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Tides Blanked by Braves as Resop Pitches One Hitter: Arietta Wins ML Debut against Yankees

Tim Bascom pitched well in his AAA Debut in Norfolk

After a hitting frenzy in the first five games of this home stand there have bee two pitcher’s duels at the Church of Baseball, Harbor Park Parish with the second being even more impressive than the first. What had been scheduled as a match up between the two leading pitchers in the International League, Tides right-hander Jake Arietta and Braves right-hander Chris Resop changed when Arietta had his contract selected by the Orioles and at game time in Norfolk was on the mound in Baltimore pitching in his Major League debut against the World Champion New York Yankees.

Frustration at the plate: Nolan Reimold bounces a pitch foul

Instead of this highly anticipated match up the Tides started Tim Bascom who had been called up Thursday from AA Bowie and Bascom performed magnificently in his AAA debut for the Tides.  However it was Resop that stole the show last night pitching to the minimum 27 batters allowing just one hit with eight strikeouts and no walks to shut down a Tides offense that had been running roughshod over opposing pitching most of this home stand.  Bascom went 7 innings allowing 3 runs on 6 hits with 6 strikeouts and tendered just one walk.  He would be followed by Jim Miller who pitched well but had problems with his throws to first on two bunts which resulted in errors and allowed runners placed on board by Bascom to score.

Chris Resop was just about perfect in Thursday’s game

There was not much offense for either team. The Tides had just the one hit by Rhyne Hughes which was negated when Braves outfielder Mitch Jones made an incredible defensive play to rob Brandon Snyder of extra bases and then caught Hughes who had passed second base off of first for a double play the Tides were robbed by Jones twice late in the game on sharply hit fly balls that looked as if they would fall for singles or extra base hits.  The Braves got a run in the top of the 3rd inning which Elliott the Usher and I both felt should not have happened had Left Fielder Nolan Reimold caught what appeared to be a very catchable fly ball off the bat of Matt Young. Reimold did not make the play and one has to wonder what is going on with last year’s hot rookie.  Reimold has struggled with injury to his heel and I wonder if he is still having problems with it or if there is something going on in his life that is hurting his game.  Anyway, Young would score on a sacrifice fly by Freddie Freeman and the score would remain 1-0 until the 8th inning.  In the 8th Bascom who had not allowed a run or for that matter not much else gave up an infield single to J C Boscan and an infield single to Matt Young.  Reliever Jim Miller came into the game with two on and no outs and faced Wes Timmons.  Timmons also bunted a beauty; Miller did a great job getting to the ball but hurried his throw which got past First Baseman Brandon Snyder allowing Boscan to score and Young to advance to third base.  Freddie Freeman then hit a sacrifice fly which scored Young. Miller picked off Timmons and retired Mitch Jones to end the inning.  The Braves got an insurance run in the 9th when Joe Thurston bunted and for the second time Miller fielded the ball well but his throw went awry allowing Thurston on base.   Jordan Schafer then bunted sharply past the mound and Robert Andino made a great play to get Schafer but Thurston was running hard for third.  Brandon Snyder saw this and made a strong throw to third which had it been on target would have nailed Thurston, but the throw went high over the head of Paco Figueroa and Thurston scored.  Victimed by three errors in two innings the Tides lost 4-0.Chris Resop (5-2 1.84) got the win and Tim Bascom (0-1 3.86) got the loss.  The Tides had no runs on one hit and three errors and left no men on base.  The Braves had 4 runs on 8 hits and no errors leaving 6 men on base.  The teams will conclude their series tonight at Harbor Park with Jo-Jo Reyes (0-3 5.94) on the hill for the Braves facing Chris George (1-1  3.71)

Jake Arietta notched his first Major League win against the Yankees in Baltimore Thursday

In Baltimore Jake Arietta was the story pitching 6 innings and getting his first Major League win against the New York Yankees by a score of 4-3 with some help by some of his Norfolk Tides team mates.  Scott Moore who went to Baltimore last month from the Tides who hit his first Major League home run, Frank Mata came in to shut down the Yankees in the 7th and David Hernandez notched his first Major League save as the closer.  The O’s broke a 10 game losing streak against the Yankees with the win.

