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March 10, 2011

Five Orioles who have helped their roster chances; five who have hurt them

If the rains stop, the Orioles (5-5-2) will face the Pittsburgh Pirates tonight at McKechnie Field. Brad Bergesen, Josh Rupe and Jeremy Accardo will pitch for the Orioles, while Paul Maholm will start for Pittsburgh.

We’re about a week and a half into the Grapefruit League season now, so I think it’s appropriate to look at five guys who have helped their chances of making the squad and five guys who have hurt their chances so far in camp.

FIVE WHO HAVE HELPED THEMSELVES
Nolan Reimold – Outfielder looking and acting like a completely different guy than he was all of last year. He’s running well and swinging a potent bat with a .320 average, two homers, six RBIs and four walks. If there is indeed a competition for the fourth outfield spot, Reimold has outplayed Felix Pie thus far.

Zach Britton – When camp started about 3 1/2 weeks ago, I figured the organization’s top pitching prospect had no chance to make the Opening Day roster. Knowing the Orioles don’t want to start his salary and service clock now, I still don’t like his chances. But at the very least, he has given the club something to think about with five scoreless innings, including three against the New York Yankees.

Jake Fox – Orioles manager Buck Showalter predicted that Fox would have a great spring, and the burly utility man has done just that so far, hitting .385 with three homers, three doubles and six RBIs. There are obvious concerns about Fox’s defense, and Showalter’s comment that the player is contending primarily for the backup catcher spot doesn’t appear to work in his favor. However, the guy runs into fastballs, and his versatility would appear to be an asset on the bench.

Ryan Drese – The 34-year-old journeyman has allowed one earned run in seven innings. He certainly had some luck last night as the Red Sox mashed several balls right at Orioles. But Showalter and pitching coach Mark Connor like him from their days together in Texas. Is he a very long shot? Absolutely. But that Showalter and Connor opted to get him a start, rather than giving it to another fifth starter or swing man candidate, at least says something.

Clay Rapada – In his first appearance with the Orioles, Rapada gave up a wind-aided homer to Lyle Overbay. But other than that, the submarine-style southpaw reliever, whom left-handed hitters went 1-for-19 against in the big leagues last year, has been pretty dominant, allowing just two hits in four innings while striking out four. At this point, it’s fair to say he has emerged as a front-runner for one of the two or three available bullpen spots.

FIVE WHO HAVE HURT THEIR CHANCES
Robert Andino – The talented but enigmatic infielder is having a spring very similar to the one he had last year, when he was designated for assignment after the addition of Julio Lugo. He’s hitting .158 and has been involved in several defensive breakdowns. Showalter obviously thinks there is something there, and hitting coach Jim Presley knows Andino well from their days in Florida. But the 26-year-old has to show much more.

Chris Tillman – If Justin Duchscherer starts season on the disabled list, I still believe Tillman will be the fifth starter. And he has pitched well at times, finishing his last outing against the Red Sox in good form. However, he has a 7.20 ERA after two outings and has surrendered seven hits, one walk and hit a batter in five innings. It’s way too early to make any determinations, though the fact remains that the young right-hander has been out-pitched so far by Britton, Drese and others.

Rick VandenHurk – VandenHurk is a great athlete and obviously has a good arm. He’s also out of options, which increases his chances of making the club. He has allowed two earned runs in five innings, which normally wouldn’t get you on this list. Those numbers, however, are a bit deceiving as VandenHurk has walked five batters in five innings and run up a number of other deep counts.

Jason Berken – You had to expect Berken wouldn’t be overly sharp early after he spent the offseason rehabbing his shoulder injury. You also have to give him a ton of credit for coming into camp in great condition. But he hasn’t pitched very well so far, allowing three earned runs, four hits and three walks in three innings. He also has an option remaining.

Nick Green – When the spring began, I had him behind Fox, Andino and Brendan Harris in the battle for the final bench spot. That certainly hasn’t changed. The veteran infielder is hitting .118. He has made two errors and easily could have been charged with two or three more.


