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What was the turning point for the 2015 Orioles?

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What was the turning point for the 2015 Orioles?

The Orioles looked like they were in good shape. It was August 19, and Henry Urrutia had just hit the Orioles’ third game-ending home run of the last six games.

Urrutia had never hit a home run, but he did to begin the ninth inning, and the Orioles beat the New York Mets 5-4.

It was the Orioles’ fifth win in their first six games on their season-long 10 game homestand.

The Orioles were five games out of first place in the AL East, and they were just a half-game behind the Angels for the second wild card.

With four games against Minnesota, and the season at its three-quarter mark, things were looking positive for the Orioles.

Instead, the season turned sour. The Orioles lost six straight and 12 of 15.

RELATED: For starters, what derailed the Orioles in 2015?

By then, the Orioles were tied for last place in the AL East and stuck behind seven other teams for the second wild card.

While the Orioles finished creditably, winning 16 of their final 25 games, it wasn’t enough. They finished five games behind Houston for the second wild card, and three other teams: the Angels, Twins and Indians were ahead of them.

The Minnesota series began horribly with a 15-2 loss. After a 2 ½ hour rain delay, Miguel Gonzalez allowed seven runs.

A rare loss by Darren O’Day followed as the Orioles dropped three more games to Minnesota by a run. In each of those losses, the Orioles led after the sixth inning.

In the final game, the Orioles led in the ninth, but Zach Britton allowed a run, and in the 12th, manager Buck Showalter was forced to use Manny Machado at shortstop for the first time in his major league career and Jimmy Paredes at third.

J.J. Hardy had aggravated a strained groin. He couldn’t play, and Paredes had pinch run for him in the 11th.

In the 12th both Machado and Paredes made errors on the first balls hit to them, and the Orioles season went south.

The ensuing seven game road trip was a disaster. They lost three of four in Kansas City and three to the suddenly hot Texas Rangers.

The first game was a dizzying 8-3 loss where the Orioles actually held a 3-1 lead after 5 ½. Seven Kansas City runs scored, seemingly in a matter of moments, and the Orioles had dropped back down to .500.

By trip’s end, the Orioles were angry. Manny Machado seethed after the second loss in Texas. He was unjustly called out on a check swing, he thought, and the Orioles had lost another one-run game.

Even though the Orioles had a 25-26 record in one-run games doesn’t look awful, they won eight of their last 10, and by then, their season was over.

After the final loss to the Rangers, a mostly empty clubhouse awaited. Adam Jones was there. In what had become a familiar scene, Jones was speaking for the team. There were no jokes, no smart remarks—only sense.

“My biggest thing about sports is when somebody doubts an effort or another player or something like that. That’s basically calling him a coward. You know what I mean? Whenever someone says, ‘Oh you don’t give an effort. You’re not playing (with) effort. That’s kind of calling someone a coward,” Jones said.

“We go out there and play our tails off. Some days it looks pretty, some days it doesn’t but the effort is always there. For some people to say that our effort level isn’t there just because we struck out 11 times. We could strike out 20 times. But to say our effort level wasn’t there, that’s a slap in the face and I want to slap somebody in the face who says that.”

Thirty-two games remained. The Orioles were 11 games out of the AL East lead, but some drama and history remained.

On Sept. 23, Jonathan Papelbon threw a ball over Machado’s head before hitting him in the shoulder. Papelbon was a “coward,” Machado said, and the Nationals imploded.

That weekend, the Orioles failed to score a run in Fenway Park, the first time in 58 years they’d been shut out in three straight games.

Those three losses were the final three of 54 road losses the Orioles suffered, leaving Showalter at a loss for an explanation.

MORE ORIOLES: Who should Orioles fans root for in the playoffs? A handy guide

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

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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."

RELATED: VEGAS SETS OVER/UNDERS FOR 2018 MLB SEASON

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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