Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Oriole #1023- Drew Stubbs

Wow, sorry about that everyone, I have no idea how I let three plus months go by without a post, although it's become more and more common around here recently. I'm still around, I still collect Orioles autographs, but my priorities in life have just been different as my son is growing up way too quickly.

A recent, unanticipated Christmas gift has motivated me to get my act together for a post. The Orioles added a few veteran players to boost their roster at the end of 2016 and my dad quickly produced Old Man Cards of the trio of Wade Miley, Michael Bourn, and Drew Stubbs. In the few games that we were able to attend towards the end of the season while those guys were on the roster, we unfortunately struck out on getting the cards signed. So my dad took the initiative to send TTM requests to all three guys to see what might happen. I was pessimistic as none of the three seemed to really sign autographs that way, but it never hurts to try.

About a week before we did our family Christmas gift exchange, he got a self addressed envelope back and to his surprise, check out what was inside!

Two signed, personalized Drew Stubbs OMCs! It was a great gift and a truly unexpected surprise to add to my collection. It was nice to knock off another autograph before the end of 2016.

The Orioles selected Drew off of waivers from the Rangers on August 31st, and he went on to appear in 20 games for the O's. He had three hits over 22 at-bats and was mainly used as a late inning defensive replacement or pinch runner. Unfortunately, he didn't make much of an impression in Baltimore and I doubt that he will be brought back in 2017. But thankfully, I don't need to worry about tracking him down with another team to try to get these cards signed.

Thanks for all of your help Old Man. And I hope that you all have a Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year!

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Oriole # 1019- Logan Ondrusek

Whew, a lot of these late season additions to the Orioles roster have given me a run for my money in my attempts to add their autographs to my collection. Which has caused me to fall behind on my debut posts as well. But don't worry, I'm still here, just busy trying to catch up with all the new guys around town.

Logan Ondrusek's signing came completely out of left field, or I suppose more accurately, Japan, where he had been pitching for the past two seasons after spending parts of his first five seasons pitching for the Reds. In a very unexpected and Dan Duquetteish transaction, the Orioles signed him to a Major League deal on July 29th and designated Chaz Roe for assignment. This was right at the trade deadline as other teams were making bigger and better moves, so I think most of the Orioles fan base was beyond puzzled by this addition to the roster.

Logan made his Orioles debut the day after being added to the roster and proceeded to pitch in seven games for the Orioles over two stints with the team. Over 6.1 IP, he allowed 9 hits, 7 earned runs which worked out to a 9.95 ERA. Needless to say, things didn't go well. He was designated for assignment on August 26th and ultimately passed through waivers and ended the season at AA Bowie.

Shortly after Logan was added to the team, I was able to trade for this signed Reds card of his through a friend on SportsCollectors.Net. So it served as a nice placeholder in my collection. However, my dad quickly churned out some Old Man Cards of Ondrusek, and it was preference to save this post until I got them signed. And that's where my attempts to get these cards signed get interesting. 

During his first stint with the Orioles, from July 30-August 11, the team only had three weekday home games which I was unable to attend. Luckily, he got optioned to the AA Bowie Baysox, which is the closest affiliate to me, so I planned to go to a game there on Friday August 19th, but something came up and I couldn't make it. So I decided to go the following Saturday, 8/29. But by that point, the Orioles had recalled him from Bowie and designated him for assignment, so he was in DFA limbo when I attended that game. The Baysox final home game of 2016 was Thursday 9/1 and the day before that it was announced that he had cleared waivers and would head back to Bowie. I went to the game with my family and we waited for Logan who was one of the last players out of the clubhouse with only about five minutes to go before first pitch. Luckily, he was a nice guy and came over to sign for us as you can tell by the cards in this post. And that's my drawn out story about how Logan's signed and personalized Old Man Cards came to my collection. I hope you enjoyed it!

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Oriole #1021- Parker Bridwell

I know that I'm skipping a few debuts at this point, but July/August is always a hard time of the season to keep up with autographs on the team as players are traded or acquired from other organizations and I don't have their autographs waiting to add to my collection. So I'm going to move ahead with a debut I was prepared for; that of the Orioles 9th round draft pick in the 2010 draft, Parker Bridwell.

Parker was drafted out of Hereford High School in Texas, and apparently could have been the quarterback at Texas Tech if he had chosen to go that route, so it seems like he was an all-around gifted athlete in high school. He worked his way through every level of the Orioles minor league system over the past seven years, at times seeming like a sure-fire Major Leaguer following up with other stretches where it seemed like he would never make it to the show. 