See you tonight at Harbor Park,

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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Tides Lose in Sunday Afternoon Slugfest 8-6

“The key to winning baseball games is pitching, fundamentals, and three run homers.” Earl Weaver

Getting his swing back. Nolan Reimold hammers a deep fly ball on Sunday

The Norfolk Tides lost their 5th straight falling to the Buffalo Bisons in a Sunday afternoon slugfest in which for the third time in three games they collected what should have been enough hits and runs to win. In fact today of the 8 runs scored by the Bisons 3 were unearned coming as the result of poor fielding and throwing by Tides infielders in particular a top of the 8th inning error where shortstop Robert Andino ran past what would have been an easy double play ball off the bat of former Norfolk Tides infielder Justin Turner that scored two runs at a point that the Tides were ahead in the game.  The runs gave the Bisons a lead that they would not relinquish and seal the fate of the Tides on this blistering hot Sunday afternoon.

Jeff Salazar steps on home plate following his 7th inning home run

Tides starting pitcher Chris George gave up 5 runs, 4 of which were earned in 5.2 innings work and Zack Clark so new to the team from AA Bowie that he went out in a jersey without his name affixed to it gave up 3 runs in 2.1 innings of which only 1 was an earned run.  Ross Wolf pitched the 9th inning coming in with two on and two out. He got J R House out while trying to bunt and made an excellent play to field the ball and throw out Valentino Pascucci at third. He then got Jesus Feliciano to ground into a double play to end the inning.

Brandon Snyder bunts for a hit

The big damage to the Tides came from the extremely potent Buffalo offense. For once the Bisons’ parent organization the New York Mets has invested in putting experienced and potent offensive force together despite a dearth of young prospects. The Bisons pack a huge offensive punch including Mike Hessman the all-time Minor League home run king but the Chief Tides basher has been Mike Jacobs who has beaten Tides pitching about in a rude and nearly ruthless manner over the past two days as well as former Tides catcher J R House who today had a home run, double plating 3 of the Bisons runs.

However if there is a silver lining in the past three games it is for the first time this season the Tides seem to be hitting the ball consistently using both contact and power to make things happen. The Tides picked up their first run in the bottom of the 2nd inning one singles by Rhyne Hughes, Brandon Snyder and Michel Hernandez. The Bisons collected two in the top of the 3rd inning when Andy Green reached on an error J R House doubled and Jesus Feliciano singled to drive in both Green and House.

The Tides tied the score in the bottom of the 4th as Rhyne Hughes and Brandon Snyder singled and Michel Hernandez sacrificed to right field to score Hughes.  Buffalo then scored 3 runs in the top frame of the 6th driving Tides starter Chris George out of the game and it was as the sage Earl Weaver mentioned, the part about the three run home runs as   J R  House clubbed a three run homer off of George with one out.  However the Tides did not roll over and die as they had in so many games earlier in the season and in the bottom of the 7th the now scrappy Tides offense plated 4 runs.  Michel Hernandez, Blake Davis and Matt Angle singled to load the bases. Robert Andino then hit into a double play but Hernandez scored.  Jeff Salazar then hit a 2 run home run off of Pat Misch to tie the game. Nolan Reimold and Rhyne Hughes singled and Brandon Snyder singled to drive in Reimold before Blake Davis grounded out to end the inning.

Chris George allowed 4 earned runs in 5.2 innings getting no decision

In the top of the 8th the Bisons took the lead when Robert Andino missed what looked to be an easy grounder that easily could have been a double play, the ball rolled into short left field and two runs scored and the Bisons were back in the lead and add an insurance run in the 9th to make the final score 8-6.

