Santana Tears Achilles Tendon, Out For Season

Johan Santana will have to wait at least one more season before possibly throwing another pitch in the big leagues.

The two-time American League Cy Young Award winner and four-time All-Star tore his Achilles tendon during what was supposed to be his final extended spring training start on June 6. Santana was hit in the backside by a line drive, and reportedly suffered the injury when he stumbled while trying to pick up the ball and throw to first base. The torn tendon was revealed by an MRI, and will cause Santana to miss the rest of this season. Santana was scheduled to join the Orioles after the start to continue his rehab before joining the rotation. In his previous start, he struck out eight and didn’t walk a batter. Baltimore General Manager Dan Duquette told reporters that Santana had good velocity on his fastball, and had good command of his slider.

The Orioles had signed Santana to a minor-league contract during the off-season.

Hunter Activated Off DL, Gonzalez Placed On DL

The Orioles’ closer situation may be stabilizing a little bit, but the starting rotation is still in flux due to injury.

Tommy Hunter was activated off the 15-day disabled list prior to the Orioles’ series finale against the Oakland Athletics. He had been on the DL since May 22 with a strained left groin. Hunter pitched for the Class-A Delmarva Shorebirds on a rehab assignment on June 7. He needed just 11 pitches to get through the second inning, during which he hit a batter and struck out two.

To make room for Hunter on the 25-man roster, right-handed reliever Evan Meek was sent down to Triple-A Norfolk.

While Hunter came off the DL, Miguel Gonzalez is now on it. The Orioles placed Gonzalez on the 15-day DL with a strained right oblique prior to the start of the series with the A’s. The move was made retroactive to May 31. Gonzalez was scratched from his last scheduled start in the series finale at Texas. Top pitching prospect Kevin Gausman was called up from Norfolk to take Gonzalez’s spot in the starting rotation, and started the middle game of the series against Oakland.

Orioles Go Heavy on Pitching in 2014 Draft

If Baltimore’s front-office and scouting department’s plans pan out, there will be a flood of good pitching coming to Camden Yards from the Orioles’ farm system.

The team went into the draft with a plan of building up pitching depth within its farm system. The Orioles did just that in the 2014 First-Year Player Draft, selecting 27 pitchers. 20 of them were college pitchers. Baltimore selected pitchers with each of its first five picks.

However, the Orioles were in the recently unfamiliar position of not having picks in the first two rounds because of free-agent signings. Baltimore didn’t make its first pick until the third round, when it selected right-handed pitcher Brian Gonzales from Archbishop Edward McCarthy High School in Southwest Ranches, Florida. He was named the Broward County Player of the Year by the South Florida Sun Sentinel. Gonzales is committed to play next season at the University of Miami.

In the fourth round, the Orioles selected right-hander Pat Connaughton from the University of Notre Dame. Connaughton also played basketball for the Fighting Irish, and he found out that he was selected by Baltimore via a text message from his basketball coach, Mike Brey (a native of Bethesda, Maryland, and an Orioles fan). Connaughton has said that baseball isn’t his primary focus, and that he plans to play his final season of basketball. However, prior to the draft, he said he’d skip his last season of baseball and sign with whichever team drafted him.

Connaughton wasn’t the only two-sport athlete the Orioles drafted. In the seventh round, Baltimore picked left-hander Max Schuh from UCLA. Schuh was a quarterback for the Bruins football team during the 2010 season, but didn’t see any playing time, and was cut following his sophomore season. He then joined the baseball team as a walk-on.

Baltimore also drafted one player with major-league bloodlines. The Orioles took left-hander Brandon Bonilla, the son of slugger Bobby Bonilla and the godson of Barry Bonds, with their 25th-round pick. The younger Bonilla played his freshman season at Arizona State, and then transferred to Division 2 Grand Canyon University. He’s described as a hard-throwing pitcher.

Speaking of players with major league bloodlines being drafted, Cal Ripken, Jr’s son Ryan was taken by the Washington Nationals in the 15th round. Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco’s brother (also named Joe) was selected by the Philadelphia Phillies in the 32nd round.

Orioles Purchase Contract of Johan Santana

By Andrew R. Koch

With the Baltimore Orioles struggling to stay above .500 and make some headway in the American League East thanks in large part to inconsistent starting pitching, the team has purchased the minor-league contract of a veteran pitcher in the hopes of aiding the starting rotation.

On June 2, the Orioles announced that they’d purchased left-handed pitcher Johan Santana’s contract from Triple-A Norfolk and added him to the 40-man roster. Santana was then placed on the 15-day disabled list. He hasn’t pitched at all since undergoing surgery on a torn capsule in his left shoulder in April 2013. It was the second time in three years that he’s had shoulder capsule surgery. He last pitched in August 2012 with the New York Mets.

Santana is scheduled to make rehab starts at both Double-A Bowie and then Norfolk, and could join the Orioles by the middle of this month. Manager Buck Showalter has left open the possibility that when Santana comes off the DL, the Orioles could move to a six-man rotation. Showalter says he’s been thinking about adding an extra starter to the rotation anyway.

