Tag: Justin Duchscherer

Should Baltimore O’s Pitching Prospect Zach Britton Be Their Fifth Starter Now?

About a week and a half ago, I wrote how touted Orioles lefty Zach Britton was making an early case to be the fifth starter for the team out of the gate, after completing two scoreless innings in his major league spring training debut.

Well, all he’s done since then is add to his case. A four-inning scoreless start this past Saturday brought his total scoreless innings this spring up to nine.

With injury-prone starter Justin Duchscherer experiencing hip problems again and most likely not prepared for the start of the season, a hole opens in the rotation that Britton, Chris Tillman and Ryan Drese are competing for.

And of those three pitchers, Britton has had the best spring.

Drese is also making a case for himself, allowing only one earned run over seven innings this spring. Another thing the pitcher—who is attempting a comeback after being ineffective for years—has going for him is that his best season was with the Texas Rangers, when current Orioles manager Buck Showalter was the Rangers’ manager.

Tillman, currently viewed as the favorite for taking that open starting rotation slot, has thrown 8.2 innings this spring and has an ERA of 5.19. But because of his dominance at the AAA level last season, which included a no-hitter, many believe he should remain with the big league team.

They also believe that management should stop yo-yo’ing him back and forth between the minors and majors. If he has nothing more to learn at the AAA level, then he shouldn’t remain there—it can only hurt his mentality.

It has been widely debated by Baltimore’s baseball writers and the team’s fans for the past week on whether Britton should be in the majors come Opening Day on April 1. At the beginning of spring, it was all but assumed that he’d be going back down to AAA to begin the year, having made just 12 starts there in his career.

Also, if he wasn’t with the big league club for the first 20 days of the season, his service clock wouldn’t count this year, thus putting off his possible free agency for another year. With a prospect as highly touted as he, it is easy to see why that’s an appealing option.

The Orioles wouldn’t need a fifth starter until April 10, when they play the Rangers at home. That means that they could break camp with a four-man rotation, eight relievers, and figure out who’s starting that April 10 game when the time comes, or they could slot Drese into the role, giving more development time to Tillman and Britton.

There’s also the option of giving the spot to Tillman out of the gate, making it his to lose.

I’d like to see Britton start off the year at AAA Norfolk and to be called up in May or June if he continues to show he’s ready for the bigs.

To me, it’s about both the developmental factor—giving the young pitcher more time to learn and build up his confidence winning at a lower level before being shown the big bats in the majors—and the business factor.

If he becomes everything he’s capable of being, what team wouldn’t want to hold onto him for an extra year?

As for giving the spot to either Tillman or Drese, I can’t decide. Drese has definitely made the better case, and if he continues to pitch this spring like he has been, then he’s earned it fair and square.

However, Tillman is part of the future, and really needs to be trotted out there every day at the major league level so that the Orioles’ executives can see what they really have in the young pitcher.

There’s also Rick VandenHurk, a young and talented pitcher who came over from the Florida Marlins at the trade deadline last year. He has given up four earned runs over six innings this spring and is out of options. Although, there’s always the possibility he makes the club as a long reliever/swingman type pitcher.

It’s certainly an interesting dilemma for Showalter to figure out over the rest of spring training.

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Health of Justin Duchscherer and Pitching Staff Key to Orioles Success

After nearly a decade and a half of losing seasons, will this finally be the year that the Baltimore Orioles rise from the depths of the AL East to finally top .500?

I will go out on a limb here, as I always do with my baseball predictions, and say that it is not all that far-fetched.

Is it likely that they win the AL East? Not in the slightest bit, but hey, never say never.

I can tell you one thing that is for sure though—if the Orioles play to their potential this season, they will add even more buzz to what is already arguably the toughest division in baseball.

For years now, the Orioles have had a relatively solid lineup, which behind a decent pitching squad, could have made a run for a few playoff spots.  

As all baseball fans know, that is exactly what the team has lacked—decent, reliable pitching.

The O’s approached the issue not with huge blockbuster deals, but rather simple improvements to what has been a lackluster pitching staff.

To me, the biggest question with this year’s pitching will be reliability.

For the most part, the O’s have a youthful pitching squad which combined with past injuries, can potentially be an equation for disaster.

One of their biggest pitching acquisitions this offseason was injury-prone Justin Duchscherer.

Now I have always been a fan of Duchscherer since he first stepped onto the mound in Oakland, but his last few years have been less than impressive as he has suffered injury after injury after injury.

He claims that he currently feels the best that he has in years, mentally and physically, but who is to say which Duchscherer will show up at Camden Yards—the two-time all-star or the injury-prone mess. 

