Orioles news, notes and opinions
I don’t know if this matters to any of you. After all, last place is last place. But as things stand, the Orioles are on pace to finish 64-98, which would narrowly avoid just the third 100-loss season in franchise history. I thought last year’s team was an absolute lock for 100 losses before the late-season surge. So I should probably avoid such a prediction this year. However, I will say that with Jake Arrieta likely having thrown his last pitch this season, Zach Britton on the disabled list, the Orioles bullpen further weakened by the trade of Koji Uehara, and Brian Roberts not close to a return, I think the team’s chances of hitting that dubious mark are pretty good.
For most Oriole fans, it would probably be an easy decision. Cesar Izturis is an aging infielder who doesn’t hit much, and clearly is still working his way back from elbow surgery. There were two plays last night that an accomplished defensive player – and Izturis is that – makes very easily, and Izturis didn’t make either one. The Orioles have nothing to play for so why not let Robert Andino, Blake Davis or Ryan Adams get most of the at-bats at second base, while letting Izturis go on his merry way, and either catch on with a contender as a possible late-game defensive replacement at shortstop, or do something else? I get the thinking and it’s hard to argue with it. It also may come to that rather quickly. However, the Orioles won’t take that decision lightly. I’ve said this many times and I know nobody wants to hear it, but no Oriole is more respected and more liked in the clubhouse than Izturis is. He is a sounding board for the Latin players, the young pitchers, manager Buck Showalter and the rest of the coaching staff. He is trusted by everyone in the organization, and if Izturis decided to hang up the spikes after the season, I'd be very surprised if he wasn't on the Orioles' coaching staff next season. Izturis also worked his butt off to get back for the final two months of the season. So as easy as it may sound to unceremoniously dump Izturis or confine him to the bench, it would be an extremely tough decision for Showalter to make.
Showalter essentially said yesterday that it really made no point for him to give the day-to-day updates on Brian Roberts’ health because it only further complicates the situation. For the record, Roberts, who hasn’t played since May 16 because of concussion symptoms, is making some progress with his baseball activities and having more good days than bad ones, but he still hasn’t been cleared for game action. Details about Roberts’ symptoms and on his general prognosis have been very hard to come by, and it would be both unethical and unfair for me to speculate. However, I do think it’s fair to question whether Roberts will wind up playing even fewer games this season than he did in 2010. He’s currently played in 39 games. Last year, he saw action in 59. Overall, he’s played in just the 94 of the Orioles’ last 267 games.
Also worth noting: Tommy Hunter last night became the 10th different Oriole pitcher to start a game this season. Eight of those guys have made five starts or more. It will be interesting to see how Showalter and pitching coach Rick Adair fill Britton's spot. Could Steve Johnson finally get an opportunity? Will the Orioles decide to bring back Brian Matusz? Or knowing that Britton may only miss two starts, will the Orioles just use somebody out of the bullpen for those games like Brad Bergesen or Jo-Jo Reyes? We should know more on that later.
Remember when one of the bigger stories of the season was how early the Orioles would shut down rookie Zach Britton in order to limit him to no more than 175 innings? That’s certainly a story no longer. Assuming Britton comes off the disabled list not long after the 15 days are up – he’d be eligible to return Aug.19 – he should be able to remain in the rotation for the rest of the season. Britton has logged 121 2/3 innings this year between the Majors and the Minors. That leaves plenty of innings to play with over the final month and a half of the season.
Very few players have improved their standing in the organization, especially over the last six weeks. But one guy who has is left-hander Troy Patton. He was so far down the depth chart when the season began, but he’s had a couple of pretty encouraging outings. There’s a long way to go, but he could be in the process of pitching himself into next season’s plans.
Orioles President of Baseball Operations Andy MacPhail mentioned in his post trade deadline conference call with reporters that he got a lot of calls in teams interested in Adam Jones. The Atlanta Braves were reportedly one of the teams to call and I’ll add the Philadelphia Phillies to that list. Looking for a right-handed bat, Phillies General Manager Ruben Amaro expressed interest in Jones. MacPhail informed him that Jones wasn’t available, and that’s now a moot point as the Phillies acquired Hunter Pence.
Speaking of the Phillies, I watched with interest their bench-clearing incident with the San Francisco Giants last night. I don’t particularly enjoy such occurrences because they can get real ugly, but I had to chuckle when I saw former Orioles manager and coach, and current Phillies’ third base coach Juan Samuel right in the thick of things. Samuel is absolutely one of the nicest guys in all of baseball, and a favorite of reporters everywhere. He’d also be on my list of guys I’d least want to fight or get provoke. If Samuel’s team is involved in a brawl or anything like that, expect to see him actively involved. He didn’t disappoint last night.