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Posted by Jeff Zrebiec at 11:50 AM | | Comments (32)
        

Comments

Great post, Jeff, thank you for it. So often spring training coverage is all trees, no forest; i.e., Joe Shlabotnik went 2 for 4 today and Coach Smith said his defense has looked solid. This is great perspective.

Hey Jeff,

If Rapada makes the team, I trust it would be at the expense of Mark Hendrickson? Hendrickson seems like a good guy and is clearly a clubhouse-favorite, but we know what he can do, and quite frankly, it's not much.

I know Buck doesn't like to have a bullpen full of one-inning pitchers, but I think another lefty arm who can get lefties out would be a nice complement to Gonzalez. If we need to stretch a guy out for a couple innings, Berken or VandenHurk (assuming one of them makes the club) can fill that role more effectively than Hendrickson. Plus, Accardo looked good in two innings of work against the Yankees the other night.

So with Gregg, Koji, Johnson and Gonzalez locking down the first four spots, is Accardo/Rapada/Berken filling out the 'pen looking like a good possibility?

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Jeff Z's reply: Yes, I do. Assuming Koji Is healthy, I'd have to think that four spots are accounted for with Koji, Gregg, JJ and Gonzalez. I think Accardo is pretty close to having a spot locked down. That essentially would leave Berken, Hendrickson, Rapada, Riske and VandenHurk competing for two roles. I think Rapada and Berken would be the two frontrunners there. However, it wouldn't shock me if Berken starts in minors and Buck opted to go with Hendrickson or VandenHurk as his long guy.

Yeah i agree. Well done Jeff!!! This was just the info I was looking for.

The comment about Zach Britton with regard to salary and service time goes to show that the O's are not committed to winning!

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Jeff Z's reply: I disagree. I think most execs of other clubs would say that where the Orioles currently are, it wouldn't be wise for them to start the season with Britton in rotation

GOOD STORY BRITTON, REIMOLD, FOX,AND RAPADA HAVE DONE VERY WELL.. ALSO BELL, AND MAHONEY HAVE OPENED SOME EYES,MAHONEY SEEMS TO HAVE GREAT SPEED FOR SUCH A BIG GUY..I STILL HOPE WE CAN KEEP ANDINO FOR THIS YEAR BUT I REALLY LOOK FORWARD TO SEEING HOW BELL AND MAHONEY DO IN NORFOLK. I WOULD LIKE TO SEE BRITTON AND TILLMAN GET ANOTHER HALF YEAR IN AAA AND MAKE HIM DOMINATE AT THAT LEVEL TO EARN THEIR WAY BACK TO THE BIG LEAGUES. BERKEN LOOKS LIKE HIS COMMAND AND ARM STRENGTH NEEDS TO BUILD BACK UP. NO WAY TO KEEP ROSARIO I SEE. DRESE AND HENDRICKSON CAN BOTH BE LONG MEN. IF UHARA AND BERKEN NEED MORE TIME I THINK WE HAVE SOME PIECES WE CAN TRY. I WOULD LOVE TO SEE THEM TRY LIRIANO OR ZITO IF THE PRICE WAS RIGHT.. ANOTHER LEFTY STARTER WOULD NOT HURT IN THE AL EAST WHILE WAITING ON BRITTON AND BOTH THOSE GUYS HAVE HIGH UPSIDE AND RUMORED TO BE HAD REASONABLY. IF DUCH GOES DOWN I WOULD RATHER SEE ONE OF THEM THAN TILLMAN.. IT REALLY LOOKS LIKE THE BEST AVAILABLE GUY AT #4 THIS YEAR WILL BE A VERY HIGH COLLEGE PITCHER, POSSIBLY MURPHY OR COLE.

Please, no more "Lurch" Hendrickson, batting practice pitcher!

echoing the voice from section 34 - great post Jeff. It is great to see this kind of insight backed up by observations we can't get from Orioles Insider or the box score.

