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August 27, 2011

Orioles news, notes and opinions: Hendrickson, Adams, Hunter, Jones, GM candidate?

Veteran left-hander Mark Hendrickson is one of the main candidates to temporarily replace Troy Patton and join the club for tomorrow's doubleheader against the New York Yankees. It’s certainly not a done deal though as weather-related travel problems could factor in, along with the Orioles needing to get Hendrickson’s consent to be optioned back to Triple-A Norfolk when Patton returns. Patton was scheduled to fly back to Houston this morning in preparation for a Monday hearing related to his January charge of driving while intoxicated. Patton will likely be placed on the restricted list, meaning that the Orioles could fill his roster spot until he returns, which could be on Monday or Tuesday. Hendrickson is 2-4 with a 2.87 ERA in 24 appearances for the Tides this season. He made seven relief appearances for the Orioles earlier this season, going 1-0 with a 5.40 ERA in 10 innings of work.

I don’t like to judge guys on small sample sizes, but I have to say that I like what I’ve seen so far from rookie second baseman Ryan Adams. His defense remains a work-in-progress, but he’s obviously made strides there. He also can clearly hit and has some pop for a little guy. But I think what has impressed me most is Adams has some swagger and toughness about him. He doesn’t appear at all intimidated by the moment or the opposition. I like that, almost as much as the line drives coming off his bat.

Something we probably ought to remember about right-hander Tommy Hunter. He is actually four months younger than Jake Arrieta, and 10 months younger than Brad Bergesen. He’s just seven months older than Brian Matusz and 17 months older than Zach Britton. It’s almost like since the trade, we’ve treated Hunter like a seasoned veteran, and I’ve been as guilty as that as anybody. But this guy is still a relatively young pitcher who is pretty much a lock to be penciled in the Orioles’ rotation next season.

One effect of today’s rainouts is that Orioles center fielder Adam Jones gets a third straight full off day. I don’t know if that will be enough to get Jones back in Sunday’s lineups as it is clear that the outfielder is still being bothered by chest soreness. He said that it still hurts him when he swings and we all know that Jones doesn’t get cheated.

This is clearly a Captain Obvious special here, but it isn’t amazing how much better the Orioles play when they’re not down by three or four runs before every guy in their lineup has had a chance to hit? During the Orioles’ five-game winning streak, their starters have given up four total runs in innings one through four, one each in the four-game sweep over Minnesota, and none last night. In the Orioles’ five previous games – all losses by the way – their pitching had given up a total of 24 runs over the first four innings. Obviously, if you are not behind early, your chances of winning increase dramatically, but that’s not really my point. My point is that these starters going out and giving up early runs just crushes the morale of the whole team, bringing that “Here we go again” feeling. The bullpen has to get cranking early, the defense goes back on its heels and the hitters completely get out of their game plan trying to do too much to make up for sizable early deficit.

Here’s a name that you could hear for the Orioles potential GM vacancy: Texas Rangers Assistant GM Thad Levine. I haven’t heard his name mentioned by any of the Orioles’ top decision makers, so this is clear speculation on my part. But it does make some sense. Levine, who turns 40 is November, has been a big part of the Jon Daniels’ led Rangers front office since October 2005. He’s considered one of the top up-and-coming GM candidates. He also grew up in Alexandria, Va., as a huge Orioles fan and still has family in the area. (Another potential GM candidate, Josh Byrnes, also grew up as a big Orioles fan by the way). Orioles manager Buck Showalter knows him from their days together in Texas. Again total speculation, but Levine is probably a guy worth monitoring if there is a front office shakeup in Baltimore.

I rarely do this but kudos to the Orioles for their handling of the Mike Flanagan tragedy and for the players in honoring Flanny in the best possible way: putting together five consecutive strong games backed by quality starting pitching performances.

Also while we’re offering congratulations here, allow me to extend them to Orioles Director of Baseball Operations Matt Klentak, and his wife, Lauren, who gave birth to the couple’s first child, Valerie Ava Klentak, Thursday morning. According to the Orioles game notes last night, she throws left and bats both.

Posted by Jeff Zrebiec at 12:38 PM | | Comments (28)
        

Comments

I must concede to being stunned just now in reading about Tommy Hunter's age being right up (down?) there with the other Kiddie Korps members. For some unknown reason, I just assumed that he was a lot older than those guys.

