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Posted on: September 21, 2011 11:41 am
Edited on: September 21, 2011 11:43 am
 

R.I.P.: 2011 Baltimore Orioles

By Matt Snyder

Another season gone, another disappointment for 29 teams as one is immortalized forever. Let’s take a look back at 2011 and forward in Eye on Baseball’s R.I.P. series...

Team name: Baltimore Orioles
Record: 64-90, 29.5 games back in AL East
Manager: Buck Showalter
Best hitter: Adam Jones -- .283/.324/.466, 23 HR, 80 RBI, 63 R, 25 2B, 11 SB
Best pitcher: Jeremy Guthrie -- 9-17, 4.28 ERA, 1.34 WHIP, 128 K, 202 IP

The more things change, the more they stay the same. The Orioles haven't been in playoff contention since 1997. Following that season, they finished fourth nine times and third once. They're now headed for their fourth consecutive last-place finish.

2011 SEASON RECAP

Things appeared to be looking up early in the season for the Orioles. They started off 6-1, and this wasn't against pushovers. They swept the Rays, took two of three from the Tigers and then beat the Rangers. Of course, it was too good to be true. They proceeded to lose eight straight. They did battle back to .500 twice and lingered close to .500 until being buried by an awful stretch, when they went 6-23 from June 11-July 15. That would end any hope of breaking through, as the Orioles wouldn't be closer than 20 games in the AL East after July 22.

The Orioles did get younger in trading Derrek Lee, Koji Uehara and Mike Gonzalez, and there were some positive signs. They now have a decent offensive core of catcher Matt Wieters, third baseman Mark Reynolds, shortstop J.J. Hardy and outfielders Nick Markakis and Adam Jones (any of the four could have been picked as the "best hitter" above). None of those players are older than 28. Of course, none are younger than 25, nor do any appear to be superstar material. On the mound, the Orioles saw enough from rookie Zach Britton to believe he's one of the pieces of the future, but Brian Matusz had a disaster of a season. Jim Johnson is showing himself the answer at closer and Pedro Strop -- who was acquired from the Rangers in the Gonzalez deal -- is throwing the ball very well in front of him.

2012 AUDIT

The outlook would be a lot more sunny in a different division. The fact of the matter is that the Orioles are set up to improve their on-field product, but probably not be drastic enough to translate into more wins next season -- because the AL East is so good. The Yankees, Red Sox or Rays don't appear to be getting much worse any time soon and the Blue Jays are pretty well set up to take some significant steps forward. That means that even if the Orioles get better, they're still behind the 8-ball, so to speak.

One area where they can improve is from simple progression from all the young players. Matusz can't possibly be worse, so long as he stays mentally balanced, healthy and works hard in the offseason. Tommy Hunter has good enough stuff to be a part of the rotation, too, just as Jake Arrieta does. Chris Tillman is still too young to give up on. Shifting to the position players: Brian Roberts will still only be 34 and should be healthy, so there's hope he comes back with a productive season. Luke Scott and Nolan Reimold are fine pieces of a supporting cast and we already mentioned the offensive core. Also of note: Wieters is becoming a great defensive catcher. That matters.

FREE AGENTS

Cesar Izturis, SS
Vladimir Guerrero, DH

OFFSEASON FOCUS

They need to quit trying to make a patchwork lineup (Lee, Guerrero) for the short-term and instead use some money looking long-term. You aren't competing in the AL East by filling holes with washed-up vets. Here are five big things I'd do to improve the Orioles with the eyes on the future.
  • Sign Prince Fielder. Whatever it takes. I mentioned above the offensive core is good, but lacking a centerpiece. Prince ties it all together. The top seven in the lineup would go something like: Roberts, Markakis, Fielder, Jones, Hardy, Reynolds, Wieters. That looks pretty good, no? Fielder might not want to head to the worst team in the AL East, but money talks. Blow him away. Worried about his durability due to weight? He's only 27 and hasn't played less than 157 games in a season until this year (and he's at 155 and primed to surpass that mark again). He just doesn't miss games. After the big splash signing, try to keep everything else in-house and see what other holes definitely need to be filled after '12.
  • Move Mark Reynolds to DH permanently. He's an absolute butcher at third, but his power and on-base abilities are helpful to the offense.
  • Let Josh Bell and Chris Davis compete for the third base job. Both players have upside, so the Orioles could strike gold here and make the lineup even stronger.
  • Trade Jeremy Guthrie. He's going to be 33 next season and -- as long as you can ignore the high-loss totals his Orioles have saddled him with -- isn't a bad pitcher. He could give a contender 200 decent innings as their fifth starter. Thus, he'll get something like a mid-level prospect back, but the main reason is the Orioles need to see what they have by giving extended looks to the young pitchers who have already seen time in the bigs. Go into the season with a rotation of Britton, Matusz, Hunter, Arrieta and Tillman and give it an extended look. By midseason, if one or two aren't working out, it's time to dip into the minors for others. If three or four aren't working out, more drastic measures will have to be taken in the offseason.
  • Stick with the Strop-Johnson duo at the end of games. There's no reason to go out and grab another retread like Kevin Gregg again. Trade Gregg if they could, but it's doubtful much comes back. Whatever, let him pitch in non-save situations.
This wouldn't make them a contender in 2012, but they'd be better and would have the chance to evaluate where everything stands with the young players after the 2012 season. You have to take babysteps to get back to respectability after finishing fifth four straight times.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnBaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: August 17, 2011 9:53 am
 

