of course, there’s always the potential for the Orioles to make a move. Showalter said they pondered a waiver claim on Wednesday but decided not to and it wouldn’t be surprising if they made a late addition before rosters have to be set 3 p.m. on Sunday.

*Reimold just came into the media room to talk about going on the DL to start the season. He stressed that it’s not a new injury, but his neck still isn’t 100 percent and he wants to be able to play the outfield and be fully healthy before he comes back.

“I guess [it's] kind a mutual decision,” Reimold said of Wednesday’s news. “It’s best for me, best for the team. I think it’s best for everybody. From my point of view, it’s important for me when I play to play well and to finish strong rather than go out there and be in pain or uncomfortable early on. I think it’s the right decision from everyone’s point of view.”

Reimold is coming off back-to-back neck surgeries, including a corrective fusion surgery after he was cleared too early from the first one.

“I don’t have a problem swinging,” he said. “Obviously, I DHed and everything. It’s playing the field early on, got pretty uncomfortable. But where I’m at right now, I’ve progressed very well and I’m far ahead of schedule for anybody who’s had this kind of surgery before. But it’s not side to side. It’s more like extension and the constant grind and pounding that a baseball season would take on you. What we do is make sure I can play the field every day before I come back, just to make sure it’s OK. I have to be certain that I can play.”

Reimold is well aware of the injury-prone label he’s been tagged with and the general fan reaction that went with the news of him going on the DL.

“I’m more tired about talking about it than anybody,” Reimold said. “I’m ready for these neck issues to be over and done with. If I look at it from where I’m at right now, I’ve progressed a lot from the beginning of spring training to now. So I will keep progressing and I’ll be 100 percent in the near future.”

*Machado will travel with the team to Baltimore to get his Gold Glove and Platinum Glove awards and then he will return to Sarasota, Fla. to continue his rehab.

*There’s some really bad weather expected in Norfolk on Saturday, where the Orioles are slated to play an exhibition game. It’s very possible that game doesn’t happen.

*Johan Santana threw off a full mound for the first time today and Showalter indicated he could be pitching in an extended spring game sooner than expected. Santana will throw again on Tuesday and then three days after that do the same thing he did today.

“If we feel good and everything is coming along we are going to start facing hitters and building it up,” Santana said of the plan following next week’s mound session. “After that’s its just a matter of time. We don’t know how long or how many times we are going to do that until we start getting into games and hopefully able to compete.”

Here are your lineups for the Orioles finale spring game in Sarasota…

ORIOLES LINEUP

Nick Markakis RF

David Lough LF

Adam Jones CF
Chris Davis 1B

Nelson Cruz DH

J.J. Hardy SS

Matt Wieters C

Ryan Flaherty 3B

Steve Lombardozzi 2B

Ubaldo Jimenez RHP

RAYS LINEUP

Matt Joyce RF

Ben Zobrist SS

David DeJesus LF

Evan Longoria 3B

James Loney 1B

Desmond Jennings CF

Logan Forsythe 2B

Ryan Hanigan C

Yunel Escobar DH

Alex Cobb RHP

Follow along on Facebook for more news and pictures and Twitter for up-to-the-minute updates.

Orioles in win now mode after offseason additions

SARASOTA, Fla. — First there was a lot of losing. Then the 2012 baseball darlings who advanced to the postseason for the first time since 1997, and last year, the disappointment when the Orioles were eliminated from the postseason race in the season’s final week.

So, after a pair of marquee free-agent acquisitions at the start of spring, is Baltimore now the front-runner in the American League East? A team that some people in baseball believe could win 100 games if the bullpen holds up? Or are the Orioles still cast in the underdog role — a spot manager Buck Showalter has thrived in rallying the club around — with a rotation headed by Chris Tillman and new addition Ubaldo Jimenez, perhaps banking on too much to fall in their favor?

One thing is certain: the Orioles — who also signed free-agent slugger Nelson Cruz — aren’t sneaking up on anyone. Those days are long gone.

“We don’t have it?” Showalter said cheekily of the underdog label heading into Opening Day on Monday against the Red Sox. “Tampa probably has the best four- or five-year track record of consistency, Boston is [defending] world champion and New York obviously spent a lot of money, did a lot of things. So, on the surface, yes, of course [the Orioles look to be underdogs].

“But we don’t get involved in who is expected to do what, because nobody is going to have higher expectations than what we already have.”

Click here to read the rest of the Orioles season preview.

Orioles.com is now on Facebook.

