Baltimore Orioles: News on the regular season

Yesterday was tough for Baltimore Orioles fans, and fans across baseball. Yesterday should have been Opening Day. Fans should have congregated at Pickles & Sliders across from Camden Yards, and fans should have poured into the ballpark early for batting practice. Speaking for myself, I kind of took it personally in a way.

However yesterday also brought what could be deemed as some good news. It appears that the players and owners came to an agreement on the 2020 season. The deal isn’t yet official, but is expected to be ratified at noon today.

In effect, training camps will be resumed in mid-May, setting up a late May or early June start to the season. Each team will play somewhere in the neighborhood of 140 games, with the regular season lasting through October. The post-season would thus be in November.

The league will also schedule doubleheaders so as to get more games in. Perhaps in some cases two per week. Which would be an interesting dynamic.

Again this isn’t official, however my understanding is that camps would be resumed at individual ballparks as opposed to spring training facilities. However the schedule of games itself will have to be somewhat fluid. Some cities will become unplayable – such as New York at the moment. So games will have to be moved, played in front of no fans, etc. Everything would be on the table.

Presumably this means that the spring slate of games won’t be picked up. Teams will just have workouts and presumably intrasquad games. All of this of course is dependent upon the virus itself. If it starts to go away or is brought under control, the league will open up. If areas are still infested, they’ll remain closed.

Baltimore Orioles: Today would have been Opening Day

Today should have been Opening Day for the Baltimore Orioles. John Means should be on the bump this afternoon for the Birds against New York. The Inner Harbor should be buzzing, crowds should be gathering at Pickles & Sliders across the street, and people should be raring to get into Oriole Park at Camden Yards for batting practice.

But as we all know, none of that is happening today. First and foremost, I feel badly for the players and fans. Today should be a holiday with a carnival atmosphere. Instead it’s the reality with which we’ve all been living the past couple of weeks. It’s just – nothing. (Now in all honesty, just sitting here penning this column does give me a certain twinge of normalcy.)

However I feel very badly for the businesses around the ballpark who rely on the Orioles to be vibrant. Pickles and Sliders across the street are just the two most prominent examples. However there are countless street vendors, store owners, restaurant owners, hoteliers, etc., who rely on a boon from people attending Orioles games everyday. Heck, Opening Day on it’s own is a huge amount of revenue. It will be back; this much we know. But in the immediate interim that doesn’t help the business owners, all of whom are hurting.

However MLB’s indicated that perhaps there’s some light at the end of the tunnel in this. Please note the word perhaps. If the Coronavirus is still ravaging our shores, baseball obviously won’t be played. There have been a lot of scenarios discussed, including a “doomsday scenario” which has no games being played. Meaning that the season would be canceled.

However the one scenario that seems to be gaining steam (according to multiple reports yesterday) is starting the season in early June. The regular season would then go into October, and the post-season in November. That would probably include neutral site post-season games in warm weather cities or domes.

What’s unclear is whether or not 162 games would be played. The Player’s Association has indicated that they’d be willing to accept scenario’s where it’s members played up to two doubleheaders a week to beef up the number of games. That isn’t to say that it would still get teams to 162 games, however.

What’s also unclear is if they’re just going to keep the schedule as it is and move the dates back. However my own personal twist on this would be for the league to suspend interleague play for this season, which would trim several games off the schedule. Games which theoretically would have been unnecessary anyways – because when was the last time interleague play figured into who made the playoffs and who did not?

Either way, I think they’ll need to reshuffle the schedule. I think that’s a given. Especially if doubleheaders are going to be scheduled. And on that note I would submit that they should agree that perhaps Saturdays and one other floating day be deemed the doubleheader days. Perhaps make it so that Fridays and Sundays are never doubleheader days to avoid guys doing it on back-to-back days, however ultimately the more games that can be played the better.

All of that remains in limbo, however. If the Coronavirus remains in play as a factor in our society, baseball won’t start in June. On the flip side however, we might see it before then. Teams will have to resume spring training in some capacity. It’s unclear if that will include exhibition games or just workouts, but it’s possible May could bring us a truncated slate of exhibition games. Time will tell.

In the mean time there’s something that Orioles fans can do today to remind themselves of what should be taking place. First pitch was scheduled for just after 3 PM this afternoon. At that time, go on Facebook (assuming you have a Facebook feed) and check into Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Just as a reminder that today was to be Opening Day. And in hopes that it isn’t too far down the road.

Baltimore Orioles: Season won’t start April 9th (updated)

The Baltimore Orioles and the rest of MLB remain in a holding pattern as the nation and the world battles the Coronavirus. However USA Today’s Bob Nightengale is reporting that commissioner Rob Manfred has said that the season won’t begin by April 9th. So again, we remain in a holding pattern.

Nightengale (who’s article I linked above) also said that the league is looking at various options that still include playing a 162-game schedule. It’s unclear what those options are, however I have to assume that most of them would involve playing well past when the league’s been comfortable playing in the past. Meaning presumably into November.

Again, the situation is fluid. What’s also unclear is the status of the crowds at games. Whether or not fans would be allowed come whenever they start the season remains to be seen. It’s unfortunate that we find ourselves in this situation. But here we are.

Update: The league announced that the start of the season has been pushed back to at least mid-May:

It’s tough to imagine an April and early May without baseball. But we’re about to find out what that’s going to be like. And it’s still unclear whether or not fans would even be allowed at games come that point.

Baltimore Orioles: We WILL get through this

The fact that the Baltimore Orioles and everyone else is kind of in a holding pattern right now is secondary. For people such as myself who breath this sport and this team (for purposes of this column) 365 days a year, that’s a bitter pill. It isn’t the off season, it’s just…nothing.

But that’s the way it has to be, folks. It just is. Public health is something that’s too important to risk just for the sake of even America’s pastime. Or the NCAA Tournament, and so forth. Orioles’ PA rep Chris Davis spoke yesterday on what the players’ plans are with the start of the season delayed at least two weeks:

I think a lot of it is up in the air. Hopefully, in the next few days, there are going to be more answers to the questions that we’ve had, but right now we’re just in a holding pattern.

Quote courtesy of Roch Kubatko, MASNsports

Davis went onto say that some players would like to remain and work out at Ed Smith Stadium so as to get ready for the season (which eventually will begin). However it’s unclear if that will be possible or allowed. This truly is an unprecedented situation.

As you may have noticed, I find something to write everyday in the off season. Some days that’s not easy, but I find something – even if only fluff. It just keeps the site “tended to,” and up to date with fresh content. However it doesn’t come off as appropriate for me to do that given the current situation.

So in a sense similar to the league, this column is being put into a holding pattern. If there’s relevant news about the O’s or the league, I’ll report it. That might not come for a week or two, or it could come tomorrow. We just don’t know. Furthermore when things resume, we’ll still have daily coverage of the Orioles and the games – be they exhibition games or regular season.

However I want to leave you with a thought for the time being. We WILL get through this. And I don’t mean the O’s or the league, I mean the country as a whole. And of course the rest of the world. America’s made it through bad situations before, and we’ll do so again this time. If people listen to the authorities, stay home when ill, self-quarantine, etc, the numbers will go down. And before we know it, the screams of PLAY BALL! will be heard at Camden Yards.

Americans are resilient. We always have been. We’ll get through this. I say that as sure as hot dogs at a ballgame. My hope and prayer is that all readers stay safe and healthy during this uncertain period of time.

Baltimore Orioles: Trey Mancini recovering after colon surgery

When it rains it pours for the Baltimore Orioles. However the start of the season being pushed back pales in comparison to what Trey Mancini‘s been through this week. Mancini’s recovering this evening after having a malignant tumor removed from his colon.

Mancini of course left the team last weekend for an undisclosed medical procedure. We now know what that was for. The Orioles have said that at this time there’s no news on his rehabilitation, or when he’ll be ready. That might come next week. I don’t think that timetable should be a problem for anyone.

Join me in keeping Mancini in your prayers and wishing him well.

Baltimore Orioles: Season on hold

Major League Baseball has announced that the Baltimore Orioles’ season is on hold – along with the rest of the league. The statement by the league:

The Orioles themselves followed with a statement of their own:

This is obviously more serious than anyone would have ever thought it to be even a week ago. I’m not sure what else to say other than that. My hope and my prayer is that the situation improves substantially in the near future. This both for the sake of public health, and for the sake of the season. But mainly public health.

More as we hear it.

Baltimore Orioles: Season on the brink

As of right now, the Baltimore Orioles play Minnesota tonight in Ft. Myers. They play Toronto tomorrow in Sarasota. They open the regular season at home against New York on March 26th at 3 PM. That’s what the schedule says.

You know where this is going. In a very short span of time, the Coronavirus has ravaged American life. And as a “germophobe” myself, it’s not overly shocking. I guess what is shocking to me is that it’s gotten to the point to where the NBA is suspending it’s season, and the NCAA is no longer allowing fans at it’s post-season tournament games.

I shouldn’t say that it’s “shocking” to me. It’s just shocking in the sense that it’s come to this. When I think of pandemics, I think of the Spanish Flu circa 1918. Or the Black Death in Europe in the Middle Ages. I don’t think of 2020 and whether or not we’re going to play ball.

Look we all know the various options out there, and what the situation is. Some localities (Seattle and Oakland to name two) have banned mass events of more than 250 people. The Seattle Mariners have already said that they would be relocating home games to start the year.

Assuming the spread of the virus doesn’t severely curtail, my personal prediction is that the season will start similar to how the NCAA is doing things – games with no fans. The Orioles’ organization is obviously familiar with that concept, having had a fanless game in 2015 following civil unrest in Baltimore. And I suspect that’s a scenario they’d rather not have to repeat.

However here’s a much more grave prediction; the moment one player tests positive, MLB will follow the NBA’s example and suspend the season. Now when I say suspend, I mean suspend – not cancel. What happens once it’s safe to resume play is anyone’s guess.

This is a situation that’s changing on the fly. It seems like every hour yesterday there was something new. But any and all of these steps are probably necessary. Again, the O’s play tonight against Minnesota. All we can do is take things on a game-by-game basis.

