Myriad Orioles Thoughts: Brach's shaky stretch; a battle of Werth; Rule 5 updates - BaltimoreBaseball.com

Dan Connolly

Myriad Orioles Thoughts: Brach’s shaky stretch; a battle of Werth; Rule 5 updates

Photo credit: Joy R. Absalon

Orioles manager Buck Showalter said he’s not worried about de facto closer Brad Brach. Brach simply was a victim of an excellent hitting club on Wednesday night, his manager believes.

“Brad will be all right. He’s good at this,” Showalter said. “Tonight, a very good club just got him.”

Brach is good at being a relief pitcher. He was an All Star last year when he compiled a 2.05 ERA in 71 appearances. And he didn’t allow a run in his first 11 outings this season.

But he’s given up eight runs in his past seven appearances spanning seven innings – including three in the bottom of the ninth Wednesday while registering only one out in a 7-6 loss to the Washington Nationals.

What’s going on with Brach during this recent rough stretch?

“Just not throwing fastballs down in the zone. I think earlier in the year I was kind of getting away with some pitches that maybe (had) a little bit more life on my fastball,” Brach said. “And, now, (I’m) just kind of leaving it up and just not executing when I need to. And falling behind, walking guys.”

Brach has walked eight batters this year; only 25 all of last season. So maybe there is something to a temporary loss of command.

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Or maybe it’s more than that. Maybe it’s the fact that Brach is being asked to be the primary fill- in for closer Zach Britton. (Darren O’Day also will get some save opportunities, but Showalter said he wasn’t available to pitch Wednesday).

Some may argue this point, but pitching in the ninth inning, in my opinion, is just a different beast than in the eighth – or any part of the game. The opposing offense is in do-or-die mode. The concentration is deeper, the adrenaline, higher.

Brach’s not trying to think that way.

“I think it’s just the pressure you put on yourself. I’ve been trying to do my best to not think about the inning,” he said. “I just think it’s more so just not really executing more than anything else. I’m just kind of falling behind a lot of these guys and that’s not doing myself any favors.”

There’s no question in my mind Brach can close – at least solidly – while Britton is out for a month-plus with a strained left forearm. But Brach’s recent rough stretch shows how good Britton has been in the last couple years. And how tough the job is.

“You’d like to say all of the 24 other outs are that way, but we all know there’s a sense of finality with (the ninth),” Showalter said. “Brad’s done a good job with it for us, it just wasn’t there for him tonight.”

A good closer is one that can bounce back from a bad outing and convert the next opportunity. Brach’s aware of that concept, and believes he can do it.

“No one is going to feel sorry for you,” Brach said. “Tomorrow, they’re going to expect you to get outs. What I’ve got to do is have a short memory, forget about it, go out there tomorrow and get the outs.”

A battle Werth watching

The turning point in Wednesday’s game happened before former Oriole Matt Wieters hit the game-winning single against Brach with the bases loaded.

The high drama occurred during the matchup to start the bottom of the ninth: Brach versus veteran Jayson Werth, an original Orioles’ first-rounder back in 1997.

With the count 2-1, Werth fouled off four straight pitches, took ball three and then fouled off two more.

On the 11th offering he saw from Brach, Werth smashed a 96-mph fastball to right center for his sixth homer of the season to make it a one-run game, 6-5.

Not only did it dramatically reduce Brach’s margin for error, but it gave the Nationals’ lineup a taste of what was coming. And it may have rattled Brach a bit, because that’s a terrible way to lose such a taxing battle.

“It was tough,” Brach said. “Looking back at it, I threw some really good pitches. He got the upper hand there toward the end and just was able to drive one out to right-center field. … I think that was the big key to Werth. I fell behind there and had to come back in the zone and he got to see everything that I threw. Unfortunately, when you have 11-pitch at-bats against guys like him, he’s going to take advantage of it.”

Rule 5 updates

The Orioles announced Wednesday that Rule 5 outfielder Anthony Santander, who is on the 10-day disabled list and had been working out in extended spring training, received a platelet-rich plasma injection in his right elbow. He will not throw for at least six weeks.

This will mean Santander, 22, will remain in the organization for a while, but almost certainly won’t fulfill his Rule 5 requirement to stay with the Orioles.

Besides being on the Orioles roster (which includes the disabled list), a Rule 5 player must be on the active 25-man roster for at least 90 days. Given that Santander began the season on the DL and will miss at least two more months after the injection and rehab process, it appears there will be little chance Santander could get the 90 days.

That means the Orioles must either offer him back to his original team, the Cleveland Indians, for $50,000 (half the original price) or they could keep him, but would have to go through the same deal next year to acquire him long-term – MLB roster all year, at least 90 days on the active roster.

That seems like a fairly possible scenario, because Hyun Soo Kim, Seth Smith and Craig Gentry all are not signed to 2018 contracts, so theoretically, there would be open spots in the outfield next year, making it easier to keep (hide) Santander on the active roster

And it also seems like a fairly possible scenario because Orioles’ executive vice president Dan Duquette is obsessed with Rule 5 players – guys that fall through the cracks from other organizations but have legitimate upside like Santander, a switch-hitter who batted .290 with 20 homers in Single-A last year.

