Myriad O's Thoughts: Valencia signing & Davis' injury scare highlights need for depth; Gausman's outing; Sammy Stewart's life - BaltimoreBaseball.com
Dan Connolly

Myriad O’s Thoughts: Valencia signing & Davis’ injury scare highlights need for depth; Gausman’s outing; Sammy Stewart’s life

Photo credit: Joy R. Absalon

CLEARWATER, Fla. — After listening to Danny Valencia speak Saturday morning, I came away with one prevailing thought: This signing is not a good fit with the Orioles’ roster currently as is.

Don’t get me wrong: $1.2 million on a minor league deal – with as much as $3 million more in incentives – for a guy who has been a career .269 big league hitter, mashes lefties (.313 in his career) and can play adequately around the diamond could be a bargain.

And Valencia is familiar with the Orioles – having played 52 games and batting .304 with them in 2013.

“It’s almost like a ‘see you later’ than a goodbye. I still hang out with these guys,” Valencia said Saturday morning. “Me and (Adam) Jones have been pretty close. Me and Manny (Machado) have been pretty close. Some of these guys are your friends. So, it’s nice to be back with them. It’s a place where I really enjoyed my time here. I had some success here. It’s a place, being familiar with, I’m definitely excited to be here again.”

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But Valencia, 33, clearly expects to be part of the club heading into Opening Day. He said he wouldn’t accept an assignment to the minors if he didn’t make the 25-man roster.

“I have nothing to prove down there,” he said. “I’ve been a productive big leaguer. And it is what it is. Obviously, you want to be in the big leagues and I think it will all work out.”

Valencia isn’t wrong. As club Executive Vice President Dan Duquette likes to say, Valencia is a qualified major leaguer. But the Orioles looked to be set in the corner infield and at DH. And already had a bounty of right-handed hitting outfielders.

And then, hours after the signing was announced, manager Buck Showalter told reporters that starting first baseman Chris Davis was scheduled for an MRI of his right elbow/forearm to see what has been causing discomfort.

Now, the results came back favorably. No structural damage in Davis’ arm. In a few days, he should be back playing again.

And the Orioles had been talking with Valencia before the Davis injury. They also signed Pedro Alvarez before Davis first felt discomfort.

Yet this is the whole point of depth signings. Even ones that will expire by late March if the roster can’t be cracked. It is possible that Valencia could make the team as a utility infielder since Tim Beckham could move from third base back to shortstop if there is an issue with Machado (Valencia is not a shortstop).

Signings like Valencia’s may not be an obvious fit for the Orioles. But once a regular gets hurt – and there are weeks left in spring training – a guy like him or Alvarez can be particularly helpful.

Gausman pitches superbly Saturday

Kevin Gausman left his first start of the Grapefruit League season Monday after colliding with a Detroit Tigers player and suffering a cut near his left eye.

His second start featured almost no contact at all – with Gausman or the pitches he threw.

Gausman was superb in three innings Saturday against a fairly representative Philadelphia Phillies lineup. He didn’t allow a baserunner, struck out five and permitted one ball to leave the infield – a fly out by veteran Carlos Santana.

“I was throwing everything. Had a real good feel for my slider today, and I got some strikeouts on it,” Gausman said. “More than anything for me, it starts with fastball command. Even the counts that I got behind, I was able to get back into, and keep groundballs. For me, when I’m going good, I get a lot of groundballs and weak contact. I try to assess my starts on that, and today was pretty good.”

His slider was particularly nasty and he continued to throw his fastball at 97 mph until the end of his outing. He threw 39 pitches – an efficient average of 13 per inning – and 25 were strikes. He also got back on the mound without incident following the uncertainty when he left Monday’s contest.

“I wanted to be on my regular schedule today. There’s no reason why I couldn’t be. It felt great,” said Gausman, the first Orioles starter to complete three innings this spring. “You’re always trying to take that next step in spring training, specifically. It’s always good to get out there and get through three innings.”

The tremendous start has given Showalter an idea.

“Guess he’s OK from the collision; we’ll have him run into the on-deck hitter next outing, or every outing,” Showalter joked.

Sammy Stewart passes away

One of the stranger moments of my career occurred in October 2011, when I received a letter in the mail from a prisoner in North Carolina.

It was from former Orioles pitcher Sammy Stewart, who had been incarcerated several years earlier for a felony drug charge.