Since Chris Davis is apparently going to be one of those perennial Beltran-style DL guys, Hunter is the only game left in town from the Koji deal, and it would be great to see him develop into a quality fine young pitcher. And thanks to his quality fine young age, he now has more portential to do just that.

As for a new GM, forget it. No GM can possibly succeed working for Mr. Angelos. who blindsides them no matter what they do. (Although admittedly, sometimes for the better!)

But if we feel the need to go with a Texas fellow, how aboput John Hart, who built up the Indians and the Rangers both?

Please hire a GM who is in tune with mod BB and its stats--a la Theo Epstein.

Jeff,

Great stuff. BTW where is Andy MacPhail? I'm surprised we haven't heard from him in light of recent events.aft

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Jeff Z's reply: He was in California moving his son into college the past couple of days. he's back in Baltimore now. As for him not commenting on Flanny, 1. I don't know that he's been asked; and 2. I don't know how well he knew Flanny at all. The statement from the Orioles about Flanny's passing came from Angelos as it should have.

Ryan Adams is listed on the Orioles official website as 5'11". Robert Andino is listed as 6'00 on the button. I say they are both the same size. However, to say Ryan Adams "for a little guy" is a bit off the mark. Chase Utley is listed as 6'1" which might be a tad high in my opinion, he does have a lot of power. It comes down to swing and Adams and Utley have similar compact swings. Adams just has to keep up the superior glove work as of late. It disappoints me that Tillman wasn't mentioned in this story. His stuff is as good as anyone's on this team. His problem to me appears to be lack of concentration. You don't give up 4 solo home runs in a game (AAA) without having some concentration issues. That shouldn't happen! Also, I see Chris Capuano had an excellent game against the Braves last night, CG shutout, 13 k's. When was the last time anyone on the Orioles did that? To me this sums up the entire career of Andy MacPhail. He gambled on Justin Duchscherer with two bad hips, a bad elbow as well as other maladies. The only this MacPhail has to show for that effort is the Angelos bank account is lighter for over a million dollars because of it. Grant it Capauno isn't a superstar, but he ate some innings for the Mets this year and he really didn't cost much more. Thad Levine seems like an interesting candidate. While he's book smart though, what exactly is his "True Track Record"? I would love to see an open competition for the GM job. If they opened it so even a "Street Guy" like me, I would even throw in my fedora!
Lastly, to answer the blogger about John Hart:
After Hart garnered interest for the general manager position on other teams in the 2005 off-season, the Rangers extended his senior advisor contract for three more years in exchange for Hart refusing to consider any other GM positions. Thus Hart remains with the Rangers today and is locked up through the year 2013
Therefore, he cannot join the Orioles till 2013!

"Please hire a GM who is in tune with mod BB and its stats--a la Theo Epstein."

This.

The Orioles talent evaluators seem to be totally ignorant of basic sabermetric principles. The team will not succeed until this changes.

It's not rocket science. Good hitters take walks. Good pitchers record many strikeouts and few walks. Voila.

Any new, and young, GM will need a person above him to act as a buffer and keep PA from running him into the ground like he did to Frank Wren. Ripken would be perfect if he is willing to forgo "another year or two" wait. Then ina few years he could buy PA out and become the owner, like Ryan did in Texas. Hey, a man can dream!!!

Otherwise, shoot for the moon and try to get Andrew Friedman from Tampa. Just think how good he would be with a reasonable budget to work with.

That Koji trade could turn out to be McPhail's best.

How about Steve Stone for GM? His big brain is wasted doing play by play with Hawk in Chicago.

Jeff, how long will it be before the orghanization gets around to the fact what is wrong is higher up on the food chain than the GM? Don't misunderstand, as I believe Andy MacPhail has operated with no sense of urgency, nor does it appear he has inspired anyone to have a sense of urgency.

I have to laugh that your blog mentions the Director of Baseball Operations. I don't know Matt, but my sense is he is either less than competent or is simply overmatched in his role. How else can you explain the talent chasm?

Mike Flanagan needed to be able to walk on water to impact this organization and the same goes for MacPhail.

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Jeff Z's reply: I think plenty of people realize that, but what do you do? He owns the team. They can't fire him.

