Baltimore Orioles: Nine-run fifth sinks Birds

The good news for the Baltimore Orioles are that the games still don’t count for now, and yesterday’s game didn’t include many pitchers who’s expected to be on the big league roster. Tyler Wilson still has a shot, however he looked fairly solid overall. WIlson’s line: 4.0 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 3 K. Whether Wilson ends up in the bullpen or starting at Triple-A is anyone’s guess.

Wilson gave up a home run in the third, which was a solo shot. Other than that, he looked great. The Birds would get that run back in the bottom of the inning when Hardy reached on an error, allowing a run to score. The O’s would proceed to manufacture four runs in the last of the fourth. And that’s a good sign; that they’re able to score without homers, that is.

So the O’s led 5-1 after a big inning, and it appeared that they were set to go in terms of winning the game. What you look for is a big inning and the Orioles got that, right?! Yes, but then the fifth inning came around…

…and that was Boston’s time to shine. A four-run inning is a “big inning.” A nine-run inning is gargantuan. Boston’s Leon came to bat twice in the inning, and homered both times. The second one was a grand slam, which obviously attests for four of the runs right there. But at the end of the day, you’d rather not be on the other end of an inning like that.

First off, sometimes things like that happen in baseball. So you have to start there; everyone’s going to have their moment in the sun so to speak. However as I said above, I suspect that most of the guys throwing at that stage of the game are going to be farmhands when all is said and done. Granted that might make you wonder who the O’s have in the pipeline, but odds are it’s not really a harbinger for what’s to come this year.

The good news for the Birds is that they battled back a bit, and ended up falling 11-9. Craig Gentry smacked a homer in that mix, and I have to believe that the O’s are going to find a way to carry him on the roster. He’s had a great spring, and he has speed on the base paths that the Birds desperately need. That’s just one of many tough decisions the O’s have to make this week.

The Orioles will head over to Orlando this afternoon for their first and only meeting with the Atlanta Braves this spring. Wade Miley gets the start, and he’ll be opposed by Atlanta’s Adonis Garcia. Game time is set for just after 1 PM.

Baltimore Orioles: Jayson Aquino makes his case

The Baltimore Orioles still might have a few decisions to make with regard to the final rotation spot – if Jayson Aquino has anything to say about it after yesterdays game be. Toronto. Aquino’s line: 4 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1BB, 4 K. I’m still on record as saying that I believe the final rotation spot will go to Gabriel Ynoa. However Aquino made a strong case for himself yesterday.

And that’s what you want out of camp – strong competition. At the end of the day once a decision is made that’ll give whomever wins that spot a stronger base. And ultimately the team will be stronger as a result.

The O’s took an early 1-0 lead in the first when Chris Johnson singled home a run. Toronto would even things out in the last of the inning with an RBI-groundout. And tied the game remained until almost the bitter end. Cedric Mullins’ sac fly-RBI in the eighth gave the Birds the lead back at 2-1, which turned into a 2-1 victory.

Neither team appeared willing to show much in this game. And who can really blame them? They’ll open the season against one another one week from today at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Might as well save it for then!

The Orioles enter the final week of camp as the roster begins to come together. Their final Grapefruit League game is Thursday. Friday morning they’ll break camp and head to Norfolk to play the Tides, and then onto Baltimore.

Boston visits Ed Smith Stadium this afternoon. Tyler Wilson will be on the mound for the Birds, and he’ll be opposed by Eduardo Rodriguez. Game time is set for just after 1 PM.

Baltimore Orioles: Did Gabriel Ynoa earn the fifth starter role last night?

Gabriel Ynoa pitched five drama-free innings last night for the Baltimore Orioles. Ynoa’s line: 5.0 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 3 K. In the quest for a fifth starter, my personal opinion is that the Birds found one last night. They of course acquired Ynoa in a trade with the NY Mets this past off season.

