Podcast: Nolan and Jake discuss Zachary Orr and recent O’s nuggets

Welcome to the latest episode of the Charm City Bird Watch Podcast! There might not be much going on with the Ravens until training camp, but with the recent development on Zachary Orr’s attempted NFL comeback, Jake McDonnell and Nolan McGraw open up the show with a hot discussion on this story.

The fun does not end there, as the guys then go into a talk about the Orioles as they quietly ride a three-game winning streak. Currently in Toronto, are the .500 Orioles starting to put things together, or should the team consider being sellers as the trade deadline approaches? Which Orioles deserve to go to the All-Star Game on July 11, and which ones (whether they deserve it or not) will most likely go? All of this and more on today’s episode.

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Ravens should not bring back Zachary Orr

BALTIMORE — On Wednesday, former Ravens linebacker Zachary Orr stated on Good Morning Football that he plans to revive his NFL career, despite what the Ravens team doctors initially told him in January.

Almost immediately after the 2016 season ended, it was revealed that the team doctors discovered a spine condition in which one of Orr’s vertebrae is not fully formed. Those doctors told Orr that continuing to play contact sports would put the then 24-year-old linebacker, now 25, at risk for paralysis or even death.

On Jan. 20, Orr officially announced his retirement from the NFL after just three seasons.

After receiving second opinions from several doctors, Orr appears to be attempting an NFL comeback.

“[My condition] – it is rare,” Orr said. “But there’s no actual evidence or facts that I’m at a higher risk than any other player. And it’s actually been documented that a college player who had the exact same condition that I have returned to play with no problems.”

Before Ravens fans start talking about an Orr/Ravens reunion, it should be noted that he is now an unrestricted free agent. He never filed retirement paperwork in January, and the Ravens did not place him on a reserve/retirement list. Orr would have been a restricted free agent, but the deadline to extend tenders to RFA’s has passed, meaning that Orr is now an UFA.

After winning a starting middle linebacker job in training camp last year, Orr led the team in tackles with 132. He also recorded three interceptions and a forced fumble. A former unrestricted free agent, Orr came out of nowhere and was a play-maker on defense, something the Ravens have struggled to find since winning Super Bowl 47.

Orr’s abrupt retirement in January shocked Ravens nation, and those close to him expressed how it was hard to see such an amazing guy hang up the cleats at age 24. Now with a possible second chance at football, Ravens fans are clamoring for Orr to come back to Charm City. After watching his most recent season, who would not want to see Orr back in a Ravens uniform in 2017?

When Orr announced that he was done playing football in January, the Ravens assumed that he was done for good. After going through the offseason without even considering this new development from Orr, the organization should not feel pressured into bringing him back.

Orr was not the only key piece on defense that the Ravens lost this offseason. They traded defensive end Timmy Jernigan to the Eagles, and fellow defensive end Lawrence Guy signed with the Patriots. After losing three starters on the defensive side of the ball, the Ravens put a heavy emphasis on defense this offseason, using five of their seven draft picks on defensive players. The team also brought in free agents Tony Jefferson and Brandon Carr. After all of these moves, both media and fans have projected Baltimore’s defense to be top-notch in 2017.

The question of who will start alongside C.J. Mosley at middle linebacker this season is legitimate. As of now, the Ravens plan to have an open battle for that spot during training camp, with Kamalei Correa, Patrick Onwuasor, and Albert McClellan in the mix. Rookie Tyus Bowser also has experience playing inside. Whether drafted or undrafted, the Ravens have brought in linebackers to compete, and they are expecting one of these players to step up and win that job, just like Orr did.

It will be compelling to see what kind of interest Orr gets on the open market. He played terrific football last year, but will teams be open to giving a player with a rare spine condition a contract? Even though Orr says his new doctors now feel he is not at a severe risk, back conditions & injuries are nothing to play with.