Question: I recall some years ago the Os traded Bordick to the Mets during the season, then signed him again before the next year. Any chance of that happening with Koji? I really thought he was one of our better players, and I know he liked it here.


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Jeff Z's reply: I'm sure Koji would love to come back to Baltimore, but he has a 2012 option that vests with 55 appearances. He's currently at 53, so assuming that he pitches twice more over the next month plus, the Rangers have him for the 2012 season.

Jeff, great stuff, as always. I loved your post about the re schedulings, makes perfect sense why the Orioles did not want to play a DH last night. I know I wouldn't want to be out there last night for two games after being on the road for almost two weeks. Left unsaid was that it was a chance for the Orioles to stick to the Yankees just a little bit.

Anyway, Felix Pie was supposed to report to Norfolk yesterday or today, do you know if he made it?

Thanks.


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Jeff Z's reply: Felix was supposed to join Norfolk tonight, but he's having flight delays. So he should join up with the Tides no later than tomorrow.

I'm in no position to evaluate Hunter's talent. But I sure like his approach and his attitude. He's a gamer. He's got intestinal fortitude. He makes no excuses. He plays tough. I'd say he has a huge upside

Josh Byrnes made some pretty erratic decisions in Arizona especially the disaster hiring of AJ Hinch who had no major/minor league managerial or coaching experience.

He also gave that extension to Eric Byrnes, left Dan Uggla exposed in a Rule 5 draft, and traded Carlos Quentin.

Jerry DiPoto who was the interim GM before Towers was hired would be a better asset.

I was noting that every GM that Peter Angelos has hired has served out his contract and was not renewed. It seems like a very basic problem that no one can or wants to stay for more than their initial contract.

The only guy who has the weight to do the job is Cal. If he campaigned for the job King Peter's hand would be forced. A young GM- remember we tried that with Frank Wren and Angelos canned him. I'd rather have the unknown in Cal than a retread yes man. After the Flanny situation who would really want this job except a desprite retread.

Very insightful comments regarding Ryan Adams. I couldn't agree more--especially regarding the swagger. I also like what I've seen from Matt Angle. He certainly made the most of that little bloop over first base. Matt looks like a guy who makes the most of his abilities.

Hey Jeff: Online speculation has MacPhail departed as GM and Buck running the show. Your thuoghts?? I too would pass on Byrnes for reasons outlined earlier by poster. I still think Hart is a strong possibility here only because contracts can be broken or paid off so to speak..

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Jeff Z's reply: If you are talking about that already happening, that's not the case. But going forward, I've written about that possibility. It's certainly one of the possible options and Buck has a good enough relationship with Angelos that if that's what he wanted, it would probably happen. But either way, there are certain things that Buck is inexperienced in, like negotiating with agents and swinging trades. They are going to need to get him some help anyway, kind of a guy to show him the ropes. If I'm a betting man - and this is totally guess because the Oriole top decisions makers have been mum on this topic - I'm saying that Buck stays on as manager and the Orioles hire a transitional GM that will work side-by-side with Buck for a year or two, and then allow Buck to take over full-time GM duties in two years or so. But again, strictly a guess. At this point, I don't have much of an idea how this is all going to play out other than feeling strongly that MacPhail and several other execs won't be back in current capacity.

The Orioles have not had a winning season since Pat Gillick resigned after the 1998 season because Angelos took away his autonomy to make decisions in the best interest of the franchise. Frank Wren, a top notch baseball executive was fired after the following season. In the void that followed the Orioles had no GM and Angelos ran the team unless you want to count lapdog Syd Thrift who was an order taker without the title of GM.

Andy Macphail was the first person to be given the title of GM since Wren was fired. The results of the past 14 years leave no doubt who has been running the organization since Wren was fired.

It looks like Chris Davis was damaged goods. Does Andy have any recourse with the Rangers? Also, how is Koji doing with them so far?


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Jeff Z's reply: Last time I checked, Koji had a mid 4.00 ERA with Rangers. Orioles and Rangers have touched base about Davis and the Rangers haven't ruled out discussing it again after the season depending on how Davis is doing.

Jeff,

I asked you that question about the Davis deal twice and you told me that you presumed the Orioles gave Davis a physical and it was a done deal. Looks like I was on to something after all. What changed?