Mind you, that’s just my personal opinion. Ynoa and Gausman are the only Oriole starters to make it through five innings this spring. Manager Buck Showalter seemed to feel that Ynoa’s outing was a success as well (quote courtesy of Roch Kubatko, MASNsports):

He presented himself well. That was close to a normal night. A little wind blowing out. Not much. Mostly early. In the shadows the first couple of innings. A lot of things you keep in mind.

J.J. Hardy put the Orioles on the board in the last of the second with his first home run of the spring, a solo shot. Jonathan Schoop followed suit two innings later with his second of the spring, also a solo home run. The Orioles were off to the races, and they never trailed in this game.

Minnesota did briefly cut the lead in half on a solo homer by Field in the sixth, but Chris Davis had something to say about that in the bottom of the inning. He smacked a two-run home run, and the O’s opened the game up with a 4-1 lead. Later in the inning they were also able to net another run on a pass ball to run the tally to 5-1, and then 6-1 an inning later when Trumbo reached on an error.

Minnesota would get two back on a late two-run homer in the ninth, but the Birds closed things out with a 6-3 win before the home folks in Sarasota. As if there weren’t enough during the game, the fans at Ed Smith Stadium were treated to a fireworks night after the game. Fitting if you think about it!

But the story of the game was Gabriel Ynoa, and how solid he looked. I feel that it’s telling that previously he had only gone two plus innings in a game, and last night he went through five. If in fact the Orioles break camp with five starters (which they don’t have to do), I suspect that fifth starter would be Ynoa. Having said that, they wouldn’t need a fifth starter until about midway through April. So there’s that also.

The Orioles will head over to Dunedin this afternoon for a game with the Toronto Blue Jays. Jayson Aquino (another fifth starter candidate) will get the start today, and he’ll be opposed by Toronto’s Francisco Liriano. Game time is set for just after 1 PM.

Baltimore Orioles: One week before a northward turn

One week from now Buck Showalter and the Baltimore Orioles will have broken camp and be on their way back to Baltimore. Actually they’ll probably already be back in Baltimore. The spring is winding down, and a lot of people (myself included) are happy about that. Everyone looks forward to spring training every year because it signals the return of baseball. But once we get towards the end we’re happy it’s over and that the real stuff is about to begin.

The jury’s still out on who the fifth starter will be coming out of camp, or even if the Orioles would even need one. One would think that Mike Wright is in the discussion, although he gave up five runs last night in Ft. Myers as the Birds ended up tying Minnesota. But I suspect he’s still in the discussion.

The Orioles have days off scheduled on April 4th (day after Opening Day), April 6th, and April 10th. So the fact is that they won’t need a fifth starter right away. (Obviously if it rains on Monday April 3rd that will be the off day and the season will start on the 4th.) So it might well behoove them to carry an extra reliever or an extra field player right off the bat.

If they do decide to bring Wright north, I might recommend that they invent an injury an send him to the DL. That would allow him to remain back in Sarasota working out when the season starts. It also allows them to send him to the minors (depending upon when they backdate the DL listing) for a “rehab assignment.” Would that be right and fair? Probably not. But teams do it all the time. This isn’t to say that’s what they’re going to do, but it’s an option.

The O’s have three home games left in Sarasota, and three road games. I suspect that this week we’ll start to see some of the regulars hit the road as the team starts to come together to head north. Especially guys like Jones and Machado, who have been away from the team in the WBC.

One of those home games will be tonight when Minnesota hits Ed Smith Stadium. Gabriel Ynoa will be on the mound for the O’s, and he’ll be opposed by Hector Santiago. Game time is set for just after 6 PM.

Baltimore Orioles need to find a way to honor Chuck Thompson

I thought it was a great gesture for the Baltimore Orioles to honor their MLB Hall of Famers with statues in the outfield picnic area in 2012. All of the ceremonies were very well done, and I feel like the fans really got a kick out of them. And it didn’t hurt that it coincided with the re-birth of the Orioles as a winning franchise. However there’s still one Oriole Hall of Fame member who doesn’t have the recognition he deserves at Camden Yards.

