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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Chen on his outing

Orioles starter Wei-Yin Chen got roughed up for six earned runs on 10 hits over 3 2/3 innings against the Rays this afternoon. Chen also struck out six and didn’t issue a walk. Here’s what he had to say through his interpreter.

“I felt very good overall,” he said. “Some of the pitches were up so they squared them up. Other than that I felt pretty good.”

“I didn’t think about getting swings and misses, but I got more swings and misses with my fastball. I am happy about that. And I’m also happy about not issuing any walks. So overall it was pretty good.”

Chen surrendered five of his runs in the third and fourth innings and said he didn’t lose rhythm at all, he just allowed more hits. Coming off a season in which he missed about two months with an oblique strain and had minor knee surgery this winter, Chen said health is his number one goal and he also would like to pitch more innings.

As for how much the knee hampered his second half, Chen said, “I can’t say that it didn’t affect me but I don’t know actually how much. But for this year I already got it taken care of and I’m going to concentrate on this season and I am going to ready for the season,. And I am not going to think about the knee anymore.”

News & notes day 34 (Updated)

Greetings from Sarasota, where the Orioles had an off day preceding Monday’s double rainout, giving (mostly) everybody a nice breather late in camp.

*Those who didn’t get the full off day and came in to the Ed Smith Stadium complex to pitch in an intrasquad game with the team’s minor leaguer players were Brian Matusz (five innings), Kevin Gausman (three innings) and Josh Stinson and Zach Britton, who each threw an inning.

Matusz was originally slated to go four innings, but he had a low pitch count. The lefty is still expected to be part of the team’s bullpen, and said he was stretched out just as much last spring, although he does present the option for the team as a starter. Manager Buck Showalter said those guys will get to pick a day off to take now.

*David Lough is still not in the lineup and has been sidelined with a neck issue since he was a late scratch in Friday’s game, but is expected to be back playing on Thursday if he clears today’s impact test. Lough said he felt some neck stiffness going into March 8′s split-squad game against the Red Sox, but he felt like the inside-the-park homer attempt –he was called out sliding into the plate– could have triggered some of his concussion-like symptoms that followed. He had some dizziness and floaters in his eyes and was shut down for a few days while he went through some tests, the last of which is today. Showalter said Lough will play in a Minor League game on Thursday if he checks out OK today.

*Manny Machado has been doing some pool running the past few days, but has not resumed on-field running just yet. Still, he will leave camp tomorrow to fly to Los Angeles and see Dr. Neal ElAttrache about his knee. You would think he would have to run, perhaps at his appointment, in order to be cleared.

*Johan Santana and Dylan Bundy both threw off flat mounds this morning, with Bundy throwing 15 pitches and Santana 25. I’ll have more from both guys later, but both Santana and Bundy present intriguing in-season options for the Orioles. Perhaps as early as June.

*Darren O’Day threw two scoreless innings at the Minor League complex today.

*Francisco Peguero has been dealing with a nagging right wrist injury and he said the inflammation in there is causing discomfort so he will be in a brace for the next two weeks. Peguero, who was competing for a job, said he will start the season on the disabled list.

*Catch Matt Wieters in back in the lineup for the first time in eight days, as he was sidelined with a minor ankle sprain.

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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
Ryan Flaherty 3B
Alexi Casilla 2B

Wei-Yin Chen RHP

RAYS LINEUP
Wil Myers RF
Wilson Betemit 1B
Matt Joyce LF
Sean Rodriguez 2B
Logan Forsythe 3B
Brandon Guyer CF
Jayson Nix SS
Jerry Sands DH
Curt Casali C

Mark Lowe RHP

Tillman Opening Day starter, Jimenez second

SARASOTA, Fla.— There was no long drawn-out discussion, fanfare in the clubhouse or really any indication that Monday was any day out of the ordinary this spring for right-hander Chris Tillman. And perhaps that’s part of the reason manager Buck Showalter knew he had his guy, officially naming Tillman the Orioles Opening Day starter for Baltimore’s March 31 home contest against the Boston Red Sox.

“Around the corner, he will,” Showalter said when asked if Tillman had any reaction to the news, which was a brief 10-second conversation in his office. “I’d love to  ask him, ‘Did you think it was going to be?’ He’s very unassuming. He doesn’t assume anything.”

