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Orioles face interesting dilemma with Caleb Joseph

Orioles face interesting dilemma with Caleb Joseph

In 2015, Caleb Joseph had the fourth most RBIs on the Orioles. A year later, he had the least. 

By now, everyone knows that Joseph had a horrible offensive season with not a single RBI. 

With Matt Wieters returning to his fulltime role, a drop in Joseph’s offensive production was to be expected. He wasn’t going to play 100 games as he did in 2015—with 11 home runs and 49 RBIs. 

But, Joseph who played in 49 games, didn’t show any offense at all.

His defense wasn’t awful and still threw out 31 percent of the runners attempting to steal, and seven of those 22 successful steals came in Ubaldo Jimenez’s first four starts of the season. 

Joseph’s season was marred by the scary testicular injury he suffered on May 30, when he actually finished the game after he was injured in the eighth inning.

Joseph missed a month because of the injury, but his offense never returned. 

Before the injury, Joseph was still hurting offensively, going 66 at-bats without an RBI. He had 66 more at-bats after coming back on July 3 without an RBI. 

His only sustained playing time came when he played six consecutive games in mid-July when Matt Wieters injured a foot, and had three straight two-hit games, but no RBIs. 

Once Wieters came back, Joseph hardly played, and was sent down to Norfolk for 10 days in late August to help him regain his batting eye. 

Joseph was recalled when the rosters were expanded, but in the final weeks of the season, started just six times, going 1-for-18. 

A year ago when it looked as if Wieters was going to leave as a free agent, Joseph would have been a consideration as the No. 1 catcher. 

His defense was good, his offense wasn’t bad, and he seemed to have a good rapport with the pitchers. 

The point became moot when Wieters surprisingly accepted a $15.8 million qualifying offer and Joseph happily welcomed him back even though he knew his playing time would be cut drastically. 

A year later, the situation is even murkier. 

It’s not certain that the Orioles will offer Wieters a qualifying offer of $17.2 million. There’s been some talk that in the new Collective Bargaining Agreement teams won’t be able to proffer qualifying offers in consecutive years. With perhaps two weeks left in the postseason, it’s looking unlikely that a new CBA will be completed and ratified by the players and owners by then. 

The Orioles should give Wieters a qualifying offer. He had a good enough season to merit it, and they shouldn’t let him leave without getting a compensatory draft choice in return. 

Wieters is arguably the most attractive catcher on the free agent market with Washington’s Wilson Ramos out for at least the early part of next season following his Friday knee surgery. 

Many clubs are interested in Wieters, and the Orioles should protect themselves with a qualifying offer. 

The Orioles can’t enter 2017 with Joseph as their No. 1 catcher. While they’re confident his offense will return, his drop was so drastic that they shouldn’t be assured it will return next year. 

But, he’s certainly good enough defensively to be a backup catcher, and while there’s been some talk about pursuing a placeholder while Chance Sisco gets ready, Wieters is still the best choice for 2017—and perhaps beyond. 

Sisco has a terrific on-base percentage of .402 in the minors, and the Orioles certainly want to improve their OBP. However his defense needs a lot of work. At Bowie, he allowed 100 stolen bases in 83 games, throwing out just 25 percent of runners trying to steal.

Colorado’s Nick Hundley has been mentioned as a possibility. He’s a free agent, and he worked well with pitchers, particularly Chris Tillman in 2014 after Wieters underwent Tommy John surgery. 

Hundley doesn’t have a good arm. In 2016, he threw out just 14 percent (9 of 66) runners attempting to steal. 

With the Orioles, Hundley threw out only five of 27 (19 percent), but runners rarely try to steal on Tillman, who’s especially skilled at holding them on base. 

A Hundley-Joseph team for 2017 wouldn’t be bad and room could always be made if the Orioles think Sisco is ready defensively next season. Another year of Wieters-Joseph would be better. 

RELATED: Orioles hoping for Davis rebound in 2017

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Indians' 14-hit victory hands Orioles 8th loss in 9 games

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USA TODAY Sports

Indians' 14-hit victory hands Orioles 8th loss in 9 games

BALTIMORE — The Cleveland Indians figured it would only be a matter of time before their struggling offense provided some support to a solid starting rotation.

Jose Ramirez and the rest of the batting order finally got into a groove Sunday, and the result was a 14-hit attack that carried Corey Kluber and the Indians past the Baltimore Orioles 7-3.

Cleveland came into the game with a .211 team batting average and ranked second-to-last in the AL in runs scored. On this day, however, Ramirez hit a solo shot in the fourth inning and a two-run drive in the ninth, and Yan Gomes had three hits to lift his batting average 41 points to .261.

