Wednesday, July 8, 2015

An Updated Steve Lombardozzi Autograph

For the first time since I scanned the autographs my dad helped me get during Spring Training, I was actually able to get my act together and organize my cards. Which pretty much means that I have some more autographs to write about, at least theoretically. I just need to find the time and motivation to write with my ever decreasing free time, but isn't that the case for most of us? Anyway, at least I can hang my hat on the fact that I've continued to stay up on the Orioles debut posts, if nothing else.

Today's autograph is of Oriole #971, Steve Lombardozzi. Steve played in 20 games for the Orioles in 2014, all but one of which was during April, but he was inexplicably pictured as an Oriole in the 2014 Topps Update set, which came out in October. Outside of my dad's OMC cards, I'm very comfortable in saying that this is the only Orioles card that will ever feature Steve.

He seemed to be a relatively big part of the O's 2014 utility infield plans when the team traded for him late in Spring Training last year, but I got the sense that he must have rubbed some people in the O's organization the wrong way since he was effectively out of the picture after April, even though he was hitting .288. He was passed up for promotion numerous times throughout the season, and didn't even get a September call-up, which was very strange considering that he was on the 40 man roster. Early in February 2015, the Pirates purchased him from the Orioles and that was the end of Lombo's strange stint in Birdland.

It was a relatively disappointing stint because Steve attended high school at Atholton, which is only about 15 minutes from Baltimore and very close to where I live. I had hoped to get a chance to talk to him about playing for his "hometown" Orioles at some point, but unfortunately, he didn't prove to be very fan friendly in my limited interactions with him, something that has been echoed to me by other autograph collectors. But luckily a fellow collector on SportsCollectors.Net was able to help me get his O's card signed and personalized, so now I can remove a name from my list that probably shouldn't have been there in the first place.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Oriole #999- Mychal Givens

Wow, I hope that none of you read my post from last week speculating about who the one thousandth Oriole might be, seeing as how I listed ten potential candidates to make their Orioles debut, and not a single one of them was Oriole #999 Mychal Givens. Partially, this is because I chose to focus on the potential debuts of players at the AAA level to somewhat limit the pool of candidates (outside of Bowie Baysox pitcher Tim Berry, who was on the 40 man roster). Additionally, Givens hadn't been invited to the Orioles big league Spring Training, generally an indicator at the time about a player's general standing in the organization. HOWEVER, Givens is a name that Buck Showalter has mentioned multiple times this year in assorted interviews and once Buck has an eye on you, it generally means positive things about your future.

Givens has a pretty interesting history in the O's farm system, as he was drafted in the 2nd round of the 2009 draft, and the Orioles decided to have him play shortstop. Apparently, coming out of high school, many other teams like his arm better as a pitcher and thought he had a brighter future on the mound than at short, but the O's thought otherwise.

After three relatively unremarkable seasons in the field and at the plate, the Orioles finally conceded that Givens might do better as a pitcher and moved him to the mound in 2013. Success didn't come right away, but apparently once someone changed his mechanics to throw from a three quarters arm slot, his velocity and results improved.

This past Saturday, the Orioles selected Mychal's contract from AA Bowie and added him to the 25 & 40 man rosters. After watching three games from the bullpen, he got to make his Orioles & MLB debut in last night's game against the Red Sox in Boston. He needed only 11 pitches (8 of which were strikes) to retire the "heart" of the Sawx batting order, including two ground-outs and a four pitch strike out of Mike Napoli.

Mychal was optioned back to AA Bowie prior to today's game to make space of the roster for Miguel Gonzalez, but he sure showed some promise in his debut. Especially since he is now on the 40 man roster, I wouldn't be surprised to see him back in Baltimore sometime soon.

And for the record, I'm pretty sure that I have a personalized autograph of his Bowman Orioles card at the top of this post. I'm pretty sure he signed and personalized both a copy of that card and the Shorebirds card for me at the same time, but all of my stuff is pretty unorganized these days. Regardless, congrats on your debut Mychal!

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Who Will Be Oriole #1000? Redux

Since the Orioles are knocking on the door of having the 1000th player in team history make his debut for the club, I figured that it's once again time to look at the possible candidates for that milestone number. Back in mid-April, I wrote two posts about some of the players who were likely to make their O's debuts in the near future. At that time, following the Opening Day/week debuts, the team was still nine players away from debut #1000.

