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.