Pepper: Signing deadline needs to be moved up

Bubba Starling

By C. Trent Rosecrans

The last couple of days showed us some of the best of baseball, five walkoffs on Tuesday, Jim Thome's 600th home run on Monday, triple plays both Monday and Tuesday and so much more. But Monday night we saw one of the things that needs to be fixed, and that's the signing deadline for draft picks.

Yesterday I touched on this, but I suggested just moving it from midnight to a more reasonable hour. That was a selfish wish. Hall of Famer George Brett tells the Kansas City Star that the deadline needs to be moved up more than a month to something like July 4.

The reason is simple, the development of players is stunted by a year and the posturing could hurt players. According to Brett, the Royals and Scott Boras, the "advisor" for their top pick, Bubba Starling, didn't even start talking until 10:30 p.m. on Monday night. The two sides then agreed to a deal with 20-40 seconds left, Brett said.

"If they made the deadline July 4, these guys would sign July 4 and the guy would jump on the plane and play some real baseball rather than go to Arizona when the season is almost over after not picking up a ball and a bat for how long … and playing football … he's not baseball ready," Brett told the newspaper. "It's going to take him a while." 

Instead of playing baseball and cashing checks, Starling was working out with the Nebraska football team as a negotiating ploy, showing that he was "serious" that he'd turn down millions of dollars to play football. He was also risking injury and his future with no guarantee.

That said, with the way money was thrown around on Monday night, it seems to make little sense to sign early. The teams showed that players who wait to sign until the deadline will be rewarded. An agent I spoke to on Tuesday said he's had players sign early in the past -- which is all well and good for the teams, but did he do his players' a disservice by not waiting until the end? In his previous cases, no, it was still the right thing to do. But next time? When the 27th player picked gets $800,000 above slot, the waiting game pays. That's not going to change, the way to fix that it to shorten the wait.

Pirates' booty: Speaking of the draft signings, the Pirates spent $17 million in signing bonuses for their draft picks. While there are negatives, for Pittsburgh, this is a positive. For many years teams like the Royals and Pirates wouldn't draft the best available player in the draft, instead drafting the best available player that would fit into their budget. The Royals gave Bubba Starling a huge contract and the Pirates gave out several, including an $8 million signing bonus to No. 1 overall pick Gerrit Cole and $5 million for second-rounder Josh Bell. Last season we heard about how the Pirates weren't spending their luxury tax gains, but now we see an actual plan and owner Bob Nutting is putting money into the team. [MLB.com]

Right player, wrong position: Living in Cincinnati I've seen this before -- teams in MLB will often pick the best player available in the draft, regardless of position, now Yonder Alonso is in the big leagues with the Reds and has little to do because Joey Votto isn't going to sit the bench for him. The Nationals saw a player some considered to be the best in the draft fall to them and couldn't pass up Rice third baseman Anthony Rendon, despite already having a 26-year-old at third base in Ryan Zimmerman. The Nationals are happy to have Rendon and let that problem play out. [MASNSports.com]

Bundy eyes 2013: Orioles first-round pick Dylan Bundy said his plan is to be in the big leagues in 2013. The right-hander would be 20 in 2013. Brett would tell him if he was serious about that, he maybe should have signed sooner. [Baltimore Sun]

Overrated Howard: Baseball-Reference.com's Sean Forman made the argument in the New York Times that Philadelphia's Ryan Howard is not an elite hitter. The bigger argument was about overvaluing the RBI -- the stat that Howard provides much of Howard's worth. It does certainly help that he plays for the Phillies and has some pretty decent players in front of him in the lineup.

