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Phils' Ruiz suspended 25 games after positive test


Phils' Ruiz suspended 25 games after positive test

PHILADELPHIA (AP) Add catcher to the Philadelphia Phillies' needs this offseason.

All-Star Carlos Ruiz was suspended Tuesday for the first 25 games of next season following a positive test for an amphetamine. The 33-year-old catcher had a career year in 2012, hitting .325 with 16 homers and 68 RBIs in 114 games.

``I am sincerely regretful for my mistake in taking a prohibited stimulant,'' Ruiz said in a statement issued by the Major League Baseball Players Association. ``I apologize to my teammates, the Phillies organization and the Philadelphia fans. I will serve the imposed 25-game suspension to begin the season and I look forward to returning to the field and working toward bringing a championship back to Philadelphia in 2013.''

Ruiz will be eligible to participate in spring training, including exhibition games.

``The Phillies fully support Major League Baseball's drug program,'' the team said. ``We are disappointed by the news of this violation of the program. We will support Carlos in an appropriate manner and move forward to achieve our goal to play championship-caliber baseball in 2013.''

Erik Kratz will likely begin the 2013 season as Philadelphia's starting catcher while Ruiz serves his suspension. Kratz, a career minor-leaguer, filled in nicely when he finally got a chance after Ruiz went down with a foot injury. Kratz hit .248, but had nine doubles, nine homers and 26 RBIs in only 141 at-bats. Kratz also threw out 45 percent of base-stealers (15 of 33).

Still, losing Ruiz hurts a lineup that struggled mightily last year. Ruiz moved up from his usual No. 8 spot and took over for an injured Ryan Howard as the team's cleanup hitter for a chunk of the season. He batted fifth after Howard returned in July.

The Phillies, who finished 81-81 after winning five straight NL East titles, have several holes to fill. Only Howard, Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins are certain regulars. Utley, though, didn't play until late May in 2011 and late June in 2012 because of chronic knee injuries.

General manager Ruben Amaro Jr. hopes to add a starting center fielder, another starting outfielder and a third baseman either through free agency or trades. Now he'll also need a backup catcher for Kratz for the first month. Brian Schneider served as the team's primary backup the last three seasons, but only batted .212 in 122 games.

The Phillies have two top prospects catching in the minors. Sebastian Valle hit .253 with 17 homers and 58 RBIs in 80 games at Double-A Reading and Triple-A Lehigh Valley. Tommy Joseph, acquired in the trade that sent Hunter Pence to San Francisco, hit .257 with 11 homers and 48 RBIs for the Giants' and Phillies' Double-A affiliates.

Ruiz became the eighth player suspended this year under the major league testing program, the second for amphetamines following Baltimore shortstop Ryan Adams. The eight suspensions are the most since 2007.

This had to be Ruiz's second positive test for a stimulant. An initial positive for a stimulant does not trigger a suspension, only that the player must undergo follow-up testing.

There have been 102 suspensions this year under the minor league testing program.


Follow Rob Maaddi on Twitter:https://twitter.com/RobMaaddi

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Should the Orioles think about trading Brad Brach?

Should the Orioles think about trading Brad Brach?

The Orioles should trade Zach Britton and get a haul for him. That was the suggestion of one reader when I wrote on Friday of the moves the team could potentially make this offseason. 

When Dan Duquette and Buck Showalter held their year-end press briefing on Oct. 4, Duquette was asked about the possibility of trading Britton or Manny Machado, both of whom could be free agents two years from now. 

“I haven’t thought about that that much, but that’s something we can think about for the offseason,” Duquette said. “I like those guys on our ballclub, I like the work that they do and I like watching them every day. One’s an MVP candidate and the other one’s a Cy Young Award candidate. Those guys are tough to find and they’re young and they’re good and they play for the Orioles. We like them on our ballclub.”

In Duquette’s five years with the Orioles, the team has been in contention each season, and he has shown no inclination to trade attractive players who are nearing free agency. 

