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February 17, 2011

Atkins sidelined, Guerrero unlikely to play outfield, Riske impresses

As I mentioned earlier, many of the Orioles, including manager Buck Showalter, are participating in a charity golf tournament today, which was organized partly by reliever Jim Johnson. So it was a shorter and quieter day than usual.

Nonroster invitee Mitch Atkins has been sidelined with a left oblique strain. Atkins was a long shot to make the club coming in, and this obviously won't help his chances. Rule 5 pick Adrian Rosario was sent home for a second straight day because of a virus. Showalter said Rosario is feeling better.

Starter Justin Duchscherer, who went home early yesterday because he was under the weather, threw a bullpen today and came through fine. Rehabbing pitcher Luis Lebron also threw his second bullpen and was much crisper than he was in his first Tuesday.

Another nonroster invitee, David Riske also continues to impress. The well-traveled veteran threw another bullpen today, and it went pretty much like his first. "I'm a little surprised he's as far along as he is," Showalter said.

Vladimir Guerrero was in the clubhouse again today, though the Orioles still haven't announced that the deal is official, meaning they are still waiting on results from his physical. If he passes, Guerrero will speak to the media Friday afternoon. Showalter spoke to Texas Rangers manager Ron Washington last night to compare notes on Guerrero, who doesn't want any special treatment during drills. Showalter did say it's unlikely that Guerrero will play the outfield in any Grapefruit League games.

And finally, Showalter didn't rule out that the final bench spot goes to an outfielder, which could be good news to the trio of Nolan Reimold, Felix Pie and Randy Winn.

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Posted by Jeff Zrebiec at 11:41 AM | | Comments (15)


Jeff, do you think that the organization would trust Jake Fox as the primary backup catcher? If that's the case, I think it increases the likelihood that a 5th outfielder makes the team as opposed to a backup infielder. If Fox is on the roster, he can serve as insurance on the corners as well, eliminating the need for a second backup infielder.

Jeff Z"s reply: I think he could get the backup catcher job, but I think Tatum is the favorite and Fox is more likely to make the team as a 3rd catcher/OF and infield reserve.

I know this was one of the last pieces of the team to come together, but Jeff is anyone starting to talk about how impressive this bullpen can be? If Riske makes it, you got him plus Koji, Gregg, Berken, JJ, Gonzalez (healthy), all closers and lots of competition for the 7th spot.

Jeff Z's reply: Yes, if healthy, that's going to be a deep, talented and versatile group. But I think people are a little cautious because health has been an issue with so many of those guys.

Why are we still mentioning Reimold's name in the mix for the outfield spots that will be occupied by Pie and Winn? Reimold will play the 2011 season at AAA. If he isn't traded we may see him in 2012.

Haven't the Execs learned by now that the name "Atkins" is part of simple equation:

If A+B=C then
All players named Atkins + Os = Injuries

Jeff, I wanted to comment on your piece about the O's farm system. Good job on it. The Orioles have gotten some criticism recently in the national press regarding their moves (see Keith Law), and I think these have been overdone. Maybe it balances some of the uncontrolled optimism of local fans, but I still think Law in particular didn't do his homework on the team as stands.

But the criticism of our farm system is completely warranted. Local media has hyped our prospects for years, and indeed now is the first time that we have legit prospects breaking into the majors with success. But all along, our prospects have been either over-estimated or one level deep in the system. Considering the good draft pick status the team has had for years, this should not be. Maybe we're risking too much on high school players. Maybe the coaching is bad in the minors, and players aren't developing like they should. I don't know the answers, but the question needs to be addressed.

Maybe scouting and minor league coaching needs culling. Joe Jordan has improved things some, but the fact that we have no legit prospects after Britton means he has failed at his job. I hope that Buck can have some serious impact on this part of the organization.

If A+B=C then....
Anyone named Atkins+Os=Injuries

Random baseless thought: Hasn't this physical thing been going on somewhat long with Guerrero? It took him a while just to take it, due to scheduling issues beyond everyones' control, but now it's dragging out. In the back of my mind, one can't ignore the fact that Vlad has had lower back and hip issues in the past. So, is there a chance that there's more to this story than what's ostensibly seen? Is there any chance that he might even fail the physical? I can't remember the last time that even happened for an Oriole signee, much less one that has this much importance tied to it.


Jeff Z's reply: Of course, there is a chance. This is the Orioles we're talking about after all, and Guerrero is an aging player with bad knees. However, I don't get the sense that anything is wrong. Guerrero was still taking part of his physical today. Also, if you look at the Orioles' other signings this spring, they didn't become official until about 48 hours after the physical was taken.

Z Man,
really enjoying your coverage from camp.

I'd be very surprised if Pie doesn't come north as the 4th OF.

Jeff Z's reply: Yes, only way I see him not coming North with the Orioles if if he's traded, but that's just my opinion.