“But he’s one of those guys who walks out of here and, trust me, he gets it. One thing I got is his face got a little different color.”

Tillman, who will be followed by Ubaldo Jimenez is coming off a breakout season in which he came off the disabled list to pitch the team’s fifth game and went on to go 16-7 with a 3.71 ERA in 33 starts. The 25-year-old Tillman, who won as many games in 2013 as the previous four seasons combined, was named to the American League All-Star team last year and this will be his second Opening Day roster. He pitched the second game for the Orioles in 2011 against the Rays.

“Anytime you get the chance to get that kind of opportunity it’s a big deal,” Tillman said. “Number one, it’s an honor, it’s exciting. At the same time, it’s important for the team to get us started in the right direction, the season going the right way. I think we are all just excited to get this thing going.”

Was Tillman thinking about the possibility that he would be the Orioles Opening Day starter?

“Not at all, to tell you the truth,” he said. “Like I’ve said since Day 1, we’ve got five guys in here capable of doing it. It’s special, but at the same time we got to take it by the horns and run with it. It is an important game.”

Tillman, who is a big routine guy, said he won’t approach it any differently against the defending World Champion Red Sox. He will be opposed by Jon Lester, with Boston sending John Lackey to the mound against Jimenez. With the Orioles opening the season at Camden Yards, Tillman did acknowledge there’s a little extra pressure in pitching that first game.

“All the hype of Opening Day, yeah,” said Tillman, who is the fifth different Oriole in five years and the club’s youngest Opening Day starter since 1994. “Whether you’re sitting in the dugout or pitching, it’s the same thing. There’s pressure for everyone. I’ve been in the dugout and I’ve been more nervous watching than being a part of it. It’s just a matter of getting the team going in the right direction. I think it’s important.

Tillman has become a rock of consistency for the Orioles after struggling in his first few seasons to establish success over an extended period of time. He went back-and-forth from Triple-A Norfolk to Baltimore until finally hitting his stride in July of 2012.

“I don’t think anybody who got to know Chris and see him evolve as a young man, I don’t think that part of it was surprising,” Showalter said of Tillman’s rise since he was acquired in the Erik Bedard deal from Seattle in 2008. “For instance, [former GM] Andy MacPhail a long time ago when he made the deal. People thought this might be where he’d land, and you see it physically and you see the way he carries himself, this is part of the evolution and why people in player development project players. That’s why certain things in the game are a science and certain things down here are viewed as an art. There are things about Chris you can’t put on paper. Running down the hall trying to hide from me so I don’t take him out of the game. Where do you put that on a pie chart? Anyway, I’m proud of him. He deserves it.”

Tillman is 32-25 with a 4.28 ERA in 84 career Major League starts, while Jimenez —signed to a four-year, $52 million contract this spring— will be making his Orioles debut.

News and Notes day 33 (Os games off)

The Orioles 1:05 game against the Phillies has been rained out and they are 2-for-2 with a storm in Sarasota also causing the team to cancel the 7:05 p.m. ET game versus the Twins.

Fans holding paid tickets for tonight’s game may exchange for any remaining spring games at Ed Smith Stadium, subject to availability, or obtain a refund. With Tuesday’s scheduled off day, the Orioles will have Kevin Gausman and Brian Matusz –who were slated to pitch this afternoon- come in to throw at the complex for Minor League games. Steve Johnson likely will be as well as a few other guys who could play in the games.

The St. Patrick’s Day green caps the Orioles were to wear tonight will be worn in Wednesday’s game against the Rays. After the game, the caps will be autographed & auctioned at http://www.orioles.com/auction to benefit the animal hospitals at Mote Marine Laboratory

*The big news today was the Orioles naming Chris Tillman Opening Day starter, and you can read more on that here.

*Ubaldo Jimenez, who was slated to throw Monday night, pitched earlier in the day against the Red Sox Minor League club. He went 3 2/3 innings, allowed two hits with seven strikeouts and two walks. Jimenez threw 66 pitches.

*David Lough, who has been dealing with neck issue, will be shut down for 48 hours.

*Wei-Yin Chen will throw Wednesday’s game, which is home against the Rays.

*In case you missed it yesterday, MLB.com columnist Richard Justice talked about Orioles EVP Dan Duquette’s knack for finding hidden talent here.