Umps visit kids: Jerry Meals may be Public Enemy No. 1 in Pittsburgh, but not to 3-year-old Emily Berger. Berger, who had undergone surgery on Monday, was one of the children visited by a group of MLB umpires to visit a children's hospital on Tuesday. Meals, who famously blew the call at home plate to end a 19-inning game in Atlanta for Pittsburgh loss, and the rest of his crew hosted a Build-A-Bear workshop for dozens of children. [Pittsburgh Tribune-Review]

Sizemore improving: The Indians hope Grady Sizemore can return next month after he started baseball activities on Tuesday as part of his rehab from a right knee injury and a sports hernia surgery. [MLB.com]

Granderson's rare feat: Curtis Granderson has a shot at leading the American League in homers and triples. The last player to do that was Jim Rice in 1978. [Baseball-Reference.com]

Mariners doing well: Jack Zduriencik won the offseason according to many before the 2010 season, and we saw how that worked. But even with that in hindsight, it appears Zduriencik has had a good couple of weeks despite his team's fall in the standings over the last two months. [Seattle Times]

More Thome: If you haven't had enough of Jim Thome (and really, it's not like we've even got to a tenth of the DJ3K madness yet), his hometown paper, the Peoria JournalStar put together a fantastic package looking back on his life and career. Make sure you check it out.

Give the people what they want: Nice job by the Brewers' promotion department with the announcement of  "Tony Plush Rally Towels" for the Sept. 9 game against the Phillies. "Tony Plush" is the "gentleman's name" of outfielder Nyjer Morgan. [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel]

Bashing Boise: No, not the Broncos and their "Smurf turf," but the city's Class A team -- Cubs owner Tom Ricketts said Boise's Memorial Stadium is "below standard." [Chicago Tribune]

Pros vs. G.I. Joes: Some White Sox players are playing video games with soldiers online. [MLB.com]

Hi, bye: Outfielder Jonny Gomes was traded from the Reds to the Nationals last month, but he wasn't informed until just before the Reds' game started, meaning he wasn't able to say goodbye to his teammates in Cincinnati. Now a member of the Nationals, Gomes got to say both hello and goodbye to the Reds when the team started their series in Washington. [Cincinnati Enquirer]

Cut those sideburns: Monday was the 20th anniversary of Don Mattingly sitting out a game for refusing to cut his hair. [MLB.com]

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @eyeonbaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: August 9, 2011 2:08 am
Edited on: August 9, 2011 2:11 am
 

3 Up, 3 Down: Mighty Casey (Kotchman)

Casey Kotchman

By C. Trent Rosecrans

Casey Kotchman, Rays: Kotchman recently qualified for the batting title and is now second in the American League with a .341 average behind Boston's Adrian Gonzalez. But he's not here because of his two singles (though his seventh-inning single tied the game at 1), it's because of his final plate appearance of the 2-1 victory over the Royals -- leading off the ninth inning with a walk-off homer, his seventh of the season, second in the last two days and third in the last six games.

Shane Victorino, Phillies: It's a good thing for the Phillies that Shane Victorino appealed his suspension. Because of the appeal, Victorino was able to play Monday night against the Dodgers and he made the most of his opportunity, doubling twice and adding a solo homer in the ninth inning of the Phillies' 5-3 victory. He scored three times against the team that drafted him in 1999 but allowed him to be drafted twice in the Rule 5 draft -- first by San Diego in 2002 and then against in 2004 by the Phillies.

Charlie Morton, Pirates: Morton threw eight shutout innings, allowing six hits and three walks, while striking out four as the Pirates snapped their 10-game losing streak with a 5-0 victory over the Giants


Daniel Hudson, Diamondbacks: Just a half-game out of first place going into the series against baseball's worst team, Hudson may have been feeling a little too confident before Monday's outing against Houston. The Diamondbacks' right-hander allowed five first-inning runs and two more in the second, falling to 11-8. In his shortest outing of the season, Hudson lasted just three innings, allowing seven runs (four earned) on 11 hits.

Heath Bell, Padres: The All-Star closer came into the game in the ninth with a two-run lead. All-Star closers are supposed to close those types of games, especially against a team so beat up by injures as the Mets. But Bell allowed four singles in the ninth inning to the Mets' Jason Pridie, Justin Turner, David Wright and Lucas Duda to score three runs and give the Mets a 9-8 victory.

