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Remembering Ramon Ramirez

Good Afternoon Keys Fans,

On Sunday morning, the Keys and the Orioles received word about the tragic passing of Ramon Ramirez, a utility infielder who finished the 2015 season in Frederick. Only 23 years old, Ramirez was killed in a motorcycle accident after leaving a softball game in his hometown of La Romana.

Orioles Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations, Dan Duquette, issued the following statement:

“Our entire organization is deeply saddened by the sudden and tragic death of Ramon Ramirez,” Baltimore’s Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations Dan Duquette said in a statement. “As a member of the Orioles organization, Ramon worked tirelessly to make the most of his opportunity to play professional baseball. Our thoughts are with his family, friends, teammates and coaches as we mourn this unimaginable loss.”

Ramon Ramirez was killed in a motorcycle accident on Saturday night in the Dominican Republic.

Ramon Ramirez was killed in a motorcycle accident on Saturday night in the Dominican Republic.

Signed by the Orioles as a non-drafted free agent in 2014, he split his 2015 season between Frederick, Aberdeen and the GCL Orioles, batting .143 in 23 combined games.

Although only seven of those came with the orange and black (including the team’s season finale on Labor Day against Winston-Salem) Ramirez left a strong impression on manager Orlando Gomez and his Keys teammates.

In an article by Tyler Maun of MiLB.com, Gomez praised the professionalism and strong work ethic of Ramirez:

“To be honest with you, I think he was the kind of example of how to work,” said Orlando Gomez, Ramirez’s manager at Frederick last season. “He loved to work every day. Through [batting practice], he takes ground balls at second, third, short, turning double plays. He was very enthusiastic. Every day, he was ready to play. When he didn’t play, he was there watching the game, and I liked him because his attitude and the way he handled himself was very professional.”

These sentiments were shared by Ramon’s teammates:

Countless others took to social media to remember “Ram Ram” as he was affectionately known. Although I didn’t have as many interactions with Ramon as his coaches and teammates, what I’ll remember the most was the incredible work ethic Gomez spoke of. Every day was a chance to get better. If you watched batting practice, Ramon was in constant motion. Getting reps at third, short and second base, he wanted to be prepared when his name was called.

Personally, I enjoyed watching him take ground balls at third the most, as it gave him the best chance to show off his rocket of an arm. Off the field, he was quiet and reserved but usually had a smile on his face. He was doing what he loved, and you could tell.

For myself and the rest of the Keys organization, we’ll be praying for Ramon’s family, friends, teammates and coaches during this difficult time.

Shake your Keys,

Geoff

 

 

 

Keys Announce Coaching Staff and a Chat with Tad Gold

Good Morning Keys Fans!

And happy New Year! After a nice break, I hope your emails are less clogged, your to-do lists a little shorter and your resolutions (or at least one) still intact. There’s no doubt 2016 has plenty of good stuff waiting for all of us.

One news item I know many of you were interested in was word about this year’s coaching staff. Clarity was provided on Tuesday, as the Orioles announced Keith Bodie as the new manager of the Frederick Keys. He will be joined by another newcomer in Erik Pappas. A former big league catcher, outfielder and first baseman, the Chicago native comes to the Orioles after two years as the Cardinals Double-A hitting coach.

Three faces will remain the same. Kennie Steenstra returns as the Keys pitching coach, Brian Guzman reprises his role as the team’s trainer, while Chris Cecere stays on as strength and conditioning coach.

Coaching Staff for Blog

Some of you have wondered about Orlando Gomez and Paco Figueroa. Orlando remains with the Orioles, and will be mentoring some of the organization’s top young prospects in the Gulf Coast League. As for Paco, he is now a minor league hitting coordinator for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Both were awesome to work with and will be missed.

For a full listing of Orioles Minor League coach assignments click here.

Bodie becomes the 21st manager in Keys history, after he spent last season as the hitting coach at Double-A Bowie. A veteran minor league manager, Bodie has led teams from Class A to AAA, compiling an impressive record of 1,223-1,108 (.525).

The last time Bodie managed was 2014, when he skippered the Astros Double-A team in Corpus Christi. He had winning records in all three of his seasons with the Hooks, while if you go back a little farther, Bodie has been over .500 in 12 of his 18 years as a manager. That’s an encouraging sign, considering the Keys have not been to the playoffs since 2011.

Obviously those chances will improve if Frederick can get a healthy Hunter Harvey on its roster. This week, Harvey participated in the Orioles minicamp featuring some of the organization’s top minor league pitchers. He throw a bullpen session on Wednesday, and is on track for spring training, declaring himself 100% healthy. Ex-Key Dylan Bundy also appeared in good shape, throwing alongside Harvey.

Courtesy: Roch Kubatko MASN

Courtesy: Roch Kubatko MASN

 

Among others at the minicamp were former Keys Chris Lee and Parker Bridwell. Jon Meoli from the Baltimore Sun discussed how several mechanical changes Lee made in Frederick turned him into a serious prospect. A lot of the credit goes to Kennie Steenstra, who explained Lee’s rapid growth in the article.