Baltimore Orioles, Tom Eshelman blitzed by Toronto in Dunedin

The Baltimore Orioles ran into a buzz saw this afternoon in Dunedin against Toronto. Tom Eshelman struggled out of the gate. Or was it that Toronto’s bats were just hot? Probably a bit of both. Eshelman’s line: 2.0 IP, 9 H, 9 R, 1 BB, 3 K.

Eshelman’s trying to secure a spot in the back end of the Orioles’ rotation, meaning he picked a bad day to get roughed up like he did. However the fact that every other Oriole pitcher had similar results probably helps Eshelman’s case. After coming out of the game he didn’t seem to want to dwell on it:

Understand what I did and kind of move on from it. Not think about it too much. If you think about it a lot, then you screw yourself. Just take the negatives and turn them into a positive on my work days and get better for the next one

Quote courtesy of Roch Kubatko, MASNsports

Eshelman surrendered a solo homer to Bichette on the first pitch in the last of the first. That shouldn’t have been a huge issue, as solo home runs don’t beat you. But the game seemingly snowballed from there.

Gurriel smacked an RBI-double later in the inning. Grichuk added a two-run homer, and Jansen a solo shot. And before the crowd had seemingly settled in, the Birds trailed 5-0.

One positive for the O’s was Stevie Wilkerson‘s solo homer in the top of the second inning. But if anything that seemed to inspire Toronto hitters even more. They put four more on the board in the last of the second, all but ending the competitive phase of the game.

Grichuk would homer again in the fourth (this of the two-run variety), and Espinal would add a two-run homer of his own in the fifth. One inning later Burns’ solo shot ran the tally to 14-1. Needless to say, it wasn’t a good day to be an Oriole pitcher – that is unless you stayed back in Sarasota. Mason Williams would add a solo homer in the eighth to get the O’s to within 14-2.

The Orioles announced before the game that Alex Cobb is being scratched from his scheduled start tomorrow due to a blister on his hand. Cobb of course had knee surgery last year, ending his season. The Orioles did say that he would probably play if it were a regular season game, however in this case they’re holding out.

The Orioles head to Fort Myers tomorrow night to take on the Minnesota Twins. Bruce Zimmerman gets the start for the O’s, and he’ll be opposed by Minnesota’s Jhoulys Chacin. Game time is set for just after 6 PM.

Baltimore Orioles: Three-run sixth lifts the Birds

Keegan Akin is making a case to be in the Baltimore Orioles’ starting rotation this year coming out of spring training. However his chances may have taken a bit of a hit this evening against Atlanta at Ed Smith Stadium. Akin’s line: 3.0 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 1 BB, 4 K.

The four strikeouts and one walk were certainly positives. However Akin surrendered a third inning three-run homer by Pache, giving Atlanta a 3-0 lead. Akin admitted after coming out that he made a bad pitch to Pache (quote courtesy of Steve Melewski, MASNsports):

I would say so (one pitch really hurt). Just kind of felt uncomfortable out of the stretch. That’s kind of been my whole spring training memo I guess. Yeah, one bad pitch and obviously leadoff walks don’t help to start the inning. Have to eliminate those. Other than that, I felt pretty good.

However the last of the fourth saw the O’s get on the board. Anthony Santander‘s solo homer cut the Atlanta lead to 3-1. Hanser Alberto smacked a solo homer of his own one inning later. But it was the sixth inning that decided the actual outcome of the game.

Jose Iglesias‘ RBI-double in the last of the sixth tied the game at three. The Birds would later load the bases, and they were able to take the lead when Renato Nunez reached on an error. Dwight Smith Jr. would later get hit by a pitch, giving the O’s a 5-3 lead. Yusniel Diaz would smack an RBI-triple in the seventh, to close out the scoring in the Birds’ 6-3 win.

Again, one of the good things here is that the O’s didn’t quit when they were down early. That’s a good sign, and indicative of the moxie that this team had last year. They didn’t win a lot, but they never quit. That.’s important.

The O’s head to Dunedin tomorrow to take on the Toronto Blue Jays. Tom Eshelman gets the start for the O’s, and he’ll be opposed by Toronto’s Chase Anderson. Game time is set for just after 1 PM.

Baltimore Orioles: New announcers should look to the past

The Baltimore Orioles are revamping some of their broadcasters for the coming 2020 season. In all, there are 19 people who will serve as Oriole broadcasts this season, with different combinations going around throughout the season, and even some going between TV and radio. But there’s one guy to whom anyone calling Orioles games any year should look for guidance: Chuck Thompson.

I write a variation of this column during spring training every year; that being a tribute to the great Chuck Thompson. We all know who he is and his history with the Orioles. Not to mention national broadcasts. When he appeared nationally however, he was still uniquely Baltimore’s.

In mentioning the number of new people covering the team this year, I say that they should look to Thompson because of what he meant to the Baltimore community and to Orioles fans. As a hometown announcer, having the type of pull that he had is something that should be the goal.

That’s easier said than done. Back then every town and every team had it’s own Thompson. That voice of summer which represented good weather and good times. Philadelphia had Harry Kalas, New York Mel Allen, St. Louis Jack Buck, and Chicago Jack Brickhouse and later Haray Carey. Chuck Thompson was Baltimore’s “voice.”

While he did Colts games also, he’s synonymous with the O’s. When you would hear that smooth baritone of his, you knew it was time for Orioles baseball. I would argue that Orioles baseball wouldn’t be what it is today if not for Chuck Thompson. Until a certain point, the games weren’t televised. Fans’ only connection (unless they were at the game) was him broadcasting the games.

And that’s why that era of announcer was so important. Most people always remember their hometown voice as a result. Because if you wanted to follow the games, radio was the way to do it. So again, to the new voices of Orioles baseball, take a listen to Chuck Thompson. He was the best. The absolute best. Ain’t the beer cold?!

Baltimore Orioles: A mixed bag in a tie

The Baltimore Orioles didn’t get quite the same crisp effort out of starter Kohl Stewart this afternoon that they’ve gotten out of other starters this spring. Now granted Stewart had a stiff assignment in taking on the New York Yankees today; furthermore he wasn’t shelled by any means. He was somewhere “in the middle,” as I like to say. Stewart’s line: 3.0 IL, 5 H, 3 R, 0 BB, 2 K.

Stewart, who hadn’t pitched in a game in a while (save for simulated games), said he felt he gave himself something on which to build (quote courtesy of Roch Kubatko, MASNsports):

It felt pretty good. It’s been a while, you know? So finally getting in the game instead of doing some of these sims that I’ve been doing. My stuff felt really good, especially as long as it’s been since I’ve been against live hitters. I felt like I executed the majority of things that I wanted to today. I made a few mistakes and they made me pay for it, but as far as building on this and getting some of thsoe things corrected that I didn’t do, we know exactly what I need to do a little better and we can make that happen in between starts.

Chris Davis continued his hot spring with an RBI-single in the last of the first to give the O’s a 1-0 lead. Dwight Smith Jr. would add an RBIsingle later in the inning as well, and Pedro Severino would add a sac fly-RBI. However New York would storm back with three runs in the second, tying the game at two.

They would then take the lead in the fourth with a two-run homer my Milone. Now for the record, that wasn’t charged to Kohl Stewart. He had exited the game by then.

However an inning later Dwight Smith Jr. would bring the Birds back to within one with an infield RBI-single in the fifth. A Yusniel Díaz RBI-single in the eight would then tie the game at five. Which is how it ended. The teams opted to call it a day and leave it as a tie. Which of course is like kissing your sister. But results don’t matter at this stage.

The more pressing matter is the condition of Trey Mancini, who’s left the team and will undergo elective surgery for a non-baseball related condition this week. We don’t know what the condition is, nor how much time Mancini will miss. The Orioles ask that his privacy be respected at this time.

None of that sounds good. Nor do some of the quotes coming out of the Orioles’ clubhouse, with several players and coaches expressing that Trey is in their prayers. I’m not going to speculate on what the issue is, as per the family’s request through the team. However I would ask that all readers keep Trey Mancini and his family in their thoughts and prayers.

The O’s now find themselves with their line off day during camp coming up tomorrow. So no game! The facility will be closed, and players will be asked to stay away. Even during spring guys value their time off. So I’m sure they won’t have any issue following that edict!

Baltimore Orioles blanked against Tampa

The Baltimore Orioles pitched well for the second consecutive game. That’s seemingly been the motif this spring, as the O’s have pitched well in most games. This afternoon they sent Baltimore native Bruce Zimmerman to the mound, and he didn’t disappoint. Zimmerman’s line: 3 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 3 K.

Zimmerman was solid on a day when Orioles’ pitching in general was solid. And after coming out of the game he himself seemed very satisfied with his outing (quote courtesy of Roch Kubatko, MASNsports):

I think I threw really well. I had a little bit of control issues that first inning. Loved having that solid defense behind me today, picking me up with that double play as well as a couple of those wind balls that Rio (Ruiz) played extremely well because it was moving around a lot up there.

I think my second and third inning I was able to settle down and really attack some hitters. Changeup was really good today. Didn’t really get to use my breaking balls as much, but overall I think it was a pretty solid day and the defense helped me out, which was nice.

After Zimmerman exited however, Tampa got on the board. Martinez’s RBI-single gave them a 1-0 lead. And as they say, that’s your ballgame.

It may not have been a good day at the plate for the O’s, but the pitching was once again solid. And I think the coaches understand that not all games are going to yield big runs on offense. Especially against a team like Tampa who gets on base through any means necessary. But the fact that the pitching shut them down for the most part today is something that should give coaches and fans a lot of hope.

The O’s return home to Ed Smith Stadium tomorrow as the New York Yankees come to town. Kohl Stewart takes the mound for the Birds, and he’ll be opposed by NY’s Clarke Schmidt. Game time is set for just after 1 PM.

Baltimore Orioles’ pitching bombs the bombers

This has been a good camp for the Baltimore Orioles thus far. While the bats are coming along well, Oriole pitching has been really solid – to this point. Tom Eshelman got the start tonight in Tampa for the Birds against New York, and was true to form. Eshelman’s line: 3.0 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 2 K.

New York has a decent lineup. Granted they have a lot of injuries right now (that will continue into the regular season), they still have a great lineup. Orioles’ pitching, led tonight by Eshelman, kept them at bay.

