Interview MASN’s Steve Melewski Part 2

Good Afternoon Keys Fans!

The holiday season may be inching closer and closer, but for the Orioles the season has not been all about eggnog and mistletoe. Wesley Wright, a member of the Cubs bullpen this past season, has signed a contract with the O’s according to MASN’s Roch Kubatko. A one-year deal, the addition of Wright is no surprise with the departure of Andrew Miller to the Yankees and trade rumors regarding ex-Key Brian Matusz. Coming off one of his best seasons, Wright registered a 3.17 ERA over 58 games.

One attractive aspect of Wright is that he can get out both lefty (.242 AVG) and righty (.258) batters. The deal will become official once Wright passes a physical. His addition also fills up the 40-man roster.

On the Keys front, Jesse Beal has agreed to a minor league deal with the Orioles. A member of the Frederick bullpen each of the past two seasons, Beal went 2-1 with a 3.48 ERA over 23 games (5 starts). One of the club’s top bullpen arms, the D.C. native posted a 16.2 inning scoreless stretch at one point. What might have been most impressive, was Beal’s level of consistency despite spending nearly a month on the disabled list with a shoulder injury. He also missed the final two weeks of the year on account of a right elbow sprain.

Jesse Beal was the "real deal" out of the bullpen in 2014. He also provided help to a starting rotation that suffered injuries early on during the season.

Jesse Beal was the “real deal” out of the bullpen in 2014. He also provided help to a starting rotation that suffered injuries early on during the season.

Two other items on the Keys front. According to Steve Melewski of MASN (more of our interview in a moment) Orlando Gomez will be returning as Keys manager while Kubatko reports that former Key Howie Clark has been hired as hitting coach. None of this information is official yet, but if true, Gomez’s return would mark the homecoming of the winningest manager in club history. During his three-year tenure (2010-12) the Keys went 214-204, while he guided the 2011 team to a Mills Cup title.

Clark spent 1994 with the Keys, batting .267 with five home runs and 40 RBI. After an extended wait, he made his big league debut with the Orioles in 2002.

Although we didn’t discuss coaching staffs, Steve Melewski and I did cover a range of issues in Part 2 of our chat. Among the topics we discussed:

-How close did the Orioles come to losing Mychal Givens or Parker Bridwell in the Rule 5 Draft

-Who are Chance Sisco and Hunter Harvey and what type of an impact could they have at Frederick in 2015

-Who is one Orioles minor leaguer that could make a big impact in the big leagues sooner rather than later.

Thanks again to Steve for taking some time to talk. As always, his insights were top-notch.

Two final notes:

-Need a present for a friend or loved one this upcoming holiday season? Look no further than the 2015 Holiday Package! There are only two days left to order, so hit up a representative at 301-915-9900!

Holiday Plan

-And do you need a speaker for a future meeting or event? Check out the Frederick Keys Speakers Bureau! For no charge, we’ll come speak to your group and answer every last question you have about the Keys, minor league baseball, the player development process and much more!

Have a great day and shake your Keys!

Geoff

 

 

 

Interview with MASN’s Steve Melewski PART 1

Good Morning Keys Fans!

Hope everyone had a great weekend, and enjoyed Saturday’s holiday event. A HUGE thanks to those who donated toys to Toys for Tots. We were able to fill up 10 boxes, all of which which will go to underprivileged children on Christmas Day.

Keyote Clause was happy to see a lot of youngsters on Saturday. He can also report that Frederick in December is considerably warmer than the North Pole.

Keyote Clause was happy to see a lot of youngsters on Saturday. He can also report that Frederick in December is considerably warmer than the North Pole.

Be wary of avalanches, unless they support a good cause...

Be wary of avalanches, unless they support a good cause…

Among the other highlights were a coo-KEY contest, and a visit by Keyote Clause, who ventured down from the North Pole. All reports indicate that every child that came to visit him was on the “nice list” and should enjoy a great Christmas.

For those of you who are still shopping, I’d encourage you to check out our  2015 Holiday Package! It includes two great options to choose from, beginning at just $75. So hit up one of our account managers at 301-815-9900 and cross someone else off your shopping list! Flex packs and season tickets are also available and EVERY plan comes with either a Zach Britton or Kevin Gausman bobblehead!

Speaking of Kevin Gausman, former baseball executive Jim Duquette said during a hot stove event this weekend that Gausman will be an “impact pitcher” in 2015. Splitting time between Baltimore and the minor leagues, the righty posted a 3.57 ERA over 113.1 big league innings and allowed three runs or less in 16 of his 20 starts. No question Gausman impressed, but one of 2015’s early questions will be can Gausman keep the pace he set this past season. With more innings comes a certain comfort zone, but the reverse is that the dossier on Gausman is a bit thicker. He’ll need to keep making adjustments as hitters get more and more accustomed to him.

MASN’s Roch Kubatko also noted yesterday that former Key Glynn Davis drew some interest from Texas in last week’s Rule 5 draft. In the end, the Rangers didn’t feel comfortable taking a flier on Davis, who has just 26 games of Double-A experience.

A Carolina League All-Star, Glynn Davis hit a combined .299 between Frederick and Double-A Bowie in 2014. It was the  best season of his professional career.

