Orioles face challenge of 30 games in 31 days; Welcome to Buffalo; Hunter Harvey close to ready - BaltimoreBaseball.com

Rich Dubroff

Orioles face challenge of 30 games in 31 days; Welcome to Buffalo; Hunter Harvey close to ready

Photo Credit: Joy R. Absalon

The Orioles begin the second half of their season with the first of a four-game series against the Toronto Blue Jays at Sahlen Field in Buffalo on Friday night.

They’ll begin the second half in fourth place in the American League East, 1 ½ games behind the Blue Jays. Toronto, which is playing in Buffalo this year because of Covid-19 concerns, is eighth among the AL playoff teams.

The Orioles are 14-16 and, according to BaseballReference.com, have a 17.7 percent chance of making the expanded postseason field. The first two teams in each of the three divisions, plus two wild-card teams, make the field. FanGraphs estimated their postseason chances at 10.2 percent.

The Orioles elected not to play Thursday against Tampa Bay. A statement they issued read, in part: “Orioles players have decided to not play tonight’s game against the Rays as they join athletes around the country in expressing solidarity with victims of social injustice and systemic racism.”

Because of Thursday night’s postponement, the Orioles must play 30 games in 31 days.

“It’s definitely going to be a difficult task,” Orioles manager Brandon Hyde said during a video conference call on Friday. “Keeping guys healthy is going to be a big part. The 28-man roster does help with that.”

Thursday’s game will be made up as part of a doubleheader on September 17. The Orioles will be the home team in the first game. The Rays are the home team in the second game. Both games are seven innings, and the first pitch is at 5:05 p.m.

The Orioles already had a doubleheader scheduled against the New York Yankees on September 4, and have three open dates — September 3, 7 and 21.

“It’s never easy playing 30 in 31,” Hyde said. “I’m going to have to really make sure guys get rest days and be smart about playing time and still try to win.”

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If the Orioles are to overtake Toronto, they’ll have their opportunities. Besides these games, they finish the season with three more games in Buffalo against the Blue Jays on September 25-27.

The Orioles are on a franchise record 18-game losing streak against the Yankees, and they have eight games remaining with them and three at Boston on September 22-24.

Fourteen of the final 30 games are at home, and there are seven interleague games — four with the New York Mets, two at home, and two at Citi Field and three with Atlanta at Oriole Park, September 14-16.

Wednesday’s game against the Mets will now begin at 4:05 p.m.

Welcome to Buffalo: It’s Hyde’s first visit to Buffalo, the 2020 home of the Blue Jays.

Built in 1988 in an unsuccessful attempt to win an expansion franchise, Sahlen Field, home of Toronto’s Triple-A Buffalo Bisons, was originally Pilot Field and is the largest ballpark in the minor leagues, seating about 20,000.

“It’s a nice ballpark,” Hyde said. “They’ve done a nice job in here. We have a makeshift clubhouse. There’s a lot of partitions, but there’s a lot of space. The coaches’ office is nice. The training room is spacious.

“It’s a makeshift weight room, an outdoor Venice Beach-style weight room right outside the clubhouse, and the ballpark looks nice. It looks like it’s a good place to hit. I walked the grounds, took a little jog on the field earlier today, and the field’s in great shape. It looks like they’ve done a good job here.”

It’s the first time the Orioles have played a regular season game in a non-major league ballpark.

Many of the Orioles are familiar with the stadium because they played there on International League visits with Triple-A Norfolk.

Valdez on hand: On Thursday, the Orioles selected the contract of 35-year-old right-hander César Valdez, who had been on the taxi squad.

The Orioles signed Valdez, who first pitched in the majors in 2010 in Arizona and then in 2017 with Oakland and Toronto, as a minor league free agent.

Valdez did not receive an invitation to major league spring training, but he impressed as a fill-in reliever during Grapefruit League games and received an early invitation to summer camp.

“It was a different look with a guy who can pitch multiple innings for us,” Hyde said.

John Means, who starts on Friday night, has yet to complete five innings, and Thomas Eshelman, who could start in one of the other games this series, is considered a five-inning starter. Valdez joins Jorge López as a long man.

His major league numbers aren’t impressive: 2-3 record with a 7.64 ERA in 20 games, but the Orioles liked what Valdez showed in the Mexican League last year. He was 15-2 with a 2.26 ERA, striking out 162 while walking only 21 in 188 1/3 innings.

“The story is fantastic,” Hyde said. “He’s worked super hard to get back to the big leagues. He has a lot of minor league experiences that are interesting as well.”

One of those is an 11-game stint at Buffalo in 2017 when he was with Toronto.

“He’s a different style of pitcher,” Hyde said. “He throws from different arm angles with all different pitches, and I just like the look that he gives, and it’s not like anybody else we have in our bullpen or on our club. I’m looking forward to watching him pitch, whenever that is.”

Hunter Harvey update: Relief pitcher Junter Harvey is traveling with the Orioles, and he’s nearly ready to pitch.

“There’s a really good chance you’ll see toward the end of the series,” Hyde said.

Harvey has yet to pitch this season because of a right forearm strain.

Shortstop José Iglesias, who was activated from the 10-day injured list on Thursday, is in the lineup as the Orioles’ designated hitter.

Catcher Pedro Severino, who hasn’t played since Sunday because of a right hip flexor injury, returns as well.

Follow Rich Dubroff on Twitter @RichDubroffMLB

24 Comments

24 Comments

  1. Boog Robinson Robinson

    August 28, 2020 at 5:34 pm

    Thank you so much Rich … it’s back to béisbol.

    César Valdez? THE César Valdez? Asombrosa!!

    I’m looking forward to the last 30 in 31, AND I”m looking forward to filling out the rest of this Mexican League All Star roster! We may not win a world series this year, but we’ll soon be competitive con los Toros del Tijuana!

