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April 18, 2011

Orioles news and notes

I’m not sure how severe Chris Jakubauskas’ groin injury is, but bringing up another left-handed reliever in Clay Rapada makes a lot of sense during this home stand. First of all, Michael Gonzalez is really struggling, making it tough for manager Buck Showalter and pitching coach Mark Connor to trust him right now in a tough spot. Second, the three teams that the Orioles play over the next 11 days – the Minnesota Twins, New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox – are absolutely loaded with left-handed hitters so having two lefties in the bullpen could be crucial.

Rapada signed a minor league deal with the Orioles in January and is not on the 40-man so the Orioles will have to make a 40-man roster to accommodate him. I don’t like speculating on who could be jettisoned, but all it would take is one glance at the roster and you’d see a couple of people that have fallen down the organization’s depth chart and would probably be viewed as replaceable. Also, I don’t have any inside knowledge on this but another option would be transferring injured starter Justin Duchscherer (left hip strain) to the 60-day disabled list. Duchscherer’s DL-stint is backdated to March 29. If he’s transferred to the 60-day, that would mean he’d be eligible to come off during the weekend of May 28-30. That seems like a long way off, but the reality is Duchscherer isn’t even throwing from off the mound yet and he barely pitched this spring. So even when he starts throwing from the mound, he’s still going to have to make a bunch of rehab appearances. Again, I don’t know if that’s what the Orioles will do to free up a 40-man spot. But it is an option I’m sure they are at least considering.

A couple of minor league injury updates: Single-A Frederick right-handed starter Bobby Bundy left his outing today with right forearm soreness. However, Orioles Director of Player Development John Stockstill said that they don’t believe the injury to be serious and as of now, they expect Bundy to make his next start … Double-A first baseman Joe Mahoney still hasn’t been able to pass all his physical tests to return from a quadriceps strain and now it appears that he’ll be out until late this week.

And finally, just a quick rant from me: I’ve seen several blog posts on this and I’ve also received a handful of emails criticizing Derrek Lee for being indifferent and playing with no intensity, and essentially alleging that he’s just in Baltimore to collect one more paycheck. Lee obviously is not getting the job done right now as he’s hitting .212 with two RBIs in 14 games. Complaining about his play is understandable, but the criticism about Lee not caring and just going through the motions is ridiculous. The guy spends hours before the game in the video room studying the pitchers that he is about to face. After spending his whole career in the National League, these pitchers are mostly unfamiliar to him. He also took plenty of accountability yesterday. Asked about the offense’s struggles, he said, “Me sitting in the middle of the lineup and not getting on base doesn’t help anything.” Lee is an intense guy who takes pride in performing up to his standards. Just because you don’t see him whipping helmets and carrying on in the dugout doesn’t mean he doesn’t care and he’s just going through the motions.

Posted by Jeff Zrebiec at 6:30 AM | | Comments (35)
        

Comments

Hey Jeff,

Thanks for the back chat on D. Lee. If you watch him flip his bat in disgust everytime he strikes out, you know it's not that he doesn't care. It seems to me tht NL hitters have a harder time adjustign to the AL than vice versa- wouldn't expect to see too much out of reynolds and Lee until after they've been around half a season or so.

Also, quick question. A lot has been written and suggested about Vlad being to blame for impatient ABs up and down the lineup. How much responsibility does he really have for that. Granted that he'll swing at anything anytime, but it seems to me that this has been an ongoing problem with the Oriole hitters for a few years now- Adam Jones and Luke Scott in particular. Any insight??

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Jeff Z's reply: I'm not buying the theory that because the other hitters see Vlad doing it, they feel like that's the way to hit. These guys have been doing it along time. Did Adam Jones' style change this year because he watched Vlad for a month of spring training? Did Derrek Lee who has always been a tough out decide forget that, "Vlad is swinging at the first pitch so I'm going to do it." I'm not buying that. The Orioles have a group of free swingers and boom-or-bust guys in their lineup right now. And two guys who are normally patient in Brian Roberts and Nick Markakis appear to be pressing right now and are being overly aggressive to try to produce. I do think everybody is way too over anxious to hit a home run, and everybody is pressing to get an extra-base hit rather than just getting on base. Everybody knew what they were getting with Vlad who has swung at everything his whole career and will probably be in the Hall of Fame. However, I did see the stat the other day that Vlad is even swinging at way more pitches than even usual.