He has consistently been ranked as one of the Orioles highest prospects, owing at least in part to their shallow farm system, and was added to the 40-man roster prior to the 2016 season to protect him from the Rule 5 draft. Parker was also invited to the big league camp for the first time in 2016 so all the signs seemed to be pointing in the right direction for him. However, during the season, he battled some injuries and was also moved to the bullpen, where it seems like the team thinks his MLB future might be, so it took most of the season before he finally got the call to the O's. He made his MLB debut on Sunday August 21st against the Astros, and pitched two innings in relative mop up duty to help out the overtaxed Orioles bullpen. He gave up two hits, including a HR, and struck out two Astros batters.

I have a number of Parker's signed minor league cards from over the years, although he pitched in Aberdeen and Delmarva, two places that I didn't often get to during the years that I made it to the most minor league games. It feels nice to once again have been prepared for the debut of a new Oriole!

Parker has always seemed like a decent guy so I hope that he has finally found his way to the Orioles permanently. Good luck to him!

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Oriole #1018- Julio Borbon

Julio Borbon has lived on the periphery of the Orioles Major League roster for the past three seasons. He has been a guy whose name Buck Showalter has continued to randomly bring up at times when discussing players in the system that he likes, but Julio was consistently passed over when minor league outfielders were called up to Baltimore. I don't exactly know why that was, but he finally made his Orioles debut on July 20th.

Julio was originally brought into the Orioles fold during the Rule V draft way back in December 2013 when the team selected him from the Cubs organization. I don't know how a player who had played in almost 290 MLB games over parts of four seasons (mostly with the Rangers from 2009-11) was eligible for the Rule V draft but that's a post for another day.

The signed card at the top of this post was back in the early days of my dad's Old Man Cards and was made prior to spring training 2014. I wrote a post about this back then, but for whatever reason during my time spent chasing autographs that spring, Julio and Delmon Young were the hardest autographs for me to get. Luckily, on the last day of my trip, Julio did sign and personalize this card for me, so I've been ready for his O's debut for two and a half years.

The Orioles resigned Julio to a one year contract in 2015 and again in 2016, so there obviously seems to be something working between the team and him even though he continued to play solely in the minors. Interstingly, Julio was playing with the AA Bowie Baysox when he got called up to the Orioles, which means that at this point, the O's seem more likely to call up guys from AA than AAA to help in Baltimore. Hey, however they win is fine with me.

Once he made his Orioles debut, Julio played in five consecutive games for the team, and went 2-9 with a run scored. The team then outrighted him back the minors, which he apparently could have refused, but he once again opted to stay in the organization. So maybe we will see Julio in Baltimore again at some point, possibly in another 2-3 seasons.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Oriole #1017- Donnie Hart

For the time being, I'm still waiting for an autograph of Oriole #1015, but more debuts keep happening, so I'm moving forward to write about the more recent debuts. Hopefully, I will have something to show for 1015 in the near future.

As the Orioles search for a match-up type bullpen lefty continues, Donnie Hart has become the most recent player to attempt to fill that role for the Birds. His contract was selected from AA Bowie on July 15th, and he made his Orioles and MLB debut two days later in a game against the Rays in Tampa. He went on to pitch in three straight games, and has yet to allow a run. So far at the MLB level, he has pitched 2.2 innings, and allowed 2 hits, 2 walks, and struck out 1. That 1.50 WHIP isn't great, but the 0.00 ERA will probably keep him in Baltimore for the near future.

Donnie was drafted by the Orioles in the 27th round of the 2013 draft out of Texas State University. Over four seasons in the O's minor league system he has pitched for the Ironbirds, Shorebirds, Keys, and Baysox. He appeared in 117 games, all out of the bullpen, and had a 11-6 record with a 2.27 ERA. He also appeared in the Arizona Fall League following the 2015 season, which means the Orioles considered him to be some sort of prospect. And following Jayson Aquino, he became the second straight player to debut with the Orioles directly from AA. Although Hart wasn't already on the 40 man roster, which makes this move more surprising, but I guess it says something about how the O's perceive the lefty bullpen pitchers at AAA right now.

The two autographs above are the only autographs I have of Donnie, and luck was once again on my side as I got both of these cards signed at the same Bowie meet the team day that Jayson Aquino signed for me. So the meet the team day really came through for me! Since Hart wasn't on the O's 40 man, and I had no idea that he was on their radar, we hadn't made an Old Man Orioles Card of him at that point. My dad just made Donnie's first Orioles cards and hopefully we can get them signed sometime soon.

In the meantime, good luck in Baltimore Donnie!

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Oriole #1016- Jayson Aquino

(Once again, I'm going to skip writing about a debut since I don't yet have an autograph of the player who debuted. Hopefully, I will rectify that soon, but this one won't be quite as easy as Brian Duensing was a few weeks ago.)

Many times over the years in my experience with autographs, I seem to end with a lot of signatures of players who never rise the minor league ladder and make it to Baltimore. Other times, there are players who have played for the Orioles but it's quite frustrating to add their autographs to my collection, and a lot of time and effort can go into it. But then, every now and then, things seem to just work out well. That was the case of Jayson Aquino for me.

