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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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Wizards vs. Celtics: TV, live stream and radio info, things to watch

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USA TODAY Sports

Wizards vs. Celtics: TV, live stream and radio info, things to watch

The Wizards(11-16) hosts Bthe Celtics (16-10) on Wednesday night inside Capital One Arena for the first of three matchups of the 2018-19 season.

The Wizards dropped a Monday night contest in Indiana, despite an All-Star performance from Bradley Beal who poured in 30 points without John Wall in the lineup. 

The Celtics, without Kyrie Irving, defeated the New Orleans Pelicans Monday night thanks to a 31-point performance from Marcus Morris. 

One of the more recent and compelling NBA rivalries is back. 

Here is all you need to know: TV, live stream and radio info, tip-off time, and more:

WIZARDS vs. CELTICS HOW TO WATCH:

What: Washington Wizards vs. Boston Celtics
Where: Capital One Arena, Washington D.C.
Time/Date: Wednesday, 12/12/18 at 7:00 p.m. ET
TV: NBC Sports Washington (7:00 p.m.)
Live stream: You can watch the Wizards vs. Celtics live stream on NBC Sports Washington's live stream page and the MyTeams by NBC Sports App. . Download MyTeams now for full postgame coverage and 24/7 Wizards news.
Radio: 1500 AM

WIZARDS vs. CELTICS TV SCHEDULE:

6:00 PM: Wizards Outsiders 
6:30 PM: Wizards Pregame Live
7:00 PM: Wizards vs. Celtics
9:30 PM: Wizards Postgame Live 
10:00 PM: Wizards Outsiders 

WIZARDS vs. CELTICS INJURY REPORT:

Wizards: Dwight Howard (out, lumbar microdisectomy procedure)

Celtics: Aron Baynes (questionable, left ankle sprain), Gordon Hayward (doubtful, illness), Al Horford (questionable, left knee soreness), Guerschon Yabusele (out, right ankle sprain) 

WIZARDS vs. CELTICS SERIES HISTORY: 

Number of all-time Meetings: 302 games (22 playoff games)

Regular Season Record: Celtics lead series 188-114

Playoff Record: Celtics lead series 13-9

Last Meeting: Wizards beat Celtics 113-101 on 4/10/2018

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Dave Martinez reiterates door remains open for Bryce Harper

Dave Martinez reiterates door remains open for Bryce Harper

LAS VEGAS -- This is not Davey Martinez’s kind of place. He’s more of a Tampa guy, maybe some Nashville. Not Las Vegas. He’s not in the desert to gamble or make the casino scene. Work brings him here, not some desire to burn life earnings during the offseason.

“Social gambler,” Martinez said. “How’s that?”

He’s able to make the rounds, at least. Martinez is 54. He entered the major leagues in 1986. Only four years since then have been spent outside of the major leagues. Which makes this event more of a chance to see old friends in the game. 

Work is limited. Mike Rizzo finished the majority of the roster before the Nationals’ contingent arrived in Las Vegas. Maybe they upgrade at second base. Maybe they add another veteran starter to the spring training mix. Maybe another bullpen option with the same line of thought. But, for the most part, Martinez knows what he will be working with in 2019. 

“Mike and I talked at the end of the season with ownership,” Martinez told NBC Sports Washington. “We sat down. Had a couple meetings. And Pat Corbin, all the guys we got were on our list and he got it done. It was a nice early Christmas present for me to get these guys and get this ball rolling.”

Martinez has harped on certain points since the close of the season. The Nationals need to be better fielders, baserunners and situational hitters. It sounds mundane, something that should be built-in at this level, but anyone who watched last season saw mediocre baseball being played. A throw to the wrong base. An extra base not taken. A double-play unturned.

“Last year we played a lot of one-run games,” Martinez said. “When I looked back and watched some of the replays of the games this past winter, it’s about not allowing teams 28, 29, 30 outs.” 

The Nationals will have days in spring training without hitting. Emphasis on fielding and baserunning drills will increase. They want to play faster and smarter. 

They also believe a healthy start is in place. Martinez said Adam Eaton’s leg continues to gain strength. Ryan Zimmerman’s body is in a good place. Stephen Strasburg is feverishly working out at Nationals Park. 

“As you know, last year when he got hurt and went down, our starting pitching took a beating a little bit,” Martinez said. “Hopefully, he comes back and he’s strong and he can get back and compete. If we can get Stras up to 25 starts, we’re going to be really good.”

Listening to Martinez hints at lessons learned from last season. In particular, his use of the bullpen. Sammy Solis made 30 appearances by the end of May. That matched his total from 2017. 

“I go back to the earlier part of last year,” Martinez said. “He was really good. He kept our bullpen stable. And I used him a lot. And I think at one point -- and I’ve heard this before -- I might have used him too much. What I see now, I’m going by what I saw earlier in the season in hopes that he comes back that guy. And then kind of use him in that role. Because he was really good. He was getting lefties and righties out. … I think Sammy has a lot of upside.”

The back of the bullpen remains structured the same as last season. At least in roles. Kyle Barraclough and Trevor Rosenthal are a swap for Brandon Kintzler and Ryan Madson. Sean Doolittle maintains his spot as the closer. If he needs a day off, Rosenthal will step in.

That all leaves one enormous question.

“As you know Bryce and I have a special relationship,” Martinez said. “As a player, as a person, as a kid, I think he’s awesome. I love him to death, I do. Right now, we have to continue to move forward and try to get better. Not by any means, and I heard Rizzo say this and I feel the same way, that the door’s closed on Bryce. He’s got big decisions to make. Ultimately, he’s going to make the decision. And It’s tough. I know how he feels about his teammates, I know how he feels about Washington, but it’s a tough decision he needs to make for him and his family.” 

Life is easier with answers. Martinez has most of them for 2019. He, like everyone else, is waiting on one more.

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