    Vamos Orioles!!

    • BirdsCaps

      August 28, 2020 at 7:39 pm

      God bless baseball talk!

  2. CalsPals

    August 28, 2020 at 6:30 pm

    I really don’t care what they’ve done in the Mexican league, how about getting some major league players…go O’s…

    • Raymo

      August 28, 2020 at 7:53 pm

      Miguel Gonzalez was discovered in the Mexican League and was a big contributor for 4 years. Valdez is 35 so he won’t be around as long, but my point is that sometimes success at that level can continue at this level.

      Buena suerte senior Valdez.

  3. BirdsCaps

    August 28, 2020 at 7:47 pm

    As a fan of uniforms and sports aesthetics, I’m surprised there isn’t a buffalo blue jays logo or uniform. I am not a collector of other teams merch, but many people would go for a hat or jersey (especially a Guerrero one). You would only have to slightly modify the word mark or logo. On a more serious note, it’s nice to get some of “our guys” back.

    • Rich Dubroff

      August 28, 2020 at 10:26 pm

      Stephen, I know it wasn’t a totally serious question, but getting a uniform changed and approved is a long process, and there were literally only days before they settled on Buffalo, and had many more serious logistical issues to deal with. On the other hand, I bet there are knockoffs available.

  4. Bhoffman1

    August 28, 2020 at 8:48 pm

    Look bring Flaherty out of retirement because Velazquez is a sure out that can’t even make contact. Why is he on this team . There’s gotta be someone better

  5. Boog Robinson Robinson

    August 28, 2020 at 9:10 pm

    Rich,

    I’m curious and hope you can explain. You stated that the field in Buffalo was first built in hopes of enticing an expansion franchise to town. But at only 20,000 seats, how was that expected to entice MLB? Was there a predefined plan to expand the park seating-wise if they did get a team? What gives?

    • Raymo

      August 28, 2020 at 9:19 pm

      It looks like a nice stadium. Makes me want to plan a road trip next summer if crowds are permitted.

    • Rich Dubroff

      August 28, 2020 at 10:27 pm

      Excellent question, Ken, and you answered it. There was a plan to expand the park if they got a team.

  6. CalsPals

    August 28, 2020 at 9:32 pm

    O’s running themselves right out of this game, making the Bluejays catcher look like Pudge Rodriguez…good lord…go O’s…

    • Boog Robinson Robinson

      August 28, 2020 at 9:42 pm

      He made a great play on Valaika.

  7. Birdman

    August 28, 2020 at 9:48 pm

    Like Mountcastle’s confidence calling off Ruiz on fly ball in bottom of the 9th, and like Mullins’ excellent sacrifice bunt in top of the 10th.

  8. 66OsFan

    August 28, 2020 at 10:04 pm

    Rich, not sure if it was Hyde’s comment or yours, but the Orioles have played in a non-major league ballpark before. They have played Norfolk numerous times in exhibition games prior to the start of the regular season. They have never played a regular season game in a non-major league ballpark.

    • Rich Dubroff

      August 28, 2020 at 10:22 pm

      It was my comment, not Hyde’s. They’ve never played a regular season game in a non-MLB ballpark. I thought that was clear, but I’m afraid it wasn’t.

    • ClayDal

      August 28, 2020 at 10:38 pm

      The Orioles have played regular season games in non-MLB parks before. The old Cleveland stadium. Tropicana Field. Dolphins Stadium in Miami. Whatever they are calling the dump in Oakland. Ask Jim Palmer about the KingDome. The HHH MetroDome. Hubert Humphrey deserved better.

  9. Hallbe62

    August 28, 2020 at 10:24 pm

    Someone please teach Mullins not to peak back at the catcher when stealing 2nd.

    Look at 2nd base and run like hell.

    Severino is getting the job done with the bat, but is lost defensively.

    Vailaka disappoints.

    Base running blunders continue.

    This game was “Ours to lose” & we didn’t disappoint. Frustrating

    Come back at em hard tomorrow night Birds !

  10. Bhoffman1

    August 28, 2020 at 10:41 pm

    Has Cole Sulser ever been a closer before. From the replay I saw the pitch he threw was right over the plate with not much on it ready to be blasted out.

  11. Bancells Moustache

    August 28, 2020 at 11:19 pm

    Remember when that really handsome guy commented that the Orioles need to trade for Randal Grichuk so he’ll stop killing them?

    • Boog Robinson Robinson

      August 28, 2020 at 11:35 pm

      I don’t remember saying that?

  12. paulw

    August 28, 2020 at 11:26 pm

    Runner on second, two outs and Oriole killer at the plate. A 10 year-old knows to walk him. Twice runners on second aren’t reminded of there being only one out and now this the latest in a series of poor decision. Somebody else will take us to the promised land.

    • Boog Robinson Robinson

      August 28, 2020 at 11:36 pm

      I don’t disagree with you Paul, but I’m sure Hyde’s thinking was that he didn’t want to put the winning run on base. That and he figured Sulser would avoid serving up some soft cheese in the middle of the plate.

      Yep…Earl would have probably walked him.

  13. CalsPals

    August 28, 2020 at 11:34 pm

    11:30, can’t sleep after watching Alka Sulser serve up the game winning two out, down by one gopher ball, what did Severino actually say to Sulser before the pitch? WTF are you giving “Gleyber” Grichuk anything to hit for? I know Guerrero was up next, might have just managed himself out of a job…better to watch this yr, but still drives you nuts…thrown out stealing 3x, ouch…gonna try to get some shuteye…go O’s…

    • Boog Robinson Robinson

      August 28, 2020 at 11:38 pm

      It’s 10:37 and I can’t sleep either. Pretty much that same reasoning…

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