Orioles

Top questions for the Orioles' second half

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Top questions for the Orioles' second half

The 45-40 record is about to be forgotten. Second half play is at hand for the Orioles, and attention must be paid to these important questions. The answers will be revealed over the next 3 months.1. Do the Orioles need additional starting pitching if they want to contend?
Absolutely. When three of the pitchers who started the first four games of the season are in the minors, reinforcements are needed.One is Zach Britton, who pitched brilliantly on Thursday night for Norfolk. Britton, who hasnt pitched this season because of shoulder problems and caution by team management, should start on Tuesday in Minnesota.For now, Miguel Gonzalez and Chris Tillman are the other two starters, but thats subject to change. Gonzalez and Tillman had excellent starts last week, but that was just one start. Dan Duquette is on the lookout for improved starters, and that means trades.2. Will Duquette be aggressive between now and July 31?
Absolutely. It wouldnt be surprising to see Duquette add a starter or even two, and make a deal for a third baseman, first baseman or left fielder. One who could lead off would be even better.3. What do the Orioles have to trade? Theyre not going to trade Dylan Bundy or Manny Machado. Any of the three Norfolk starters who began the season with the Orioles is possible, Jake Arrieta, Tommy Hunter and Brian Matusz. Gonzalez and Tillman could be on the market, too. They have little in the young and cheap position player category. Other than Bundy and Machado, the best position player in the system is probably Bowie second baseman Jonathan Schoop. He may have to go to get something worthwhile.4. Can the bullpen be as good in the second half of the season as it was in the first?Probably not. It would be astounding if Jim Johnson saved 26 of 27 games in the second half of the season. Pedro Strop needs to be as good, and Luis Ayala, who wasnt quite as sharp in recent weeks as he was early in the season, needs to recapture his early season magic. Matt Lindstrom, who missed a month, is needed, but in his absence Darren ODay was terrific. He needs to be terrific again.5. Is there anyone in the minor leagues who can help?Britton should be coming up Tuesday. Arrieta is most likely going to have to stay in Norfolk for several starts before the Orioles are convinced hes fixed what ails him. Hunter or Matusz could come back; Matusz will have to prove that his shutout outing wasnt a fluke.6. Can Nick Markakis heal what ails the offense?

In the first 50 games, the Orioles werent shut out. Markakis played them all. While he was out, they were shut out six times. J.J. Hardy and Adam Jones suffered offensively. Hell be back on Friday, six weeks after a broken hamate bone was removed from his right hand. 7. Can Mark Reynolds find some offenseand maybe some defense, too?Reynolds had a horrible first half. The team would have liked to trade him, but his value is low. Theres no chance hell be back in 2013, so if hed like to increase his free agent standing, hed better start hitting.8. Can Brian Roberts catch a break?Apparently not. Roberts hasnt decided on season-ending hip surgery yet. Hes probably going to try the rehab route first. It was invigorating to watch his rehab and thrilling when he was able to return with a three-hit night. Now, his future is once again sad to think about. 9. Can the defense get any better?Seventy-five errors in 85 games. The Orioles hope it cant get worse. A third of the errors were by Wilson Betemit and Robert Andino, and there are no replacements for them on campus. Matt Wieters, who made five last season has already made eight.

10. Does Chris Davis have a position?With Markakis out, Davis sometimes played an adventurous right field. Perhaps Buck Showalter will try him again at first on occasion. Hes unlikely to put him at third and hes never played left field in the majors.11. Whos going to lead off?Didnt we ask this question in March? Well, Nolan Reimold and Brian Roberts arent going to. Endy Chavez may be reactivated on Friday, and even though he wasnt effective, Showalter may give him another chance. Andino looked overmatched in the last two months, and Showalter seems to be reluctant to commit to Xavier Avery.12. How important is it for the Orioles to finish with a winning record?Its vital. Even if the team cant contend for a playoff spot, they can break the 14-year losing streak.

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Manny Machado pens goodbye to O's fans on Instagram

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USA Today Sports Images

Manny Machado pens goodbye to O's fans on Instagram

Days after being traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers in a deal that captivated much of Major League Baseball, former Oriole Manny Machado took to Instagram to thank the only organization he's ever known. 

The 26-year-old's contract expires at the end of this season, which the Orioles chose not to renew as the last-place club enters a rebuilding phase. 

Machado put up big numbers in the team's first 97 games totaling career-highs in home runs (24), RBIs (65), OBP (.387) and OPS (.962). 