I didn’t know Stewart personally, but as a kid growing up in Baltimore in the late 1970s and early 1980s, I was plenty aware of his career as a key reliever/spot starter for the Orioles. I also knew of his post-career addiction and legal struggles.

Receiving the letter was a surprise, since we had never corresponded previously. But, as I read his words, it quickly made sense. I had been writing a lot about former Oriole pitcher Mike Flanagan, who had committed suicide earlier that year, and Stewart wanted to share his thoughts about his old teammate.

I thought about that letter Saturday after it was announced that Stewart was found dead Friday at age 63 in Hendersonville, North Carolina. A cause of death was not immediately released.

In the 2011 letter, Stewart talked about what Flanagan meant to him as a friend, teammate and confidant. And Stewart asked for forgiveness from Orioles’ fans for his transgressions. It was a poignant piece, and a sad one. He eventually was released from prison and came back to Camden Yards a couple times.

You can read that 2011 blog entry, and Stewart’s full letter, here.

15 Comments

15 Comments

  1. Grand Strand Bird Fan

    March 4, 2018 at 8:18 am

    Its sad to hear about Sammy Stewart’s passing. I know he battled drug addiction for a long time. Early in my career I was a state auditor for the Md Health Dept. Some of those were audits of drug treatment facilities. The success rate of beating their addiction is roughly 15%. It causes so much damage to them and their families. Rest in peace Sammy.

    • Dan Connolly

      March 4, 2018 at 1:19 pm

      Agreed. Thanks for the comment, Grand

  2. BunkerFan

    March 4, 2018 at 8:40 am

    Hi Dan. Very sad news about Sarmmy Stewart . Life after baseball can really be difficult for some. But your mention of Mike Flanagan reminds me how sad, terribly sad I was when he took his own life. I was a cub reporter for United Press International when I interviewed Flanny in the Toronto Clubhouse following an O’s loss there during his rookie season. At that point his record had slipped to two wins and seven losses. We talked a little bit about how he needed to bear down on Rico Carty, Who had fouled off seven pictures before his double drove Mike out of the game. He was such a nice guy and so thoughtful about pitching and he so loved the Orioles. But he must’ve had demons. So everybody please be kind to people as much as you can. You never know how Just a few kind words can make a huge difference.

    • Dan Connolly

      March 4, 2018 at 1:20 pm

      Great post, Bunker. Thanks.

      • BunkerFan

        March 4, 2018 at 3:09 pm

        Thanks Dan. You set a really good tone on this site by reading through all the posts and responding to many of them. You are connecting with the posters in a way that most journalists don’t. Your articles and your responses to comments are right on. This is a very interesting blog.

    • Steve Cockey

      March 4, 2018 at 5:50 pm

      Great thoughts on Flanny here, Bunker. Thanks for contributing.

      • BunkerFan

        March 4, 2018 at 6:32 pm

        Thanks Steve. This is a link to the boxscore for the game….
        http://www.baseball-almanac.com/box-scores/boxscore.php?boxid=197706190TOR
        Looks like it wasn’t Carty who got the hit off Flanny- he didn’t join the Jays until the next season (memory is a funny thing)…but Mike was knocked out without retiring a batter in the 6th inning. He turned his season around after that game, going from 2-7 to finishing at 15-10. It was his first full season in the Show. So true that pitching is just as much art as it is talent and hard work. Flanny discovered the art of pitching, like many of the great ones. He is hugely missed for so many reasons…

  3. Dblack2508

    March 4, 2018 at 9:20 am

    RIP Sammy, it’s hard to walk in others shoes to understand why they fall in such a way.
    It was encouraging to get a glimpse of the potential of Gausman, if he can have a good first half of the season a special season could happen.

  4. JoeFundo

    March 4, 2018 at 10:52 am

    Eternal rest.

  5. Ben1

    March 4, 2018 at 2:45 pm

    can someone teach these guys “me and …..” is bad grammar?

    • Boog Robinson Robinson

      March 4, 2018 at 6:33 pm

      And that sentences should start with a capitalized word.

    • Danny Machado

      March 5, 2018 at 8:42 pm

      Well played, Boog. 🙂

  6. deqalt

    March 6, 2018 at 8:09 am

    Sad to hear of Sammy Stewart. I live not far from Hendersonville and wish I had the opportunity to tell him he was appreciated for his time with the Orioles. He owes none of us an apology. Thanks for the memories.

  7. Ezrine Tire Award

    March 6, 2018 at 10:22 pm

    RIP Throwin’ Swannanowan….

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