So, the Orioles potentially could have a 2018 Rule 5 draftee before the December 2017 Rule 5 draft. You can’t make this up.

And, since you were wondering, the Orioles’ other Rule 5 outfielder this spring, Aneury Tavarez, is hitting .200 through his first seven games with Pawtucket, the Boston Red Sox Triple-A affiliate.

The 25-year-old, who was sent back to Boston in March, batted .377 with a .473 on-base percentage and six steals in 18 games with Double-A Portland before being promoted earlier this month.

19 Comments

19 Comments

  1. marcshank

    May 11, 2017 at 8:23 am

    First, as far as I’m concerned, Mr. Britton can sit until the All-Star break, as long as he gives us a Zach Britton second half. I’m sure most O-fans feel the same. Second, I’m really hoping Brach is just going through a thing with the runs he’s let in. I think it was bad luck that he hit the heart of the Nats lineup last night, or maybe I’m just making excuses. They are an extraordinary hitting team, certainly the best in baseball. So we absolutely have to get better in the 9th inning. Verrett is looking pretty good for a rookie, as does Asher. But I think we’re all hoping Brad gets his act together.

    • Dan Connolly

      May 11, 2017 at 11:05 am

      Agreed. I imagine he will.

  2. claudecat

    May 11, 2017 at 8:52 am

    I wonder if anyone else is feeling as conflicted about Matt Wieters as I am. As much as he was a fan favorite during his tenure with the O’s, he never really put together a season that lived up to the (fair or unfair) hype. Now, after a year when he made substantially more money by taking the qualifying offer than his production warranted, he’s having his best season yet, at least offensively. It’s not that I don’t think he’s a great guy, excellent teammate, etc. I’ll just be a little miffed if he has his best year ever for another team after all the O’s invested in him.

    And why couldn’t he have rolled one over for one of his patented double play balls last night?!?

    • Bancells Moustache

      May 11, 2017 at 9:22 am

      Hard to say. Given the Orioles history of letting guys go and then they blossom, Weiters putting up superstar numbers this year would neither surprise or upset me. Just how it goes. Not that I fault the O’s. Its a mental thing. After all the expectations and (perceived) failure to meet them Weitey had here, it must be a massive relief to be on a team that just needs him to be a good catcher, not franchise savior. Just like Jake Arrieta who, if he didn’t get a fresh start in Chicago, would no doubt be out of baseball now.

      • pjclark4

        May 11, 2017 at 9:46 am

        To be fair, if our entire lineup got to hit against Miami, Philadelphia, and Atlanta for 57 games this year, I imagine their numbers would improve too.

        Definitely agree on the relief having an effect. Wieters doesn’t have a huge contract to live up to either. Throw in the fact that the Washington starting staff features the reigning Cy Young winner (who finished behind his teammate in ERA) and the relief must be overwhelming.

        The guy was catching Ubaldo, Gallardo, Wright, Wilson, etc., last year. He’s walking on air right now.

      • Bancells Moustache

        May 11, 2017 at 10:40 am

        Plus lets not forget, we’ve seen Matty put up big numbers out the gate and then cool considerably after a few months of squatting behind the dish here in B-More. And now he doesn’t get to DH

      • marcshank

        May 12, 2017 at 1:28 pm

        Excellent recall, Bancells. I counted the times I sat there last year with Matt up, only to see an out. Especially as the season went on. I wish him the best, of course, but the Nats might be in for an unpleasant time after the All-Star break.

    • Dan Connolly

      May 11, 2017 at 11:07 am

      Excellent chatter here. Really have nothing to add.

    • Boog Robinson Robinson

      May 11, 2017 at 11:18 am

      Patented double play balls???? Psssshaw. The boy is clutch.

  3. Bancells Moustache

    May 11, 2017 at 9:45 am

    3 things
    1. I’m all for exciting baseball but man, I really miss last year when I would see Britton come out of the bullpen and I could automatically go brush my teeth and check on the kids because the game was already over.
    2. Did anyone else, upon realizing it was Weiters coming to the plate in the 9th, immediately turn off the TV because they just knew how it was going to play out?
    3. I’m definitely in the camp that this whole “295 Rivalry” is a phoney rivalry. That being said, maybe the players don’t realize it. This has been a really entertaining series.

    • Dan Connolly

      May 11, 2017 at 11:08 am

      It’s been entertaining because these are two pretty darn good teams. If Washington had a bullpen, wow.

  4. Boog Robinson Robinson

    May 11, 2017 at 11:18 am

    What amazes me, are the amount of Oriole fans that didn’t or don’t appreciate the type and quality of a player Matt Wieters is and always was for the Orioles. Maybe he didn’t hit .300, but his bat was always there when it was needed in the big spots. I don’t remember him hitting into his “patented” double plays with the game on the line that often. The man has the clutch gene …. always had it. Jones may be the .290 hitter, but when the game was on the line, I’d have taken Matty Wieters every time.