Maybe Lee is trying but he isn't getting it done. He is not alone, as the 3-4-5 stats for O's batters are awful. Some sort of lineup change needs to be done to shake it up.

Jeff, in your last blog, you mentioned how bad covering this last road trip was. Certainly in the last number of years, the O's have stunk up a road trip or two (or more). Maybe expectations were higher for this trip but I curious as to what made this one so horrendous.

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Jeff Z's reply: Yeah, I'd have no problem with a lineup shakeup. My issue was with the criticism that Lee doesn't care or isn't trying hard. That's nonsense. As for the road trip, it was a combination of things, most of them you and the rest of the readers wouldn't care about. But you are right, I've covered plenty of winless O's roadtrips in my career. But this one was particularly tough to watch, perhaps because they had been playing so well 7 to 10 days ago and they looked so awful and flat over the last week. Throw in the awful weather, the two-hour delay on Saturday, along with the postponement on Tuesday, and it added up to a horrendous road trip.

Nicely stated about DLee Jeff. Let's all remember that is still April and if the O's finish .500 this month it would be consider a success! Once everything starts to come around the O's will be in good shape!

Jeff you are way closer to the orioles then most fans are and have extensive knowledge on what players are and aren't doing in between games. But i will still stick to what i said yesterday about both Vlad and Lee not being in demand in the off season. The orioles once again had no choice but to sign them because the fans would have revolted if management didn't make some attempt to build off of last years resurgence. Caring and not be able to perform at age 35 and 36 years old are two different things and so far both of these 2 guys have stunk up the field.Vlad has to prove to me that he can still play after that second half swoon in texas,and if i remeber correctly nobody wanted lee.

It's been cold, and some hitters don't seem to hit well in cooler weather, especially on the road (there must be a study on this. Where's Bill James when you really need him?). One thing that has impressed me is Lee's defense. He's been snaring throws in the dirt (and there seem to be more of them) with great efficiency.

Jeff i am not going to get into a argument on whether lee cares or not because you have way more axcess to the orioles then any of us fans. However there is no denying that neither one of this players were in any kind of demand by other teams in the off season.They signed with the orioles because we were the only team paying them that kind of salary. Now you can tell me all day long how much he cares but i am still sticking to my theory until proven wrong that these players didn't want to come here and at age 36 need to prove that they are still capable of performing at this level. After vlad's horrible second half in texas and lee coming off thumb surgery they have so far stunk up the field. Playing for a contender and just thinking you have a chance is completely different then playing for the orioles that have no chance. Making 8,000,000 and 7,500,000 are great salaries compared to none or minimal salaries with incentives.


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Jeff Z's reply: I've never argued that point. It was well documented that neither Vlad or D-Lee had an abundance of suitors, The Orioles offered the most money for Vlad obviously. There was one report that the Padres outbid the O's for Lee, but I don't know if that was accurate or not.

Agreed on the D. Lee stuff.

No one is hitting... why is D. Lee getting torn up?

About the only way to move Lee out of the 3 hole is to drop Markakis there, but then who bats 2nd? And don't anyone say Adam Jones, because he looks the most clueless of anyone right now.

Bottom line is this offense will get going. D. Lee didn't have a spring training. He is a good hitter and will come around. The only players this team should truly be concerned with as far as production are Reynolds (who has shown he can't hit above .200 in a season) and Vlad (who I believe will come around, but was not very good in the 2nd half last year).

This team will hit, but it sure will be painful when they don't because our pitching is being exposed.