The Bisons scored 8 runs on 11 hits with 1 error and 11 men left on base. The Tides 6 runs on 15 hits and 4 errors leaving 8 on base including 5 left in scoring position with 2 outs.

While the Tides offense has come alive the pitching has been weak and they were not helped by four errors which allowed three unearned runs.  In spite of this the Tides are showing signs of life under Interim Manager Bobby Dickerson who took on an umpiring crew that made three obviously bad calls that cost the Tides runs the most egregious being a hit by J R House in the top of the 2nd which should have been a foul ball that was ruled fair and went for a double, a force at second in the top of the 8th which the 2nd base umpire ruled that second baseman Blake Davis who was plowed over at second had been pulled off the bag.  Later in the 8th Mike Hessman was ruled hit by a pitch which had all the marking of a ball that hit the bat before striking him. The last call got Dickerson tossed by Home Plate Umpire Chris Conroy.  Dickerson does not just manage but he leads and appears to inspire. Players that have not been performing have been benched and for the first time in recent memory the Tides took infield practice on a game day. What appears to be the new mantra in the Orioles organization is accountability and chemistry.  Things are not better yet but if I were the Orioles I would make Dickerson the permanent manager of the Tides tomorrow.  It takes time to get the pitching right and I do not see a quick fix to that with the probability that Arietta will be in Baltimore possibly within the week, however it appears that he is bringing some discipline and order back to a team that has a lot of talent but not achieved the success that it is capable of accomplishing. It will be interesting to see what happens in the coming days and weeks as Andy McPhail and the Orioles begin to make the hard choices regarding players and ultimately who will remain in Baltimore and on the 40 man roster.

The Orioles defeated the Red Sox today at Camden Yards 4-3 in 11 innings with David Hernandez getting his first win of the season in relief.

The final game of the season series between the Bisons and Tides will be on Monday at 12:15 as Troy Patton (3-7, 5.73 ERA) will take the hill for the Tides against former Tide Bobby Livingston (2-5, 4.18 ERA).

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Tides Roll: Patton and Sarfate Combine to Shut Out Pawsox 3-0

Troy Patton dominated Pawtucket on Friday Night

Troy Patton showed what he is made of last night in Pawtucket and why he is on the Baltimore Orioles 40 man roster. After a catastrophic outing last week where he was bombarded for 8 runs and 13 hits Patton (3-6 5.70) came back and showed tremendous poise, confidence and control and pitched a beauty.  Troy faced 23 batters in 7 innings of shutout work allowing just three hits and no walks striking out 4 Pawtucket batters.  Patton showed great pitching economy and control using just 86 pitches to shut down the Sox.  It was by far Troy’s best outing of the year and should allay fears that without Chris Tillman who was called up this morning that the Tides rotation could be in for trouble.  If Troy continues like this he will become one of the leaders of this young and talented staff and put himself in contention for a spot on the Orioles roster.  I say this because it takes a lot of guts for any pitcher to leave behind an outing like last week and focus on the game at hand. Many pitchers lose their edge and confidence but instead of that it looks like Patton has resurrected his season in this fine effort.

Reliever Denis Sarfate (0-0 S@ 1.32) also shined in two innings of solid relief work.  Sarfate pitched to 7 batters allowing just one hit and no walks while striking out three to complete the shutout of the Pawsox and get the save. It is the first time and I believe it is the first time this season that Tides Pitchers have not walked a batter, even Chris Tillman in his no-hitter gave up one walk.

Tides hitters scattered 11 hits and cobbled enough of them together to score three runs which was more than enough to put away the Pawsox.  The first run came in the 2nd inning on a series of singles which began with Josh Bell singling to center, Nolan Reimold hitting one to left and Brandon Snyder doing the same. With the bases loaded and no outs Paco Figueroa singled to left to drive in Bell for the early lead.  In the top frame of the 6th inning Brandon Snyder singled and came home on Paco Figueroa’s first double since coming to the Tides last week.  The Tides got their final run of the night on Jeff Salazar’s 7th home run of the year.