Bridwell is now healthy after being shut down due to elbow tightness, but after a PRP injection is also ready for spring training.

Other Keys are getting preparing by playing some winter league games. Among them is Tad Gold, who is suiting up for the Perth Heat in the Australian Baseball League.

Comprised of native Aussies and “imports” from the United States, the ABL is made up of six teams with a schedule of 45 games.

On Wednesday morning (or Wednesday night his time) Tad and I did an extended interview about his time in the land down under. In our chat, the Martha’s Vineyard native elaborated on his time with Perth, how pro ball in Australia differs from that in the United States and what it is like to live with a baby (not his) as well as a few Keys teammates.

Our complete conversation is available here:

We will be working to do interviews with several more Keys players/coaching staff members each week before spring training so stay tuned!

Before we go, I wanted to let everyone know that Keys staff will be participating in the MSP Polar Bear Plunge on Friday, January 29. All proceeds go to Special Olympics Maryland, while you can contribute to the Keys fundraising efforts by visiting here. Since we sent out our press release yesterday, MSP has updated its plunge total to $610,888. That’s a lot of great work for a great cause.

Once again happy new year and shake your Keys!

Geoff

Wrapping up the Year with Keys GM Dave Ziedelis and Christmas List Ideas

Good Afternoon Keys Fans!

Hope everyone is getting into the holiday spirit with Christmas roughly one week away. If you’re done with your shopping, give yourself a gold star. If you’re like me and haven’t gotten started, don’t fret, there’s time. You just have to be decisive when making your rounds (without fighting other shoppers of course).

In today’s blog, we’ll put a bow around 2015. For those who did not know, the Keys offices will close starting tomorrow at 5 pm and will not reopen until Monday, January 4 at 9 am. That means if you want to purchase your Keys holiday packages you need to get moving!

Full details about the 2016 Holiday Package are available by clicking on the link, but here’s a quick summary:

Holiday Package

  • Option 1-Mattress Warehouse Club Package-2 tickets to Christmas in July game, Keys holiday ornament, FIREWORKS
  • Option 2-Flex Pack Package-1 Flex Pack, Keys holiday ornament, AND….a Manny Machado/Jonathan Schoop DOUBLE BOBBLEHEAD!!!

Anyone want to guess which option I’d pick? And for those wondering, here is a look at the double bobblehead:

No extra charge for the special handshake BTW..

No extra charge for the special handshake BTW..

As one final reminder, these bobbleheads WILL NOT be a 2016 Keys giveaway item. To get one, you’ll need to purchase a Keys ticket plan. So hit up our groups office at 301-815-9900. They’ll take good care of you.

If you’re in need of additional shopping ideas, you can peruse the Keys online store by clicking here. Hats, polos, t-shirts, hoodies, whatever you need, it’s there.

This past weekend it was cool to see the occasional Keys hat at Orioles Fest. Plenty of former and future Keys were also in attendance, and MASN’s Steve Melewski spoke to a few for his latest blog.

Meanwhile, Melewski helped Baseball America put together it’s list of  top 10 Orioles prospects going into 2016. Six had Keys ties while one or two could begin the year at Nymeo Field. For those who follow the Keys and Orioles minor leagues intently, I highly recommend reviewing the transcript from Steve’s live chat on Monday via BA’s website.

Added to the O's 40-man roster in November, Chris Lee was ranked No. 6 overall.

Added to the O’s 40-man roster in November, Chris Lee was ranked No. 6 overall.

Dylan Bundy ranked No. 1 for the fifth straight year, but he’ll need to make the Orioles roster or be exposed to waivers. He has no minor league options remaining.

I don’t want to get too far into 2016 though. Before saying so long to the year that was, let’s take one more look back at 2015. To provide some insight/analysis I turned to Keys GM Dave Ziedelis. Among our discussion topics: attendance, the Keys new naming rights partnership with Nymeo, Nickelodeon Night (with Rugrats uniforms), and guest appearances.

Personally, my favorite thing about this year was Nickelodeon Night. Complete with fun in-game promotions, Rugrats videos and unbelievable uniforms (pickle pants and all) it might rank as the coolest thing I’ve ever seen on a baseball field. Here are some photos from the evening:

IMG_6239IMG_6251
IMG_6409Christine Roy (Keys Promotions Manager) and Bridget McCabe (Keys Marketing Director) deserve a ton of credit for making it happen.

Some other highlights from this past season in no particular order:

-A stadium naming rights partnership

– Fourth-highest attendance in club history

– Top attendance in Advanced-A baseball (spanning 30 teams across the Carolina, California and Florida State Leagues)

– 17 player promotions to Double-A or Triple-A and nine alumni reaching the majors

-An appearance by America’s favorite game show host and one of television’s top guest stars EVER (yes I am referring to Pat Sajak and the Soup Nazi).

