Orioles news, notes and opinions on Day 1 of All-Star break
Before I go any further, I want to do a little promoting, which is something I normally avoid so I apologize in advance. Even though the Orioles won’t have a game for three days, Dan Connolly or I will probably have at least one Orioles-related story on the site each day during the All-Star break. Coming later today is a nice feature Dan has written on All-Star catcher Matt Wieters, along with my Mid-Season Report Card grades on the Oriole players. We’ll also obviously look at the key storylines heading into the second half and review the disappointing first half. Check that stuff out, and we’d obviously love to hear any feedback you have.
Lost in all the talk of the hit batters and the contentious nature of the series was the fact that the ejection of Red Sox rookie pitcher Kyle Weiland was probably the worst thing that could have happened to the Orioles yesterday. At the time, Oriole fans and players probably were just glad to see somebody in a Boston uniform get tossed after Red Sox pitchers had hit four guys in a nine-inning span. But the Orioles chances of scoring runs were much better with Weiland on the mound than with Alfredo Aceves, who came in after the ejection and stranded men on first and third with no outs. Aceves went on to retire all nine hitters that he faced, four of them on strikeouts. Against the Orioles this season, he’s surrendered just one run and two hits in eight innings. You know things are going bad when an ejection of an opposing player doesn’t work in your favor.
While we are on the topic of ejections, that umpiring crew this past weekend made a couple of questionable decisions. No, they didn’t cost the Orioles any of the four games – nowhere close. What cost the Orioles is that their starting pitching was awful, they didn’t get enough timely hits, and they simply don’t have anywhere near enough talent right now to compete with the Red Sox or any of the other heavyweights in the A.L. East. With that out of the way though, I could use a good explanation for why Jeff Nelson’s crew handled things the way they did. The first problem I had is why were both benches warned after John Lackey drilled Derrek Lee in the seventh inning Saturday? Lee was the second guy that Lackey had hit a night after the whole benches-clearing incident to the Orioles’ none. I’ll let other people debate Lackey’s intent, but by warning both benches the way he did, he basically made sure that the whole conflict extended into Sunday’s game as well. I’m not advocating hitting somebody, but don’t you have to wait until a Red Sox batter gets hit until you warn both clubs? It’s like giving one team a free shot. The Orioles bullpen was taxed as it was and obviously they couldn’t afford to have one of their available relievers thrown out of Saturday's game. And then Marty Foster warning both benches yesterday after Jeremy Guthrie hit Kevin Youkilis with a changeup to load the bases for David Ortiz with one out in a tie game was even more curious? And that obviously led to the ejection of Weiland for hitting Vladimir Guerrero with a pitch that nobody felt was intentional. I understand umpires have pressure on them to control games because bench-clearing brawls are just ugly for the sport, but common sense should prevail.
I do find it a little ironic that the two Orioles being lauded for sticking up for their teammates and showing some fight after Kevin Gregg and Michael Gonzalez, who are probably Public Enemy 1 and 2 among Oriole fans. I wonder if their actions over the weekend will change any opinions.
This is more me thinking aloud than anything, but I’d have to think the Orioles’ front office is active with clubs trying to acquire one or two veteran starting pitchers. I’m not talking about a top-flight starter. I’m talking about a guy capable of pitching five or six innings with some regularity every five days. You just can’t keep running guys out there, and watch them get knocked out of the game after one or two innings. That not only kills your chances to win a game, but it makes your relievers susceptible to overuse and then perhaps injury. Like every year, the Orioles’ second-half schedule is heavy on American League East foes, and things aren’t going to get any better against the New York Yankees and Red Sox with the cast of starters that they’ve been using. I know finding quality pitching, especially in the trade market, is a lot easier said than done and I’m not advocating trading top prospects to get a No.4 or 5 starter. But I would think there are a couple of teams out there looking to dump some salary who may have a middle-to-back end guy that they’d be willing to move.
Showalter and pitching coach Rick Adair are going to have their hands full when the second half starts Thursday just coming up with available pitchers for the night. I say that because I’d expect both Gregg and Gonzalez will get suspensions later this week. They may appeal them, but at some point they are going to have to serve some sort of disciplinary action. Alfredo Simon is also leaving the team following his start Saturday to take care of legal matters. The Orioles also don’t currently have a fifth guy in the rotation unless you consider Chris Jakubauskas whose last start was skipped. That makes a lot of spots and roles to cover.
I wrote about this in the Orioles’ notebook in today’s paper, but I wanted to make sure it didn’t get buried because it says a lot about Mark Hendrickson and why the Orioles feel he is such a valuable guy to have in the organization. On the same day in which he learned that he was going back to the big leagues – a moment that he called the most meaningful of his career – Hendrickson spent some time with struggling teammate Brian Matusz. The two found a local YMCA in Durham, N.C., where Triple-A Norfolk was playing, and shot hoops for about 45 minutes. They then went out to lunch and Hendrickson dispensed some advice to Matusz, advising the young lefty to concentrate on getting his work in and just focus on getting better. Hendrickson also had lunch with Zach Britton during spring training after the young lefty was demoted to minor league camp. You can say what you want about Hendrickson as a pitcher, but there aren’t too many guys like him in this organization. He’s a class act and a total pro.