Category Archives: Baltimore Orioles

curtis granderson

early injuries to know about approaching Opening Day

AL BEast Notebook – March 8

It is no surprise that players sit out preseason games, pull out of the WBC or end up on the injury report with sore arms, sore legs, sore backs, etc. before such a long season. Sometimes it can be hard to keep track of who is resting and who is actually injured. Whether it is preparing for your fantasy league draft or just keeping tabs on your team, here are the situations in the AL East that you need to be aware of as Spring Training rolls along.

- Blue Jays. Third baseman Brett Lawrie is out a couple weeks with strained rib and intercostal muscles. That puts him up against Opening Day without much prep time.

- Yankees. Yes, there are a lot of names that you’ve heard about. Mark Teixeira and Curtis Granderson are both out until mid-May.

Derek Jeter has finally been medically cleared to resume baseball activities. He was initially hoping to play in a Spring game March 10 but that is being pushed back. He will probably not be playing shortstop the first week of the season, although he is likely to start at designated hitter.

Phil Hughes is recovering nicely from the bulging disk in his back, says he experiencing “no problems,” and “feels good,” and may be ready for his first turn in the rotation when the season starts.

The bullpen is dealing with a bunch of minor issues. David Robertson slept on his shoulder wrong and Boone Logan has a sore elbow. But the other lefty in the bullpen Clay Rapada has been shut down for a couple weeks due to shoulder bursitis, making him a likely candidate to start the season on the DL.

- Red Sox. David Ortiz still feels pain in his right Achilles, seven months after suffering the injury. Before and after running around the bases a few times he is feeling soreness in both lower legs. With just a few weeks before the start of the season it is a cause for concern, even for a guy that won’t play the field.

Franklin Morales (back), right now slated as the Sox #6 starter or long reliever, played “catch” Thursday, but is still a ways off. Middle reliever Craig Breslow has a bad shoulder and is still working to develop his arm strength. Both Morales and Breslow are likely to start the season on the DL.

- Orioles and Rays: no injury concerns heading into the season.

francisco cervelli

quick and relevant Stats from Spring

AL BEast Notebook – March 2

There is plenty of news off the field. A week into Spring Training, here is what is happening on the field.

- Blue Jays’ second base battle is off to a thrilling start. Maicer Izturis is 0-12 while Emilio Bonifacio has committed three errors (Izturis has two).

- Jose Bautista homered in his first game this spring. Since then he’s 0-11.

- Joe Maddon says he’d like to see Sean Rodriguez play some in the outfield. Well, the utility player is still looking for his first hit (0-11) so he won’t be playing anywhere but AAA if that continues. Especially as Leslie Anderson is off to a hot start, 7-15 with a double, triple, home run, and 7 RBI in seven games.

- Rays’ Chris Archer, a candidate for a rotation spot, has pitched four scoreless innings. Steve Johnson has a leg up for a spot in the Orioles rotation. In two games he has given up 1 hit and no runs in three innings.

- Jon Lester has pitched five shutout innings so far, yielding just 1 hit and 1 walk. David Phelps is showing the Yankees that they can be patient with Phil Hughes’ back; he has also pitched five scoreless innings.

- Francisco Cervelli is doing his best to help Yankees fans forget Russell Martin behind the plate: he’s already thrown out 5 would-be base stealers (in 6 attempts).

- Cody Eppley has pitched in 3 games (3 innings) and given up runs in each one (7 total). He pitched okay in the Yankees ‘pen last year but he won’t make the team at this rate.

And the ever-oh-so-important stat of the spring:

- Orioles are 6-1, Yankees are 1-7

bonifacio izturis

Starting Positions Up for Grabs in the East

AL BEast Notebook – Feb 27

Spring is the time to evaluate talent, give new people a chance to show what they can do and try new things. While most starting spots and lineups are established already, there are a few position battles to keep an eye on this spring.

1. Blue Jays: Toronto acquired two second basemen this offseason, one via free agency and the other in a trade. At this point in the beginning of Spring Training it is basically a dead heat for the starting job. Maicer Izturis is a career utility infielder that has never played more than 122 games in a season. He’s a career .273 hitter with no power and moderate speed for a middle infielder, last year stealing a career-best 17 bases. He’s good-not-great with the glove. He does a lot of things pretty well; he’s fundamentally sound. Emilio Bonifacio is five years younger and has blazing speed. In 2011 as a full-time starter he hit .296 with 40 stolen bases, but did strikeout 129 times.

Bonifacio and Izturis are both switch-hitters that are moderate defensively, although Izturis is quite a bit better at second. They can play just about anywhere, but that’s pretty much a moot point as the only real opening is at second base. Izturis is a balanced player with a low ceiling. Bonifacio adds a big speed element but his batting average is unpredictable, although the last few years he is walking more and boosting his OBP.

As the Jays already have speed merchant Rajai Davis on the bench, I would start Bonifacio in the nine hole at second. Bonifacio has an on base percentage of .362 versus lefties over the last three seasons and is still on the upswing in his career. But performance in spring training could make things the other way around.

2. Orioles: The final starting rotation spot in Baltimore is wide open and there’s a whole bunch of pitchers in the running. Tommy Hunter was a long shot and had a poor first game so he’s behind the pack. But Steve Johnson, Jair Jurrjens, Jake Arrieta, Zach Britton, Brian Matusz and T.J. McFarland are all still possible candidates. Of that group Johnson pitched really well last year while making just a few starts (4-0, 2.11 ERA, .174 average against, 1.07 WHIP in 38 innings). Jurrjens was an All-Star in 2011 (also really good in 2009) but bombed last year. He tends to pitch lights-out every other year, so here’s hoping 2013 continues the trend. He hit 93 on the radar gun in Sunday’s game, so that’s a good sign. Arrieta, Britton, Matusz and McFarland are more likely to be fighting for a long-middle-relief role with the losers pitching in Triple-A. But anything can happen this spring and Buck Showalter is far from making a decision.