Jeff, we all know professional sports is a strange business. Mental atitudes can change in a heartbeat. The Orioles are down right now and all of their deficincies are magnified. Lee, for example, is not a guy to rant and rave, scream and holler. He is a solid professional with quiet intensity. Same with Guerrero, Roberts, Markakis, Jones, Wieters, Scott, and probably Reynolds and Hardy.

When you're losing, you are not relaxed, you try to hit three run homers all the time, even if no one is on base, and the pitchers all think they have to throw a no-hitter just to avoid a tie.

That Roberts and Markakis are pressing comes as no surprise, they've been through this before and, like many of us, feel that this is much better Orioles club that what we've seen in the past. So, when things go awry, it's easy to worry.

Back in my radio days, which lasted in various forms until 2003, I covered the '83 and '88 Orioles. They both suffered long losing streaks, but the '83 club, even during two seven gamers, always felt they would come out of it. They knew they were better than that and there was always that confidence in the room.

The '88 team knew they were terrible and there was no feeling of hope, just the inevitable.

My hope now is that the '11 Orioles realize that this is just a blip on the radar, that they have a decent team, and they will snap out of it. Remember, this is the same team that went 6-1. I believe the real Orioles are somewhere in between. No one likes losing, and as long as they can stay on an even keel and keep their confidence, they'll be OK.

Easier said than done, I know, so all I can say is, keep the faith, my brothers and sisters!

Lets be honest this losing will not last. I refer anyone to the MLB.com game tracker. Every single one of our top hitters are getting blown away in the center of the plate. I don't know about any of the other fans, but these guys are professionals they wont bat under 200 from pitches right down the center for the entire season. If people keep pitching to Vlad and DLee the way they have been, both could hit 40 homeruns. These games so far just affirm our understanding that this team could win more than 80 games, but not 90. I also find it really strange that the performance of the team just dropped off when hardy went to the DL.

The Orioles just need to take a brick by brick approach, one game at a time.
Derrek Lee’s defense has been brilliant. His reflexes look to be there. If he can play defense at the level he’s playing, I see no reason why his hitting can’t catch up with the rest of his game. As for Vlad, he had a strong spring, that’s why I am a little surprised that he hasn’t done better then he has. One reason being he’s not seeing a lot of fast balls.
They are throwing garbage up there and he’s swinging at it. I don’t think his skills have deteriorated. 1.) He just has to stop swinging at garbage 2.) He needs to see more fastballs and that will only happen if those around him start hitting the ball better. I think Showalter has to give in and juggle the line-up slightly. Vlad CANNOT be lead off the inning. The Orioles need to do everything possible to prevent that. I don’t want solo home – runs. Even if Vlad gets on, I don’t him clogging up the bases. He just needs to be able to do what he does best, drive in runs and hit the ball as hard and far as he possible can. Unfortunately, he really hasn’t done that yet in the regular season
The bigger thing I find disturbing more so then fans going after Lee is the venom that seems to be showing its ugly head again. Fans/Bloggers are going after Peter Angelos and Andy MacPhail again. Look they did what they could to help improve the team in the off season. Andy finally went out and got new players after some coaxing I am sure. The infield is pretty solid if everyone stays healthy. I still think there’s some undercurrent floating around somewhere that we should trade for Michael Young and I just don’t know how he would fit into the Orioles. I had to sneak that tidbit in there. I do feel there is an undercurrent floating somewhere. If the Orioles were to shake up something, maybe it should be the Outfield.Pie made a beautiful play in CF yesterday. I would like to see more of him in CF. Just lay off of Angelos and MacPhail for awhile.