Hunter, Wieters Making Progress in Recovery From Injuries

Two key pieces of the Orioles roster—closer Tommy Hunter and catcher Matt Wieters—remain on the disabled list, but are both making good progress in their recoveries.

Hunter, who’s been on the DL since May 22 with a strained left groin, threw a bullpen session prior to the start of the Orioles three-game series at the Texas Rangers. He also took pitchers fielding practice. Showalter said the bullpen and fielding sessions both went very well. The Orioles have been using a closer-by-committee to finish off games in Hunter’s absence.

Also prior to the start of the series against the Rangers, Wieters threw for just the third time since going on the DL with a sore right elbow on May 11. Wieters made 30 throws, including throws from as far as 100 feet. Wieters says he’s encouraged with the progress he’s making in his rehab as he tries to avoid season-ending surgery. He says he’s been getting stronger each day he’s thrown, and has been able to make more throws before getting fatigued. Wieters will now extend his throwing to 120 feet.

Bundy Nearly Done With Extended Spring Training

Right-handed pitcher and top Orioles prospect Dylan Bundy will soon take a major step forward in his recovery from Tommy John surgery.

Bundy pitched four-plus innings in an extended spring training game in Sarasota, Florida. Showalter says Bundy will make one more appearance in Sarasota, and then join the Aberdeen Ironbirds (short-season Class A New York-Penn League), whose season will begin on June 13.

Rice Admitted to Pretrial Diversion Program, Apologizes For Fight With Wife

Ravens running back Ray Rice will avoid a trial on aggravated assault charges, and spoke publicly to apologize for the first time since the fight with his then-fianceé (now wife) inside a casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey.

During a press conference at the Ravens facility in Owings Mills on May 23, Rice, accompanied by his wife Janay Palmer, told reporters that he’d “failed miserably.” ESPN reports his voice cracked with emotion as he apologized to Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti, General Manager Ozzie Newsome, head coach John Harbaugh, and the fans that look up to him. Rice says ever since the Valentine’s Day weekend fight with Palmer inside the Revel Casino, he’s been working to make himself a better person.

“One thing that I do know is that I am working every day to be a better father, a better husband, you know, and just a better role model,” Rice said. “We are better parents, we are better lovers, and we are also better friends throughout this situation. I failed miserable, but I wouldn’t call myself a failure because I’m working my way back up.”

Rice spoke for a little over six minutes and did not take any questions from reporters before turning the microphone over to Palmer, who said that she did regret the role she played in the fight. She expressed her love for her husband, and hopes that he’ll continue to show the person he really is to the greater Baltimore community.

On May 20, Rice was accepted into a pretrial diversion program. If he successfully completes the program, the aggravated assault charge handed down by an Atlantic County (New Jersey) grand jury will be dismissed. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s office still hasn’t indicated whether or not the league will suspend Rice under the league’s personal conduct policy.

New Home for Schaefer Center for Public Policy Dedicated to Kick Off 30th Anniversary Celebration

By Andrew R. Koch

The University of Baltimore’s Center for Public Policy, named for one of the most colorful characters in Maryland political history, now has a home of its own.

The Schaefer Center for Public Policy, part of the university’s College of Liberal Arts and Public Policy, will be celebrating its 30th anniversary next spring. On April 10, a dedication ceremony was held at the new home for the Schaefer Center at 5 West Chase Street. The center has been operating out of the building since November of last year.

The center is named for the late William Donald Schaefer, who was the mayor of Baltimore from 1971 to 1987, and then Governor of Maryland from 1987 to 1995 (he was known as “The Mayor of Maryland”), and Comptroller from 1999 to 2007. Schaefer graduated from UB’s Law School in 1942. He was at times a controversial figure because of his push to revitalize Baltimore during his four-term tenure as Mayor; he was known for playing hardball to fund housing, transportation and development projects. One of his biggest accomplishments as Mayor was Harborplace, the pavilion of shops and restaurants on the Inner Harbor along Pratt Street. As Governor, he saw Oriole Park at Camden Yards—a project he pushed as Mayor—come to fruition. The Center has displayed pictures of him looking over the completed ballpark as well as throwing out the first pitch at the Orioles’ home opener in 1992.

Schaefer Center Director Dr. Ann Cotten says Schaefer led by example in promoting good government.

“His life was all about public service, 50, 60 years of nothing but dedication to service, efficiency in government, making sure that government worked for the people, and that was pretty much his legacy,” Dr. Cotten said.

The center used to be housed on the fifth floor of the Liberal Arts and Public Policy Building on West Preston Street. Dr. Cotton says when the Center for Children, Family and Courts moved into the Angelos Law Building as part of the university’s expansion, that freed up space for the Schaefer Center to move into its new home. Graduate Fellows Elena Timusheva and Elise Major-Whiteford both say it’s great for the center to have its own place for all its stuff, as well as to make it more visible.