For the Tides they had 3 runs on 11 hits with 2 errors while stranding 8 and Pawtucket no runs on 4 hits and 1 error with 3 men left on base.  The winning pitcher was Troy Patton who notched his third victory of the season while Denis Sarfate got the save.  The losing pitcher was Felix Doubront (0-1 1.50). Tonight the teams play again in Pawtucket with Brandon Erbe (0-8 6.80) still seeking his first win of the campaign up for the Tides and Adam Mills (1-3 4.15) on the hill for the Pawtucket.

After lots of talk and speculation in the media Chris Tillman was recalled to the Orioles today

One the personnel side of the house the Orioles moved David Hernandez to a relief role and recalled Chris Tillman as expected from Norfolk.  They also recalled Jim Johnson to the team from the Tides.

Up in Toronto the Orioles were blanked by the Blue Jays by a score of 5-0 in a game where everything went wrong for the O’s.  With a the worst record in the Major Leagues (15-34) one has to wonder if Manager Dave Tremblay will survive the weekend. The team has far too much talent despite the injuries that it has had to be doing this badly in a year that they expected to return to respectability.

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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Tides Fall to Pawtucket 5-4 on 2 out Walk-off Home Run

Adam Donachie had a 2 RBI double and scored a run

The Norfolk Tides travelled to Pawtucket for a four game series against the Pawtucket Red Sox.  As has been the case many times this season a strong starting pitching performance was negated by a bad 9th inning relief appearance.  Last night Chris George (1-1 3.96) pitched a strong six and two thirds innings allowing 2 runs on 4 hits with only 1 walk while striking out 3.  He was relieved by Ross Wolf (0-2 2.57) who pitched a scoreless one and a third innings allowing one hit.  With two out in the 9th Tides reliever Kam Mickolio (1-1 8.78) who has had a very rough season blew his second save when Dusty Brown hit a 3 run home run on a 2-1 count with 2 outs in the bottom of the 9th.

Robert Andino also had a 2 RBI double

The Pawsox struck first in the bottom of the 6th inning when Bubba Bell doubled and scored on an Angel Sanchez single.  The Tides hitters more than made up for this in the top frame of the 7th inning. Rhyne Hughes, Brandon Snyder and Blake Davis singled and loaded the bases.  Catcher Adam Donachie doubled to score Hughes and Snyder.  Dustin Richardson came into the game for Pawtucket and struck out Danny Figueroa and got Joey Gathright to fly out.  With two outs Robert Andino doubled to score Davis and Donachie to make the score 4-1.  In the bottom frame of the 7th the Pawsox scored another run when Aaron Bates doubled and two batters later scored on a Dusty Brown double.

Chris George pitched a strong game but had a no decision in the loss

The score remained 4-2 until the bottom of the 9th. Kam Mickolio who as I said at the beginning of this article has had a very rough year came into the game in a save situation.  He got Daniel Nava to ground out to first before walking Lars Anderson and giving up a base hit to Aaron Bates.  With these two on Mickolio got Josh Reddick to line out to Blake Davis at second.  Mickolio then faced Dustin Brown who had already driven in a run for the Pawsox and on a 2-1 count gave up a home run to Brown over the left field wall for the game ending walk off.

For the Tides 4 runs on 9 hits and 1 error with 5 men left on base while Pawtucket had 5 runs on 7 hits with no errors and three men left on base.  The winning pitcher was Terry Large (1-0 5.27) and the losing pitcher Kam Mickolio (1-1 8.78).   Tonight Troy Patton (2-6 6.56) who looks to get back on the win side of the house for the Tides will face Pawtucket’s Felix Doubront (0-0 0.00) who was recently called up from AA Portland where he was 4-0 with a 2.51 ERA in 8 appearances where he allowed 13 runs on 39 hits striking out 38.