Did you consider Josh Bell for your "helped themselves" list?

thanks
Tom

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Jeff Z's reply: I think he helped himself by the shape that he came in camp. He's had a solid camp so sure, I considered him. But he's still been a little inconsistent.

What about Ryan Drese? Could he steal a spot in the bullpen if Berken gets sent down?


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Jeff Z's reply: I see him more competing for 5th starter spot, but he also could fall into swing/long man conversation.

Hmm, too bad about Andino. It seems whenever he gets to play in the majors during the regular season he plays above expectations. I hoped this spring he'd earn a spot outright. Care to give some more insight into his poor spring? Do you think his problems are due to bad attitude or bad luck, or just a slow start?

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Jeff Z's reply: Not sure how much more I can add. He hasn't hit too well and he's been involved in a couple of defensive miscues. Obviously, there have been plenty of attitude questions on Andino in the past. I don't get the impression he's causing any problems. He seems to be going about his business in a good way. He just has gotten off to a slow start offensively and for such a talented defender, he's still prone to both physical and mental mistakes defensively.

While he's not competing for a roster spot at this point, I'd love to hear a bit about how Joe Mahoney looks from someone who's been seeing him first hand. The numbers make it look like he's having a pretty dynamic spring, and getting more playing time than I would have expected for a guy that seemed to be a year or so off from seriously getting a look in camp.

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Jeff Z"s reply: I've been pretty impressed. He looks very smooth for such a big guy, nice fluid swing, very comfortable and smooth defensively. He slammed a ball in the gap last night and legged it out for a triple. I know he's made a great impression on coaches as well. He's also gotten more of an opportunity to play because of Derrek Lee's absence.

I have to believe that since Berken has an option remaining and he's not looking so sharp at the moment that Riske will inherit one of those two positions along with Rapada.

Good stuff Jeff.

What do you think they do with Pie if Reimold claims the 4th OF spot?
Or do you think they'd do something with Luke Scott?

I like Pie, but he hasn't proven he can stay healthy or be consistent.

Jeff, With Riemold off to a good start and Pie likely to make the club because he's out of options and he plays b/u center field, does Andino's slow start open the door to two b/u outfielders getting carried?

Fox's hot spring would seem to give him the leg up in the b/u catcher's job over Tatum. I just don't see how you cut a guy that's smoking the ball like he is. With Fox on the roster there would be the possibility to have him b/u the corner infield spots as well. So the O's could go with Izturis as the only infield b/u.

Wieters isn't great from the right side, so Fox gives Buck a chance to rest Wieters and match Fox up a bit. Tatum is the superior defender, but I'd be surprised if Buck goes with 3 catchers. If it comes down to Tatum or Riemold on the bench, I'd think you have to go with Riemold's bat.
To me Fox and Riemold's play are working hand and hand to give them both a shot at a roster spot.

Do you think it's possible that Berken goes to extended spring training and a possible rehab assignment to open the year?

What do you think the chances of Drese starting in the rotation at Norfolk? I'm kind of thinking that Buck likes him but would like to see him get more work.

I'm really impressed and think someone really did their homework with some of the less heralded offseason signings. Accardo, Drese, and Rapada. All three guys could end up making the club, though Drese is a longshot. What the O's decide to do with Berken would seem to factor into a Drese decision.

Nice reporting from ST Jeff, One more thought I'd like to hear your opinion on.
The 45 innings of work in three days seemed to be a real teast of the O's pitching depth. Based on this spring so far, how do you rate that depth as to compared in years past?

Depth seems much improved to me, we had guys getting outs against ML hitters that will be slotted at Norfolk and even Bowie. Some of these young pitchers have really impressed me.

We're actually talking about which potentially valuable pitchers to leave off the roster (Britton, Drese,Rapada, Berken?). Last year at this time, we were talking about which potentially ineffective one we'd have to include (Albers, Hernandez, Meredith, Ohman, VandenHurk?). I like it!

