Baltimore Orioles preview: Showalter's show

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Baltimore Orioles preview: Showalter's show

By SeanMcAdam
CSNNE.com

In the middle of their 12th consecutive losing season, help arrived for the Baltimore Orioles last summer in the form of new manager Buck Showalter.

Showalter immediately made the Orioles more accountable and, stressing fundamentals, engineered a sharp turnaround in the team's play. Over the final two months, the Orioles were a surprising 34-23.

The trick will be to sustain that kind of improvement over the course of a full season, and, of course, do it in what is arguably baseball's most competitive division.

Three things that have to go right:

1) The young starters must continue to grow.
Lefty Brian Matusz struggled, but over the final two months went 7-1 with a 2.18 ERA. This year, Jake Arrieta and Chris Tillman must make similar strides. If the Orioles are ever going to get out of the East cellar, it will be because of homegrown starting piching.

2) Brian Roberts must stay healthy and contribute at the top of the batting order.
Roberts was limited to just 59 games, leaving a gaping hole in the middle of the infield and top of the lineup. Roberts is a veteran who can set the tone, but he has to be on the field to do it.

3) Newcomers Mark Reynolds and Derrek Lee must bounce back from off seasons.
Reynolds hit just .198 in Arizona while amassing startling strikeout numbers and Lee was limited by a variety of injuries. These veterans need to contribute at the corners for the O's to be anywhere near break-even.

Three things that can't go wrong:

1) Jeremy Guthrie can't fall short as a workhorse.
The rest of the rotation is young and inexperienced and needs Guthrie to lead the way. He's averaged just under 200 innings over the last three years and must continue to carry the load while the youngsters develop.

2) Adam Jones and Matt Weiters can't have the kind of fall-back seasons they did a year ago.
Together, the two represent the nucleus of the O's rebuilding effort, up the middle of the diamond. Jones seemed indifferent until Showalter arrived and Weiters developed far slower than anticipated. It's time for them to make good on their considerable promise.

3) J.J. Hardy can't be as inept as Cesar Izturis, the man he's replacing.
Izturis had the lowest OPS (.545) of any major league regular. Hardy doesn't have to be the second coming of Cal Ripken Jr. at short, but he does need to provide a little offense at shortstop.

Sean McAdam can be reached at smcadam@comcastsportsnet.com.Follow Sean on Twitter at http:twitter.comsean_mcadam

After strong bullpen session, Koji Uehara could be back by Labor Day

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After strong bullpen session, Koji Uehara could be back by Labor Day

BOSTON - For a bullpen that could use all the help it can get right now, there's the prospect that Koji Uehara could rejoin the Red Sox on Labor Day.

Uehara, who's been out since July 20 with a strained pectoral muscle, threw a bullpen Monday at Fenway that impressed John Farrell.

"He came out of today's work session in good fashion,'' said Farrell. "It was 25 pitches to hitters with good intensity to both his fastball and split. It's been impressive to see how he's handled the volume, and now, three times on the mound, the intensity to his bullpens and BP.''

Next up for Uehara will be a bullpen session Wednesday morning, followed by a live batting practice session Saturday in Oakland.

Since both Pawtucket's and Portland's seasons are over on Labor Day, Uehara won't have the option of going on a rehab assignment to face hitters before being activated.

But the Sox believe that he can build arm strength through these side sessions and BP sessions -- enough so that he could return to the active roster soon.

"We'll re-assess where is after Sunday,'' said Farrell, "and I wouldn't rule out activation [after that]. What we've done with Koji is just review how he feels after each session and we'll take it from there.''

Uehara, 41, is 2-3 with a 4.50 ERA, and while he's had a propensity for giving up homers (eight in just 36 innings), he had been throwing better before being injured.

And given the performance of the bullpen in general and the recent poor showings from Matt Barnes, the Sox would welcome Uehara back as soon as he's ready.

"The one thing that Koji has proven to us,'' noted Farrell, "is that, even with limited spring training work [in the past], he's been a very effective pitcher for us and obviously, he has a chance to make a very positive impact once he does return.''

Uehara's progress since late July has been a pleasant surprise for the Sox, who feared at the time of the injury that he might be done for the season.     

"To his credit,'' said Farrell, "he's worked his tail off and advanced fairly rapidly and he's withstanding the intensity that he's put into [the work]. A healthy Koji certainly adds to our bullpen.

 

Red Sox among ‘roughly half’ of MLB who’ll attend Tebow workout Tuesday

Red Sox among ‘roughly half’ of MLB who’ll attend Tebow workout Tuesday

Maybe Tim Tebow could be the eighth-inning guy? 

OK, OK. Maybe not. Still, the Red Sox will be among the “roughly half” of the MLB teams who will attend the former Heisman Trophy winner and Patriots’ 2013 training camp phenomenon’s baseball tryout on Tuesday in Los Angeles.

Tebow is 29 and hasn’t played organized baseball since he was a junior in high school. He was an All-State performer in Florida back then.

Based on his accuracy and mechanics throwing a football, maybe DH would suit Tebow better than the mound. 

 

 

Monday’s Red Sox-Rays lineups: No Pedroia to start, Porcello goes for 18th

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Monday’s Red Sox-Rays lineups: No Pedroia to start, Porcello goes for 18th

Dustin Pedroia is out of the Red Sox starting lineup for the second night in a row as they open a three-game series with the Tampa Bay Rays tonight at Fenway Park.

Pedroia, who left the team Sunday to attend a family funeral, told manager John Farrell that he might be able to return during the game Monday night. 

"Based on his texts he's envisioning a walk-off hit in the ninth," Farrell said before the game Sunday. "Much like Pedey's fashion, that was his parting text this morning before he left."

For the second game in a row, Brock Holt will play second base in place of Pedroia and bat leadoff. The Red Sox lost 10-4 to the Kansas City Royals on Sunday night. 

Right-hander Rick Porcello (17-3, 3.23 ERA) will go for his 18th win and try to match Dave “Boo” Ferris in 1946 as the only Red Sox pitchers to go 13-0 at Fenway Park. Right-hander Matt Andriese (6-5, 3.71) starts for the Rays.

The lineups:

RAYS

Logan Forsythe 2B

Kevin Kiermaier CF

Evan Longoria 2B

Brad Miller 1B

Matt Duffy SS

Logan Morrison DH

Nick Franklin RF

Corey Dickerson LF

Bobby Wilson C

Matt Andriese RHP 

RED SOX

Brock Holt 2B

Xander Bogaerts SS

David Ortiz DH

Mookie Betts RF

Hanley Ramirez 1B

Travis Shaw 3B

Chris Young LF

Sandy Leon C

Jackie Bradley Jr. CF

Rick Porcello RHP