The Orioles' hope of having four elected starters for the annual All-Star Game took a hit Monday when Major League Baseball announced that Toronto's Jose Bautista has surged ahead of Nick Markakis for the last outfield spot.
The top three vote-getters in the outfield — and the top for every other fielding position and designated hitter — will start the game Tuesday, July 16 at Citi Field in New York.
Orioles center fielder Adam Jones dropped from first to second among outfielders behind Mike Trout of the Los Angeles Angels (4,822,983 votes to Jones' 4,766,256) but appears to have secured his first starting spot. Shortstop J.J. Hardy and first baseman Chris Davis also look to be locks with the voting ending just before midnight Thursday evening.
But Markakis, who held a tenuous lead over Bautista last week, is now trailing by more than 142,000 votes. According to the American League numbers released by Major League Baseball on Monday afternoon, Markakis has 2,536,864 compared to Bautista's 2,679,230. Detroit's Torii Hunter is fifth overall among outfielders with 2,390,326. Markakis, 29, has never made an All-Star game in his career.
"That's would be a great honor for Nick," said Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette. "He's a top quality hitter and he works hard and certainly deserves the recognition."
Markakis is hitting .282 with a .331 on-base percentage, eight homers and 42 RBIs in 81 games; Bautista is hitting .256 with a .355 on-base percentage, 19 homers and 49 RBIs in 75 games. A former Oriole who has been elected the past two seasons, Bautista has become one of the more popular players in the American League thanks to his home run prowess.
Slugging homers certainly gets the fans' attention. Davis leads the majors with 31 home runs and is running away with the vote at first base, with more than 2 million votes over his closest competitor, Detroit's Prince Fielder.
The Orioles' power hitter, who has never made an MLB All-Star team, has accumulated 5,468,703 votes, second to overall vote-getter, Detroit third baseman Miguel Cabrera, who has 5,844,165.
Manny Machado is second behind Cabrera among third baseman with 2.75 million.
Hardy is on his way to his first All-Star game representing the American League and first as a starter. He was a reserve for the National League in 2007 while playing for the Milwaukee Brewers. With 3,509,180 votes, he is far ahead of Detroit's Jhonny Peralta, who has 2.51 million.
Catcher Matt Wieters is second at his position with 2.68 million, trailing the 3.9 million votes garnered by Minnesota's Joe Mauer.
Wieters, Machado and Markakis all have a chance to be selected by their fellow players or by AL manager Jim Leyland as he fills out the roster. Closer Jim Johnson, who has 28 saves, and starter Chris Tillman, who is 10-2 with a 3.68 ERA, also could be in consideration for a spot.
The final rosters will be announced Saturday at 6:30 p.m. on Fox.
The Orioles had four starters for the Midsummer Classic in 1970, but only two of those were elected. That year, the Orioles had seven players at the game. Most recently, the Orioles had six All-Stars in 1997, though only five attended (pitcher Jimmy Key was married that week). So the Orioles have a chance to make some history this month.
"It's a credit to the guys and how they go about their job," Duquette said. "It's good for Orioles fans. They have some players they can come out and see that are regarded by the industry as some of the best in the game. And they can see them every night at Camden Yards."
Jurrjens officially optioned to Norfolk
Right-hander Jair Jurrjens was officially optioned to Triple-A Norfolk on Monday. He was designated off the 25-man roster Sunday to make room for Brian Roberts, but remained on the 40-man roster.
It's a complicated procedural thing, but basically Jurrjens needed to clear option waivers — which everyone does — to officially be optioned to Norfolk. He had 72 hours from Sunday to join the Tides and he said he would take the time with his family and then return to Norfolk.
Jurrjens has a 4.91 ERA in two appearances with the Orioles, including a scoreless 2 1/3 inning stint Saturday versus the Yankees.
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Respect from oddsmakers
The Orioles are now listed as having 16-1 odds to win the 2013 World Series, according to online betting site Bovada.lv. Typically, the Orioles have had 25-1 to 50-1 odds or worse in the past year.
They are currently tied with the ninth-best odds, along with the Toronto Blue Jays and Washington Nationals. Their odds to win the American League pennant are 7-1, fifth best in the league behind Detroit, Texas, Boston and Oakland. The Orioles are also listed as 3-1 to win the AL East behind the Red Sox (7-5). The Tigers have the best World Series odds at 13-2.
Davis is listed with 5-2 odds to win the AL MVP, behind only Cabrera (2-3). Machado is fifth with 12-1 odds. No other Oriole is listed on the site's AL MVP odds or Cy Young odds.
Around the horn
The Orioles' Sunday Night Baseball broadcast drew an 11.7 rating in Baltimore, which made it the highest rated local ESPN broadcast since records have been kept. An ESPN2 broadcast in 2004 delivered a 12.5 score. Sunday night's broadcast also drew a 1.6 overnight national rating, up 14 percent from last week's Mets-Dodgers game (1.4). ... Double-A Bowie Baysox knuckleballer Eddie Gamboa has been named Eastern League Pitcher of the Week, in part, for throwing a seven-inning no-hitter Sunday. In his past two starts, Gamboa (4-5, 3.48 ERA) has allowed one hit over 14.1 innings and has pitched seven or more shutout innings in three of his past four starts. He is the first Baysox pitcher to win the award since Jake Pettit in August 2012. … High-A Frederick catcher Michael Ohlman was named Carolina League Player of the Week after going 11-for-27 (.407 average) with five doubles, a walkoff homer and eight RBIs. It was the second consecutive weekly award for Ohlman, who previously missed six weeks with a shoulder injury. … Outfielder Trayvon Robinson, acquired in the offseason deal with Seattle for Robert Andino, has been demoted from Triple-A Norfolk to Bowie. The 25-year-old was hitting .220 with five homers and nine steals in 52 games with the Tides.