Josh Bell, Orioles: Baltimore's third baseman was charged with an error in the sixth inning of the Orioles' game against the White Sox, but it was a play he should have made that didn't get ruled an error that he really regretted. With a runner on second and two outs in the eighth inning, Bell had a shot at Alex Rios' smash but the ball went under his glove and into left field, allowing the eventual winning run to score in Chicago's 7-6 victory.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsmlb on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: February 16, 2011 8:15 pm
Edited on: February 16, 2011 8:16 pm
 

Josh Bell could make Orioles as backup

BellOnce the Orioles acquired Mark Reynolds, it appeared to confirm that prospect Josh Bell would be ticketed for Triple-A.

However, manager Buck Showalter revealed to MASN Sports that Bell was in the running to be a utility infielder, backing up third and first base.

"I think Josh is going to come in here and have a really good spring," Showalter said, noting that Bell took a big step forward with his conditioning in the offseason. Bell is listed as 6-foot-3 and 220 pounds on player card, so he could have stood to lose some weight, which he appears to have done.

But how can Bell make the team if he would be limited to just third and first? Most managers like backup infield players to have more versatility.

"There's a way he can make this club if I feel like the at-bats are there for him, being a switch-hitter," Showalter revealed. "[Cesar Izturis] has the middle infield covered, so that guy doesn't necessarily have to be a guy who can play the middle of the infield."

Once (and still potentially) thought of as the O's third baseman of the future after being acquired from the Dodgers midway through the 2009 season, Bell hit Triple-A for the first time in 2010 as a 23-year-old. He impressed with a .278/.328/.481 line in 344 plate appearances along with 25 doubles and 13 home runs.

However, his major league stint was nothing short of disastrous, whiffing 53 times in 161 plate appearances, checking in with a .214/.224/.302 mark. That's simply brutal, even though Bell was just 23 and in his first taste of the majors. (It certainly doesn't mean Bell can't hit big league pitching -- Dustin Pedroia hit .198/.258/.303 in 98 PA in his first taste of the majors back in 2006.)

Although Showalter is leaving the door open for Bell to make the club as backup infielder, don't bet on it. It's far more important to Bell's development -- and Baltimore's future -- to amass at-bats on a regular basis down in Triple-A. Vet on Robert Andino or Nolan Reimold winning the extra spot.

-- Evan Brunell

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsmlb  on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.

Posted on: December 6, 2010 5:08 pm
Edited on: April 18, 2011 12:13 pm
 

Reynolds to play third for Orioles

Reynolds The Orioles are excited about the addition of Mark Reynolds and envision him being a fixture at third base.

Yes, third base. Those that were thinking Reynolds could be shifted to first to make room for Josh Bell -- well, think again.

MLB.com 's Britt Ghiroli relays words from GM Andy McPhail that Reynolds' defense is improving and he thinks that the third baseman will bounce back from 2010's .198/.320/.433 showing -- especially since Reynolds' character scored strongly in their research.

Meanwhile, Bell's future is murkier. The O's are expected to listen to offers for Bell in trades, but it's just as likely the O's hang onto Bell and ship him to Triple-A. Bell could also switch positions, perhaps to first base if Brandon Snyder doesn't work out as the future. Don't expect an immediate switch however, as Baltimore is determined to get a "real" first baseman, not someone like Ty Wigginton or shifting Luke Scott to the position.

There are tons of teams who need first basemen and some solid names out on the market, so that may take some time to develop.

The next task on the docket for McPhail is finding a way to replace David Hernandez and Kam Mickolio -- the cost for Reynolds -- out of the bullpen and while nothing is expected to come to fruition on Monday, a deal could soon be on the way.

-- Evan Brunell

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsmlb on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: October 11, 2010 11:12 pm
Edited on: April 18, 2011 11:51 am
 

R.I.P. Orioles: Three managers, almost 100 losses

RIP As the sports world waits for the crowning of a champion, 22 other teams are busy preparing for spring training. What went wrong for these teams, and what does 2011 hold? MLB Facts and Rumors here at CBS Sports will be answering those questions through all of October. Next up: The only AL East team to finish under .500 in the Baltimore Orioles.

The Orioles were a team with a budding youth movement at the end of 2009 with enough solid young players that it was thought 2010 could be the first step towards an eventual return to the top of the AL East.