The most likely candidates to make an appearance on the team were fairly easily identified as those already on the team's 40 man roster. Since those posts and from the guys who were on the 40 man at that time, Oliver Drake, Tyler Wilson, Mike Wright, & Rey Navarro have all made their Orioles debuts. In addition to those guys, Chaz Roe, Cesar Cabral, and Chris Parmelee have also been added to the 40 man and have made their Orioles debuts.

Still remaining on the 40 man roster, and having not yet made their Orioles debuts are:

Tim Berry, who is currently struggling with a 2-5 record and 6.99 ERA at AA Bowie, 

and knuckleballer Eddie Gamboa, who is 4-4 with a 3.45 ERA over 11 starts at AAA Norfolk.

Of those two, I would say that Gamboa is a strong candidate to make his Orioles debut in the relatively near future, especially considering the O's already called him up to Baltimore once earlier in the season but he didn't make it into a game at the time. Conversely, Berry is a candidate to be removed from the 40 man and I don't think we will see him in Baltimore anytime soon.

The O's have also added reliever Jorge Rondon on a waiver claim from Colorado in early May and he now resides on the 40 man roster as well. He has pitched in 12 games for the Tides and is 2-0 with a 2.89 ERA so he is certainly a viable candidate to make an appearance for the O's.

Beyond those three members of the 40 man who haven't yet played for the O's, I would say the likely or possible members of the Tides to make it to Baltimore are, in no particular order, Dariel Alvarez, Paul Janish, Julio Borbon, Pedro Beato, Michael Bowden, Zach Davies, and Pat McCoy. Prospect types like Alvarez and Davies will almost certainly play for the O's at some point, barring a trade or an injury, but who knows when that could be? Beato, Bowden and McCoy are all pitching well for the Tides, and I know that Buck seems to like the defense of Janish and Borbon, so that keeps them as possibilities.

There are obviously thousands of other players currently playing for the other 29 MLB teams and their affiliates that could come to the O's in some sort of trade, but I just can't assess the likelihood that any of them come to Baltimore and appear for the Birds.

After all of that analysis, here's my final prediction for Oriole #1000...Eddie Gamboa! Time will tell if I'm right, but I would expect #1000 to occur within the next month-ish, so the wait shouldn't be too long! Let me know who you think #1000 could be in the comments.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Oriole #998- Chris Parmelee

Did you all happen to catch the O's game last night? It was a slobber-knocker as the Orioles demolished the Phillies 19-3. They hit 8 home runs in the game, which is an all-time team record, and my dad and I had actually talked about going to the game before deciding against it. Oh well, at least it was fun to watch on TV. And Chris Parmelee contributed to the win with one of the best ever offensive debuts by going 4-6 with two home runs.

Apparently, Chris was only the second Orioles player ever to hit two homers in his debut, following Sam Horn on April 9, 1990, and just the third with four hits in his debut following Horn and Ronny Paulino on April 7, 2012. Let's just hope that Parmelee's time in Baltimore ends better than Paulino's did, as he ended up with just twelve additional hits over nineteen games following that four hit debut.

Parmelee has a decent track record, as he was the Twins first round selection (20th overall) in the 2006 draft. He played for the Twins from 2011-14, but never appeared in more than 101 games in a season, and finished his time in Minnesota with a .249 average, and 24 home runs over 273 games. 

The Orioles signed him as a free agent this past January and he had been tearing up the AAA International League all season long and was hitting .312 with 6 homers and and on-base percentage near .400 over 61 games. However, he wasn't on the Orioles forty man roster, and is pretty much a 1B/corner OF of which the O's already have too many guys taking up spots on the roster. But they had to give him a shot or risk losing him to a competitor as he had a June 15th opt-out date. And I know that it's a very small sample size, but the move is already seeming to pay dividends. Now if he can only continue to produce, he should settle in nicely on the team. 

As I so often write, thanks goes once again to my dad for his helping making this Old Man Card as well as getting it signed for me on his Spring Training trip. Thanks to him, this will slide very nicely into a permanent spot in the collection. 

Since Parmelee is now officially Oriole #998, we are really knocking on the door of the 1000th debut in team history. I'm pretty sure that very few people are as excited for it as I am, but it's a cool milestone and I can't wait to see who it will be; I think I should do an update post about the remaining candidates for #1000. Hopefully I will get that up in the next few days. 

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Oriole #997- Cesar Cabral

We are getting closer and closer to the magical number for Oriole #1000; who will it be? Since I posed the question back in April, six players from the Tides have made their debuts, and now we are just three away. Maybe it's time to revisit the question. But today's focus is on the 997th player to appear in a game for the O's, Cesar Cabral.

