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July 2, 2011

Orioles news, notes and opinions: Reimold, Scott, All-Stars, Wieters, Matusz, Viola, Atkins

As if the “Play Nolan Reimold Crowd” needed any more fodder, consider the following: Luke Scott, who has been primarily starting in left field while Reimold has been riding the bench, is hitting .203 with three RBIs (all on solo homers) since May 26. Reimold had three RBIs on one swing Thursday night and added another RBI later in the game. Obviously, the Orioles have learned over the last couple of years that Scott is one breakout game from starting a tour-de-force two-week stretch where he carries the club offensively. I see manager Buck Showalter’s temptation to put him in the lineup and give him every opportunity to get going. But how long can you really wait? The All-Star break is about a week away. Meanwhile, in Reimold’s limited opportunities this season, he’s provided four things that this Orioles team is desperately in need of: power, speed, quality at-bats and energy.

Speaking of Scott, the Orioles could have an interesting decision to make on the 33-year-old after the season. Scott will be entering his final year before free agency after having made $6.4 million this season. It’s hard to imagine that the Orioles will be willing to pay much more than that – and Scott isn’t getting a pay cut in his final year of arbitration – for a notoriously streaky player possibly coming off a bad year and likely coming off offseason surgery to repair a torn labrum in his right shoulder. Trade him, you say? I just don’t see a market for him. One, he stands to make a lot of money. Two, there is the shoulder issue; Three, there is the fact that most teams view Scott as a designated hitter so that greatly limits the interest there; Four, Scott’s streaky nature and struggles with runners in scoring position are well documented; Five, Scott isn’t the most well-liked guy in the game because of how outspoken he is on religion and political issues.

The consensus in the Orioles’ clubhouse is that the team will likely get one All-Star representative and it will come down to either center fielder Adam Jones or shortstop J.J. Hardy. It’s not that they have any more inside information on this topic than you or I, but it is interesting to get their perspective. The All-Star Game selection show, by the way, will be Sunday at noon on TBS, and Cal Ripken Jr. will serve as one of the analysts.

Speaking of the All-Star game, I kind of downplayed somebody’s post about not wanting young catcher Matt Wieters to play in the Mid-Summer Classic so he could get some rest instead. My point was that even if Wieters makes the team as a reserve, he’ll probably catch for two or three innings and get one at-bat, which wouldn’t be too taxing. However, the more I think about it, the more I agree with the poster (and I apologize for forgetting your name as well). To my eyes at least, Wieters looks a little tired right now. It hasn’t necessarily showed in his defense, but his bat looks kind of slow and the result has been a lot of rollovers and meekly-hit groundballs. Getting three full days off and not even thinking about baseball could probably do the big man some good.

Two things I liked hearing the past couple of days despite the losses:
1. Brian Matusz taking accountability for his demotion and acknowledging that he has a lot that he needs to work on, and Triple-A is probably the best place for him to do it at this point. Matusz obviously has struggled more this year than at any point in his life, and he may not have always said the right things. It can’t be easy for him. However, following Thursday’s demotion, he handled the situation with honesty and maturity, and I’m sure many members of the organization took notice. I know, I know, he needs to start getting people out. Very true. Well, Matusz wouldn’t be the first talented youngster to be humbled by a demotion, work things out in the minors and then come back a much better pitcher.

2. The Orioles taking accountability for their poor offensive performance last night against Braves starter Jair Jurrjens, who spun a complete-game, one-hitter. This may not mean anything to you, but it was slightly refreshing to not get the standard “Tip your hat to him” and “good pitching always beats good hitting” quotes. Those have been a staple of Orioles clubhouses for several years after falling victim to a good pitching performance. Sure, Showalter and the players were effusive in their praise, but they were also frustrated as heck because they felt that they missed too many pitches and let Jurrjens off the hook too easily. This may not mean anything if they don’t take their frustration out on veteran Tim Hudson tonight, but at least the whole fait accompli attitude wasn’t evident last night.

