Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Orioles #1028- Vidal Nuno

I'm pretty happy to be able to write this post today, as I'm now within one autograph of once again having a signature from every player who has appeared in a game for the O's. I had to skip around when catching up on the 2017 debuts, and now I can play catch-up!

Vidal Nuno came into the Orioles organization via a trade with the Dodgers on February 19. He pitched for Team Mexico during the World Baseball Classic so was away from Sarasota for a good chunk of the Spring. I saw him only at one game I attended, and he didn't sign for anyone so far as I could tell.

After making the Orioles Opening Day roster, he has been bouncing back and forth between Baltimore and AAA Norfolk as yet another member of the 2017 bullpen shuttle, so that has only further complicated my efforts at getting his autograph. But luckily, a friend in the Norfolk area was able to get this card signed for me recently, and I can happily scratch a name off of my need list.

Vidal was originally drafted by the Indians in the 48th round of the 2009 draft, and the Orioles are the sixth organization that he has spent time with over his professional career. He has appeared in the majors with the Yankees, Diamondbacks, Mariners, and now the Orioles.

So far this season, he has appeared in nine games for the Orioles and the results have not been good. He is 0-1, with a 6.75 ERA over twelve innings pitched. He's left-handed and breathing which are two characteristics that will keep him in the picture, but I would say he's behind Donny Hart, Richard Bleier, and Jayson Aquino on the Orioles lefty-reliever depth chart at this point. He might get called back up but only time will tell. He's currently 1-3 with a 5.06 ERA for the Tides, which doesn't exactly inspire a lot of confidence. But now that he's in my collection, I can rest easier. Thanks as always to my dad for producing yet another great Old Man Card that is heading for my collection!

Friday, May 19, 2017

Oriole # 1033- Gabriel Ynoa

This post will officially catch me up on posts about the 2017 Orioles debuts (not including the two players whose autographs I still need and will wait to post about until I get their autographs).

Gabriel Ynoa has just a single Orioles appearance under his belt, but it was an impressive one to say the least. He made his debut on Friday May 5th at Camden Yards in a game agianst the White Sox. He entered the game out of the bullpen in the first inning after starter Wade Miley was knocked out of the game by getting hit on consecutive comebackers on the mound. Oddly enough, something similar happened to Miley in a Spring Training start earlier this year.

After Miley got the first two outs in the game, Ynoa entered the game and was outstanding. He pitched six innings, allowing just six hits while striking out five to earn the win in his debut with the O's.

The Orioles purchased Gabriel's contract from the Mets on February 10th, and was the second pitcher the O's got from the Mets this past offseason in return for cash or a player to be named later. (Logan Verrett came into the organization pretty much the same way back on November 30, 2016.) The Mets at least thought that they had a surplus of pitching and the Orioles will always gladly acquire optionable pitchers in return for very little as they did with these two transactions.

Ynoa made his MLB debut with the Mets in 2016 and pitched in ten games, including three starts, and was 1-0 with a 6.38 ERA.

As you can see, I had some good success with getting Ynoa to sign for me during my trip to Spring Training. He was one of the more approachable players and gladly signed each time I asked. He seemed to appreciate that I attempted to speak some of my very little Spanish with him while he was signing.

Unfortunately, Gabriel landed on the ten day DL with a right hamstring strain following his sole apperance for the O's, but he is almost ready to come back and help the team. He is yet another member of the 2017 Baltimore-Norfolk relief pitcher shuttle, but if he can pitch like he did in his debut than he certainly can help the team win a few games this year. Good luck Gabriel!

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Oriole #1032- Richard Bleier

Unbelievably, I'm almost caught up on Orioles debuts. And I've been enjoying writing about the O's enough that I might consider also doing some posts about the autographs that I've been getting at minor league games, and/or doing posts on past Orioles autographs that I've never really written about. Time will tell, but I'm legitimately happy to almost be up-to-date with the 2017 players.

