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Playoff-bound clubs faced plenty of bumps, bruises


Playoff-bound clubs faced plenty of bumps, bruises

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) In a perfect playoff world, Stephen Strasburg might be on the mound in the nation's capital, Mariano Rivera closing it out in the Bronx and Melky Cabrera delivering a timely hit by the bay.

Bartolo Colon would be starting for Oakland, Ryan Madson pitching the ninth in Cincinnati.

Call this the depleted postseason. American League, National League, the division winners and the wild cards, almost every club headed to the playoffs has dealt with a devastating loss of some sort.

Workload, injuries and performance-enhancing drugs - there are all kinds of reasons teams are playing several men down.

Many are left saying ouch in October as the new-look playoffs begin.

The Bay Area took the biggest hit - with a long list of absent players on the Giants and Athletics. Each club moved forward seemingly unfazed, with San Francisco winning its second NL West title in three years and Oakland capturing the AL West crown on the regular season's final day against the two-time reigning AL champion Texas Rangers.

``Twenty-nine teams are going to finish with a loss, and I'd say the No. 1 reason is health, which makes it more spectacular where we are,'' Oakland's Jonny Gomes said.

Both teams also lost a key player because of PEDs, both to positive testosterone tests exactly one week apart. First it was Cabrera on Aug. 15, then Colon on Aug. 22.

``I think every team, when something like that happens, they try to make a statement, to bring the best they can bring, because they still have a job to do,'' Giants center fielder Angel Pagan said. ``And it's about believing if you have enough, too. All these teams, they believe that they can get it done. They have enough to go out there and compete and win. That was our mentality since Day 1. We knew that we didn't have our closer, but we also knew that we had a great bullpen.''

Ending Strasburg's season early was a front-office decision. Washington made the call to shut down its prized pitcher based on workload after 159 1-3 innings and a 15-6 record. Since early May, the New York Yankees have coped without career saves leader Rivera, who underwent right knee surgery in June.

Cabrera tested positive for testosterone and received a 50-game suspension in mid-August. The Giants since decided not to bring him back at all in the postseason if they're still playing when he's eligible - happy with the current roster and certain their public image would take another hit because of PEDs.

Cincinnati missed Madson, who's out for the year with a torn ligament in his elbow, and fellow relievers Nick Masset and Bill Bray also were lost before the year began. Even manager Dusty Baker spent a stint away from the team for 11 games - including the NL Central clincher and Homer Bailey's no-hitter recently while healing from a mini-stroke and irregular heartbeat.

Texas trudged along after starter Neftali Feliz underwent elbow-ligament replacement surgery this summer and without former postseason star Colby Lewis. Then, there's 2011 World Series star Lance Berkman of St. Louis recovering from his second knee surgery of the season Sept. 11, and long-gone Tigers All-Star Victor Martinez healing from his own knee operation.

The Yankees won the AL East and earned the AL's No. 1 seed with a rout of the rival Red Sox in Game 162, but might have been in a far more favorable position and resting the regulars with Rivera still around.

``It's hard to say. You don't know where you would be at,'' manager Joe Girardi said. ``Injuries are hard to predict, when you're going to have them and how you overcome them and what the guys do. ... Obviously we're all a little bit curious, but I don't think it's anything you can predict. But it does seem like we're getting healthier.''

Baltimore manager Buck Showalter lost three leadoff hitters to injury. Nolan Reimold and Brian Roberts both underwent season-ending surgery, and Nick Markakis broke his left thumb last month when hit by a pitch from New York's CC Sabathia.

``It's probably as good a team as I've ever had at staying in the moment,'' Showalter said.

The Braves lost starter Brandon Beachy, who was tied for the best ERA in the majors when he went down in June and underwent Tommy John surgery.

Strasburg's last start came on Sept. 7, when he lasted only three innings and allowed five earned runs against Miami. While the Nationals were expected to let him pitch one more time, he was shut down the following day.

He was out on the field, celebrating with teammates on Monday night, when the Nationals clinched the NL East title. Strasburg sported his white uniform pants yanked up to his knees and flip-flops, saying, ``Just a great feeling, to be a part of this.''

``We're not here without Stephen,'' Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo said. ``He's the No. 1 starter on the team with the best record in baseball and the National League East champs, so he's a huge part of what's going on here and will be for a long time to come.''

