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Tillman, Gonzalez must pitch better for Orioles in 2016


Tillman, Gonzalez must pitch better for Orioles in 2016

Conventional wisdom is easy to fall back on, and it’s so often wrong. Last year, many thought that despite the loss of Nelson Cruz and Nick Markakis to free agency, the return of Chris Davis, Manny Machado and Matt Wieters would enable the Orioles to repeat as American League East champions.

Davis, who had a horrific season in 2014, earned his way to the $161 million deal that could become official as early as Thursday.

Machado played every game and hit 35 home runs, and made his case for a contract even bigger than Davis’ in the not-too-distant future.

Wieters hoped to be ready for Opening Day, but ended up missing the first two months of the season.

The Orioles handily won the AL East in 2014 despite Davis’ .196 average and missing the final weeks of the regular season because of a 25-game suspension due to use of Adderall without a prescription.

They swept the Tigers in three games in the Division Series with Machado rehabbing from his second knee surgery in less than a year.

All this was done with Wieters missing most of the season due to Tommy John surgery.

With all three back, it took a five-game winning streak over two teams on cruise control preparing for the playoffs, to even reach .500 in 2015.

Despite all three returning this year, which was hardly the conventional wisdom as the .500 record was secured, the new conventional wisdom is that the Orioles will lag behind others in the AL East because they did nothing to improve their starting pitching.

That may well turn out to be correct.

But, let’s look back four years when the good times began for this Orioles group. The team ended 2011 by playing creditably over the season’s last seven weeks, going 22-16. Of course, fans remember Robert Andino’s thrilling hit to beat the Red Sox, but that was only the Orioles’ 69th win of the season.

The Orioles ended the 2011 season with a rotation of Zach Britton, Jeremy Guthrie, Tommy Hunter, Brian Matusz and Alfredo Simon. Jake Arrieta had gotten bone chips removed from his elbow, and the team was so down on him that Chris Tillman hadn’t even been recalled from Norfolk after the rosters expanded.

After Dan Duquette took over a few weeks later, the Orioles’ biggest free agent signings were Tsuyoshi Wada and Wei-Yin Chen. Wada was the much more publicized signing, and the press conference to introduce Chen was held in Taiwan.

Just before spring training began, the Orioles traded Guthrie to Colorado for Jason Hammel and Matt Lindstrom.

Fans were disappointed the Orioles didn’t do more. The most optimistic hoped that perhaps a .500 record was possible, ending a string of 14 consecutive losing seasons.

We all know that the 2012 season surpassed all expectations, and then conventional wisdom predicted another great year for the Orioles in 2013. After all, except for Mark Reynolds, the entire team would return.

The Orioles played well in 2013, but their 85 wins wasn’t good enough for a playoff spot.

After Jim Johnson’s near perfection in 2012, he had some stumbles in the final weeks of 2013, and the team traded him instead of signing him to a $10 million contract.

Grant Balfour, who was supposed to replace him, failed his physical, and Orioles fans seethed. Who would be the team’s closer? Why couldn’t they sign an established closer?

Conventional wisdom said that the Orioles would falter without a true closer. After Tommy Hunter stumbled to start the season, Buck Showalter moved Britton into the role, and he’s been brilliant ever since.

The Orioles didn’t fall back last season because Cruz and Markakis were gone. Yes, there were many times when they couldn’t get a crucial hit, but overall they scored eight more runs in 2015 than they had the year before.

What held them back last year? They allowed precisely 100 more runs than they did in 2014. Without Chen, fans wonder how is going to fill the fifth starter role.

That’s important, but it’s more vital that Chris Tillman who allowed 19 more runs in 2015 than 2014, Miguel Gonzalez, who gave up 22 more, and Kevin Gausman, who will finally stay in Baltimore this season, pitch better. Ubaldo Jimenez must have a year at least as good as he did last year, too.

If the Orioles sign a bounce-back pitcher or two, and they bounce back, that will help. But without Tillman and Gonzalez bouncing back, the fifth starter story may become irrelevant.

