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Orioles notebook, 8/23

August 23, 2011 Comments off

Berken receives good news on injured elbow

By Jordan Schelling / MLB.com

MINNEAPOLIS — Right-hander Jason Berken got some good news following an MRA on his right elbow on Tuesday in Baltimore.

Berken, who is on the 15-day disabled list with soreness in his elbow, had Tommy John surgery and missed the entire 2005 season at Clemson. The pain began in Berken’s forearm and moved up to the elbow.An MRA — a magnetic resonance angiogram — is similar to an MRI, with the addition of contrast dye being injected into the elbow for a better picture.

“The good news is, it’s all good news basically, but the surgery site of the Tommy John looks good,” said Orioles manager Buck Showalter. “He’s got some inflammation in there right now that they’re thinking about maybe [a cortisone shot] until when Dr. [John] Wilckens gets there, to try to calm down the inflammation.”

The results of the MRA were the same as what Wilckens saw this weekend when he examined Bergen’s elbow in Anaheim.

“The structure and everything looks fine,” Showalter said. “There’s just some inflammation we’ve got to get out of there.”

O’s clear roster spot by designating Pie

MINNEAPOLIS — Once one of the top prospects in baseball, Felix Pie was designated for assignment on Tuesday by the Orioles.

The move was made to make room on the Orioles’ 40-man roster for utility man Jake Fox, who was called up from Triple-A Norfolk. Baltimore also recalled outfielder Matt Angle from the Tides.

“Hopefully it’s a win-win for Felix,” said Orioles manager Buck Showalter. “We were looking for ways to get him back being the guy that we know he might be capable of being. For us, we hope he clears [waivers] and decides to go to Norfolk and get some at-bats, and gets back to doing what he’s capable of doing.

“The bad side of that is, somebody can pick him up or he can become a free agent if he wants to. But we got to the point where if he can’t get some at-bats and get back to being what he’s capable of being, it’s probably not going to work out with him.”

In his fourth season with the Orioles, Pie hit .220 with seven RBIs in 85 games this season. In 268 games over the past three years, Pie batted .259 with 14 home runs and 67 RBIs.

For two years, in 2006-07, Pie was the Cubs’ top prospect. But he never found a solid role in Chicago, and was traded to the Orioles in ’09 for two Minor League pitchers. Pie was expected to be the everyday left fielder for the O’s, but offensive inconsistencies and struggles on the bases and in left field kept him from fulfilling that role.

Pie, who had been struggling defensively, saw his playing time decrease significantly, as he started only one of the Orioles’ previous eight games. Nolan Reimold has become the club’s everyday left fielder.

“Felix has been with us close to [four] years,” Showalter said. “I got to see him pretty well last year, so you know the potential is there. But we had to create a scenario where he can get back to being that guy.”

Angle, Fox recalled from Triple-A Norfolk

MINNEAPOLIS — After optioning Blake Davis on Monday night, the Orioles recalled outfielder Matt Angle from Triple-A Norfolk.

Angle and Jake Fox were brought up to fill holes in the outfield and corner infield positions with Josh Bell and Davis having been optioned on consecutive days.

“I think it’s a better club as far as where we are as a team right now,” manager Buck Showalter said. “They kind of serve some needs that we haven’t been able to serve.”

In 107 games for Norfolk this season, Angle batted .272 with a team-high 27 stolen bases. Angle made his Major League debut with the Orioles on July 17, playing in two games and going 0-for-7 before returning to Triple-A.

Angle’s ability defensively and as a baserunner represent an upgrade over what Pie has provided this season.

“Felix is better than that, I saw him last year play as good a left field as you want him to play,” Showalter said. “Matt fits a need. He can do a lot of things. [But] he’ll go through some growing pains up here, too.”

Fox, who has played 185 Major League games over four seasons with the Cubs, A’s and Orioles, batted .274 with 12 home runs for the Tides. After beginning the season as the Orioles’ backup catcher, Fox leads the Tides with 57 RBIs in 67 games.

In 19 games with the O’s this season, Fox hit .188 with two homers and four RBIs.

“Jake went down, and he got after it down there,” Showalter said. “This is a guy that’s been in the big leagues some and he kind of re-established himself. You’d like to reward that for going down there and doing the things that he did down there. It gives us some depth in places that we haven’t had.”