I got a lot of questions about why a guy like lefty Pedro Viola would get called up from Double-A before a veteran like Mark Hendrickson, who is pitching well in Triple-A, has had a long big league career and is often praised by young pitchers for his leadership? One reason obviously would be that Viola is the better fit for lefty-on-lefty matchups and that’s what he was needed for last night with the club trying to stay away from their other lefty reliever Michael Gonzalez, who pitched two innings Thursday. Atlanta had five left-handed hitters and one switch hitter in its starting lineup last night, so the more lefties at the Orioles’ disposal, the better. But the biggest reason is that the club knows that Viola may be in for a short stay, and the Orioles feel a little more comfortable shutting to a younger guy like him back-and-forth from the majors to the minors, rather than yo-yoing around a well-respected veteran like Hendrickson.

Why may Viola be in for a short stay? It’s pretty obvious that the Orioles are seriously considering bringing up a starter from Triple-A Norfolk to go Tuesday in Texas. It appears that their top choice down there is Mitch Atkins who is 2-2 with a 3.11 ERA for the Tides. Atkins’ next start for Norfolk is scheduled for Tuesday, but Showalter said yesterday that Matusz is expected to start for the Tides that day. Perhaps, Atkins will just get pushed back; or perhaps he will be starting Tuesday, but in an Orioles uniform against the power-hitting Texas Rangers. Showalter and pitching coach Rick Adair are also considering three internal candidates – Brad Bergesen, Jason Berken and Alfredo Simon – but Showalter’s admission yesterday that Viola could be in a short stay because the Orioles may need a starter Tuesday is certainly an indication that Atkins is getting serious consideration.

Posted by Jeff Zrebiec at 7:00 AM | | Comments (19)
        

Comments

Thanks for the report as always Jeff. Pretty depressing all around really. My only hope with Scott was that he'd have a good enough 1st half that maybe they could trade him before the deadline for more than an old rosin bag, but that didn't happen. I have no idea what they can do with him now, but he doesn't belong in the lineup.
I also agree with letting Wieters have the time off. He's been one of the few bright spots for the team this year, let him rest.
I'd probably just give Matusz's start to Bergesen, or Simon, but I guess at this point there's no harm in getting a look at Atkins.
It's still remotely possible that Buck can find a way to turn things around down the second half, we still have last years nearly miraculous finish to hang some hopes on, but it sure looks bad now.

Jeff I've been saying all year that they need to put Simon in the rotation. He has the best stuff on the staff and hits the mid 90's with movement all day long. Why waste him in long relief.

I'm not a Luke Scott fan and only for baseball reasons, I don't care if he's liked or not. Ty Cobb was the most hated player in the game during his time and he managed to have a pretty good career. My problem with Luke is his streaky nature. I'd much rather have a guy that was steady and could be counted on all the time. Luke is like playing the slot machines, so close but no cigar.

As far as Matusz is concern people need to keep in mind that the guy basically came out of college and into the pro's. Say what you want but this is a very difficult league and very few walk in and dominate. I think this will be good for him. Go down work your problems and get ready to come back strong. Matusz reminds me of Eric Berdard, head strong and resistant to suggestions on what he needs to change to get better. The time down below might be just what the doctor ordered for his arm and his head.

Jeff if i can find one fault with buck and there are probably more is he tends to stick with his veteran players way longer then he should. i guess the loyalty showed to them his good in some respects but this crap about a player having a track record can go over board. Look lets be honest the roster that this team came north with was flawed from the beginning. The signing of vlad might have looked good at the time but what it did was make luke a postion player again and take him out of what he did best DH.Speaking of flawed this whole organization remains flawed, i listened to palmer last night speaking about how atlanta does things and that they won't compromise themselves with there pitching staff. If you don't throw a certain way that they want you won't be around long on there team. Until this team can develop and maintain progress from the players that they draft they won't ever become respectable period.

Mr Insider .. Just thinking outloud here:
-- DFA Scott and see if someone bites on his contract. Seems like Fox could do what he is doing now and do it more cheaply.
-- How about Arrieta for ASG?? His 9 wins is a miracle on this team.
-- Mitch Atkins is AAAA material. How about a look at Steve Johnson??


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Jeff Z's reply: Agree about Arrieta but that 4.50 ERA will probably work against him. A lot of pitchers having really good years. Steve Johnson has had back-to-back good starts at Norfolk. I think the Orioles would like him to put together a lengthy stretch of solid starts before they call him up, but you never know.They aren't exactly overrrun with options right now.

Good point about that tip your hat to the opposing pitcher comment the 0's players trot out time after time. They seem to forget they are major leaguers too. My sympathy to you for having to comment about the team. They are only a few losses away from calling it a season already and only an injury ot 2 away from solidifying that season end. The offense is particularly diasppointing.same no clutch hitting find away to lose a game Oriole bunch.