3. Yankees: Yes, Francisco Cervelli and Chris Stewart are fighting for the starting catcher job but let’s be real; neither is expected to do much more than catch breaking balls. The real question is in the outfield.

Curtis Granderson’s injury presents a real dilemma. Even if just for one month, it’s tough to replace a 42/115/110 guy. Brian Cashman is unwilling to use Eduardo Nunez in the outfield and does not want to bring in Johnny Damon for an audition. I sure as heck hope he doesn’t break open the piggy bank to acquire Vernon Wells’ or Alfonso Soriano’s terrible contract for a one month surrogate. That leaves Juan Rivera (34) and Matt Diaz (turning 35), two career bench players that got on base less than 29% of the time last year while providing no power or speed competing with minor leaguers that are unlikely to be ready for the Major Leagues. Perhaps Zoilo Almonte, Slade Heathcott or Melky Mesa will emerge (great trio of names, Zoilo, Slade and Melky) and we can see what they have to offer. Zoilo probably offers the most long-term potential, and has already made a little positive impact hitting a home run and throwing a runner out at third base. Thankfully and hopefully it is just for one month, but there are five guys to keep tabs on in Yankee camp.

4. Rays: It is unlikely that Wil Myers will come up to the team before May and Tampa’s roster is pretty settled. But after David Price and a trio of strong young arms (Matt Moore, Jeremy Hellickson and Alex Cobb) there is still one starting pitcher spot still available.

It is pretty much a three-legged race between Jeff Niemann, Roberto Hernandez, and youngster Chris Archer. Hernandez is new to town and while he has one great year on his resume (19-8, 3.06), that was a long time ago and there have been four poor seasons since. Unless he catches lightning in a bottle this spring I see little chance he gets the nod. Archer, 24, is another great young arm that showed he has great stuff in limited action last year for the Rays (29.1 innings, 36 strikeouts, just 23 hits). He’s got a great fastball and slider. Niemann is a low-risk, low-reward candidate for the final spot. His fourth season was injury-plagued but he was effective when he was out there (3.08 ERA, 1.11 WHIP). He is out of minor league options and I assume that helps his chances. I find it hard to believe that the Rays would start the season with four pitchers age 25 and under. Niemann gives them a little stability and Archer can grow some more in Triple-A, so I think they will go with Jeff. They are in conversations about possible trades, and that would thin out the competition.

wei-yin chen

an Early Starting-Five Eval: Baltimore Orioles

AL BEast Notebook – Feb 21

No team had as interesting a year as the Orioles in 2012. Their pitching staff was a game of trial and error that statistically wasn’t very good but still put them in the playoffs and got them past the mighty Texas Rangers in the Wild Card round. The most amazing stat for the Orioles is that despite having just one pitcher throw more than 135 innings they still won 93 games.

Starting Rotation

Ace: Jason Hammel (B-)

2. Wei-Yin Chen (B)

3. Miguel Gonzalez (B)

4. Chris Tillman (B)

5. Steve Johnson (B)

In the mix: Jair Jurrgens, Zach Britton, Jake Arrieta, Brian Matusz, Tommy Hunter

Down the road: Dylan Bundy, Kevin Gausman, Tsuyoshi Wada

Yeah, that’s a lot of arms.

The Orioles didn’t make any roster moves but their rotation should still be much more secure. I don’t know why so many people expect the Orioles to take such a significant step back.

Consider this: In 2012 Tommy Hunter, Jake Arrieta, Brian Matusz and Zach Britton made 65 starts (40% of the team total) and combined for an ERA of 5.66.  They were terrible. Hunter, Matusz and Arrieta were in the rotation until the early days of July. Britton made some fill in starts later on. After that, Chris Tillman and rookie Miguel Gonzalez, with rookie Steve Johnson in a limited role, emerged as major and significant players.

If you combine the stats from their starts they come out to 34 starts and 201.2 innings, which is close to the expected season total for one pitcher. They combined for a 21-7 record and 3.12 ERA. 21 wins and a low-3 ERA! Those three should start the season in the rotation instead of that three-headed monster of Hunter, Arrieta, and Matusz.

That being said, Arrieta, Matusz and Britton are young guys with potential who can still step in and contribute should there be a need.

Jason Hammel is a seasoned vet who came out as somewhat of a surprise ace since he’s been lost in Colorado for three years. He’s not a star, but for a lower-budget team that didn’t expect one, he looks good and capable of leading a rotation. After that it’s a whole lot of promising youthful potential led by Wei-Yin Chen from Taiwan, who went start to finish in quality fashion as a rookie in America.

There will be a battle in Spring Training for those spots in the rotation. We know that Jason Hammel and Wei-Yin Chen have secured their roles atop. Miguel Gonzalez and Chris Tillman are likely to grab two of the others. That leaves Steve Johnson and 2011 All-Star Jair Jurrgens (along with everyone else) contending for that final starting spot. I’ve got no problem with that.

Should someone stumble or fall out later on, the Orioles have two of the best pitching prospects in all of baseball getting ready, Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman. Look for them to make an impact in September.

There is a lot of uncertainty with this group but there is nothing alarming or concerning. And for all the youth on the roster they have all gained big-game experience, have one of the league’s best coaches of young players, and all seem healthy heading into the season. And they have tasted winning, something that had been absent in Baltimore baseball for over 15 years.

Overall Grade: B

Pitching Depth: A-

Biggest Strength: Potential

Biggest Concern: Lack of experience