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August 16, 2011

A couple of observations from Orioles’ 6-2 win last night (UPDATE: Lebron DFA'ed)

The focus last night was obviously on the draft signing deadline and the Orioles agreeing to terms with top pick Dylan Bundy, along with second-rounder Jason Esposito and sixth-rounder Nicky Delmonico. Orioles Director of Amateur Scouting Joe Jordan said it best in a conference call late last night, when he proclaimed, “I don't know how the hell it could have been a better day."

The good sentiment reached out to Oakland where the Orioles erased a 2-1 seventh-inning deficit against the Athletics to win 6-2, taking back-to-back games for the first time since mid July. Because I’m sure much of your attention was on the draft negotiations and I think it’s time to talk about something else for a couple of hours, here are a couple of observations from the game.

Tommy Hunter certainly won’t wow you with his stuff. Last night, he took some lumps, allowing a career-high 10 hits, including four straight to start the second inning. With how hard Oakland was hitting the ball off him, I wondered if he would even get out of that inning. Not only did he, allowing only two runs in the process, he pitched gamely into the seventh. The more I watch him, the more I think that he could be a pretty solid starter for this club. Don’t misunderstand, I’m not suggesting he’s the guy who is going to go toe-to-toe with CC Sabathia and out-duel Jon Lester. He won’t send shivers up the spines of Yankee and Red Sox hitters. The Orioles still need a guy at the top of the rotation that will do those things. But I think Hunter will eat a ton of innings, compete hard, throw strikes and give the Orioles a chance to win on many nights. If he’s pitching near the back of next year’s rotation, the Orioles could do a lot worse. Now, they just need somebody to pitch at the front of it.

It really is a shame that with only a month and a half left in Michael Gonzalez’s career with the club, the Orioles are finally starting to see the pitcher that they presented with a two-year, $12 million deal, and the closer’s role. Gonzalez was nasty last night, retiring the potential tying run Hideki Matsui on one pitch to end the seventh, and then striking out the side on 12 pitches to turn in a scoreless eighth. Gonzalez, who threw 11 of his 13 pitches for strikes, completely overmatched Josh Willingham, David DeJesus and Brandon Allen with power stuff, prompting second baseman Robert Andino to say, “That’s how I remember [Gonzalez] from when he was with the Braves.” There’s probably nothing Gonzalez can do to salvage his Orioles’ career over the next month a half. However, he hasn’t given up a run in nine straight outings and in 14 of 15. Lefties are also hitting just .220 against him. I’ve heard nothing to support this, but it wouldn’t totally shock me if the Orioles moved him to a contender looking for a second lefty in their bullpen. They obviously wouldn’t get much in return, except maybe a month of salary relief.

First baseman Chris Davis’ ailing shoulder appears to be becoming a concern. The Orioles will have to make a roster move to officially recall Brian Matusz in time for tonight’s start, and manager Buck Showalter said that the decision could be influenced by the health of a couple of position players. I assume he was specifically referring to Davis, who didn’t play last night and continued to get treatment on his shoulder. You would think that the Orioles would demote a reliever because the starters the past two games have gotten relatively deep and they have an off day Thursday, but if Davis is going to miss some more time, it might make sense just to put him on the DL and allow his shoulder to calm down.

Quietly, Matt Wieters had a nice game last night, hitting an absolute bomb for a solo homer to center in the second inning, hitting a liner to the wall in right in the fifth and then drawing a key walk in the Orioles’ decisive four-run seventh. The homer was his first since July 17, and he also threw out a runner stealing for the first time since July 22. To me, he looked fresh for the first time in weeks. He admitted as much, attributing that to the 63 degree temperature at first pitch, the lack of humidity and the off day that he got Sunday. I really think going forward, the Orioles need to bite the bullet and give Wieters more days off. He is a big guy who plays the most demanding position on the field. He also has a ton of responsibility, switch hitting, being a run producer and catching a young staff. It’s admirable that he wants to play every day, but I think he’d be better served taking a few more days off during the season. Former manager Dave Trembley was absolutely crushed for “overusing” Wieters early last season. Wieters wound up starting 121 games behind the plate in 2010. This season, he’s already started 97, which puts him on pace to catch 132 games. That’s a pretty heavy workload.

Third baseman Mark Reynolds had a vintage Mark Reynolds game last night: a walk, two strikeouts and a home run. I know what you're thinking - throw in an error and that would have completed it. Reynolds' homer was his 27th of the season, putting him just four away from trying Tony Batista's franchise record for a third baseman. His two strikeouts give him 140 for the season, just 20 away from tying Mickey Tettleton's record for strikeouts in a season, set in 1990.