As Ravens fans start thinking about Ozzie Newsome striking a deal with Orr, they should be reminded that the offensive line still needs some upgrades. During a conference call with fans a few weeks ago, owner Steve Bisciotti said that the Ravens plan on bringing in a veteran offensive lineman, whether that be in free agency or trade.

As of now, there are very few free agent offensive lineman on the market, making this move something the Ravens might hold off on until training camp begins. Signing Orr would surely be a nice boost for the defense, but it would limit how aggressive the Ravens could be in their quest for an offensive lineman.

Orr’s decision to come back is a surprising development. His teammates, the coaching staff, the front office, and Ravens fans have all said nothing but great things about him, and they would all love a reunion. At this time, the offensive line is still the most glaring position for the Ravens to address, and Newsome should not let Orr’s announcement get in the way of improving his team.

Back in January, the Ravens wished Orr well, and they should continue to do so as he pursues a second go-round in the NFL.

Image Credit: Baltimore Sun

Series Preview: Orioles continue AL East road trip in Toronto

TORONTO — After winning just their third road series of the season (and their first in two months), the Orioles are heading to Toronto for a three-game series against the Blue Jays. Both teams enjoyed a day off on Monday, and will compete Tuesday-Thursday with all three games beginning at 7:07 pm.

The Blue Jays return to the Rogers Centre after a 3-4 road trip. Over the weekend, the Kansas City Royals took two of three from the Jays.

Standings Update: Both of these teams still have plenty of time to regroup before the All-Star Break, but they sit in the cellar of the American League East. The Orioles (37-38) man the fourth-place slot, and the Jays (36-39) the fifth. The Yankees (41-33) and the Red Sox (42-34) are tied for first, and the Rays (40-38) are next in line. Baltimore is 4.5 games out of first, and Toronto 5.5

Season Series vs. Blue Jays: So far this season, the Orioles own a 7-2 edge against the Blue Jays. The two teams have tangled in three separate series so far in 2017, with two of them taking place at Camden Yards and one at the Rogers Centre. The Orioles are 3-1 in Canada so far this season, having played four games there in April.

Game Times and Pitching Matchups: 

Game 1Tuesday, June 27, 7:07 pm – Kevin Gausman (3-7, 6.47 ERA) vs. Joe Biagini (2-6, 4.45 ERA) – MASN 2, 105.7 The Fan.

Game 2Wednesday, June 28, 7:07 pm – Wade Miley (3-5, 4.48 ERA) vs. Marcus Stroman (7-4, 3.69 ERA) – MASN 2, 105.7 The Fan.

Game 3: Thursday, June 29, 7:07 pm – Ubaldo Jimenez (2-3, 7.26 ERA) vs. TBD – MASN 2, 105.7 The Fan.

Notes on the Orioles:

  • So far in June, reliever Mychal Givens has allowed just one run on nine hits, one walk, and 10 strikeouts. His June stat line includes eight appearances for 10 total innings.
  • Also in June, Trey Mancini is batting .365 with 31 hits, seven home runs, and 19 RBI. He has the highest batting average on the team by far (.321), followed by Jonathan Schoop at .295.
  • As of Monday night, the Orioles pitching staff’s 409 allowed runs leads the MLB. Baltimore has leads the league with 292 walks.
  • The team expects closer Zach Britton to be activated off the 60-day disabled list on July 5. He is currently working a rehab assignment in Double-A Bowie, but will pitch at both Class-A Fredrick and Triple-A Norfolk before returning to the big leagues.

Notes on the Blue Jays: 

  • First baseman Justin Smoak’s hitting streak is now in the double digit mark at 10 games, with one hit in his last four games. He leads the team in batting average (.304), home runs (20), RBI (48) and slugging (.588).
  • Outfielder Kevin Pillar has a .311 career batting average against the O’s, with 61 hits, 11 doubles, five home runs, and 20 RBI.
  • As a starter (9 starts), Biagini is 2-5 with a 4.91 ERA. In relief, his role at the beginning of the season, he was 0-1 with a 3.38 ERA.

