Orioles Sign Reliever Bell, Designate Meek For Assignment

By Andrew R. Koch

After consecutive blown saves by Tommy Hunter against the Houston Astros and Detroit Tigers, Orioles manager Buck Showalter has decided to shake things up a little in the Orioles bullpen.

The Orioles announced on May 16 that they’d agreed to a minor-league deal with veteran right-handed reliever Heath Bell. Pending a physical, Bell will report to the Triple-A Norfolk Tides. He began the season with division-rival Tampa Bay, where he was 1-1 with a 7.27 ERA in 13 games. Bell was designated for assignment by the Rays earlier this month, and was then released. Now in his 11th season, Bell has a career record of 38-32 with a 3.49 ERA and 168 career saves. The Orioles will have to pick up little, if any of Bell’s salary because he’s still being paid not just by the Rays, but also by the Miami Marlins and Arizona Diamondbacks, whom he played for in 2012 and 2013, respectively.

In other roster moves, the Orioles designated right-handed reliever Evan Meek, and recalled another right-hander, Brad Brach, from Norfolk to take Meek’s spot on the 25-man roster. In 12 games this season, Meek was 0-1 with a 6.94 ERA.

This is Brach’s second stint with Baltimore this season. In his first stint, he appeared in two games, and allowed three earned runs in an inning and two-thirds. He went 3-1 with a 3.26 ERA and one save for the Tides. Showalter says the addition of Brach will provide the Orioles with another reliever who can pitch multiple innings out of the bullpen.

Orioles Notes

Bench coach John Russell managed the Orioles during the third game of their series in Kansas City. Manager Buck Showalter was on leave so he and his wife could attend their daughter’s graduation from law school in Dallas.

Right-hander and top Orioles prospect Dylan Bundy continues to progress in his rehab from Tommy John surgery last year. Bundy is scheduled to pitch an inning in an extended spring training game in Sarasota, Florida on May 20.

Ravens Select Alabama Linebacker Mosley With First-Round Pick in NFL Draft

The Baltimore Ravens had a top-20 pick in this year’s NFL Draft for the first time in six years as a result of their disappointing 8-8 record last year. Their general manager, Ozzie Newsome, played his college football at the University of Alabama under legendary coach Paul “Bear” Bryant, and he went back to the proverbial well in Tuscaloosa to draft another defensive player.

The Ravens selected Crimson Tide linebacker C.J. Mosley with the 17th pick in the first round of the draft. Mosley was a two-time defensive captain for Nick Saban, and he had 108 total tackles (61 solo) last year. He was named a first-team All-American and first-team all-Southeastern Conference. Mosley was the winner of the Butkus Award as the best linebacker in major college football.

Baltimore took a pair of players from the national champion Florida State Seminoles with their next two picks: defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan in the second round (48th overall pick) and safety Terrence Brooks in the third round (75th overall.) Jernigan was an early entry into the draft, as he decided to leave Florida State following his junior season. He had 44 tackles and found and a half sacks last season. Brooks had 48 tackles, a sack and two interceptions. He posted a time of 4.42 seconds in the 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine. With their second pick in the third round (99th overall pick), the Ravens selected tight end Crockett Gilmore of Colorado State. Gilmore caught 47 passes for 577 yards and a pair of touchdowns for the Rams last season. It’s a good thing for the Ravens that he has very big hands (10.25 inches.)

In the fourth round, the Ravens took defensive tackle Brent Urban from the University of Virginia with the 134th overall pick, and four picks later, selected tailback Lorenzo Taliaferro out of Coastal Carolina University in Conway, South Carolina. Urban had 40 tackles and a sack for the Cavaliers last season, while Taliaferro ran for 1729 yards and 27 touchdowns for the Chanticleers. He added 153 yards and two touchdowns receiving out of the backfield. With their fifth-round pick, the Ravens selected guard John Urschel from Penn State. Quarterback Keith Wenning from Ball State was drafted by the Ravens in the sixth round, and in the seventh round, Baltimore used its final draft pick to select wide receiver Michael Campanaro out of Wake Forest. The Ravens got the pick by trading their sixth-round pick in next year’s draft to Cleveland.