My dad made these OMC custom cards of Aquino and gave them to me on Saturday June 18th. The following day was Father's Day and the AA Bowie Baysox were having a meet the team and catch on the field event, so my wife and I decided to take our son to the game. So about 24 hours after I had these cards in hand, Jayson had signed both of them. And about two weeks later, he had made his Orioles debut and one of them was heading to my collection. Sometimes, it's just that easy!

To add some backstory, not long before that Father's Day weekend, I was checking the Orioles 40 man roster, and I noticed a few names that had slipped past me on their way into the organization. Based on past experiences, the Orioles, and most other teams I assume, prefer to make roster moves with players who are already on the 40 man, as opposed to designating someone and possibly losing them to another team.

Jayson Aquino had been acquired by the Orioles from the Cardinals back on April 7th, and since he had been on the Cardinals 40 man roster, rules stipulated that he had to be added to the O's 40 man. So he was, and then added to AA Bowie's roster. Since Bowie is significantly closer to Baltimore than AAA Norfolk, the fact that a player is playing there doesn't mean the Orioles don't like them. In fact, in recent years, at least Mychal Givens and Manny Machado have joined the O's directly from Bowie.

Aquino had a 4-7 record over 14 games, including 13 starts, with the Baysox but had a 3.25 ERA, so he was pitching well. As we all know, the Orioles pitching has been kind of a mess this year, so they are pretty much trying out all available arms at this point, and Jayson was recalled on Monday. He went on to make his MLB debut with the Orioles in the eighth inning of that night's game, and didn't allow any baserunners over two thirds of an inning.

Jayson was sent back to Bowie after yesterday's game against the Dodgers, so I might try to add a few more of his autographs to my collection at some point, as I still have one more of these Orioles customs to be signed in addition to his 2016 Baysox team set card. Maybe I should have gone through his line at the meet the team event one more time, but I'm just happy to already have his autograph to slide into my collection.

Thanks for your help with the cards Old Man, and good luck when you make it back to Baltimore Jayson!

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Oriole #1013- Brian Duensing

In my last post about Oriole #1014, Odrisamer Despaigne, I mentioned that I was skipping Oriole #1013 since I didn't have an autograph of his yet. Oh what a difference a few days makes; within a span of about 24 hours, I got Brian Duensing to sign two cards for me at an O's game as well as receiving a third autograph of his via a trade. So now, I'm officially ready for my post about Oriole #1013, Brian Duensing.

I really got lucky to have Brian sign two cards for me at Saturday's game. We arrived at the game early as the gates opened and I headed directly to the field. I noticed that a lot of the pitchers were spread out in the outfield shagging fly balls as they do sometimes, and I started scanning for Brian. Luckily, he was in the right field corner, relatively close to where I was, and nearly as I got down to the field, Orioles BP ended and everyone started running off of the field. I called out his name and within about 4 minutes of being inside the stadium, I had the autographs I had come for, and my autograph experience was surprisingly easy for once. A lot of times over the years, I have spent hours chasing down autographs to get the same 2-3 players who have graciously signed for me many times over the years, so it was nice to have such a quick and productive effort.

Brian joined the Orioles organization in late May as a minor league free agent. He had been in the Royals system but had signed a deal with an opt-out date if he was not called up to the big league club. I'm quite sure that I read somewhere that his deal with the Orioles was a similar type of contract, but the Orioles obviously decided to bring him up to the big league squad instead of losing him. So on June 2nd, the O's selected his contract from AAA Norfolk.

Duensing has a lot of MLB experience, all of which came with the Twins from 2009-15. He pitched in 354 games for them, with a 41-37 record and a 4.13 ERA over that time and worked largely as a reliever, but did make 61 starts early in his career.

To date for the Orioles, he has pitched in seven games, and is more or less the lefty matchup reliever in the bullpen. Over 6.2 innings, he has a 5.40 ERA with three strikeouts while giving up nine hits and 2 walks. Hopefully that line will improve.

Since the vast majority of my autographing these days occurs during my trip to Spring Training, it's always mildly frustrating as players enter the Orioles organization after the start of the season. It happens every year and is a part of how rosters are constantly evolving, but I'm left scrambling as a player enters the Orioles system and is making their debut with the team in a matter of weeks. Thankfully, I was able to get a few of Duensing's autographs quickly, but it doesn't always work that way. Some players who have entered the organization mid-season (a-hem, Francisco Rodriguez), have been begrudgingly added to my need list and stayed there for years. Happily, I have a signed and personalized Old Man Card of Brian's to head right into my collection. As always, thanks for your help old man!

Good luck in Baltimore, Brian, And thanks for signing for me!

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Oriole #1014- Odrisamer Despaigne

(I am temporarily skipping a post about Oriole #1013 as I traded for an autograph of his, so for the time being, I'm writing about #1014. Check back soon (hopefully) for a post about #1013.)