Jeff, regarding the 5 reasons why it would be difficult to trade Scott, I definitely agree with the first 4 but have a question about #5.You say he isn't well liked because of his being outspoken on certain subjects, but my question is,have you ever seen him get on the soapbox and start espousing his views, or are they always in response to reporters questions?

...............................................................................................
Jeff Z's reply: Sure, I have. I wouldn't say that he's in your face about it, but he's happy to bring it up. But let me be clear about something: I think Scott is a good teammate and one of the nicest guys that you'll ever meet. He's always smiling, he calls you by name, he shakes your hand when you walk by, he's always accessible, he tries to help out other players. Last road trip in Pittsburgh, Scott was seated at the computer with Felix Pie going over at-bats with him and trying to help him out. But I think because of his comments - and some of the stuff shown or written about guns - the perception around baseball about him is different, and that wouldn't work in O's favor if they wanted to trade him. Again, that's just one reason of five or six, but to say, it couldn't be a factor isn't true.

I heartily agree with the idea that Reimold should be playing everyday. He has better command of the strike zone as a hitter and is an upgrade from both Pie and Scott.
I question the idea that Scott isn't well liked on the team or unwelcome on any team because of his religious and political views. Would he be more popular if he was outspoken on animal rights and green energy? I would think that his honesty would make him more liked and trusted, maybe he calls it like he sees it and prima donna players don't like that. Too bad, they get paid to perform, which many of them aren't.

This year just duplicates most years.

1. The Orioles refuse to trade guys who are hot (i.e., Scott last year) and instead hold onto them until they come back down to earth.

2. They can't or won't sign the big time hitter and a top pitcher to help stabilize those areas. Guthrie is not close to a #1 guy on playoff teams. He doesn't pitch deep enough into games.

3. They do same to pander to veterans, especially considering most of them haven't really earned that status (if it even exists). Scott, keeping Lee as #4, refusing to try different options at leadoff, etc.

4. Markakis is still an issue. You pay him $11M and he needs to provide power, something he hasn't done for a couple of years.

5. Are they continuing to buy high/sell low by thinking of signing Hardy long term? He isn't a .300+ hitter.

6. Complete disaster of developing young pitchers. They either get hurt or don't produce.

7. Brian Roberts has been an expensive disaster for 2 years now and he still is signed through 2013.

Basically the Orioles seem to have the same problems year after year. I kind of think they are making some progress but certainly haven't had any luck with injuries.

Except for some teams that don't even seem to try to win (KC, Pitt) there hasn't been a bigger failure in baseball. Even Washington has a .500 record (doubt that will last).

Of course many of the "solutions" that people rant about have been failures. What are Adam Dunn, Laroche, Uggla, etc. are doing?

Other than Palmeiro and possibly Tejada most of the Orioles big money spending have been failures.

At this point if at least 2 of the young starters don't start developing very soon, the team will be a complete disaster. If they develop then with Weiters, Jones and maybe Reynolds they might have something to work with but still have zero at 1B, DH, and LF.

They also need to play Reimold. Pie is nothing more than a 4/5th OF with no baseball instincts, not enough power or capability to get on base to be a starter, ditto for Andino.

Geez, this got too lengthy. Sorry.

Hi Jeff,

How can any major league organization manage to not only lose for 13{going on 14} years in a row, but still find itself almost dead in the water as far as progress at all levels is concerned? Frankly, the future does not look brighter than it did 2, 4 6, or 10 years ago

The team's young pitching prospects have now become suspects{what's new}, we are stuck with injured or aging players we can't trade, bad contracts, and the farm system is devoid of position players. How do the Orioles keep up the "groundhog day" appearance year in and year out? They seem to be proficient at maintaining ineptness at a high level.

Let's forget about Macphail at this point. Obviously he was the wrong man chosen to fix this mess. He has now become a footnote in what will one day become your best selling tell all book about this awful baseball organization

You said you might have to write a book to cover all of the issues and problems with this organization.

Jeff, if you wrote a "cookbook" on how best to screw up a major league franchise, what would be the titles of your first three chapters?

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Jeff Z's reply: Wow GIl, you never fail to amaze me with the creative questions.Off the top of my head, I'm not coming up with anything that matches your creativity. But you can bet one chapter would focus on Player Development, one would focus on Scouting, and the final one I guess would focus on spending wisely.