In other draft news, the Chicago Bears selected cornerback Kyle Fuller of Virginia Tech with the 14th pick. Fuller went to high school at Mount St. Joseph in Southwest Baltimore. Last season, Fuller had 24 tackles and two interceptions. He is one of three Baltimore-area players who were drafted this year. The others are Campanaro (played at River Hill High School), and running back Terrance West (Towson University and Northwestern High School), who was taken by Cleveland in the third round. West ran for a Football Championship Subdivision-record 2,509 yards and 42 touchdowns as he helped lead the Tigers to a 13-3 record and the FCS Championship Game, where Towson lost to North Dakota State.

Orioles Notebook: O’s Above .500 Despite Struggling Starting Pitching

By Andrew R. Koch

A full month of Major League Baseball is in the books, and the Baltimore Orioles are in the thick of a wide-open American League East race. While the Orioles are one percentage point ahead of the rival Yankees in the division, starting pitching is proving to be an Achilles’ heel, much like it has been for the last couple of seasons.

The Orioles went 12-12 in April, playing without Manny Machado and losing first baseman Chris Davis due to a strained oblique. Heading into the start of their second series with the Tampa Bay Rays, Orioles starting pitchers have gone less than five and a third innings in four of the last five games. The lone exception was Ubaldo Jimenez, who struck out 10 in 7 and a third shutout innings in the May 2 series opener at Minnesota. It was his first win of the season after signing a four-year, $50 million contract. Chris Tillman (3-1) and Wei-Yin Chen (3-2) are the only starters who are above .500. Baltimore has among the fewest starts of at least seven innings of any team in Major League Baseball. Six relievers have already appeared in 12 or more games, and the bullpen has already thrown a total of 93 innings. Following the Orioles’ 5-2 loss on May 4 in the rubber game of the series in Minnesota, in which Miguel Gonzalez fell apart and failed to get out of the fifth inning, manager Buck Showalter said in his post-game press conference of the starting rotation, “We’ve just got to be better.” Showalter went on to say that he’ll do what he can to avoid overusing the relievers, saying he wasn’t “going to put those guys in harm’s way.”

The Orioles’ regular sluggers haven’t been producing the power numbers fans are used to seeing. Davis only had six extra-base hits (four doubles, two home runs) before going on the DL. Center fielder Adam Jones has 10 extra-base hits (six doubles, one triple, three home runs, including two on May 7 at Tampa Bay), and J.J. Hardy–while he’s hitting more line drives and is bringing his batting average up–has just four doubles and is still looking for his first long ball of the season. Meanwhile, Matt Wieters and outfielder Nelson Cruz are picking up the slack in the power department. Wieters is leading the team in batting average, hitting .341 to go with five homers and 18 RBI. He’s hitting .370 left-handed as he looks to bounce back from a poor 2013 season. Cruz is leading the team in slugging with nine homers, six doubles, 29 RBI and a .568 slugging percentage.

Roster Moves

Manny Machado returned to the roster on May 1 for the second game of the Orioles’ doubleheader against the Pittsburgh Pirates. He was scheduled to be activated from the disabled list for the start of the series on April 29, but the games both that day and the following day were rained out. Reliever Troy Patton was also activated from the restricted list after serving a 25-game suspension for testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs. To make room for Machado and Patton, the Orioles sent infielder Steve Lombardozzi to Triple-A Norfolk along with relievers Evan Meek and Josh Stinson, who was outrighted. Baltimore recalled reliever Brad Brach from Norfolk. Another roster move may be necessary when Davis comes off the 15-day DL, which is scheduled to be May 11.

Wieters traveled to Pensacola, Florida on May 7 to meet with renowned orthopedic surgeon Dr. James Andrews (of Tommy John surgery fame.) Wieters has been dealing with soreness in his right elbow since the Orioles’ series in Boston in April. He says he first felt what was initially diagnosed as a sore forearm when he made a throw to second base on a cold night in Boston. He underwent an MRI exam on May 5, and surgery has been ruled out following his visit with Dr. Andrews. Caleb Joseph has been recalled from Norfolk to share the catching duties with Steve Clevenger.

UPDATED MAY 12: Davis was activated from the 15-day DL after appearing in a game with the Double-A Bowie Baysox on a rehab assignment. He played for the Orioles in the series finale at home against Houston. Wieters was placed on the DL to rest his sore elbow. The Orioles also optioned T.J. McFarland to Norfolk following the game. McFarland struck out four and allowed two runs on seven hits in three innings, including a two-run home run to the Astros’ Marc Krauss that gave Houston some insurance to salvage the series finale.