The O’s got on the board early in the first inning when Austin Hays scored from third on a wild pitch. He was followed to the plate by Dwight Smith Jr., who later scored on a pass ball. After getting two runners in scoring position the O’s netted two runs without a base hit.

And as I’ve written many times before, that illustrates why it’s good to have base runners. Sometimes quirky things like wild pitches happen. If they happen with nobody on base, in reality it never happened. But if it happens with guys on base, you can see runs scored, or runners moved up. Every little bit helps.

2019 Oriole-killer Voit smacked a solo homer in the second, bringing NY to within 2-1. But Oriole pitching shut them down after that. Miguel Castro followed Eshelman into the ballgame, pitching the fourth inning. He struck out the side, which bodes well for the Orioles’ pen this year.

However before Castro took the field, the O’s got a two-RBI single from Richie Martin which ran the lead to 4-1. They would also get an RBI-single in the ninth from Mason Willians, in what amounted to an insurance run. That’s also a good sign, because in a regular season game that could be big. While the Birds lost most of them, they played a lot of close games last year. An insurance run could be the difference between a win and a loss.

This game was also notable because it was the Orioles’ first game under the lights this spring. Most of the regular season games occur at night obviously, so getting in a few in the spring is always a good thing. As time goes on we’ll start seeing 6 PM starts at Ed a Smith Stadium sprinkled in as well.

Tomorrow the O’s head to Port Charlotte to take on the Tampa Rays. Bruce Zimmerman gets the start for the Birds, and he’ll be opposed by Tampa’s Sean Gilmartin. Game time is set for just after 1 PM.

Baltimore Orioles: Austin Wynns a tie for the Birds

The Baltimore Orioles returned to Sarasota today from their Florida East Coast trip to take on the Minnesota Twins in Sarasota. Keegan Akin got the start for the O’s, and despite surrendering a solo homer, looked pretty good. Akin’s line: 2.2 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 2 K.

Akin made one mistake. In essence, one bad pitch. Former Oriole Cruz smacked a solo homer in the first inning. But that’s how you learn. Over the years numerous pitchers have struggled against him. Including many Oriole opponents in 2014.

The O’s evened things up in the last of the third when Chris Davis smacked an RBI-single. This only to see Minnesota re-take the lead in the fourth on Celestino’s RBI-single. And the score stood at 2-1 in favor of Minnesota until the end.

And at that, I mean the bitter end. As in the ninth. Minnesota added a solo homer in the top of the ninth. That’s what one would normally call an insurance run. But keep in mind that the mark of this team last year was that they never gave up. They played until the end. And that was the case today.

Following a walk and a base hit in the last of the ninth, T.J. Nichting smacked an RBI-single to right, bringing the O’s to within 3-2. Austin Wynns then yielded another run on an infield RBI-single. That tied the game at three – which is where it ended.

Again, wins and losses don’t matter in these games. Neither do ties, which as we know doesn’t happen in the regular season. But the part of this game that’s promising is that the guys in the game at the end – including Austin Wynns – refused to allow the O’s to lose. That’s the type of pedigree that you want on the team and within the organization. As tough as last season was, we saw it then. And we’ve seen it here and there this spring.

Chris Davis continued his hot spring with an RBI this afternoon. If he can continue this trend into the regular season, that should equal a win or two more for the O’s. Not all of them need to be homers, but if he can get on base that helps. And it helps a lot at that.

The O’s head to Tampa tomorrow evening to take on the NY Yankees at Steinbrenner Field (in what’ll be the first night game for the Orioles this spring). Tom Eschelman gets the start for the O’s, and he’ll be opposed by New York’s Deivi Garcia. Game time is set for just after 6:30 PM.

Baltimore Orioles begin new streak with win over Miami

Wade LeBlanc made the start this afternoon for the Baltimore Orioles at Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium in Jupiter against the Miami Marlins. The veteran Leblanc is making his case to be on the Orioles’ final roster that heads north at the end of the spring. And his case today was fairly convincing. LeBlanc’s line: 3.0 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 4 K.

While LeBlanc surrendered a run, he did so on a sac fly-RBI. So in effect, when he found himself in a jam he was able to minimize the damage. And that’s one of the marks of a serious pitcher in this league. They’ll get themselves in trouble here and there. The good ones get themselves out of trouble.

The Orioles took a 2-0 lead in the second inning when Pat Valaika smacked a two-run homer. One inning later Andrew Velazquez laid down a bunt that ended up doubling the Orioles’ lead. With runners at first and second Velazquez laid down a bunt, and Miami catcher Cervelli tried to field the ball and throw the runner out at third base. However he threw the ball into foul territory down the left field line, allowing both runners to score. The aforementioned sac fly-RBI by Miami’s Anderson would come in the last of that third inning.

Ironically that’s a moment in a game where the Orioles aren’t going to want Velazquez to lay down a bunt. There’s no reason to do so at that stage of the game. But Velazquez is trying desperately to make the team. And he felt that was a good way to get himself noticed. So he did what he did.

The Orioles unfortunately were also hurt by Miami second baseman Villar – the Birds’ former second baseman. He smacked a two-run homer in the fifth, bringing the Orioles’ lead to 4-3. Mason McCoy added a sac fly-RBI in the ninth, and the Birds defeated Miami 5-3.

While we didn’t see the starting team, it’s good to see that the O’s lost yesterday but immediately began what could be another winning streak this afternoon. That sort of mindset helps in terms of having a good season.

The O’s return home to Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota tomorrow as the Minnesota Twins come to town. Brandon Bailey gets the start tomorrow for the O’s, and he’ll be opposed by Minnesota’s TBD. Game time is set for just after 3 PM.

Baltimore Orioles clipped by Washington

The Baltimore Orioles didn’t quite get out of Ty Blach what they’ve seen out of other starters to this point in the spring today. Blach got knocked around a bit by the defending champion Washington Nationals, putting the O’s in an early hole. Blach’s line: 2.1 IP, 5 H, 5 R, 3 BB, 1 K.

Luckily the Orioles haven’t had many days of sketchy pitching this spring. This was bound to happen at some point, as you can’t just ride a wave forever. Even the best of teams can’t do that.

The O’s actually got on the board first in the game on Chris Davis‘ sac fly-RBI. However the bottom of that third inning saw Washington put up five runs. Almost out of nowhere. That’s why they’re the defending champions.

But there’s always a silver lining. The Orioles battled back. Pedro Severino‘s RBI-triple in the fourth inning cut the Washington lead to 5-2. Mason Williams also added an RBI-single, cutting the lead to 5-3.

And that was where the score stood for the remainder of the afternoon. This snapped a six-game streak during which the Orioles didn’t lose a game – dating back to last Tuesday. However fans shouldn’t fret about that – they really shouldn’t. Just like they shouldn’t think too hard about the fact that the Birds won five straight (plus one tie). Results are meaningless here in spring training.

Incidentally, Oriole pitching did improve. Nobody scored in the game after the fourth inning. While that’s somewhat reflective on Blach, pitchers can certainly reach dead arm periods here during the spring. Furthermore the law of averages says that the Orioles were due for a performance like this.

Tomorrow the Orioles head just north to Jupiter to take on the Miami Marlins at Roger Dean Stadium. Wade LeBlanc gets the call for the O’s, and he’ll be opposed by Miami’s Caleb Smith. Game time is set for just after 1 PM.

Baltimore Orioles tie with Tampa (updated)

Asher Wojciechowski got the start for the Baltimore Orioles this afternoon at Ed Smith Stadium against Tampa, and with some good results. Wojciechowski pitched three innings, and looked strong in doing so. He’s had a great spring thus far in limited action. Wojciechowski’s line: 3.0 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 2 K.

After his outing Wjociechowski commented that he was impressed with how solid Oriole pitching as a whole has been thus far in the spring:

I think we’re all throwing the ball really well. It is spring training though. It’s good to build confidence here, but it’s different when the lights come on during the season. But it’s great we’re throwing the ball well and all learning from each other. And we are going to take this into the season, be a confident group and go out there and compete and give it our all.

Quote courtesy of Roch Kubatko, MASNsports

Tampa took a 1-0 lead in the fourth inning on a Perez home run. However the O’s were able to immediately get back in the bottom of the inning. Chris Davis drew a walk with one down; as I tweeted on Saturday, each Davis walk is worth almost as much as a homer. Because teams will pitch to him differently, opening up more of an opportunity to hit his way on base.

With Davis on first, Renato Nunez smacked a two-run home run. That gave the O’s a 2-1 lead. However Choi’s sixth inning two-run homer put Tampa back in the lead at 3-2. Choi, as you may remember, torched the Orioles last year. As in nothing that Oriole pitching threw was let go. He’s just one of those guys.

But Chris Davis’ sac fly-RBI in the last of the sixth re-tied the game back up at three. And that’s where the score remained, as the Orioles’ five-game winning streak ended. But the good news is that they didn’t start a losing streak – in theory. Both teams were content with what they saw, and the game ended in a tie.

This almost feels like the end of a home stand, as the Orioles will head to the East Coast of Florida tomorrow. They’ll have a stop in West Palm Beach to play Washington, and then Jupiter on Wednesday to play Miami. Kind of like a mini-road trip during the spring season.

The Orioles will take on the aforementioned Washington Nationals at Ballpark of the Palm Beaches tomorrow. Tommy Milone gets the start for the O’s, and he’ll be opposed by Washington’s Max Scherzer. Game time is set for just after 1 PM.

UPDATE: Ty Blach will start tomorrow in West Palm Beach against Washington. Tommy Milone will be staying back in Sarasota.

Baltimore Orioles: John Means business for three innings

John Means pitched the deepest into a game as any starter test this spring for the Baltimore Orioles. Which that.’s only three innings, it signifies that pitchers are starting to be stretched out. In other words, the spring is progressing. Means’ line: 3.0 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 2 K.

Means termed his outing “okay” after coming out of the game. He said that he felt he fell behind a lot, but his changeup saved him (quote courtesy of Steve Melewski, MASNsports):

Not too bad. It was all right. My fastball command wasn’t there that well. My changeup was kind of my get out of jail free card. It was one of those outings where I fell behind a lot, but the changeup was an eqaulizer. Just need to make sure everything was sharp and everything kind of got better as the game went on. Felt the curveball was better shaped later on, felt like the changeup was there and the heater got better, especially on inside pitches.