Other than Duchscherer, Jake Arrieta is another starter whose health presents us with a rather large question mark, since he had a bone spur in his elbow last season and decided to let it heal naturally on its own rather than have surgery to have it removed.

Only time will tell whether or not he made the right decision in choosing that path of rehabilitation.

As for the remainder of the starting rotation, health is not as big of a concern as is the age of some of its players, such as second-year pitchers Brian Matusz and Brad Bergesen who both struggled a bit coming out of the gate in 2010.

Both of them did bounce back from their poor starts after the All-Star break, but similar to Duchscherer’s situation, who knows which version of these two will show up this season—the first half disappointments or second half surprises.

However, when we look at the bullpen, the issue of injuries pops right back up again, and in dramatic fashion.

With the exception of the newly acquired Kevin Gregg and Jeremy Accardo, every other relief pitcher in the pen dealt with some sort of injury last season.

Michael Gonzalez, Koji Uehara, Jim Johnson and Jason Berken all had some type of shoulder or elbow injury.

Gonzalez suffered a left shoulder sprain, Johnson was bothered by lingering right elbow problems for most of the season, Uehara had elbow and hamstring issues and Berken suffered a torn labrum in his throwing shoulder.  

Uehara came back strong to end the season on a high note, but who is to say that he will not be plagued with the same issues this season?

Okay now onto a lighter, more positive note.

These negatives can just as easily turn out to be positives for the O’s.  

Uehara, despite his injuries, impressed many as he only let up 14 earned runs, five home runs and five walks in 44 innings.

Johnson also did fairly well last season when his elbow was not acting up and will only improve as he gets more years of experience under his belt.

The addition of Gregg will also bolster the bullpen.

Although a bit wild at times, Gregg is coming off a career season with 37 saves and will hopefully look to build off of this and use it as motivation in his battle with Uehara for the closer role.

And let’s not look past the potential that the O’s starting rotation has.

Guthrie was solid last season and if Duchscherer is as healthy as he says he is and gives the baseball world another great year like 2005, I think that they would be a great one-two punch.

Yes, Matusz and Bergesen are young, but if they continue pitching at the level they were on at the end of last season, I only see good things to come from the two of them.  

If this pitching staff can manage to avoid major injuries and regressions and help the O’s keep games within reach so the offense does not have to continually struggle, I think they have a pretty good chance of finally making it over .500 again.  

Let me just reiterate here that I am not saying the Orioles are going all the way this year, I am just saying that they are headed down the right path and that their fans would be crazy to not be excited for the first time in a long time.

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Albert Pujols: Would Phat Albert Ever Really Leave St. Louis?

Albert Pujols contract is up at the end of the year.  Oh, did you already know that?

Everyone in the baseball universe already knows that, of course, and we’ve got 19 days and counting left before his self-imposed deadline to reach an agreement with the Cardinals on an extension.  The two sides aren’t releasing much info on the progress of talks (to each side’s credit), but indications are that they’re still not especially close on their numbers.

If Pujols becomes a free agent in nine months, where could he go?  He’s been a model citizen in St. Louis, and is more the face of their franchise than any other player in any city.  He’s never played anywhere else, and he’s certainly seen how the LeBron drama played out last summer, with all the bad press he got for leaving Cleveland.  I can’t help but think that even if this reaches that point, he’d come back into the fold with the Cardinals.

Unlike LeBron in Cleveland, Pujols knows that the Cardinals are capable of putting together a team that can win it all, especially since they already did back in 2006.  With Matt Holliday locked up for another six years, he’s also got great lineup protection already in place for the long haul.  Fans of other teams can dream about him jumping ship to a rival (like the Chicago Cubs), but once they get the final questions ironed out, expect to see Pujols mashing in middle America for a long time to come.

MLB Spring Training: Joe Nathan, Chipper Jones Look to Return From Injuries

MLB Spring Training is now just a few weeks away, and two of the biggest names looking to rebound from lost seasons in 2010 are Joe Nathan and Chipper Jones.

Nathan missed the entire season after blowing out his arm early last Spring Training and having Tommy John surgery.  But prior to that, he had been one of the best and most consistent closers in baseball.  He’s looking to regain that form in 2011.  As reported on TwinCities.com, Nathan expects to be ready to throw with no restrictions when pitchers and catchers report on February 17th.  His return to full strength is a key for a Twins team that lost a number of relievers this offseason.

Meanwhile, Chipper Jones has also quietly been rehabbing in his attempt to return from suffering a torn ACL last August.  He had previously been contemplating retirement, walking away into the sunset with the only Major League manager he had ever known, Bobby Cox.  But the injury was one factor that convinced him to give it one more go.  As reported by MLB.com, he’s battled some tendinitis recently, but has had no other setbacks, and is also planning on being ready to go in a few weeks.  With a more potent Braves lineup around him, like offseason acquisition Dan Uggla, Jones’ ability to get back in the swing of things is one of the team’s major question marks.