“We have our own building where we can put our sign, and it’s better for the marketability and visibility for the center […] We have our own building, people can come in, and they know the Schaefer Center is here,” Timusheva said.

“We’re closer. We’re kind of embedded in the community,” Major-Whiteford added.

The new Schaefer Center includes a call center for phone research surveys on public policy issues are conducted. Recent projects include a survey of drivers for the State Highway Administration. Other recent projects the center has worked on include a voter access study for the Maryland General Assembly, and training for election judges, including more than 3,000 in Baltimore City. Other projects the center is working on include wait times for voters and looking into the feasibility of early voting on Sundays.

Ravens Notebook: Rice Likely to Avoid Jail; Gets Support From Team

By Andrew R. Koch

The worst season of Ray Rice’s career has been followed by a tumultuous off-season. However, he’ll avoid jail time, and is still getting support from his head coach and general manager.

After averaging a career-low 3.1 yards per carry, thanks largely due to poor play by the Ravens offensive line, Rice and his then-fianceé (now wife) Janay Palmer were arrested on February 15 after getting into a fight in the Revel Casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey. TMZ and several other media outlets picked up on the video from a surveillance camera that showed Rice dragging Palmer’s unconscious body out of an elevator. They were both charged with simple assault. On March 27, a grand jury in Atlantic City dropped the charge against Palmer, and elevated the charge against Rice to third-degree aggravated assault. A day later, the couple got married. Spousal privileges allow Palmer to refuse testifying against Rice if the case goes to court. However, the case isn’t likely to see much, if any, time inside a courtroom.

At his arraignment in Cape May on May 1, Rice entered a plea of not guilty to the aggravated assault charge. He applied for entry into a pretrial intervention program that allows some defendants, especially first-time defendants, to avoid formal prosecution. If his application is denied, prosecutors in Atlantic County say they’ve offered Rice a plea bargain that would allow him to go on probation without having to go to jail. Under the deal, he’d also have to go through anger-management counseling. It’s uncertain at this time whether or not Rice will be suspended under the NFL’s personal conduct policy. If he is, he may likely only get a short suspension because of his reputation off the field.

Ravens head coach John Harbaugh says while he is disappointed in Rice, he’s continues to express his support for his starting running back. Harbaugh has repeatedly pointed out Rice’s work in the greater Baltimore community, and how he’s never had an off-field incident prior to February. General Manager Ozzie Newsome says the uncertainty surrounding Rice won’t affect the Ravens’ plans for this week’s NFL Draft. However, on April 4 the Ravens signed Justin Forsett to a one-year deal to add depth at the running back position. Forsett had six carries for 31 yards in nine games last year with Jacksonville;  and he has also accumulated 347 carries for 1,692 yards and eight touchdowns in his six-year career. In 2012, he played with Houston for then-head coach Gary Kubiak, who’s now the offensive coordinator for the Ravens.

Ravens 2014 Schedule

The NFL released its 2014 schedule on April 25. The Ravens’ season will begin with games against each of the team’s three AFC North rivals. The Ravens will play Cincinnati at M&T Bank Stadium on September 7, followed by Pittsburgh four days later on “Thursday Night Football.” The Ravens will travel to Cleveland on September 21, and will close out September at home against Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers. Baltimore has two other nationally televised games on the schedule, in addition to the Thursday night game in Week 2. The Ravens will be at Pittsburgh for “Sunday Night Football” on November 2, and in New Orleans for “Monday Night Football” on November 24. This season, Baltimore will play every team in the AFC South (Indianapolis, Houston, Jacksonville and Tennessee) and the NFC South (Carolina, New Orleans, Atlanta and Tampa Bay). The other 13 games will all begin at 1 p.m. Eastern Time, subject to the NFL’s flex scheduling.

Roster Moves

The Ravens solidified the tight end position by agreeing with Owen Daniels on a one-year contract on April 3. Daniels was drafted by Houston out of the University of Wisconsin in 2006. Last year, Daniels played in only five games before a broken fibula ended his season. Injuries have limited him to 11 games or less in three of the last five seasons. However, Daniels played in 15 games in both 2011 and 2012. The signing reunites Daniels with Kubiak, and he’ll be instrumental in helping the Ravens offensive players learn Kubiak’s system. When healthy, Daniels has proven to be one of the best tight ends in the NFL.

The signing of Daniels helps cushion the blow at tight end that came less than a week later. Ed Dickson signed a one-year deal with Carolina. Published reports say that the Ravens had lost confidence in Dixon over the last couple of seasons, but at 26, he’s still young enough to turn his career around. Dickson is the Ravens’ fifth free agent to sign with another team, joining defensive tackle Arthur Jones (signed with the Colts), offensive tackle Michael Oher (signed with Tennessee), cornerback Corey Graham (signed with Buffalo), and strong safety James Ihedigbo (signed with Detroit).