Instead, the team cycled through three managers and a host of disappointing seasons from crucial players en route to the same old, same old.

WHAT WENT WRONG

In the offseason, the O's made three moves geared toward addressing the team's perceived weaknesses amid a push for .500. Those were bringing in Garrett Atkins, Miguel Tejada and Kevin Millwood.

Atkins couldn't hit his way out of a brown paper bag before being released, Tejada played poorly in his first season as a third baseman and increasingly appeared disinterested before being traded to the Padres and Kevin Millwood ran up a 4-16 record and 5.10 ERA in 31 starts.

In addition, center fielder Adam Jones regressed, left fielder Nolan Reimold was sent to Triple-A, second baseman Brian Roberts struggled with back problems, limited to just 59 games and Nick Markakis' 12 home runs were a massive disappointment. Mega-prospect Matt Wieters' pedestrian season proved that you can't always depend on minor-league numbers to tell the whole story. (Wieters still figures to develop into one of the league's best backstops.)

And if someone can tell me why the O's didn't trade Ty Wigginton when he was very much in demand and a free agent likely to depart, please call me. Because that was one of the dumber decisions at the trade deadline made by any team, with only the Nats' decision to hang onto Adam Dunn perhaps worse.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

Brian Matusz Brian Matusz (pictured, right) shook off a slow start and ended the year with a 4.30 ERA, impressive for a rookie in the AL East. The lefty should eventually develop into Baltimore's ace. He was joined by Jeremy Guthrie, who shook off a poor 2009 to return to his usual season of around 200 innings (209 1/3) and an ERA just under 4.00 (3.83).

On offense, Felix Pie established himself as the left-fielder of the future after questions surrounding his commitment and talent. Pie was injured for a major part of the year, and nomad Corey Patterson -- himself an ex-Cub top prospect -- filled in admirably for Pie.

Luke Scott powered his way to a .902 OPS and career-best 27 blasts, hitting .284/.368/.535 in 447 plate appearances, as Scott has established himself as a solid power-hitter in the middle of the Orioles' lineup. On a contending team, he would likely bat fifth and at 32, his value is running out. His age is not a concern thanks to having two more years of arbitration that other teams would covet. However, Scott will only get older and only get closer to free agency, so the O's should capitalize on Scott's best full-time year and deal him.

HELP ON THE WAY

The Orioles debuted Jake Arrieta and brought Chris Tillman up for another shot at the rotation, giving the O's three nice arms with Matusz that will eventually be the foundation of the team. Tillman is still struggling to adapt to the majors but has plenty of time to figure out while Arrieta has a 2011 rotation spot locked up.

Zach Britton skyrocketed up the prospect rankings all season and should debut in 2011, eventually pairing with Guthrie, Matusz, Arrieta and Tillman to give the Orioles its best pitching staff since its mid-90s halcyon days and its best shot to take down the Yankees, Rays, Red Sox and Jays. Offensively, the club drafted shortstop Manny Machado in June, who will appear on many Top-100 prospect lists this winter.

Josh Bell didn't find the bigs to his liking in his major-league debut, compiling a .214/.224/.302 line but represents the O's best hope for developing a power hitter and will get every chance. Brandon Snyder will also get every chance to become Baltimore's long-term first baseman, but a poor 2010 calls into question how ready he is currently.

EXPECTATIONS FOR 2011

Buck Showalter The Orioles ran through Dave Trembley and Juan Samuel heading up the clubhouse before settling on Buck Showalter (pictured, right). The longtime skipper posted a 34-23 record in town, giving many hope. While Showalter will combine with many budding, talented youngsters to give forth a strong effort, the team is simply not ready for prime time.

Shooting for .500 is a realistic goal, but the team may have to temper expectations given the mighty behemoth that is the AL East. Finishing with 88 losses could be as good as finishing .500 in any other division.

SUGGESTIONS FOR 2011

The Orioles need to be focused on one thing and one thing only: surrounding the team with enough talent to compete. With enough money to make a play for a big free agent, the O's could strike big, but need to make these smaller strikes count as well.

The Orioles could make a play for Jayson Werth or Carl Crawford and sell them on having enough talent coming up to make a push. The dollars and sense won't likely work out, however, so the O's will have to go second-tier shopping. Taking a flyer on Jeremy Bonderman, still under age 30 and with plenty of talent, could work out in spades for the O's.  Jorge De La Rosa would be a safer get, but also come at a higher price.

