Posted on: September 16, 2010 9:17 pm

Wieters not living up to his own expectations

Matt Wieters To say there would be no way for Matt Wieters to live up to the hype would be an understatement.

Before the 2009 season, he was not only supposed to win the Rookie of the Year, but the MVP and Nobel Peace Prize, as well.

Instead, he's hit .273/.336/.404 as a big leaguer, not bad, but hardly anything near living up to the expectations. Wieters said he's among those with big expectations for himself.

"This year didn't feel like I played quite up to the level I'm capable of," Wieters told the Baltimore Sun 's Jeff Zrebiec. "It's something that you can take into the offseason and work out even harder to try to get where you can."

His manager, Buck Showalter, said he likes what he's seen out of his catcher.

"Maybe everyone expects him to be this huge offensive player and this towering presence in the lineup. I don't know about all that. All I know is what I've seen from him when I got here and I am impressed, and I'm not easily impressed," Showalter said. "Keep in mind, he's 24 and he's already pretty good. I'm glad Matt is on our side, I'm glad that he's wearing our uniform. Matt is going to be as good as he's capable of being, and that's a comfortable thought to me and it should be for Oriole fans."

-- C. Trent Rosecrans

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Category: MLB
Posted on: September 15, 2010 12:30 am

Arrieta may be shut down

Jake Arrieta Jake Arrieta may be shut down for the season, bringing an end to a successful year that saw the 24-year-old make his major-league debut.

Arrieta blanked the Blue Jays over six innings Tuesday night to move to 6-6 with a 4.66 ERA in 18 starts over 100 1/3 innings. Arrieta also has 73 innings of work down in Triple-A, posting a sterling 1.85 ERA.

"He’s at 176-ish right now. 180-ish is probably the limit you take him," manager Buck Showalter said of Arrieta's pitch limits to the Baltimore Sun . "He’s about 20-plus over, so that’s a real quality question. If he hears something about that, he’ll hear it from me first. Ask me tomorrow.”

While the Orioles have never publicized their pitch count barometers, the Sun 's Jeff Zrebiec notes that the Orioles consider anything higher than 30 innings over the previous limit dangerous. For Arrieta, that's 150 2/3 innings reached in 2009.

"I definitely don't want to be shut down," Arrieta contradicted, unsurprisingly. "I'd like to finish the season out with everybody. The rest of the guys are going to be here working for the last two or three weeks of the season and I want to be doing the same thing. But anytime you finish the season you want to finish on a high note.

"If something like that were to happen, an outing like this is a good one to end on. But I'd like to make my last two starts.”

Given the Orioles may be nearing limits on Brad Bergesen, Chris Tillman and Brian Matusz, Baltimore would likely slot in a veteran pitcher to keep the current six-man rotation intact. Rick VandenHurk is the most likely replacement, although Mark Hendrickson, Troy Patton or Pedro Viola could also be tabbed.

 -- Evan Brunell

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Category: MLB
Posted on: September 10, 2010 12:09 am
Edited on: September 11, 2010 12:22 pm

After wakeup call, Felix Pie a 'dangerous' hitter

Felix Pie Felix Pie was once a can't-miss prospect for the Chicago Cubs, but the club finally gave him on him and sent him packing to Baltimore prior to the 2009 season.

Pie won the left field job to start the season, even though hitting coach Terry Crowley thought he wasn't ready. He proved to be right as Pie looked lost at the plate and went about his job with an entitled attitude -- and eventually lost that starting gig, which didn't make things much better.

"When he first got here, you could just tell he had an attitude and a little chip on his shoulder and whatever the hell else was wrong with him," center fielder Adam Jones said of Pie to the Baltimore Sun .

"I saw him in the bigs in Chicago, and he looked so uncomfortable, so tense," Jones added -- something that followed Pie to the Orioles.

"He was just this big ball of talent, and there was no character, no discipline, no hard work, no dedication," fellow outfielder Luke Scott added. "There was laziness and an attitude that somebody owes him something," Scott said. "What was going through my mind was this guy has this golden opportunity that people would kill for and he was [wasting it]."

And so Scott let Pie have it.

"I said to him: 'Do you really even want to be here? Because if you don't, then leave and stop taking somebody else's spot who is willing to work hard,'" Scott remembered. "I told him, 'There are people here that really want to see you succeed, but you have to work, you have to make the effort.'

"The whole time, his head was down. Finally, he just said, 'OK, I'll work.'"

It was, as Scott put it, a reality check. And Pie took it and ran with it.