PS- The one thing the Orioles need to do is make sure opposing players that are struggling remain struggling. The need to have the confidence and put these bums away. If they are 0 for 23 then make 0 for 33. Or they just came off the disabled list, make them look like they should go back on, we can’t have these kinds of players looking like super stars when they aren’t.
And Go Tillman!

lee to me looks like he had rather be somewhere else than where he is, he shows no enthusiasm at all, he looks lazy and doesn't seem to hustle at all. how many first baseman have the o's aquired doing the off season over the years that have never amounted to a hill of beans, last year whatever his name is and some years back the birds gave an arm and a leg for a guy named Davis that wasn't worth the salt in his bread, in other words the o's just don't do good in trades or free agents they had better try to grow their own. to be honest I really feel the team the birds had at the end of last season with wiggenton, bell at third and that guy they had at first base he was a decent hitter and fielded his position real well(the one they called up from Norfolk after the season started) to replace the dude they aquired in the off season. hey look I think Buck is a fantastic manager but I don't understand why they had to go out and aquire all these use to be's and have been's. one more question do the o's have a hitting coach, where in the devil is crow, get him back quick before the ship hits rock bottom! one more comment today's ball players get paid way to much and we all know that, there is no incentive to play hard all the time and my bggest beef is they are babied way to much, a hundred pitches got to come out of the game what a joke, if they would have told warren spahn to come out he would have told them I'm just getting warmed up. I think the reason players get hurt so much they lift to many weights, my opinion is baseball players don't need to lift weights, way to many pulled this and pulled that! I'm still waiting for Reimold to show up in left field and become the dean of baltiimore! wishful thinking right!

Some of these posters go through the motions of thinking before they speak...

I'm not really worried about Lee, especially from the standpoint of approach and motivation. He might not be a 30 HR, 100 RBI guy anymore, but he's the least of our worries. He'll hit eventually, and his influence on others I can see as nothing but a positive.

Guerrero is a bit of a worry to me. he just doesn't seem to carry the presence he once did, and I think his unusual skill of bad-ball hitting requires so much hand-eye coordination that even a little age-induced drop-off could produce disastrous results. He's got to be a bit more patient than he is, I worry that he's starting earlier in order to catch up to heat that he could have handled easier - and with more patience - a few years ago.

In all, I think we have a middle-of-the-pack offense, and we'll begin to hit better than we are now. On offense, this year should really be about evaluating a few key players: Jones, Wieters, Reynolds, Pie, and (I wish... I hope at some point, perhaps with a Scott trade) Reimhold. With the other guys, we basically know what we've got, or they don't figure in our long-term plans enough for it to matter.

It's really about evaluating the pitchers this year. Tillman again tonight: c'mon Chris, show us something!

I think the thing people need to remember is that even if Derrick is just playing for the paycheck, he's also playing for next year's paycheck. To me he seems like a guy with a bit of pride, so I doubt he would tank it either way, and no one wants to be publicly humiliated through poor play... well no one except Manny. But I have occasionally gotten the impression, based purely on my gut instinct from hearing him in interviews, that he's not too thrilled about being in Baltimore. However, I don't think that's why he's batting poorly (his defense has been excellent). I think he's batting poorly for the same reason every other player on this team is, whatever that is. There's no reason to single him out.

I'm much more worried about Vlad. April is typically one of his best months. If this qualifies as his best the O's may have sacrificed some defense and blown $8 million. Also, it's worth noting that compared to last year Mark Reynolds is off to a blistering start.

agree about Lee..weren't the O's taking more pitches in spring training? how about Reimold? how is he doing? maybe an influx of a younger OF would help. we seem to retard development of younger position players .try him?

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Jeff Z's reply: Notice no difference in their approach in spring training to now. But most people swing away in spring training anyway. As fo Reimold, he's not exactly tearing the cover off the ball right now in Triple-A.

Didn't Eddie Murray get criticized for that kind of attitude. Lee has always looked that way, regardless of how he or the team is doing. How many errors has he saved at 1st base so far?

Jessie,

Snyder, Reimold, and Bell are batting a combined .248 so far.

And Reimold in 2010 in 453 ABs between AAA and the bigs hit .239 with 13 HRs.

You can't just call people up because you think they are going to be good. They have to prove that they are better than what we have. Unfortunately, even right now that isn't the case.

I saw Rapada in Sarasota and was impressed. Take a look at his spring stats. I think Gonzalez came north instead because of his big money contract. Keep an eye on Rapada. He may well out shine Gonzalez.

