Bills set to re-shuffle O-Line against Texans

Bills set to re-shuffle O-Line against Texans

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) It's two steps forward and potentially one step back when it comes to the health of the Buffalo Bills starting offensive line coming out of the bye.

The good news is that starting left tackle Cordy Glenn and starting right guard Kraig Urbik are expected to return on Sunday, when Buffalo (3-4) travels to play the AFC-leading Houston Texans (6-1). Both missed three games with sprained right ankles.

On the downside, Erik Pears' status is uncertain after the starting right tackle missed practice Thursday.

Coach Chan Gailey said Pears was visiting a specialist to have a nagging hip-groin injury examined. Gailey said the injury is related to the one Pears had surgically repaired this offseason. And he didn't rule out the possibility of Pears requiring surgery again.

Gailey said he'll know more regarding Pears on Friday.

Pears has been inconsistent in starting all seven games this season. If he can't play, reserve tackle Chris Hairston is expected to take over after starting the past three games on the left side for Glenn.

Urbik's return is well-timed, too, because he'll reclaim his job at right guard after backup Chad Rinehart sustained what's feared to be a season-ending injury to his left ankle in a 35-34 loss to Tennessee two weeks ago.

Despite the constant shuffling, the Bills offensive line has been steady. Buffalo is tied for second in the NFL in having allowed just eight sacks this season. And the Bills have the league's fourth-best running attack.

``The last few weeks, we've done a good job, and it's kind of been patchwork just putting guys in there and trying to move guys around,'' quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick said. ``But getting some depth there and getting our starters back will be big for us.''

The Bills could use whatever edge they can get in facing Houston's sack-happy defense. J.J. Watt leads the NFL with 9 1/2 sacks, to go with 56 tackles (16 of them for a loss), 16 quarterback hits and 10 passes defensed. And he's part of a defense that's allowed the third-fewest yards.

``Yeah, it's going to definitely be a challenge, but there's a challenge every week,'' Urbik said. ``You can't be hesitant at all. You have to trust your technique, especially going up against a guy like J.J. You need to be on your game every single play or he's going to expose you.''

Urbik has 19 starts in two-plus seasons in Buffalo. Glenn is Buffalo's rookie second-round draft pick out of Georgia.

Rinehart's injury could open the door for cornerback Ron Brooks to be activated this week. The rookie fourth-round pick has been out since breaking his right foot in the final week of the preseason.

He began practicing two weeks ago, and is eligible to return after opening the season on the IR/Designated for Return list.

``I'm ready right now,'' Brooks said. ``I'm just happy to have at least half of my season back.''


NOTES: LG Andy Levitre is once again growing his Fu Manchu moustache to support the Berkley Fire Department annual fundraiser to assist young burn victims. Levitre can be sponsored on the charities website ( ... DE Mark Anderson (left knee) will miss his third straight game after being ruled out by Gailey. ... The Bills have a 16-8 record in games following their bye week, and are 5-2 over the past seven seasons.


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Managers in Nationals-Orioles series embrace shared history as they face off for the first time

Managers in Nationals-Orioles series embrace shared history as they face off for the first time

Brandon Hyde and Davey Martinez have spent countless days on the same fields, but Tuesday night was the first time they found themselves managing against one another.

Before heading to the nation’s capital to manage the Washington Nationals, Martinez coached under Joe Maddon with the Chicago Cubs from 2015-17. Brandon Hyde was also in Chicago during those years, coaching first base and then succeeding Martinez as Maddon’s bench coach prior to his hire in Baltimore last offseason.

While both figures are competitive enough to not need any added motivation against the opposing team, it’s still a fun moment for the two longtime friends to appreciate.

“Oh, he’s awesome,” Martinez told reporters in the visitor’s dugout before Tuesday’s game when asked about his relationship with Hyde. “I know him and his family very well, almost like family of mine. When we got in town we had dinner together, so it was kind of fun.”

Martinez went on to emphasize he knows Hyde will be playing to win, too.

“Obviously we both know he’s very competitive,” Martinez continued. “He knows that we want to win and he wants to win, so put everything aside. We’re going to compete.”

Despite the difference in records and team expectations in 2019, Hyde was pretty clear about his desire to take down his former colleague.

“Obviously me and Dave are very close friends and I wish him all the success in the world,” Hyde echoed during his own pregame availability. “But obviously I hope we beat them these next couple games.”

Martinez is not the only National to have a relationship with Hyde.

“Davey’s over there, Henry Blanco’s very close friend of mine, Joe Dillon the hitting coach I played with in high school, so I have some close relationships on that staff,” Hyde said.

Martinez knows the Nats can’t let their guard down against weaker opponents, Orioles included. As he put it, the Nationals “gotta come out and play baseball like we always do.”

And yet, even though each manager is putting his best foot forward to try to win the game, same as every other night of the season, it’s hard to ignore the unique relationship between the two.

For most, it’s just another night of baseball. But as Brandon Hyde put it most simply, “this will be a little bit different managing against Davey on the other side.”

Orioles-Nationals has yet to fully develop into a true rivalry, but perhaps a few more games that feel just “a little bit different” will help one blossom going forward.


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Max Scherzer feeling 'a lot better' but next start date is still up in the air

Max Scherzer feeling 'a lot better' but next start date is still up in the air

BALTIMORE -- Some pitching clarity was acquired Tuesday.

Erick Fedde will make a spot start Wednesday in the second, and final, game between the Orioles and Nationals. That bumps Stephen Strasburg to Thursday. Max Scherzer's next start remains a question.

The Nationals decided Strasburg would pitch Thursday once they put Scherzer (mid-back strain) on the 10-day injured list July 13. Moving Strasburg a day allows Washington to dispatch its best arms against first-place Atlanta during a four-game series instead of burning one against Baltimore, the worst team in the major leagues.

Scherzer threw Tuesday in the outfield and "said he felt a lot better," according to Davey Martinez. Next is a check Wednesday morning, then further work. Martinez wants Scherzer to throw a bullpen session before making a start. That could happen Thursday in Atlanta. If Scherzer throws a bullpen session then, he could pitch as early as Saturday, when he is first eligible to come off the injured list. 

Scherzer could also pitch Sunday in Atlanta. The Nationals can easily manipulate the situation once they have Scherzer throw a bullpen session. Patrick Corbin will pitch Friday -- receiving an extra day of rest himself -- then Anibal Sanchez would be on turn Saturday after an extra day of rest. 

If Scherzer is ready to go this weekend, the Nationals could have lucked into a position where they pitch all four of their best pitchers on extra rest against first-place Atlanta.

"It's hard to tell with Max," Martinez said. "Max always feels he's ready to pitch. I just want to see him progress."

One of the issues last weekend in Philadelphia was Scherzer's back problem did not improve from Friday to Saturday, prompting the team to eventually decide an injured list stint was best.

In the interim, Austin Voth, who pitched Tuesday, and Fedde receive cameo appearances. Martinez said in Philadelphia the fifth starter spot is "open" between Voth, Fedde and, more distantly, Joe Ross. 

"[Tuesday] I'm just worried about Austin Voth going out there and competing and keeping us in the ballgame," Martinez said. "Worry about [Wednesday on Wednesday]. Both of those guys are part of our future right now. We hope that they both pitch well."