Orioles news, notes and opinions: MacPhail's status, roster management, former Orioles, etc.
I’ll readily admit that I’m bringing no new information to the table here, but with each loss comes more speculation and questions about Andy MacPhail’s future, so I’ll address it briefly. I feel the same way I did months ago, that MacPhail won’t be back as the Orioles’ president of baseball operations. I feel slightly stronger about it now than I did back then, but nothing has really changed much in that regard. MacPhail said several times this year that things will become pretty self-evident by season’s end, and I believe they have. To me, the bigger question is what happens with Buck Showalter – Manager? General manager? Both? – and the rest of the front office.
The Orioles’ play right now is completely indefensible, but I’m not buying the theory that they’ve quit. The bottom line is they are running out too many pitchers and players that aren’t major league-caliber, and the ones who are have gotten completely beaten down by all the losing and worn down from trying to carry the club for 4 1/2 months. If you claim guys have quit, you certainly haven’t been watching center fielder Adam Jones, who ran the equivalent of a half marathon over the weekend tracking Angels line drives in the gap. You also probably didn’t see him get all the way to third base in the 12th inning Saturday after he hit the go-ahead single and Torii Hunter’s throw sailed to the backstop. You certainly haven’t been watching Nick Markakis, who was limping all around the field yesterday after his weekend home-plate collision with Hank Conger. Markakis has had another disappointing season production-wise, but he posts every day regardless of how hurt or sick he feels. And you certainly haven’t been watching J.J. Hardy, whose ankle still appears to be bothering him. That much is evident just watching him run to the dugout between innings. I understand this isn’t Little League and hustle alone doesn’t cut it, but let’s not confuse a wide talent gap with overall indifference.
The Orioles’ roster management can be particularly head-scratching at times. Consider the case of reliever Jason Berken: The right-hander has been dealing with elbow and forearm soreness. He got one out in Wednesday’s series finale in Oakland, but informed team officials the following day that the discomfort was still there. So the Orioles wisely decided to shut him down and have him see orthopedist Dr. Lewis Yocum Saturday. Meanwhile, Berken continued to stay on the big league roster all weekend while the Orioles played a man short. It probably wouldn’t have hurt to have an extra arm in the bullpen for Saturday’s 12-inning game or an extra position player for Sunday’s game so Showalter had more than a two-man bench at his disposal. Sure, you don’t jettison a guy to the disabled list as soon as he complains of discomfort somewhere, but Berken has been dealing with it for a little while. He’s pitching with a tear in his labrum, and he’s about six years from Tommy John surgery. You’re not going to take any chances with him. Why not put him on the disabled list and spend Thursday’s off day before the Angels series getting a roster replacement out to the West Coast? Instead, you get a situation where an already-overmatched Orioles team in terms of talent is playing a playoff contender short-handed. That’s obviously not why the Orioles got swept this weekend, but that doesn’t make it acceptable.
Here are two statements I never thought I’d make three months ago: Assuming Jim Johnson goes to the rotation, and that’s certainly the tentative plan before year’s end, Michael Gonzalez is the Orioles’ best option at closer right now. I know what you’re going to say, but Gonzalez has not allowed a run in 14 of 15 appearances, and he’s clearly motivated to finish strong and earn a contract from somebody next season. And two, before having season-ending shoulder surgery, Luke Scott played better defense in left than what we’ve watched from Felix Pie and Nolan Reimold this season. The latter comment is more a reflection of Pie's and Reimold’s struggles defensively than Scott’s play, but at least Scott caught most of the balls he should have and got a decent read and break on some balls.
A couple of other random facts: Once they put Berken on the shelf today and activate Zach Britton, the Orioles will have six players on the major league disabled list. Two have season-ending injuries (Scott and Jake Arrieta), and three others (Brian Roberts, Berken, Chris Davis) could also be done for 2011. Cesar Izturis, meanwhile, starts baseball activities today. … Matt Wieters on Sunday became the eighth Oriole to start a game at first base this year. … The Orioles (47-77) are only three games better than last year’s team (44-80) was through 124 games.
In case you didn’t notice Sunday, former Oriole Kevin Millwood got his first big league victory of the 2011 season for the Colorado Rockies, allowing three runs on seven hits over seven innings to beat the Dodgers. Millwood is 1-1 with a 4.50 ERA in three starts for Colorado. In case you missed it Saturday, former Orioles reliever Koji Uehara took the loss against the Chicago White Sox. He’s 0-2 with a 4.32 ERA in nine appearances for the Texas Rangers since the trade, allowing four runs, seven hits, two home runs, striking out 10 and walking one over 8 1/3 innings. Uehara had allowed four earned runs over his previous 26 outings with the Orioles before the trade.