A Carolina League All-Star, Glynn Davis hit a combined .299 between Frederick and Double-A Bowie in 2014. It was the best season of his professional career.

The Rule 5 draft is one of the areas I covered with MASN’s Steve Melewski when I caught up with him on Saturday. Over lunch, Steve and I chatted about baseball, broadcasting and the Army-Navy game. You won’t find a more gracious guy, and one who is more knowledgeable about the Orioles. After we finished eating, he kindly granted my request for an interview. Part one of our talk will “air” today (you can find the soundcloud link below) and centers on the big league team. Among the topics we covered:

-Were you surprised the Orioles were not more active at the meetings?

-What does the loss of Nick Markakis really mean for the club?

-Will the O’s be less inclined to sign a “big name” rightfielder with Dariel Alvarez and Mike Yastrzemski knocking on the major league door?

-The role Buck Showalter has played in developing young talent

You may notice that during the interview Melky Cabrera is referenced. Obviously, he signed with the White Sox yesterday after Steve and I spoke. Part 2 of the interview will air on Wednesday, and will take a look at the Orioles minor league system and some “potential” members of the 2015 Keys.

Enjoy and shake your Keys!

Geoff

 

Winter Meetings Wrap/Could Keys be on the Move?

Good Morning Keys Fans!

The Winter Meetings have entered their final day, and the Orioles appear to be heading home without any big deals done. Any chance of Matt Kemp coming to  the O’s died when the Dodgers asked for Kevin Gausman or Dylan Bundy in return. Justin Upton talks also never gained traction. However as Dan Duquette remarked last night, the team is not about high profile free agents. Trades, the Rule 5 Draft (more about this in a minute), and building and maintaining the farm system are top priorities.

That doesn’t mean the Orioles haven’t looked at ways to address the departures of Nelson Cruz and former Key Nick Markakis. Delmon Young and his agent have been in talks with the Orioles, while Michael Morse and Nori Aoki could be candidates to join the Baltimore outfield. There was also a rumor about Yoenis Cespedes but that doesn’t seem likely at the moment.

Currently, the Orioles are looking at candidates to replace ex-Key Nick Markakis in rightfield.

Currently, the Orioles are looking at candidates to replace ex-Key Nick Markakis in rightfield.

If the O’s are going to act on Thursday, it will be a small-scale move. One need is at backup catcher with  Matt Wieters a question mark for opening day. The O’s have been connected to Sandy Leon, a catcher who has spent time with the Nationals over the last three years. It is possible Nick Hundley could be re-signed as well, but Hundley has made it clear he is looking for more time behind home plate.

Today’s Rule 5 Draft also presents room for activity. As we discussed in an earlier post, players are eligible for the Rule 5 draft who are not on their club’s 40-man roster and:

*were signed at 19 or older and have been in the organization for four years; or

* were signed at 18 or younger and have been in the organization for five years.

Three years ago, the Orioles got Ryan Flaherty via the Rule 5 draft and two years ago T.J. McFarland was acquired the same way. Last year, the club selected Michael Almanzar and Julio Borbon. Neither had any impact. Keys fans briefly saw Almanzar on a rehab assignment before he was designated for assignment, sent back to the Red Sox, and later acquired as a minor league free agent (get all that?).

Almanzar went just 2-for-17 in five games with the Keys

A former Red Sox farmhand, Michael Almanzar went just 2-for-17 in five games with the Keys

The bigger Rule 5 question for the Orioles could be who will they lose? By only adding Tyler Wilson and Mike Wright to the 40-man roster, it left Mychal Givens and Parker Bridwell exposed to the draft. Baseball America thinks Givens might be a Rule 5 pickup, but Jim Callis of MLB Pipeline told MASN’s Steve Melewski he thinks the Orioles will come away unscathed.

I tend to side with Callis. First of all, if Givens or any Orioles player is selected, that individual MUST remain on that club’s 25-man roster for the ENTIRE season. It’s an onerous stipulation and leads some teams not to participate in the Draft at all. Second, Givens has not pitched above Double-A, and has only two full seasons of professional mound time under his belt (he began his professional career as a shortstop). Moreover, his walk numbers are still quite high. At Bowie, he walked over eight per nine innings, while he averaged more than four walks per nine frames in Frederick. For more Rule 5 coverage, I recommend this piece by Melewski.

Some other writings of note:

-Melewski spoke with Orioles Scouting Director Gary Rajisch about next year’s draft and the Orioles farm system. A good chunk of the conversation centered around last year’s top pick, Brian Gonzalez. A left-handed pitcher, Gonzalez will probably spend this season at Low-A Delmarva, but is someone Keys fans can expect to pitch at the Grove in the future.

-Dan Duquette discussed the potential Major League impact former Keys Mike Yastrzemski and Dariel Alvarez could have in 2015

-I wasn’t a big Bill Nye the Science Guy growing up, but here is a video from Sports Science answering the often debated question: Is it faster to slide into first base or run through the bag?

Some Keys notes:

-This Saturday is the Keys Holiday Event! Keyote Clause will be on hand, there will be a coo-KEY contest, and merchandise will be on sale. It will also be the last day for Toys for Tots, so make sure to bring an unwrapped toy and get two free tickets and two hats!

Holiday Party

-2015 Holiday Packages are still available! And if you need a great stocking stuffer, we’ve got two great options to choose from.