(UPDATE): Lost in everything last night, the Orioles have designated right-handed reliever Luis Lebron for assignment to make room for Bundy on the 40-man roster. Lebron, 26, had Tommy John surgery last May, and didn't pitch at all in 2010. He's made seven appearances for short-season Single-A Aberdeen this season, allowing three earned runs on two hits and two walks while striking out eight over seven innings.

Posted by Jeff Zrebiec at 6:30 AM | | Comments (25)
        

Comments

But last night’s home run wouldn't count for Reynold’s third-base total since he was playing first base, though, right? ... (Unless there was a position switch — I fell asleep after the seventh inning! LOL)


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Jeff Z's reply: Great point Kevin. Clearly got past me. Thanks.

I'm angry because Baltimore deserves better than the Peter Angelos' Orioles. 15 losing seasons under this horse's p'toot who neither has the money or knowledge to own a successful franchise. Couple that with the news media who won't say a negative word, or even slightly get confrontational with the 'slip and fall' lawyer/owner. Angelos probably gets enough tax deductions each year from the losses, that he is happy to lose year after year. I think an owner should forfeit his franchise after 10 successive losing years. It should be a rule in MLB. It's a crime to have a city that loves baseball, like Baltimore, and have an owner so innept and indifferent as Angelos.

This is more fine reporting from Jeff Zrebiec, who has done a great job all season. I've just about given up on watching games this year, which quickly became another voyage of the doomed in the miserable era of Angelos. But Zrebiec's reporting demonstrates that part of what makes baseball interesting is that the long season plays out with dozens of plots and hundreds of subplots that slowly reveal the quality and the character of an organization and the individuals who are part of it. It's not just a game; it's a human drama. I just hope Zrebiec won't soon be off to ESPN.

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Jeff Z's reply: Thank you Jake, really nice of you to say.

Being mentioned in the same breath with Tony Batista says something...I'm just not sure what.

Jeff, do you think now that Davis has had this problem with his shoulder the team is more open at looking to free agency to fill the need at 1B?


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Jeff Z's reply: Regardless of Davis' shoulder, I think they know they're going to have to be in the market for a 1B. And that doesn't necessarily mean Davis is out of the picture. He can play third, DH some, left field even on occasion. If he hits, they'll be a spot for him.

Jeff, real nice recap of the happenings in Birdland yesterday. We all needed a day like that to give us some microscopic hope not only for the future of our team, but maybe even for the remaining days of this dismal season. Jordan said it perfectly that it couldn't have been a better day, signing-wise. Tommy Hunter doesn't have the stuff of an ace, no doubt about that, but I do think he has that bulldog mentality which will hopefully affect our younger guys going forward. Gonzo looked great last night and like you said completely overmatched some decent hitters on the A's. Good point in giving Matt Weters a few more days off and at the same time giving Tatum some more playing time, He looks to me like a fairly decent back-up catcher, and his approach at the plate is not too bad. Also two decent at-bats for the much maligned Josh Bell last night. Obviously the seeing eye single on a 8-9 pitch count was the most noteworthy, but drawing a seemingly insignificant walk on his next appearance was key also. I wonder, since he has been constantly late on getting to a major league fastball, that he might consider emulating what Nick did, by choking up a little on the handle and not trying to hit the warehouse everytime he gets in the box. Lets go get 'em tonight.

Uh oh. Haven't seen that "eat innings" phrase in a while. It's not a good sign, I'm afraid.

I am excited about the Dylan Bundy signing, but I wish the Orioles would have given a more upfront signing bonus and not a Major League deal. I don't know how much a Major League deal is worth (I am sure they put a value on it), but it seems to me that it could jeopardize a young prospect's development if the Orioles HAVE to have him in the big leagues at age 22. Am I missing something here? Do they have to use an option every spring from now on? Or is it just the 2012 spring?


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Jeff Z's reply: Yes, he's got 3 or 4 options depending on how things play out and they will use up the first one next spring. Apparently, this was a dealbreaker for Bundy's camp. And while the Orioles were initially against doing it, they decided that it wasn't a dealbreaker for them.

Great day for O's fans!
Looks like we've had a couple of really good drafts. The last thing this organization needs now is a total overhaul.
I hope the next news we hear is a three year extention for Andy. Jordan etc.
Stability is a real key when building an organization that was so pitiful.
Things are really looking up!