In San Francisco, the Giants lost All-Star game MVP Cabrera to the 50-game drug suspension after already playing without All-Star closer and 2010 major league saves leader Brian Wilson since he underwent Tommy John surgery in April.

``The dynamic hasn't changed. It shows a team's character and how resilient they are with taking a loss like that,'' Wilson said. ``The system is what works here, no single player is the reason. You can take key player out but the system works because we all pull for each other and we all play for one common goal.''

Wilson, with that overgrown bushy black beard, was a star face of San Francisco's improbable championship run two Octobers ago.

``We lost Wilson as the closer, I was out for two months and on the DL twice, we lost Melky,'' Giants third baseman Pablo Sandoval said. ``That was a big deal. He was one of the best hitters for the team. We're fighting. We never lost the faith. We came here and we were patient to win the games. When you lose guys like that, your teammates get your back.''

Across the bay in Oakland, the A's are without several starters in what became an all-rookie rotation. Brandon McCarthy was hit in the head with a line drive from the Angels' Erick Aybar on Sept. 5 and underwent surgery for an epidural hemorrhage, brain contusion and skull fracture.

He is back with the team - and his jersey hangs in the dugout.

As the A's celebrated madly with a champagne dance party in the clubhouse Monday night, McCarthy and Brett Anderson stood in the back and watched. They did their part, too, and might still return in 2012 if all goes right.

Oakland erased a 13-game division deficit from June 30.

``It really is starting to defy any explanation, where if you even thought about writing a movie about this team I don't know where you would even pick the narrative to go with this,'' McCarthy said. ``Things keep going wrong, day after day, game after game, homestand after homestand something happens that we shouldn't be able to overcome. It just doesn't seem to happen, whether September and a nightmare schedule or losing three pitchers and having rookie after rookie come through, and unheralded guys step up over and over and over again. It's just the past the point of being resilient. It's become the norm.''

Dallas Braden, who tossed that improbable perfecto on Mother's Day 2010, missed the year with shoulder problems and had surgery in August to repair his rotator cuff. Third baseman Brandon Inge, who came aboard after Scott Sizemore went down with a season-ending knee injury the first full-squad day at spring training, had surgery last month on his dislocated right shoulder.

``Outside of Bart ... all our other losses were heavy-heart losses,'' Gomes said. ``We don't want to prove we can do this without them, we want to do it for them. We want to do it for Sizemore, who's not here. We want to do it for Inge. We want to do it for Brandon (McCarthy). I made a joke the other day to (manager Bob) Melvin, you know how we're hanging McCarthy's jersey up. I said, `Hey, Bob, I'm going to go in and get Kurt Suzuki, Norberto, Sizemore, Brandon Inge and McCarthy and Brett Anderson's jersey and hang them up, OK?' We've got a closet of jerseys that should be hung up.''

And that same thing could be said for so many playoff clubs at this stage.


AP Sports Writers Dave Campbell, Howard Fendrich, Howie Rumberg and Ben Walker contributed to this report.

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Orioles agree to one-year deal with pitcher Chris Tillman, according to reports

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Orioles agree to one-year deal with pitcher Chris Tillman, according to reports

SARASOTA, Fla. -- A person familiar with the negotiations says pitcher Chris Tillman and the Baltimore Orioles have agreed to a $3 million, one-year contract.

The deal includes performance bonuses, the person told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity Monday because the deal had not yet been announced.

Tillman was 1-7 with a 7.84 ERA in 19 starts and five relief appearances last year. He would be the second starter added by the Orioles in the past week after right-hander Andrew Cashner.

Tillman likely would join right-handers Dylan Bundy, Kevin Gausman and Cashner in the rotation.

The 29-year-old right-hander lives in Sarasota and had been working out at the Orioles' facility before spring training. Manager Buck Showalter watched Tillman throw and was impressed.

Tillman began last season on the disabled list with right shoulder stiffness.

"Better than he did last year at this time. I think he's got the chance to pitch well for somebody this year," Showalter said. "A lot of the challenges he had last year -- this time last year -- aren't there. Somebody's going to reap the benefits."

Tillman's is 73-55 with a 4.43 ERA in nine major league seasons, all with the Orioles. He won 16 games in both 2013 and 2016.