- Need a speaker for a meeting, event, assembly, career day, etc..? Then look into the Frederick Keys Speakers Bureau! All talks are tailored to YOUR interests, and the best part? IT’S FREE!

Last but not least, everyone should mark July 26, 2015 on their calendars. Not only will it be a Sunday Funday, but it will be the FIRST EVER Keys media softball game! The event is part of “Anchorman Night” and some media members are already chomping at the bit!

See you on Saturday for the Holiday Event!

Shake your Keys,

Geoff

 

Happy Thanksgiving!

Good Evening Keys Fans!

I know we’re less than 48 hours away from Turkey Day, but I wanted to wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving. The Keys offices will be closed tonight for the holiday, as we all will head home to spend time with family and friends. I know a lot of us in minor league baseball cherish these times because family time comes at a premium during the baseball season. That being said, it’s the reason why I am very thankful for my work family. Co-workers in minor league baseball are really like family members, given how much time they spend together. Sure you want to kill each other from time-to-time, but as most families go, that’s par for the course.

When I look back on my first season here, all I’ll be thinking about are the great memories of this year’s staff. From the Alive at Fives, to post-game trailor shenanigans, and much more, it was a fun year. I can’t wait to see what the next one brings.

Keys Staff Alive at Five

 

A couple of the other things I’m thankful for:

-This year’s Keys coaching staff. Every manager and coach looks at the radio guy a little bit different. Some love him, some hate him, some are indifferent towards him. This year’s staff was terrific, though I’ll give a special shout out to Keys hitting coach Torre Tyson and pitching coach Kennie Steenstra.

Torre Torre always kept me on my toes, and was a ton of fun to work with.

Torre Torre always kept me on my toes, and was a ton of fun to work with. And for my money, one of the best interviews in all of minor league baseball. 

Kennie Steenstra's love of all things Seinfeld made us an instant match. And although this picture doesn't show it, nobody wears an Orioles pullover better.

Kennie Steenstra’s love of all things Seinfeld made us an instant match. And although this picture doesn’t show it, nobody wears an Orioles pullover better.

 

These guys were professional, kept things loose, and were always fun to be around. It didn’t matter if we were on a six-game winning streak or a six-game losing streak, they were the same guys day in and day out. When you’ve got coaches like that, the dog days of summer feel a heck of a lot shorter.

Plus when both guys back you in a pitching competition against strength and conditioning coach Chris Cecere (when both know you are horribly out of shape), that’s love folks.

-To my fellow marketing staff members Bridget McCabe and Christine Roy. Our marketing staff is very close and I’d gladly take a bullet for either one of them (if we can stay away from vital organs that would be great though). In all seriousness, both have made my transition to Frederick a million times smoother, while both constantly keep me on my toes (besides being talented marketing pros, both are very good at playing practical jokes).

-To my broadcasting partner Doug Raftery. Better known as my work wife. We bicker like a married couple at times, but at the end of the day it’s all out of love. I said it on the final day of the season, a great broadcast partner can make a tiny little booth feel like a penthouse suite. It certainly felt that way this season, and I’m sure it will feel even bigger in 2015.

-To my real family. The support of my parents Jamie and Sandra and my young sister Susy and younger brother Matthew means the world to me. I’m not the easiest son, and I miss WAY too much time with them especially during the summer. There a lot of great families out there, but I’d take my own over just about anyone’s.

-Last but not least: to YOU the fans. Without you, we do not exist. Having been to every Carolina League park, and many throughout the rest of the minor leagues, I do not know of a more loving and passionate fan base.

And with that, wherever you go and whoever you’re with have a great Thanksgiving.

Shake your Keys.

Geoff

Former Keys to the 40-man Roster, Unlocking the Mystery of the Rule 5 Draft

Good Evening Keys Fans!

Well it may not be baseball season, but it certainly is “Hot Stove” season. That time of year where baseball pangs are satiated with roster moves, major and minor league transactions and plenty of speculation. The later has already ramped up with the Winter Meetings only weeks away.

Some of the Orioles recent moves (and non-moves) have involved plenty of former Keys.

Last night, Tyler Wilson (’12-13 Keys) and Mike Wright (’12 Keys) were both added to the Orioles 40-man roster, protecting both individuals from the Rule 5 Draft (we’ll explore this mysterious draft further in a moment). Both candidates were very deserving, and it was little surprise both were protected.

Tyler Wilson posted a 3.67 ERA between Double-A and Triple-A last season and was the organization's Pitcher of the Year.

Tyler Wilson posted a 3.67 ERA between Double-A and Triple-A last season and was the organization’s Minor League Pitcher of the Year.

Wilson’s addition to the Orioles 40-man roster was a virtual slam dunk after winning the organization’s Jim Palmer award this season, an honor that goes to the Orioles top minor league pitcher. In 166.2 inning pitched, he led all Baltimore farmhands in wins (14), strikeouts (157) and finished seventh in ERA (3.67). In 12 Triple-A starts, opposing hitters struggled mightily, batting just .239 against him. Wilson last pitched for the Keys in 2013, going 1-1 with a 4.48 ERA in 11 starts.

Mike Wright joins the Orioles 40-man roster following a fantastic finish to his 2014 season.

Mike Wright joins the Orioles 40-man roster following a fantastic finish to his 2014 season.