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Jeff Z's reply: Spring stats weren't all that impressive Dave. He had a 5.79 ERA in 10 outings and allowed six earned runs, six hits, three homers and two walks in 9 1/3 innings.

Wow. In one week we've gone from "In Buck We Trust" to "What the Buck?!" :)
If we don't start hitting, then this will get ugly real fast. I for one am holding out hope that a little home cooking will help prevent a 2010-esque pre-All-Star-Game elimination.

The problem with the Orioles is they are simply too young where they need to be older and too old where they need to be younger. This means losing season number 14. The first week sure was fun though.

This is why you DO NOT sign rejects from the NL because they have "Chicago Cubs" on their resume.

V-Mart or Dunn were far better options, but once again we took the cheap cheap cheap route, and now we are reaping what we sow.

Jeff,
Has there ever been a point during his Oriole tenure where Gonzalez has NOT struggled? I have a sneaking suspicion that he might be one of those players, who finds himself again after he leaves here. For whatever reasons, deserved or not, he's just never been able to get back on track. He was great with Atlanta, but ever since his herky-jerky delivery got booed off the mound into the DL last season, and then the subsequently revamped mechanics version of him since, he's just never been able to get into a groove. He'll probably be glad to turn the page once this season ends.

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Jeff Z's reply: He had a 1.76 ERA in his first 18 appearances after coming off the DL last year and a 2.78 ERA in 26 appearances after the All-Star break.

You're full of Soup Dorian G?
Adam Dunn on Adam Dunn.
http://espn.go.com/blog/chicago/white-sox/post/_/id/4342/dunn-i-feel-fine-i-just-stink
Plus, how's Dunn helping his bullpen out there in Chicago? As for Victor Martinez is batting .237 and the Tigers are 7 and 9. Do a little due diligence will ya before posting!

Jeff,

The second guessing and complaints always happen when somethng goes wrong - you hardly ever hear the positives if something goes right. And we have posters here who say we did things on the cheap. If we had Carl Crawford right now, and spent that money, imagine the comments we'd be seeing.

Lee is a pro with a good work ethic. I don't think he's done with his careeer just yet, so it could easily be the NL-AL adjustment, still recovering from thumb/wrist, or just a slump. I think he gets better. Same with everyone else. Sure, maybe 1-2 guys has an off-year, but overall I still believe that the hitters will start hitting, and that our biggest concern remains with starting pitching.

With that in mind, are there any possible trade scenarios you could see happening to bring a starter (veteran or AAA) to us at this stage of the season?

I fully expect the O's to move Duchscherer to the 60 day DL. If they go another route, that's fine, too, as Andy and Buck know more about this than we do. As for the lineup, whatever Buck thinks is fine with me. Go O's!

Jeff,

I think the Orioles are as unlucky now as they were lucky to be 6 and 1. In the early games the opposition was hitting rockets but mostly right at somebody. Now those balls are finding the holes. That's baseball. One constant is that throughout these early games the Orioles have not hit much at all, not when they were winning and certainly not now. It's a team slump, and they are contagious. Back when Earl Weaver managed, and the team slumped he used to say "what we need tonight is for our pitcher to throw a shutout and we need one run."

Jeff,

I haven't been able to watch much of the ab's, some due to being busy and also not being able to stomach it. It seems like 1 or 2 batters an inning are poping out to infield or very shallow in the OF. That seems to be an obvious sign they are trying to do to much and pressing. I think the majority has to do with 13 losing seasons makes everyone want to change it. The players as individuals want to change everything in 1 at-bat. I think it can be said both ways; The Yankees and Redsox have had so many winning seasons cause they are patient (and talented) or The Yankees and Redsox are always winning so they are more patient. When a team is winning they can be patient because they feel they are going to win wether they come through with a risp 2 out rbi or not. When a team has had 13 losing seasons it feels like if I don't drive this run in or hit a HR right here I don't know if we can win this game. That is where a losing personality and a winning one is so huge. Imagine if you were Nick or Brian, the thing you know most is losing. The Orioles record since 2001, roberts 1st season is 696-936. That takes only knowing how to lose to a whole new level. How do you take a team full of perrenial losers, or guys past their prime and make them winners?