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Jeff Z's reply: They did but Rangers GM Jon Daniels called MacPhail to talk about it and make sure Davis' shoulder issues came after he was traded. Classy move by the Rangers. Daniels also completely didn't rule out revisiting the deal after the season, but the Rangers are certainly under no obligations to do so.

If Andy does decide to move on - how about Ron Shapiro? Buck has indicated that he is not interested in the GM job - correct? I don't think that is the role for him - he's a baseball guy - not a business manager.

I like what I see with Tommy Hunter.I am very hopeful that Nolan Reimold as come of age. What an asset he would be.

Overall, the Os have gone thru a very difficult period but they don't quit.


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Jeff Z's reply: I'm assuming you mean Mark Shapiro. He's still with the Indians. As for Buck, he's never expressed or denied interest in the GM post. That's because Andy MacPhail is currently employed as GM and it would be a slap in the face for Buck to be campaigning for it publicly. However, several people who know Showalter believe that he ultimately wants to be a GM.

Also, good hitters make contact when they swing, and good fielders cover a lot of ground without trouble. Walks are important but if the opposing pitchers know you have trouble making contact, only the bad ones will walk you.

A few pitchers, some in the HoF, have been on the radio lately talking about strikeouts et al. One common theme was most tried to get hitters to swing, K's came second. Another theme was that many only tried for K's when they already had two strikes, or there was a runner on 3rd with less than two outs. A lot say, "I'd rather throw a good strike and see him hit it, it takes at least 3 pitches to make a strikeout."

re Mark Shapiro, that is an intriguing thought but one with some unusual complexities. Mark and John Angelos are friends from their days together at Gilman. While we know that Mark is an O's fan, it might be too complicated to work for your friend's dad and at some point your friend. It might work but I would think that Mark and John have probably avoided having that conversation. Who knows though. That might be a possibility.

The success that Hunter has had with the Orioles is due to his tendency to throw strikes - a somewhat rarity among O's pitchers.

Someone mentioned your leaving out Chris Tillman. Tillman is not MLB quality this year. Batters in the majors are hitting .301 (Frank Robinson hit .294 for HOF career) off him this year. Constantly pitching behind in the count. Averaging less than 5 innings per outing.
Lack of velocity. As for his lack of concentration, I flip the channel, too, when he pitches.

In fact almost every single unsuccessful starter for the O's can be traced to ball/strike ratios.

Mr.Angelos,
Life is not about how much money you make it's about family,Friends and your neighborhood, when you decided to purchase the Orioles you said that you would do your very best to keep the Orioles tradition of winning and staying competative so that all of the fans in Baltimore would be proud of their team, It's now looks like you just made a buisness decision to make more and more money and forgot those words you said to this town many years ago, Mr Angelos if you are a proud baltimore tradition type of man like you claim Please put the Orioles up for sale and sell them to a person that truly beleives they can bring back the Oriole Way just like they way I know you felt way back when.

Chuck

Belair Md

Please don't get Cal Ripken into the GM hunt. There are so many mean-spirited fans who think that building a team is such and easy job and the minute the O's lose a game they want to point a blame finger. The owner is always blamed even though his payroll is a great deal higher than many other teams. We just had some bad luck with the young pitchers and the veteran sluggers that everyone was swooning about in the spring didn,t slug.

Please don't get Cal Ripken into the GM hunt. There are so many mean-spirited fans who think that building a team is such and easy job and the minute the O's lose a game they want to point a blame finger. The owner is always blamed even though his payroll is a great deal higher than many other teams. We just had some bad luck with the young pitchers and the veteran sluggers that everyone was swooning about in the spring didn,t slug.

Thad Levine, Josh Byrnes, Steve Giamoulous who was mentioned in recent months ago what about Klentak has his name ever been brought up? And what do you think about the other names chances of filling the potential vacancy

And also, who do you see filling the 2nd baseman position next year?

Great columns Jeff.


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Jeff Z's reply: No idea who Steve Giamoulous is. I'd throw John Hart into the mix. Klentak is certainly worth mentioning. At this point, I'd still say Roberts at 2B. Andino and Ryan Adams could enter the mix. I just don't see any established MLB second baseman signing with Baltimore knowing that Roberts is still with the team.

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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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