OWINGS MILLS – Will the Ravens go into the regular season with two rookies protecting quarterback Joe Flacco’s blindside?
“If we go into the regular season that way, it will be because I’m confident in those two guys over there,” said Ravens coach John Harbaugh.
Those two guys are rookie left tackle Ronnie Stanley, who already has the starting job locked down, and rookie left guard Alex Lewis. Lewis heads into Saturday night’s preseason game against the Lions making a push to be a Week 1 starter as well. Third-year left guard John Urschel hasn’t played since the preseason opener and he didn’t practice this week. Lewis has taken advantage of the extra reps.
Ravens coach John Harbaugh has said that Urschel has a “contusion”, and was expected to be back soon. But the longer Urschel is out, the more time Lewis has to convince the coaches he should start.
That’s why Saturday night’s preseason game is huge for Lewis. He’s making a rapid adjustment from being a fourth-round pick out of Nebraska, to a possible starter in the NFL.
“You’ve really got to focus on your technique, your fundamentals, because everyone at this level is good,” Lewis said. “You don’t have those one or two guys you game plan for. In the NFL, all 11 guys on the other side are those dogs you’re trying to get ready for.”
With Flacco starting at quarterback Saturday night, the pressure will be on Stanley and Lewis to play well as a tandem. The Ravens knew they would need a new starting left guard, after Kelechi Osemele signed with the Raiders during free agency. Urschel could still be that guy. But if Lewis plays well Saturday night, it could sway the coaching staff in his direction.
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The Nationals announced they had activated reliever Marc Rzepczynski to their roster at 5 p.m. on Thursday, yet at that time the lefty was 30,000 feet in the air. He was on a cross country flight, having left after a delay from San Francisco.
He eventually landed at Dulles Airport in Sterling, Va. and made the drive to 1500 South Capitol St., where the Nats were in the middle of game against the Baltimore Orioles. Rzepczynski threw his jersey on and got right to work, even warming up in the eighth inning for a potential debut with his new team.
That debut did not happen, it will have to wait at least one more day, but Rzepczynski was thrilled to be with his new team, a first-place club, after coming over from the 55-72 Oakland Athletics.
"It's amazing. At the end of the day, with a team that's losing, your'e making plans for the offseason already. Then, all of a sudden, hopefully I have a chance to play in October," Rzepczynski said. "It was one of those where it reminded me a lot of '11 when I was with the Cardinals. Being traded at the deadline, then all of a sudden winning the World Series. So, hopefully I'll have the same thing happen here."
Rzepczynski actually found out he was traded on Wednesday. Like Mark Melancon, whom the Nats traded for in July before the deadline, Rzepczynski heard the news after awaking from a nap.
"I'm excited. Little bit in shock. I've been traded, now this is my fifth time. Three times at the deadline. This one got me a little bit. I was quite shocked yesterday. I was actually taking a nap when this happened. We had a day game, so I was just relaxing," he said. "I'm definitely happy to be here. To go from a team that's struggling a little bit to a team that's in first place. What else would you ask for at this time of the year?"
Rzepczynski joined the Nationals in a deal that sent infield prospect Max Schrock and cash to the Athletics. The Nats brought in some help for their bullpen, hoping Rzepczynski can deepen and balance out their relief staff.
Rzepczynski - who has a 3.00 ERA in 56 games this season - described in detail what type of pitcher the Nats just acquired.
"For me, it's just sinker inside or away to lefties. That's not a secret. Every lefty, now that I've been in the AL twice and the NL now three times too, they know what they're facing. I'm just going to go out there and compete and do my job. I was struggling earlier getting lefties out. I feel like I'm back now. I feel like I'm ready," he said.
Rzepczynski is likely to make his Nationals debut this weekend against the Colorado Rockies. He's arrived just in time, as the Rockies boast several dangerous left-handed batters including Carlos Gonzalez, D.J. LeMahieu and Charlie Blackmon. More sinkers inside.
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Baltimore Orioles (70-57) vs. New York Yankees (65-61), Yankee Stadium, Bronx, New York, 7:05 p.m.
Yovani Gallardo (4-5, 5.08) vs. Luis Cessa (3-0, 4.01)
Keys to the Game:
How will the Orioles do against a pitcher they haven't seen before? Cessa is the third pitcher in the last five games the Orioles haven't faced.
Can Gallardo get a win? He has just one win in his last 10 starts.
News and Notes:
Adam Jones has a cramp in his right leg, but he expects to play on Friday night.
The Orioles may make a move or two with the bullpen. Logan Ondrusek and Mike Wright could be moved out.
Starlin Castro is batting .364 (16-for-44) against Gallardo.
Gallardo is 1-2 with a 5.47 ERA in four starts against the Yankees.