The Orioles recalled Odrisamer Despaigne from AAA Norfolk on Tuesday as Vance Worley went on the disabled list, and he made his Orioles debut in last night's loss against the Red Sox. The loss had nothing to do with his effort however, he pitched 2.2 innings of scoreless relief, although he did give up three hits and 2 walks, so he needed some help from his defense to get through the outing. It seems like he will slide into Worley's role as the long-man/spot starter/whatever in the bullpen. 

You might recognize these autographs from one of my Spring Training posts about my 2016 trip back in March. At the time I wrote about how accommodating Odrisamer was any time he was asked to sign, and he easily had signed everything I brought for him very quickly. As I seem to write in just about every other post, thanks to my dad's Old Man Cards, I already have a signed Orioles card of Odrisamer to slide directly into my collection. That makes things easy for me!

The Orioles acquired Odrisamer in a trade with the Padres this past February in exchange for minor league pitcher, Jean Cosme. Over parts of two seasons in San Diego, he had a 9-16 record with a 4.74 ERA over 50 games, including 34 starts.

Just to clear something up, according to Baseball-reference.com, his name is pronounced OH-drees-ah-meer DES-pawn-yay and might be one of the most challenging names to type and pronounce in Orioles history. Although I can't speak to the specific background of his name, he was born in Cuba and defected from the Cuban National Team during a tournament in Europe in 2013.

It will be interesting to see what the future brings with the Orioles and Odrisamer as the team needs a roster spot for Yovani Gallardo this weekend, but as long as he holds onto his 0.00 ERA, he might stick around for a while!

Friday, June 3, 2016

Oriole #1012- Francisco Pena

Last night's Orioles game featured two players making their debuts for the team. It's pretty rare for multiple debuts to occur in the same game other than at the beginning of the season in April or around the beginning of September, once the call-ups occur due to the expanded roster. One of the debuts, I was prepared for, while the other caught me relatively off-guard. In large part thanks to my dad, I was fully ready for Francisco Pena's Orioles debut. Not only did my dad produce his ubiquitous Old Man Cards, but he actually got three of these signed at Spring Training before I even arrived in Sarasota!

It seems like the Orioles generally pay a large amount of attention to the catching depth throughout the organization, so it's no surprise to see them sign a few extra catchers during the offseason. The O's purchased Francisco's contract from the Royals on December 2nd, and added him to their 40 man roster. He had played in nine games for Kansas City during the 2014 &'15 seasons, and was mostly known for his skills as a defensive catcher, which is something highly valued by the O's. 

The Orioles recalled Francisco from AAA Norfolk this past Tuesday after Caleb Joseph suffered a "testicular injury" (retching sounds) during Monday's game. He made his Orioles debut yesterday against the Red Sox and didn't disappoint. He kept Ubaldo's head screwed on tightly for the first five innings, quite and accomplishment given his recent performance on the mound, and went 2-4 with a HR, 2 runs scored, and 2 RBI. It was his first MLB home run, so it was a nice night all around for him. Not to mention that he caught the only runner attempting a steal against him to top it all off.

Baseball runs in Francisco's veins, as his dad is long-time MLB catcher Tony Pena, who played 18 seasons in the majors from 1980-97, mostly with the Pirates and Red Sox. In a cool twist to this story, his dad is currently the first base coach for the Yankees, who arrived in town last night ahead of their three game series with the Orioles this weekend, so father and son will likely take the same field at some point this weekend.

Good luck Francisco, keep up the great work as an Oriole! Although I don't expect you to hit a homer every game!

Friday, May 27, 2016

Oriole #1011- Ashur Tolliver

Wow, what a feel good debut story for the Orioles. Ashur Tolliver made his long-awaited MLB debut last night and pitched very well; he struck out three of the Astros he faced, and only walked one. 

Ashur was drafted by the Orioles in the fifth round of the 2009 draft, and has slowly and steadily made the climb through the minor league system. He was called up directly from AA Bowie, where he has spent most of the past three seasons. 

 Ashur was invited to big league spring training for the first time in 2016 and he rapidly signed every card I had for him. Thanks to my dad's Old Man Cards, I actually had a decent stack for him to sign, and he was ready and willing to sign each time I asked. He was very nice to the fans, and is truly an easy guy to root for.

Ashur only has had a few minor league cards over the years; he was included in the 2010 Aberdeen Ironbirds set, and the 2015 Bowie Baysox set, and that might be it. He signed well during his time in the minors too, so without the OMCs I wouldn't have had much for him to sign, and I hate passing up an autograph!

The removal of Brian Matusz from the Orioles bullpen opened up the way for Ashur to make his way to Baltimore, and I am hoping for his continued success. Good luck Ashur!

Oh, and make sure to check out this crazy play that Ashur made for the Baysox just last week. It has already been viewed millions of times online!