Dilson Herrera‘s RBI-single in the second inning put the Orioles in the lead at 1-0. Two innings later in the fourth Rio Ruiz doubled the lead. His solo homer gave the Birds a 2-0 lead.

Stevie Wilkerson‘s RBI-single later in the inning ran the score to 3-0. Philadelphia would get on the board in the sixth with a solo homer by Harrison. Philadelphia would challenge a few times, including loading the bases and allowing a run by a walk in the ninth. But the Orioles’ bullpen got them out of it, securing a 3-2 victory.

The O’s have now won five straight games, and stand at 6-4 on the spring. Now mind you, those five games all came with different lineups, and were in controlled environments. This meaning that both teams scheduled when players would go in and out of the game. But a five-game winning steak is a five game winning streak. It’s good for young players to experience this.

The Orioles return to Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota tomorrow afternoon to take on the Tampa Rays. Asher Wojchiekowski gets the start for the Birds, and he’ll be opposed by Tampa’s Charlie Morton. Game time is set for just after 1 PM.

Baltimore Orioles: Chris Davis and other big wheels keep on turning

Chris Davis smacked his third home run of the spring as the Baltimore Orioles stayed hot and defeated Miami at Ed Smith Stadium. This in a game started by Keegan Akin, who’s looking to make an impression and break camp with the O’s. Keegan’s line: 2.0 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 0 BB, 1 K.

Davis’ spring has been a major turnaround over his output from the past few years – to this point. It’s still very early in the spring, and yes the games don’t count. However you’d rather see results as opposed to not seeing them. Davis seems to agree (quote courtesy of Roch Kubatko, MASNsports):

It’s nice to see some results. I think I said that earlier. I would like to get off to a good start, just for peace of mind, especially after struggling for the last couple years. Just having some success on the baseball field again feels good. It’s still spring training, it’s still early. There are a lot of things I have to accomplish, a lot of things I want to accomplish and a lot of things I still need to work on, but at the same time it feels good.

With Miami leading 1-0 in the last of the first this afternoon, Renato Nunez‘s RBIsingle toes the game. One inning later Austin Hays, who’s also having a great spring, gave the O’s a 2-1 lead with an RBI-groundout. Núñez would add a sac fly-RBI in that second inning as well, and the O’s led 3-1.

But it was Davis who provided the highlight of that third inning. And of the game. His three-run homer later in the inning opened the game wide open, and gave the O’s a 6-1 lead. The O’s don’t see the Miami Marlins often in the spring for geographic reasons. That’s probably A-okay with Miami.

By the end of the fourth inning they had run the lead to 9-1. This in a sequence that included a solo homer by Pedro Severino. In fairness to Miami, they did cut the lead to 9-5 in the fifth. However the O’s added some insurance runs. Austin Wynns added an RBI-double and Ramon Urias an RBI-single in the sixth. Richard Urena, a guy who also has in mind to break camp with the team, added a solo homer in the last of the eighth.

And with that, the O’s wrapped up a 12-6 victory. (Miami tacked on a solo homer in the ninth.) Again, these games are meaningless, as are the results. But the fact that the O’s continue to look good and are winning these (meaningless) games could bode well.

The Orioles head to Spectrum Field in Clearwater tomorrow to take on the Philadelphia Phillies. John Means gets the start for the O’s, and Philadelphia has not yet scheduled a starter. Game time is set for just after 1 PM.

Baltimore Orioles: Another bludgeoning of Pittsburgh

The Baltimore Orioles defeated Pittsburgh by a wide margin once again this afternoon. Brandon Bailey got the start for the Birds, and in the short span he was in the game, he was dominant. Bailey’s line: 2.0 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 0 K.

I do find it interesting, and perhaps a little bit refreshing that manager Brandon Hyde seems to be giving several prospects a good hard look. By that, I mean starts in games. It would appear that the Birds are holding a true open tryout for the starting rotation. Certainly the Means’ and Cobb’s of the world are in, but they seem intent on bringing the five best starters they can find home at the end of March.

The Orioles struck early against Pittsburgh once again, with Ryan Mountcastle doubling a run home in the first inning. Later in the inning Rio Ruiz scored on a wild pitch. And the O’s were off to the races.

The O’s proceeded to get a two-RBI single out of Hanser Alberto in the second, and RBI-singles from Richie Martin and Andrew Velazquez in the third. That put them ahead 6-0 after just three innings. And it left fans wondering if this might be what could be expected come the regular season.

What I would say is that folks should keep in mind that the Orioles don’t play Pittsburgh everyday. But they certainly have made an impression against Pittsburgh these past two days. Yesterday in Sarasota, and today in Bradenton at Pittsburgh’s spring facility.

Unlike yesterday however, Pittsburgh did have a highlight. Murphy’s fourth inning grand slam cut the Orioles’ lead to 6-4. That home run didn’t need to be wind-aided. It was actually against the wind, and got way out of the park.

However the good news is that after being punched in the mouth, the O’s fought back. Dwight Smith Jr. grounded into an RBI in the fifth inning, and Richie Martin‘s bases-clearing triple ran the score to 10-4. And odds are Pittsburgh wasn’t coming back from that. For good measure, Dilson Herrera would tack on an RBI-triple in the seventh, closing out an 11-4 win for the O’s over Pittsburgh. With the win, the Birds evened their record at four wins and four losses on the spring.

The Orioles return to Ed Smith Stadium tomorrow afternoon to take on the Miami Marlins. Prospect Keegan Akin gets the start for the Birds, and he’ll be opposed by Miami’s TBD. Game time is set for just after 1 PM.

Baltimore Orioles’ Austin Hays dazzles in centerfield in Birds’ rout

The Baltimore Orioles got a blowout victory this afternoon at Pittsburgh’s expense, in a game that saw top prospect Austin Hays dazzle in the outfield. Hays seemingly caught anything that was in his vicinity in the outfield. Hays is making a great impression this spring, continuing what he did at the end of last season. Starter Tommy Milone set the tone for the day, keeping Pittsburgh off the scoreboard. Milone’s line: 2.0 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 3 K.

Milone was asked after his outing what he thought of Hays’ theatrics in the outfield. He wasn’t surprised in the least:

When I was with Seattle last year we came over to Baltimore and he was playing center at that point. I think it was later in the season and he made a couple of amazing catches, so it wasn’t anything new. It’s nice to have him behind me, though.

Quote courtesy of Roch Kubatko, MASNsports

Hays saved multiple hits during his time in the game today. It wasn’t however as if the Orioles needed it today. This game was a donnybrook from the beginning. Pat Valaika smacked a two-run homer in the last of the third, and Anthony Santander would add a sac fly RBI. And the O’s were off to the races.

Ryan Mountcastle added an RBI-double in the fourth, and the aforementioned Hays a two-RBI double. Santander would add an additional RBI-double, as would Trey Mancini. The Birds led 9-0 after four innings.

Mountcastle and Chris Davis would add homers in the fifth, at which point it appeared that the Birds called off the dogs. When the smoke was done clearing, the O’s had defeated Pittsburgh 13-0. By a long shot, it was the most lopsided game the’ve played. And probably the most lopsided one they will play this spring.

It’s also good to see Chris Davis homer again. The O’s are hoping that his offensive production can improve this year, helping to solidify the team offensively. It would certainly be a big help, needless to say.

But the story of the day was Austin Hays, and his defense. It’s not just the fact that he’s capable of making plays like that. It’s also that he’s willing to make tough plays such as diving catches. He became a bit of a fan favorite when he was called up last September, and the Orioles believe he could morph into something special.

The Orioles will travel to Bradenton tomorrow to once again take on Pittsburgh – this time at their facility. Brandon Bailey gets the start for the O’s, and he’ll be opposed by Pittsburgh’s Trevor Williams. Game time is set for just after 1 PM.

Baltimore Orioles defeat Atlanta

Asher Wojchiechowski made his maiden outing of the spring for the Baltimore Orioles this afternoon against Atlanta. And while the numbers themselves were mostly good, he did surrender a homer. But the pitch itself was a strike, which is what the Orioles would like to see here in the early spring. Woj’s line: 2.0 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 0 BB, 2 K.

Wojchiechowski had dealt with a blister on his throwing hand, which put his spring in doubt at one point. However after leaving the game he seemed to indicate that today was a step forward:

Felt good. Focus was really just to throw strikes. First time out there you have that little self-doubt, when its been through the offseason. So, nice to go out there and execute pitches and just get back into the rhythm.

I made one mistake to d’Arnaud, first pitch of the second inning. I knew he was going to swing and just didn’t execute that pitch. But for the most part, just happy with how I felt. Looking to build upon each outing and get ready for the season

Quote courtesy of Roch Kubatko, MASNsports

The O’s got on the board early with Hanser Alberto scoring in the first inning on a passed ball. Dwight Smith Jr. would score from third later in the inning on a wild pitch. I said this a couple of times last season, but if you get guys on base you never really know what’s going to happen. A wild pitch with nobody on base isn’t really a wild pitch – kind of like a tree falling in the woods and nobody hearing it.

That’s something on which the Orioles should try to focus this year – getting guys on base. Sometimes that can spook pitchers at times. If that happens and someone’s on base when a mistake is made, you can luck your way into a run.

Wjochiechowski surrendered a homer to d’Arnaud one inning later, which was the only run he surrendered. However keep in mind also that you can live with pitchers surrendering solo home runs. Solo shots aren’t going to beat you. Especially early in the game. Baltimore native Bruce Zimmerman, who made his Orioles’ debut, surrendered a solo shot an inning later to Ball, which tied the game.

Dilson Herrera led off the fifth with a double, and he was later singled home by Ryan McKenna, giving the Birds the lead back at 3-2. McKenna would later score on another wild pitch by Atlanta pitching, running it to 4-2. Atlanta would notch an RBI-single in the sixth to get to within 4-3, but the Oriole ‘pen shut them down the rest of the way.

With the win, the Birds improved their record to 2-4 on the spring (keeping in mind that yesterday was a split squad day and that technically they lost twice). Both wins of course have come at home. Again folks, wins and losses don’t matter per se. But if you’re going to play these games, you might as well try to win them.