-Some of minor league baseball’s best specialty jerseys EVER

-An Orioles Minor League Player of the Year

And those are just some of the big ones. What were some of your favorite memories from the year? Let us know on Facebook and Twitter.

Happy Holidays and talk in 2016!

Geoff

 

 

Winter Is the Theme Folks (Specifically Meetings and Leagues)

Good Afternoon Keys Fans!

We’re going to stick with “winter” as today’s blog theme. And while this may not sound shocking, we’re going to be examining the winter meetings and the winter leagues (show of hands if you’re confused). I know, it’s a pretty simple concept.

This year’s winter meetings are in Nashville, and plenty of Orioles reporter are on hand. One of those is MASN’s Steve Melewski, who spoke with Orioles Director of Player Development Brian Graham on Tuesday. The two discussed Dylan Bundy, Hunter Harvey and Jomar Reyes.

As many of you know, Bundy is out of minor league options and must make the Orioles roster out of spring training. It seems likely the former Key would pitch in relief, but O’s skipper Buck Showalter avoided specifics during an interview with MLB Network Radio:

Nice save by Showalter. Keys fans won’t be seeing Bundy this upcoming season (unless it’s on a rehab assignment) but Hunter Harvey and Jomar Reyes are both possibilities, with Reyes a lock to start the year at Nymeo Field. Only 18 years old at the moment (he will turn 19 on February 20) Reyes has tremendous raw power and moves well for 6-3, 230. He is working out in the Dominican after breaking a left hamate bone during instructional league.

Harvey did not pitch anywhere this year due to elbow issues (he last threw in a game in July 2014). Following a platelet-rich plasma injection in May, the righty was shut down again during instructional league (also killing any chances of him appearing in the Arizona Fall League). Nonetheless, Graham is encouraged by Harvey’s progress, and expects to see him at a January mini-camp in Sarasota.

Does Harvey start the year in Frederick? It’s tough to say at this point, given that he hasn’t pitched in a real game in quite some time. With Delmarva his numbers were good, as he went 7-5 with a 3.18 ERA in 17 starts and was selected for the Futures Game. My guess is if he stays healthy and performs well in spring training, he gets the bump to Frederick.

According to Melewski, Reyes as well as Tanner Scott and Chance Sisco have been brought up in Orioles trade talks. Let’s just say I don’t have this Kevin McAlister look on my face:

Kevin McAlisterTo get in the conversation for some big trade pieces, you need to give something up and the trio of Scott, Sisco and Reyes are three of the best in the Orioles system. For those of you who don’t know Scott, he split time between Short-Season and Low-A this year, going a combined 4-3 with a 3.83 ERA. From there, he was assigned to the Arizona Fall League where he dazzled scouts with a fastball reaching up to triple digits (he went 0-1 with a 2.08 ERA in 8 games FYI). He was also named to the AFL’s Top Prospect Team.

The hope is not to lose Scott (since left-handers with 100 mph heat do not grow on trees) but we should note that his walk numbers are high (5.1 BB/9IP) and his time in the AFL was limited to just 8 innings. If he doesn’t go anywhere, my guess is he’ll be suiting up for the Keys in 2016.

Chris Davis still hasn’t made on decision, with ESPN’s Buster Olney reporting that the Orioles have offered 7 years and around $150 million. Obviously the team hopes that Davis takes the offer, but the club has spoken to Justin Upton as well. He may not have Davis power, but he is still one of the top outfielders on the market. Additionally, MASN’s Roch Kubatko points out that Upton is somewhat local (coming from Virginia) and is friends with Adam Jones, two factors which could help.

It may not be the avenue to replace Chris Davis, but the Orioles will probably make at least one selection in the Rule 5 draft on Thursday. Players are eligible for the Rule 5 draft if:

they are not on their 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.

Melewski spoke with Baseball America’s JJ Cooper about potential targets for the Orioles who have the No. 15 pick. Remember any player selected in the Rule 5 draft must spend the ENTIRE season in the majors or be offered back to his original club. In the past the Orioles have been helped out by Rule 5 picks such as Ryan Flaherty and T.J McFarland, so it can be a useful avenue.

Outside of the Winter Meetings, former Keys pitcher and knuckleballer, Eddie Gamboa, is tearing it up for the Mayos de Navojoa in the Mexican Pacific League.  Over 10 starts he is 4-1 with a 2.59 ERA. The MPL’s leader in innings pitched (66) he ranks third in ERA. Gene Escat (2013-14 Keys) is also on the team.

Eddie Gamboa spent all of 2015 with Triple-A Norfolk and has revitalized his career by throwing the knuckleball.

Eddie Gamboa spent all of 2015 with Triple-A Norfolk and has revitalized his career by throwing the knuckleball.