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Oriole #1010- Hyun Soo Kim-or the Debut that Almost Wasn't

For those of you who follow the Orioles, which I assume is the vast majority of people who visit my little site, then you are familiar with the saga of Hyun Soo Kim' time with the Orioles during this past Spring Training.

The O's signed Kim to a 2 year, $7 million dollar deal back in December 2015. He had played in the Korean Baseball Organization (Korea's version of MLB) for the past decade or so, and he was a star in the league, who hit for power and average and got on base consistently. At the time that he signed, it was widely assumed that he would be the Orioles left fielder in 2016, due at least in part to the lack of organizational outfield depth.

But once Spring Training started, the emergence of Rule 5 pick Joey Rickard and his sensational success quickly eclipsed Kim, who had a polar opposite spring training experience from Joey. Whether it was a culture shock, language barrier, or the adjustment to a new league, Kim struggled from the start. He began the spring 0-23 and finished Grapefruit League action with a paltry .178 average with no extra base hits and a single walk. In fact, it seemed like most of his hits didn't even leave the infield and he was regularly over-matched by average major league fastballs.

Kim's contract stated that he needed to give his approval to be optioned to the minor leagues (a poorly thought out stipulation by the Orioles), and he refused, insisting that his contract be honored. It was a bad situation all around, because he clearly would have benefited by getting regular at bats at AAA, but it's hard to blame him too much since his contract gave him the control to decide and it was always his dream to play in the Major Leagues. I can honestly see both sides of the story.

Due to Hyun Soo's insistence about staying on the Major League roster, he ran down the orange carpet with the rest of the team on Opening Day, but was the only Orioles player to receive any boo's (again in my opinion only partially deserved).

It took him until the fifth game of the season to make his Orioles and MLB debut, when he started in left field against the Rays in the final game of the Orioles first homestand. He went 2-3 with two infield singles in his debut, and appeared in his second game last night against the Red Sox in Boston, where he was 0-4 but did walk twice. Only time will tell how this is going to work out, but right now, he is firmly entrenched on the bench as the team's fifth outfielder.

Finally, I'd be remiss to not mention my autograph experience with Hyun Soo since this is an autograph blog. I flat out had no success with him in Spring. In fact, I don't even know if he ever looked at me or the other fans I was with. At one point, I was with a group of about eight people, including 2-3 attractive Korean girls who were only waiting for him and had signs for him to boot. He was in the car with his translator and blew right past the group of us, with a small wave of his hand and his eyes never leaving his phone. So I'm not a fan of his not because of his contract situation and how he ended up on the 25 man roster, but instead because of how I saw him treat his fans in Sarasota. Bad form Hyun Soo.

As was the case with my Pedro Alvarez autograph, my autographing friend Alan once again was able to help me out. For whatever reason, Hyun Soo seemed to gladly sign for Alan, who got his autograph at least three times while I continued to strike out. So thanks to my dad's Old Man Card, and Alan's help, this autograph will always be in my collection.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Oriole # 1009- Vance Worley

After the initial rush of four Orioles debuts over the first two games of the season, it took a few more games for the last two new guys on the roster to make their debut on the field. Vance Worley and Hyun Soo Kim both debuted simultaneously in the field this past Sunday, April 10th, in the Orioles fifth game of the season. So I had to go back to my positional tie-breaker system to determine that Worley being the pitcher (position 1) slotted ahead of Kim who started in left field (7), so that officially locked Vance in as the 1009th player in Orioles history.

(Sorry for the crappy scans of these two cards, but my scanner started playing hardball with me)

The Vanimal (his nickname since his college days for his hardcore workouts) was the only one of the six new Orioles to debut in 2016 who was a member of the team and attended Orioles Fanfest back in December. So, thanks to my dad's Old Man Orioles custom cards, I had been prepared for his Orioles debut for about five months by the time it actually came around. I wasn't actually sure that he was going to break camp with the team, as it came down to the final day of Spring Training before it was officially announced that he heading to Baltimore. 

Interestingly enough, he started the season as the team's fifth starter, but it's possible that Tyler Wilson will move into that role in the future, but only time will tell. Vance hadn't pitched in something like ten days before making his start, so it would make sense if he was a little bit rusty. He pitched reasonably well, and gave up just two earned runs over 4.2 innings, while he struck out five Rays. If he had been able to get one more out, he would have been in line for the win, but the wheels had started to come off. All told, it was a solid performance for his debut, especially after the long layover. 

In addition to getting Vance's autograph at Fanfest, he was one of the better signers I came across during my Spring Training trip too. I came across him with just one other fan nearby and he signed these cards for me, as well as the OMC at the top of the post. Prior to Vance's signing for us, the other autograph seeker saw my Twins card and mentioned that Vance likely wouldn't sign it. I had never heard anything about this, so I put the Twins card on the bottom, and figured it didn't hurt to ask.