"To Felix's credit, he's made that effort, he's put in the hard work," Scott says. You see him every day, he's in the cage, he's working on his swing, he's doing the drills that he's supposed to do. He's trying to make himself a better ballplayer."

Pie has since won his left-field job back and has posted a .274/.304/.416 line in 243 plate appearances, losing significant time to an injury that put him on the DL. While that line looks pedestrian, he is still just 25 and has all the talent in the world -- and a new best friend in Scott. The two converse constantly, with Scott and Pie partaking in pregame videos and with their own personal handshakes following home runs by one of the two.

"Every day when I come to the ballpark, I see him and he makes me laugh. I could be mad at something, but when I see him, I forget it," Pie said. "He talks to me every day. That's my friend."

Many other teammates, including Adam Jones, can see the transformation in Pie -- from a downcast, surly player to a fan favorite.

"It's good that Pie was mentally strong enough to take [Scott's lashing] for what it was," Jones noted. "And it's good on Luke for taking that initiative and taking on that responsibility. That's enabled Pie to be the guy you see."

Even though Pie hasn't impressed when you take out his early-season success and focus on just his post-DL numbers (204 PA, .263/.289/.379), Crowley feels Pie has become one of the more dangerous hitters in the AL East -- high praise given the quality of talent in the division. And Pie has his own praise of Crowley.

"Terry Crowley, this guy has meant so much to me. The Felix Pie that everybody sees right now, that is because this guy made that person. Every day, he makes my mind strong," Pie said. "He never left me alone. He talked every day with me, worked with me, taught me about how to play baseball. Now, you know what kind of player I am."

Pie may still have a ways to go before he truly breaks out as a dangerous hitter, but if and when he does, he'll have Scott and Crowley to thank.

 -- Evan Brunell

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Category: MLB
Posted on: September 4, 2010 9:47 pm
Edited on: September 5, 2010 2:17 pm

Garza fires back at O's Scott

Luke Scott Thank you Matt Garza and Luke Scott for proving once again there's a quote from Major League for just about any baseball occasion -- "OK Harris, let's not start a holy war now."

So, the backstory to this is Garza talked some trash before his start on Friday and then went out and beat the O's.

Apparently Baltimore's Scott didn't like that.

"He said what he said, and he backed it up. He did a good job for his team, but don't let it bite you in the butt," Scott told the St. Petersburg Times . "If you let your head get big in anything in life . . . it's Proverbs 3:34: 'God opposes the proud but give grace to the humble.' Your time is coming if you think that life is going to be like that. Your time is coming, and it's not going to be fun."

Garza thought going Biblical was a bit over the line.

From the St. Petersburg Times ' Marc Topkin :
"To each his own interpretation; that’s what the Bible is. I’m a Christian too; a Catholic Christian. He’s throwing something in that shouldn’t even be allowed to be brought in,’’ Garza said. “That’s a topic where you don’t ever bring that up. …

"My feeling is that God has a lot better things to worry about than if I’m going to throw a strike on a certain pitch. A lot of other things. I’d rather [Scott] not bring it up."
Matt Garza Garza also said Scott's words were a bit hypocritical considering his choreographed home run celebration, which includes a point to the sky and multiple high-fives.

"It's the same thing, when you're showing up the other guy," Garza said. "The game's gone that far to where it's acceptable. It's just what it is."

The cycle will only be complete only if Scott responds, "Up your butt, Jobu."

UPDATE: Scott repsonded -- and maybe the he-said, she-said thing is all over. However, he didn't take my advice on what to say, instead here's what he told the Baltimore Sun 's Dan Connolly :

“He’s just saying religion is not something you bring into baseball; it’s all a matter of choice. That’s not how I view it. Like I said, I consider it a blessing to be here and I am thankful for the opportunity to play. And that’s just my personal beliefs.”

As for Garza’s allegations that Scott’s celebration ritual is hypocritical of someone who is denouncing boastfulness in the name of God, Scott said:

"That’s part of the game. You celebrate with your teammates. I play this game because I like to have fun. When I celebrate with my teammates, I am celebrating because I am enjoying the competition and am enjoying success. It’s just as simple as that. I mean, I am pretty sure he gets pretty pumped up when he is in a big game and he does well and he gets some key outs when he needs them. I bet you he is in there and he is fired up. We all have different ways of expressing emotion in this game and that’s what makes us all unique.”

Lou Brown woulda had a better response, but I guess at least this one is closed for now.