But if he is healthy, he’ll be another reason why the Braves can again contend this year.

Vladimir Guerrero: Does the Impaler Have Any Options Left At This Point?

Vladimir Guerrero joining the Baltimore Orioles is something that seems inevitable, but nonetheless, it hasn’t happened yet.

The O’s are still the only team confirmed to have offered Vladdy a contract, supposedly a one year deal for between $3 to $5 million.  The holdup is that Guerrero is looking for something more along the lines of $8 million.  Even that is a far cry from the 2 year deal for $16 million that he was said to be seeking at the beginning of the offseason.

The problem for Vlad seems to be that he’s past his sell by date.  Most other AL teams in need of a DH have found their solution for 2011.  Minnesota kept Jim Thome.  The Yankees signed Andruw Jones.  The Rangers are using Michael Young after Adrian Beltre supplanted him at third base.  The Rays took a chance on Manny Ramirez.  The A’s signed Hideki Matsui.  The Angels committed significant money to bring in Vernon Wells.

So while he’s certainly still a feared hitter, whatever market he once had has dried up.  His camp has tried to make the Orioles outbid themselves by floating a rumor of a better offer being out there, but that offer has never materialized, and the O’s seem to be standing firm.  Maybe he just doesn’t like Baltimore?

He’s still got a gun for an arm, but his dwindling mobility have limited his value.  Whenever he finally swallows his pride and goes to Baltimore, expect another big year from a seriously ticked off (read: motivated) Guerrero.

Freddy Garcia: Veteran Starter Headed to the Bronx After All

Freddy Garcia recently was speculated to be returning to the Chicago White Sox, where he’s enjoyed most of his success in the latter years of his career, but he seems to have done an about face.

According to a report in ESPN New York, Garcia has agreed to terms with the New York Yankees on a minor league contract.  Perhaps he thought he had a better chance of winning with the Bombers, or perhaps they just offered a sweeter deal.  Garcia will earn $1.5 million if he makes the team, with the chance to round that figure out to a cool $5.1 million through performance bonuses.

It’s a bit surprising that Garcia would have to settle for a minor league deal, coming off a highly respectable season with Chicago where he went 12-6 with a 4.64 ERA, and considering that he sports a 133-87 career record.  He also has established himself as a big game pitcher during his brief exposure to the postseason, where he’s gone 6-2 with a 3.11 ERA in two trips.

He’ll compete with fellow recent signee Bartolo Colon for a spot at the back end of the Yankees rotation, and will give them greater depth should the inevitable injury arise.  He’s also insurance in case Andy Pettitte stays home.  Oh wait, I already talked about that.

MLB Rumors: Andy Pettitte, Rickie Weeks, Eric Chavez and the Latest MLB News

While the major deals of the MLB offseason have long since had all their i’s dotted and their t’s crossed, there are still some last rounds of spring cleaning that need to take place before everything is set.

A bit of moving the furniture around, if you would.  Contract extensions to be signed, arbitration hearings to be avoided, and few free agent stragglers here and there.

So without further ado, here’s a rundown of the latest news of the day in baseball.

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Justin Duchscherer: Baltimore Orioles Sign Right-Handed Pitcher to One-Year Deal

The Orioles have agreed to sign free-agent starting pitcher Justin Duchscherer to a one-year deal that could be worth up to $4.5 million, according to Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.

Duchscherer will make a base salary of $700K guaranteed, and another $1.1 million when he makes the roster, reports Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun. To obtain the entire $4.5 million on the contract, he’ll then have to make at least 30 starts at the major-league level.

It was heard earlier Sunday that Duchscherer had narrowed down his list to the Orioles, Seattle Mariners, and Washington Nationals, with the Mariners dropping out of consideration shortly thereafter.

Over 32 starts (194 2/3 innings pitched), he has a 14-11 record with a 3.01 ERA, all but his first two with the Oakland Athletics.

Though primarily a reliever throughout his career (3.22 ERA in 260.1 innings pitched) as 2008 was his only full season as a starter (22 starts), he will be expected to help solidify a young Orioles rotation with his 33 year-old veteran presence, something that shouldn’t be hard as long as he can stay healthy.

A couple of factors were involved in the pitcher’s decision to sign with Baltimore, including his desire to be near his son, who lives in southern New Jersey, and remain a starting pitcher, a role the Orioles could guarantee him, as the point of his signing is to help provide stability to the young rotation.

