Orioles hot stove: Young re-signs, Hundley goes back to West coast

One of the key players in Baltimore’s run to the ALCS last year will be back for the 2015 season, while another piece will be going back out West.

The Orioles announced on Jan. 9 that reserve outfielder Delmon Young passed his physical after he and the team agreed in principle to a one-year, $2.25 million contract. The value of the contract could reach as much as $3 million if Young hits all the incentives in the contract. Last year, Young appeared in 83 games and hit .302 with seven home runs and 30 runs batted in. His biggest hit of the season was a pinch-hit three- run double that gave the Orioles the lead in the eighth inning of Game 2 in the Division Series against Detroit and sent a standing-room-only crowd at Oriole Park into a frenzy. Young was the only free agent that the Orioles were able to keep this offseason. Nelson Cruz signed with Seattle; left-handed reliever Andrew Miller signed a four-year, $36 million contract with the New York Yankees, and longtime right fielder Nick Markakis signed with Atlanta as a free agent.

Joining Cruz, Miller, and Markakis in the exodus from the Orioles was catcher Nick Hundley, who signed a two-year, $6.25 million contract with the Colorado Rockies. Hundley came to Baltimore in a trade in May that sent reliever Troy Patton to San Diego. The move was made to give the Orioles depth at catcher after Matt Wieters was lost for the season after undergoing Tommy John surgery. During his time with Baltimore, Hundley hit .233 with five homers and 19 RBIs.

The Orioles have made some additions so far during this offseason. They signed catcher J.P. Arencibia to a minor league contract, and have invited him to Spring Training, which will begin when pitchers and catchers report to Sarasota, Florida on Feb. 19. Arencibia hit .177 in 62 games with the Texas Rangers last season, and hit .279 in 48 games with Triple-A Round Rock. Arencibia previously played with Toronto. The Orioles are uncertain if Wieters will be ready for Opening Day. Baltimore also claimed former Red Sox catcher Ryan Lavarnway off waivers from the Chicago Cubs, and signed former Cubs reliever Wesley Wright to a one-year contract. The Orioles are continuing to look for a replacement for Markakis in right field.

In other news, Baltimore named Scott Coolbaugh as its new hitting coach on Dec. 19. Coolbaugh was Texas’ minor league hitting coordinator last year. Prior to that, he was the Rangers’ hitting coach in 2012, when the team led Major League Baseball in runs scored with 808, and was second with a .272 team batting average. Coolbaugh replaces Jim Pressley, who’s been assigned another role within the Orioles organization.

The Orioles have announced details for their annual Fan Fest. The festival will be sponsored by “Visit Sarasota County,” and will be held on Jan. 31 from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the Baltimore Convention Center. Tickets will be $12 for adults and $6 for senior citizens and children ages 14 and under. The day will feature Q&A forums moderated by MASN announcers with players, GM Dan Duquette, and manager Buck Showalter. Fans can also get autographs from players, bid on team merchandise in a silent auction, and go on tours of the Orioles’ clubhouse. Younger fans can take part in baseball clinics, and even ask questions of players in a kids’ press conference.

Orioles bring September, October magic back to Baltimore

By Andrew R. Koch

The Baltimore Orioles have been on a run for the ages since the end of May, as what was once a weak spot is now one of their strengths.

photo credit Keith Allison under a Creative Commons License
photo credit Keith Allison under a Creative Commons License

On May 30, the Orioles were 26- 27. They were struggling with consistency both at the plate and from their starting pitching. The starters were struggling to get past the fifth inning on a regular basis, putting a heavy strain on the bullpen. Since then, it’s been the starting pitching that’s been leading the way.

Left-hander WeiYin Chen has only lost twice in his last 24 starts, and ace right-hander Chris Tillman hasn’t lost a start since July 12. That, along with a 3.46 team earned-run average that’s good for third-low- est in the American League, have contributed to Baltimore’s 70-39 record since the end of May. The final homestand of the season was highlighted by Baltimore clinching its first division title since 1997, and the first at home since 1969, with a final division lead of 12.5 games over New York and 13 games over Toronto. Center fielder Adam Jones celebrated the division title by smashing “Victory Pies” in fans’ faces, and dousing the head groundskeeper in beer on the field. The Orioles also once again lead the league in long balls, with 210 home runs this season. The Colorado Rockies are second with 185, followed by A.L. East rival Toronto with 177. Baltimore scores nearly half of its runs on homers.

Baltimore’s bench players are getting some of the limelight due to injuries to key starters. Jimmy Paredes, who was called up from Triple-A Norfolk, has been playing third base with Manny Machado out due to season-ending knee surgery. Paredes is quickly winning his way into the hearts of fans with some power, to the tune of four doubles, two homers and driving in eight runs in 11 games since being called up. With Chris Davis sitting out the rest of the regular season because of a drug suspension, Steve Pearce has gotten regular playing time at first base, and has responded with a career high .293 batting average and 21 home runs. Ryan Flaherty has seen regular playing time at second base and shortstop due to the struggles of rookie Jonathan Schoop at the plate and back spasms for J.J. Hardy. Flaherty has also shifted over to third as manager Buck Showalter works his defensive substitutions and lineup of relievers in the bullpen.

The Orioles finished off the regular season by going 3-4 on the road in the Bronx and in Toronto. The A.L. Division Series will start on Oct. 2.

Photo Credit

Orioles Lose Davis to Drug Suspension

2014 has been a subpar year for Chris Davis by everyone’s standards, including his own. Now, his disappointing season has come to a sudden halt.