-- C. Trent Rosecrans

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Category: MLB
Posted on: September 3, 2010 10:02 pm

Garza (sort of) backs up tough talk

Matt Garza
Matt Garza was probably just psyching himself up with his promise to put a beatdown on the Orioles on Friday, but his comments to the St. Petersburg Times definitely got the attention of people wondering whether he would back up his words.

Garza got roughed up the last time he faced Baltimore, and vowed there would be no repeat Friday.

"I owe them a lot of payback for the type of outing I had last time against them," he said. "They had back-to-back-to-back [homers]. So I'm going to make them feel really uncomfortable in the box. So they know, this [stuff] doesn't happen, so don't get used to it.

"I'm going to go in there, hair on fire, like I have been and go after them and say, 'Hey, you got me the first time, well I'm going to shove it down your throat this time.' "

So Garza was, what, angry that the Orioles tried hard? Baltimore manager Buck Showalter said he wasn't too riled up by the smack talk. He even seemed somewhat amused.

"I wouldn't go that far," he told reporters. "It's not bragging if you can back it up."

So did he? Garza's line: 5 2/3 innings, 5 H, 1 ER, 3K, 3BB

Eh, not exactly "shoving it down their throats," but not bad.

-- David Andriesen

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Category: MLB
Posted on: September 3, 2010 4:42 pm
Edited on: September 3, 2010 4:47 pm

O's will give Tillman another start

Chris Tillman
The next step in the back-and-forth career of Orioles pitcher Chris Tillman will apparently be a start in Baltimore this weekend. The Baltimore Sun reports that the right-hander is expected to move up from Triple-A Norfolk and start Sunday.

Tillman hasn't had success at the major-league level in his second season, going 1-4 with a 7.92 ERA in six starts. He got off to a big start in Norfolk this year, including a no-hitter, and joined the big-league rotation at the end of May. He played himself out of that role in four starts as he went 0-3 and failed to make it past two innings in two of them. He was recalled to replace injured Kevin Millwood in July, but in his second start back he was hammered for eight runs in 2 2/3 innings and he went back down.

Tillman, a second-round draft pick who came to Baltimore from Seattle in the Erik Bedard deal, is still just 22 and it's not time to give up on him. The Orioles have nothing to lose by letting him work things out at the big-league level at the end of this lost season, and it will give new manager Buck Showalter a chance to evaluate him before next spring.

If Tillman pitches Sunday, that would buy an extra day of rest for Brian Matusz, Jake Arrieta and Brad Bergesen. The Sun said this doesn't necessarily mean the Orioles are going to a six-man rotation, but at this point it's not clear what their plans are.

-- David Andriesen

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Posted on: September 1, 2010 12:16 am
Edited on: September 1, 2010 12:16 am

O's Markakis a doubles machine

Nick Markakis
If Nick Markakis played for a decent team, he'd probably have been an All-Star by now.

In nearly five seasons, he has a .296 batting average, an .828 OPS and he plays really good defense in right field. But alas, with nothing much surrounding him in Baltimore, Markakis' RBI and runs scored totals suffer.

Now, however, Markakis (in the center of the celebration at left) has a pretty nice historical footnote to his name. He hit his 40th double Tuesday, giving him four consecutive 40-plus double seasons.

According to research by the team, only three other players have ever had a streak of four seasons or more, and the other three are in the Hall of Fame. Ducky Medwick had seven straight seasons (1933-39), Harry Heilmann had five (1923-27) and Tris Speaker four (1920-23). Nobody has been a doubles machine at this level in more than 70 years.

“It's definitely something to be excited about," Markakis told the Baltimore Sun. "You just got to keep plugging away and go about your business. When you go out there and play hard every day ... you're going to have your struggles, but it's always good to get something like that.”

-- David Andriesen

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Category: MLB
Posted on: August 28, 2010 4:16 pm

Orioles sever historic tie

No major-league team has been connected to a minor-league affiliate longer than the Orioles have had a team in Bluefield, West Virginia. But after 52 years, that connection will be broken.

The Orioles announced that they'll disband their entry in the rookie Appalachian League, cutting their system from seven to six teams, which has become common. The Orioles have two short-season Class A teams, one close to Baltimore and another that uses their spring-training facility.

The move makes perfect business sense for the Orioles, but it's kind of sad to see such a long tradition come to an end. Bluefield officials say they'll pursue another affiliation to keep baseball in town.
-- David Andriesen

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Category: MLB
Tags: Orioles
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