Richard Bleier made his Orioles debut on May 3rd against the Red Sox. It was an odd debut due to the fact that it came in the second inning after that day's starter, Kevin Gausman, had been ejected by an overzealous umpire who was caught up in the Orioles-Red Sox feud of 2017. Gausman was ejected for hitting a Sawx player in the hip with a 70 some mile an hour curveball, while the Sawx starter from the night before, Chris Sale, hadn't been ejected for throwing almost 100 mph behind Manny Machado. But I digress...

Bleier pitched four innings in that game and only allowed one earned run and five hits. He kept the Orioles in the game for the most part after the strange ejection, so that's about all you can ask for in that situation. He made his second Orioles appearance in Sunday's game against the Royals, once again in relief of Gausman, and allowed two runs over two innings and took the loss. In last night's game against the Tigers, he earned his first MLB win as he successfully navigated the last 1.2 innings of the 13 inning drawn out, back-and-forth affair. He was the last available member of the Orioles 'pen, but he held strong to earn the W. So far, over three games pitched, his ERA sits at 3.52 and he is yet another member of the Orioles-Tides relief pitchers roster carousel.

Between my dad and I, we managed to get five autographs of Bleier's over our time in Sarasota, including the personalized Old Man Card which is heading for my collection. He seemed like a pretty down-to-earth guy, but that's more typically true of players like him who have to scratch and claw their way to the Majors.

The Rangers drafted him in the 6th round of the 2008 draft, and he pitched parts of nine minor league seasons before making his debut with the Yankees in 2016 as a 29 year-old rookie. Now that's some perseverance! He had success in New York, and had a 1.96 ERA over 23 games before he was traded to the Orioles on February 21, 2017 for a player to be named later or cash.

Good luck in Baltimore Richard!

Friday, May 12, 2017

Oriole # 1031- Logan Verrett

Logan Verrett might have one of the longest, strangest trips to make his Orioles debut of anyone I can remember. He was selected by the Orioles in the 2014 Rule V draft from the Mets (the Orioles also took Jason Garcia from the Red Sox) and spent almost the entirety of spring training 2015 with the Orioles. He made nine appearances with the team that spring, and had a 1.93 ERA with two saves, but the team thought that Garcia had more upside (they were wrong) and put Verrett on waivers.

The Rangers selected him and his Rule V status off of waivers and he ended up making his MLB debut with Texas. He appeared in four games and had an ERA of 6.00 when the Rangers returned him to the Mets on May 4th. He went on to pitch in 49 games, including 16 starts, for the Mets over the 2015-16 seasons and was 4-9 with a 4.56 ERA.

The Orioles retained interest in him throughout the years and got him from the Mets on November 30, 2016 in return for cash or a player to be named later. So he was back in the fold for the Birds and destined to make his delayed debut in Baltimore. Except he didn't have so much success in Sarasota this time around, and had an 8.10 ERA over 9 appearances, which wasn't good enough to break camp with the team.

Luckily for Logan, he has options, and a relief pitcher with options is Buck Showalter's best friend, and he has become a member of the 2017 Orioles bullpen carousel. Logan finally made his Orioles debut on April 30, 2017 and pitched the tenth and eleventh innings in a wild game against the Yankees. The O's bullpen had already blown the game once and it looked like Logan might fall apart, but he kept his game together and earned the win in his O's debut. He was then sent back to AAA Norfolk before nearly the identical thing happened and he picked up another win, this time pitching the 10-12 innings against the Nationals. So he has now earned a win in each appearance he's made with the O's. Who's up for Logan pitching every game the rest of the season? This guy!

Obsessive Eagle-eyed readers might recognize the signed Old Man Cards at the top of this post from a post I wrote way back in March 2015 about possible Orioles debuts that could occur that season. I was wrong then, but Logan is finally and officially an Oriole.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Oriole # 1030- Stefan Crichton

Wow, so this is almost like a real blog again, if only for one week. I've finally had the proper time and motivation to write about all of these new O's, and am blazing through all the 2017 debuts.