I write a column on this topic every year towards the end of spring training, and quite honestly it’s one of my favorite ones to write. The great Chuck Thompson was the voice of the Orioles on both television and radio for years and years. While he also did some play-by-play work for the Washington Senators in the 1950’s, he was a voice and a persona that belonged uniquely to Baltimore. Granted he did some national work, but he was always Baltimore’s voice.

Thompson of course called Orioles games, as well as Baltimore Colts’ games. Odds are that any big time Baltimore sports moment until the 1980’s featured Thompson behind the mic. He retired in 1983, but returned to the radio both part-time a few years later before retiring in 2000 for good. And it’s in those latter years of his career that I remember him in my own youth. However as great of an announcer as he was even then, he really came to life for me from the stories told by my Dad and my Uncles of him from years before.

We all know the catchphrases…ain’t the beer cold, and go to war, Ms. Agnes! Those were vintage Chuck Thompson phrases, which represented summertime, BBQ’s, the beach, and Orioles baseball to us all. Speaking for myself, I always loved how at times Thompson would reverse his words in terms of how one might have otherwise said something. “…bats from the left side, does Eddie Murray,” as opposed to “Eddie Murray bats from the left side.” It’s little things like that which make hometown announcers in baseball the best. And Thompson was no exception.

So my issue is that short of his name being in the Orioles’ hall of fame, there’s no recognition of Thompson or his role in the organization at the ballpark. And I think that’s a shame. The Washington Nationals aptly dedicated their press box in honor of the great writer, Shirley Povich. That’s exactly the type of thing I’d like to see the Orioles consider doing. Because Chuck Thompson was an institution in and of himself. He was as much a part of the great Oriole teams of yesteryear as any of the players or coaches. It was through his voice, that fans followed the team. And to those of us who didn’t grow up watching games on our iPads or phones, that still means a lot.

So I would love to see the Orioles do something along the lines of what the Nationals did for Shirley Povich. Or perhaps simply name the radio booth in honor of Thompson. As the 1993 winner of the Ford C. Frick award, he is an MLB Hall of Famer. And thus he should be viewed as such.

The O’s will take on Minnesota in Fort Myers this evening. Mike Wright will be on the mound for the Birds, and he’ll be opposed by Minnesota’s Ervin Santana. Game time is set for just after 7 PM

Baltimore Orioles leave the game to Chance

The Baltimore Orioles left the game outcome to chance last night, as Chance Sisco’s three-run homer in the eighth won it for the Birds.

If the Baltimore Orioles were counting wins and losses at this stage, they sure would be lucky that they inserted minor league catcher Chance Sisco into the lineup late in last night’s game. But that’s only if they were counting wins and losses. And as we know, at this stage they aren’t.

Starter Chris Lee struggled in his two innings of work, and at times almost came off as if he was overthrowing. Lee’s line: 2.0 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 BB, 1 K. Now in fairness Lee only gave up two runs. However his pitch count was in the fifties after two innings; that’s not where he needs to be. However after the game Showalter expressed that he felt Lee would get to where he needs to be. It’s unclear if that means the Orioles intend to break camp with Lee on the roster or not, however it was somewhat of a vote of confidence after a lackluster outing.

Tampa put those two runs up on Lee in the first inning off of two RBI-singles. However the O’s rebounded an inning later with a Kim RBI-single to cut the lead to 2-1. Chris Johnson came up with one on in the last of the fourth and smacked a two-run homer to put the Orioles in the lead.

However in typical Tampa fashion, one inning later Rasmus smacked a two-run shot of his own that gave Tampa the lead back at 4-3. I say typical Tampa fashion because their attitude has always been anything you can do, I can do better. Tampa’s a very loose team, and while the intensity of win now seems to affect everyone else, it’s never really bothered them. Such is life at times.

The Birds were able to tie the game at four on a Davis RBI-groundout in the last of the fifth. As the game wore on, regular players started rotating out in the seventh and eighth innings. You know that you’re getting later and later in the spring when everyday players are stickin around that long in these games!

