Buck Showalter starts pitching change before Red Sox finish home run trot

Buck Showalter starts pitching change before Red Sox finish home run trot

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Things are going so poorly for the Baltimore Orioles, manager Buck Showalter just can’t wait to give his pitchers the hook. 

As the O’s were on their way to tying a franchise record with their 13th consecutive road loss, starting pitcher Kevin Gausman gave up a monster home run in the fifth inning to Boston Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts.

Showalter popped out of the dugout and headed toward the mound so quickly, he crossed the third base line before Bogaerts had even completed his home run trot.

The Orioles went on to lose 6-2 to the Red Sox and are now a major league-worst 3-17 away from home this season.

The 13-game road losing streak ties the record set by the ill-fated 1988 team during its infamous 0-21 start.

Even worse: The O’s still have three more games to play at Fenway Park. And they’re on the road all next week with series at the Chicago White Sox and Tampa Bay Rays before they return home to Camden Yards. 

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Orioles notes: Showalter on handling rough start, Santander's future, pitching Wright and Araujo

Orioles notes: Showalter on handling rough start, Santander's future, pitching Wright and Araujo

Orioles manager Buck Showalter turned his thoughts toward those who support the team as opposed to those who are a part of it when asked before Wednesday night’s game about the toll the team’s 8-27 start has taken on morale.

“It’s a lot tougher,” Showalter said. “It’s tougher on everybody, whether it’s the hitting coach, the pitching coach, center fielder, the general manager, the owner — most importantly, the fans. That’s what I’m concerned with.

“I just try to walk that line between empathy and sympathy, but we all know what the reality is because it’s right there every night. But there’s an opportunity every night. You’ve got a lot of choices in life — how you’re going to treat people and how you’re going to try to be consistent in it. These are the times that really separate players coaches, managers, everybody. … This game can beat up anybody. I didn’t need to have the period we’re in right now to remind me of that.”

The Orioles are in this spot for plenty of reasons, from injured players who they counted on and replacements not playing up to expectations, but also because some of the players they’ve long relied on haven’t played particularly well either. Of all the factors, that’s one that still baffles him — and seems to be causing plenty of stress for his players.

“There’s so many things that are the same — the baseballs, the bats, the coaches, the hitters,” he said. “There’s so many things. So, it’s humbling, you know, to realize that what always appears on paper doesn’t show up every night. It’s a reminder of how much the human element plays into this game.

“It’s like they say, ‘I know the good Lord wouldn’t give me more than I can handle; I wish he wouldn’t have so much confidence in me.’ It’s kind of that way with players a little bit. I’d really like to see some of these guys let up for air. If you can see what I could see behind public eyes, so to speak, it’s tough on them — especially when you’ve had the success they’ve had.”

Santander‘s day coming

With just a few days left before the May 12 date that the Orioles needed to hit to be able to send Rule 5 draft outfielder Anthony Santander to the minors, Showalter said there are several factors that will go into whether that happens.

Santander broke a streak of 65 at-bats without an RBI in Tuesday night’s 15-7 loss to the Kansas City Royals, and brought his batting average up to .204 with a .565 OPS in the process.

That’s only a small consideration, Showalter said.

“There’s a lot of reasons,” he said. “No. 1, what’s in the best interest of our team? No. 2, of his development, and what would he be replaced with? There’s always some things to be gained by being here. But he’s been here, obviously, a lot. What’s he hitting now? … You can’t necessarily send down everyone who’s hitting under .200.

“He’s a good potential long-term player for us. We’re going to do what’s best for him and his development. And whatever happens, it’s been good for him to be kind of force-fed with it. He’s a smart-enough guy, I think he’ll take some things and learn from it, whether he stays here or goes back down. But I’ll tell you this, if he goes down, he’ll be back at some point. I feel strongly about that.”

That the Orioles have a doubleheader on that date, Saturday, when they can send Santander down creates maneuverability. They could add a reliever for the first game as their designated 26th man, then send Santander down in between to add another arm to cover the second game.

