Between now and Opening Day, HardballTalk will take a look at each of baseball’s 30 teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally breaking down their chances for the 2013 season. Up next: The Chicago Cubs. The Big Question: Is Theo Epstein pushing the Cubs any closer to contention? He most definitely is,…
BALTIMORE – As the Orioles prepared to face the Oakland Athletics on Friday night, they were working with the same roster they had the night before.
Since Apr. 25, the Orioles have had 13 pitchers and a three-man bench.
At that time, Ryan Flaherty was sent to Norfolk. He was recalled when J.J. Hardy went on the disabled list, but the Orioles stayed with 13 pitchers because of uncertainty over Zach Britton’s ankle.
Now that Britton is better, the Orioles could have been expected to make a move, but they haven’t. The major reason could be because Paul Janish, who the Orioles would like to have, is home with his wife, who had the couple’s third child, a baby girl, on Friday.
“It may not be him. It may not be anybody if we and whoever decide to continue down this path with the 13-man [pitching staff]. It may not be anybody. I don’t want anybody to think there’s a firm commitment,” manager Buck Showalter said.
In Thursday night’s game, Showalter used Nolan Reimold and Joey Rickard as pinch runners and had only Caleb Joseph on the bench.
“Last night, again was a challenge. We’ve been fortunate to overcome it. You’re always picking when to go for it and throw caution to the wind,” Showalter said.
Norfolk didn’t place Janish on the paternity list in case the Orioles wanted to immediately activate him.
Postgame analysis of the Nats' 8-6 loss to the Chicago Cubs on Friday afternoon at Wrigley Field:
How it happened: After the Nats enjoyed a brief 2-0 lead highlighted by a first-inning solo home run by Anthony Rendon, Max Scherzer's homer problem reared its ugly head once again.
The barrage began in the second inning when Tommy La Stella took Scherzer deep to tie it up at 2-2. Two innings later, the 31-year-old right hander allowed back-to-back solo shots to Anthony Rizzo and Nats-killer Ben Zobrist. It got worse as Zobrist hit his second of the day, this time a three-run homer, making it 7-2 Cubs and essentially ending Scherzer's outing.
The Nats wouldn't go away, however, putting together a four-run rally in the eighth thanks to a two-run double by Jayson Werth and a two-run home run by Wilson Ramos. But like Thursday night's loss, it was too little, too late.
What it means: The Cubs are good. Really, really good. The Nats, while off to a solid start themselves, aren't yet in the class of the North Siders, whose run differential now sits at a ridiculous +98. With Washington dropping the first two games of this marquee series, it is now 5-3 on this 10-game road trip.
Scherzer gets roughed up: The Nats' $200 million man turned in his worst start of the season against the Cubs — and perhaps the worst start of his tenure in D.C. Scherzer's home run issues continued Friday afternoon, as he yielded four long balls —tied for his career-high in a single start — en route to allowing seven earned runs over five innings.
Scherzer's struggles have gotten to the point where it's hard to ignore that something's just not right. For one, Friday's outing represented the most runs he'd allowed since joining the Nats in 2015. Secondly, he now leads the majors in home runs allowed with nine. And if that isn't enough, he's also having trouble with the strike zone: He's already issued 15 walks in his first seven starts, nearly half of last season's total of 34.
Murphy's back at it again: The silver lining in Friday's tough loss is that Daniel Murphy is continuing his scortching start to the season. After going hitless Thursday night, the Nats second baseman rebounded big time by going 4-for-4 on the afternoon to raise his batting average to an MLB-leading .406. It feels like this can't last all season, but a month into the season, he hasn't found himself in anything remotely resembling a slump. It's unlikely that Murphy's the next incarnation of Ted Williams, but it's safe to say the Nats may have gotten a bargain when they signed him last winter at three years, $37.5 million.
What's next: The Nats will hope the third game in this four-game set is the charm as they'll send Gio Gonzalez (2-1, 1.15 ERA) to the mound on Saturday afternoon to oppose the Cubs' Jason Hammel (4-0, 1.24 ERA).
OWINGS MILLS – Nobody has to tell Ravens rookie Keenan Reynolds about the intensity of the Ravens-Steelers rivalry. Reynolds admitted Friday that when seeking advice on switching from quarterback in college to wide receiver in the NFL, he asked former Steelers star Hines Ward for advice.
“I know that’s like a cardinal sin in this building,” Reynolds said after his first day of Ravens rookie minicamp. “We got to talk before the draft, to ease everybody’s mind.”
Ravens fans will certainly forgive Reynolds, especially if Ward offers helpful hints. He has also been consulting former Washington Redskin and current CSN analyst Brian Mitchell, which could help him progress as well.
As a sixth-round pick, Reynolds hopes to make an immediate impact as a receiver-returner with the Ravens, after a brilliant career playing quarterback at Navy.
Reynolds got encouraging news off the field this week, when Secretary of the Navy, Ray Mabus, said he would do everything in his power to make sure Reynolds’ Navy commitments would not interfere with playing for the Ravens.
Reynolds said he had not received a further update on the Navy’s plans for him. But a precedent for Reynolds playing NFL football right away has already been set. Patriots long snapper Joe Cordona, who was Reynolds’ teammate at Navy, played his entire rookie season with New England last year while also working at a Naval Preparatory Academy in Rhode Island.
Cordona has been a sounding board for Reynolds.
“I’ve been blowing his phone up this whole process,” Reynolds said. “I was blowing him up on draft day. He has really helped, and his experience, obviously, being able to serve and play, has been really helpful.”
Reynolds has known for months that his NFL future would probably not be at quarterback.
“When I got invited to the (East-West) Shrine game, I saw that I wasn’t a quarterback anymore,” said Reynolds, who was listed as a running back for that game.
But Reynolds is not complaining, and he knows many people are rooting for him.
“This is an opportunity to pursue the dream at the next level, and I’m embracing it with everything I can,” Reynolds said.