Help me better understand any reluctance to have Jake Fox as the back-up catcher. Aren't we talking about one game per week on average? Just how bad defensively is he? Doesn't having his bat on the bench account for a lot in terms of giving Buck pinch hitting options. At the same time, Tatum was often brutal last year in this role. When you only throw out 2 of 27 base runners AND your claim to fame is being a good catch-and-throw guy, doesn't that translate to liability?

Is Joe Mahoney destined for AAA even if Derrek Lee is not ready. He seems to be having a great spring, and looks like the real deal.

..............................................................................................
Jeff Z's reply: Actually, I think there is a good chance that Mahoney ends up in Double-A because the club may want Snyder to play regularly at Triple-A.

"obvious concerns @ Fox's defense" Why? How many errors this spring? How many last year? With the Cubs the second time he ever played third in a game was @ Wrigley and he did have a couple of E's doing OJT. This questioning of his defense is an urban legend that is not supported by fact.


...............................................................................................
Jeff Z"s reply: It is supported by plenty of scouts who have watched him play throughout his career. I haven't seen him play any position enough to to form an opinion. He really played sparingly for the Orioles last year. But it's fair to see that there are obvious concerns when that's the opinion of every scout I've spoken to.

Andino sucks, and Tillman is just another Hayden Penn. He'll run out of options before he's ready for the show. No way Tatum should make the club over Fox. His offensive capabilities far outweigh the defensive liabilities, and let's face it- he's hitting way better than even Weiters right now. Good to see Reimold back on track. I just don't see anything special about Pie. He still has a swing you can drive a dump truck through, and seems incapable of taking a pitch when there are men on base.

Tatum had a lousy caught stealing rate (7 per cent) last year, making Fox's 17 per cent look good, and he ain't much of a hittter. At what point does offensive ability at catcher sufficiently compensate for lesser defensive ability? If Reimold could only catch... Or play centerfield!

It looks like Reimold came to camp to win his spot and he is doing just that. I think that he and Pie will make the opening day roster. Mainly because of the uncertainty around D Lee. Luke Scott is lining up to get some ABs playing 1B, which makes the burden of caring a 5th outfielder lessened. Please I don't see how you can cut a guy like J. Fox who is tearing the cover off the ball right now. His versatility also gives deepth at the corner infield positions. So my bench would be Reimold/Pie/Izzie/Fox/Tatum.

Great post. My wife and I went to the Twins game yesterday and then got home to watch the split squad against the Red Sox. What a wonderful day!

One name that isn't getting mentioned and is not getting much playing time is Ryan Adams. He came in as a DH and had two hits (the second a long HR to left). Ryan has improved every year in the system and they had him playing 2B & 3B last year (I believe at Norfolk) where he hit around .300. He seems like a great candidate for 2B in another year. How is he thought of in the organization?

Mahoney is not looking overmatched at all. Great last at bat last night. Runs well and plays pretty good D. He will probably start at Bowie, but quickly move to Norfolk if he gets off to a good start.

Finally, Ed Smith Stadium is great and other than some poor defense it was a good day at the ballfield. Can't wait for the season to start against Tampa.


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Jeff Z's reply: They like Adams' bat, but the big question is can he play enough defense to be a big league regular. Most scouts I talk to have their doubts.

Great column Jeff. Re: Joe Mahoney, I saw him Monday and last night. Seems to me that he has lots of trouble with the off-speed stuff but is all over the fastball. Comments?

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Jeff Z's reply: I don't mind making general observations like he's athletic, has a pretty fluid swing. But I'm not really prepared to give an in-depth scouting report after 14 spring at-bats.

Berken will be fine. The O's ruined him to begin with moving him to the bullpen. but McPhail doesn't like any players who were here before him.No choice but to like like Nick and BROB. Same goes with reimold. mcPhila loves Pie over him.

Great stuff, Jeff!