On the personnel side of the house the Tides brought Ross Wolf back from Aberdeen and reactivated Nolan Reimold following the birth of his child.  Talk of a fast move up the chain by Chris Tillman was squelched on Thursday who said that David Hernandez would remain in the starting rotation for the time being. This is good news for the Tides as Tillman and Jake Arietta are the potent one two punch at the top of the Tides rotation having 10 of the Tides 21 wins.  These two pitchers command respect and I expect that when they reach the majors that the two could be as potent as Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale were in the 1960s.

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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Tides Defeat Rochester 2-1 Split Series Arietta Wins 5th

Jake Arietta Notched his 5th win against Rochester

The Norfolk Tides recovered from the loss of the first two games to the Rochester Red Wings by taking games three and four of the series, each by a score of 2-1.  On Tuesday Afternoon the Tides evened the series with a win.  Once again it was pitching and defense that did the job for the Tides with just enough situational offense to win the game.  Unfortunately Padre Stevem had this little thing called work to do and could not attend in person but was able to catch parts of the broadcast on his computer in between group sessions and individual counseling sessions with patients at the Medical Center’s Substance Abuse Treatment Center.

It is likely that Chris Tillman could soon be called up to Baltimore as a starter

Jake Arietta took the hill for the Tides facing a Rochester team that until Chris Tillman shut them down Monday had pulverized Tides pitchers.  Both Tillman and Arietta showed that they are not your typical run of the mill AAA pitchers but rather something special.  Both are power pitchers, both have become more confident and more patient, maturing immeasurably since the 2009 campaign.  The two could when they both get to Baltimore be something akin to Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale and when combined with a maturing Brian Matusz and Jeremy Guthrie could become one of the most feared pitching rotations in baseball.

On Tuesday Arietta pitched 7 innings allowing 1 ruin on 7 hits with 2 walks and 6 strikeouts lowering his ERA to 1.86, the best in the International League.  In fact of AAA level starters in the International and Pacific Coast Leagues with over 60 innings work only Luke French of the Seattle Mariners affiliate the Tacoma Rainiers has a better ERA.  The only Rochester run came in the top of the 5th when Jason Repko bunted his way aboard and then stole second. He was singled home by Matt Tolbert and that was all the scoring that the Red Wings mustered for the Day.   Arietta was followed by Kam Mickolio who again had a good outing after a rough start mowing down the Wings in order in the 8th. Denis Safate came in to get the save  striking out the first two batters that he faced, but then allowing a single to Dustin Martin who then went to second on a wild pitch and followed that with a walk to Brock Peterson before retiring Jason Repko on  a routine fly ball to left fielder Danny Figueroa.

Closer Frank Mata had His Contract Purchased by the Orioles

The Tides offense also came in the 5th inning when Anthony Swarzak walked Michel Hernandez and was pulled in favor of Jose Lugo. The first batter that Lugo faced was newly called up outfielder Danny Figueroa, twin brother of Tides second baseman Paco Figueroa.  Danny had been called up to replace the struggling Nolan Reimold who was placed on the temporary inactive list due to the birth of a baby.  Figueroa didn’t take long to figure out Lugo and promptly blasted the first pitch into the Straub Beer party deck in right field.  Tides reliever Jim Miller traded a couple of balls for the one Danny hit into the deck from fans so that Figueroa could have a memento of his first AAA level home run.

The Red Wings had 1 run on 8 hits and 1 error leaving 9 men on base, the Tides 2 runs on 4 hits with no errors and 5 men left on base.  Jake Arietta (5-2 1.81) got the win and Jose Lugo (0-3 6.54) the loss.  Denis Sarfate (0-0 S1 1.54) got the save.  The Tides have a travel day Wednesday and open a 4 game series in Pawtucket against the Pawsox on Thursday with Chris George (1-1 4.22) starting for the Tides and Boof Bonser (0-2 10.61) taking the hill for the Sox.

