Ngata Suspended For Rest of Regular Season

Another Baltimore player has been suspended for using Adderall.

Ravens defensive tackle Haloti Ngata was suspended for four games by the NFL after testing positive for the attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) drug, which is considered a performance-enhancing drug, and is banned under the league’s PED policy. The suspension was announced on Dec. 4, and comes at the start of a critical final month of the regular season, with half a dozen teams, including Baltimore and two of its upcoming opponents in December – Miami and Cleveland – sitting at 7-5. Ngata will be able to play again if the Ravens make the playoffs.

Ngata, a five-time Pro Bowler, is the second player on one of Baltimore’s pro teams to be suspended for using Adderall. Orioles first baseman Chris Davis was suspended in September after testing positive for the drug, and will have to sit out Opening Day 2015 for the final game of his 25-game suspension. Ngata also isn’t the first Raven to be suspended for Adderall. Cornerback Asa Jackson was suspended for the final four games of his rookie season in 2012 after testing positive, and again for the first half of the 2013 season after a second positive test.

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 Make Trade to Add Depth at Catcher

By Andrew R. Koch

The Baltimore Orioles have traded one of their top relief pitchers in a move to add depth at catcher with one of their All Stars on the disabled list for the foreseeable future.

The Orioles traded left-hander Troy Patton to the San Diego Padres for catcher Nick Hundley on May 24. Hundley is expected to be added to the 25-man roster in time for Sunday’s series finale against the Cleveland Indians. Caleb Joseph, who’d been called up from Triple-A Norfolk to serve as the backup catcher, appears likely to be heading back to Norfolk. Prior to trading Patton for Hundley, the Orioles had called up infielder Steve Lombardozzi from Norfolk.

Since coming off the restricted list on May 1 after serving a 25-game suspension for testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs, Patton was 0-1 with an 8.10 earned-run average in nine games. His playing time was limited because the Orioles have three other lefties in their bullpen. In 40 games over the last five seasons with Baltimore, Patton was 5-2 with a 3.26 ERA.

In 33 games with San Diego this season, Hundley has hit .271 with a home run and driven in three runs. Hundley is in the final year of his contract. He’s scheduled to make $4 million this year, and he has a club option for $5 million with no buyout clause for next season.

In another roster move, right-hander Preston Guilmet is expected to be recalled from Norfolk with first baseman Chris Davis going on the paternity list. Davis will be by his wife Jill’s side as they welcome their first child into the world. In addition to the series finale against Cleveland, Davis might also miss the start of the Orioles’ three-game series in Milwaukee, which will begin on Memorial Day.

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.