The O’s will stay in Sarasota tomorrow, ending a three-game/day “homestand” as Pittsburgh comes to town. Tommy Milone makes his first (spring) start for the O’s, and he’ll be opposed by Pittsburgh’s Hector Noesi. Game time is set for just after 1 PM.

Baltimore Orioles fall to Tampa despite a Chris Davis homer

The Baltimore Orioles sent John Means to the mound this afternoon against Tampa for his maiden voyage this spring. He was slated to go two innings, but came out early due to a high pitch count. However it was a typical start against the Tampa Rays. Among other things, Means surrendered a wind-aided triple, an infield hit, and a “normal” single. Means’ line: 1.1 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 0 BB, 3 K.

Tampa’s notorious for getting guys on base however they can. Sometimes in unorthodox manners. But they get on base. And they get runners in. Following the aforementioned wind-aided triple in the second, Robertson’s RBI-single gave them a 1-0 lead. Brousseau’s RBI-single later in the inning extended the lead to 2-0.

Means was upbeat after coming out, saying that he felt good. In fact, he said he felt “better” than giving up two runs (which came as a result of some wind-aided hits):

In spring training you’re not too worried about results. You’re really just worried about how you feel, how the ball’s coming out, how the hitters are reacting. And I honestly felt really good. I felt like the fastball was there, changeup was there, curveball was there. So yeah, I definitely felt a lot better than the two runs.

Quote courtesy of Roch Kubatko, MASNsports

Following a ground-rule double in the fourth, Cozens’ RBI-single gave Tampa a 3-0 lead. Again, this is how they do things. They just keep adding on runs. Their runs usually don’t come in buckets, but it’s one here and one there. Today however, they did have a big inning.

And that process continued. Tampa loaded the bases later in that fourth inning, and Lowe cleared them with a wind-aided bases-clearing double. He would later score when Renato Nunez (who got a rare assignment in the first) botched a throw, committing an error. But that error allowed another Tampa score, and the Birds trailed 7-0.

But there was one bright spot for the O’s this afternoon. Chris Davis smacked a solo homer the opposite way in the last of the fourth, cutting the Tampa lead to 7-1. Tampa would immediately come back in the fifth with an RBI-single by Zunino, but I digress. The fact that Chris Davis is homering this early in the spring is a really good sign for the O’s.

Davis put on about 25 lbs in the off season, and he seems to think that as a result he might faire better this year. Going oppo-boppo in his second spring game is a good start to that. He’s also drawn a few walks, which shows he’s working the count.

It’s also worth mentioning regarding Oriole bats…like all team’s they’re behind the pitching. Position players only reported last Monday, so they’re about a week behind the pitchers (and catchers). It’s always worth remembering that in some of these early spring games.

Tampa would tack on several other runs in the later innings, including a three-run homer by Perez. They ended up beating the Orioles 15-2 on the afternoon. (Rylan Bannon homered for the O’s in the last of the eighth.) One of the differences between Tampa and the Orioles is that Tampa has better pitching – top to bottom. However offensively they also take advantage of EVERYTHING that comes their way. If you slip up in some way by leaving a ball up in the zone or something along those lines, their next guy up is ready to make you pay. And again, that’s true top to bottom of their organization.

Blowout losses must have been contagious throughout the organization today, as the Orioles’ B Team seemingly suffered the same fate down at Jet Blue Park against Boston in Fort Myers. The split squad O’s fell to Boston, 12-4. As the saying goes, some days you’re the bug.

The Orioles will remain in Sarasota tomorrow as the Atlanta Braves come to town. Baltimore native Bruce Zimmerman (a non-roster invite to camp) gets the start for the O’s, and he’ll be opposed by Atlanta’s Sean Newcomb. Game time is set for just after 1 PM.

Baltimore Orioles in the spring training WIN COLUMN!

Wade LeBlanc got the start for the Baltimore Orioles on spring opening day in Sarasota. Keep in kind, these outings are short and are often tough to judge in the spring. But LeBlanc looked crisp – very crisp. That’s a good sign. LeBlanc’s line: 2.0 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 1 K.

LeBlanc retired the first two Boston hitters on three pitches. Both grounded out to first base. Offensively, it appeared that the Orioles might struggle. After being shutout yesterday, the O’s loaded the bases in the last of the first. However Boston pitched out of the jam, inducing a 1-2-3 double-play.

However that bit about the Orioles loading the bases – that was a harbinger for things to come. Stevie Wilkerson‘s RBI-groundout, giving them Orioles a 1-0 lead in the second. For what it’s worth, that was the Orioles’ first run of the spring. It was also their first unofficial lead of 2020.

One inning later the O’s had something cooking once again. Dwight Smith Jr.‘s RBI-single extended the lead to 2-0. An inning later, Rio Ruiz added a sac fly-RBI, extending the lead to 3-0. Boston would attempt to chip away in the fourth with a lone RBI-ground out in the fourth.

However the O’s kept at it. Cedric Mullins smacked a two-RBI single in the fifth to extend the Birds’ lead to 5-1. Mullins you’ll remember was meant to be the new team leader last season, but ended up being sent back to the minors. He could afford to have a breakout spring this year. Once on base he immediately swiped second, so that was good to see. He has speed, but he struggled to get on base to be able to use that speed last year. Maybe this time around it’ll be different.

Rylan Bannon‘s sixth inning two-RBI double ran the score to 7-1, and Bryan Holladay added the Orioles’ first homer of the spring in the seventh to it to 8-1. They’d also add a ninth run when yet another guy scored on a pass ball in the seventh. Mason Williamsseventh inning RBI-double ran it to 10-1. The O’s would net an eleventh run on a pass ball, and Boston would tack four on in the ninth (including a two-run homer) to close out an 11-5 Orioles’ victory.

The O’s were able to plate runs once guys got on base today. That was an issue all of last year. And even just a smidge today when they left the bases loaded early. But for the most part they were able to get guys in today, defeating Boston and winning their Sarasota home opener.

The Orioles head to Spectrum Park in Clearwater tomorrow to take on the Philadelphia Phillies. Alex Cobb gets the start for the O’s, and he’ll be opposed by Philadelphia’s Vince Velasquez. Game time is set for just after 1 PM.

Baltimore Orioles fall to Atlanta in spring opener

As we go along in these spring games, keep in mind that the Baltimore Orioles (and other teams) don’t usually bring their starting players on the road. So this afternoon’s 5- loss to Atlanta, and starter Chandler Shepherd’s outing, could look deceiving. Shepherd’s line: 2.0 IP, 2 H, 3 R, 3 BB, 0 K.

After his outing Shepherd acknowledged that he has an opportunity to compete for a starting job, and needs to take advantage of it better than he did today (Quote courtesy of Roch Kubatko, MASNsports):

Obviously there’s a lot of names in that lineup that I’ve been watching on TV for a long time. Yeah, it was super cool, but at the end of the day I just had to go out and focus on what I was working on in my game. It’s cool to get that opportunity, but I’ve got to go out and take advantage of my outings.

Shepherd loaded the bases in the last of the first right off the bat. Duvall’s RBI-single Gabe Atlanta a 1-0 lead. Atlanta would also add two sac fly-RBI later in the inning, running the score to 3-0. Again, not the start Shepherd wanted. But he was slated for two innings this afternoon, and he pitched two innings. If there’s a silver lining it would be that they didn’t have to pull him prior to then.

Ty Blach followed Shepherd into the game, and provided a much better result. He gave up a run in the third when Duvall grounded into a double-play with the bases loaded. You don’t want to surrender runs, however you’ll take that all day long. Especially in spring training, it’s good to see guys live to fight another day by getting out of a jam. Remember folks, it’s not about wins and losses. Especially in the road games.

Atlanta would add an additional run on a sac fly-RBI in the last of the fifth, sending the Birds down to defeat, 5-0. Keep in mind however that while Shepherd’s shaky outing set the tone, there are two coins to every game. When you don’t score any runs you can’t win. The Orioles can take solace in the fact that often times Atlanta hitters got on base via softly-hit bloopers, but they still got on base.

The O’s will host their “spring home opener” tomorrow afternoon at Ed Smith Stadium as the Boston Red Sox come to town. Wade LeBlanc gets the start for the O’s, and he’ll be opposed by Boston’s Mike Cazza. Game time is set for just after 1 PM.

Baltimore Orioles open Grapefruit League play

It all starts this afternoon for the Baltimore Orioles. Today they’ll travel to the other side of Sarasota County to take on the Atlanta Braves. For what it’s worth, Atlanta opened CoolToday Park in Southern Sarasota County late last spring. They played one spring game there last season. This is their first full year training there.

We probably aren’t going to learn too much from this game, as I suspect most of the “regular players” will remain behind in Sarasota. We’ll probably see them tomorrow against Boston. But we’ll begin to see what could be in the future.

But whatever 2020 holds in store for the Birds, it unofficially begins today. Baseball will be played, and a team with BALTIMORE across their chests will be on the field. All is thus right with the world.

As I said, the O’s will begin the spring this afternoon with a visit to CoolToday Park. Chandler Shepherd gets the start for the O’s, and he’ll be opposed by Atlanta’s Felix Hernandez. Game time is set for just after 1 PM.

Baltimore Orioles add exhibition game at the Naval Academy

The Baltimore Orioles announced yesterday that they’ve added an exhibition game to the end of the schedule. They’re slated to play the NY Mets on Tuesday, March 26th at 2 PM. The game will be held at the Naval Academy, and by broadcast on the Orioles Radio Network.

The Birds will play the NY Mets the day prior as well in their Sarasota finale. This game will count towards the Grapefruit League “standings” – for what that’s worth. The O’s open the season two days later on March 26th against the New York Yankees at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

Two years ago the Washington Nationals “hosted” a final exhibition game against Boston at the Naval Academy. The Orioles stepped in however and ensured that they would be the only team allowed to do so again, as Anne Arundel County is located within Baltimore’s television market. The Birds did some outreach last year at the Naval Academy prior to the regular season starting, and now this.

The Orioles also announced that Chandler Shepherd will get the start in tomorrow’s exhibition opener at Atlanta. I have to admit, I didn’t see that one coming. Shepherd ironically started the regular season finale last year against Boston at Fenway Park. He’s only expected to pitch a couple of innings tomorrow, but he gets the start. Still no word on who starts Sunday at home against Boston.