Justin Turner was signed by the New York Mets

There has been quite a bit of action in the personnel department for the Tides and Orioles even since last week.  Michael Aubrey was placed on the 7 Day DL on the 24th retroactive to the 23rd.  Ross Wolf was assigned to Aberdeen while Jim Miller was recalled from Aberdeen; Alberto Castillo returned to the Tides but was called back up the 25th along with closer Frank Mata whose contract was selected by the Orioles.  Danny Figueroa was promoted to the Tides from AA Bowie and Nolan Reimold placed on the temporary inactive list. Up in Baltimore David Hernandez was moved to the Bullpen a move that the Orioles say will be for the rest of the season which could open the way into the rotation for Chris Tillman.  On a further note infielder Justin Turner who was designated for assignment last week was signed by the New York Mets and assigned to AAA Buffalo.  I would expect that due to the Mets’ personnel; situation that Turner could be playing in New York by mid-summer.

Until the next time peace my friends,

Padre Steve+

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Oh, Oh, Oh, O’s….The Orioles Skid Continues But there are Some Bright Spots

“We’re so bad right now that for us back-to-back home runs means one today and another one tomorrow.” Earl Weaver

001Michael Aubrey has Been a Bright Spot for the Orioles

The Baltimore Orioles tied this season’s American League losing streak at 11 games, well make that broke it with at 12 games tonight.  However do not fear the Orioles cannot break their own team record losing streak unless they lose out and begin next year on a losing skid. Since the Orioles lost the first 21 games of the 1988 season and there are only 5 games left the worst that can happen are 17 straight losses.  Since I have made a significant investment in team gear such as jerseys, t-shirts, hats and cell phone holders I do hope that this does not continue.  The last time the Orioles won a game was back on September 16th.  In every case they have found interesting if not painful ways to lose.  There have been blow outs, and there have been meltdowns.  Recently the O’s have taken to getting lots of hits and base runners and on occasion score a decent amount of runs but leaving lots of men on base.  The result of course is when the pitching melted down the opposing team ended up outscoring the O’s.

Going into the month the O’s were well over 20 games behind the Yankees, so the remainder of the season was pretty much in the tank.  A number of things contributed to the September collapse which was very much like the August collapse of the O’s AAA affiliate the Norfolk Tides. The Orioles are a team that has struggled in part due to injuries of key personnel as well as trades, just as the Tides were impacted by call-ups and injuries.  The injuries have included All Star outfielder Adam Jones as well as Rookie of the Year contender Nolan Reimold and starting pitcher Brad Bergeson.  Trades included closer George Sherrill and Designated Hitter Aubrey Huff and pinch hitter deluxe Oscar Salazar.

043Alberto Castillo is Showing Promise as a Reliever

As the season has drawn to a close the team has made some moves that although prudent for the health and future of some of their young prospects.  Several pitchers had reached the number of innings that the club wanted them to achieve during the season including Chris Tillman and Brian Matusz.  Nolan Reimold as mentioned is injured but was playing injured most of the year and finally elected to have surgery on his frayed hamstring.

Until the last 12 games the O’s had one of the better team batting averages in the league but during this losing streak the team average has dropped significantly, especially in situations with runners on base or in scoring position.   Pitching has been hard to come by and even fielding has not been always impressive.  Even when starters have a good game going the relief staff has not been able to do the job resulting in a number of losses during this streak.  It is like Earl Weaver said “The key to winning baseball games is pitching, fundamentals, and three run homers.”  The Orioles are not getting much of anything right now.

Fiorentino HR against ColonJeff Fiorentino seen here Hitting a Home Run off of Bartolo Colon should find a Home in the Majors

In spite of this there is reason to hope and there are some bright spots on the Orioles roster.  Nolan Reimold and Brad Bergeson show great potential as does catcher Matt Wieters who has steadily gained confidence behind the plate and at bat.  Others are showing signs that they could become productive members of the team for the next several years.  Michael Aubrey at 1st Base has been quite consistent and may be in the process of winning a spot on next year’s active roster.  Rookie pitchers Chris Tillman and Brian Matusz show great potential and reliever Alberto Castillo has done very well in his relief appearances since coming up this month.  Among the veterans Brian Roberts, Nick Markakis, Adam Jones and Luke Scott should be back and Jeremy Guthrie after a horrible start has began to get himself into his old form. Melvin Mora and Felix Pie should be back as well. If the pitching staff gets healthy and Tillman and Matusz pitch to the level expected the Orioles have a chance of at least being competitive next year even though I think that challenging the Yankees and Red Sox is a couple years off.