Not even in 2015 when the Orioles were on the fringe of contention and they had some tradeable assets who were about to become free agents: Wei-Yin Chen, Darren O’Day and Matt Wieters, did they trade.

Instead of trying to move them, Duquette added another looming free agent, Gerardo Parra, to the team. 

Trading Britton after his historical season, could appear to some to be wise, but even though he’s under club control for two more seasons, those will be expensive seasons, and there are many clubs who would balk at paying a reliever—even one as excellent as Britton—the $11.4 million that he could earn in arbitration, according to MLBTradeRumors.com.

If Britton has another good season, he could make perhaps $15 million in his final arbitration year, and while some teams with large payrolls could afford that, how many teams have the type of players that would make a deal like that attractive to the Orioles? 
As good as the Orioles bullpen is, Britton is the key. 

But, there’s another alternative to trading the best relief pitcher in baseball, and that’s trading Brad Brach.

Brach is also two years away from free agency, and while he’s no Britton, some teams needing a closer may think he could fit. 

It’s highly unlikely that two years from now, the Orioles could afford a high priced bullpen that includes O’Day, who is set to make $9 million in 2018 and 2019, Britton and Brach. 

While Duquette has held onto his free agents, the Orioles don’t have many attractive veteran players to trade, and Brach is perhaps the most attractive. 

Brach was obtained three years ago from San Diego, where he struggled to establish himself as a major leaguer. In one of Duquette’s best trades, the Orioles acquired Brach for minor league pitcher Devin Jones, who did not play in 2016. 

In his three seasons with the Orioles, Brach is 22-8 with a 2.61 ERA and last year had a 2.05 ERA and an All-Star selection.

Brach has three saves in the last two years, and in arbitration, he is estimated to bring home $2.9 million in 2017, far less than Britton’s number. 

The three biggest reliever names expected to hit the market are Aroldis Chapman, Kenley Jansen and Mark Melancon. If the Kansas City Royals don’t exercise Wade Davis’ $10 million option, he could be on the market, too. 

Brach would also be far cheaper than any of those. 

While a bullpen featuring Brach, Britton, O’Day, Mychal Givens and Donnie Hart would be strong, Givens has pitched well enough to move into Brach’s role. 

In his last 13 regular season appearances, Givens allowed just one run on six hits in 12 2/3 innings, striking out 16. In Brach’s last 13 appearances, he allowed eight runs—five earned—on 13 hits in 12 1/3 innings for a 3.65 ERA. 

I’m not one to throw out fantasy trades, but it’s obvious the Orioles are looking for help in the leadoff spot as well as fortifying catching. 

If Brach, who underwent minor knee surgery earlier this month, can fetch the Orioles some help at the top of the order, perhaps they should listen. 

I’m not campaigning for the Orioles to trade Brach, but they’ve shown organizational ability to develop relievers. In the past two seasons, they’ve brought both Givens and Hart up directly from Double-A. 

Showalter likes having relievers who are optionable, and moving Brach could open a spot for a reliever who can be freely optioned.
Givens, Hart, Oliver Drake and Parker Bridwell all have options. 

Keeping Brach isn’t a bad idea, but seeing what they could get for him seems to make a lot of sense. 

MORE ORIOLES: Hardy has been dependable for Orioles

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What moves can return the Orioles to postseason in 2017?

What moves can return the Orioles to postseason in 2017?

In 2017, the Orioles will try to accomplish something they haven’t done in 20 years, play in the postseason in consecutive seasons.

While the Orioles have the most wins in the American League over the past five seasons (444), they played in the postseason in 2012, 2014 and 2016, but didn’t in 2013 and 2015. 

Before each of the postseason years, the Orioles made key moves, whether it was in the traditional offseason months or at the beginning of spring training. In the years they didn’t qualify, their postseasons weren’t terribly active at all. 