Jeff, has any other team signed anything like the first 11 picks? That seems very unusual


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Jeff Z's reply: Unfortunately Smitty, I'm not sure of the breakdown with the other teams.

It is really hard to be optimistic about any high draft pick by the Orioles. Is it possible that he could have surgery now just to get it over with.

Jeff. How is Machado doing? I have not heard anything about him lately.

If he starts tearing it up in the minors, any chance of moving Hardy to 2b?

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Jeff Z's reply: Machado has struggled a little at High-A. He homered yesterday, and he's hitting .248 with four homers and 18 RBIs. As I've said in the past, Orioles know that is an option down the road for Hardy, but Machado still has a ways to go to get to the majors.

"It really is a shame that with only a month a half left in Michael Gonzalez’s career with the club"

You really mean to say 'a month and a half' correct?

Glad the O's signed their Top 10 picks. This speaks well for Joe Jordan who has been severly criticized along with Andy McPhail. I definitely would like to see them extend Jordan's contract and I would give Andy one more year to see if things turn around in 2012.

No one could have predicted the absolute mess of injuries that have decimated the Orioles pitching staff starting with Matusz the day before the season started.

We do need to build more depth in the minors. Even if we get a mid-level prospect for Gonzalez, that would help the minor league system.

“I don't know how the hell it could have been a better day."

I think most fans would like to see drafts picks actually end up being a productive member of the starting rotation or every day player in the field. Signing is one step but the rest of the process (drafting the right guys and developing the talent) has been a complete failure for 10+ years.

Wieters definitely needs to catch fewer games... he is overworked, and consider that the Orioles are 25-25 over the past two seasons when Tatum starts... ie, he is a legit backup who obviously doesn't hurt them at all. Is Showalter aware of this stat?? Keep in mind, Tatum was a third round pick out of college... struggled offensively in the minors, but there is obviously talent there and in a small sample size over the last two years in the big leagues he has held his own. There should be no question who the backup catcher is going into next season.

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Jeff Z's reply: Yes, he is.

So It now appears that the incompetence in the Orioles organization extends to the medical staff. It is obvious that Davis was damaged goods when he got here. What did his physical amount to, fogging up a mirror?

Rooked again. Shades of Chris Richard.

Jeff,
I agree with you on Hunter. A majorleague rotation is a funny thing. Just adding a single legit arm suddenly makes it feel like a world of difference. Losing a single arm is a world of difference worse too. All of a sudden if we have Guthrie and Hunter holding down spots in the rotation, that's not something that will wow anyone, but maybe it's at least a solid basic veteran foundation to build off of?

Since I keep reading about the Catcher Position, do the Orioles Powers that be feel that Tatum is good enough to be back-up? Or do the O's need to upgrade? Some interesting names:
Brayan Pena - Royals
Lou Marson - Indians
Ryan Doumit - Pirates, although he would be expensive.

And since we are talking draft today this is an interesting tidbit from what I think is the 2008 draft. The O's gave Michael Ohlman, $995,000. That's a lot of money. Where is he in the system with the O's? My associates tell me as well as my own scouting eyes Tatum's arm is just "OK" and wonder if the Orioles can upgrade. As a hitter Tatum looks to be a bit better then "OK", but I am not sure. His job is catcher, my prerequisite for catcher is the ability to catch, block and throw. Hitting comes second.
Thoughts?

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Jeff Z's reply: I think that's an area where they'll look to upgrade, but I don't think it will be one of the top priorities. Tatum has been solid for his role.

Derrick Lee had health issues and now his replacement already has health issues. What's up with that? Was he injured when trade? wHY is everyone so pumped about signing a high school pitcher. Loewen was high scholl pitcher. Some major league teams do not even draft high schoolers with high round picks. Wieters was heralded and he is a .250 hitter. Its far too early to be euphoric.Injuries play a big part when you play for the O's

Michael Ohlman is the catcher for low-A Salisbury (Delmarva). He is the one bright spot on a team that has had most of its good players promoted.

So much for Luis Lebron becoming a closer for the O's. I had hoped that he'd bounce back from TJ surgery and be better than before, like some are after the procedure.

Most DFA players don't get picked up so he might still be an Oriole in a few days, but, like Beato, the O's seem to have given up on him prematurely. Your thoughts Jeff?

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Jeff Z's reply: Let's wait and see if he gets through waivers. Erbe did in a similar situation, though shoulder surgery is more difficult to come back from than TJ. Lebron is 26, he is pitching in short-season Single-A Aberdeen, and he is 15 months removed from a major surgery. I don't think that it is a definite that the O's lose him.