Up today, is yet another relief pitcher, by the name of Stefan Crichton (it's pronounced ste-FON CRY-ton for those of you who might care about that sort of thing).

The Orioles drafted Stefan in the 23rd round of the 2013 out of TCU, and he has spent the ensuing parts of five seasons by making stops at every level of the Orioles minor league system. He was always solid but not spectacular, and didn't appear on any top prospect lists. The Orioles obviously liked him enough to keep promoting him through the farm system and he was included in the players the Orioles sent to play in the Arizona Fall League in 2016.

However, he wasn't on the map enough to earn an invite to the big league camp for Spring Training 2017 which made his rise to the majors even more interesting. Buck Showalter has a penchant for bringing over a handful of guys from minor league camp for every Orioles spring game, and Crichton was frequently one of those players. He ended up pitching in eight games, and only allowed four hits over eight innings of work while striking out seven and earning four saves. Take what you will about the typical minor leaguer versus minor leaguer end of spring games, but he clearly put himself on the radar. 

Stefan was recalled to the Orioles on April 16th for the first time this season when Zach Britton was placed on the DL, also unfortunely for the first of now two trips there thus far, and made his MLB and Orioles debut that same day. Regrettably, his spring success has not carried over to the regular season, and he has allowed at least one earned run over each of his three appearances for the Orioles to this point, and his ERA sits at 10.80 over 3.1 innings pitched. 

He is one of the handful of players riding the Baltimore-Norfolk carousel, and has already had two separate stints with the O's and three distinct spells spent with the Tides. Who know what the rest of the season will bring, but here's to hoping that Stefan can redirect his successes in Florida to Baltimore.

Crichton was honestly so far off of my radar that I didn't even ask my dad to make Old Man Cards of his until after Spring Training. Stefan kindly signed these for me at the same game that I had success with Wade Miley and Alec Asher, so I was very happy to knock off three guys I was hoping to have sign for me in a single day. 

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Oriole # 1029- Alec Asher

Moving along through this season's debuts, I've finally pushed past the guys who debuted on Opening Day and am ready to move along to the guys who made their O's debuts as the season got under way.

The first non-Opening Day debut was a bit of a surprising one. Alec Asher only came into the Orioles organization at the tail-end of Spring Training, as he was traded from the Phillies to the Orioles on March 28 for cash considerations. To the best of my recollection, he appeared in just one Spring Training game, but there was still some talk that he could break camp with the team. That didn't end up being the case, but it didn't take long for Asher to make his first appearance in Birdland.

He was recalled from AAA Norfolk on April 15th, and made his O's debut the same day. He started the game against the Blue Jays and was great; he lasted 6.1 innings, and only gave up 3 hits and 1 run while striking out 5. Now the 2017 Jays' team doesn't exactly seem like a powerhouse but it was still a promising debut.

Since that game, he has made one more start, and is generally being used out of the bullpen as the right-handed long reliever. He is also one of the about seven relievers riding the Baltimore-Norfolk carousel, and has already bounced back and forth twice. Buck Showalter really does love optionable guys in the 'pen.

Alec was kind enough to sign this card for me at one of the Orioles games that I was able to make it so far this year. It was the same game that I finally was able to get Wade Miley's autograph as well, so it was a pretty exciting day for me, autograph-wise. And I'm quite confident that I'm the only person around with a signed Alec Asher Orioles card, as usual thanks to my Dad for making it happen.

Good luck in Baltimore Alec!

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Oriole # 1027- Craig Gentry

Finally, it's time to wrap up the Orioles who debut on Opening Day of 2017, which is just over five weeks ago at this point. 

Craig Gentry made his Orioles debut as a pinch-runner in the 10th inning of the Opening Day contest against the Blue Jays. He remained in the game to play right field. He has pretty much been used that way in a majority of his games so far this season; in the 31 games he's played appeared in, just eight have been starts while the rest came as a defensive replacement or pinch-runner. 