Earlier this season, I had a chance to interview Carolina Mudcats pitching coach and longtime MLB pitcher Steve Karsay. Towards the end of our chat, he said that as a player you are often judged by how you finish a season. Mike Wright’s 4.61 ERA may not sound sexy, but the way he ended the year was something to behold. In his final seven starts with Norfolk he registered a 0.95 ERA, while in his final 29.2 innings he gave up just ONE RUN.

The highlight of that magical finish came against the Durham Bulls on August 21, when he was one out away from a no-hitter.

That hit may have stung at the time, but my guess is he’ll take inclusion on the 4o-man roster over a minor league no-no. This morning, MASN’s Steve Melewski talked with Wright about his strong finish among other topics.

Although some thought that the Orioles might add more than just Wright and Wilson to the 40-man roster, the club only decided to add two, leaving the O’s with three open roster spots. Parker Bridwell and Mychal Givens (both members of this year’s team) were rumored to be in the mix for 40-man spots, but neither was added. MASN’s Roch Kubatko viewed Bridwell being left out as particularly “surprising.” In the article general manager Dan Duquette provides some reasoning.

So what does it mean that Bridwell and Givens were left off the 40-man roster? For now, nothing. However it could mean something in the couple of weeks.

That’s right folks, a veiled reference was just made to the Rule 5 Draft. Although it sounds nebulous, complicated and a touch frightening, fret not my faithful friends, it isn’t.

The goal of the Rule 5 draft is to prevent teams from stockpiling their minor league systems. So who is eligible ?

Players are eligible for selection in the Rule 5 draft who are not on their major league organization’s 40-man roster and:

* were signed at 19 or older and have been in the organization for four years; or

* were signed at 18 or younger and have been in the organization for five years.

 

The Rule 5 draft lacks the pomp and circumstance of the First Year Player Draft. It occurs on the final day of the Winter Meetings, and some teams don't even make a selection

The Rule 5 draft lacks the pomp and circumstance of the First Year Player Draft. It occurs on the final day of the Winter Meetings, and some teams don’t even make a selection.

As the disclaimer lays out, if you are on your team’s 40-man roster, you CANNOT be selected in the Rule 5 draft.

Thursday was the deadline for 40-man roster additions, so this year’s Rule 5 pool is set. Here is how the draft works:

-Draft order is based on win-loss record, going in reverse order (worst team picks first)

-Any team without any spots left on their 40-man roster CANNOT participate

-A player selected in the Rule 5 draft MUST be added to the selecting team’s 25-man roster, and must remain on the roster for the ENTIRE season. The selected player also must be active for at least 90 days. If he is optioned to the minors or designated for assignment (taken off the 40-man roster) he must be offered back to his original team for $25,000. If the player spends all season on the 25-man roster, he can then be optioned to the minors or designated for assignment.

- A team that selects a player in the Rule 5 draft pays the team that player was originally part of $50,000

There are also Double-A and Triple-A phases of the Rule 5 draft, that work along similar lines.

Teams are not required to make picks in the Rule 5 draft, and reason #3 above details why some teams elect not to. Keeping a player all season long on a 25-man roster can be a great burden. A complete list of Orioles farmhands eligible for the Rule 5 draft can be found  here. You’ll probably recognize a few of the names.

Three more Keys/Orioles notes:

- MAJOR congrats to former Key Oliver Drake on signing a big league contract

- Earlier this afternoon, the Orioles signed several players to minor league deals.

- Former Keys outfielder Xavier Avery (aka X-Man) has signed a minor league contract with the Tigers.

Last but not least, two Keys notes:

Holiday Party

-The Keys annual Holiday Event is on December 13 from 10 a.m.-1 p.m.! Should be a blast, with Keyote Clause and plenty of holiday cheer. AND…if you bring an unwrapped toy for Toys for Tots, you’ll receive two Keys tickets and two hats!

-On Thursday, the Frederick Keys Speakers Bureau was launched! This provides an opportunity for civic groups, businesses, schools and other organizations to have a member of the Keys come and talk at their meeting, event or outing. And the great thing about it? IT’S FREE!!! All talks are tailored to your group’s interests, and can be set up around your group’s schedule. To set up a speech, visit here.

Speakers Bureau MW

Have a good weekend and shake your keys!

Geoff

 

Fall League Comes to An End

Good Evening Keys Fans!

And a happy Friday to everyone! I hope you all have the space heaters turned up as we move into mid-November. After some occasional warm days over the last few weeks, it figures to get a little cooler this weekend. So make sure if you are headed out to bundle up!

Things are a lot warmer in Glendale, AZ, the home of the Arizona Fall League’s Glendale Desert Dogs. However, all seven of the former Keys on the Desert Dogs roster are headed home after the season concluded on Thursday. Glendale and Mesa played to an 11 inning tie in the ‘Dogs finale. Both sides ended with four runs, 10 hits and two errors.

Thanks to a 2-for-5 day at the plate, Garabez Rosa ended his AFL slate with a .308 batting average and Ashur Tolliver tossed a perfect inning to finish with a 2.70 ERA.

