Grigson gives Colts winning hand in 1st year as GM

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Grigson gives Colts winning hand in 1st year as GM

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) Colts general manager Ryan Grigson is more comfortable watching practice in sweat pants and sunglasses than he'll ever be standing behind a podium in a stuffy suit.

It's the perfect style fit for the former offensive lineman who is debunking the NFL's conventional wisdom.

He's winning games with a rookie quarterback and one of the league's youngest teams. He's winning when nobody else thought he could, and he's doing it his way - by instilling a gritty, down-to-earth attitude in a team that has no illusions about where it's been or where it's going.

``Obviously, I'm elated, I'm not going to sit here and lie about it,'' Grigson told The Associated Press as he watched practice Wednesday. ``But we're still only at the mid-point of the season. We know six wins doesn't get you anywhere in the postseason, but we feel the organization is going in the right direction.''

Indeed, it is.

Nine games into the season and barely 10 months into his first gig as an NFL general manager, the 6-foot-6 giant has already achieved things longtime GMs only fantasize about.

Grigson has survived the most publicized parting of the offseason, cutting four-time league MVP Peyton Manning, and the shocking release of a handful of other big-name favorites. He stayed calm when other key players left in free agency and ignored the ongoing debate about which quarterback should be taken first overall pick in April's draft - Andrew Luck or Robert Griffin III.

When anxious fans pleaded for the Colts to make a bold move in free agency, the 6-foot-6 giant stood pat, locking himself inside an office to study game tapes, budgets and ponder the possibilities of what will likely be remembered as the biggest decision of his career: Cutting Manning.

``First of all, how do you replace him?'' Grigson said as he thanked team owner Jim Irsay for taking responsibility for the controversial move. ``You look at him (Manning) and he's a great player, and he's still a great player. But I knew from a fiscal standpoint and an age standpoint, I knew that we had to have a change if we were going to have success in the future.''

Somehow, it all worked out.

Manning is thriving in Denver. Luck is on pace for a historic rookie season. Receiver Reggie Wayne, one of the few veterans Grigson decided to keep around, is having the best season of his career. Two of the three ex-Baltimore Ravens he signed, Cory Redding and Tom Zbikowski, have played key roles on an improving defense, and most of Grigson's draftees have been key contributors, too.

The magnitude of Indy's turnaround has been nothing short of amazing.

A year ago when the Colts headed to New England, they were 0-11 and were surrounded by talk of a winless season. Eleven months later, as they prepare for a return to Foxborough, Mass., they are 6-3 and hold a two-game lead on their nearest competitor for a wild-card spot. They've won despite a rash of injuries, the usual rookie mistakes and even losing their head coach, Chuck Pagano, indefinitely as he battles a form of leukemia.

They've won with a first-time head coach, a first-time interim coach and a first-time GM, who looks nothing like the stodgy front-office folks of years past.

And yet they've done it, in large part, because of Grigson's masterful strokes.

``I think he has to be the executive of the year so far,'' punter Pat McAfee said. ``You look at the wow factor the day of the cuts. Basically, he rebuilt this team in four or five months. We had a great core group of guys here, and the way he picked up the pieces is just amazing.''

How did Grigson do it?

The opinions vary.

McAfee credits the GM for bringing in solid cornerstones to construct the foundation. Redding believes the competitiveness Grigson demonstrates on a daily basis has rubbed off on those inside the locker room. Luck thinks it's all about Grigson's homework and his commitment to making the right calls.

``The first thing that stood out to me is, `Man, this is a big guy','' Luck said, drawing laughter as he explained his experience through the draft process. ``Second, was that you could tell how hard he worked. He was like a tireless worker. He had a great sort of enthusiasm and love for football. Those were the first three things I really noticed.''

Doubters point out that Indy has only beaten one legitimate playoff team (Green Bay) this season as they head to New England (6-3) this weekend.

They contend Grigson has essentially rebuilt the Colts with smoke-and-mirrors in a weak division and against a depleted AFC.

A deeper look reveals something else - Grigson has rebuilt on the Colts with players who were considered top talents when they came into the league.

Luck, of course, provides Indy with the most valuable commodity in football, a franchise quarterback. He's protected on one side by Anthony Castonzo, Indy's first-round draft pick in 2011, and can hand the ball off to Donald Brown, the Colts' first-round draft pick in 2009.

That's not all.

Indy signed the oft-injured Donnie Avery, the first receiver taken in the 2008 draft and used its second and third round draft picks this year on the top two tight ends (Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen). Grigson also traded up to get speedy receiver T.Y. Hilton in the third round and made trades for right tackle Winston Justice, Philadelphia's second-round pick in 2006, and cornerback Vontae Davis, Miami's first-rounder in 2009. He even signed free agent Darius Butler, this week's AFC defensive player of the week, New England's second-round choice in 2009.