Jeff,
I remember Gonzalez did well after the all star break last year but seemed to start this year much as he did 2010. Is that a coincidence? Is he always such a slow starter? Any idea what his off-season conditioning is like?

Also, why do you think Buck is sticking with Scott? Pie's average has been as good as Luke's ever is, just without the hrs. I've heard Buck is big into defense and Pie's defense would have saved the Orioles a couple runs against the Yankees in that tough loss. Pie is a guy who's never really had the chance to start in Baltimore, but shows flashes of brilliance.

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Jeff Z's reply: I don't know the specifics of Gonzalez's offseason workout regime, but it's interesting because before he got here, this was a guy that wanted the ball everyday and the bigger the situation the better. I'm not saying he's not like that anymore, but things obviously haven't played out like they did in previous stops.As for Luke, he has a history going through rough patches and then getting out of them and becoming one of the hottest players in baseball, a guy capable of carrying a team offensively for a couple of weeks at a time. He also was one of the Orioles' best hitters last year. Way too early to give up on him.

Thanks, Jeff, for another informative post.

I remember reading when we first signed Vlad that, as much of a free swinger as he is, he has a remarkably low strikeout/at bat ratio. It seems, though, that he is fanning much more than his average. Either that, or it just feels that way because so many Os are struggling and the offense has just been stagnant . Do the stats bear this out?

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Jeff Z's reply: Yeah, he's struck out nine times this year in 58 at-bats. Last year, he struck out only 60 times in 593 at-bats. The guy hasn't fanned more than 90 times since 1998. This is not a guy who strikeouts a lot normally.

The Orioles don't look that bad to me. The season has hardly got under way. Give the team a break. 6 and 8 playing in the conditions that they have been playing in isn't bad. Wait until they get some games under their belt. Before you start crying about making changes. And no Markakis has not been driving in runs so let him stay in the 2nd spot.

No team is as good as when it on a winning streak. And no team is as bad as when it is on a losing streak. We haven't won in a loooong time. And this is painful to watch. But getting on Lee is not going to help. I've been around long enough to see the fans even run Eddie Murray out of Baltimore. It has been like 15 games. What did you think this team was going to the platoffs?

Informative post as always Jeff. I agree there is no reason to unload on Derrek Lee or anyone else for not caring or not trying. I do wonder, however, at what looks like a lack of intensity on the part of the team. Do you think the team lacks or needs a "sparkplug" -- an Al Bumbry or Ricky Henderson type who is just bringing high-octane energy all the time?

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Jeff Z's reply: No, I think when you are losing, everything gets intensified. Guys are pressing, they're down that they are struggling, that the team is losing. Obviously every team looks real flat during an extended losing streak.

Is there any particular reason why Brummie has returned as one of his alter egos, "Dorian G?"
Readers of Roch's blog will recall that Brummie switched to that one during one of his timeouts. And now he's doing it here - proving that the kid will never grow up or make any sort of meaningful contribution to this blog. Lucky us

the birds or now 6and 9, come on Buck show me the beef, the 4th of july is coming

No, we don't see Lee throwing helmets or punching water coolers.

However, when he comes up with a runner on first base, we don't see him hitting the ball to the right side to advance that runner, either.

I said this in an earlier post: Is he too good to give himself up in that situation ?
It's his job. And it's ESPECIALLY his job while he's not hitting.

That's why Markakis should be batting THIRD and Jones should be batting second. Jones knows how to bunt and hit to the right side, and Markakis is our best hitter.

Lee should be batting sixth or seventh.

As for Lee playing with intensity or not..... I'm just looking at the results.
As a defensive first baseman, I think he's been outstanding.
As a third-place hitter in the lineup, I think he's failed miserably.

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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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