Here are the final numbers for all the former Keys in the AFL:

Position Players

Jason Esposito- 23G, .253 AVG, 1 HR, 12 RBI, 2-3B, 2-2B, 6R

Michael Ohlman-12G, .244 AVG, 1 HR, 2RBI, 2-2B, 3R

Garabez Rosa-21G, .308 AVG, 3HR, 11 RBI, 3-2B, 13R

Jason Esposito had a two-run triple in the ninth inning of Tuesday's game to lead Glendale to a 5-4 win.

Jason Esposito had a two-run triple in the ninth inning of Tuesday’s game to lead Glendale to a 5-4 win.

Pitchers

Zach Davies-7G/7GS, 3-0, 1.75 ERA, 25.2 IP, 18H, 5R, 10 BB, 23 SO, 1.09 WHIP

Mychal Givens-10G, 0-2, 3.09 ERA, 11.2 IP, 12H, 6R/4ER, 8 BB, 8 SO

Parker Bridwell- 8G, 0-1, 7.94 ERA, 11.1 IP, 9H, 11R/10ER, 8 BB, 9 SO

Ashur Tolliver-4G, 0-0, 2.70 ERA, 3.1 IP, 3H, 1R, 2 SO

A couple of notes behind the final numbers:

-Davies posted the top ERA among AFL starting pitchers. He finished fourth in strikeouts and fifth in innings pitched. He was also fifth in WHIP among starting pitchers who made six starts or more. Dominant over his last five outings, Davies allowed just 1 run in his final 21 innings (0.43 ERA). That included a 15.1 inning scoreless stretch from October 13-November 4.

Zach Davies was among the top pitchers in the Arizona Fall League.

Zach Davies was among the top pitchers in the Arizona Fall League.

-Although Bridwell’s final ERA was 7.94, six of the 10 runs he allowed came on November 5, over just 0.1 of an inning. Take that one appearance out of the mix, and the Texan’s ERA would have been a very respectable 3.27.

-Esposito finished his Fall League season on a high note, going 5-for-16 (.313) with a triple, five RBIs and two runs scored over his final four games. That included a game-winning two-run three-bagger in the ninth inning of Wednesday’s game against Salt River.

-Rosa finished fourth on the Desert Dogs in batting average.

The Fall League championship game will be tomorrow afternoon at 11:00 a.m. between Peoria (AFL West Champs) and Salt River (AFL East Champs). Although Glendale finished in last in the West division (14-15), they ended only a game behind Peoria in the division race.

On the Major League front, Tommy Hunter is among the MLB players participating in the Japan series. Although Hunter’s lone appearance on Wednesday was uneventful (1 IP, 2H, 0R), things took an interesting turn on the trip to Osaka.

Elsewhere on the Orioles front, some news about former Keys Nick Markakis, Matt Wieters and Zach Britton:

-After negotiations started off slow with Markakis, things have started to pick up. Markakis has said he wants to remain an Oriole.

-Following “Tommy John” surgery on June 17, Wieters got a check-up from Dr. James Andrews on Wednesday. Andrews was pleased with Wieters rehab, meaning the O’s catcher may be ready for opening day.

- Britton is among those up for up for a 2014 “Gibby Award” (in case you were wondering, Gibby stands for Greatness in Baseball Yearly Awards). Britton is up for “Breakout Pitcher of the Year”, Nelson Cruz for “Hitter of the Year”, Andrew Miller for “Setup Man of the Year”, J.J. Hardy for “Defensive Player of the Year” while Buck Showalter and Dan Duquette are up for “Manager of the Year” and “Executive of the Year” respectively. Several Orioles plays are in the “Must C” category as well. Click here to vote.

On the Keys front, there are several terrific ways to get into the holiday season!

Looking for a Christmas present for a friend or loved one? Well we got ya covered:

Holiday Package

Yes friends, it’s called the holiday package. For more information check out the 2015 Holiday Package flyer.

And when you get done purchasing? Feel free to jump for joy that you got some Christmas shopping done:

You just might wanna check to make sure nobody is around (unless you can really break it down like Carlton).

FYI you can also purchase a Keys ticket plan by visiting here. ALL plans come with a Kevin Gausman or Zach Britton bobblehead!

 

Second is through our TurKey competition. Simply create your own turkey hand and tell us what you’re most thankful for. The most creative one will win a prize.

Turkey

Last but not least, get involved with the Keys Toys for Tots Drive! Every new toy comes with two Keys tickets and hats. The drive runs until December 13.

Have a good weekend and shake your keys!

Geoff

Orioles Take Home Some Hardware; Davies Domination in AFL Continues

Good Afternoon Keys Fans!

The O’s may not have won a World Series, but it’s very obvious they have the right people to help them reach that goal in 2015. On Tuesday, Orioles general manager Dan Duquette was named Major League Executive of the Year  by the Sporting News, while Buck Showalter was named  American League Manager of the Year by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.

It is the second time Duquette has won the award (he received it in 1992 when he was general manager of the Montreal Expos) while it is Showalter’s third manager of the year honor. Consider this: Showalter has won a manager of the year award with three different teams with all three honors coming 10 years apart.

The architects of the 2014 Orioles. Tuesday's honor marks the second honor for Duquette and the third for Showalter.

The architects of the 2014 Orioles. Tuesday’s honor marks the second honor for Duquette and the third for Showalter.