Duchscherer, who is known as a control artist, missed all of the 2009 season and made only five starts during his 2010 campaign due to elbow problems, hip surgery, and depression.

The deal is pending a physical, which he is slated to take sometime in the middle of this week, weather permitting.

He had scheduled another throwing session for major league teams to view him throw on Tuesday, but that obviously won’t be needed at this point.

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Andy Pettitte Is Kind-of Retiring: Who Will the Yankees Use To Replace Him?

According to the Daily News, Brian Cashman has said Andy Pettitte will not be playing at the start of the 2011 season. I’ve been trying to give Andy the benefit of the doubt, but he’s start to remind me of Brett Favre. 

I know how hard it is to walk away from a sport, I had to do it in college, so I can hardly fathom how it is for someone who has played more than 30 years. 

However, when it is a situation like a professional sport, where it is a job, decisiveness is a necessity. Whether the Yankees will admit it or not, they are in a stranglehold due to Andy not being sure if he wants to come back. 

How much time will they give him before they say we don’t want you back? What happens if a rotation of CC Sabathia, Phil Hughes, A.J. Burnett, Ivan Nova, and a prospect actually clicks? I know it isn’t the likliest scenario, but you never know. What if it’s the opposite and the young guys don’t work? Will they call Andy offering everything but the kitchen sink to drag him back on the field?

In the meantime, they’ll be looking for Pettitte’s replacement, whether it is short-term or long-term, who will they pick? Lately, there has been a lot of buzz over Justin Duchscherer. Justin is 33, and hasn’t pitched much over the past two years after being an All-Star in 2008. 28 innings to be exact, not a good sign. He’s another one of those players the Yankees could take a gamble on, because it’s a small risk and a high reward. We’ve already seen them take a few chances like that this off-season so far (Scott Proctor, Russell Martin). 

A safer bet, and obviously cheaper, is to stay in the system. A lot has been said about Dellin Betances, Andrew Brackman, Hector Noesi and Manny Banuelos. These kids are all said to be either major-league ready, or close to it, and it is pretty likely any of them could have a shot at the 5th spot. Although it is more likely Brackman or Banuelos come up first. 

With all of this young talent, the Yankees could fill out a rotation, and potentially bolster the bullpen a little more if more than one player is ready to make the move up. Any players who aren’t ready could be sent back down, or used as trade pieces if Cashman feels the Yankees need to add some more talent from outside. 

Sure, I’d be sad to see Pettitte leave, he’s had a great career in New York, and he’s been one of my favorite pitchers to watch since I was a little kid, but I’m looking forward to seeing some of this young talent come through. The Yankee farm system has made a resurgence over the past several years, and this can be the season where we really see first-hand just how good it really is. 

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MLB Rumors: New York Yankees Stepping Up Pursuit of Justin Duchscherer

If there is a starter on the free agent market with a questionable injury history the Yankees are apparently in on him.

Well they are supposedly “stepping up their pursuit” of one questionable starter, former A’s starter Justin Duchscherer according to Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.

Duchscherer, 33, has suffered a myriad of injuries and even clinical depression that has derailed a once promising career.

From 2004 though 2006 he was a successful reliever for the Oakland Athletics. Across those three seasons he put up a 2.80 ERA, a 1.11 WHIP, a 7.4 K/9, and 2.3 BB/9 over 237.2 innings.

Still a reliever in 2007 he was limited to just 17 games thanks to a biceps strain and a right hip strain. His season came to an end when he was forced to have Labrum surgery.

Duchscherer started the 2008 season as part of the A’s rotation, but was limited to only 22 starts in part because of an inflamed biceps in April of that year. He got over it though and have an impressive year. In 141.2 innings he had a 2.54 ERA with a 0.995 WHIP, a 6.0 K/9 and a 2.2 BB/9. He also earned a spot on the All-Star team.

Dealing with depression and bone spurs in his elbow, Duchscherer missed the entire 2009 season.

He returned in 2010, but only started five games before he was forced to miss the remainder of the season with another hip surgery (this time on his left side).

He is a soft tosser with a fastball that comes in at about 85 mph on average. He also throws a slider, cutter, and curveball, relying mostly on his fastball and cutters to get batters out.

So while Duchscherer has had success during his career, he is now past his prime and hasn’t put together a full season since 2006 when he was still a reliever. He prefers to start, but the Yankees may see him as a possible bullpen piece.

He earned $1.75 million last season and probably won’t make more than that this year.

Due to the slim chance he has of actually being a big contributor hopefully the Yankees can get him on a minor league contract with an invite to spring training.

What do you think? With all of the questionable names out there this offseason is Duchscherer’s one that makes sense? Or is the reality that he has only made 27 starts since 2008 too much to ignore?

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