Up Next: Following Thursday’s contest, the Orioles head home for a three-game set against the Rays. The home cooking won’t last long, because after that the O’s leave Baltimore again for seven games (three in Milwaukee, four in Minneapolis) before the All-Star break.

Image Credit: The Baltimore Wire

 

Series Recap: Orioles win first road series since mid April with Sunday’s comeback victory

The past few weeks have provided very little highlights for the Orioles as they continued to fall farther down in the standings. Despite winning a series at home against the Cardinals, the pitching staff found themselves on the verge of a historically bad record. Luckily, the O’s were not only able to prevent this terrible record from happening but also picked up a big road series win.

On Friday, the Orioles kicked off the series with a 15-5 loss. The blowout marked the 20th straight game in which the O’s had given up at least five runs. In case you’re wondering, the all-time record is 20 games (set by the Phillies almost 100 years ago) and the Orioles are now tied for that not-so-prestigious honor.

The opening game appeared out of reach after the fourth when Tampa Bay led 9-4, but the fifth inning really put the nail in the coffin. The Rays scored five runs in the inning while only getting one hit. A collection of walks, errors, and sacrifice plays broke the game wide open as Tampa Bay secured an easy win.

Game two was much better for the Birds. With one of the ugliest records staring them in the face, the O’s pitching staff put together a great outing and held the Rays to just three runs. Dylan Bundy led the effort as he tossed seven strong innings, giving up three runs while striking out eight.

Home runs from Welington Castillo and Adam Jones gave the O’s a 3-0 lead going into the bottom of the third. However, the Rays responded with two homers of their own as Evan Longoria and Corey Dickerson erased the O’s brief lead.

The score remained tied until the seventh inning when the Orioles broke out and put four runs on the board. With two outs and two men on base, Mark Trumbo stepped into the box and smoked a double into the left-center gap. Trey Mancini followed with a home run in the next at bat to make it a 7-3 game.

Donnie Hart and Mychal Givens closed out the final innings, surrendering just one hit apiece, while a sacrifice fly by Manny Machado capped off a 9-3 win for the Orioles.

Sunday’s rubber match played out to be a closer contest than the first two games. The Orioles got on the board first when Paul Janish hit a two-RBI single in the second inning to score Caleb Joseph and Craig Gentry. The Rays answered with one run in the bottom half of the inning.

Joseph launched a solo shot in the fourth inning, giving Chris Tillman a little more breathing room. However, the Rays attacked Tillman once again in the bottom of the fourth to make it a 3-2 game. Tillman clearly didn’t have his best stuff, but managed to work his way through four innings with the lead intact.

The fifth inning was where he really ran into trouble.

After getting two men on base to start the inning, Evan Longoria came through with a three-run homer to give the Rays their first lead of the afternoon. This costly mistake drove Tillman out of the game and forced Buck Showalter to go to the bullpen early yet again.

Mancini stayed hot at the plate in the sixth when he smacked his 14th home run of the season to cut the Rays’ lead to one. The rookie first baseman has been a consistent force on offense all month, and this series was no exception. Mancini went 5-for-11 at the plate against the Rays this weekend with five RBI’s.

The bullpen held the Rays to just five runs as the offense made their comeback. Stefon Crichton, Richard Bleier, and Darren O’Day gave up a collective three hits in 2.2 innings of relief, allowing Jonathan Schoop to tie the game in the eighth with a leadoff homer.

The O’s offense didn’t quit after tying the game and scrapped their way to another three runs in the ninth. Joey Rickard started by hitting a ground-rule double into left to score Joseph, and Machado was intentionally walked in the next at bat to load the bases. This set up the second run as Schoop was hit by a pitch for the second time in Sundays game. The third and final run came via a Jones sacrifice fly and the Orioles won 8-5.

The Orioles will stay on the road in the coming days as they travel to Toronto for another AL East matchup. The Blue Jays have improved since their early season woes, but still find themselves in the basement of the division standings. The O’s will look to stay hot and hopefully pick up more road wins.