This past season may have been his best managerial job yet. Play without Matt Wieters, Manny Machado and Chris Davis and yet manage to go 30 games over .500 and post the most wins as an organization since 1997. Not many could do that.

National League Manager of the Year Matt Williams (Nationals) summed it up by saying. “He [Buck] is the most prepared [manager] I have ever been around.” Congratulations to both men on their awards.

Duquette will not be able to savor his for long though. At the moment he is at the general manager’s meetings in Phoenix. One of his top priorities is resigning Nelson Cruz. Arguably the top offseason acquisition in 2014, the Baltimore Sun’s Eddie Encina reports that the Orioles and Cruz met at the general managers’ meetings on Tuesday. As expected, Cruz turned down the Orioles $15.3 million qualifying offer on Monday.

Former Key Nick Markakis is also among those unsigned. After hitting .276 with the Orioles this past season, Markakis is on the free agent market. His agent will reportedly meet with several teams however the Orioles are not among them at this point. Still Showalter is confident the two sides will get something done. We’ll have to see what transpires.

Although it is not as public, some Orioles minor leaguers are also trying to work out deals/secure landing spots for the 2015 season. Among this year’s Keys, Jesse Beal, Michael Almanzar and Chih-Hsien Chiang are all free agents (according to Baseball America) along with former Keys Matt Bischoff (’12-13), Oliver Drake (’10-11), Eddie Gamboa (’09, ’12), Jason Gurka (’11-12) and Buck Britton (’09-11).

Jesse Beal is a free agent this offseason after spending the last 2 seasons with the Keys

Jesse Beal is a free agent this offseason after spending the last 2 seasons with the Keys.

On the coaching front, this year’s assistant coach/infield instructor Shawn Roof has resigned with the Orioles, but has not been assigned to a club yet. According to MASN’s Steve Melewski, Keys hitting coach Torre Tyson will not be back. Good luck to Torre. A fantastic guy, who was a pleasure to work with. Baseball seasons can feel never-ending at times, but Torre always managed to keep things loose. He’ll be missed for sure.

In other coaching news, ESPN’s Buster Olney reports that O’s infield coordinator Dave Anderson is interviewing for a position with the Angels.

Lastly, former Keys pitcher Zach Davies has been TEARING UP the Arizona Fall League. He recently saw a 15.1 inning scoreless streak come to an end, while on Monday he turned in four innings of one-run baseball to earn his third win. Here is a recent piece about Davies’ success by Melewski.

Stay tuned for more updates!

Shake your Keys!

Geoff

Top 10 Moments of the Season #1

Good Evening Keys Fans!

Ironically, today is the last day of the baseball season and the final installment of our 2014 countdown of the top moment’s of the season. I can say without hesitation, it has been a fun ride (on both fronts).

Tim Hudson takes the mound for the Giants, who will try and win their eighth title and third in their last five seasons. As for the homestanding Royals, they will try for their second title and their first since 1985. That same year, the Royals defeated the St Louis Cardinals in seven games, winning the Series finale 11-0.

Last night was quite a night for a former Keys nemesis, Yordano Ventura. Tossing seven shutout innings, the 23-year-0ld was brilliant under tough circumstances. Just 72 hours prior, Ventura had lost his close friend, Cardinals outfielder Oscar Taveras in a car crash, which took both Taveras and his girlfriend. Ventura said afterwards that his performance was dedicated to Taveras.

On the Orioles front, Evan Meek was outrighted off the Orioles 40-man roster earlier today. Meek split the season between the Orioles and Triple-A Norfolk. He was considerably better during his time with the Tides (1.94 ERA) than the big league club (5.79 ERA). Originally drafted by the Twins, Meek has never sported a Keys uniform.

The move pares the O’s 40-man roster down to 38 heading into the beginning of free agency tomorrow. Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun breaks down what free agency means for the Orioles. Former Key Nick Markakis factors into that conversation as do Zach Britton, Brian Matusz and Matt Wieters who are all up for salary arbitration.

Before we kickoff the Hot Stove season though, it’s time for the top moment of the 2014 season!

drumroll

Although it would have been fun if it came at the Grove, the night of July 5, 2014 was a hard one to forget. It was headlined by Mike Yastrzemski, who became the first Keys player to hit for the cycle since May 2, 2005, when Jeff Fiorentino did the trick against Winston-Salem in a 19-4 Keys win.

Although his big league career was short, Fiorentino hit .286 with 22 home runs  and 66 RBIs in his lone year with the Keys. The 22 home runs are tied for sixth-most in a season by a member of the orange and black.

Although his big league career was short, Fiorentino hit .286 with 22 home runs and 66 RBIs in his lone year with the Keys. The 22 home runs are tied for sixth-most in a season by a member of the orange and black.

Yastrzemski accomplished the feat against the Lynchburg Hillcats, and had everyone at City Stadium the edge of their seats. Although it appeared he had tripled in the first inning, the Keys leadoff man was called out for missing second base, and received only a single. He followed with a two-run double in the second, a ground out in the fourth and an opposite-field two-run homer in the fifth.

In search of the elusive three-bagger, Yaz appeared to have it in the seventh, but elected to stop at second base, much to the chagrin of his teammates. But thanks to the Keys offensive onslaught, Yastrzemski got one last chance in the ninth:

In addition to becoming the first Key to hit for the cycle since 2005, Yaz also became the second member of his family to hit for a cycle in a professional game. Yes, it was his grandfather, Red Sox great Carl Yastrzemski, who accomplished the feat on May 14, 1965 against the Detroit Tigers.