Craig signed with the Orioles on February 20th, as Spring Training was already under way, and was an extreme long-shot to make the Opening Day roster. At the time, it seemed like a AAA depth signing, somewhat due to his Rangers ties with hitting coach Scott Coolbaugh. The fact that he and Chris Davis are good friends and appeared in each others' weddings didn't hurt his chances with the Oriole either, but he still needed to perform.

Craig went on to shock everyone and break camp with the O's. He hit .321 with a .429 OBP over 29 spring games, and his playing time was certainly aided by Adam Jones playing the World Baseball Classic in addition to some injuries to other outfielders in camp.

As you can tell, Craig was a generous signer to both my dad and me during our time in Sarasota, and the card up top is heading for my collection. Good luck in Baltimore, Craig!

Friday, May 5, 2017

Oriole #1026- Seth Smith

Wow, look at me, once again working on the 2017 Oriole debuts, and posting almost within a month of the debut. Get your breaking news here folks. But seriously, my tentative goal is to catch up on the 2017 debuts by the end of next week and then actually post about debuts shortly after they actually occur. But who knows, I'm always playing catch up around here.

Seth Smith was one of three Orioles who made their debuts on Opening Day 2017, and took the field at the same as Welington Castillo in the top of the first inning. I used my tried and true debut tie-breaker to place Castillo (2, catcher) ahead of Smith (9, right field) based on their position numbers. Makes sense, right? Typically I only have to use the tie-breaker on Opening Day every year, with a few random, rare exceptions that pop up every handful of years during the season. Things generally aren't going well for a team if they have two position players debuting in the same game during the middle of a season. Trust me, I've been an Orioles fan a long, and suffered through the 1998-2011 incompetency with the rest of you.

Back to Smith, who came into the Orioles organization via a trade with the Mariners on January 6, that sent Yovani Gallardo back to Seattle. Regardless of how Seth performs for the Orioles, I don't think many Orioles fans will miss Yovani, who was 6-8 with a 5.42 ERA in his lone season in Baltimore. And does anyone else notice how the Orioles and Mariners seem to trade with each other almost every season? Seriously, on the Orioles 25 man roster, Adam Jones, Mark Trumbo, Chris Tillman, Wade Miley, and Smith all came to the Orioles via a trade with the Mariners. That's crazy.

As of today, Seth has appeared in 16 of the Orioles' 27 games. He missed a few games with a hamstring injury, and has generally been on the bench against left-handed starters. He's hitting .286 for the year, and his 4-4 performance yesterday against the Red Sox actually raised his average .064 points from .222 prior to the game. He's also hit 2 HR, including one in the 7th inning of a game on April 7th against the Yankees that put the Orioles ahead to stay.

Over his 11 year MLB career, Seth has played for the Rockies, A's Padres, Mariners, and now the Orioles. He will be a free agent after this season, so it's possible that his time in Baltimore will be relatively short. A story that I found interesting about Seth is how he was the backup quaterback to Eli Manning when they played at Ole Miss.

As was the case with the Welington Castillo autograph that I posted about a few weeks back, my dad got this card signed during Spring Training for me. So not only does he make all of these Old Man Cards to get signed, he gets them signed as well! I actually did get Seth to sign once while I was down there but he didn't personalize that card. So my dad hooked me up with the personalized autograph after I was back in snowy Maryland. Thanks as always old man!

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Oriole #1015- Ariel Miranda

In my attempts to continue posting about the 2017 Orioles debuts, I realized that I had skipped over a debut from last year, so I'm going back before I move forward. To be honest, Ariel Miranda's Orioles debut last season came as a relative surprise to me, and I wasn't ready with an autograph of his for my collection.

The Orioles had signed the lefty out of Cuba in July 2015, and he spent time with the Gulf Coast O's, Hi A Frederick, and AA Bowie through the last half of that season. He had moved up to the AAA Norfolk Tides in 2016 and was having a decent, if not spectacular season there, with a 3-7 record and a 4.06 ERA when the Orioles selected his contract on July 3.

