While it has been popular to talk about the way the Orioles have been playing for their jobs next year since Buck Showalter took over as manager, Matt Albers has been in that situation since the beginning of the season.
It was speculated on numerous occasions earlier in the year that Albers could be the odd man out in a pending roster move. As the season has gone on, that talk has quieted and even been replaced by questions about where the much-maligned reliever could fit into next year's bullpen.
In 18 appearances since the All-Star break, Albers is 2-0 with a 2.82 ERA and has allowed 18 hits in 221/3 innings to lower his season ERA to 4.09. The only Orioles reliever who has made at least two appearances and has a better ERA this season than Albers is closer Koji Uehara (2.70).
"I'm just getting relaxed, trying to focus on making pitches instead of kind of worrying about the big picture, the results and what exactly happens," Albers said. "Just go out there and focus on making the pitch and seeing what happens from there. I think also being able to throw my breaking ball for strikes, the curveball and the slider, early in the count. I think it keeps guys off my fastball, and I've been able to locate my fastball pretty well to both sides of the plate.
Albers has done a lot of his good work in lower-pressure situations in the middle innings of games. However, with several of Showalter's go-to guys at the back end of the bullpen unavailable Monday and Tuesday, Albers got eight big outs to preserve two victories over the New York Yankees.
"It's good to see the things that everybody else has been telling me that he's capable of," Showalter said. "[Tuesday] night was a good example of that. It's tough, too, because a lot of times these guys have had to pitch a lot of innings that they normally wouldn't have. Now that the starters are going deeper, it keeps us from overexposing them and using them in situations that they shouldn't be exposed to. He's pitching well."
Overall, Albers hasn't given up a run in nine straight outings spanning nine innings. The 27-year-old will be arbitration-eligible for a second straight season. He was believed to be a nontender candidate, but his performance the past couple of months has given the Orioles plenty to consider.
"I'm trying not to think about that too much," Albers said. "You can't be worrying what the manager thinks about you. Obviously, I want to go out there and do my job and pitch well, and have a job. But if I pitch well, I probably will have a job. So I think I'm going to try to keep it simple and not worry too much about what other people think."
Instructional roster almost set
This year's top draft pick, shortstop Manny Machado, is one of approximately 15 players who will participate in the team's instructional program, held from Sept. 20 to Oct. 2 at Camden Yards. Instructional league would normally take place at the team's spring training complex in Sarasota, Fla. However, the Ed Smith complex is under construction, so the club has decided to hold a scaled-down version of the instructional program at Camden Yards, which will feature only position players.
The following players are expected to attend: infielders Machado, LJ Hoes, Connor Narron, Jonathan Schoop and Mychal Givens and outfielders Trent Mummey, Kyle Hudson and Brenden Webb.
Outfielder Xavier Avery has also been invited, but the club hasn't decided whether he'll attend or take some time off before reporting to the Arizona Fall League.
The Orioles will also invite between four and six catchers to participate in the program, which will include strength and conditioning work and the implementation of the offseason workout regime.
Arrieta getting closer to end
Showalter has stayed true to his word and not made any public comments about shutting down his young pitchers, but it's clear that Jake Arrieta's time in the rotation is running short. After throwing 61/3 innings in beating the Yankees on Tuesday, Arrieta's total in 29 combined outings for Triple-A Norfolk and the Orioles rose to 1671/3 innings.
His previous professional high was 1502/3 innings, set last year. Team officials don't want their young starters eclipsing their professional high by more than 30 innings, meaning that Arrieta likely has two more starts remaining at the most.
"I don't know if that's a big issue," Arrieta said after Tuesday's start. "I feel great and I've felt great from Day One, and I'm just looking forward to finishing out the season."
Around the horn
Unavailable for the previous two days because of neck and back spasms, reliever Michael Gonzalez threw in the outfield before the game and pronounced himself ready to go. He warmed up in the eighth inning but wasn't used in Wednesday's game. … A victory would have given the Orioles a six-game road winning streak for the first time since September 2004. It would have also been their first four-game winning streak over the Yankees since April 2005. … Six of the past nine Orioles to bat struck out. … The Orioles are 3-50 when being held to two runs or fewer this season.
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