Some of those players say Grigson's belief has provided motivation to perform.

``I think it means a lot when you have someone that believes in you that much,'' Justice said. ``It makes you want to play harder.''

The question, of course, is whether the Colts can keep it going.

Players insist they can, and Grigson will have tens of millions of dollars to spend in free agency during the offseason.

But Grigson won't just spend that money on some big-name guy. No, he wants somebody who is willing to fit in with the rest of these gritty guys, who are willing to work sweat it out on blustery November days.

``I'm always thinking about the future and how we can get better,'' Grigson said with a smile as he stared into practice through the sunglasses. ``The players know that, I know that and we want to be the best. As I mature in this role, because I am still a newby GM, I still have a lot to learn. But if we can get better, we will. I'm also sensitive to the chemistry we're building. I don't want to make a splashy signing, I want to make a decision based on what's good for the team.''

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Behind Gausman, Orioles win round 2 in 'Beltway Battle'

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Behind Gausman, Orioles win round 2 in 'Beltway Battle'

BALTIMORE—Now that Chris Tillman is headed to the disabled list, Kevin Gausman will be more important than ever to the Orioles.

On Tuesday night, Gausman showed just how important he can be with six shutout innings against the Washington Nationals.

With Dylan Bundy, Yovani Gallardo, Wade Miley and now Ubaldo Jimenez in the rotation, Gausman’s role will be much more prominent. 

Gausman’s second straight win, the first time he’s done that in more than two years, gave the Orioles an 8-1 win over the Nationals, their second straight win in the Battle of the Beltways before 26,697 at Oriole Park. 

It was the first time Gausman won two straight since June 2014 when he won three in a row. In his next start, he’ll try and forget his road woes when he faces the New York Yankees on Sunday. Gausman hasn’t won on the road since Aug. 17, 2014.

He knows that Tillman will be hard to replace. 

“It’s going to be huge, especially this time of year. Every game matters from here on out, especially in a tight race in the east. We’re sad to miss him, but hopefully a little bit of rest will get him to come back and he’ll be ready to go,” Gausman said. 

Dylan Bundy dazzled the Nationals on Monday, and Gausman was effective enough to hold the lead the Orioles gave him.

“You could say there were a lot of deep counts and a lot of pitches in three or four or five innings, but you can’t drop your guard against those guys. They have so many landmines through their order that you’ve just got to keep grinding. We’ll take the finished product. He gave us six shutout innings and Kevin wanted to go another inning. I feel good, knock on wood, about the way he and Dylan feel right now this time of year,” manager Buck Showalter said. 

The Orioles (69-56) knocked out Reynaldo Lopez (2-2) out in the third after six runs scored. 

Mark Trumbo, who hadn’t had a hit that wasn’t a home run since Aug. 11, scored Adam Jones in the first on an RBI single. Trumbo, the only player this year who had seven straight hits that were home runs, was out at second. 

Matt Wieters’ double and Jones’ single gave the Orioles a 3-0 lead in the second. 

Three more runs scored in the third on a Jonathan Schoop RBI double and a two-run error with the bases loaded by Nationals second baseman Daniel Murphy. 

Lopez left after the error.

“I think we just waited him out. Lopez, the guy has electric stuff, sitting at 96 to 98 with a sharp curveball, good changeup. We just made him work, made him throw strikes, got to favorable counts. He's got good stuff, so be sure to pay attention to him in his future,” Jones said. 

Showalter won three replay challenges in the first three innings. Twice, Washington center fielder Trea Turner was ruled safe at second on a stolen base, and twice the call was overturned. 

In the bottom of the third, Jones beat out an infield single after review. 

“It certainly helped. We needed each one of them. It kept any momentum from getting going,” Showalter said. 

The Orioles are now 19-for-32 on replay challenges. Their three correct challenges equal the major league season high. 

Jones ended up with four singles, equaling his career high. 

“We know how to hit also. We've got a lot of professional hitters here who know how to hit with men in scoring position, not just homers,” Jones said. 

Gausman (5-10) left after six.

“It was good. I got away with some pitches early, and had some balls go foul. That was pretty big. I didn’t necessarily pitch great, but it’s just one of those days where you try to keep grinding and look up and somehow, I didn’t give up a run,” Gausman said.

Vance Worley allowed a run in the seventh on four singles. Danny Espinosa’s RBI single was the only run for the Nationals (73-52). 

Chris Davis hit his 30th home run of the season in the eighth. It’s the fourth time in his Orioles career he’s hit 30.  

Worley worked three innings for his first career save. 

NOTES: The Orioles are planning to visit Walter Reed National Military Center on Wednesday. … Wade Miley (7-10, 5.58) faces Tanner Roark (13-6, 2.87) on Wednesday at Nationals Park. 
 