"When things are not going my way, I stay positive and work it," Ramirez said through a translator. "I know eventually I'm going to break out."

Ramirez has three homers in two games and a team-leading seven for the season.

"I try not to do too much," Ramirez said. "I just look for a good pitch and then I hit it somewhere."

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Kluber yielded two home runs to Manny Machado, but the Indians twice came from behind before tacking on three runs in the ninth.

"I thought we did a pretty good job," manager Terry Francona said. "When they came back, we came back at them. We kept pushing and took some better swings."

Kluber (3-1) allowed three runs and six hits over seven-plus innings. The reigning AL Cy Young Award winner walked none and struck out four to move past Charles Nagy into sixth place on the Indians' career strikeout list with 1,238.

"It doesn't matter if you feel you pitched well or didn't pitch well. The goal is to end the game with more runs they do," Kluber said. "That's what we did."

Machado's third multihomer game of the season wasn't enough to prevent the Orioles from losing for the ninth time in 10 games, a skid that has dropped them 10 games under .500 (6-16).

"You know what? There's no excuse for what's happening," Machado said. "We need to play better overall. Nobody is in here pointing fingers. We are in here together, and we are going to ride or die together."

Andrew Cashner (1-3) gave up four runs and eight hits in six innings, walking two and striking out seven. He's 0-3 with 7.41 ERA in three lifetime appearances against the Indians.

After Machado connected in the first inning, Cleveland went up 2-1 in the fourth when Edwin Encarnacion and Yonder Alonso hit successive doubles following a leadoff homer by Ramirez.

Baltimore regained the lead in the bottom half. After Machado homered, Adam Jones doubled and scored on a single by Chris Davis.

A pair of walks and run-scoring singles by Francisco Lindor and Michael Brantley put the Indians up 4-3 in the fifth.

"Once you get the lead, you can't give it up," Cashner lamented.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Indians: CF Bradley Zimmer was a late scratch with a mild right ankle sprain. He was replaced by Rajai Davis.

Orioles: LF Trey Mancini missed a second straight game with a swollen right knee. ... DH Mark Trumbo (strained right quad) will begin a three-game stint with Double-A Bowie on Monday, then play three games with Triple-A Norfolk later in the week, manager Buck Showalter said. He won't be rushed to return. "It's important we get it right the first time," Showalter said.

WELL RESTED

Indians right-hander Josh Tomlin threw a side session Saturday and is expected to start Tuesday against the Cubs. Francona opted to skip Tomlin's last scheduled start Wednesday to reset the rotation after Cleveland had two straight games postponed last weekend.

UP NEXT

Indians: Carlos Carrasco (3-0, 3.48 ERA) starts the series finale Monday night. The right-hander is 9-0 with a 1.75 ERA over his past 11 starts since Aug. 27.

Orioles: RHP Kevin Gausman (1-1, 5.57) makes his fifth start of the season after allowing 27 hits -- including six homers -- over 21 innings.

RELATED: WHERE DO THE O'S FALL IN MLB STANDINGS?

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Orioles bats stay silent against Cleveland

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USA Today Sports Images

Orioles bats stay silent against Cleveland

BALTIMORE -- Mike Clevenger pitched a two-hitter in his first career complete game, and the Cleveland Indians hit three solo homers off Chris Tillman in a 4-0 victory over the Baltimore Orioles on Saturday.

Jose Ramirez went 3 for 4 with his team-leading fifth home run. Yan Gomes and Yonder Alonso also went deep for Cleveland, which came into the game ranked second-to-last in the AL in runs and last in batting average.

Clevenger (2-0) hardly needed the offensive support. Pitching on seven days' rest, the right-hander struck out three, walked two and allowed only one runner past first base.

The only two hits he allowed were singles by Manny Machado in the fourth inning and Chance Sisco in the fifth.

It was Clevenger's 35th career start. His previous longest outing was 7 1/3 innings, earlier this month against Kansas City.

While Clevenger is unbeaten in 11 starts since July 31, Tillman has experienced an opposite fate. This was his 22nd straight start without a victory, dating back to his first outing last season.

Tillman (0-4) gave up four runs, eight hits and a walk in six innings. The three home runs were one more than he yielded in his first three starts this season.

Michael Brantley hit a run-scoring groundout in the first inning and Gomes connected in the fourth for a 2-0 lead.

The Orioles put runners on the corners with one out in the fourth, their lone threat against Clevenger, who responded by retiring Tim Beckham on a short fly to left and getting Anthony Santander to ground out.

Ramirez led off the sixth with a drive to left, and Alonso hit a two-out shot that landed on Eutaw Street beyond the right-field scoreboard.