Tillman on his final spring tuneup

Orioles starter Chris Tillman made five spring starts, missing one due to illness, and finished his Grapefruit League campaign with 4 2/3 innings against the Rays on Wednesday night. He said he hasn’t been focusing on his upcoming Opening Day start so much as preparing for the grind of a 162-game season.

“I’ve been focusing on getting myself ready,” he said. “I think that’s the most important thing. I’m happy coming out of this healthy and I’m ready to go.”

Tillman pitched to a 4.76 spring ERA and said he didn’t go about this camp any different than year’s past although it was widely speculated he’d be the O’s No. 1 starter.

“I approach it the same way. I try to approach everything the same way,” he said. “I’m a big routine guy. I live and die by it so I still to my routine and be ready to pitch every fifth day.”

Tillman went 17 1/3 innings, allowing 11 runs (nine earned) on 23 hits and three walks with 15 strikeouts.

“I would have liked to have made that other start, but other than that, I feel comfortable going into the season physically, mechanically and mentally.”

Markakis supports cancer initiative

Orioles right fielder Nick Markakis has teamed up with Cardinals pitcher Jason Motte’s “Strike Out Cancer” initiative, serving as Baltimore’s representative in the MLB-wide effort to raise funds and awareness through T-shirt sales.

The website 108stitches.com went live on March 17, with 108 Stitches showcasing the “Strike Out Cancer” tees in each team’s colors. Each is promoted by a different player who agreed to join Motte in a partnership that will benefit multiple charities. Each participating player has chosen a charity that will benefit from the T-shirts sales, and for each shirt sold, $5 will go to the Jason Motte Foundation and $5 to a charity of that player’s choice. A full list of recipient charities will be listed on the 108 Stitches website soon, along with a photo of each player rep in his team-colored shirt.

“At the end of the day, it’s about reaching people,” Motte said. “Baseball is great and everything, but there are other really important things going on out there that affect a lot of people. Wearing these T-shirts shows people that they’re not alone. They’re not sitting there doing chemo by themselves where no one cares. People do care, whether it’s friends, family or baseball players. There are people who this has touched and this has affected. This is something we’re trying to do to get the word out there and try to raise money to help.”

Markakis’ mother, Mary Lou, is a breast cancer survivor, and the Orioles lost a member of their family, public relations director Monica Barlow, to lung cancer this spring.

Reimold, Almanzar headed to the disabled list to start the season

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla.— Nolan Reimold was a scratch from Wednesday night’s starting lineup and he will open the season on the disabled list since he’s unable to play the outfield and is still rehabbing back from his second neck surgery in two seasons.

“The two times he tried [outfield], looking up bothered him some,” manager Buck Showalter said of Reimold, who last played Tuesday and would have his DL stay backdated to Wednesday. “You probably got to be able to look up to play the outfield, depending on your pitching staff. But this buys us some time to get it back hopefully. He will take a few days off and then start hitting and see where it is, to try to get everything to quiet down. He’s more sore than anything.”

Showalter said there wasn’t a specific instance with Reimold that sparked the decision and it’s a measure to get him fully healthy. Reimold, who last played in the Majors July 13, had neck fusion surgery again in 2013 after the previous fusion didn’t work. With Reimold fighting for a roster spot, it’s expected that both Steve Pearce and Delmon Young will now make the Opening Day roster.

“We talked to him, Nolan agrees he’s not where he needs to be,” Showalter said of Reimold, who went 10-for-38 with a homer and five RBIs in Grapefruit League games. “ He’s light years ahead of where he was at this time last year.”

“He can see the light at the end of the tunnel. let’s face it, the guy has had two neck fusions. One that didn’t get the results we hoped and one that seems like he’s done real well with. The last four, five games he seems more comfortable. this guy missed two years. Now, we are trying to get him to the point where he doesn’t think about it too much when he’s hitting. He’s almost full strength with his arm. Stuff that your back and vertebrae is supposed to do. It’s pretty serious stuff obviously. I don’t want to throw a wet blanket over it, he just needs a little more time.”

The Orioles will also get a little more time to make a decision on Rule 5 Draft pick Michael Almanzar, who is likely headed to the DL as well with tendinitis in the patella of his left knee.


“Looks like we are headed there,” Showalter said. “We were prepared to make a decision on him, but that will wait now. Shouldn’t be too long.”

Orioles @ Rays lineups (Os cut four, Reimold to DL)

Greetings from Port Charlotte, where the Orioles will finish a split-squad of road games against the Rays. The O’s beat the Red Sox 5-4 and you can read the full game recap here.