Results expected from Wright, Araujo

For different reasons, the Orioles are carrying Mike Wright Jr. and Pedro Araujo in their bullpen in hopes that they can stick and be long-term assets. Wright is out of minor league options, and Araujo is a Rule 5 pick who had never pitched above Single-A.

Each has struggled, and their difficulties were on display Tuesday. Wright allowed five runs on eight hits in 4 2/3 innings of relief, and Araujo gave up three runs on four hits in 2 1/3 innings.

“At this level, for the most part, it’s about getting people out,” Showalter said. “That’s part of development, especially with the number of innings and opportunities that some of the people you’re talking about have already had. Araujo is different. But some of our other guys, they’ve had a lot of opportunities. They need to take it and run with it regardless of how it presents itself.”

Around the horn

Showalter said closer Zach Britton (Achilles tendon) might not go out on a rehabilitation assignment until close to the end of May. He’ll begin facing live batters Tuesday, Showalter said. … Infielder Tim Beckham had an appointment with the specialist who did his hip/groin surgery this week, Showalter said. … Right-hander Hunter Harvey, the Orioles’ top pitching prospect, went five innings Tuesday for Double-A Bowie — his first five-inning start since before he had elbow troubles in July 2014. Harvey allowed two runs on five hits in the win.

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Showalter strives for turnaround from last-place Orioles

Showalter strives for turnaround from last-place Orioles

Updated 9:29 am, Monday, April 30, 2018

BALTIMORE (AP) — The last time the Baltimore Orioles began a season this poorly, Buck Showalter was brought in to restore order to the floundering franchise.

Now, Showalter finds himself in a similar mess.

Back in 2010, the Orioles stumbled to a 1-11 start and were 5-18 at the end of April. They fired manager Dave Trembley in June and continued to slide under interim manager Juan Samuel before Showalter came aboard and guided Baltimore to 34 wins in its final 57 games.

Showalter has since taken the Orioles to the postseason on three occasions.

This year, however, he’s had to deal with a team plagued by injuries, lackluster hitting and inconsistent pitching.

With guys like Anthony Santander, Danny Valencia, Chance Sisco and Craig Gentry getting significant playing time, it’s no wonder Baltimore (8-20) has a minus-54 run differential and is deep in last place in the AL East.

That would be acceptable if the Orioles were tanking, but they fully expected to compete for a playoff spot this season.

Vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette resisted trade offers for pending free agent Manny Machado over the winter and added veterans Alex Cobb and Andrew Cashner to a starting rotation that featured the home-grown talent of Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman.

Unfortunately, things went awry well before opening day. Slugger Mark Trumbo (quad strain) and closer Zach Britton (Achilles tendon) began the season in the disabled list and were soon joined by All-Star second baseman Jonathan Schoop (oblique), outfielder Colby Rasmus (hip flexor) and third baseman Tim Beckham, who will be sidelined for the next six weeks after undergoing core surgery.

That opened the door for a variety of players who would otherwise be on the bench or in the minor leagues.

“There’s a great opportunity here for some people, and they’re trying to take advantage of it — mostly because we have a need,” Showalter said.

Through the weekend, however, Santander — a Rule 5 pick — was batting .213 and Valencia was at .204. Sisco, a rookie catcher who replaced struggling starter Caleb Joseph early on, was hitting a comparatively robust .255.

But hey, they’re not the only players struggling at the plate. Chris Davis has a .167 batting average, two home runs and six RBIs, just three years after signing a $161 million contract that the Orioles are stuck with through 2022.

“I’m sure there’s the inner pressure to live up to (expectations),” Showalter said. “It’s eating at him.”

Beckham was hitting .179 before going on the DL, Adam Jones is at .239 and Joseph is sputtering at .137.

The lone player with a hot bat has been Machado (.361, nine HRs, 22 RBIs), who might not be around past July if the Orioles can’t turn things around.