Which leads to one of my funnier autograph stories in recent memory. Before signing the card, he thoroughly crossed out both the Twins lettering and logo. I wasn't sure he was going to still sign the card, but he did. And I didn't get the whole story behind this, but suffice it to say that he clearly doesn't have good memories about his time in Minnesota.

Thanks for signing for me Vance and welcome to the club!

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Oriole # 1008- Yovani Gallardo

This past off-season saw the Orioles embroiled in a few strange controversies, which I wish I could say was surprising, but for those of us who have followed the team over the years, some of these odd occurrences seem all too common in Baltimore. It was originally reported that the Orioles and Yovani had agreed to a three year deal, but then the O's, who seem to have the most rigorous physical process in baseball, had some concerns about what they saw in the physical. The purported deal languished, and it seemed like both sides might go their separate ways, before the pact was restructured and they agreed to a contract of two years with an option for a third. Shortly after this time, it was announced that the Orioles had signed Dexter Fowler to a three year deal before he showed up at the Cubs Spring Training facility to announce that he had signed a one year deal with them. Such is life in Birdland. 

At least the team ended up with one of the two free agents, and Yovani Gallardo made his Orioles debut as the starting pitcher in the team's second game of the season to officially cement his place as the 1008th player to appear in a game for the Orioles. He pitched five innings in his debut against the Twins, gave up just a single run, and earned the win for his efforts. His second game against the Red Sox in Boston didn't go as well, as he again pitched five innings, but this time game up five earned runs, but was bailed out by the O's bats to earn a no decision.

Who knows what this season will bring, and I wasn't totally on board about giving up one of the team's first round picks to sign him, but there is no doubt that the Orioles needed starting pitching help, and Yovani has been a consistent MLB starter for almost a decade.

Yovani was drafted by the Brewers in the second round of the 2004 draft and he pitched for the Brewers from 2007-14 with a 89-64 record. (The O's picked Wade Townsend who never signed in the first round, and lost their second rounder to the A's in return for signing Miguel Tejada to a free agent deal). The Brewers traded him to the Rangers prior to the 2015 season and he went 13-11 in his lone season in Texas. One of the main selling points for Yovani is the fact that he has made at least 30 starts each season since 2009, a consistency that has been lacking for many of the Orioles starters during that time.

Yovani signed these cards for me on my trip to Spring Training this past March. He had only signed with the team a few days before we left, so it was a quick turnaround for my dad to make these cards, but not surprisingly, he came through! And I only saw Yovani sign the one time that I got him, so I'm happy that it worked out that he signed for me!

Monday, April 11, 2016

Oriole #1007- Pedro Alvarez

As I've mentioned while writing my last two debut posts highlighting Joey Rickard and Mark Trumbo, any time there are multiple debuts in the same game, I use fielding position numbers (1-9) as a tiebreaker. And although Pedro also made his Orioles debut on Opening Day, he served as the designated hitter in that game, so is the last of the three players to have officially made his debut in the O's first game of 2016. 

Pedro didn't officially sign with the Orioles until the day after I came back home from Sarasota, but I actually saw him at the Orioles complex on the last day of my trip; presumably he was there to take his physical. So that makes sense given that the Orioles physical/signing process generally seems to take something like 2-3 days to complete. They are certainly known for their "thorough" process, just ask Grant Balfour or Yovani Gallardo.

Thankfully, I've made a connection with a few fellow Orioles autograph collectors in Sarasota, and Alan was kind enough to help me out with Pedro (and Hyun Soo Kim), neither of whom signed for me on my trip (more about Kim in his post that will be up in a few days). Some of you might remember Alan for his winning a contest and being included in the Topps Heritage Minors set a couple years back. I've heard that Pedro isn't the best signer, so I was extremely happy that Alan was able to not only get my Old Man Card signed, but also personalized for me!

Pedro was the Pirates first round draft pick in the 2008 draft (the Orioles selected Brian Matusz two picks later), and he had a bit of an up and down career during his six seasons in Pittsburgh. He struggled defensively at third and later first base, and while he did make the 2013 All-Star team and hit 131 homeruns, including 30+ two times, he also struck out 813 times and struggled to hit for average.

Between being a Scott Boras client, and some salary demands, it was not too surprising to see that he was still unsigned in early March. After the Orioles deal for Dexter Fowler fell apart, they turned their attention to Pedro and signed him to a one year $5.75 million deal.

He has struggled a bit for the Orioles so far, and has just one hit over fifteen at-bats in five games. He has walked three times and only struck our four times, so it could be worse. But I'm hoping that his power potential shows up sometime soon.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Oriole #1006- Mark Trumbo

As I mentioned in yesterday's post about Joey Rickard's debut, three players made their Orioles debut on Opening Day 2016. Again, my tie-breaker system involves using the numbered fielding positions to order the debuts, and Rickard's debut in left field (7), came just ahead of Trumbo's debut in right field (9). So Joey is Oriole #1005, and Mark becomes Oriole #1006. 