*Nolan Reimold was a scratch from Wednesday night’s starting lineup and he will start the season on the disabled list since he’s unable to play the outfield. Reimold is coming off his second consecutive season-ending neck surgery and this buys the club more time to get him ready. It also means Steve Pearce and Delmon Young will most likely get the remaining two bench/outfield spots.

Reimold –who last played in the Majors on July 13 has gone 10-for-38 with a homer and five RBIs in Grapefruit League games and his DL stay will be backdated to Wednesday since he played in Tuesday’s game.

It’s also looking like Michael Almanzar will start the season on the DL. He’s been dealing with tendinitis in his left knee.

*The Orioles have optioned Henry Urrutia and Steve Johnson to Triple-A Norfolk with outfielder Quintin Berry and infielder Alexi Casilla reassigned to minor league camp. The O’s now have 36 players at Major League camp, four non-roster invitees.

The O’s now have 36 players at major league camp, including four non-roster invitees, in advance of Sunday’s deadline to set the 25-man roster.

Casilla was competing for the second base spot and was also considered the frontrunner for the utility job entering camp. But a pair of injuries kept him sidelined most of spring and the club will now decide between Jemile Weeks, Jonathan Schoop and Steve Lombardozzi for both the second base job and the utility spot. Ryan Flaherty will move to third base with Manny Machado starting on the disabled list.

Johnson pitched a scoreless inning in Wednesday afternoon’s win over the Red Sox and allowed six earned runs over 10 innings this spring. Berry, part of a crowded outfield mix, went 8-for-35 in 29 games, with two doubles, a triple and five RBIs.

*Right-hander Miguel Gonzalez went five innings, giving up four runs on seven hits, including two home runs, and two walks with two strikeouts and a hit batter.

In the first inning, he gave up two hits, but lead-off hitter Grady Sizemore was thrown out at second base by right fielder Henry Urrutia trying to stretch a single, and Dustin Pedroia, who singled, was erased on an inning-ending double play.

The only clean inning Gonzalez had was the fifth, after facing six batters in the second, then giving up two runs in the third and back-to-back home runs to Xander Bogaerts and Will Middlebrooks leading off the fourth.

“The first inning was good and then I started struggling a little bit towards the end,” Gonzalez said. “But made some good pitches when I needed to. It was a rough one out there. Fastball was cutting a lot. Couldn’t really find it but towards the end was better. Last two innings were better even thought I gave up a couple of home runs.

It was just ‘one of those days,’ he said, with command.

“Yeah, it was tough,” Gonzalez said. “First pitch trying to go for strikes and I was falling behind hitters, and it’s a good-hitting ball club. The Red Sox are going to try and get you and make you make more pitches when you’re not around the zone.”

Gonzalez, who earned the win, improving 2-0 with a 3.54 ERA in six spring starts, didn’t get to his desired pitch count, but he was satisfied with the 79 pitches, 47 strikes, he threw.

“Yeah, the pitch count was fine,” he said. “We wanted to get up to 90, but I was getting behind guys, walking a couple guys, hitting guys. But overall it was better.”

Gonzalez expects to start the Orioles first game in Detroit, their fourth of the season.

“I’m ready, ready to go,” he said. “I’m excited for spring training to end and start the season.”

*Evan Meek struck out the side in the ninth, earning his third save…Over the final four innings, T.J. McFarland, Ryan Webb, Steven Johnson, and Meek, combined to hold the Red Sox scoreless, with one hit, one walk, and four strikeouts…Nick Markakis, serving as the designated hitter, played the whole game going, 1-for-5 with a run scored and an RBI. He is now batting .341 this spring…Steve Clevenger led off the second with his second home run of the spring.

*Left-hander Johan Santana is scheduled to throw from a full mound on Thursday, as he progresses from shoulder surgery last year…

*Right-hander Dylan Bundy threw from a half mound on Wednesday for the first time, as he progresses from Tommy John surgery last year. He had previously been throwing from flat ground.

Here are the night lineups…

ORIOLES LINEUP
Jonathan Schoop 3B
J.J. Hardy SS
Adam Jones CF
Nelson Cruz RF
Matt Wieters C
Delmon Young LF
Steve Pearce 1B
Steve Lombardozzi 2B
Chris Marerro DH

Chris Tillman RHP

RAYS LINEUP
Matt Joyc DH
Wil Myers RF
James Loney 1B
Evan Longoria 3B
David DeJesus LF
Desmond Jennings CF
Logan Forsythe 2B
Ryan Hanigan C
Yunel Escobar SS

David Price LHP

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

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 247 other followers