“I know what Manny’s done. Special player,” Tampa Bay Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “But then you look at Jonathan Schoop, another special player that’s not there. They’ve been banged up, snakebit a little bit by the injuries. But they’ve got guys that are very capable of getting hot, and when they do, they can hit ball out of anywhere, put a lot of runs on the board.”

The Orioles haven’t abandoned hope of bouncing back. After all, Trumbo is slated to make his debut Tuesday, when the calendar flips to May.

“I have a lot of faith in the guys in here. I have a lot of faith in myself,” Davis said. “We’ve been in tough spots in the past and we got through it. We’ll do it again.”

Quite possibly, the team will get healthier. Perhaps Davis will find the groove that enabled him to hit 47 homers in 2015 and 38 in 2016. Maybe Cobb (0-3, 13.11 ERA) will begin to justify his $57 million contract, the largest ever offered to a pitcher by the Orioles.

“You have some guys struggling and some guys not,” said Cashner, who falls into the former category after going 1-4 with a 4.76 ERA through six starts. “At the end of the season, they’ll be where they need to be.”

The Orioles are trying to win. They want to win. Right now, it’s just not happening.

“It’s a hole that can be dug out of,” Machado said. “You can’t just wish it and hope it and think it’s something that comes with the mathematics of a season. We’ve got to do better. We know that.”

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Orioles notes: As Mancini, Schoop ramp up baseball activities, Showalter says: 'We need them'

Orioles notes: As Mancini, Schoop ramp up baseball activities, Showalter says: 'We need them'

Orioles second baseman Jonathan Schoop and left fielder Trey Mancini, out with an oblique injury and a knee injury, respectively, did baseball activities pregame Monday at Camden Yards as manager Buck Showalter acknowledged how badly the team needs them back.

Schoop, who has been out since April 14 with an oblique strain, threw and took ground balls on the infield for the first time since he landed on the 10-day disabled list in Boston.

“That’s a first big step for him,” Showalter said. “I’m hoping that I get good news back on that today. He and Trey, that would be nice. We need them. We need them.”

Mancini, meanwhile, took batting practice with the team as he was left out of the starting lineup for a third straight game after he banged his right knee on an unpadded portion of the wall while chasing a ball into foul territory in left field Friday night.

“We’ll have a good feel after BP of how close he is, and even his availability tonight,” Showalter said. Mancini’s absence has left the Orioles short-handed on their bench as they waited for his knee to loosen up. He also got stiches for a cut suffered there, but Showalter has said he could likely play with them still in.

While the Orioles have been struggling offensively both with and without them, Schoop and Mancini represent two of their best bats. Mancini had taken well to batting leadoff and was hitting .284 with a .771 OPS. Schoop started slowly, but was rounding into form at the time of his injury.

Showalter said that using injuries, a list that also includes closer Zach Britton (Achilles), slugger Mark Trumbo (quadriceps) and outfielder Colby Rasmus (hip), as an excuse would be a disservice to the players playing now.

Beckham to leadoff again

With Mancini still out, Tim Beckham was moved to the leadoff spot after Craig Gentry went hitless there in the previous two games.

Beckham hit well as the leadoff hitter after being acquired in a trade in late July before tailing off in September, and was showing signs of improvement last week amid a poor April before a hitless weekend of his own.

Showalter said part of the thinking in the move is to try to spark him there.

“It’s a feel,” Showalter said. “There’s not a whole lot to go on statistically right now. I think it’s also what you feel in the clubhouse, talking to these guys every day and what’s going on through their minds, and their track record. How do you get them going? There’s a lot of different [ways].”

The hope is that Mancini will return soon and be back in that spot, though Beckham turning it around as the team’s No. 1 hitter could make for some better possibilities elsewhere.

