By Eduardo A. Encina
The Baltimore Sun
9:33 AM EDT, July 3, 2013
Yesterday was a busy day in Birdland, and despite the Orioles’ 5-2 loss to the White Sox here in Chicago, Baltimore fans had to be happy with the progress made Tuesday.
Acquiring veteran right-hander Scott Feldman from the Cubs – along with catcher Steve Clevenger – for right-handers Jake Arrieta and Pedro Strop and international signing bonus money is a good move on several fronts.
Feldman, who will make his Orioles debut tonight in Chicago, will be a good fit. The Orioles were interested in signing him last offseason and he’s on his way to a productive season. He’s not going to save the Orioles' starting rotation, but his arrival – combined with Wei-Yin Chen’s return next week – should stabilize it for the stretch run.
Credit the Orioles brass for making the difficult decision of cutting bait on Arrieta and Strop. Both needed a change of scenery. Arrieta truly had nothing to prove in Triple-A, but couldn’t show consistency in the big leagues despite his flashes of brilliance. And until he did, he didn't serve a purpose at the big league level besides being an occasional extra bullpen arm. Making him into a reliever was a likely move down the road to help him work on his confidence, but that would still have been a tedious process. And looking ahead, his shuffling between the majors and minors couldn’t continue next season as he would be out of minor league options.
Over the past few weeks, the Orioles tried to hide Strop in the bullpen, but even when he was given an opportunity in low-pressure situations, Strop struggled, the crowd stirred and it got a little ugly. While the Orioles knew they couldn’t just release Strop – who has no minor league options – they also couldn’t keep him much longer. So to get any value for him by packaging him to the Cubs and getting Feldman and Clevenger was a plus.
You also have to applaud the Orioles for being proactive enough to make a move early. They knew there would be suitors for Feldman, and they knew that the trade value on Arrieta and Strop wasn’t getting higher any time soon. So instead of waiting to see the trade market play out and possibly get left in the cold, they made a move. Bravo.
Orioles executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette and manager Buck Showalter are also very careful with who they bring into the clubhouse so they don’t interrupt the existing clubhouse chemistry. Feldman is the perfect fit for that. Darren O’Day was in his wedding. O’Day, Chris Davis, Tommy Hunter and Taylor Teagarden all played with Feldman back in Texas and he’s known as a blue-collar grinder who will mesh well in the Orioles’ tightly knit clubhouse.
Before completing the Feldman deal, the Orioles were interested in his Cubs teammate Matt Garza, but the Cubs wanted a bounty that included prospects Jonathan Schoop and Eduardo Rodriguez. That wasn’t happening.
The Orioles aren’t necessarily done dealing, but at this point something would have to be very enticing to make another impact move. But for now, they’re intrigued to see what a Chen, Feldman, Jason Hammel, Chris Tillman and Miguel Gonzalez rotation looks like. Make no mistake, it’s no Tigers rotation, but it’s pretty steady throughout. And the Orioles have filled that rotating-door back end of the rotation. And the timing of the move gives them a little bit of time to see that and still make another deal if needed.
As for Hammel, he was frustrated in his start Tuesday night, when he allowed two homers, including a two-run shot to Adam Dunn that put the game away in the seventh inning.
Hammel has allowed 18 homers this year, which is tied for second most in the majors, through 17 starts. His previous career high is 21 in 2011 in homer-happy Colorado in 32 games (27 starts).
Both of Chicago’s homers off Hammel were on pitches up in the zone. But Hammel was more frustrated in a hit batter that fueled that inning. In his previous start, he hit a batter just before allowing a go-ahead homer to Cleveland’s Jason Kipnis.
That was frustrating to Hammel because in both cases it was the difference between a solo homer and a two-run shot.
Still, Hammel has allowed 10 homers in his past six starts after allowing just eight in his first 11 outings, so he will have to correct that. Hammel's success lies in keeping the ball down in the zone with his two-seamer and getting ground-ball outs. The good thing is Hammel – who is rough on himself after outings – knows it is a problem.
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