Pie is the only outfielder other than Jones who can handle CF. If he doesn't make the final roster, we better have somebody in AAA who can plug the hole when Jones goes down with injuries.

Hopeless Fan, while the prospects during the Hayden Penn/Daniel Cabrera/John Maine/Matt Riley years were certainly overhyped by local media as a result of being the best of a very, very bad bunch, that really hasn't been the case in recent years. Josh Bell, Chris Tillman, Matt Wieters, Adam Jones, Zack Britton and Jake Arrieta were touted as top tier prospects by the local media because that's exactly how they were regarded by national baseball observers. All of those guys made Baseball America's Top 100, many in the top 20. We weren't hoodwinked into believing these were top prospects; they really were top prospects. Now, that doesn't guarantee any degree of success for them, and I like many have varying degrees of trust in each of them, but that's no different than the reality for prospects on any team. The overwhelming majority of BA's annual Top 100 turn out to be busts or merely marginal major leaguers. If that wasn't the case, there'd be enough great players to have 60 MLB teams.

@ Eddie in NYC


Ya Bore Me and I am Jussayin!

Hopeless Fan,
I believe for the past two years the O's farm system was ranked 7th and 8th by Baseball America. But take a look at the current O's roster, that's where all of those prospects went. That, and using 4 young pitchers(3 minor leagurers) to acquire JJ Hardy and Reynolds.

When they are talking about the O' minors being unbalanced. There is a lack of AAA prospects this year, but there is also another wave of guys who played most of last year at Frederick coming up through the system as the next big wave. In that group and those that played at Delmarva and Aberdeen there is another wave of real talent that is two to three years away.

Many of the O's signings this winter were to provide organizational depth at the AAA level. Many organizations are known for packing their AAA roster with those so called AAAA players. Guys that have had a cup of coffee in the majors, but haven't stuck and are minor league FA's.

Billy Rowell is the last #1 pick that has not moved up through the system as expected. I like Billy, I think he was promoted to Frederick too soon and he really struggled there his first season, and it really set him back, last year he had a solid, but unspectacular season.

If he's have been drafted as a junior out of college, and put that up as a first year guy at advanced A ball, it would be considered a good first year. Since he was a 4th yr pro that came out of HS he's regarded a bust. He's still young, and it could come together for him, I'm hoping he catches fire this year. He's got a big frame and is a LH hitter, not someone you give up on early.

Hobgood appears to have been pitching with a sore shoulder and is now receiving treatment and is addressing conditioning concerns. Other then that the O's picks have been very solid.

In the past 3 years the O's have been amoung the leaders in awarding signing bonuses to draftees. They have certainly stepped up in that regard. They do need to do something proactive internationally to improve things, they just seem to be a system devoid of international talent. And it hasn't changed much in McPhail's tenure.
That's a failure they've got to address somehow.

There's where I disagree with Law, he said the O's should have taken the 8m spent on Guerrero and spent it on international signings to bolster the organization. I think the value of having Guerrero be the face of your team can have a big effect internationally. In fact I hope the O's double down on Vlad and bring him back next year.

Having Vlad hit his 500th HR as an Oriole can only help in Latin America. If he maintains his current pace he should be in the chase for 500 in 2012.

The O's minor league development had fallen into disrepair, somewhere the "Oriole Way" got lost. It's not an easy fix and the O's really have drained their upper levels of prospects the last two years. But all and all McPhail's made progress.

Jeff: Not sure you're still reading these, but if so:

What happens if Guerrero fails the physical? In most cases the team would do what the Giants did with Elmer Dessens, claim that the contract didn't work out and walk away quietly. That's not possible with Guerrero.

Is it possible they would renegotiate a smaller contract? Or would they just let him walk? If so, would he sue?


Is Riske being considered for long reliever, possible 5th starter, or both? And if he doesn't make O's roser out of spring, do you sense he would be OK in Norfolk or would he sit out?


"Is Riske being considered for long reliever, possible 5th starter, or both?"

He's started a grand total of zero games in his 11 year career. Good question though.

Jeff Z's reply: No, but he's very much being considered for a bullpen role.

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About the bloggers
A Baltimore native, Dan Connolly has been covering sports for 14 years, and baseball and the Orioles for 10 seasons, including the past six with The Sun. His first year covering baseball on a daily basis was Cal Ripken Jr.'s final season as a player. It's believed that is just a coincidence.

Steve Gould is an assistant sports editor for The Sun, overseeing Orioles coverage. The Columbia native joined The Sun as a sports copy editor in 2006 after graduating from the University of Maryland.

Peter Schmuck has been covering baseball for a lot longer than Steve Gould has been on this earth. He is now a general sports columnist, but has been a beat writer covering three major league teams (the Dodgers, Angels and Orioles) and also spent a decade as the Sun's national baseball writer. If you want more of his insight on the Orioles and other sports issues, check out his personal blog -- The Schmuck Stops Here.

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