Meanwhile, Garabez Rosa ranks third in the Dominican Winter League in batting average (.351) and fourth in on-base percentage (.403) for the Gigantes del Cibao.

That’s all folks! Keep following for more hot stove news, plus don’t forget to join us at O’s Fest this weekend at the Baltimore Convention Center!

The event runs from 11am-6pm, while we’ll have a table set up where fans can get more information about the 2016 season.

Shake your Keys!

Geoff

 

Steve Melewski Interview Part 2

Good Afternoon Keys Fans!

Hope all of you had a great Thanksgiving and that nobody got pummeled in any Black Friday shopping lines. If you did, feel free to go wild on Cyber Monday.

Speaking of Cyber Monday, today wrapped up the bidding for Jake Arrieta’s jersey. Thanks to everyone who participated. As we noted in this space before, proceeds from the auction go to Frederick Keys Care.

If you are looking for a Keys-related gift for a loved one, check out the Keys online store! Whether you want a t-shirt, sweatshirt, hoodie, hat, polo (or all of the above) we’ve got you covered!

2015 Holiday event 640

You can also purchase merchandise in person this Saturday from 11am-2pm at the Keys Holiday Event. The fun will take place in the Mattress Warehouse Club, and will also include a holiday coo-KEY contest, Christmas tunes, and a chance to meet and take pictures with Keyote Clause. Not sure if the full complement of reindeer will be on the Nymeo Field roof or up at the North Pole.

Fans interested in purchasing a 2016 Holiday Package can also speak with a member of the club’s groups department. There are two GREAT options to choose from, while the Flex Pack includes a Manny Machado-Jonathan Schoop DOUBLE BOBBLEHEAD.

Then the following Saturday, joins the Keys at O’s Fest! The event runs from 11am-6pm and will take place at the Baltimore Convention Center. For those who haven’t been before, there are autograph sessions, Q/A’s with Orioles players and coaches, interactive clinics and fun games.

O's Fest

As always, the Keys will have a table where fans can get more information about the upcoming season. Don’t miss out! To get your tickets, and additional information, visit here.

On the baseball front, I’m sure many of you have heard already, but former Keys outfielder L.J. Hoes is returning to the Orioles. In a corresponding move, Andy Wilkins was designated for assignment.

Originally selected by the Orioles in the 3rd round of the 2008 draft, Hoes batted .266 with Frederick over 138 games from 2010-11. Traded to Houston for Bud Norris in July 2013, Hoes played in only eight games with the Astros this season, going 4-for-15.

Born in Washington, D.C, Hoes talked about his homecoming in this candid and humorous piece with MASN’s Roch Kubatko.

On a smaller note, ex-Key (and 2015 rehabber) Kevin Gausman has undergone LASIK surgery to improve his eyesight to 20-15. While it means the days of the fashionable shades are over, those of us with a Gausman Keys bobblehead from this past year can at least remember the throwback look.

In part 2 of my chat with MASN’s Steve Melewski, we hit on some topics that were a little more interesting than Gausman’s newly found fashion sense.

Specifically, we took a look at the farm, with special attention given to those with Keys ties.

Among the items we covered:

-The additions of Chris Lee and Parker Bridwell to the Orioles 40-man roster

-Can Trey Mancini take over 1st base if Chris Davis leaves?

-Where does Dylan Bundy fit into the Orioles 2016 plans?

-One Key who stepped up BIG TIME in the Arizona Fall League

-Players who will make their way to Frederick this season

We are aiming to do some more interviews with players/coaches/Orioles writers at the winter meetings next Saturday. Who would like to hear from?

Shake your Keys!

Geoff

Counting Your Blessings and a Chat with MASN’s Steve Melewski

Good Morning Keys Fans!

An early Happy Thanksgiving to everyone! Enjoy the time with family and friends as well as turkey and trimmings. And as a word to the wise, don’t fight the tryptophanic coma. I know it won’t end well, and deep down inside so do you….

The Keys offices will close at 1 o’clock today and will not reopen until 9 am on Monday. Nonetheless fans can still bid on the jersey of National League Cy Young Award winner and former Keys right-hander Jake Arrieta! It is autographed on the back, while bids will be accepted up until November 30.

Obviously an Arrieta jersey would be a great Christmas present, but the Keys also offer a holiday package  consisting of two great options starting as low as $75!

Holiday Package

Option one consists of two Mattress Warehouse Club tickets for the Keys Christmas in July game on July 22 (which includes a postgame fireworks show).

Option two is the Reserved Seat Flex Pack. For $95 fans receive 10 undated vouchers which can be redeemed for ANY 2016 regular season home game (s). Additionally, this option will come with a Manny Machado and Jonathan Schoop DOUBLE BOBBLEHEAD. You heard that right! Both holiday packages also include your choice of a Keys Christmas ornament.