"He's a guy when he's healthy you can bank on him giving you 200 innings and keeping his ERA between a 3 and a 4," Gausman said. "That in the AL East is always going to be very valuable."


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Orioles Spring Training Schedule 2018

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Orioles Spring Training Schedule 2018

Live baseball is close to gracing our television screens again. The Orioles haven't had the most active offseason, to put it mildly. Fans are still wondering who will make up more than half the spots in this year's rotation, and Manny Machado's upcoming free agency is looming over every decision the organization makes.

Still, it's exciting to be able to follow the team again. Not every game is televised, so get ready to constantly refresh your favorite beat writer's Twitter account for all your updates.

Even without getting to watch the games, it'll be comforting to once again check box scores in the morning to see if Jonathan Schoop is building on his breakout season, or if top-prospect Austin Hays is all he's cracked up to be (spoiler: he is).

This year's spring training will be especially interesting, considering how many big-name players will be signing in the next few weeks. The O's haven't yet made a big splash this offseason, but with the sheer volume of capable players still on the market, you have to wonder if they'll try to sign some impact players at bargain values.

Typically, the excitement of adding a new piece to the lineup or rotation has to be reignited after a long winter off, but this season, those additions will be taking place while camp is already underway.

It's going to be a hectic few weeks as teams prepare for thier seasons, so bookmark this page to check on on the Orioles spring training schedule over the next few weeks as the team finally takes the field in 2018.

Orioles 2018 Spring Training Schedule

Friday, Feb. 23 (SS) - Rays at Orioles, 1:05 pm (MASN)
Saturday, Feb. 24 (SS) - Orioles at Phillies, 1:05 pm
Saturday, Feb. 24 (SS) - Twins at Orioles, 6:05 pm
Sunday, Feb. 25 - Orioles at Red Sox, 1:05 pm 
Monday, Feb. 26 - Tigers at Orioles, 1:05 pm
Tuesday, Feb. 27 - Orioles at Rays, 1:05 pm
Wednesday, Feb. 28 - Cardinals at Orioles, 1:05 pm (MLBN) (MASN)
Thursday, Mar. 1 - Orioles at Rays, 1:05 pm
Friday, Mar. 2 - Pirates at Orioles, 1:05 pm
Saturday, Mar. 3 (SS) - Orioles at Phillies, 1:05 pm
Sunday, Mar. 4 - Red Sox at Orioles, 1:05 pm (MASN)
Tuesday, Mar. 6 - Orioles at Twins, 1:05 pm 
Wednesday, Mar. 7 - Orioles at Rays, 1:05 pm
Thursday, Mar. 8 - Blue Jays at Orioles, 1:05 pm
Friday, Mar. 9 - Orioles at Blue Jays, 1:07 pm
Saturday, Mar. 10 (SS) - Pirates at Orioles, 1:05 pm
Sunday, Mar. 11 (SS) - Orioles at Red Sox, 1:05 pm 
Sunday, Mar. 11 (SS) - Phillies at Orioles, 6:05 pm (MASN)
Monday, Mar. 12 - Orioles at Pirates, 1:05 pm 
Tuesday, Mar. 13 - Orioles at Twins, 1:05 pm 
Wednesday, Mar. 14 - Yankees at Orioles, 1:05 pm (MLBN) (MASN)
Thursday, Mar. 15 - Orioles at Cardinals, 1:05 pm
Friday, Mar. 16 - Orioles at Mets, 1:10 pm 
Saturday, Mar. 17 (SS) - Blue Jays at Orioles, 1:05 pm
Sunday, Mar. 18 - Mets at Orioles, 1:05 pm
Monday, Mar. 19 - Orioles at Tigers, 1:05 pm
Tuesday, Mar. 20 - Rays at Orioles, 6:05 pm (MASN)
Wednesday, Mar. 21 - Orioles at Yankees, 6:35 pm 
Thursday, Mar. 22 - Red Sox at Orioles, 1:05 pm (MASN)
Friday, Mar. 23 (SS) - Rays at Orioles, 1:05 pm
Saturday, Mar. 24 - Twins at Orioles, 6:05 pm
Sunday, Mar. 25 - Orioles at Phillies, 1:05 pm 
Monday, Mar. 27 (in Norfolk, VA) - Orioles at Tides (AAA), 3:05 pm