Image Credit: Baltimore Sun

Series Preview: Orioles head to Tropicana Field for first time this season

ST. PETERSBURG, FL — With a disappointing series loss to the Indians at home fresh in their minds, the Orioles will head south for a three-game weekend series with the Tampa Bay Rays, who are surprisingly in contention this season. Tampa Bay is on a two-game winning streak after taking two of three from the Cincinnati Reds at the Trop.

Standings Update: The Rays (39-36) man the third place slot in the American League East, and are 2.5 games behind both the Yankees (39-31) and the Red Sox (40-32), who are tied for first place. The Orioles and Blue Jays are tied for last place in the division with a shared 35-37 record.

Season Series vs. Rays: The Orioles have only played the Rays three times this season; a three game series at Camden Yards from April 24-26. The Birds won the series 2-1, winning game one, 6-3, and game three, 5-4. Tampa Bay won game two, 2-0. It was the second time the O’s have been shut out this season, and the second time in six games.

Serious Road Woes: To say that the O’s have struggled on the road this season would be an understatement. The Birds are 11-23 away from Camden Yards, and the pitching staff has been a nightmare, with a 6.14 road ERA. That mark is the worst in the majors, with the San Francisco Giants being the 29th ranked road ERA at 5.71. The Orioles actually have a slightly better batting average on the road (.256) than at home (.255), but clearly the struggling pitching outweigh that feat.

Game Times and Pitching Matchups: 

Game 1Friday, June 23, 7:10 pm – Ubaldo Jimenez (2-2, 6.25 ERA) vs. Chris Archer (5-4, 3.75 ERA) – MASN 2, 105.7 The Fan.

Game 2Saturday, June 24, 4:10 pm – Dylan Bundy (7-6, 3.72 ERA) vs. Jacob Faria (3-0, 1.37 ERA) – MASN, 105.7 The Fan.

Game 3Sunday, June 25, 1:10 pm – Chris Tillman (1-5, 8.39 ERA) vs. Jake Odorizzi (4-3, 3.78 ERA) – MASN, 105.7 The Fan.

Notes on the Orioles:

  • Bundy has not pitched well at the Trop so far in his career. In two starts, he has pitched a combined seven innings, allowing nine earned runs on 12 hits, five walks, and 11 strikeouts.
  • The Orioles held Adam Jones out of the lineup on Thursday to rest his legs, as the next six games the Orioles are playing will take place on artificial turf.
  • Closer Zach Britton, currently on the 60-day disabled list, pitched in Aberdeen on Tuesday. He started, pitching a scoreless inning on 12 pitches. Britton is not eligible to come off the DL until July 5, and the expectation is that he will be back immediately after the All-Star Break (July 10-13), if not before.
  • Darren O’Day is expected to come off of the disabled list on Friday. Immediately after Thursday night’s 6-3 loss, reliever Gabriel Ynoa was optioned to Triple-A.
  • The Orioles pitching staff has allowed five or more runs in 19 straight games. That’s an American League Record, and the MLB record is 20 games, set by the Phillies in 1920.
  • Manager Buck Showalter missed Thursday night’s game to be in Dallas for the birth of his first grandchild. Bench Coach John Russell managed the team in Showalter’s place. Buck will meet the team in St. Petersburg on Friday.

Notes on the Rays: 

  • Left fielder Corey Dickerson is Tampa Bay’s top offensive performer this season, with a .326 average in 288 at-bats. He has 94 hits, 20 doubles, three triples, 16 home runs, and 37 RBI.
  • In his one start against the O’s this season, Archer allowed five runs over 6.2 innings (6H/5BB/5SO) in a 6-3 Rays loss.
  • Longtime Rays third baseman Evan Longoria has a lifetime .265 average against the Orioles, but he has hit more home runs against the Birds (35) than any other team he has faced in his career.

Up Next: Following an off-day on Monday (their first off day in 20 days), the Orioles will play the second half of this six-game road trip in Toronto for a three-game set with the Blue Jays. All three games, Tuesday through Thursday, have a 7:07 pm start time.