Now most of you probably are probably aware that I don't much care for having signed Yankees cards in my collection, but for the time being, this is Cesar's only card in major sets. And, I certainly prioritize having any sort of autograph over my dislike of signed Yanks cards, so for now, this is in my collection.

Cesar has quite the interesting transaction history, most of it occurring with the teams of the AL East. He was originally signed as an amateur free agent by the Red Sox back in 2005; the Rays then selected him in the 2010 Rule V draft. Over the course of 2 weeks during spring training 2011, he was picked up on waivers by the Blue Jays, then the Rays again, and eventually returned to the Red Sox. After the 2011 season, he was again taken in the Rule V draft, this time by the Royals, and then was purchased by the Yankees. Got all that?

He eventually made his MLB debut with the Yankees in September 2013, and would pitch a total of twelve games with the Evil Empire over the '13-14 seasons, ending up with a 7.71 ERA over 4.2 IP, so he's definitely a LOOGY (lefty one one guy).

The Orioles signed him to a minor league contract this past January, and he actually never even pitched for the big league club during spring training, so it's a pretty impressive feat for him to be off the radar in March and now pitching for the team in June. But that is what having a 0.00 ERA and 25 K's split between 21 games at AA Bowie(2) and then AAA Norfolk(19) will do for a guy. And he's been good with the O's so far too, with two hitless/scoreless appearances totaling an inning of work.

Keep up the good work Cesar!

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Oriole #996- Chaz Roe

Unlike the previous four players who made their Orioles debuts (Rey Navarro, Mike Wright, Tyler Wilson, & Oliver Drake), Chaz Roe has been around the block a time or two. He actually has limited MLB experience, which includes 21 games with the Diamondbacks in 2013, as well as 3 appearances with the Yankees last year, but he was selected way back in the first round of the 2005 draft by the Rockies. He has pitched in the farm systems for five different teams and spent some time in the independent American Association over the past 11 years.

Chaz made his Orioles debut on May 24th against the Marlins and pitched two scoreless innings without allowing a baserunner and striking out two. He's made it into two more games since his O's debut, he walked two over 1.1 innings against the Astros on Tuesday, and gave up a hit and struck out one against the White Sox in the first game of today's doubleheader. So covering three appearances over 5 innings, he has given up just one hit, two walks and struck out three. Not too shabby.

Thanks to my dad's time spent getting autographs on his spring training trip and work making his Old Man Cards, I have probably the only signed Chaz Roe Orioles card in the world. Thanks Dad! And I'm 100% positive I have the only one personalized to Rayn!

I included Chaz in the group of Norfolk Tides players whom I considered that "anyone from this group could make it to Baltimore or none of them could" when evaluating candidates for Oriole #1000 just over a month ago. Looks like I was at least partially correct.

And good luck Chaz, keep mowing down those hitters!

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Oriole #995- Oliver Drake

Wow, with four players making their Orioles debut last week, it's really pushing the pace of my posts. Considering there's no way I have time to write four in a week right now, maybe slow down a little bit with the new players, whaddya think O's? But then again, at this rate, we will see Oriole #1000 in just a few short weeks!

In this past Saturday's game against the Marlins, Oliver Drake became the third Orioles pitched within a week to make their MLB debut for the team, following Mike Wright, and Tyler Wilson. And it was another stellar showing once again!

Drake entered in the ninth inning of a scoreless game (no additional pressure for an MLB debut, right?) and pitched three scoreless innings giving up just two hits and striking out two. He pitched again in the eighth inning on Monday's game, with the O's staked to a 4-3 lead, and was dominant yet again, as he struck out two of the three Astros he faced and didn't allow anyone to get on base. 

Oliver took the long and winding road to the major leagues, as he was drafted by the O's in the 43rd round of the 2008 draft out of the Naval Academy. He pitched at every level of the O's farm system, including Bluefield, which hasn't even been an Orioles affiliate since 2010, but he continued to rise through the system. The O's actually added him to their 40 man roster way back in 2011 to protect him from the Rule V draft, but subsequent injuries and roster crunches led to his being removed before pitching for the team at that point. 

He was actually a minor league free agent following the 2014 season, but he agreed to a major league deal that once again saw him added to the 40-man roster. It was a deal that made since for both sides since Drake knew that being on the 40-man made a call-up much more likely and the O's obviously liked something they saw in him. 