Mark's Orioles debut was quite memorable, as he went 4-5 with 4 singles as well as a stolen base. He becomes just the fourth Oriole to record four hits in his Baltimore debut following Sam Horn, Ronny Paulino, and Chris Parmelee. But honestly, the stolen base might be more noteworthy for him considering he only had 20 previous steals over 690 MLB games. 

The Orioles acquired Mark (and reliever C.J. Riefenhauser) in a trade with the Mariners this past December in exchange for local Baltimore product and hometown favorite, Steve Clevenger. Even though Steve was a great guy and easy to root for, I honestly thought it was a great transaction since the Orioles were relatively deep at catcher, and thin in the outfield. Trumbo has some legitimate power as well and has hit over 30 HR twice in his six MLB seasons.

He has bounced around a bit, and was originally drafted by the Angels, before being traded to the Diamondbacks, and later the Mariners. He came in second in the 2011 AL Rookie of the Year voting behind winner Jeremy Hellickson, and was an All-Star for the Halos in 2012.

Mark signed both of these Old Man Cards for me during my Spring Training trip. I saw him sign multiple times over the course of the trip and was lucky to have gotten his autograph twice as he was mobbed by fans both times I got his autograph. I actually mentioned that I had his first Orioles card, and he specifically picked it out of the crowd and signed it for me. He took a minute to look it over and I asked him what he thought and he said it was a nice card. He asked if I made it and I was happy to give the credit to my dad for his help.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Oriole # 1005- Joey Rickard

I wrote about him last week and I'm already writing about him again, the 2016 Orioles rookie sensation, Joey Rickard.

He was the Orioles' 2015 Rule 5 pick from the Tampa Bay Rays farm system where he spent the 2015 season with the AA Montgomery Biscuits. For the O's, over 63 Spring Training at bats in 28 games, he hit a robust .397 with 6 doubles, a triple, a home run, and five stolen bases, typically batting in the lead-off spot. The Orioles love keeping their Rule 5 picks anyway but that kind of performance would have led to his making the team regardless of the situation. 

Joey was one of three Orioles making his debut for the team on Opening Day, but his was additionally special because it was his MLB debut as well. I use the 1-9 numbered fielding positions on the baseball field as a debut tie-breaker, so Joey, who started in left field (7), narrowly edged out Mark Trumbo in right field (9). and Pedro Alvarez (DH) for the first debut of the 2016 season.  I read somewhere online that according to the Elias Sports Bureau, Joey was the first player to start an Opening Day game for the Orioles in the same year as being selected as a Rule 5 pick.

Rickard wasted no time making noise in the regular season, and singled in his first at-bat, and then doubled in his second AB. Unfortunately, a cycle was not in the works, but going 2-4 with a run scored on your Opening Day MLB debut is flat-out amazing. Joey is living the dream right now.

So, you might have noticed that the only three pictures in this post are three copies on my dad's Old Man Cards. Joey was a great signer for me during my Spring Training trip, but the only issue is how few cards exist of him. As far as I can tell, outside of custom cards like my dad's, he is pictured on just three cards, all minor league issues from his time in the Rays' farm system; he is included in the 2013 Bowling Green Hot Rods, 2014 Montgomery Biscuits, and 2015 Charlotte Stone Crabs sets. And none of those cards are particularly easy to come by, so thanks as always to my dad for making these great cards!

Good luck with your career, Joey! I hope it continues as well as it started!

Friday, April 1, 2016

Doubting the Existence of a few Orioles Crown Autographs

Orioles autograph collectors are lucky that the Crown Gasoline card set was issued in 1991 to commemorate the final season that the team played in Memorial Stadium. The set included every single player who appeared in even a single game for the team from their introduction in Baltimore in 1954 through the early '91 season. In many cases, the Crown card is the only baseball card made of those players, and certainly the only Orioles card that exists for quite a few others.

The set can also be a bit of a curse to someone like me, who would be happy to have any autograph of many of these players if not for the Crown set picturing them as Orioles. As I can attest, it is much easier to find any random signature of a player as opposed to trying to find a specific card that is signed. Which leads me to this post.

As I said, the Crown set came out in 1991, so any player that passed away before that time and is included in the set obviously never signed their card; 32 former Orioles players died before the set came out so there are no signed Crowns of those guys. Another five died during 1991, and as the set was available for sale in four parts (May 18, June 29, August 11, & September 16) most of those five passed away before they feasibly could've signed their Crown cards.