However I suppose it was a pre-determined fact that the game itself would be decided by reserves. That’s normally the case in these spring games. So with two on in the last of the eighth, Chance Sisco came up to bat. And he sent a deep shot towards left field, which you knew was gone if it only stayed fair…it drifted towards the foul line as it headed towards the wall, giving the impression that it was going foul. But then it smacked clean into the foul pole, giving Sisco a three-run homer and the Orioles an eventual 7-4 victory.

At the end of the day, wins and losses don’t matter. But it’s always nice to win if you’re the Orioles, especially when the “catcher of the future” is the guy who turned in the winning runs. Going back to the pitching for just a moment, while Lee had some shaky moments, both Zach Britton and Tyler Wilson got into the middle innings of this game. And both looked incredibly solid. That’s a good sign.

The Orioles weren’t the only ones making news last night; Team USA blanked Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic final game, 8-0. Anyone who wasn’t already familiar with Adam Jones‘ body of work as a big league player, knows who he is now. And now as a world champion, Jones is headed back to Orioles’ camp in Sarasota.

Today is the second of two off days for the Orioles in camp. So with no game this afternoon and this evening, there’s not much left to say other than enjoy the Sweet 16 games tonight!

Baltimore Orioles: Ubaldo Jimenez deserved better in loss to Toronto

There are few members of the Baltimore Orioles who have been as maligned as Ubaldo Jimenez the past few years. This is of course the fourth and final year of his contract, and most O’s fans would argue that to this point he hasn’t lived up to expectations. Fans looking at his line score from this afternoon probably would assume that he’s continuing to struggle. However look deeper and you might be surprised. Jimenez’s line: 4.0 IP, 5 H, 4 R, 3 BB, 5 K.

Jimenez gave up four runs with two outs, many of which coming off of balls that weren’t hit too hard. And that’s been a defect of the Orioles overall the past few years; teams can sometimes bleed them to death by a thousand cuts. Toroto got a two-RBI single and a two-RBI double in the fourth inning to take a 4-0 lead. In that sequence, only the two-RBI double (by Pillar) was a solidly hit ball. It also included a ball that was ruled a hit, but misplayed by catcher Caleb Joseph. The ball went almost straight up in the air, and fell near the mound as Joseph lost it in the sun.

And those are the breaks that you get when you’re bleeding someone to death by a thousand cuts. For his part, Jimenez felt that this outing was better than his last (quote courtesy of Roch Kubatko, MASNsports):

Today was even better. After the first inning I was able to throw all my pitches. I was cruising along. I was attacking the hitters. The split, the slider, the changeup, every pitch was working to both sides until the last inning. We got in trouble a little bit.

The Orioles also got a solo home run out of Chris Davis in the last of the fourth, as well as an additional run on a passed ball. Toronto would add a sac fly-RBI in the eighth. Davis’ home run was his first of the spring, although his walks are way up – which is a good thing.

As I said above, Jimenez is a guy who’s been maligned frequently. He’s had his struggle for sure, however sometimes I do believe that some of the criticism is a bit over-the-top. He’s also had stretches were he’s been good. Look no further than last September, when he was the Orioles’ most consistent pitcher down the stretch in a playoff chase. He was also the winning pitcher in what amounted to a spot start on September 16, 2014 – the night the Orioles clinched the AL East pennant.

However up to this point I’ve also said that the Orioles couldn’t DFA Jimenez on occasions when fans have commented that they should. That would have entailed continuing to pay him, while he potentially pitched for another team. And that’s just poor business if you ask me. However as he enters the final year of his contract, I suspect that the Orioles have a bit more flexibility. If he struggles or becomes a liability, they might consider doing something like that. Granted he would still be collecting his salary from the Orioles and could in essence sign anywhere, but it would only be for the duration of this season. That’s a lot different than doing it with 2-3 years left on his contract.

The Orioles will remain in Sarasota, but won’t play again until tomorrow evening when Tampa comes to town. Chris Lee will get the start for the Orioles, and he’ll be opposed by Tampa’s Chris Archer. Game time is set for just after 6 PM.