“I’m hoping Beckham gets hot at leadoff,” Showalter said. “That’ll create some interesting possibilities. That would be my plans coming back. There’s nothing on paper right now that seem to be a better option than [Trey]. Trey is the kind of guy who can hit in a lot of places in the order. … I was hoping to be able to hit him somewhere else this year if I could. I think he has a chance to be a little more RBI-productive, too, but we’ll see by the end of it. We’ll start getting some of these guys back.”

Beckham was also moved to second base, with Danny Valencia taking over at third.

Around the horn

Left-hander Chris Lee (oblique) threw 59 pitches in 3 2/3 innings in an extended spring training game and has one more outing scheduled before he goes to an affiliate, likely Triple-A Norfolk. Showalter said Lee’s role there was still being discussed, but that even if he’s a reliever long-term, starting and building up his innings is worth it as a starter. … Trumbo started at first base for Double-A Bowie on Monday and will play three games there before joining Norfolk in Charlotte on Friday. … Rasmus is in Sarasota, Fla., and “making progress,” Showalter said, as he threw and did trunk exercises Monday. He could start swinging again at the end of this week.

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Why Mookie Betts Is 'Best Right Fielder' Buck Showalter Has Ever Seen In Person

Why Mookie Betts Is 'Best Right Fielder' Buck Showalter Has Ever Seen In Person

Boston Red Sox outfielder Mookie Betts

Photo via Kirby Lee/USA TODAY Sports Images

Mookie Betts’ career is young, but he already has made quite the impression around Major League Baseball.

So much so that an opposing manager thinks the 25-year-old is the “best right fielder” he has ever seen in person.

Baltimore Orioles manager Buck Showalter relayed some incredibly high praise for the Boston Red Sox outfielder to MLB.com’s Mike Lupica.

“I’ve told anyone who will listen. He’s the best right fielder I’ve ever seen in person” Showalter said. “The dynamic he creates for them defensively in right field at Fenway is a big advantage for Boston. Special player. Game changer. The term five-tool player is used loosely. But it aptly describes him. One of my most favorite players in our game.”

That sure means a lot coming from one of MLB’s most seasoned skippers.

Betts really has established himself as a true five-tool player already, and his start to 2018 has been emblematic of that. Entering Friday, the Sox star was leading the league in average (.391), home runs (6), doubles (8), slugging (.797), OPS (1.277) and runs scored (22). All the while, he has continued his tremendous defense while patrolling one of the toughest right fields in the game at Fenway Park.

So, yeah, safe to say Showalter is on the money when he defines Betts as a “special player.”

Orioles' Showalter on league-leading strikeout totals: 'We'd like to not strike out ever'

Orioles' Showalter on league-leading strikeout totals: 'We'd like to not strike out ever'

No team in baseball has struck out more often than the Orioles, and manager Buck Showalter said Wednesday that the ideal would be to bring all those numbers down to zero.

“We’d like to not ever strike out,” he said. “If you’re getting a return, in other words, if you’re scoring runs. But we’re not getting enough runs to win games that we pitch well in. That’s always a true sign. I don’t really care what’s happening all over baseball. I care about what’s happening here. It’s something everybody is concerned with. It’s kind of how the game is played.”

With 189 strikeouts through 17 games and a strikeout rate of 28.5 percent, the Orioles offense has had major problems putting the ball in play. Their .215 average entering Wednesday tied for second worst in the majors. Tim Beckham and Chris Davis are among the league leaders in strikeouts.

Showalter said plenty goes into that, but he hit back at the sense that it was a problem with making adjustments.

“All hitters do that,” Showalter said. “It’s a game of constant adjustments, from pitch to pitch, at-bat to at-bat, game to game, to [Francisco] Liriano then another relief pitcher then another relief pitcher and another relief pitcher. Things are thrown at you every day.

“That’s why hitting is so hard to do. I still think it’s one of the hardest things to do in sports. You couple that with a lot of the conditions, and it’s hard. Guys are trying to make the adjustments. It just hasn’t happened. I see all the work that goes into it every day. You’d like to see them get a return for the amount of effort they’re putting into it. Sometimes, it’s hard to get out of your own way.”

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