He is expected to play shortstop for a Dodgers club which finished the first half of the season 10 games above .500 in a competitive, tight NL West. 

The Dodgers will pay Machado $6.3 million. 

To my Baltimore family, I’ve spent the last few days trying to figure out how I would say goodbye but there wasn’t an easy way to do it. I first joined this organization at the age of 17 and these past eight years have far exceeded anything I ever could’ve imagined. Throughout the ups and downs, you embraced me unconditionally and you took a kid from Miami and brought me up as one of your own. I’ve enjoyed my time here and you all have played a big part in that!! Thank you Birdland! You are forever in my heart! To the Baltimore Orioles, it has truly been a blessing to put on that uniform every day. To the Angelos Family & Dan Duquette, thank you for making my dreams come true!!! To Buck and the coaching staff, thank you for your commitment and dedication to making me the best player and teammate I can possibly be…I wouldn’t be where I am today without all of you. To my teammates, we’ve shared some amazing times with lots of memories & friendships that I’ll cherish forever. Schoopy, I love you bro and I know you will carry the torch!!! ! Much love always, Manny #13

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RELATED LINKS: 

Manny Machado trade rumors are dominating headlines at All-Star Game 

Orioles star shortstop Manny Machado traded to Los Angeles Dodgers 

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Redskins 2018 position outlook: Inside linebacker

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Bob Youngentob for NBC Sports Washington

Redskins 2018 position outlook: Inside linebacker

Redskins Training camp opens next week, and we have a break here, giving us time to put the depth chart under the microscope.

Between now and the start of camp, we will look at every position, compare the group to the rest of the NFL, see if the position has been upgraded or downgraded from last year, and take out the crystal ball to see what might unfold.

Inside linebackers

Additions: Shaun Dion Hamilton (drafted in the fifth round)

Departures: Will Compton (free agent)

Starters: Zach Brown, Mason Foster

Other roster locks: Josh Harvey-Clemons

On the bubble: Hamilton, Zach Vigil, Martrell Spaight

How the inside linebackers compare

To the rest of the NFL: This is a difficult comparison to make since only about half of the teams use the 3-4 with two inside linebackers and there are many variations when they go out of their base defense. Brown certainly is in the upper tier of players at his position. Foster’s skill set may not be coveted by many teams around the league, but he is a perfect fit in the Redskins’ defense in many ways. The player who could differentiate this group from others around the league is Harvey-Clemons. If he turns into a top-notch nickel LB the inside linebackers will be a great asset. 

To the 2017 Redskins:  This is about health. In 2017, Foster missed 11 games, Brown was hampered by a variety of injuries before sitting out the last three games. Compton was the top backup to both players and he went to injured reserve after just three starts. They did re-sign Vigil, who had spent training camp with the team, and he played pretty well near the end of the season. If the front-line players can stay on the field for most of the season this should be a much better group than the one that was partially responsible for the league’s 32nd-ranked rushing defense. 

2018 Inside linebacker outlook

Biggest upside: The 2017 season was supposed to be a redshirt year for Harvey-Clemons as he transitions from college safety to NFL linebacker. He played a lot in the base defense during the offseason practices and that indicates that they are considering him for a bigger role beyond just playing nickel. You have to wonder how his size (6-4, 230) will affect his ability to get off of blocks. 

Most to prove: Spaight was a fifth-round pick in 2015 and he has yet to establish a regular role in the defense. It was telling that when they needed someone to start in the latter part of last year they brought back and started Vigil and mostly kept Spaight is going into the last year of his contract, but it would not be surprising to see Vigil beat him out for the last roster spot.  

Rookie watch: The Redskins traded up in the sixth round to get Hamilton. It wasn’t a blockbuster deal but the fact that they thought enough of him to move up says something. Gruden has said that he thinks Hamilton could be a starter at some point. He was one of the leaders on a strong Alabama defense before injuries struck. Hamilton is not going to start this year barring multiple injuries, but he should develop a role as the season goes on and be ready to compete in 2019.

Bottom line: The Redskins have not invested much in terms of free agent dollars or draft capital in the inside linebacker position in recent seasons. That changed somewhat this offseason as they made sure to spend to retain Brown and Foster. Neither commanded a huge contract but they did make a commitment and that is important. Last year Brown gave the defense a sideline-to-sideline dimension it hasn’t had in quite some time and retaining him was critical. Inside linebacker may not be a major strength for the defense this year but it should be able to get the job done. 

2018 Redskins position outlook series