The Orioles have some very good prospects as well as rookies that I have not mentioned including pitchers David Hernandez, Jeff George and relievers Kam Mikalio and Jim Miller.  There are also a number of position players such as infielder Brandon Snyder and utility man Brandon Pinckney who could find themselves on the team at some point.

One player that I have not mentioned who should stay in the majors is outfielder Jeff Fiorentino.  Jeff has done very well since his call up however his comparative lack of power at the plate, despite being a great hitter in being able to get on base combined with the O’s outfield depth may mean that he has no place on this team.  With his speed, fielding ability, steadiness at the plate and all round hustle he needs to stay in the majors even if not on the O’s.  A place that might work for Jeff might be in San Francisco where in a park not geared for power his ability as a situational hitter would help the team.  Likewise his speed and fielding abilities would also be a good fit in the large outfield expanse at AT&T Park.

The one spot that I think that the team needs a change is the Field Manager Dave Trembley.  Trembley seems to be a good teacher but is not terribly inspirational.  Admittedly he began the year with a weak squad but something is not working and I do like his calm, but I wonder if the teams needs fire rather than calm right now.  My choice would be for the O’s to make a serious offer for Bobby Valentine now that he has returned from Japan.

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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September Comes to Harbor Park: A New Month and a New Team

batter upBatter Up: September Comes to Harbor Park

Fans of Triple “A” Baseball teams in the International League and Pacific Coast League understand that the on the 1st of September the Major League Team will expand their roster.  With the roster expansion at the Major League level there is a ripple effect and sometimes even a “sucking sound” as the Triple “A” affiliates have some of their most promising players taken up to the big leagues.

On some teams this process may be a season long process, especially if the Major League team is lacking depth, talent or is suffering from injuries to key players.  However it is the roster expansion in September that changes the Triple “A” team significantly and all at once.  A couple of things happen during this time.  First and the most obvious is that key players are taken up to the Major League franchise.  For some players this may be a repeat trip having been called up for a brief amount of time earlier in the season.  For others it is their introduction to the big leagues and intended to give them Major League experience before going back down to the minors to continue working on their game the following year. For all it will be the opportunity for the Major League club to see them on the field, in the clubhouse and evaluate them to see where or if they have a place on the big club.  The move up does not always mean that the organization will even keep the player; some might be traded or given their outright release.

chris georgeChris George in His Win

Simultaneous to the Major League call up the Triple “A” roster is reinforced by players from Double “A” and occasionally even single “A” farm teams.  Again this is a similar process where players are given the chance to play at a higher level and be evaluated by the staff.  The same dynamics apply as with the Major League team, except that for some players this is their last hurrah, they are being called up to fill a roster position and will be off the team or out of baseball the following year.   In lower levels of Minor League ball the end of the season frequently sees those of marginal ability weeded out to make room for draft picks, college players and other prospects to have a place in the organization.

From my view from Section 102, Row B, Seat 2 at the Church of Baseball Harbor Park Parish the September 1st call-up is the culmination of a season of call-ups and trades which began early and continued right up to the end of August.   The Norfolk Tides inhabit the Parish Church with me and my friends, Elliott the Usher, Barry the Scorekeeper, Chip the Usher, Terri the Usher, Marty the Card Dealer, Kenny the Pretzel Guy aka “Crabmeat,” as well as Ray and Charlie and their crew from the Vietnam Veterans of Virginia who man the Beer stand on the concourse behind home plate and several thousand others depending on which night the services are held.  The Tides are the Triple “A” affiliate of the Baltimore Orioles.