Pitchers and catchers report to Sarasota four weeks from today, and there will probably be some more accomplished contenders for that fifth starter role added between now and then.

At least, that’s the conventional wisdom.

[RELATED: How does Kim change Orioles' lineup?]

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Orioles' Adam Jones purchases Cal Ripken Jr.'s former estate, per report

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Orioles' Adam Jones purchases Cal Ripken Jr.'s former estate, per report

Cal Ripken Jr.'s 25-acre, 8,545 square-foot home went up for auction this past Saturday and the highest bidder was......Adam Jones? 

The center fielder is purchasing the Orioles legend's former Reisterstown, Md. estate, according to The Athletic

Placed on the market in 2016 for $12.5 million, Ripken reduced the price to $9.7 million last year but was still unable to find a willing buyer. The estate was eventually put up for auction and sold to Jones for an undisclosed amount. 

The six bedroom home has 10 full bathrooms, a movie theater, a gym that overlooks an indoor basketball court, a pool and a baseball field with batting cages, a locker room and soaking tubs. One of the tubs was taken from Memorial Stadium and used by Johnny Unitas and Art Donovan, but Ripken is keeping that one. 

What makes this purchase even more interesting is that Jones will become a free agent at the end of the 2018 season, but that does not mean he plans on re-signing with the team. The 32-year old, who is in his last year of a six-year $85.5 million contract, is known to dip his toes in real estate investments and his wife, Audie Fugett, is a Baltimore native. 

The deal is scheduled to close on June 11. 


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David Price's complete game shuts down Baltimore's offense


David Price's complete game shuts down Baltimore's offense

BOSTON -- One strike away from a four-hit shutout, David Price happily settled for a complete game and his strongest outing of the season.

Price struck out eight and held Baltimore to five hits, including two in the ninth when the Orioles broke up the shutout before the Boston left-hander finished them off in a 6-2 victory for the Red Sox on Thursday night.

"He was amazing," Boston manager Alex Cora said. "He was outstanding. You saw it. Bad swings, up, down, in and out, changeup, cutter, sinkers ... that was fun to watch."

J.D. Martinez hit a two-run homer in the first, and Xander Bogaerts homered with two on during a four-run fifth, giving Price more than enough cushion against the struggling Orioles.

Price (4-4) struck out eight and didn't walk a batter while winning consecutive starts for the first time this season. He cruised through the first eight innings before Andrew Susac led off the ninth with a double, the first Baltimore player to reach second base in the game.

Manny Machado spoiled the shutout bid with a two-out homer, but Price finished off Baltimore on Jonathan Schoop's pop-up to center as the Red Sox improved to 4-0 against Baltimore by taking the makeup game that was rained out on Patriots' Day.

"They're a free-swinging team," said Price, who threw just 95 pitches. "You can go out there and do that or you can go out there for three innings and give up a bunch of runs."

Danny Valencia had a pair of hits for the punchless Orioles, who have lost three of four and have the second-fewest wins in the American League. Valencia nearly had a double in the fifth, but got thrown out at second by left fielder Andrew Benintendi, one of several strong defensive plays that helped Price go the distance.

Hanley Ramirez also caught a foul pop on the top step of Boston's dugout in the second and Mookie Betts ran down a fly ball that was headed to the wall in right.

"The defensive plays that I had today, it makes everything a lot easier," Price said.

Kevin Gausman (3-3) went 4 2/3 innings for Baltimore, allowing six runs and eight hits while striking out six and walking two. He was pulled after Bogaerts drove a high fastball out to left with two men on during Boston's four-run fifth.

"We just got into some sticky situations where we just had to dig ourselves out of a hole and we just couldn't," Susac said.

The Orioles also weren't happy with the strike zone, which Susac said forced Gausman to throw some pitches the Red Sox pounced upon.

Manager Buck Showalter agreed with his catcher.

"I'm very biased, but I didn't think he got a fair shake tonight," Showalter said. "There were a lot of pitches that could have and should have gone his way."