Finally getting to the main point of this post, the list of Orioles autographs I have been chasing after is at a scant 15 players I have been trying to track down upgrades for; and of those 15, 8 are only pictured as Orioles on their crown cards, John Anderson, Stan Jefferson, Ed Lopat, Chuck Oertel, Carl Powis, Joe Taylor, Valmy Thomas, and Marv Throneberry. Of that group, Stan Jefferson is still alive, so I can hold out hope that one day he will sign his Crown card, or I will come across a signed copy. Of the others, I have seen signed copies of Taylor's Crown, and have been told of other collectors who have Lopat & Thomas in their collections.

Which leaves us with John Anderson, Chuck Oertel, Carl Powis, & Marv Throneberry. I recently came across the story of an older gentleman who has collected autographs of this set since it came out in 1991. And he doesn't have any of those four signed Crowns, among a few others. Which leads me to believe that those signed Crowns might simply not exist. And if that's the case, I'm going to remove them from my need list. 

If anyone out there owns, or has ever seen a signed Crown card of any of those four, please let me know, because I am at the point where I am seriously doubting their existence. Anderson and Powis largely fell off the map after their playing careers ended, and their autographs seem to be extremely limited. I don't know much about Oertel's post playing career, but his autographs are also quite limited. Throneberry was a Miller Lite spokesman after his career, but passed away in 1994 after battling cancer, so it's possible that he was too ill to sign once the set came out. 

Again, if anyone knows if these signed cards do in fact exist, please let me know. Because after almost a decade of trying to track them down, I think they might just not be out there.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Orioles Spring Training Phenom- Joey Rickard

The Orioles selected Joey Rickard from the Tampa Bay Rays during the Rule V draft during the Winter Meetings this past December. Most of you probably already know that the O's have a propensity for making picks in that supplemental draft, and that they do their best to keep the players they drafted. In recent years, the team has added Ryan Flaherty, T.J. McFarland, and Jason Garcia to the organization via the Rule V draft.

Joey has made the Orioles decision to keep him even easier, as he has dominated Grapefruit League pitching to the tune of a .385 batting average in addition to five stolen bases. He has also frequently batted out of the lead off spot, and is a relatively prototypical lead off hitter, which is a role that the Orioles struggled to fill in recent seasons. In fact, Rickard has had such a great Spring that the Orioles are apparently even discussing letting Hyun-Soo Kim out of his contract to return to Korea.

We will see you in Baltimore a week from today Joey! Congrats on making the club!

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Graphing at Minor League Camp is Hard Without a Roster

One of the first mornings on my Spring Training trip was spent at the Orioles Minor League Spring Training complex at Twin Lakes Park in Sarasota. I spent a vast majority of the morning watching large groups of players walk past me, without asking hardly any to stop and sign. Why is that, might you ask? Well, there was a clue in the title of the post. 

You see, I didn't have a minor league roster as it hadn't been released yet, and I was left looking at players with only number of their backs pass by me. There were a select few that I could recognize, but not nearly as many as in past years when I had the time to attend more minor league games to get an idea of what the guys looked like. 

Luckily, I was able to pick out most of the coaches and instructors that were around, so was able to get some autographs out of the experience. 

Long time MLB infielder Dave Anderson returned to the Orioles organization this year after a one year absence. As far as I can recall, he is once again serving as the Orioles minor league infield coordinator.

Brian Graham has been the Orioles Director of Player Development for the past four seasons and is an ever present site around Twin Lakes.

Former MLB catcher Don Werner has been the Orioles minor league catching instructor for most of the past decade. He recently battled cancer and came out on top so it's great to see him looking strong once again.

 Another long-time MLB player, Dave Schmidt pitched in the major leagues for 12 years. He has been the O's minor league pitching coordinator for as long as I can recall and is always a good signer.

Ryan Minor is the nicest guy you will come across, and seems to always have time for the fans, signing autographs, asking how they are doing, or just generally being and all around good guy. 


Luckily, I read something before my trip about Hee Seop Choi being around the Orioles minor league camp as part of some sort of Korean baseball coaching exchange program. I don't really know any details about it, but Hee Seop was there, and kindly signed my cards.

As I mentioned at the top, there were a few players that I recognized in addition to the coaches. So at least I got some active player autographs as well.

Michael has been in and out of the Orioles organization over the past 2-3 seasons so he was a familiar face.

Josh Hart was another guy who I have seen play enough to have picked him out of the crowd.

Cory Jones was actually the only guy who I "allowed" my dad to ask who he was since he was walking alone and not in much of a hurry. Honestly, I probably could have gotten another 10-15 autographs by asking players who they were, but it's not my thing. I take pride in my facial recognition skills!

Quincy was a big part of the 2015 Baysox Championship team so I picked him out too.

Adrian was a third round pick a couple years back so I have seen enough cards of him to pick him out.

I got lucky with Tucker and just happened to be flipping past his card as he walked past me. 

D.J. is a very distinctive looking guy. I had never seen him play but I described his look to another fan as being built like a bull. He's listed at 6 feet tall, 230 pounds. I heard some horror stories between him and the fans in the past, but he was nice enough to me.