When Dan Duquette took over nearly five years ago, his first offseason included the signing of Wei-Yin Chen, trading Jeremy Guthrie for Jason Hammel and Matt Lindstrom as well as drafting Ryan Flaherty. 

He made some other moves during spring training and during the season, signing Miguel Gonzalez and Nate McLouth that became huge successes. 

Following the 2012 season, the Orioles had a young and inexpensive team, and their only major moves were nontendering Mark Reynolds and re-signing McLouth. 

The Orioles won 86 games in 2013, but finished out of the playoffs. 

While Duquette was heavily criticized for inaction during the winter, he saw two players, Nelson Cruz and Ubaldo Jimenez that offered good values, and he signed them early in spring training. A trip to the American League Championship Series followed. 

In the offseason that followed, Duquette was rumored to be the next president of the Toronto Blue Jays, and the Orioles quickly lost Cruz, Nick Markakis and Andrew Miller with no suitable replacements. A .500 season followed. 

Last season featured Duquette making moves early and often—securing Matt Wieters for another year after he accepted a qualifying offer, trading for Mark Trumbo, signing Hyun Soo Kim, and re-signing Darren O’Day and Chris Davis. 

In spring training, Yovani Gallardo and Pedro Alvarez were added. 

This offseason, the Orioles don’t seem to have as many holes as they did a year ago, but for one of them, they must decide quickly what they’re going to do. 

Wieters is again a free agent, and the Orioles must decide whether they’re going to seriously pursue him, or if he leaves whether they’ll fill the catching vacancy internally or externally. 

There won’t be many quality catchers on the market, and the Orioles should move expeditiously to either sign or trade for someone who could start in 2017. 

They could decide they think a combination of Chance Sisco and Caleb Joseph can handle the job, but that decision must not linger. 

The Orioles must improve their depth so that manager Buck Showalter feels comfortable in resting Chris Davis, J.J. Hardy, Adam Jones, Manny Machado and Jonathan Schoop. 

While the Orioles may try and re-sign Wieters and Mark Trumbo, they won’t be chasing after big ticket free agents early in free agency. 

There are few quality pitchers on the prospective market, but there are some quality hitters including Alvarez, Trumbo, Jose Bautista, Carlos Beltran, Yoenis Cespedes, Ian Desmond, Edwin Encarnacion, Dexter Fowler, Kendrys Morales, Mitch Moreland, Colby Rasmus, Josh Reddick and Michael Saunders.

It’s not Duquette’s way to try and outbid other teams, but there are so many good hitters that perhaps one or two of these names, or ones from the second tier fall into the Orioles’ price range. 

In order to improve their depth, the Orioles will likely again be active in the Rule 5 draft, but unless they move a pitcher or two from their current crop, it seems unlikely they can be flexible enough to keep a drafted pitcher on hand. 

In 2015, the Orioles drafted Jason Garcia and Logan Verrett. They ended up keeping Garcia and sending Verrett back to the Mets. 

Having Garcia on the staff complicated manager Buck Showalter’s use of the bullpen, and he was sent to Bowie to start in 2016, but didn’t raise many eyebrows. 

Joey Rickard, the outfielder drafted last December, proved to be a useful addition who filled in for Jones and platooned with Kim before he was hurt. 

If the Orioles find a pitcher they like they’d have to include him on a prospective staff that already includes starters Gallardo, Jimenez, Dylan Bundy, Kevin Gausman, Wade Miley and Chris Tillman as well as relievers Brad Brach, Zach Britton, Mychal Givens, Donnie Hart, and Darren O’Day. 

It’s more likely that a Rule 5 pick would be a position player. 

While the early part of the offseason may include a series of smaller moves with bigger ones waiting for the market to settle, fans will undoubtedly criticize what they see as Duquette’s seeming lack of action. 

They shouldn’t because in the end if he has a decent start to free agency, he usually has a strong finish—and so do the Orioles.