    All this, and I haven’t even mentioned the presence he was and still is behind the plate. His pitch framing “metrics” seem to be a plus now that he’s catching the likes of Scherzer & Strasburg. Matt Wieters didn’t live up to it? Give me a break. The guy was simply the best catcher the O’s have ever had. And we let him walk for a large bag of peanuts. Jeepers was a bad call.

    • Bancells Moustache

      May 11, 2017 at 12:10 pm

      No argument here. Ask any MLB front office executive, if you draft a guy at the top of the first round and get 8 consistent big league seasons out of him, with a couple ASG appearances and Gold Gloves sprinkled in, they will tell that was a fabulously successful draft choice.

    • claudecat

      May 11, 2017 at 5:50 pm

      I’m gonna have to respectfully disagree here, to an extent. I’ll come right out and say it: I think that Matt was/is a below average catcher, especially towards the end with us. Great arm all along, though even that was impacted by the surgery, and you can’t fault him on his want-to or preparation, but he was middling at best blocking balls in the dirt with that big body, a poor framer (my pet peeve used to be his annoyed yanking of even strikes that weren’t where he wanted ’em out of the zone, insuring the ball call), perhaps the worst ever in terms of providing a target for the pitcher (that mitt-flopping annoys me no end), and his game-calling was hugely suspect at times. I recall one game early in Gausman’s career when he called like 12 straight fastballs against the heart of the Yankee lineup; it did not end well.

      As for the clutch hitting… OK, I’ll give you that, last year in particular. But even so, there were plenty of DP balls and weak popups to the infield at inopportune times as well. I like Matt, as a human. Everyone does. I’m not that big a fan of his as a baseball player though. And if he’s gonna hit great now (though I’m betting he’ll be back to his usual .230-.240 before too long), the least he could do is to do it against someone other than us.

      Commence rotten fruit-tossing on three… two… one…

      • Boog Robinson Robinson

        May 12, 2017 at 8:48 am

        Allow me to retort … just a few points instead of the rotten fruit.

        I simply can’t or didn’t see the defensive flaws that you’re talking about. My recollection was that Matt was more-than-exceptional at blocking balls in the dirt. He also had about as soft a pair of hands as I’ve witnessed this side of Johnny Bench. He could pick’em with the best of ‘em. And as far as pitch framing? What a lark! That’s about as silly a statistic as pitchers inducing broken bats. I understand that a catcher can fool an umpire sometimes, but frankly, either the ball is over the plate or it isn’t. And if someone can show me a concrete method of measuring a catchers skill in that area, please, please do enlighten me. Somehow with all these defensive flaws, he did manage to win a couple of gold gloves. Had he not lost nearly 2 full seasons to Tommy John, he very well could have a couple more on his mantle.

        Now you say you expect him to get back down to his “usual .230-.240” batting average. Really? The man hit .257 for his career, and since you’re taking the liberty to rounding the number, I will as well … let’s call it .260. That puts your estimation off by as much as .30 points.

        And I’ll submit this for your consideration … Currently, it takes Make 26.7 at bats to get a home run. It took Cal Ripken 26.8 at bats for a homer. Was he THAT weak of a hitter for the O’s? Or was Cal even weaker?

        With all due respect Claude, are we talking about the same player?

  5. John in Cincy

    May 11, 2017 at 1:59 pm

    Let’s not forget that Brach has also has been lights out in some of his saves. As long as he just needs to make some mechanical tweaks, and there isn’t some underlying injury, he should be fine. When Brad’s on, he’s virtually unhittable.

  6. John in Cincy

    May 11, 2017 at 2:06 pm

    There’s no likelihood — much less guarantee — that Santander will be available next year, is there? So why worry about what’s not going to happen? Turn the page and move on.

  7. ZantiGM

    May 12, 2017 at 12:34 pm

    Tavarez, small AAA sample size i think that average will go up…i would have kept Tavarez over Kim, spotting him against RHP but letting Rickard play more..I am not a fan of Kim and i think he will be gone before or very shortly after the all-star break.Call me CrazyZantiGM but i like Tavarez, Bourn and/or Schafer better.

    • John in Cincy

      May 12, 2017 at 12:53 pm

      Here’s a “conspiracy theory” : The Orioles are secretly searching for a trade partner for Kim. It’s suspicious that he’s not playing much anymore, even when righties are on the mound. Bourn is a better fielder and base stealer than Kim, and one who also has more speed overall.

      Kim’s definitely a better contact, OBP guy, and a few years younger, but the team seems to have a “win now” mentality, so the age gap isn’t that important. Besides, Mullins is waiting in the wings. He may be a year or two away, but he looks to have a future in patrolling the outfield at Camden Yards. Mullins is also the reason the O’s didn’t mind returning Tavarez back to Boston, when the Red Sox asked for too much in a trade.

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