These can be purchased by calling 301-815-9900 or you can pick up one at the Keys Holiday Event on December 5 from 11am-2pm. Those who attend can do some holiday shopping, take pictures with Keyote Clause (who will be making a quick trip from the North Pole) and enjoy a holiday coo-KEY contest.

It is also the final day to make a donation to Toys for Tots. Remember, those who donate a new, unwrapped toy will receive two tickets to a 2016 game and two Keys hats!

Changing gears to baseball news a HUGE congratulations to former Keys Chris Lee and Parker Bridwell for being added to the Orioles 40-man roster last Friday. Both were highly deserving and will report to big league spring training next March.

A May acquisition by the Orioles, Lee made several mechanical adjustments working with Keys pitching coach Kennie Steenstra and took off.

A May acquisition by the Orioles, Lee made several mechanical adjustments working with Keys pitching coach Kennie Steenstra and took off.

The other individual added was Andrew Triggs who played for Double-A Bowie this year and was among the best relievers on the Orioles farm. Although never a Key, I covered Triggs when he played for Wilmington in 2013. One of the nicest, most engaging players I have ever worked with.

For more reactions from the three players, here is a piece from MASN’s Steve Melewski

Speaking of Melewski, he joined me on Tuesday afternoon for a little hot stove talk. We split this chat into two parts, with part 1 discussing Major League Orioles news and part 2 focusing on O’s minor leaguers. A link to  part 1 can be found below. Among the items we covered:

  • The O’s commitment to resigning Chris Davis
  • Starting pitching targets
  • Who takes over in the 8th inning if Darren O’Day picks up and leaves?
  • Matt Wieters accepting the Orioles qualifying offer

Part 2 will run on Monday’s blog post, and will look at the additions of Lee and Bridwell to the 40-man roster among other topics.

Before saying so long in this final post before Thanksgiving, I would be remiss if I didn’t discuss some things that I am thankful for. It has been a blessing to be in Frederick for the last two seasons. Our staff has been awesome, while I’ve gotten the chance to work with some great players and coaches.

Talking about every player, coach or staff member in this space would be an impossible, time-consuming task that would take hours, so I am going to focus on just a few folks:

-Dave Ziedelis: Our General Manager for giving me the chance to come to Frederick. He is there for advice when I need it, but also gives me the space and freedom to do my thing.

-Bridget McCabe: The Keys Director of Marketing and my cube mate for the last two years. She is great at planning and organizing, and laughs at all my jokes and random musings.

Christine Roy: The Keys Promotions Manager for her fun-loving personality and all her help with graphics.

Doug Raftery: My broadcast partner of two years and hopefully many more. It’s been a fun ride partner.

Orlando Gomez: This year’s manager and one of my all-time favorites. It doesn’t matter what type of a day you’re having, he finds a way to make it better.

Kennie Steenstra: The Keys pitching coach for the last two seasons and fellow Seinfeld fanatic. His sarcastic sense of humor and love of social media always makes for fun mid-morning chats.

Paco Figueroa: “Tio Paco” is not just a great hitting coach, but a great friend. Kind, positive and engaging, he finds a way to impact everyone he encounters.

Justin Viele: Our hilarious outfield coach who is destined for great things. Always enjoyed our talks about life and the value of being yourself.

And finally to YOU the fans, the best in Minor League Baseball. Your passion and love for the Keys makes this a very special place.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Geoff

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another Year of Wieters!

Good Evening Keys Fans!

Hope everyone is enjoying their Monday. Regardless of what happened to your NFL team (looking at you Baltimore Ravens) the weekend still should have been a good one, if for no other reason than how it got started: MATT WIETERS WILL BE AN ORIOLE IN 2016! Although many of you heard the news about the former Key, rest assured you can still shout it from the mountain tops and not get any weird looks (assuming you are standing on the mountain by yourself).

Wieters will receive $15.8 million in 2016, while giving the Orioles time to work out a long-term extension. He became the first Scott Boras client to ever accept a QO and is one of three big leaguers that elected to do so, joining Houston’s Colby Rasmus and Dodgers left-hander Brett Anderson.

The O’s longtime catcher said afterwards that he was “leaning towards accepting the offer all along” and that his main goal is to have a full year healthy in Baltimore.

Matt Wieters will play for the Orioles in 2016 after accepting the team's qualifying offer.

Matt Wieters will play for the Orioles in 2016 after accepting the team’s qualifying offer.

One of those excited by the news was fellow catcher, Caleb Jospeh, who noted that he’d love to be Wieters backup for the next 10 years. Praise gets no higher than that from someone at your position group.

Not surprisingly, Chris Davis and Wei-Yin Chen both turned down qualifying offers. The Orioles are working on a deal with Davis, and on Sunday, Dan Duquette made it clear that the team DOES HAVE funds to sign Davis. Here are his comments while appearing on the MLB Network Radio show the Front Office:

Duquette also noted that the O’s would like to sign a top of the rotation starter:

Seen as a possible fit for the Orioles, Marco Estrada will not be that individual. Following a stellar season, the Blue Jays righty signed a two-year, $26 million extension with Toronto.