How can you beat a pitcher living on the outside corner? By hitting to the opposite field. All night long, O's hitters were trying to pull those pitches, and the results were predictable. The question is, why did they insist on playing into his hands?

Scott is the perfect example of, ":better to trade a player a year too early than a year too late." He hit homers last season, with a good average, and was less streaky because he actually used the opposite field some, but he was poor with RISP.

Markakis is fine if he produces his usual average near .300, OBP near .380, and 40+ doubles with 15 or so homers.

Gil, i just read that the texas rangers just signed a 16 year old prospect from the domincan for 5 million.Boston, tampa bay and oakland also were interested.That should help answer your question to jeff relating to how can a organization continue to be so bad. Gil andy should just bow out as graciously as he can because while the intentions might have been good the results were horrible, different era, different times wrong man for the job.

How about this for a reason for Viola over Hendrickson:

Hendrickson had just come off of the DL and didn't pitch well in his first outing back.

Other reasons:

Hendrickson has a pretty good track record here in Baltimore and most of it has been pretty poor.

Hendrickson doesn't throw 94-96MPH.

Iff Albert Pujols were a bible-thumpin', gun-totin' birther who was an otherwise great guy and teammate, would we turn him down? I think not.

Luke Scott is not hitting poorly because of his age and he is certainly not hitting poorly due to his nutty political views.. He is hitting poorly because of his sporadic playing time.

The Orioles have three guys playing two positions - left field and DH. With Guerrero stinking out the joint, there is no reason for Buck to play him, but not only does he do so, but he bats him at clean-up. Vlad should be pulled and Reimold and Scott should play LF and DH, in either order; i.e., whoever is best for the repective positions.

As there is no chance of getting any sort of decent return on Scott, we should keep him and play him and let him hit. In his time here, he has learned to hit lefties somewhat better, and he has always been able to hit righties. And with power, to boot.

One of the last guys on this team to be dumping on is Luke. Play him everyday and he'll be a solid 25-85 guy. Play him once a week and you get what you deserve. Dunno why Buck cannot se that. His refusal to bench Vlad shows intimidation on his part, and he needs to get over that in a hurry or he will lose the team.

Heck, it's obvious that Vlad doesn't even want to be here and is only here because nobody else wanted him, so what's the big deal in benching or releasing him? Again, Scott and Reimold should be in the lineup at DH most days, not Guerrero.

Jeff: Thanks for writing the points about Luke Scott's political views making him hard to trade.

Would it depend on where they attempted to trade him? I'll be honest, I am an Obama supporter like many Baltimoreans and would like him out of town. But the feeling might be different in Texas, Houston ... (actually, I just realized there are fewer teams in red states than I thought, trying to run down the possibilities.)

Anyway, what do you think: Would there be a pro-birther premium for him in, say, Houston?

...............................................................................................
Jeff Z"s reply: Honestly, I think Scott's political views and outspoken nature is the least impactful of the five reasons I listed to why he could be tough to move. I think there are some teams that would obviously have some second thoughts about acquiring him, but if he is healthy and hitting, I think they'd take that chance. But he is neither healthy or hitting right now.

My eternal optimism went away in one at bat tonight. I am so po'd about the last out of this game I can't see straight. Felix Pie pinch hitting for Nolan Reimold against a 98-mph closer just because he's a lefty? I just lost all respect for Showalter. Andino pinch hitting? Really? Come on man! As soon as Pie was announced I knew the outcome. Markakis gets three hits, and gets a 3-1 count when they need him and can't deliver. I understand lack of talent but everyone is starting to get into the act of a losers mentality.

Pinch running Guthrie? Silly. How about showing some faith in your players and not pinch hit for them instad of trying to impress us with your game knowledge? I know Reimold pinch hit for Scott earlier. But after Scott butchered that ball before, I would have taken him out then.

I'm rambling. This Pie to the plate in the 9th...who really thought he could have performed better than Scott?
I'm incredibly frustrated.

Guys have to look around locker rooms every day at teammates who have done steriods when they didn't , do drugs or go out and get hammered, abuse or cheat on their wives, ignore the coaching staff and so on. These are far bigger issues than if someone is liberal or conservative on a professional sports team. No one gives a damn about Scott's political beliefs when it comes down to it and none of you should either.