034Robby Hammock Doubles against Charlotte

The past few years the Orioles have been engaged in a rebuilding process which for many has been long and painful and is not yet complete.  They began in the lower “A” level and progressively worked their way up so that their minor league organization is one of the best in baseball at least as far as talent and prospects are concerned.  Some of that talent had filtered up to Baltimore by the beginning of the year but the Orioles were still a very weak team as they entered the season.  By May the team was calling up members of the Tides, Outfielder Nolan Reimold and Catcher Matt Wieters were among the first to go along with pitchers Brad Bergeson, Lance Berken.  Others would follow throughout the year so that even before the call up at least a dozen former members of this year’s Tides team including pitchers David Hernandez, Chris Tillman and Kam Mickalio were up with Baltimore, or who like Oscar Salazar made the Orioles and were traded and are still in the big leagues.  There were others who were traded at the very end of August including Joey Gathright who went to the Red Sox and Freddy Guzman who went to the Yankees.  There were a number of players who had season ending injuries that might have been called up including Justin Christian, Scott Moore and Jolbert Cabrera.  Cabrera’s injury may be a career ender as he turns 37 in December.

scoreSafe!

The players called up on September 1st were pitchers Dennis Safrate, Matt Albers and Alberto Castillo. Outfielder Jeff Fiorentino who is arguably the MVP for the Tides this year was also called up. Unfortunately for Fiorentino the Orioles have a stocked outfield of Nick Markakis, Adam Jones and Nolan Reimold so it unlikely that he will stay up beyond the regular season.  It is expected that the O’s will call up several more players on September 8th following the end of the International League season. There is talk of a couple of pitchers, perhaps Chris Waters and Jim Miller as well a catcher and Second Baseman Justin Turner.

For us in the Church of baseball it meant that we had a season that was very good and really bad. The Tides were probably the best team in Triple “A” at the beginning of the season. By early June they had a large division lead and had close to .700 winning percentage.  With hitting which included power and speed the Tides have had one of the top batting averages in the league all year, even at the end of the season.  Currently they are batting .274 as a team only .001 behind Columbus which is at .275.  The pitching staff was solid but after call ups and injuries mid-season became less effective about the same time the Tides lost most of their power hitters.  This resulted in a All-Star break the team began slump in which the Tides ended up dropping back to 3rd place and a winning percentage of just above .500.

The Tides have 5 games to finish out the season.  The new players are beginning to show some life and the Orioles and Tides management will beginning planning for the 2010 campaign.  Of particular interest to me are catcher Guillermo Rodriguez an excellent defensive catcher with a better bat than we have seen at that position sin a long time with the exception of Matt Wieters and outfielder Jonathan Tucker just up from AA Bowie where he was on the Eastern League All-Star team this year.  He is much like Joey Gathright, a speedy contact hitter with excellent range in the outfield and I expect that Jonathan will be patrolling the outfield for the Tides in 2010.  Recently acquired Rhyne Hughes has added punch to the lineup at First Base hitting home runs in his last two games and I would not be surprised to see the Orioles keep him around.

moon over harbor parkMoon over Harbor Park

September has started better for the Tides and for the first time since August 6th. The win streak has improved the Tides record to 70-68 moving them back to a .507 winning percentage, currently in 3rd place in the IL South. In the three games the Tides have outscored their opponents 21-3 defeating Charlotte 10-0, Gwinnett 8-1 and 3-2.  Andy Mitchell, Chris George and Chris Lambert got the wins in strong performances.  Tides relievers were excellent allowing no runs.  Jim Miller rang up his 17th save tonight having reclaimed his rightful place as the Tides closer.  The two wins over Gwinnett have dropped that former rival from Richmond to 2 games back of Durham for the I South Title with 4 games left to play.

Friday night the Tides will play their last home game of the season at the Church of Baseball, Harbor Park parish at 7:15 against these same Braves hoping to put another nail in the Braves Title hopes.

Peace,

Steve+

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