The team was playing in Seattle at the time and Ariel appeared in the game that day; he pitched 2 innings and gave up three earned runs. And that was it for his Orioles career. The very next day, he was optioned back to Norfolk, and he would be traded to the Mariners less than a month later in return for Wade Miley.

At the time of his debut, he didn't have a single professional baseball card in any set, not even in the minors. (He was eventually included in the 2016 Tides set which came out shortly afterwards.) It was honestly hard to even find a picture of him in an Orioles uniform, but my dad and I dug up this shot of him with the Gulf Coast O's, and my dad's Old Man Card printing press was in action yet again. I then found a Seattle connection who was able to help me get the card signed a few months later and I was finally able to cross Ariel off of my need list.

Since the trade, Ariel has a 7-4 record with a 3.62 ERA over 16 games (15 starts) with the Mariners. Over that same time, Miley has gone 3-6 with a 4.76 ERA for the Orioles covering 16 starts. On paper, it seems like the Orioles should have just stuck with Ariel, but you win some and you lose some! Good luck to him in the future, at least if he's not pitching against the O's!

Monday, April 24, 2017

Oriole # 1020- Wade Miley

Well, it finally happened, after attempting to get an Orioles card signed by Wade Miley since he was traded to the Orioles last July, I'm finally able to scratch him off of my need list. And it only took me nine months!

Wade came to the Orioles organization via a trade with the Mariners on July 31, 2016; the O's sent prospect Ariel Miranda to Seattle to complete the deal. Probably within a week of the transaction, my dad had made Wade Miley Orioles Old Man Cards, and I attempted to get them signed a handful of times through the end of the 2016 season. Every time I was at a game, Wade consistently ignored requests from fans to sign. I even had him one on one a couple times and was turned down. 

After the 2016 season, Wade was included in the 2016 Topps Update set as an Oriole (the personalized card on the left), and I had to officially include him on my autograph need list. Oh well, I figured that I could knock his autograph out at Fanfest in January. Except he wasn't there, which is really strange considering that almost every US based member of the team attends the yearly event, which I assume is a contractual obligation. 

Ok, I thought, well I can hopefully get him at Spring Training. But that didn't work out either. I was waved off a few times by him and I didn't see him sign once over the week that I was in Sarasota. By that point, I was pretty bummed out, as Spring Training is generally the best bet to knock out some of the tougher players, as they generally seem more willing to sign with the smaller crowds and more relaxed environment. One of my other autographing friends who spent the entire of duration of Spring Training attending O's games didn't have any luck with Wade either. 

To top things off, I couldn't even find any signed Orioles cards for sale anywhere. Which kind of indicated to me that I wasn't the only person who Wade was not signing for, and my frustrations continued.

Until yesterday. Sunday's have historically been the best day to get pitchers' autographs at Camden Yards as there isn't any batting practice on the field and most of them seem to do long toss or other warm-ups in front of the fans. Wade appeared to be throwing a bullpen session when I got to the came, and as he was walking back to the dugout, some fans called him over. 

I didn't have much hope, but he came over and probably signed autographs for 20 minutes. He probably signed for 200 people, and since I wasn't sure if I would have another chance to get his autograph, I asked him to sign two cards and he obliged. He signed my son's ball as well, and honestly seemed very personable and friendly. He was joking around with everyone and seemed to be a pretty nice guy. What a nice turn of events, and I can rest easy knowing that my autograph need list just got a little shorter. Thanks Wade!

Friday, April 7, 2017

Oriole #1025- Welington Castillo

Welcome to the 2017 Orioles baseball season, starting only four days late here at the Great Orioles Autograph Project; which let's face it, is pretty timely for me these days.

This year's Opening Day roster includes four new faces to the Orioles. (In addition to one that I still am trying to track down from last year, since a Wade Miley Orioles autograph has continued to elude me since he was traded to the O's last August.) The new members to the 2017 Baltimore Orioles 25 man Opening Day roster are C Welington Castillo, OF Seth Smith, OF Craig Gentry, and LHP Vidal Nuno. Three of those guys made their Orioles debuts on Opening Day, and I'm guessing that you can figure out who this post is about by the little clue up there at the top.