O’s relievers get job done against Twins

MINNEAPOLIS — When left-hander Zach Britton was inefficient with his pitches and had to leave after five innings on Monday night, it meant the Orioles’ bullpen would need to close out the last four frames in a one-run ballgame.

Chris Jakubauskas, Michael Gonzalez and Kevin Gregg were up to the task, retiring 12 of 14 batters faced and allowing just two hits in four scoreless innings.

Gonzalez was especially impressive, striking out all four batters he faced.

“Gonzo’s been pitching well for a while now,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “He’s attacking the zone, he’s pitching with a purpose and he’s got a good look in his eye. Hopefully, we’ll benefit from it in the next six weeks.”

After Gregg blew a 12th-inning save on Saturday, Showalter said he would put him right back in there, and he remained true to his word on Monday.

Gregg pitched a perfect ninth, needing just eight pitches to get a pair of flyouts and a groundout.

“You don’t do the things he’s done over a long period and not have some mental toughness,” Showalter said. “The mental toughness part of it is never a question with him.”

Jordan Schelling is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Hardy’s blast makes winner of Britton

August 22, 2011 Comments off

MINNEAPOLIS — Had it not been for a fan wearing a Joe Mauer jersey, J.J. Hardy likely would have been out, and Twins starter Carl Pavano could have gotten out of the inning with the game still tied.

Hardy got a second chance, instead, and he took advantage of it, crushing a 2-2 fastball from Pavano to left for a go-ahead homer in the fifth inning of a 4-1 Orioles win over the Twins on Monday night at Target Field.

“Was it a Mauer fan?” Hardy asked. “Somebody was saying he was wearing a Hardy jersey.”

Hardy’s solo home run, his 24th of the season, made for a happy homecoming for the former Twins shortstop and helped lefty Zach Britton and the Orioles pick up the much-needed victory.

Baltimore snapped a five-game losing streak and Britton snapped a five-decision skid of his own, earning his first win since June 8 against Oakland.

“I think it was bigger for the team, more so than me,” Britton said. “Obviously it’s good to get the win, but I think we needed it. The way we played in Anaheim, to be able to come out and get the first win, the first day here, I think it sets the tone for the next three games.”

Britton had some long innings — he allowed at least one baserunner in each of his five frames — and saw his pitch count rise to 98, but he was otherwise solid in his first start since Aug. 4.

After going on the disabled list Aug. 5 with a left shoulder strain, Britton was activated before the game and went five innings, allowing one run on six hits and four walks with four strikeouts.

“It’s just one of those days, I’m so excited to be back and I’m overthrowing everything,” Britton said. “I didn’t really have great command, so my mindset was like, ‘Here it is.’ I’m going to make them beat me with my stuff. I’m going to throw it over the plate because I know I can’t hit corners right now.”

Britton got big outs to end the third and fifth innings, both of which came with Jim Thome at the plate and runners in scoring position.

In the third, with a run already having scored, Britton walked consecutive batters to load the bases for Thome. Britton threw a 1-1 fastball and Thome ripped it to left, but it stayed in the park and was caught for the final out.

“It was big,” Britton said. “Any time you can get out of those situations — especially with a close game, and especially coming back my first day, having some bad outings recently — to be able to get out of there where I haven’t been able to in the past was pretty big.”

Britton then struck Thome out looking, stranding a pair of runners in the fifth.

“He was right at the limit there and he was going to be real mad at having to come out at 4 2/3 if he walked Thome there,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “But he made a big pitch there to get out of it, and I’m proud of him.”

Orioles catcher Matt Wieters added another solo blast in the sixth, his 13th of the year, and Nick Markakis drove in Hardy from first with a one-out double in the seventh for a final insurance run.

The Twins scored their only run off Britton in the third when Ben Revere singled with one out and later came around on a Mauer groundout.

Revere made a highlight-reel grab to end the seventh when he raced back to make a leaping, over-the-shoulder catch at the wall in center field, robbing Vladimir Guerrero of an extra-base hit and keeping a run off the board.

“It was unbelievable,” Hardy said. “That was as good as Adam Jones’ catch in Seattle.”

Right-hander Chris Jakubauskas relieved Britton to start the sixth, and retired the first five Twins he faced. Jakubauskas combined with lefty Michael Gonzalez and Kevin Gregg to hold the Twins scoreless with just two hits over the final four innings.