Buck mentioned guys in the pen are going to have give him multiple innings so while I know the locks are JJ, Gregg, Gonzo, Koji, Accardo, I wonder if Drese is competing with Hendrickson for the swing man role if Drese doesn't get the 5th starter spot? It would be nice to not have to call someone up for a spot start here or there.

I think Nolan should make the team, but since he has options and Felix doesn't, I think he starts in AAA. I also think that may motivate him to make it impossible for the O's not to call him up at some point plus given how injuries are going to happen, I think if he makes the team, he wont give them a chance to send him down again so I don't see him not making the team as a negative.

Jeff,

I have two questions:

Does Rapada have any options left? Seems like he could be effective for the O's given all the tough lefties the O's have to face in the East?

I know Buck says Fox is going for the backup catcher role, but since he can play 3B, 1B, OF and C, wouldn't he fill the other utility role that Harris and Andino are vying for opposite Izzy? I would think Tatum, Fox, Izzy and Reimold or Pie would be the guys since Harris has an option and given the way Andino has played, I am wondering if someone will really grab him up?

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Jeff Z"s reply: No options for Rapada. Andino has passed through waivers and not getting claimed before, like last spring.

@Uncle Goose:

Good point! I like the way you think. But beware, you generally aren't allowed to say positive things around here, or the Thought Police we come down hard on you. That would be double-plus bad.


I can honestly say the
two biggest all time busts
for the Orioles.

Glen Davis

Albert Belle

Huge salaries, little
production and one big
attitutde.....

Hi Jeff,

With so many unanswered questions ahead of me, I don't think you'll get to mine, so I'll try to make this a statement post.

First off, thanks, you've done a nice job. Secondly, I hope Ballard is a call up sometime this year....not a bad spring, and another lefty. Third, Mahoney has the 'it factor', so it seems. He plays like a winner from the Orioles hayday. I saw him play last year, and boy, is it exciting to see him in an Oriole uniform. Fourth, Henderson had a decent spring, and that worries me. I also, like others above, am dreading his appearances; often I've seen him out pitch the competition in the spring, just to get mentally lazy during the season. I called him "The Cooler" last year......If he finally has turned it around (with the new staff), than I hope he proves me wrong! And lastly, I hope Tillman doesn't make the team, for I still believe he would benefit from another full minor league season.

...............................................................................................
Jeff Z"s reply: I think I've answered most of them ahead of you, but you didn't ask any questions. EIther way, good post.

Luke Scott history shows he is a streaky hitter who has 6 great weeks and 3.5 months of slumping at bat. This kind of player is a negative if played every day. I think he will eventually slump his way out of the starting LF job and be replaced by a platoon of Reimold and Pie. But if Lee remains injured, we're stuck with Scott at first base. Why aren't the O's getting Reimold some first base time as a hedge if Lee remains hurt?

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Jeff Z's reply: After trying him at first at different points last season, the Orioles don't believe that he can play the position.

Was at S. T. and saw Jake demolish a ball over left field fence. He can certainly hit the ball often and very hard.

My question is: what kind of defense does he play? My mind draws a blank. How does he throw down to 2B accurately? Can he play 1B?

Please respond.

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Jeff Z's reply: He catches, plays first and third and also can run out to the outfield like he did tonight. His arm behind the plate is fine. His mobility and range are the two negatives.

Jeff,

Thanks for the info on Fox. Hopefully, he can remain a power at the plate to go along with the already improved offense. Also hoping for Reynolds to have a good year power-wise.

Enjoyable read, Jeff.

On tonight's broadcast, Dave Johnson stuck his head in the booth long enough to give his opinion of Jake Fox. He said he thinks Jake has, for all intents and purpose, already made the team, adding that the pitchers like throwing to him.

I agree: Fox's versatility and his ability to consistently get extra base hits also has to be very appealing to Buck. I think he's as close to a lock as can be.

Anyone onboard here believe like I do: Britton will make the OD roster and is our future ace??

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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.

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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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