If you liberals had your way, anyone who disagrees with you should be run out of town on a rail, never be in an Orioles uniform and could only play for teams in "red states". If you were told that 12 of the players on the team were "birthers" you'd want them gone because of your intolerance. Unless of course I told you that those 12 players were Pujols, Cano, A-Rod, McCann, Bautista, Ellsbury, Verlander, Halladay, Lee, Reyes, Braun, and Sabathia. What would you do then if you found out they felt that way - would you not want them on your team too?

You liberals can pick a baseball team based on political beliefs. Any GM and manager just wants the best players they can get. Criticizing Scott over his statistics - fine. But get over yourselves.

For better or for worse, every player on that team is fighting to win baseball games and between the chalk lines, political leanings don't mean squat. Any who played a team sport knows that. And it especially shouldn't matter in a professional sports setting. They're paid to do a job no matter who is in that locker room with them. They don't have to like each other - just give each other respect as professional baseball players. That's it.

In this nation, conservatives outnumber you liberal idologues. We just don't whine and complain so loudly when we deal with someone we disagree with. Despite what you think, conservatives do fine work in many career fields INCLUDING BASEBALL. Take your act somewhere else and judge people on their performance and actions, not their political beliefs. You can see right now where putting liberals in charge instead of the best people is taking our country but you'd rather fail than have a conservative around. How stupid is that?

It's time for the "Trade Luke Scott because he's a birther nonsense" to stop. How about trading him because he's hitting .220 and is blocking Reimold? Isn't that a tad more reasonable or don't you liberals get that?

Mark H: There's conservative, and then there's deny-reality, offensive-racist crazy.

I doubt there's a fan alive who would turn down a great player because of how he feels about taxation policy. Considering what baseball players make these days, of course they need to stand for the party of no taxes on the wealthy.

Would you want a modern day Ty Cobb on your team? An open racist, yet a great ballplayer? I would say no; I would rather root for a team without Cobb, if I have to watch him nearly every day. You may disagree.

Scott is in Cobb category for me. I'm not sure how many other ballplayers in the entire major leagues are. If they feel that way, at least they keep their mouths shut.

Mark,

I wonder how you would feel if Scott had a male partner who wanted to adopt a child and spoke out for same sex marriage?

By the way, it is important that teamates like each other and enjoy playing together. I'm not saying that this is the case with the O's, it's probably not. But, it is meaningfull from a human nature standpoint to enjoy the environment in which you work and play.

And right there Section 34 and Jay made my argument.

1) Section 34, you assume that because Luke Scott questioned the birthplace of Obama that he is a racist. How do those two connect? You have not one shred of proof he is a racist but you just casually say something so cruel and insulting like that. I dare you to right now to prove what you just said. Go to Luke Scott's face and call him a racist. Let's see it. I'm sure the Baltimore Sun would love to write that article.

As for Ty Cobb, it's a far different era and an irrelevant point. Good lord, baseball wasn't even integrated back then and unfortunately that type of attitude was far more prevalent and accepted in society. Wake up - society has changed over 90 years!

2) Jay, I don't care. I have a close family member and many bisexual and gay friends. I DON'T CARE. Whether I agree or disagree with people's lifestyles, I look at the person. And in that case, if the guy can help the Orioles win a championship I don't care about something like that. At least 10% of our society is gay which means there are many gay professional athletes in hiding and I wish they could come out but they don't want to rock the boat in their locker rooms. That is their decision and a whole other discussion.

Where is your post about driving Kobe Bryant out of the NBA for what he said? Oh, that's right - Kobe's a superstar and you don't know if he's a conservative or not. Can't criticize someone who might be your side.....

No one wants racists, cheaters, wife abusers, druggies, criminals, and like on our favorite teams. But I bet they are there and we'd be surprised if we could keep watch on every athlete 24/7.

The intolerance is on your side, not mine and you two just proved it. Thank you very much.

FYI - this was just put up on ESPN.com:

Atlanta pitcher Jair Jurrjens, a first-time All-Star and a native of Curacao, said the Arizona politics were not a concern to him.

"I don't try to think about stuff I don't have control of. They need to do what they need to do to make it safe for the people. If they need to do that under the law, everybody knows a lot of people do bad stuff and they're just trying to be safe," he said.

Guess you guys don't want him here - he's not a liberal. Brilliant.

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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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