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Unique circumstances, but hopeful signs for Orioles


Unique circumstances, but hopeful signs for Orioles

The uniqueness of Wednesday overshadowed what happened on the field. The Orioles won their third straight game for the first time this season.

With 20 games completed, and no return dates yet for J.J. Hardy and Matt Wieters, the Orioles are at .500 and just two games behind the New York Yankees for first place in the American League East.

Due to the reconstituted schedule, 29 of the team’s first 32 games come against the AL East, and the good news is that the Orioles are showing some positive signs.

In the last four games, starting pitchers completed six innings in each game. In the Orioles’ first 16, it happened just four times.

While Miguel Gonzalez’s four runs in six innings on Friday night wasn’t a gem, the game was tied in the eighth inning, and a walk given up by Brian Matusz, an error by Manny Machado and a three-run homer allowed by Darren O’Day cost the Orioles a possible four-game winning streak.

Wei-Yin Chen’s best performance of the season (two runs on four hits in eight innings) was forgotten because of the unlikely way the Orioles won. Trailing 4-3 in the 10th, they scored two runs on Adam Jones’ triple, Chris Davis’ sacrifice fly and David Lough’s game-ending home run.

Lough, with just 10 career homers has as many game-winning homers for the Orioles as Davis does.

Bud Norris, who pitched horribly in the first three games of the season as well as during spring training, pitched six scoreless innings on Sunday before tiring and allowing a three-run home run to Pablo Sandoval.

Manager Buck Showalter noted that Norris tired in the seventh. During spring training, Norris’ appearances were shorter than planned because he exhausted his pitch count early in games. And, in two of his first three starts, Norris didn’t make it past the third inning. (He pitched five innings in the other.)

Through the first 20 games, Ubaldo Jimenez has been the Orioles’ best starter. Yes, the same Jimenez who early in spring training, fans feared would clog up a rotation spot.

Each starter has pitched four times, and Jimenez has both struck out the most batters (22) and walked the fewest (8). He’s also given up just 10 hits and allowed only four earned runs.

Chris Tillman, who starts Friday against Tampa Bay, has walked just as many (13) as he’s struck out.

Tillman looked terrific in spring training, and if the Orioles are to contend, he’s going to have to pitch much better.

On Thursday, Kevin Gausman and Zach Britton threw scoreless innings. Because of the two postponements and Thursday’s off day, relievers have pitched fewer innings this week, and Showalter is obviously wary of their rustiness.

Britton was dynamic in the spring, and while he hasn’t been as sharp during the season, he’s had just five save opportunities. Machado’s ninth-inning on Saturday cost him a save.

After some early difficulties, in his last three outings, Tommy Hunter has given up just one hit in 4 2/3 innings.

O’Day’s case is the most interesting one. His ERA is just 1.08, but two of the four hits he’s allowed were home runs, including the Sandoval blast, which was unearned.

After giving up just three home runs in the first five months of the season, O’Day allowed three more in September and two in the postseason. In his first 396 games—including the postseason, O’Day gave up 31 home runs, and in his last 23, he’s given up seven.

Machado was hitless in his first 15 at-bats, but has brought his average to .254. He’s made his expected spectacular plays, but has made as many errors (five) in 20 games as he did in the 52 games he played in 2012. Those five errors have come in the last eight games.

The Orioles lead the American League with 29 home runs, and have greatly upped their on-base percentage. They’re fourth in baseball with a .345 OBP.

Jones has a .400 average and .440 OBP. He’s walked five times in 20 games, which may not be impressive, but translates to a 40-walk season. He’s never done that.

Another hopeful sign has been Davis’ performance. In his first 15 games, he struck out 26 times and hit just two home runs. Davis homered in three of the four games played at home, while striking out three times.

It will be a strange weekend for the Orioles, wearing white and batting last. Instead of drawing a possible 100,000 fans, they’ll be fortunate to play in front of a tenth that many.

On Wednesday, the entire sports world was watching. It was a weekday afternoon.

This weekend, they’ll be competing for attention against the NBA and NHL playoffs, NFL draft, Kentucky Derby and the Mayweather-Pacquiao fight. I don’t think they’ll care.

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Orioles round out starting pitching rotation, finalize 4-year contract with Alex Cobb

USA Today Sports

Orioles round out starting pitching rotation, finalize 4-year contract with Alex Cobb

SARASOTA, Fla. -- Alex Cobb's comfort and familiarity with the AL East was the deciding factor in his decision to sign with the Baltimore Orioles.

"They used the AL East and the success I've had in it to their advantage," the 30-year-old right-hander said Wednesday after finalizing a $57 million, four-year contract. "They kept challenging me with it and I love the challenge of pitching in this division and they know that over the times we talked. They did a really good job of making me feel like this is where I need to be."

Cobb gets $14 million in each of the first three seasons and $15 million in 2021, and he would earn a $500,000 bonus in each year he pitches 180 innings. Baltimore will defer $6.5 million from this year's salary and $4.5 million in each of the next three seasons.

He gets $2 million of the deferred money on Nov. 30, 2022, and $1.8 million annually on Nov. 30 from 2023-32. If he doesn't pitch at least 130 innings in 2020, an additional $5.25 million of the final's year salary would get deferred, payable $1.75 million annually on Nov. 30 from 2033-35.


Cobb has a full no-trade this year, then can list 10 teams from 2019-21 that he cannot be dealt to without his consent.

He had spent his entire six-season big league career with Tampa Bay and was the last big-name starting pitcher available in a slow-moving free agent market. He joined Andrew Cashner and Chris Tillman, who were signed last month, in a revamped rotation that includes holdovers Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman.

Cobb was 12-10 with a 3.66 ERA in 29 starts last season. He pitched 179 1/3 innings in his first full year back after missing nearly two seasons because of Tommy John surgery.

He had turned down the Rays' $17.4 million qualifying offer in November, and Baltimore pursued him from the start of free agency.

"They didn't stop bothering me the whole offseason," Cobb said. "They were very persistent, and I think that you notice that confidence they have in you just by the way they speak to you and the questions you ask and not questioning anything that's gone on. Everyone's got flaws that they come with and potential things you could really harp on that might not be your strong suit, but they never went down that avenue. They always told me how much they like certain aspects of what I do on and off the field, and just kept repeating how well I fit in here."


Cobb is 48-35 with a 3.50 in six big league seasons. Baltimore will lose its third-highest draft pick, currently No. 51, and the Rays get an extra selection after the first round as compensation.

Jose Mesa Jr. was designated for assignment Wednesday to clear a roster spot.

Baltimore opens on March 29 at home against Minnesota, but Cobb won't be ready to pitch then. He has agreed to be optioned to a minor league affiliate to help build up innings.

"I'm going to be pushing it as quick as I can," Cobb said. "That's going to be up to them. They've invested in me for a four-year period and as much as we know how much every game matters even early in April, we're going to have to look out for the overall future of this whole thing and whole contract and whatever they determine to be the way to protect me and my feedback from the bullpens I'm going to be throwing here in the next few days will probably determine the timeline."

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

USA Today Sports

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."