By Eduardo A. Encina
The Baltimore Sun
7:24 AM EDT, July 13, 2012
While the Orioles brass is exploring options to improve the club through the trade market, executive vice president Dan Duquette has repeatedly said he likes some of the options he has down at the minor league level. So as the second-half of the season gets underway, we’re taking a look at the reinforcements down on the farm. Here are five players from Triple-A Norfolk you could see brought up to help the Orioles through the stretch run.
LHP Zach Britton: This one's automatic. The Orioles need a fifth starter to pitch Tuesday’s game against the Twins in Minnesota and all signs point to Britton being that guy. Britton is coming off his best minor league start of the season Thursday, when he threw seven shutout innings and allowed just four hits while striking out six. The Orioles have been able to go with a four-man rotation for the past few weeks because of a bevy of off days, but they open the second half with 30 games in 31 days, so they’ll need a fifth starter for the long haul. Britton (4-1, 4.15 ERA) figures to be that man. Still it’s amazing it’s mid-July and Britton has yet to make a big league start
OF Nate McLouth: The Orioles signed McClouth to a minor league deal June 5 after he was released by the Pirates. He hasn’t hit above .228 at the major league level since 2009 and he’s only hitting .250/.328/.500 in 28 games at Norfolk, but his bat is rapidly heading up. He is hitting .412 (14-for-34) with five homers and 14 RBIs in his past nine games. And the difference maker: He is a plus defender – he has a .991 career fielding percentage – and can play all three outfield positions.
RHP Miguel Socolovich: If the trusty Orioles bullpen needs some help, look for Socolovich to get the nod. He’s been great all season long in various roles, going 3-0 with a 1.77 ERA in 24 games. Over 45 2/3 innings, he’s allowed just 29 hits and has 50 strikeouts to go with 11 walks. At Norfolk, he’s shown the ability to go multiple innings – he can regularly go up to three innings. In his past 10 outings, opposing hitters are batting just .150 against him
OF Lew Ford: Since signing a minor league deal with the Orioles, he has dominated Triple-A pitching. Ford, who turns 36 next month, is hitting an impressive .339/.399/.563 line in 47 games for the Tides this season. On his past five games, he’s 7-for-21 with three homers and seven RBIs. He could conceivably play all three outfielder position. Here’s a stat the Orioles have to like about “Captain Lew”: He’s hitting .541 (20-for-37) with runners in scoring position at Norfolk.
RHP Steve Johnson: Johnson made a brief major league cameo on the team’s West Coast road trip out in Seattle, but the St. Paul’s alumnus didn’t get to pitch. He’s a solid long relief option if the Orioles need one. He’s been a little up and down as a starter, but really came into his own as a reliever of late. He is 2-0 with a 0.53 ERA in five relief appearances over 17 innings, allowing just eight hits with 24 strikeouts and 10 walks.
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