Image credit: Sports Chat Place

 

Series Recap: Orioles remain in last place following series loss to Cleveland

The Orioles finally put together a series win last week when they took 2/3 from the visiting St. Louis Cardinals. The home stand continued into this week with the defending AL champion Cleveland Indians coming to town for a four game series.

Unfortunately the Orioles were not able to compensate for their poor pitching in this series like they did against the Cardinals. The O’s scrapped their way to a comeback victory on Tuesday but couldn’t find similar success as the series continued.

The O’s looked completely outmatched in the series opener on Monday. Cleveland’s offense was able to cross the plate for 12 runs while Cory Kluber gave up just three hits in a complete game shutout.

Dylan Bundy took the mound and the loss, giving up six runs over 4.1 innings. After starting the season as the Orioles clear number one pitcher, Bundy has fallen into the same slump that plagues the rest of the rotation. Following his excellent start against New York in late May, Bundy held an ERA of 2.89. In the four starts since, his ERA has climbed to 3.72.

Game two was much more exciting than the first and featured an Orioles comeback victory. Manny Machado led the way by going 4/4 at the plate with two home runs and four RBI’s. In the fifth inning Machado hit his second homer of the night to tie the game at 5-5.

Machado came through once again in the seventh with a double off the right field wall. The ball was smoked and almost found its way out of the park. Adam Jones was able to match Manny’s double in the very next at bat, bringing in the go-ahead run.

The bullpen was even more impressive, keeping the Indians off the board through the final five innings. Bleier, Castro, Givens, and Brach all had excellent performances to close out the 6-5 win. Castro showed great poise as he picked up the first win of his career. The young pitcher entered the game in the seventh with the bases loaded and was able to get the final two outs without surrendering run.

The Orioles had a shot at another comeback on Wednesday but ultimately came up short and lost 5-1. Down 3-0 in the seventh inning, the Orioles started a potential comeback by loading the bases with no outs. However, this brief outburst of offense was quickly shut down by Terry Francona. The manager wasted no time going to his bullpen and grabbing Andrew Miller in order to get out of the jam.

Joey Rickard pinch hit for Hyun Soo Kim and hit a grounder to third base. While Rickard was able to reach first base on the play, the lead runner was cut down at home plate and the O’s remained scoreless. Caleb Joseph and Ruben Tejada struck out in the ensuing at bats to strand the game-tying runs.

The series finale started with a very rare Orioles lead. Seth Smith hit his fourth leadoff homer of the season to give the O’s a quick 1-0 advantage. That didn’t last long though as the Indians scored two runs in both the second and third innings to take a 4-2 lead. Cleveland added two more runs before the game ended as they cruised to a 6-3 win and series victory.

The Orioles will hit the road tomorrow for two series against the Rays and Blue Jays. With the Birds still sitting at the bottom of the AL East standings, they will take all the divisional matchups they can get as they look to climb back into contention.

Photo by Rob Carr – Getty Images

Podcast: WBAL’s Pete Gilbert breaks down the latest Orioles & Ravens tidbits

Welcome to the latest edition of the Charm City Bird Watch Podcast! On today’s episode, WBAL TV & Radio Sportscaster Pete Gilbert joins Jake McDonnell for a mid-June discussion on the Orioles and Ravens.

The Orioles just took two of three from the Cardinals over the weekend, and are getting ready to face the defending American League Champions, the Cleveland Indians, in a four-game series this week at Camden Yards. What does the J.J. Hardy injury mean for the team? Will the pitching improve? What’s going on with the Yankees?

After some baseball talk, the conversation shifts over to football, as the Ravens wrapped up mandatory mini-camp last week. With training camp a month away, how will the Ravens address the offensive line? What needs to happen on offense for the team to compete in 2017? Who will win the middle linebacker and slot cornerback spots on defense? All of this and more on this episode.

Be sure to check out Pete’s work at WBAL, and subscribe to the podcast through iTunes or SoundCloud. Thanks for listening!