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News & notes Day 32 (updated)

*Alexi Casilla is a late scratch again, as he was forced off the team bus this morning and not happy about it. Casilla hyper-extended his left knee and there’s still some swelling in there, so the team has decided to play it safe and not have him travel.

“I feel good to play,” Casilla said this morning in the Orioles clubhouse. “I know in the past, I’ve played with worse. Right now, I feel great just a little swollen. But they pushed me off the bus.

When they pushed me, the head trainer [Richie Bancells] pushed me off the bus, I went to Buck’s office and I told him, ‘Hey I’m ready, I feel good to play.’ But the head trainer, I know he’s trying to protect himself I understand his job. But he’s not in my body to feel what I feel. If I say I’m ready to play, I’m ready to play. It’s his word against mine. Let me play. He’s just protecting his job I understand that. But I’m ready to play.”

Casilla said he will test run everything again on Sunday and is shooting to play in Monday’s game. He dealt with a hamstring injury earlier this spring and has just five at-bats.

“This is so frustrating,” he said. “So frustrating.”

*Manny Machado, who had his final re-evaluation postponed since he hasn’t run in six days, said this morning that it’s not a big deal. The scar tissue, which is causing discomfort and is a normal part of the process, has limited Machado lately although he’s still not ruling out Opening Day.

“Maybe. We don’t know yet,” he said of being ready by March 31. “Once I start running I’ll give you a better idea. I was getting close already to start hitting the bases a little harder at this time. I’m physically ready to go. Just a little tightness. The scar tissue is beginning to break up. Once that gets done hopefully I’ll be ready to play games.

“Just part of the process, scar tissue breaking up. That’s something normal after the surgery that I had. It was going to happen either now or later. I’m pretty glad that it was now. Just sit back a couple days and let it heal and keep on going.”

*Nick Markakis, who was icing his left shoulder in the clubhouse this morning, has been dealing with some tendinitis in the area.

“Just a little Spring Training arm soreness,” said Markakis, who was designated hitter yesterday and is slated to play the outfield in Monday afternoon’s game in Clearwater. “Nothing too alarming. It’s been pretty much back to normal the past couple days so it’s been good.”

*Adam Jones is back in the lineup, after leaving camp on Tuesday for the birth of his son.

ORIOLES LINEUP
Jemile Weeks 2B
Jonathan Schoop SS
Henry Urrutia RF
Adam Jones CF
Steve Clevenger C
Nolan Reimold DH
Ryan Flaherty 3B
Michael Almanzar 1B
Quintin Berry LF

Miguel Gonzalez RHP

BLUE JAYS LINEUP
Jose Reyes SS
Colby Rasmus CF
Jose Bautista RF
Edwin Encarnacion 1B
Adam Lind DH
Melky Cabrera LF
Brett Lawrie 3B
Dioner Navarro C
Ryan Goins 2B

Todd Redmond RHP

Post-game notes on Jones, Gonzalez, Yoon

Some quick hits following the Orioles’ 2-1 win over the Yankees split-squad today…

*Orioles manager Buck Showalter said Adam Jones will travel to Dunedin for Sunday’s game. Jones has been gone since Tuesday for the birth of his first son on Wednesday and Showalter wants to get his at-bats up.

*Alexi Casilla will also play, with the plan being for him to play shortstop, according to Buck. Casilla was a late scratch from yesterday’s game with left knee hyperextension.

*Alex Gonzalez had a hit and a walk today and is quietly making a case to make this team. With today’s news that Manny Machado is unlikely to start the season, Gonzalez provides infield flexibility and can potentially be a utility guy. With Casilla limited so far this spring, it’s something to keep an eye on.

*Suk-min Yoon pitched a scoreless inning today in his debut and you can read more on that here. Caleb Joseph caught him and has made significant improvements in his game behind the plate this spring. Showalter hailed Joseph, who is coming off a career offensive year in Double-A Bowie, and said the youngster has presented himself as “an option” for the big league club this season.

*David Lough (neck) is still considered day-to-day. The Orioles sent him home around lunch, partly just to keep him out of the weight room, Buck joked.

*The Phillies won’t let the Orioles use the designated hitter so both Brian Matusz and Kevin Gausman will get to hit on Monday afternoon.

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