Let me just get this out of the way first. Matt Wieters, the former top prospect, my favorite player, and the O's regular catcher for most of the past eight seasons is no longer on the team. That's a tough thing for a fan to deal with, but the writing had been on the wall. I was shocked that he was back in 2016, as he became one of the first ever free agents to accept a qualifying offer from his former team. It was nearly a foregone conclusion that he wouldn't be back after the O's did not extend another offer after the 2016 season.

Unfortunately, he never attained the level of success that the Orioles or their fans had hoped for; I mean this guy was the top prospect in all of baseball at one point and some people were ready to anoint his as a Hall of Famer in waiting before his MLB debut. I admit, I overvalued him early on, but I was not alone. I will miss him being on the Orioles, especially since he's now playing for the somewhat-rival Natinals, but I enjoyed rooting for him for a long time. Now I just need to figure out who my new favorite Oriole will be!

So anyway, no pressure on Welington Castillo from me or anything...he's only replacing the guy who had been my favorite player for about a decade. But realistically, he very well might be an offensive and defensive upgrade over Wieters, and anything that makes the Orioles better is a good thing for all of us. The Orioles signed Castillo to a one year deal with an option on December 16th after the Diamondbacks surprisingly released him.

As another year begins, my dad once again came through with his Old Man Cards (OMCs) to help ensure that I can have signed Orioles cards of any possible player for my collection. He really enjoys making them, and I really appreciate his help. In addition to making this card, he actually got it signed for me too, since Welington was with the Dominican World Baseball Classic team for the duration of my time in Sarasota this year. It must be nice to be semi-retired and be able to spend a month down there, hopefully I can live that life in another 30 years! But I won't complain about a short (mostly yearly) trip to balmy Florida!

Welington has played in both of the Orioles games so far, and is 3-7 at the plate and has looked solid behind it as well. He seems to have really meshed with the pitching staff, especially considering that he spent a large chunk of Spring Training away from the O's pitchers.

One interesting item that I came across while researching this post is that in 2015 Welington had been  traded from the Mariners to the D'Backs for two other current Orioles, Mark Trumbo and Vidal Nuno. And now they all play in Baltimore together. Baseball is funny like that sometimes.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Oriole # 1022- Michael Bourn

As I anxiously await my trip to Sarasota for Orioles Spring Training, I figure that it's about time to wrap up the 2016 debuts before the 2017 season officially starts. I will attempt to do a better job with keeping these posts timely during the upcoming season, since they are essentially about the only posts I keep up with at all these days. I think that I'm beyond apologizing for lengthy delays between posts at this point, it just is what it is, but I don't want the blog to completely die off at least.

My parents have already been enjoying the Florida weather for a few weeks now and I'm extremely jealous happy that they have are getting to watch baseball as I continue to sit around in Maryland. But since my dad enjoys getting autographs almost as much as I do, it does come with the nice benefit of his already graphing some of the players that I might need for 2017. As well as tracking down one player that I still needed from 2016, Michael Bourn.

Michael was traded to the Orioles from the Diamondbacks on August 31, 2016, made his Orioles debut on September 2, and went on the appear in 24 games for the O's over the last month of the season. He will be best remembered for starting a relay throw on September 16th against the Rays. In the top of the ninth inning, he fielded a line drive down the left field line and started a 7-5-2 relay to throw out the tying run at the plate, locking down the win and preserving Zach Britton's perfect season.

I failed in a few attempts at getting his autograph last season, and once he was included as an Oriole in the 2017 Topps set (and late the '17 Heritage set), I had to add him to my need list. As the off-season lingered without his signing with a team, I was concerned that his time in baseball might be over and I would not get a chance to have him sign one of his Orioles cards. Fortuitously, he re-signed with the Orioles on February 20th and my dad wasted no time in getting him to sign and personalize this card for my collection.

Thanks for your help yet again Old Man! I'm looking forward to joining you in Florida!