Orioles manager Buck Showalter has spoken to his team on several occasions this season, but none of the speeches was as harsh or intense as the one he delivered late Wednesday night.
After the Orioles' 13-5 loss to the Texas Rangers, which completed a three-game series sweep and was the team's 11th defeat in 14 games, Showalter closed the clubhouse and challenged his players to increase their effort and execution.
"That's probably as angry as I've seen him, but it's deserved," catcher Matt Wieters said. "We have been playing very poorly and very inconsistently for quite a while now. It's time to go out there and make it happen."
Showalter downplayed the meeting, saying he talks to his players regularly. He also wouldn't comment on what prompted his latest speech.
"I said some things, and we had a little talk about them," Showalter said. "I'm not going to tell you what was said — just keep the lines of what's on everybody's mind open."
The Orioles were outscored 30-11 by the American League West-leading Rangers, but their struggles go beyond the series in Arlington, Texas. Since entering the June 11 game with a 30-31 record, the Orioles are 6-17. During that stretch, they have a 5.91 ERA, are batting .184 (35-for-190) with runners in scoring position and have made 18 errors in 23 games, leading to 13 unearned runs.
"I think it's just inconsistency from everybody," center fielder Adam Jones said. "I'm not going to blame it specifically on the pitching, defense, hitting. It's the team. We're all one. When it comes to men in scoring position, we have to execute. When it comes to getting that big out, we have to get that big out. We need to make that big play. I know that we have that here. It's just a matter of going out and doing it. It's like preaching to the choir. We all know what we have to do. It's just a matter of going out and doing it."
Asked whether he felt Showalter's stern talk was necessary, Jones said: "Personally, I don't think it should have had to come down to that, but sometimes you need a kick in the [butt] to go out there and do what you got to do. He just wants everybody to go out there and play as hard as we can."
Jones and several other players said Showalter's basic message was that the Orioles' recent play is unacceptable and needs to end soon.
"He said that he's not going to sit there and watch this, and I don't blame him," Jones said. "He came here to do a job, and I'd say that he's doing a good job. But we, as players, have to do it. His playing days are over. Our coaches, their playing days are over. As players right now, we have to go out there, step up and get the job done."
Wieters agreed and said: "I think we have the pieces in place to play better. I don't know if we're focused enough or what. But there's no more 'do this, do that.' It has to be 'whatever it takes to win.'"
South Beach it is
Jones had made plans to spend the All-Star break in South Beach, Fla., but he would have been more than happy to change them if it meant joining the AL All-Star team for Tuesday's game at the Arizona Diamondbacks' Chase Field.
He won't have to. Jones learned Thursday that the Chicago White Sox's Paul Konerko won the "Final Vote," which gave fans the opportunity to select the final player on each All-Star team.
Jones finished fourth out of five AL competitors in the voting. That leaves Wieters as the Orioles' lone All-Star representative, the 10th time in 11 years that the team will have had only one player in the game.
"I'm very thankful to be in the final five," Jones said. "Konerko is very deserving, I think everybody on the list was deserving, but I think he was one of the most deserving guys in all of baseball. So I will enjoy my three days off."
Simon, Atkins likely to start
Showalter stopped short of naming his rotation plans for the weekend, acknowledging that they could change depending on how much the bullpen is needed in the first two games of the Boston Red Sox series. However, the plan is for Alfredo Simon to start Saturday and Mitch Atkins to get the ball in Sunday's first-half finale.
"We got the possibilities that we told you about," Showalter said. "We'll see how we come through the bullpen the next couple of nights. We got Simon, Atkins, some other guys in the bullpen that we can possibly use. They may pitch out of the bullpen, too, but we'll see how the next couple of games go."
Simon would be making his first start of the season in place of struggling right-hander Chris Jakubauskas, who has a 6.75 ERA in 11 games (six starts), and managed to get only six outs against the Rangers in his last outing.
The club considered bringing back Jeremy Guthrie on three days' rest to start Sunday, but Showalter said, "I don't think that's a good idea."
Around the horn
Second baseman Brian Roberts said via Twitter that he has taken some swings in the batting cage the past couple of days and continues to make progress. Roberts is scheduled to see concussion specialist Dr. Michael Collins on Wednesday. … Showalter said infielder Cesar Izturis (right elbow surgery) is progressing and could start a rehabilitation assignment after the All-Star break and be back with the club before the end of the month. … Wieters stole the first base of his major league career in Thursday's first inning. … Rehabbing pitchers Matt Hobgood and Ryan Berry will join short-season Single-A Aberdeen early next week.
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