“The kid threw the ball very well against us,” said Twins manager Ron Gardenhire, who was ejected in the eighth for arguing balls and strikes. “Their bullpen came in and changed speeds and threw some curveballs. I think at one point I looked up and saw we had eight guys left on base, and that tells you the whole story.”

Jordan Schelling is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Orioles notebook, 8/22

August 22, 2011 Comments off

Showalter outlines upcoming rotation

By Jordan Schelling / MLB.com

MINNEAPOLIS — Buck Showalter confirmed his club’s pitching rotation before Monday’s game at Target Field, but the O’s skipper said it could change based on the status of lefty Jo-Jo Reyes.

Right-hander Alfredo Simon is scheduled to start the second game of the series on Tuesday against the Twins, and Jeremy Guthrie is slated to start Wednesday.

Reyes is then expected to take the hill in the series finale Thursday afternoon, and Tommy Hunter will pitch Friday when the Orioles return home to host the Yankees.

“The only thing that may change there is if Reyes comes in tomorrow — that’s why I haven’t fully committed to it — and the [back] spasms come back up,” Showalter said. “But that’s what the plan is.”

Davis optioned to Triple-A Norfolk

MINNEAPOLIS — Following Monday’s 4-1 victory over the Twins, the Orioles announced they had optioned infielder Blake Davis to Triple-A Norfolk.

In 25 games (16 starts) for the Orioles over the last two months, Davis batted .254 with one home run, six RBIs and three doubles. Davis primarily played second base, but he also saw time at third and shortstop.

The Orioles will announce a corresponding roster move at a later time.

Recalled Adams ready to contribute

MINNEAPOLIS — When the Orioles sent Ryan Adams back down to Triple-A Norfolk two months ago, they wanted him to have a chance to play every day while continuing to work and develop as a player.

In particular, defense was an issue with Adams, who committed two errors in seven games at second base for the O’s.

“I just needed to get better at everything,” Adams said. “But they’ve been on me about defense, so I went down there and tried to really work on it.”

“He’s improved, he’s getting better,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “If he swings the bat better, I think he’ll be more comfortable. I hope so.”

In his first stint with the Orioles, Adams went 5-for-23 with an RBI. In 93 games at Norfolk, Adams batted .283 with 10 home runs, 28 doubles and 37 RBIs.

The 24-year-old was recalled to take the place of struggling third baseman Josh Bell, who was optioned to Triple-A after hitting just .174 with 18 strikeouts in 17 games. Bell also struggled in the field, highlighted by a pair of costly plays in the 12th inning of Saturday’s 9-8 loss to the Angels.

With Adams moving into an everyday role at second base, Robert Andino will likely see the majority of time at third base for the Orioles. Andino made his third start at third base on Monday against the Twins.

“Robert likes seeing his name in that lineup, and I like writing it,” Showalter said. “I talked to him a little bit on the plane last night. He’s in a good spot offensively, and he just looks at it as an opportunity to bring another skill that he can bring, and continue to make himself valuable to our club and organization. I’m real proud of the year Robert has had.”

Berken to DL; Britton returns to action

MINNEAPOLIS — Right-hander Zach Britton was activated from the 15-day disabled list Monday, as he made his first start since Aug. 4 at Kansas City.

To make room for Britton on the roster, right-hander Jason Berken was placed on the DL with a right forearm strain.

Britton went on the DL on Aug. 5 with a right shoulder strain after a series of tough starts. Over his last six outings before being sidelined, Britton was 0-5 with a 10.57 ERA, allowing 27 earned runs on 45 hits in just 23 innings of work.

Up until that point, Britton had been 6-4 with a 3.10 ERA, and enjoying an impressive rookie season.

“He went through a period where it looked like it was going to come real easy to him,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “I from experience knew there was going to be some bumps and challenges along the way. That which doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”

Showalter said he’s seen a lot of the best development for young pitchers come in the offseason, when they get a chance to step back and look at what they’ve been doing.

It’s at that point, Showalter said, that things really start to sink in and the pitchers realize they “can do it” and that mistakes really get magnified by the talent at the Major League level.

“Zach’s a guy that, I’m hoping he’ll finish strong and he’ll go in the offseason and realize the things that he has to do to be successful,” Showalter said. “Today’s another step for him.”

Jordan Schelling is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.