Baltimore Orioles: How crisis’ are handled does matter

Along with the rest of MLB, the Baltimore Orioles have to be looking towards West Palm Beach where the Houston Astros train while shaking their heads. Not only because of what they were doing in terms of the cheating scandal. But how they’ve handled it since the news of it brok. How one handles a situation can often begin to take on a life all of it’s own in cases like this. Needless to say with Houston, that’s what’s happening.

First off, when Houston won the 2017 World Series there’s not a fan across baseball that wasn’t happy for them. They had rebuilt their organization from the ground up. It appeared they had done it the right way, and that they had succeeded. Save for the fact that they cheated, that may well have been true.

But the players came across as less than humble about their success. They were loud and proud about the fact that they were the champions. Some people might not have an issue with that per se, however when it later comes out that you were cheating…yeah you’re going to get some blow back when you were less-than-gracious winners to begin with.

But it goes well beyond that. Players have come off as less than contrite when talking about this matter. And that’s a real problem. ALL PLAYERS from the 2017 squad should be counting their blessings that they got immunity. Instead, in their minds they seem to have done nothing wrong. That’s a major problem.

Each time they speak on the matter they put their foots further and further into their mouths. We’re supposed to believe that someone’s wife just didn’t want him taking his shirt off? And then we’re later supposed to believe that he had a bad tattoo he didn’t want shown? We’re just supposed to accept that?

This story isn’t going away. People are still talking about the 1919 Black Sox scandal, they’re still talking about gambling in baseball, and they’re still talking about PED’s. This isn’t going away. But engaging in self-preservation tactics such as excuse-making isn’t going to make it go away faster. It’s going to keep it in the national discussion.

The moral of this story is that organizations need to engage in proper damage-control when things like this happen. Because if you don’t, the poor manner in which the situation is handled will blow right up in your face.

Baltimore Orioles: Who starts on Sunday?

Many fans will want to know who gets the ball in the Baltimore Orioles’ spring opener on Saturday against Atlanta. And for sure, it’ll mean something when manager Brandon Hyde tells us who it’s going to be. That will happen sometime between now and Saturday!

But keep in mind that many starters and/or regular players don’t play in road games during spring. At least not until the end of the spring. So whether Saturday gives us a fair representation of who might be in the rotation might be tough to gauge.

That’s why Orioles fans should be more in tuned with who starts on Sunday afternoon against Boston. That’ll be the “home opener” in Sarasota for the Birds. And generally the regulars will play in the home games. So it stands to reason that whomever gets that assignment might be looking to be in the rotation.

Baltimore Orioles: Presidential First Pitches

The Baltimore Orioles will open the season on March 26th at home against NY. The rest of the league opens that day as well, and we’ll see first pitch ceremonies across baseball that day. But as of right now, to my knowledge, there’ll be one guy specifically NOT throwing a first pitch: President Donald Trump.

This is one of my favorite repeat or annual columns that I write. I do a variation of it every year on President’s Day. There’s no sport in America which has the relationship with the White House that Major League Baseball has. And in large part, that’s due to baseball being America’s Pastime. It was our only sport of consequence for some time.

But it’s also due to the fact that in 1910, President William Howard Taft was invited to throw out the first pitch on Opening Day for the Washington Senators. And the tradition stuck. President Barack Obama commemorated the 100th anniversary of Presidential First Pitches in 2010 on Opening Day at Nationals Park.

Generally these Presidential First Pitches come on Opening Day or in the World Series. Obviously one of the most famous was in 2001 when President George W. Bush threw out the first ball in the World Series after 9/11 in New York. But there are plenty of other notable times a President has thrown out the first ball.

President Calvin Coolidge did the honors on numerous occasions. Ironically however “Silent Cal” wasn’t a huge baseball fan. Instead it was his wife who followed the sport, but he appreciated the opportunity to take her out to the ballgame every year. In 1940 President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s first pitch (on Opening Day at Griffith Stadium in Washington DC) hit a Washington Post camera. Roosevelt was President for 12+ years, and he did the honors many times. He just had poor aim!

President Harry Truman, being ambidextrous, threw two balls in 1950 – one right and one left-handed. President John F. Kennedy also opened the 1962 season by throwing out the first ball at the new DC Stadium. Ironically, it would be renamed years later for the President’s slain brother, and is still known today as RFK Stadium.

President Richard M. Nixon, in the absence of baseball in Washington, took the tradition to the west coast in 1973 and did the honors in Anaheim. Finally in 1979, the tradition came to Baltimore. President Jimmy Carter threw out the first pitch in the 1979 World Series at Memorial Stadium. President Ronald Reagan came to town in 1984 for and did the honors, although not on Opening Day. President Reagan was also the first President to throw the pitch from the field. Previously Presidents would sit in the first row near the home dugout, and throw the ball to the catcher from there.

President George H.W. Bush came to Memorial Stadium in 1989 for Opening Day, and he returned later in his term with Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip. I remember that well, as they sat in a suite during the game and got to meet players and coaches from both the Orioles and Oakland A’s. I recall in the lead up to the game people were wondering if the Queen would eat a hot dog, requiring her to remove her white gloves. President Bush also came to Camden Yards for the inaugural first pitch on Opening Day in 1992.

The last President to do these honors in Baltimore was President Bill Clinton. He came to Camden Yards twice, most recently in 1996. However baseball returned to Washington in 2005, all but guaranteeing that future Presidents would most probably a throw out first pitches exclusively at Nationals Park. George W. Bush did so twice, and Barack Obama once.

Which brings us back to President Trump. I’m not naive, folks. I’m aware of the controversy surrounding this President. I have strong views on the situation, which I choose not to share in this column. But this is a fun, and non-partisan tradition. I wish it would continue.

Especially for a guy like Donald Trump, who apparently had a tryout with the Philadelphia Phillies. It nevertheless, I’m of the opinion that the President should throw out the first ball on Opening Day in Washington DC every year. Trump did attend a World Series game in DC last October, but didn’t throw a pitch. I call on the Washington Nationals organization, and the White House to make this happen. In closing I’ll say it again (and I always close this column in this manner): The President of the United States should throw out the first ball in Washington DC on Opening Day EVERY YEAR.

Baltimore Orioles: Flu bug biting the Birds

One thing that manager Brandon Hyde had learned about managing the Baltimore Orioles is how precarious guys’ health can be. And I’m not talking about labrums, quads, knees, etc. I’m talking the flu.

Pitchers and catchers reported last week, and sure enough so did the flu bug. All it takes is one guy to have something, and suddenly the entire clubhouse is at risk. All the Orioles can really do is send guys home when they’re taken ill. And that’s exactly what they do.

However the problem is that with any virus you’re at your most contagious in the 24 hours before you show symptoms. So you could be exposing other guys and not know it. Kind of a big issue.

This happens to almost every team on an annual basis. Last year it happened to the O’s in April – during the regular season. That’s certainly worse than having it happen now. It just goes to show you that players aren’t superhuman. They’re just as susceptible to germs and virus’ as you and I.

Baltimore Orioles sign Tommy Milone

The Baltimore Orioles have made what appears to be a minor signing, but one that could have implications for the 2020 season. They signed LHP Tommy Milone to a minor league deal. The contract also comes with an invitation to spring training.

Milone, 33, made his debut with Washington in 2011, and has pitched for six teams since then. He has a career 4.47 ERA, and a record of 50-47. Now a veteran, Milone has primarily been a reliever the past couple of seasons after being a starting pitcher before that.

My understanding is that the Orioles are going to attempt to work Milone out as a potential starter. And why not, given that he’s started before, and he isn’t costing them too much money. And on a minor league deal at that.

But Milone has the potential to be a veteran back-of-the-rotation presence who could eat some innings. A guy to whom perhaps the Means’ of the world could look for guidance. The rotation is the biggest question mark for this organization going into Grapefruit League play, so if Milone can step up and look good in spring outings he has a real shot at breaking camp as a starter for the Orioles.

Baltimore Orioles: MASN to air seven spring games

Baltimore Orioles’ fans are in luck if they want to get an early look at the team. As per usual, the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network (MASN) will be airing seven spring training games in 2020. Whatever your reason for tuning in, be it to see the regulars gearing up for the season or to see the future of the team, I suggest you tune in.

The seven games aired by MASN are as follows:

  • February 23rd vs. Boston (1 PM)
  • February 26th vs. Atlanta (1 PM)
  • March 2nd vs. Tampa (1 PM)
  • March 8th vs. NYY (1 PM)
  • March 12th vs. Toronto (1 PM)
  • March 20th vs. Boston (6 PM)
  • March 22nd vs. Philadelphia (1 PM)

That first game against Boston of course is the Orioles’ home opener in Sarasota. There might be other games that are aired on television in the sense of them being picked up by ESPN or MLB Network. But that remains to be seen. The Orioles presumably will also have a slate of games air on the radio, and we’ll report on that list as soon as we get it.

Baltimore Orioles: More comes out on Houston

As the Baltimore Orioles gather in Sarasota for their preliminary workouts, the baseball world’s eyes are once again on Houston. As time is going on, it appears that the cheating scandal is getting worse and worse. Yesterday we heard alleges of the cheating continuing past 2017, and that it went back well before that year as well.

As we know, Major League Baseball already handed down it’s punishments to Houston. But could there be more on the way? The players presumably were given immunity from punishment, and I believe that regardless of anything else the league should honor it’s commitment. (Legally they might have no choice.) But could this change things?

If in fact it turns out that the cheating continued past 2017, perhaps there’s some leeway. The league may well be able to hand down suspensions because in theory the players were only talking about 2017 in terms of the immunity. Maybe what happened after 2017 is still free game.

It sounds like a lot more people knew what was going on than we initially though. And the fact is that the league’s been under pressure by more and more fans to issue further discipline. Again, I don’f favor that per se. But if the scandal went further than previously though, I think that does make a difference.

Baltimore Orioles’ pitchers and catchers report amidst potential playoff changes

Today Baltimore Orioles’ fans can utter one of the most beautiful phrases in the English language: pitchers and catchers report! Many of them, along with many position players, are probably already in Sarasota working out. But today’s the drop dead report date. It all begins today.