Estrada was just an early option as far as “top of the rotation” starters go, but how much will the Orioles pay? MASN’s Steve Melewski runs some numbers about the club’s payroll outlook for 2016.

On the Keys front, the latest Arizona Fall League update is up and it takes a look at Chance Sisco’s strong finish to the AFL slate. Following a 2-for-16 start, he is batting .333 in his last eight games.

Sisco hit over .300 with Frederick in 2015 before an August promotion to Double-A

Sisco hit over .300 with Frederick in 2015 before an August promotion to Double-A

You might also want to check out the numbers on flame thrower Tanner Scott. A left-hander who can reach triple digits, Scott figures to pitch for the Keys at some point next season.

In the Australian Baseball League (yes they play baseball in the land down under) Derek Peterson continues to thrive for the Perth Heat, batting .316 in 15 games with nine RBIs and three extra-base hits. He has four RBIs in his last three games and has hit safely in eight of nine contests. The son of Orioles Director of Pitching Development, Rick Peterson, Derek proved to be a solid contact hitter with the Keys when he was called up.

Other Keys playing for Perth include Anthony Caronia, Tad Gold and Matt Taylor. Taylor has a 3.27 ERA in four games (two starts), while Gold and Caronia have seen consistent time as well. An interview with Gold can be found here where the Martha’s Vineyard native talks about spending his fall/winter in Australia.

Speaking of interviews, we’ll try and catch up with some members of this year’s team about their season/off seasons in the coming weeks. Feel free to drop me a line if there is someone you’d like to hear from.

For Keys fans, holiday packages are on sale!

Holiday Package

This includes two great options to chose from, while more information is available here: 2016 Holiday Package. Also, don’t forget about our annual Holiday Event! The fun will take place on Saturday, December 5 from 11am-2pm in the Mattress Warehouse Club. Fans can shop, take pictures with Keyote Clause and participate in a special cooKEYS competition by bringing your best baked goods to the event!

Have a good night and shake your Keys!

Geoff

 

Wrapping up the Countdown while Getting into the Holiday Spirit

Good Evening Keys Fans!

And Happy Veterans Day to everybody. It’s easy to take it for granted, but without their service and the continued service of our military members none of us would be able to do what we love everyday. So if you see a veteran today out and about, thank them.

Before we address some O’s news, some Keys items:

-The Keys Holiday Event is set for Saturday, December 5! Fans can drop by the Mattress Warehouse Club from 11am-2 pm and enjoy some holiday cheer. There will be Keys merchandise, a holiday cookie contest is scheduled, while someone might even make a visit from the North Pole…

2015 Holiday event 640

That’s right boys and girls Keyote Claus! So make your plans and start your holiday season with the Keys!

Our holiday celebration will also be the last day to contribute to our Toys for Tots Drive. We are currently collecting new, unwrapped toys from 9-5 each day. Fans can drop off toys in our main office, while EVERYONE who contributes will receive two Keys tickets to a 2016 home game and two hats!

Last year Nymeo Field was the top Toys for Tots collection destination in Frederick County, so let’s make it happen again!

One week after the Keys Holiday Event, we will be at O’s Fest! The event runs from 11am-6pm at the Baltimore Convention Center, so make sure to drop by the table and say hello!

O's Fest

On the Orioles front, congrats to former Keys shortstop, Manny Machado who won his second American League Gold Glove last night, besting Evan Longoria and Adrian Beltre. Even though he is entrenched at third base now, I still found it interesting to hear that Machado practices at shortstop during the offseason to improve his range at third.

The news was not quite as encouraging for Dylan Bundy, who after being scratched from an AFL start on Monday seems unlikely to start another game in the Fall League reports MASN’s Roch Kubatko. In two starts for Peoria, Bundy threw 26 pitches, giving up a run in two innings. Orioles officials are downplaying the injury, but it’s hard not to be disappointed. According to reports, the former Key threw all four of his pitches and touched 94 mph in his last outing. He will need to make the Orioles 25-man roster or be exposed to waivers.

At the General Managers meetings, reports have circulated that the Orioles have expressed interest in Royals outfielder Alex Gordon and Diamondbacks catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia:

Meanwhile, two articles of note:

-MASN’s Steve Melewski on will the Orioles make a big play for Darren O’Day

-ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick evaluates the argument by agent Scott Boras that his client, Chris Davis, is the market’s top free agent

Last but not least, it’s time to wrap up our countdown with the final two moments of the season:

Moment #2: The Keys Walk it Off in 16 Innings

Drew Dosch eventually brought the Carolina League's longest game of 2015 to an end.

Drew Dosch eventually brought the Carolina League’s longest game of 2015 to an end.