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Nats fall on wrong side of three challenges by Orioles manager Showalter

Nats fall on wrong side of three challenges by Orioles manager Showalter

Manager Dusty Baker is new to MLB's system of replay challenges as the first-year skipper of the Washington Nationals. There have been times this season where the rules have helped Baker and his team. Tuesday night was not one of those times.

Buck Showalter of the Orioles matched an MLB season-high with three successful manager challenges in the Nats' 8-1 loss at Camden Yards. Two of them pulled Trea Turner off the basepaths. One of them ruled Adam Jones safe to extend an inning.

The two Turner ones hurt the most, as they contributed to a long night for the Nationals offense, one in which they landed 10 hits but scored just one run. Turner was ruled out on two steal attempts at second base. One was in the first inning after he led off the game with a single. The other was in the third inning, again after he got on with a single.

Both plays featured throws by Orioles catcher Matt Wieters that were to the right of the bag, but second baseman Jonathan Schoop was able to pull the ball in and make the tag with Turner sliding past him.

"You can’t do anything if the throws are towards first base," Baker said. "They weren’t very good throws. It just happens they were very good tags. You got a 6-foot-4, long-armed second baseman, and most people don’t even get down in that position to make that tag."

Turner agreed on the throws and wished, in a sense, they were more on target.

"I just wish he would have made good throws right over the bag, I think I have a better chance that way," he said. "Throw gets taken up the line, you know he can put the tag on you a little bit faster and that's what happened tonight."

Getting Turner, one of the fastest players in baseball, into scoring position generally leads to good things. The Nats instead had him sent back to the dugout after lengthy delays while the umpires conferred with New York.

Both Baker and Turner stewed over the replay system itself as they waited. And afterwards each made their opinions clear.

"Don't care for it too much. I don't think I or we or anybody on this side has really benefit from it, so for that reason I don't really care for it," Turner said.

Baker was much more direct and descriptive.

"Number one, I just think it takes too long… they've gotta do something to correct the length of time. Maybe after 30 seconds if they're inconclusive, then come up with whatever the umpire said," Baker said.

"It sort of makes a point of why do we need umpires, if you're going to dispute everything that they say? I don't know. I'm kind of new this year to replay, but it's tough to lose three of them… To me, it doesn't make the umpires look very good. I just hope they correct this."

[RELATED: Lopez rocked as Nats suffer lopsided loss to Orioles]

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What happens next as Tillman's injury will send him to disabled list

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What happens next as Tillman's injury will send him to disabled list

BALTIMORE—Chris Tillman, the Orioles winningest pitcher, is going on the disabled list with right shoulder inflammation. 

Tillman, who was supposed to start against Max Scherzer at Nationals Park on Thursday, will miss that start and will be eligible to return on Sept. 5. 

He received a cortisone shot on his right shoulder, but there are no plans for an MRI. 

Tillman is 15-5 with a 3.76 ERA. He first experienced discomfort on Aug. 12, the day after he won his 15th game, pitching seven innings at Oakland. 

He was bumped from a scheduled start on Aug. 17, and started on Saturday, and allowed six runs in two-plus innings against Houston. 

After the game he said he felt fine, but he tried to throw in the bullpen Tuesday afternoon, and it didn’t go well. 

MORE ORIOLES: GAUSMAN GETS 2ND STRAIGHT WIN AS O'S TOP NATIONALS

“I thought once it got loose it would really go away but it never really did, and that was my first time actually experiencing it while throwing. Last time, I was pretty sore right after my start, but after feeling it today, I’d much rather just get this behind us and get out in front of it so that way we’re not worried about it for the rest of the year,” Tillman said. 

“I would have liked to have had better results, or response, from the last outing, but it just didn’t respond very well. So we’re trying to be safe, get this thing in the rear-view mirror. That way I’m not fighting it all year. That’s probably the best way to go about it.”

Tillman hopes the DL stint, which hasn’t been announced and will be backdated to Sunday, will allow him to pitch pain-free for the last few weeks of the regular season.

“I would think so, yes, but you know what? I’m going to take it day-by-day. That’s the only thing I can do right now. Play it by ear,” Tillman said. 

“It’s tough. I don’t like it, but it is what it is. It happened, and we’ve got to get better now. I think this is the best way to go about it, and we had talked about it a little. I’d rather feel better at the end of the season rather than fighting it all year.” 

Adam Jones, who was traded with Tillman from Seattle to the Orioles in 2008, is confident the Orioles will be able to overcome his loss.

“We are going to miss him on the mound. He’s still going to be here every day. I look at it as a time for him to go heal. We are still going to keep fighting, grinding and when he comes back hopefully after the 15 days, mid-September, whenever he does, he comes back fresh and ready to make his last three or four starts in a tight race,” Jones said. 

“You can look at it both ways. I want him to heal, but I want I him to heal and get better so he definitely helps us in the final push because he’s that important to our staff.”

Ubaldo Jimenez will take Tillman's spot on Thursday in Washington.