He was largely a starter over his first four years in the O's system, but was converted to a reliever in 2013 and his results seemed to improve at that point. In fact, as the AAA Norfolk Tides closer this season, he had 8 saves and a 0.96 ERA with 30 strikeouts over 18.2 innings in 16 appearances. Those are the kind of numbers that dignify a promotion!

Good luck with the Orioles Oliver! I have a feeling that you might stick around in Baltimore if you continue to pitch the way you have been so far!

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Oriole #994- Tyler Wilson

For the second time in the last three games, a pitcher has made their Orioles and MLB debut when Tyler Wilson took the mound in the ninth inning against the Mariners with the Orioles losing 4-1 to become the 994th player in Orioles history. He was officially recalled from AAA Norfolk on Sunday when Bud Norris was placed on the DL with lingering issues with bronchitis, but he had been with the club for a few previous days as a member of the "taxi squad".

Tyler allowed two singles in the inning but also got Robinson Cano to ground into a double play over his scoreless frame. I'm sure that he was relieved to not allow any runs in his debut.

He is the second consecutive home-grown player to debut for the O's, after Mike Wright's debut this past Sunday, and was selected in the 10th round of the 2010 draft out of the University of Virginia. He was also born and raised in VA, so it sounds like he had a nice contingent of family and friends at the game last night to seem his MLB debut.

It sounds like Tyler will continue to pitch out of the bullpen for the time being, but is a very likely candidate for the starting rotation in 2016. He seems to have made quite the impression on Buck Showalter during this past Spring Training, as he went 1-0 with a 0.64 ERA covering 14 innings over 6 games, and was given many opportunities to appear in games over some more senior pitchers who were competing for jobs on the big league club.

Good luck with the Orioles Tyler!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Oriole #993- The Mike is Wright

Now THAT'S how you make an MLB debut! 

Mike Wright was recalled from AAA Norfolk last Wednesday and announced his presence to the baseball world on Sunday. Due to an illness and an injury to Bud Norris and Chris Tillman respectively, Mike was called upon Sunday to make the start against the Angels, and a lineup that included MVP winners Mike Trout and Albert Pujols. 

How did he respond? Only by shutting down the Halos on just four hits over 7.1 innings and striking out six, including Trout. His Orioles debut, which was also his MLB debut, was among the best ever for Orioles starters, and I can say that I had the pleasure to be there with my family. It was a game that we won't soon forget, and I'm sure that it must have been one of the best days of Mike's life. 

Mike was drafted by the Orioles in the third round of the 2011 draft out of East Carolina University, and Bowman was cool enough to mess up his first, and one of the only current, cards of him by somehow photoshopping him into a Nationals uniform. I remember when Mike signed this card for me during his time as a Frederick Key in 2012, and I asked him how he felt about being pictured with the wrong team. At this point, I forget what he said but he seemed to take it and stride and didn't react too strongly.

I can also tell by the Old Man Card that Mike signed and personalized for me that I found that photo a few years back. I'm pretty confident it was taken on a back field during Spring Training (probably 2012 or '13) and at that point was one of the only shots of him in an Orioles uniform. Looking at the picture now, you can barely tell that it's him, but trust me that it is!

On one of my family's spring training trips, we happened to stay at the same hotel as some of the O's smaller name players and minor leaguers who were in big league camp and Mike was one of those players. I don't remember specifically interacting with him around the hotel, but you could pretty obviously tell that he was a player by his size (he's 6' 6", 215).

And I would be remiss not to mention that I read an account by how Mike preps for his games by reading a book in the stands prior to his starts. The book he was reading on Sunday was one of the Harry Potter books, which my wife and I both enjoy, so it makes him even easier to root for!

Good luck Mike! I hope you have many more starts for the Orioles like the one on Sunday. But even if you don't, no one can ever take away the fact that you are the 993rd player to appear in a game for the O's!

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Jaret Wright Makes it Right

The past couple weeks have been very good to me and my collection as I was able to add not one but two new autographs from my long-time need list. I wrote about my Freddy Garcia autograph earlier this week, and now I happily will also get to write about Jaret Wright. 

I covered Jaret's career in a post that I wrote way back in December 2011, and nothing has changed, baseball-wise for him since that time. The three games he pitched for the Orioles at the beginning of the 2007 season were the end of his MLB career. He pitched in four minor league games at hi A Frederick and AA Bowie towards the end of the 2007 season, and spent Spring Training 2008 with the Pirates but wasn't able to pitch well enough to get back to the show.