I’ve said this before, but all this week pitchers and catchers will work out at the Ed Smith Stadium complex. Early next week position players will have to have reported, and Grapefruit League play begins next Saturday, February 22nd. The Orioles will open the home portion of the schedule on Sunday, February 23rd in Sarasota against Boston.

One thing to watch between now and then is who gets the start, specifically in that home opener. It’s understood that the “road opener” might have a different roster set for the game, however who starts that home game might give us some insight as to who’s looking to burst into the rotation. Or where someone stands in the rotation. Regardless, I’d only look for the starter to go two innings or so. Nothing major.

Pitchers and catchers report however after a report that came from the NY Post yesterday saying that commissioner Rob Manfred is considering the concept of changing the postseason structure. Before I go into the proposed changes, I want to mention that I like the way it is now. I liked the addition of the second wild card team, because I felt that the wild card games put more onus on winning the divisions. And over the years those wild card games were usually very compelling. 2019 was no exception.

However the new alleged proposal would scrap the wild card games, and expand the playoffs to seven teams in each league. The top seed would get a bye, and the divisional series’ would be a best-of-three (at the same ballpark). Here’s the kicker: the highest possible seed would get to pick their opponent.

Let me state for the record, I’m against this. It’s unfathomable to me that a team should get to choose which opponent they’ll get to play. This isn’t a schoolyard kickball game whereby captains pick teams. I think this would be a big mistake.

Baseball’s a game that always has been and should always be about tradition. You don’t get to pick your opponent – that’s ludicrous. And expanding the playoffs? This shouldn’t be the NBA or the NHL where half the league gets into the post season. That’s just not how baseball’s supposed to work. But I’d gladly let more teams in it meant avoiding teams picking their opponents.

This is an obvious attempt by the league to spice up the post season and make things more interesting for casual fans. And as a purist, I resent that. You don’t spit at your base customers just to draw in casual customers. We’ll see where this goes, but hopefully it’s nowhere.

Baltimore Orioles: Calm before the storm

One might argue that today’s the final day of the off season for the Baltimore Orioles. I wouldn’t go quite that far. However it is the last day before we start getting real Orioles’ news coming out of camp.

This because pitcher’s and catchers report tomorrow. Again, one of the best phrases that can be uttered in the English language. It means that baseball season is in the process of beginning. And it means that once again, hope springs anew and eternal.

It’ll be interesting to see what the early camp battles are this year, and how things fall at the end. Many of the players are already at the Ed Smith Stadium complex in Sarasota, but tomorrow is the date that they’re required there – pitchers, catchers, and injured players.

All roster players and invites will have to report by early next week, and Grapefruit League play begins next Saturday (February 22nd). I’ll only mention this about 100 more times before the midway point of camp, but just keep in mind that the pitchers will be ahead of the hitters for the first half of camp. This because they’ve been there working out for an extra week.

Furthermore, the spring games are supposed to help coaches decides who’s on the team, and for regular players to get their timing back. So if you see guys flailing at balls and so forth, that’s the reason why. These games are designed to help them get that out of their system.

Baltimore Orioles: What makes for a good camp?

Pitchers and catchers are due to report for the Baltimore Orioles in Tuesday. That’s the day after tomorrow. Many players are already in camp and working out, but nevertheless Tuesday’s the report date.

What will make Spring Training 2020 a success? Well first off I’ll tell you what WON’T define it’s success or failure. That would be wins and losses. While you want to look crisp in games, the team’s spring record should be viewed as irrelevant. It’s more about how the team looks than it is the final score.

But what I just said above will decide the success or failure of this year’s camp. As I said, you want to look crisp in games. It’s more about training for the season and looking in mid-season form – for now. If the Orioles look and play the part, it’ll have been a good camp.

So as we progress from pitchers and catchers reporting, to full squad workouts, and into games, keep that in mind. If the presumed starters look great in a game that ends up being a loss because a minor league farmhand blew the lead late, that’s still a good day. Ultimately, you play like you practice. So practice as if it’s for real.

Baltimore Orioles’ GM Mike Elias will not be implicated in cheating scandal

Baltimore Orioles’ GM Mike Elias was a guest on Baltimore’s 105.7
“the fan” (WJZ-FM) earlier this week, and he spoke to Dan Connolly of The Athletic. In both interviews, the topic of the Houston Astros and the ongoing cheating scandal came up. Elias of course was the former Asst. GM in Houston. Elias on his role there:

But I have said, and I will say, that my role there was running the minor leagues, running the international scouting, running the draft. And I was very focused on it. I’ll leave it at that

Quote courtesy of Dan Connolly, The Athletic

In short, Elias is saying, it wasn’t me. However MLB’s investigation found similar things to what Elias is saying. Now he was also silent on whether he knew what was going on. Odds are he would be subject to the league’s discipline had he said he knew it was happening. And obviously did nothing.

However this should put some Orioles’ fans minds at ease. The league has bigger fish to fry than Mike Elias, and they aren’t going to hand him out to dry just because he’s now a GM and he was there in Houston at that time. Elias also said that the Orioles would be doing things the “right way,” so again fans should be at ease that the franchise isn’t doing something that could come up later on and be investigated.

Baltimore Orioles: Where does Chris Davis fit?

We heard a lot about Chris Davis of the Baltimore Orioles this off season. Some reports had him changing his workout regiment, and some had him keeping it the same. I would argue that he should change something up given his results the past few years.

But that aside, what are the Orioles’ plans for Davis in 2020? I’ll throw in the fact that there’s always the chance that he could be traded (including this year he has three seasons left on his contract). I think that’s really a long shot at best, but anything’s possible. He’s still a reliable glove at first base; if a team loses it’s first baseman to injury or something along those lines…as I said, anything’s possible.

But assuming he remains an Oriole, they have to have an idea of how they’re going to use him. Last year he didn’t play everyday, however needless to say he was still a “regular” player. Again, he’s a good defensive first baseman. That does mean something.

However the O’s would like to see more production at the plate. And keep in mind, if Davis does get hold of a pitch, it can still travel a long way. However I think at this point the Orioles would take him just hitting over the Mendoza Line. But it’ll be interesting to see how often he’s in the lineup during Spring Training, and at which position.

Baltimore Orioles: Reactions to the Mookie Betts trade

As I said yesterday, Baltimore Orioles’ fans should be thrilled that the likes of Mookie Betts and David Price are out of the AL East. However up I-95 in Boston, the reaction has been significantly different. And that’s to be expected.

I’m a little intrigued to see that a lot of Boston fans are shocked and appalled at the fact that Betts was traded. The guy’s in the final year of his contract, and they had obviously reached an impasse on a new deal. So they wanted to get something for him, and get under the luxury tax at the same time. Not to mention the potential loss of draft picks that are coming. This gives them some young talent.

But the reaction from Boston fans has been very negative. And that surprises me in a sense. This is a franchise that for years has bought other teams’ talent in the same manner that they just sold off Mookie Betts. People have no problem pointing out that it’s a business decision when it’s Miami, Milwaukee, or even the Orioles selling off their assets. But when the shoe’s on the other foot…things appear a bit different.

Again, from the Orioles perspective this is a good thing. Boston’s still a good team, but Betts himself carried them over the Orioles over a long period of time. It leaves a hole in their lineup, that will have reverberations up and down. Does this mean the Orioles are headed to the post season this year because of this? Let’s not get crazy. But maybe they’re good for one or two more wins over a division rival this season.

Baltimore Orioles: The road gets slightly easier

Mookie Betts hit .297 against the Baltimore Orioles (for Boston) last year. Now the Birds won’t have to worry about him again for the most part. Betts and starting pitcher David Price were traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers late last night. It was a three-way trade, also involving Minnesota – who sent a top pitching prospect to Boston.

There’s irony in the fact that Boston appears to be unloading salary. This trade gets them under the luxury tax. For years they’ve feasted off of teams who couldn’t afford to keep their talent. Now things are different.

Having said that, I suspect this has more to do with the potential punishments the franchise might face due to the cheating scandal. They probably recognize this, and are proactively re-stocking their farm system. Which to be frank is probably a smart thing.

However having these two players out of the AL East will benefit everyone – including the Orioles. Betts has traditionally played some of his best games at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. And Price has been an ace. Nobody mourns their loss across the division.

Baltimore Orioles set 2020 promotional schedule

You know we’re taking a turn towards home in terms of the offseason when the Baltimore Orioles release their promotional schedule for the upcoming season. That happened yesterday, and the Birds have once again stockpiled lots of different promotions for fans of all ages. And that’s a good thing.

The fun begins on Opening Day, March 26th against the New York Yankees. All fans in attendance will receive a 2020 season magnet schedule. Overall, the Orioles will have six Friday Fireworks games. Those games will also be featuring “women of country music.” There will also be 26 gate giveaways, 5 bobbleheads, six rooftop sessions (pregame), four t-shirt giveaways, two post-game concerts, 12 “kids run the bases” (Sundays), and two jersey giveaways.

All promotions and giveaways can be found by clicking here. I tell people all the time that baseball has the best giveaways. Occasionally other sports will do similar things, but not as often as baseball teams. And that’s due in part to the fact that there are so many games in all. It draws people to the ballpark.

No word yet on whether the O’s will be re-upping the promotion where you can bring two kids under nine for free, however I would hope it’s something that continues. While I don’t think it’s gotten the amount of play the past two years that it could have, I think it’s an important element to the current rebuild. It gives parents more incentive to bring their kids to the ballpark. You really can’t go wrong.

Baltimore Orioles: From the sandlot to a Super Bowl MVP

The Baltimore Orioles could have just as easily been facing Super Bowl MVP, Patrick Mahomes. Mahomes, son of former major leaguer Pat Mahomes, was drafted by the Detroit Tigers. Being the son of a big league baseball player, he grew up around the game, played it, and loved it.

However luckily for football fans, he loved football more. Mahomes and his Kansas City Chiefs of course won Super Bowl 54 last night in Miami. However again, he just as easily could have been playing major league baseball.

Mahomes is also the Godson of former Oriole LaTroy Hawkins, who played with his father Pat. However that aside, congratulations to Mahomes and his Kansas City Chiefs – and their fans. It’s a well-deserved honor to a great team. And…pitchers and catchers report a week from tomorrow.