Mike Yastrzemski and his grandfather, Red Sox great, Carl Yastrzemski before an Orioles v Red Sox spring training game.

Mike Yastrzemski and his grandfather, Red Sox great, Carl Yastrzemski before an Orioles v Red Sox spring training game.

The next day, Mike and I spoke about his cycle, and the reason why he didn’t try for third in the seventh inning.

Although Yaz stole the show, Michael Burgess had quite an evening as well, becoming the first Keys player in 2014 to hit two home runs in a game. Here is how the first one sounded:

Burgess143

The performances by Yastrzemski and Burgess were just a few of the reasons why the Keys went on to win 17-3, the most runs the team had scored since 2008.

And that’s all folks! Stay tuned to the Unlocking the Keys blog in the coming weeks! We’ll have hot stove updates, talk about what happens in a minor league front office when baseball is over (no we aren’t sleeping or watching movies). And who knows, maybe we’ll even go on a cool fieldtrip or two!

Talk soon and enjoy game seven!

Shake your Keys,

Geoff

 

Top 10 Moments of the Season #2

Good Evening Keys Fans!

Game six of the World Series takes place tonight in Kansas City, with the Giants ahead of the Royals 3-2. If San Francisco wraps things up, it would be their eighth championship and their third in the last five seasons. No team has won three titles in a five year span since the Yankees did it from 1996-00.

Some terrific news on the Keys front from yesterday, as Parker Bridwell was selected for the Arizona Fall League Fall Stars game.

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He will join former Frederick catcher (and last year’s Carolina League batting champion) Michael Ohlman on the West Division squad. After spending most of his pro career as a starting pitcher, Bridwell has embraced his new role in the bullpen for the Glendale Desert Dogs. The game will be televised on Saturday night at 8 p.m. on MLB Network, while satellite radio subscribers can hear the game on MLB Network radio.

Michael Ohlman is headed to his first Fall Stars game, after playing on the Surprise Saguaros taxi squad last year.

Michael Ohlman is headed to his first Fall Stars game, after playing on the Surprise Saguaros taxi squad last year.

Seven other former Keys earned a feather in their caps on Monday, as Baseball America released its list of the top 10 prospects in the Orioles system. Of the 10, seven had Keys ties, while that number will likely grow to nine by year’s end. Catcher Chance Sisco, who won the South Atlantic League batting title and right-handed pitcher Hunter Harvey also made the list after strong seasons at Low-A Delmarva. Both are projected to be on the Keys opening day roster in 2015.

MASN’s Steve Melewski helped put the list of top 10 prospects together, and did a chat about it yesterday. Dylan Bundy received the top ranking in the O’s system.

It is the fourth straight year Bundy has been listed as the No. 1 O's prospect by Baseball America.

It is the fourth straight year Bundy has been listed as the No. 1 O’s prospect by Baseball America.

And with that, it’s time to continue our top 10 countdown! We are currently down to the second-best moment of the season, and will go back to the second-to-last series of the year. Trying to keep pace with the Lynchburg Hillcats for the wildcard, Frederick would go for its fourth win in five games against Salem on Friday, August 29.

Despite earning a decisive 10-3 win over the Sox on Thursday, the season-finale against Salem did not get off to a promising start against Jacob Dahlstrand. The hard-throwing righty scattered just two hits over the first five innings, while his team helped him out with a big fourth.  Sending seven men to bat, the Sox used two fielder’s choices and a home run from an unlikely source to take a 4-0 edge.

Normally a slap hitter, Guerrero’s longball was a surprise. Just as surprising, was that Keys were in a 4-0 hole with Mark Blackmar on the mound, a pitcher who had not allowed four earned runs in a game in more than a month and a half (ironically the previous time had also been against Salem).

Nevertheless, the Keys battled. After a double-play  cost the club a chance at runs in the fifth, Jerome Pena made a great swing on a tough pitch.

Pena's two-homer game was the first of his professional career.

Pena’s two-homer game was the first of his professional career.

Later in the inning a single by Johnny Ruettiger, a double by Adrian Marin and an RBI ground out by Trey Mancini would make it a 4-2 game.

Blackmar pitched a clean seventh, while the Sox would stick with Dahlstrand in the home-half of the inning. But after a walk and a single to open the inning, Salem went to Kyle Martin in the bullpen.

Newcomer Austin Wynns came on to bunt, and got the job done to move the runners to second and third. It was an easy call for manager Luis Pujols to make, but in hindsight, it wasn’t necessary:

This season, Pena, Michael Burgess and Jason Esposito all hit two home runs in a game. Pena’s blast meanwhile was the knockout punch, as the Keys added one more run in the eighth before getting scoreless innings from Dylan Rheault and Lex Rutledge to close the door. It proved to be a pivotal comeback win. Without it, the Keys playoff chances would have taken a major hit (Lynchburg also won the same night).

Stay tuned when we wrap up our countdown tomorrow!

Shake your Keys!

Geoff

Top 10 Moments of the Season-#3

Good Evening Keys Fans!

We are up to moment #3 on our countdown, after hearing about the Keys season-best six-game winning streak last night.