Jaret was featured in three major release sets as an Oriole in 2007, this Topps base set card, Topps Heritage, and Upper Deck Series 2. I know that a lot of other collectors work on Heritage sets, so I figured I had a much better shot at coming across a signed copy of the Topps or Upper Deck card. It just took over eight years for it to work out. I saw one signed copy of his Orioles Topps Heritage card on ebay maybe two years ago but someone else had bought it before I had the chance to do so, but this time around I quickly grabbed this signed card as soon as I saw it for sale.

I didn't really get back into collecting autographs hard-core until sometime in 2008, otherwise I would have almost certainly attended the Keys or Baysox games that Jaret was scheduled to pitch at to try to get one of his Orioles cards signed then as minor league rehab games are always a pretty good shot to get rehabbing Major Leaguers to sign, but I happily am adding this autograph to my collection now, better late than never!

Monday, May 4, 2015

Finally Freddy

Anytime that I am able to knock a name off of my list of Orioles autographs that I need is a good day, and today, I am happily knocking Freddy Garcia's name off of that list. 

Freddy made his Orioles debut back on May 4, 2013 and served as the Orioles fifth starter for about two months before being shipped to the Braves. I never got his autograph during his time with the O's but he had a few certified autographs out there, and I purchased a Mariners auto and plugged it into my collection.

Even though he was an well-traveled MLB veteran he was only in Baltimore for about two months, so I figured he wouldn't be featured in any sets as a member of the Orioles. Then on November 14, 2013 Topps released their Heritage High Number set, with Freddy pictured as an Oriole. No matter that he hadn't been an Oriole for nearly five months, and he finished the season with the Braves. Topps made me add Freddy's name to my need list.

Then Freddy spent the entirety of the 2014 season pitching in Taiwan. So I had no chance to get this card signed. And as far as I know, he still lives in his native Venezuela in the off-season, so obviously I wasn't sending him a TTM request that way. Freddy seemed out of reach, possibly permanently.

But then, the Dodgers signed him this past March 30th to a minor league deal. A window of opportunity to get this card autographed opened and I sent it out on a consignment via a connection on SCN. And there it is, a beautifully autographed Freddy Garcia Orioles card. And it was signed none-too-soon as Freddy was released on April 22, mere days after this was signed. And now, I don't have to worry about Freddy Garcia anymore.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Oriole #992- Rey Navarro

As the Orioles are faced with yet another early season injury as Ryan Flaherty is now heading for the disabled list, it at least leads to the first post-Opening-Day-roster-member debut of the 2015 season as Rey Navarro has been recalled from AAA Norfolk. Rey will be making his Orioles and MLB debut in tonight's game, and is being thrown right into the fire starting at second base and batting seventh against the Red Sox. After eight seasons in the minor league farm systems of the Diamondbacks, Royals, Reds, and now Orioles, he is finally getting that call-up. 

If you have been reading the blog recently, Rey is one of the players who I wrote about in my posts about the lead-up to Oriole #1000. I correctly predicted that since he was already on the 40-man roster, he would likely make his debut prior to #1000. And now the field of candidates for that special number has theoretically been lowered as well. 

Thankfully, Rey is one of the (many) new players in the Orioles organization that my dad was able to get to sign an autograph for me on his Spring Training trip. That, along with his Orioles Old Man Card, leave me feeling confident that I very likely have the only Rey Navarro signed Orioles card out there. Thanks Dad, you tha man! 

Rey only has one major release baseball card, in 2007 Bowman Draft Draft Picks as a member of the Diamondbacks, and was also included in the 2008 Tristar PROjections and '08 Justifiable minor league sets. If you are looking for cards of his though, make sure to search for Reynaldo Navarro. 

I have a funny story about Rey from this year's Orioles Fanfest. As an autograph collector, I take pride in my ability to ID pretty much any players on the O's roster, as well as many of the minor leaguers. (I'm good with faces, not sure how or why, but I am.) However, while walking around the Baltimore Convention Center and taking in the festivities, I ended up in the kids room for a few minutes. A few players were around the room playing games with the kids. Ryan Flaherty was playing air hockey, and (I believe) JJ Hardy was up front pulling bingo numbers along with someone who I couldn't place. So I figured he must not be an Orioles player, if I couldn't place him. After Fanfest, I realized that I was wrong, and that the other guy at the bingo table was none-other than Rey Navarro. 

My dad's autograph prowess on his Spring Training trip was so strong that he was able to get Rey to sign two of his cards, so if anyone needs his autograph for their collection, just let me know and maybe we can work out a trade!