Can the Orioles' relief continue to go long?


Can the Orioles' relief continue to go long?

In at least one respect, the Orioles are back where they started the season. They have no true long reliever.On Sunday, Luis Ayala ran into trouble when he pitched a third inning. They probably dont have a pitcher in the bullpen who can throw three innings.Troy Patton, who came to the major leagues as a starter, probably has the potential to go long, but most are effective as a one-inning relievers.Of course, if the starters pitch at least six innings consistently, a long reliever really isnt necessary.For the first month of the season, there wasnt one. After the 17-inning game in Boston drained the bullpen, the Orioles called for Stu Pomeranz. He was up for six days and then later in May came back, but was quickly injured.Pomeranz suffered an oblique muscle injury, and was put on the 60-day disabled list. He was nearing a rehab assignment last week when he suffered a setback and was given a cortisone injection.Manager Buck Showalter was hoping hed be an option next week when his DL stint was up, but he wont be ready.Dana Eveland spent two months with the club, started twice and was the true long reliever for most of his team. He wasnt terribly effective and had a 4.73 ERA.In order to make room for Miguel Socolovich, Eveland was designated for assignment on July 14, passed through waivers and was outrighted to Norfolk.Jason Berken, who pitched for the Orioles from 2009-11, was up briefly this season. Hes on the 40-man roster.So is Steve Johnson, who like Berken, has started at Norfolk and pitched briefly in relief with the Orioles this season.Two of the current starters could be long relievers if the team acquired an additional starter in the trade market, Miguel Gonzalez or Tommy Hunter.Gonzalez had two lengthy relief appearances before being given a chance to start. Hes been impressive as a starter, so hes not going back to the bullpen now.Hunter could also move back to the bullpen if Jake Arrieta or Brian Matusz was recalled.Arrieta, Hunter and Matusz all have given up more than a hit per inning. Matt Lindstrom and Ayala are the only relievers whove given up more than a hit per nine innings.Lindstrom didnt allow an earned run in his first 12 outings, but in his 13th, he tore a tendon in his right middle finger and allowed his first two earned runs.Since missing nearly seven weeks, Lindstrom has been slow to regain his footing. Hes allowed four runs and 12 hits in 8 13 innings.Ayala didnt give up a run in his first 15 23 innings. After his initial 13 appearances, his ERA has been 4.22.Because the starters didnt go long enough for an extended period, the bullpen had to be used more than Showalter would have liked, though hes been careful to not overuse them.Jim Johnson has been in 43 games, Pedro Strop 41, Patton 39, Ayala and Darren ODay 38. Detroits Joaquin Benoit and New Yorks Boone Logan currently lead the American League with 47 appearances.The best news for the bullpen in weeks has been the recent sturdiness of the starters. In the five-game winning streak, the starters have each won consecutive games. Hunter, Wei-Yin Chen, Gonzalez, Chris Tillman and Zach Britton all picked up wins. Even though the team has three five-game streaks, this is the first time the starters have each won.The trading deadline is eight days away, and it would be shocking if Dan Duquette didnt make a move to add a starter and some help at first base, third base or left field.The Orioles do have Socolovich, Berken, Johnson, Eveland, Oscar Villarreal and Zach Phillips at Norfolk, all of whom can be useful trade chips or move up to the majors if some of the bullpen arms have to be moved.While Duquette probably doesnt want to move major league arms, Ayala, Lindstrom or ODay could be traded if needed to help acquire some starting help.The team is back to five games above .500, and through 95 games, attention can now be turned to the wild card race. The Orioles are six games behind the Yankees for first place in the AL East, and though they still have 10 games with New York, the wild card is more realistic.Detroit and Texas look solid as the Central and Western winners, and the Orioles (51-44), Chicago (50-45), Los Angeles (52-44), Oakland (51-44), Tampa Bay (49-47), Toronto(48-47) and Boston (48-48) are all closely battling for the playoff spots.Thats the good news. The bad news is those teams will also be jockeying to acquire the same players Duquette is.

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Fans, Redskins pay tribute to longtime NBC Sports Washington reporter Rich Tandler

NBC Sports Washington

Fans, Redskins pay tribute to longtime NBC Sports Washington reporter Rich Tandler

NBC Sports Washington lost an important piece of its family this week when longtime Redskins reporter Rich Tandler died on Tuesday. He was 63.

Tandler joined NBC Sports Washington in 2011. He began his writing career in his 40s after working in restaurants and created his blog, Real Redskins, in 2004, which became the longest-running blog on the team. He also wrote three books on the Redskins and posted an estimated 2,300 consecutive “Need To Know” posts, becoming a must-read for Redskins fans as part of their morning routine.

“We’re devastated to learn of the loss of one of our most loved and valued media members, Rich Tandler of NBC Sports Washington,” Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder said in a statement. “His dedication to covering the Redskins over the past 14 years has made him an irreplaceable presence among our media corps, and he will be in our hearts. Our thoughts are with his family, our family at NBC Sports Washington, and the entire Redskins community. He will be truly missed.”

The team will hold a moment of silence for Tandler before its game against the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday and will keep his regular seat on press row empty. On Wednesday, Redskins quarterback Alex Smith offered his “thoughts and prayers to his family.”

“Rich’s kind and warm nature made him a good friend and an especially close colleague to many of us at NBC Sports Washington,” NBC Sports Washington General Manager Damon Phillips said in a statement. “His passion for his work and the Redskins was inspiring and made him a critical part of many of our successes over the past seven years. This is a very big loss for the sports community. Our thoughts are with his family and his many friends.”

Fans, Redskins players, fellow reporters, and friends of Tandler paid tribute to him on social media.

“Incredibly saddened by the sudden passing of NBCSW’s Rich Tandler. He was a great talent and an important voice in the DC sports community. Our thoughts are with his wife @MissSkeetersmom, his family and his family at @NBCSWashington,” Washington Wizards and Capitals owner Ted Leonsis wrote on Twitter.


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Dwight Howard improving, but status still unknown entering Wizards' season opener


Dwight Howard improving, but status still unknown entering Wizards' season opener

Dwight Howard may play in the Wizards' regular-season opener on Thursday night against the Miami Heat, but the team will not know until the day of the game and likely won't announce the decision either way until head coach Scott Brooks addresses the media about two hours before tipoff.

Howard only has three practices under his belt but has made significant progress throughout this week after missing all five of the team's preseason games due to a strain in his piriformis muscle.

Head coach Scott Brooks said Howard has looked good in those three practices but has a lot of missed time to make up for.

"I think he's definitely winded at times, but that's part of it," Brooks said.

Brooks added that Howard is not getting the same lift when jumping that he's used to. Howard, 32, is used to playing above the rim and his vertical leap is an important part of his game.

The Wizards play their first two games at home, the second on Saturday against the Raptors. They then embark on a Western Conference road trip beginning with the Blazers on Monday.

Brooks said Howard will "definitely" make that trip with the team, which gives a good indication of how close he is to returning to game action. When Howard is ready to play will be left up to the team's medical staff.

If Howard does miss time, the Wizards are expected to rely on his backup Ian Mahinmi as the starting center. Jason Smith would then become the No. 2 center on the depth chart, though they could use forwards like Markieff Morris or Jeff Green at the five-spot.

Howard signed a two-year free-agent deal worth $11 million to join the Wizards in July.