On offense, the team could target someone like Carlos Pena or Derrek Lee, amongst a host of others, to come in to act as a veteran presence and occupy first base long enough for Snyder to develop. The Orioles could also strike to acquire Prince Fielder, giving the team a cornerstone power bat to build around for the foreseeable future. Baltimore would also be able to flash enough money to potentially keep the slugger in town beyond 2011.

2011 PREDICTION

The Orioles will take baby steps toward contention. The offense is major-league ready enough, but the pitching is lagging behind and needs at least a year -- if not two -- to settle down. Baltimore's task is to get its young hitters focused in the meantime while cashing in on chips like Luke Scott and Jeremy Guthrie. The Orioles will likely sniff 90 losses but could be primed for a breakout in 2012.

Check out the rest of the R.I.P. reports here .

-- Evan Brunell

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsmlb on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed .


Posted on: September 20, 2010 6:13 pm
 

Andino amassing time at third

Robert Andino The Orioles apparently have a new third baseman.

Robert Andino made his third straight start at the position Sunday despite never appearing in a major-league game at the hot corner.

Andino (pictured) rapped four hits in seven at-bats -- two homers -- in the two games preceding Sunday. However, Sunday saw him allow the ball to go in the outfield on the first grounder he saw at the position. Andino righted himself by notching a 5-3 grounder the next batter. Alas, at the plate he was hitless in four trips to the plate, dropping him to a .267/.290/.567 mark in 31 plate appearances.

That mark is quite an improvement over his .222/.274/.288 line in 215 plate appearances in 2009. Andino spent the bulk of the year playing short for Triple-A, collecting a .264/.302/.405 line in 588 PA. He was acquired from the Marlins prior to the 2009 season and brings value with the glove.

"I think the athletic set is impressive," manager Buck Showalter said of Andino to the Baltimore Sun . "I want to see other parts of the game challenge him."

Andino replaced Josh Bell at third. The hot prospect, acquired last season for reliever George Sherrill, has not found the bigs to his liking after a Triple-A promotion earlier in the season.

That doesn't mean that the 23-year-old is buried on the depth chart and no longer a part of the future, Showalter notes.

"We're giving Andino some opportunities that Josh got, and Josh will get to play some more," he said.

Bell is hitting .214/.224/.310 for the O's after bashing Triple-A for an .810 OPS and is in the lineup Friday night against the Red Sox.

-- Evan Brunell

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsmlb on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed .
Category: MLB
Posted on: July 5, 2010 2:17 pm
Edited on: July 5, 2010 3:49 pm
 

Gonzalez, Pie nearing return for Orioles

Mike Gonzalez Mike Gonzalez was supposed to be a lockdown closer for the Orioles in a season where the club chased .500.

Unfortunately, Gonzalez allowed four runs in two innings then promptly went on the disabled list with a left shoulder strain. He began a rehab assignment in late June but showed decreased velocity. That velocity has picked up as Gonzalez goes through the rehab assignment and now has a cumulative 4.26 ERA in 6 1/3 innings across three levels of the farm system.

MLB.com's Brittany Ghiroli reports that Gonzalez will make three more rehab starts before consideration is given to activating the lefty. He will pitch Tuesday and then back-to-back on Friday and Saturday. Pitching coach Rick Kranitz previously said Gonzalez would not be activated until after the three-day All-Star break which starts Monday.

That leaves Gonzalez in perfect shape to join Baltimore Friday to host the Blue Jays.

In other injury news, the Orioles plan to activate outfielder Felix Pie from the disabled list. Pie was quite unlucky in suffering a back injury in mid-April because he would have received a ton of playing time ahead of Garrett Atkins and Nolan Reimold, neither of which are no longer on the major-league squad. Unfortunately, the Orioles brought up Corey Patterson who has been contributing to the team, so now Pie will have to battle for playing time in the outfield as well as scrap for at-bats at DH.

A former top Cubs prospect, Pie was hitting .400 (8-for-20) on the season and contributed a .266/.326/.437 line in 2009. Just 25, the potential is there for Pie to emerge as Baltimore's long-term left fielder over the second half.

Another top prospect for Baltimore, third baseman Josh Bell, left Sunday's game against Boston with leg cramps. While not in the lineup, he doesn't figure to miss any extended time although he may be the demotion of choice when Pie is activated.

-- Evan Brunell

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsmlb on Twitter.



 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com