Baltimore Orioles DFA Stevie Wilkerson

The Baltimore Orioles yesterday claimed Travis Lakins off of waivers from the Chicago Cubs. Larkins is a right-handed relief pitcher. I would expect him to compete for a bullpen job this spring.

Unfortunately for the O’s, this move came at a price. They had to designate utilityman Stevie Wilkerson for assignment. Now with that said, he could certainly remain with the organization if he clears waivers. He would need to do that, and then accept a minor league assignment.

And that’s exactly what happened last season. Whether it would happen again in 2020 is another story. Wilkerson happily did everything and anything that was asked of him last year. He played almost every position, including spot reliever. And on the final day of the season he made a dramatic catch in the grandstand at Fenway Park that made a late case for catch of the year.

Notice I said in the grandstand at Fenway Park. He threw his body all out to make the play. He’s a good guy to have on your roster, and one I’m sure that the Orioles would welcome back with open arms if they have the opportunity. But first thing’s first – he has to clear waivers.

As for Lakins, as I said I suspect he’ll have the opportunity to compete for a bullpen role. You can never have too much pitching for sure, however this comes at a price, as I said. Hopefully it works out.

Baltimore Orioles: Ten years in Sarasota

Baltimore Orioles’ pitchers and catchers are set to report to Sarasota in just over two weeks. I can feel the excitement out there. In fact, pitchers and catchers report is one of the finest phrases in the English language.

That aside, this will be the tenth year that pitchers and catchers (and eventually position players) will be reporting to Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota. The Orioles first moved there from Fort Lauderdale in 2010. When they first arrived the stadium and complex was showing it’s age, although it was light years better than their former facility in Fort Lauderdale. But how quickly things progressed…

…the Orioles almost immediately (after that first season at Ed Smith) started pumping money into the ballpark and the complex. They also invested big time in the Sarasota community. And that’s something that’s truly paid dividends for the Orioles, as Sarasota’s really embraced them. Sarasota’s as much a part of Birdland as downtown Baltimore.

Once the team breaks camp and vacates the park after spring training, the Gulf Coast Orioles move in and make Ed Smith Stadium their home during the Gulf Coast season. As I said, the Birds invested in Sarasota big time ten years ago. And that’s continued. Furthermore as a result, Ed Smith Stadium is considered one of the premier spring training facilities in baseball.

Put it this way – when the O’s trained in Fort Lauderdale, it was getting to the point to where it was hard for them to get a schedule together because teams didn’t want to come to play them. The facilities were antiquated, and the ballpark was falling apart. Then in 2010 they made the move to Fort Lauderdale, and once they began renovating the facilities and making it into the great place it is today, they had teams lining up to come and play them. It’s been an incredible transformation.

So hats off to both the Orioles, and the Sarasota community. Both are equally invested in one another, and it shows. And they’ll celebrate the ten-year anniversary of their union this spring.

Baltimore Orioles: Did the Birds win DESPITE Buck Showalter?

Former Baltimore Orioles’ manager Buck Showalter was not hired by the Houston Astros this week. That distinction instead went to Dusty Baker. This off season Showalter interviewed with Philadelphia, the NY Mets, and now Houston. None of which offered him the managerial job.

Admittedly I’m surprised and disappointed in that development. I fully expected Buck to have a job this year if he wanted one – which the act of him interviewing says that he did. There are two “knocks” on Buck however as a manager. The first is that his insistence upon attention to detail can grow cumbersome.

And that may well have occurred in Baltimore. I know that it did in other places – such as Arizona, where he apparently threw a fit about the colors of the carpet in the clubhouse not matching up perfectly with the team colors. Speaking for myself, I’m somewhat detail-oriented myself. So I don’t have an issue with a manager who’s going to cover all of his bases to a T. That’s how it should be.

The other “knock” on Buck is that he doesn’t embrace analytics. Now not having been a player, I can’t tell you how analytically-driven Buck was or was not. However everyone has to use some sort of analytical approach in baseball. It’s part of the game. Buck’s point however is that you have to still have a feel for the game. And a lot of that is being lost with analytics.

So while I personally may be on board with Buck Showalter’s old school approach as stated above, did that potentially cost him a job? Furthermore, did the Orioles of the 2010’s win DESPITE Buck not embracing new age ways of operating? My personal view is that they won partly BECAUSE of Buck. And that opinion won’t change. But what do you think?

Baltimore Orioles sign Wade LeBlanc, knuckleballer

The Baltimore Orioles yesterday signed veteran knuckleballer Wade LeBlanc to a minor league contract. He’s expected to compete for a starting job, and will be in camp in a few weeks once it starts. If he makes the Orioles, his contract would allow him to make up to $800,000.

LeBlanc made 27 starts for Seattle last year, going 9-5. He also pitched to a 5.71 ERA, which has a lot to be desired. However this is a low risk move by the Orioles, given that it’s a minor league contract. Another interesting aspect of this is that LeBlanc had other teams interested and picked the Orioles. Might that be a nod to the positive culture that’s being created?

It very well could be. I personally noticed that the O’s came together a bit during the final two months of last year. That doesn’t mean that they won more games, but they looked more like a team. So I might believe that wanting to be a part of what’s going on in Baltimore played a role. However I suspect that LeBlanc also saw an opportunity to start in the big leagues.

The real interesting thing is that he’s a knuckleballer. I think that’s something that could truly be an asset for an Orioles’ rotation that lacked depth last year. Teams will have to be wary of the fact that he’s a knuckler, and prepare for it. This of course assuming that he makes the team and the rotation in spring training.

Baltimore Orioles: How does the new bullpen rule affect the Birds?

The Baltimore Orioles and the rest of the league will have to deal with a major new rule in baseball this year that will have big time affects on games. In short, when a reliever comes into a game he’s required to pitch to a minimum of three hitters, except in cases where the inning ends. An exception is obviously made in cases where a player becomes incapacitated or injured beyond playing.

Up front, let me state that I’m not a fan of this new rule. It’s being done to assist in baseball’s quest to improve on the pace-of-play, however I’m just not in favor of legislating how and when teams can use the bullpen. But like the rule or not, it’s coming. And it’s coming this year.

So how does this affect the Birds moving into 2020? Ironically, it could make the bullpen somewhat more solid overall. I’m taking NOTHING away from a guy like Richard Bleier. Absolutely nothing. However he’s a left-handed specialist for the most part. Every team has had one up to this point. Perhaps now instead of using a lefty specialist, teams will look to just bring the eight best relievers north out of spring training.

In the specific case of Richard Bleier, he would probably still make the team. He’s also subbed as a long man in a pinch. So he may well be one of the eight best people to put into the bullpen for the O’s. But in the case of some teams that may or may not be the case. It may well shake up how bullpens are constructed.

What the rule will definitely do is change how managers call games and use their relievers. Invariably (save for injury), managers are going to know that they can’t change pitchers on a whim once they bring someone in. This will be true for the Orioles, as well as for Oriole opponents.

This meaning that if an opponent brings in a pitcher who’s having control problems that game, that’s to the Orioles’ advantage. Obviously it could also work against them as well. But time will tell – we’ll have to see how things shake down.

Baltimore Orioles: Some events cross over sports

The Baltimore Orioles yesterday joined the rest of the sports world (and the real world) in mourning the loss of former Los Angeles Laker great Kobe Bryant. As we all know, Bryant and his 13 year old daughter Gianna were tragically killed in a helicopter crash in California. Seven other people died in the accident.

This isn’t a baseball story. But as they say, some events rock the world. In fact, numerous MLB stars, including former Oriole Adam Jones, took to Twitter to mourn the loss of Bryant. Incidentally, you can draw a bit of a parallel with the tragic death of Roberto Clemente in this situation as well.

Speaking for myself, I had a “mixed relationship” with Kobe as a fan. And I say that in the sense that I never would have doubted his talent, nor would I have disagreed with the statement that he defined a generation of the NBA. However in my mind he was taking the place of Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, and Magic Johnson. And I wasn’t okay with that! However he proved that he belonged in the same sentence with those guys, and he proved to be the absolute best ambassador to the game of his era. His loss will be felt throughout basketball, and the entire sports world.

And was eleven years old in 1992 when the Dream Team won Olympic Gold. But USA basketball was in steady decline from that point onward. Kobe Bryant was on the team that restored Olympic Gold to Team USA. And he did it twice. So speaking for myself I’ll always remember and appreciate that.

At the end of the day, however, alone Bryant was someone’s husband, father, and son. His family is more affected by this than anyone. My thoughts are certainly with them, and with all who knew and loved the late Kobe and Gianna Bryant.

Baltimore Orioles: Does MLB’s All-Star game need re-tooling?

Spring Training workouts start for the Baltimore Orioles’ pitchers and catchers in just over two weeks. That means that Super Bowl Sunday is next weekend. And…the NFL’s Pro Bowl is today. Whoop-dee-flippin’-doo.

It’s by far the worst of all of the sports’ all-star games. I log all of ten minutes with it every year. However for better or for worse, the NFL has, in fact, re-done the way it’s being done over the years. It used to be the weekend AFTER the Super Bowl, and always in Hawaii. Now it’s the weekend before the Super Bowl, and the location varies.

Today’s game is in Orlando, FL, and it’ll have a distinctly Baltimore flavor. Ravens head coach John Harbaugh and his staff will be coaching the AFC team. For what that’s worth.

With that said, should MLB consider taking a page out of the NFL’s book and consider re-tooling the All-Star Game? I’m not even sure what could be done, as the venue itself rotates around already. (This year’s game will be at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles.) But would more people pay attention to what’s in essence an exhibition?

My answer is that there are two very minor things they could change. The first would be doing what the NBA and NHL do and play the game over a weekend. Now the schedule’s set up so that the game’s on a Tuesday and the season resumes on Friday, but they could remedy that also. Ratings might be better for a Saturday night game.

The other thing would be to move the game back closer to the midpoint of the season. It’s unclear to me as to why the league moved the ASG to the middle of July, which is well into the statistical second half of the year. Granted every team’s different in terms of when their games fall, but ideally they’d have the ASG when most teams had played between 80-84 games.

But other than that, speaking for myself I can’t think of anything else that could be changed. Or that needs to be changed. What are your thoughts?

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