Just hours before the Orioles were to begin a day-night doubleheader against the New York Yankees to kick off their final homestand of the regular season at Camden Yards, Major League Baseball announced that Davis would be suspended 25 games for a second positive test for amphetamines, which are banned under baseball’s substance abuse policy. Davis said in a statement through the MLB Player’s Association that he’d tested positive for Adderall (a drug prescribed to treat ADHD). He said he’s gotten a therapeutic-use exemption to take the drug in the past, but didn’t have it this time. After learning on Sept. 11 that he’d be suspended, Davis called manager Buck Showalter to personally break the news to him, as well as to reach out to some of his teammates.

“I apologize to my teammates, coaches, the Orioles organization, and especially the fans,” Davis said in the statement. “I accept my punishment, and will begin serving it immediately.” The suspension will cost Davis the rest of the regular season (17 games as of September 12) as well as the beginning of the playoffs. MLB has ruled that the Orioles can still put Davis on the roster for the American League Championship Series, which would allow him to return to the lineup in the middle of the series after serving his suspension. If Baltimore doesn’t play at least eight games in the playoffs, Davis would have to serve the remainder of the suspension at the start of the 2015 regular season. As Showalter pointed out in his press pregame conference before the doubleheader against the Yankees, Davis made a mistake, and it was his own doing.

“You’ve got to learn to deal with the problems and the challenges along the way,” Showalter said, “And if they’re self-inflicted, there’s no ‘woe-is-me.’ And this is self-inflicted.” Several other teammates, including reliever Darren O’Day, echoed similar sentiments about Davis’ mistake being a self-inflicted one. However, Showalter told reporters that Davis is going to take on this suspension head-on, just like he goes about playing baseball.

Prior to the suspension, Davis was hitting just .196, and had struck out a Major League-leading 173 times this season. He went through several lengthy slumps that at times led to him being benched. However, he did hit 26 home runs, drive in 72 runs, and had even showed he could play third base after shifting over to the hot corner to fill in for Manny Machado, whose season was cut short by a serious knee injury that required surgery for the second straight year.

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.

Wieters to Undergo Tommy John Surgery, Miss Rest of 2014 Season

The unusually high number of Tommy John surgeries that have wreaked havoc on pitching staffs already this season has now claimed a new victim: a catcher.

The Baltimore Orioles announced before the start of their series at Tampa Bay on June 16 that All-Star and Gold Glove catcher Matt Wieters will undergo ulnar collateral ligament replacement (Tommy John) surgery on his right elbow. Well-known orthopedic surgeon Dr. James Andrews will perform the procedure at his office in north Florida. It’s expected that Wieters will need nine months of recovery time in order to be ready for the start of next season. Baltimore had set a July 1 deadline for deciding whether or not Wieters needed surgery.

Orioles manager Buck Showalter said Wieters had been trying to avoid surgery by going with the rest-and-rehab route. However, after having a good day of throwing, Showalter says Wieters’ elbow was sore the next day, and that was the indication to Orioles trainers that the injury was to the UCL. Wieters hadn’t played in a game since May 10, and hadn’t caught in a game since May 4. He’s been on the disabled list since May 11. Wieters believes he originally suffered the injury while making a throw to second base during a game in Boston in April. He was off to a great start prior to the injury, hitting .308 with five doubles, five home runs and 18 RBI.

The Orioles traded reliever Troy Patton to San Diego on May 24 for catcher Nick Hundley to add depth at catcher in case Wieters was going to be out for any significant length of time. Caleb Joseph is the backup catcher, and Steve Clevenger is also available at Triple-A Norfolk.

Dylan Bundy Makes First Rehab Start With Aberdeen

Dylan Bundy threw in a professional game for the first time since 2012.

Bundy allowed just a run in five innings on Father’s Day as the Aberdeen Ironbirds hosted the Hudson Valley Renegades in New York-Penn League action. After the game, Bundy wrote on his Twitter account “First outing in the books! Felt great!”

Bundy underwent Tommy John surgery at the end of the 2012 season.

Gonzalez Set to Return From DL

Right-handed starter Miguel Gonzalez is scheduled to be activated from the DL and start the middle game of the series in Tampa Bay. When he’s activated, the Orioles will go to a six-man starting rotation. Showalter says any of the other starters could be asked to occasionally serve as long relievers out of the bullpen. He added that the rotation will be worked out in the coming days, and could be helped by the result of Manny Machado’s appeal of his five-game suspension. The appeal will be heard prior to the start of the Orioles’ series against the Yankees in New York.

Orioles Place Closer Hunter on DL

By Andrew R. Koch

The Orioles gained a split of their series in Pittsburgh earlier this week, but that split came at a price that will create additional flux in Baltimore’s bullpen.

Prior to the start of their four-game holiday weekend series at home against the Cleveland Indians, the Orioles have placed closer Tommy Hunter on the 15-day disabled list with a strained left groin. The move was made retroactive to May 21. Hunter last pitched on May 20 in the first game of the short series in Pittsburgh, allowing two hits and striking out one in one inning. It was only his second appearance after blowing back-to-back saves at home against Houston and Detroit earlier this month. Hunter is 1-1 with a 9.39 earned-run average and 11 saves in 14 opportunities this season.

Hunter will be eligible to come off the DL on June 5. Baltimore has recalled right-handed pitcher Preston Guilmet from the Triple-A Norfolk Tides to take Hunter’s spot on the 25-man roster until then.