Joe Jordan was appointed Director of Scouting on November 11, 2004. This was his seventh June amateur draft. Andy MacPhail was hired by the Orioles on June 20, 2007 – 12 days after the 2007 draft. Below are the top draft picks for 2005-10 and their major league contribution. Minor league contribution was added for the last two years.

One quick sidebar: Jordan has had 69 picks in the first ten rounds over his seven years as Director of Scouting. Nineteen (27.5%) were high schoolers and nine (13%) were from junior college.

2005
1 – Brandon Snyder – 33 AB’s
1s – Garrett Olson – 103 G’s w/ 3 teams (only 4 w/ PIT in 2011)
2 – Nolan Reimold – 194 G’s, .253, 25 HR’s
12 – John Raynor – 2-for-10
16 – David Hernandez – 118 G’s (57 w/ ARZ in 2011), 4.45 ERA (2.83 ARZ), 13 S’s (11 ARZ)

2006
1 – Billy Rowell – nothing
1s – Pedro Beato – 44 G’s, 3.83 ERA (all w/ NYM in 2011)
2 – Ryan Adams – 23 AB’s, .217, 0 HR’s
3 – Zach Britton – 20 G’s, 4.66 ERA
4 – Blake Davis – 56 AB’s, .268, 1 HR (same as Britton)
6 – Jason Berken – 99 G’s, 5.43 ERA
17 – Tony Watson – 25 G’s, 2.73 ERA (all w/ PIT in 2011)

2007
1 – Matt Wieters – 330 G’s, .263, 31 HR’s, 1 AS game
2 – no pick
3 – no pick
4 – Timothy Bascom – nothing
5 – Jake Arrieta – 40 G’s, 4.88 ERA
7 – Matt Angle – 0-for-7

2008
1 – Brian Matusz – 46 G’s, 4.83 ERA
2 – Xavier Avery – nothing
3 – LJ Hoes – nothing
4 – Kyle Hudson – nothing
5 – Greg Miclat – nothing

2009 – nothing (below are minor league stats, highest level)
1 – Matthew Hobgood – 40 G’s, 4-13, 5.39 ERA (A)
2 – Mychal Givens – 135 G’s, .250, 4 HR’s (A)
3 – Tyler Townsend – 147 G’s, .283, 23 HR’s (A)
4 – Randy Henry – 34 G’s (0 GS), 3.51 ERA, 1 SV (A)
5 – Ashur Tolliver – 47 G’s (0 GS), 3.63 ERA, 0 SV (A)

2010 – nothing (below are minor league stats, highest level)
1 – Manny Machado – 90 G’s, .266, 11 HR’s (A)
2 – no pick
3 – Daniel Klein – 21 G’s (0 GS), 0.93 ERA, 1 SV (AA)
4 – Trent Mummey – 91 G’s, .259, 6 HR’s (A)
5 – Connor Narron – 73 G’s, .194, 0 HR’s (A-)

Jeff, my point is that the 40 man roster has other, more expendable players to make room for Bundy. Ones with no upside or future with the O's. Others like Hendrickson, Atkins, Floriman or Viola are not ever going to help the team in the future. And they would easily pass through waivers if the O's wanted to keep them. So why take the risk and expose Lebron when he might become as asset?

Maybe they know something about his injury that isn't public, but it seems a needless risk ala Beato's exposure over the winter.

Whats an O's fan to do? Be excited over all the signings? Be optimistic over the signings? Become hopeful and overlook the rest of this sad season already? I took the lumps last year and waited for the off season and went to the last fan fest with great expectations. With a lot if not all of the new baby birds years away...including Machado...I don't know how much more waiting I can do...I'm 58 on Friday...lol...The only real justice in all my meanderings is that my seat only went up 2 dollars in the years I have been going...oh and the concession lines have been much shorter than 10 years ago. Hope springs eternal.

I THINK THAT THE ORIOLES NEED TO FILL 2 POSITIONS LF&1B

i am glad to see that the oriles have their top draft picks under contract. yea i know we need pitching real bad,but i think dylan bundy should have been signed to a minor league contract instead.the orioles wouldn't be in options trouble with him the way the orioles luck has been in past years will bundy force himself too much to get to the majors and blow his arm out like many of the pitchers have done.

jeff,
referencing gonzalez,interestingly,his best work is coming at the end of his contract!

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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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