Before we continue though, a couple of news items:

-This morning three members of the Orioles were named finalists for Rawlings Gold Glove awards. That includes former Key Nick Markakis.

A gold glove finalist, Markakis hit .310 while playing in the Frederick outfield in 2005.

A gold glove finalist, Markakis hit .310 while playing in the Frederick outfield in 2005.

Markakis is trying for his second Gold Glove award, after capturing his first one in 2011. He will be competing for the award alongside Tampa Bay’s Kevin Kiermaier and Los Angeles’ Kole Calhoun. O’s shortstop J.J. Hardy (two gold gloves) and center fielder Adam Jones (three gold gloves) are also up for awards. Winners are determined by managers and coaches (75% of the voting) and by the Society of Sabermetric Research (25% of the voting). Here is a full rundown on the Orioles’ finalists by MLB.com’s Brittany Ghiroli.

-RHP Josh Stinson who pitched eight games with the Orioles this year, and made a one game cameo with the Keys in 2013 has agreed to a minor league contract with the Pirates after being designated for assignment. He also received an invitation to Major League Spring Training.

-In other transactions, former Keys Michael Burgess, Bobby Bundy, Marcel Prado, Williams Louico, and Garabez Rosa have all been re-signed  by the Orioles according to Baseball America.

Michael Burgess finished fourth in the Carolina League with 15 home runs and was among the league leaders in batting average, RBIs, doubles, extra-base hits, total bases and slugging percentage before a July promotion to Double-A Bowie.

Michael Burgess finished fourth in the Carolina League with 15 home runs and was among the league leaders in batting average, RBIs, doubles, extra-base hits, total bases and slugging percentage before a July promotion to Double-A Bowie.

-Ever thought about working for the Keys? Now’s your chance! Click here to check out some of the openings we have for assistants. Positions are available in marketing, ticketing, and stadium operations. You can also apply for an internship.

And now it’s on to the countdown! Just like moment #4 involved more than just one game, we are splitting moment #3 into two separate conests.

Arguably, the two most-dominant pitching performance of the year belonged to Parker Bridwell. After a challenging April, the Texan picked up his first Carolina League win in style on May 13 against Potomac. Tossing a career-high 8.1 innings (the longest outing by a Frederick pitcher all year) Bridwell carried a no-hitter into ninth inning.

A little more than three months later, he would torch the Nationals a second time. In the Keys final road game of the year, Bridwell carried a perfect game into the seventh inning while striking out 13 (also the most punch outs by a Frederick starter all year).

Bridwell300

May 13 

Entering his second May start, Bridwell was 0-5 with a 6.94 ERA. However, in his seventh start of the season there were some bright spots. Namely, the changeup that worked so well for him at Delmarva the year prior was back.

After working on the pitch between starts, and adjusting his grip, something clicked. And it would show on May 13 against the CL North’s top club, the Potomac Nationals.

Bridwell breezed through the first inning, using only 11 pitches, while that trend would continue through the next five stanzas. By the sixth, no member of the P-Nats had reached base. However, Cole Leonida changed that, coaxing a walk following a seven-pitch plate appearance. Bridwell stayed tough though, utilizing a pop out and a fly out to get out of the inning as well as a 1-2-3 seventh.

With something special in the air, Bridwell came back on for the eighth. Randolph Oduber grounded out to get things started and Brandon Miller struck out swinging, before McQuillan gave Bridwell his biggest scare of the night:

Between innings, Doug Raftery and I called it the play of the year, and looking back, I can’t remember a more memorable catch all season than the one made by Burgess. Later on, they would make a sketch on left field wall where Burgess “left his mark.”

In the ninth, Bridwell retired the first batter he faced, before a walk to Justin Miller sent up Tony Renda:

That would end Bridwell’s night, but it was a performance he would not forget. It also marked the second straight year where he had carried a no-no into the ninth inning.

August  25

Following a doubleheader the day before and a long week of baseball ahead, the Keys needed innings from Bridwell against the Nationals.

Having not seen Potomac since that magical May night, Bridwell picked up where he left off.

Through four innings, Bridwell had struck out eight, punching out the side in second and fourth innings. After five innings he was up to 10 strikeouts, before equaling the largest output by a Keys pitcher in the sixth inning (Branden Kline had 11 on June 7).

He also had a 6-0 lead to boot, following a four-run Frederick fourth and a two-run single by Jerome Pena in the sixth.

With the evening feeling eerily similar to May 13, Bridwell retired his 19th straight batter on a flyout by Isaac Ballou, now the question became, could Bridwell get past Renda.

Sitting above home plate, I could only shake my head. Good pitch, good location, just a good swing by Renda. Talking to Bridwell a few days later, he said he liked the pitch he made, but acknowledged Renda made another good swing. I guess if one guy is going to haunt you, it might as well be the Carolina League batting champ (Renda ended the year with a .307 average).

In spite of Renda’s hit, Bridwell finished strong. He would strike out big league rehabber Steven Souza Jr and then get McQuillan on strikes, before pitching a speedy eighth.

Brady Wager would come on for the ninth to complete the shutout, to give the Keys their 36th road win of the year.

We’ve got two moments in our countdown left! What do you think they’ll be?

Shake your Keys!

Geoff

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