Oh what a night. On April 13 the Keys earned a 5-4 victory over Lynchburg at Nymeo Field. As you will be able to hear in the highlight below, many folks were asleep by the time it wrapped up..Lasting 4 hrs and 57 mins this game concluded at the stroke of midnight. In total, four position players would take  take the mound, before a Drew Dosch sacrifice fly ended things:

While the game winner was extra sweet, my favorite moment  was seeing Brenden Webb turn in three innings of one-run baseball on the mound.

Moment #1: O’Brien delivers seven-inning no-hitter

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One day before his brother’s birthday and with his immediate family in attendance, Mikey O’Brien delivered his first professional no-hitter on August 20. Facing the Lynchburg Hillcats, the Salem, Va. native delivered 90 pitches to complete his seven-inning gem, as the orange and black took down their CL North rival 2-0. Here is the call of the final out:

 

We will have plenty more on this blog this offseason including hot stove updates, winter league news and interviews with Keys staff. Additionally, we hope to check in with some Keys players and coaches in the coming weeks.

Talk soon and shake your keys!

Geoff

 

 

 

Looking at Keys on the Move in 2015

Good Evening Keys Fans!

Free agency is upon us as we are a little less than a month away from the winter meetings. Former Key Matt Wieters is right in the center of that conversation, with the O’s catcher likely to decline a one-year qualifying offer. Some analysts say Wieters could be headed to locales such as Texas or Washington, but I’m sure other suitors will line up as well. In spite of a challenging season, Wieters pedigree should allow him to get a multi-year contract somewhere. We’ll see how involved the Orioles get.

Chris Davis seems to be the top priority, and as MASN’s Roch Kubatko notes, this year’s MLB home run champ will help set the market for other high priced free agents. What’s your take on Davis, should the Orioles go after him at all costs?

Personally, I side with my pal from WBAL Brett Hollander on this one: Make Davis a nice offer, be generous even, but don’t give him a blank check. Throwing in all your chips will bloat the market and make it harder to address key needs such as starting pitching. For Hollander’s complete take you can listen to the audio here.

Although the financial costs are much lower, Baseball America released its list of 2015 minor league free agents today. You’ll notice plenty of players with Keys ties on this list. One name that sticks out is Matt Hobgood, who underwent surgery to remove a bone spur from his right shoulder on July 6. Moved up to Double-A Bowie this season, he pitched only six games with the Baysox before being shutdown.

According to Kubatko, it does not appear the O’s will be resigning Hobgood. As always, we’ll keep you updated of minor league signings on this blog.

Injuries have made it challenging for former first rounder (and Keys bullpen-hand) Matt Hobgood to gain traction in the Orioles system.

Injuries have made it challenging for former first rounder (and Keys bullpen-hand) Matt Hobgood to gain traction in the Orioles system.

Before we chronicle Keys going elsewhere though, we want to put a bow around our 2015 Keys countdown. We’ll look at moment #3 today, before discussing the top two highlights in this space tomorrow.

Although most of the countdown details a particular game, event or accomplishment, moment #3 will discuss an overlying theme of the season: player movement. And LOTS of it. In total, 17 different Keys received call-ups to either Double-A or Triple-A this season. In one of our final managers reports of the season, Orlando Gomez said it was the most number of players he ever had called up before.

Player call-ups may mean fewer Carolina League championships, but many times they help contribute to WORLD SERIES TITLES. A quick look at this year’s Royals roster shows what homegrown talent can do.

Those types of big reward usually come later. More immediately though, it’s fun to see the gratification a player receives when he gets called up and moves one step closer to his dream of playing in the big leagues.

Taking the time to revisit every single promotion would be both laborious and boring, so I’m going to highlight four guys that really stood out. These are in no particular order FYI:

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Trey Mancini: “Boom Boom” as he was known by his teammates enjoyed a fantastic May en route to an early-June call-up to Double-A. In 29 May contests, he hit .362 with 5 homers and 19 RBIs. What few folks remember though is that BEFORE he won the Eastern League batting title and Orioles Minor League Player of the Year Award, Mancini hit just .244 in April. In parts of two seasons with the Keys, the thing I enjoyed about Mancini was how he made adjustments and never let one frustrating month repeat itself. Here is one of his moonshots from May off big leaguer Casey Janssen

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Chris Lee: After a bit of a bumpy start, Lee was one of the Carolina League’s best after the all-star break, posting a 1.91 ERA in eight starts. Pitching coach Kennie Steenstra deserves credit for several small mechanical adjustments which helped Lee be more consistent in locating his top-shelf stuff. Considered a strong candidate to be added to the Orioles 40-man roster, Lee closed out his Keys tenure in style on August 1:

 

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David Hess: As good as Lee was, Hess fared even better in the second-half, tallying a 7-0 record with a 1.34 ERA in 12 starts. At the time he was moved up to Bowie, he had the lowest ERA of any Carolina League starter post all-star break. He also excelled in the Eastern League postseason, helping the Baysox capture their first league title. Here is a clip from his final CL start, where he fired a one-hit complete game shutout at Potomac:

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Cody Wheeler: The final player to be promoted from the Keys, Wheeler got moved up to Triple-A for the Norfolk Tides International League playoff run. Having never registered a pro save before the start of the year, the Virginian thrived in the closer’s role going 17-for-19 and holding opponents to a .194 average. He was also the club’s lone postseason all-star.

