Myriad O's Thoughts: Alvarez's quick fix; roster shuffling; the closer's role - BaltimoreBaseball.com
Dan Connolly

Myriad O’s Thoughts: Alvarez’s quick fix; roster shuffling; the closer’s role

Photo credit: Joy R. Absalon

Pedro Alvarez wasn’t supposed to be in Sunday’s starting lineup; he was forced into it when Danny Valencia’s hamstring tightened up on him minutes before first pitch.

That also meant Alvarez, known for his bat and not his glove, would have to start at third base for the first time since May 28, 2016.

This is baseball. Only two things could have happened Sunday.

Alvarez could have been the goat or the hero — there are no other alternatives in these stories. Luckily for the Orioles, Alvarez played hero — hitting two home runs in the Orioles’ 5-3 victory over the Detroit Tigers.

“You’ve got to be ready for stuff like that to happen,” Alvarez said of his 11th hour entrance into the starting lineup. “Obviously, it doesn’t happen very often. I don’t know, it was weird. I didn’t skip a beat. I put on my jockstrap and my cup and I headed downstairs.”

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It was the second time in three games that Alvarez had homered twice — and his team won both of those contests for their first series victory at Camden Yards in 2018.

Alvarez handled three grounders at third base, and although they weren’t particularly smooth — two throws were challenges for Trey Mancini at first base — he got the job done.

And he did a whole lot more than that with the bat, driving in three on two swings. Alvarez now has six homers in 59 at-bats.

“I just always trust in myself and in my abilities. No matter the situation, no matter if I’m going well or not going well. Like I’ve said many times before, you can’t control the results and you can’t control that I’ve had four home runs in three games,” said Alvarez, who was signed by the Orioles during spring training for the third straight year.

“At the same token, you can’t sometimes control the 0-fers. But I try to put myself in the best position to succeed every time I (see) a pitch. I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to do that consistently over the last couple days and, when you can do that consistently, over and over, you’ll get the results over time. That’s all I plan on doing.”

Lots of roster movement

Outfielder Joey Rickard started two consecutive games with the Orioles after his recall from Triple-A Norfolk on Saturday. And now he is heading back to the minors.

Such is life as an Orioles player with minor league options.

Rickard, who was 1-for-5 with three walks this weekend, was demoted after Sunday’s game. He will be replaced on the active roster Tuesday by designated hitter Mark Trumbo, who has been sidelined throughout April with a quad injury.

The Orioles are also going to put Luis Sardinas on the disabled list with a lower back injury, according to manager Buck Showalter. The club is expected to call up another utility infielder, and the guess is that will be Engelb Vielma, the only other infielder currently on the 40-man roster.

There could be more roster juggling if Valencia is not available due to his hamstring injury, but Showalter is hopeful not having him play Sunday will allow Valencia to be ready for Tuesday.

“Danny, he should be a player (Tuesday), especially after we get in some different weather,” Showalter said. “The thought is that it was a good idea (to scratch him from the lineup) and they think after the doctor looking at it that he may be OK and not have to go on the disabled list. But we’ll see.”

Closer duties up in the air?

With starter Kevin Gausman leaving Sunday’s game with two outs in the sixth after a solid outing, Showalter decided to bring de facto closer Brad Brach into the game. Brach lasted 1 ⅓ innings and gave up two earned runs before passing the relief baton to Mychal Givens for a scoreless inning.

Darren O’Day then entered for the ninth and  picked up the save with a spotless frame in which he struck out two.

It was the second consecutive save opportunity in which Showalter has summoned O’Day — the other was last Friday in the first game of the homestand — and the second straight time O’Day has converted.

Meanwhile, Sunday was the first time Brach had entered a game in the sixth inning since June 1, 2016.

So, what’s going on at closer?

Showalter said he is just playing matchups and availability. And he’s said he would do that with regular closer Zach Britton on the disabled list until the end of May.

“(Brach) was the guy equipped to pitch two innings today. I was hoping he would pitch the seventh and the eighth in a perfect world. Just because of where we are in the bullpen,” Showalter said. “We talked about it in the spring that there were going to be some times where guys were going to move around, in what may be conventional in the past with Zach here. And a lot of it plays to the lineup, too, that we’re facing.”

Showalter said he was considering bringing in lefty Richard Bleier if the matchup determined it.

I hear what he is saying, but I also think that O’Day has moved ahead of Brach on the depth chart for closer. If both are available for the club’s next save opportunity, my gut is that Showalter will go to O’Day.

I’m not saying he is afraid to use Brach, who has struggled this year, or Givens or even Bleier in those situations. And I certainly think Brach will get more opportunities to close if the right situation arises.

But Showalter is pretty old school, and I know he likes having someone set to go to in the ninth if possible. And I think, all things being equal, that’s going to be O’Day, for now, if he continues to have success with the role.

