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Random Orioles thoughts and opinions

As colleague Dan Connolly wrote in today's O's notebook, Charley Kerfeld, a special assistant to Philadelphia Phillies General Manager Ruben Amaro Jr., was at Camden Yards the last two nights. This comes on the heels of Jim Salisbury, a reporter for www.csnphilly.com, reporting that the Orioles have been scouting the Phillies' minor league system and Major League roster. While the names of starters Jeremy Guthrie and Kevin Millwood have been connected to the Phillies, infielder Ty Wigginton probably makes the most sense, especially with the injuries to second baseman Chase Utley and third baseman Placido Polanco. Philadelphia has inquired about Wigginton before and they know him well. Howie Freiling, a special assignment scout for the Phillies who has scouted the Orioles several times this year, was Wigginton's first professional manager with St. Lucie in the Florida State League in 1999. Another one of the Phillies' scouts, Dave Hollins, worked with the Orioles the previous four seasons.

About four hours before nearly every game, Adam Jones can be found on the field, either getting his running in or tracking balls in center field hit or thrown by first base coach John Shelby. I say this to point out that Jones' perceived regression defensively after he won a Gold Glove last year is not because of a lack of hard work. Jones works his butt off, making it hard to fathom how much he has struggled this season. Sure, he has misplayed some balls and allowed plenty of them to be hit over his head, spurring more debate about whether he plays too shallow. Just as troublesome to me, he still looks indecisive at times. In the third inning last night, Kurt Suzuki went from first to third on Ryan Sweeney's single up the middle and didn't even draw a throw from Jones. Suzuki runs well for a catcher but he was only one or two step past second base when Jones fielded the ball. It looked like he was dead to rites, yet no throw came. Four innings later, Kevin Kouzmanoff, also not exactly a burner, went from first to third on a Sweeney single up the middle. Jones did throw it this time, but not before he double clutched and then fired high and wide, giving third baseman Josh Bell no chance to tag the runner.

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I think it would be a neat story if Jason Berken was the Orioles' representative for the All-Star game, but let's be honest, it is nearly impossible for a middle reliever from a last-place team to make the squad even if he is the most deserving candidate. So with that being said and with the knowledge the Orioles absolutely have to be represented, I can't see picking anybody but Nick Markakis. I understand his three home runs and 25 RBIs aren't All-Star worthy, but he has been far and away, the team's best and most consistent player. He entered last night tied for first in the A.L. in doubles, fifth in walks, sixth in on-base percentage and 16th in average. Those numbers should count for something as should the fact that Markakis is one of the better corner outfielders in the A.L. Wigginton and Jones' power numbers are obviously much sexier, but they haven't been consistent offensively and they've struggled defensively.

Lefty Zach Britton's six scoreless innings in his Triple-A debut on Thursday make him 5-0 with an 0.85 ERA over his last eight minor league starts. ESPN.com's Keith Law recently named Britton the 16th best prospect in baseball and commented, "I haven't found a scout who's seen him without really liking him." I can second that. But what I like most about Britton is that he uses his sinkerball to get a ton of groundballs. Aside from Brad Bergesen, whose sinker hasn't been right all year, the other Orioles' young starters are largely flyball pitchers. That's a recipe for disaster in this ballpark and in this division.

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It's not a given that rookie third baseman Josh Bell is sent down on Monday when the club is expected to activate Felix Pie. The Orioles easily could keep him and jettison Frank Mata to Triple-A Norfolk. I'm sure interim manager Juan Samuel wants to make sure the team is covered in the bullpen with the starting rotation in the middle of a rough patch and 10 straight games against solid offensive teams in Boston (at least before the injuries, Detroit and Texas. But Mata isn't exactly getting people out these days so he could be making the team's decision to go to a seven-man bullpen easy. Either way, Bell will probably be in the lineup as the designated hitter tonight against knuckleballer Tim Wakefield, but I don't expect to see him tomorrow night against ace lefty Jon Lester.

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