 

Stay tuned as we wrap up the countdown tomorrow and discuss some more of what the Keys are doing this offseason!

Shake your Keys,

Geoff

 

Winter League Update (Baseball and Boomerangs Anyone?)

Good Afternoon Keys Fans!

The World Series shifts to New York tonight with the Royals holding a 2-0 series edge on the Mets. It sounds somewhat grim, but you have to remember New York’s 1986 World Title came after starting in an 0-2 hole to the Red Sox.

Plus, not every team has Thor on their pitching staff. The nickname bestowed on 23-year-0ld Noah Syndergaard, the Mets right-hander won his lone NLCS start, firing off 5.2 innings on one-run baseball against the Cubs. He struck out nine, while making abundant use of a high-90s fastball.

Syndergaard’s average fastball velocity on the season was 97.4 mph, tying him with Nathan Eovaldi of the Yankees for the top mark in the majors, but his counterpart tonight, Yordano Ventura, was not far behind. With an average heater of 96.8 mph (third-best) Ventura won 13 games in the regular season, but  hasn’t been fared as well in the postseason. In four playoff games he has a 5.09 ERA, leading to an .858 opponents OPS.

The Mets will need to tame former Carolina League standout Yordano "Ace" Ventura to avoid falling in an 0-3 WS hole.

The Mets will need to tame former Carolina League standout Yordano “Ace” Ventura to avoid falling in an 0-3 WS hole.

Some of you might remember Ventura as a member of the Wilmington Blue Rocks in 2012. Against the Keys that year, he went 2-1 with a 1.20 ERA in three games and held Frederick hitters to a .173 average. Not many tears were shed when he got promoted to Double-A.

Although there are no former Keys on the Mets or Royals, plenty Keys players are in staying active in Fall/Winter Leagues.

In the Arizona Fall League, Donnie Hart has pitched well in relief for the Peoria Javelinas, posting a 1.69 ERA in four relief appearances. Offensively, Adrian Marin has fared the best, batting .258 with a triple, two doubles, and four runs scored in eight games. The Keys shortstop this year, Marin has been seeing time at second and third for Peoria after serving as only DH or SS in each of the last 2 years with the orange and black.

Some of you may have heard that Dylan Bundy has been added to the Javelinas roster after missing a majority of the season with right shoulder tendinitis. According to the Baltimore Sun’s Dan Connolly, Bundy is expected to make his debut this upcoming Monday. As always we will have details in our weekly AFL updates, available on frederickkeys.com.

Moving to the land Down Under (cue Men at Work singalong) Derek Peterson, Anthony Caronia, Tad Gold and Matt Taylor are all pitching for the Perth Heat in the Australian Baseball League. Off to a 4-1 start, Perth has been led by Peterson at the plate. In five games, he is batting .389 (7-for-18) with a triple, a double and five RBIs. That included a 2-for-4 showing earlier today (remember it’s already Saturday in Australia). Taylor earned a save in his first appearance, throwing two clean innings and striking out three.

One of the Keys most reliable bullpen options, Matt Taylor registered a 1.35 ERA in 13 games with 2 saves.

One of the Keys most reliable bullpen options, Matt Taylor registered a 1.35 ERA in 13 games with 2 saves.

Caronia is currently batting .263, while Gold is hitting .125 (1-for-8) in three games. The ABL is in its sixth season and spans 45 games. The Australian Baseball League is made up of professional players from affiliated Minor League teams, as well as players from the Nippon Professional Baseball League (Japan), the Korean Baseball Organization and the Chinese Professional Baseball League, as well as professional players from Australia.

Moving to Keys news, our annual Toys for Tots Drive Kicks off this upcoming Monday! That’s right, we may be in Halloween mode right now, but once trick or treating is over it’s time to start thinking about Christmas!

A big reason for the season is finding ways to help others, and for those who donate a new, unwrapped toy, we’ll be giving out two Keys tickets to a 2016 game and two hats. Last year’s showing was outstanding, as Nymeo Field was the top collection point in Frederick County.

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To make your donation, visit the main office from 9-5 p.m Monday through Friday.

While we’re on the topic of gifts, if you are looking for a gift, Keys ticket plans make an excellent stocking stuffer! Plus ALL 2016 ticket plans come with a Manny Machado-Jonathan Schoop DOUBLE BOBBLEHEAD. This is an exclusive gift and will not be a giveaway item next year.

To purchase a ticket plan, fans can call the groups office at 301-815-9900.

That’s all for now folks! Happy Halloween!

Shake your Keys!

Geoff

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