18 Comments

18 Comments

  1. Osfan73

    April 29, 2018 at 7:07 pm

    Alvarez has more than earned the oppurtunity to start with how he has stuck with the Os, all the current injuries and an ineffective Chris Davis at the plate. I say keep putting him out there. Heck some of Beckham’s throws to first were sketchy at times too, AND Pedro’s bat seems to be heating up to go along with the regular Playing time.
    All around an encouraging series win, especially with how it started Friday with Tillman finally looking like 2016 Tillman. Just need to find ways to build on this, keep it going!

    • Dan Connolly

      April 30, 2018 at 12:46 am

      Alvarez is fine in an emergency at 3B but I don’t think you want to see him there regularly.

  2. Birdman

    April 29, 2018 at 8:51 pm

    Don’t think there is any question that the Orioles are a better team, at this point, with Mancini at first, instead of Davis, and Alvarez in the lineup … so the Orioles face the unpleasant choice – do they bench a $161 million dollar player, or do they keep him the starting lineup, even though he is a detriment to the success of the team?

    • Dan Connolly

      April 30, 2018 at 12:48 am

      I’m ok with Alvarez in the lineup. But again I don’t think you want him at third much. I think when you add in D, I think there is a question to your thesis statement.

  3. bickel57

    April 29, 2018 at 10:11 pm

    The lack of infield depth is really going to haunt us. I get it he doesn’t have anyone to go in at 3rd when Valencia comes up lame. Pedro is hot needs to be in the line-up. We are shakey at best in the infield with these injuries. We need to get someone who can play third. We were fortunate to today but the way this season is going this may not last. Mancini needs to stay at first. His hitting as picked up since the move. You will have to work out a rotation for DH between Trumbo, Alvarez, and Davis. Trumbo shouldnt be playing in the outfield. They need to straighten out this roster to be more balanced instead of lopsided with DH types.

    • Dan Connolly

      April 30, 2018 at 12:53 am

      Umm, Mancini’s offense has picked up at first? As in first base? Sunday was his third start there in 2018.

  4. jkneps63

    April 29, 2018 at 10:29 pm

    Good going for Pedro Alvarez – he has a hot bat and a great attitude willing to play wherever he is asked to. I say keep him in the line up while he is hot!

    —Captain Obvious

    • Dan Connolly

      April 30, 2018 at 12:54 am

      Funny. Alvarez once had a reputation of not having a good attitude. Never seen that in Baltimore

  5. jkneps63

    April 29, 2018 at 10:34 pm

    Regarding a single closer until Britton returns – how about Bleier? 0.84 WHIP and 0.190 BAA! He is off to a great start this year. I would love to see him get a spot start if he isn’t proclaimed closer (neither will probably ever happen).

    If you need another lefty in the pen, maybe bring up Hart, his MLB career WHIP of 1.27 is not too bad.

    • Dan Connolly

      April 30, 2018 at 12:55 am

      I don’t think they want to move Bleier out of the role he is in. For good reason. And he’s not a strikeout guy, which most closers are.

      • jkneps63

        April 30, 2018 at 10:28 am

        You are most likely right – the O’s won’t move him out of his current role, I guess they have other options to audition at starter if needed and it looks like the O’s are going to stick with their current five unless one gets injured. It is frustrating as the current five seem to be taking turns pitching horrible games…

        The ability to strikeout guys as a closer might be overrated, especially if the other option is a pitcher who can induce ground balls. But, yeah, if the other team has a the tying or go ahead run on 3rd with less than 2 outs, you want a strikeout pitcher.

  6. Orial

    April 30, 2018 at 8:28 am

    There should be a way to keep Pedro’s bat in there. What happens to him when Trumbo returns? Valencia also has to come off of third. Question–when Schoop returns can Peterson switch to 3rd? Does he have the arm?

    • Dan Connolly

      April 30, 2018 at 10:10 am

      I think they may look at Peterson at 3B. But 2B is considered his better position. Given that, not sure how well 3B will go.

      • jkneps63

        April 30, 2018 at 10:34 am

        I just took a look at Peterson’s fielding stats both minors and MLB – he has played every position but P & C! His stats seem to indicate that only at 2B is he not a liability. His career fielding stats at 3B are actually a bit scary bad…Jace put in almost 3,000 innnings at SS in the minors.

  7. Rusty Trumbo

    April 30, 2018 at 9:38 am

    I think Davis ends up being a very expensive platoon player,
    They’re not going to bench him or just eat that contract

    • Dan Connolly

      April 30, 2018 at 10:10 am

      I was stunned by his numbers versus LHers this year. Oof.

  8. ubetonit

    May 2, 2018 at 1:35 pm

    I don’t think of it as “roster shuffling” since it’s an almost constant daily norm. DD thinks he’s outsmarting the rest of MLB. Surprised that MLB hasn’t reformed the rules to stop the revolving door.

  9. ubetonit

    May 2, 2018 at 2:10 pm

    It’s ironic that a local owner has ruined the Orioles attendance-wise just as a local owner Marge Schott ruined the Reds popularity-wise.

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