The morning rambler

Since July 29, 2012, the Orioles have posted the best winning percentage in baseball at .604, making them the only team above .600. They're tied with Oakland for the most wins with 83.

And yet, there's just no pleasing some fans.

Seriously though ...

Jim Johnson picked up his 27th save last night despite allowing a hit and walking two batters in the ninth. He's totaled 78 saves since the start of the 2012 season, 14 more than runner-up Fernando Rodney's 64.

Johnson is making $6.5 million this season and he's due another raise over the winter while remaining arbitration eligible. And the following winter, as well.

Should the Orioles sign him long-term as their closer? Convert him to a starter to justify the raises? Trade him while his value is this high, figuring they can find someone else to close at a lesser cost?

You can make a sound argument for all three choices. I'll just say that some folks tend to overlook how valuable he is in his current role. Remove Mariano Rivera from the equation, and how many closers are more dependable?

The Orioles are 60-33 when Manny Machado gets a hit.

What's more impressive, the .606 winning percentage or the fact that he's collected hits in that many games since coming to the majors last August?

Machado's 35 doubles tie Magglio Ordonez (2007) and Mike Sweeney (2001) for the most before the All-Star break since 1997. Machado has 10 more doubles than any other player in the majors. Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina is next with 25.

The Orioles are 35-17 this season when scoring more than four runs. My advice: Keep scoring more than four runs.

Manager Buck Showalter, in talking last night about the significance of Chris Tillman's 9-2 record, used the word "stick-to-it-ness." And I have no idea if that's the proper spelling. I'm open to suggestions.

Showalter pushed the right buttons again yesterday while making out his lineup. OK, I'm not sure why Matt Wieters moved up to sixth again - he's a beast in the seven hole - but Showalter made the right call with Alexi Casilla.

Casilla will be in the lineup again tonight against Indians left-hander Scott Kazmir. So will Nick Markakis, who just happens to be 10-for-21 with two home runs and seven RBIs against Kazmir.

That's good, right?

Anyway, Showalter talked last night about how the regulars appreciate the efforts of bench guys like Casilla, Steve Pearce, Travis Ishikawa and Chris Dickerson, among others.

"They feel for them," Showalter said. "They see the work they do. They see the early work on the road to hone their skills. Sometimes, that leads to some sore wrists, a la Pearce.

"They want to be there. I'd like to think they know I'm going to give them an opportunity to contribute, and they just want to be ready. That's why it's Ishi one day and Dickerson the next day. I'm trying to keep everybody involved because we're going to need them, and tonight is a good example of that."

Ishi? Ranks right up there with Casi.

Whatever happened to "Dizzy" and "Oil Can"?

The "Big Unit" belongs in the Blue Jays' rotation, but I digress ...

Nolan Reimold went 0-for-2 with a walk and strikeout yesterday, making him 2-for-27 with three RBIs, three walks and 11 strikeouts on his rehab assignment with Double-A Bowie.

Henry Urrutia was a combined 4-for-6 yesterday in Bowie's two games, raising his average to .366.

Enjoy the International League, Hank.

Brian Roberts went 2-for-4 with a double and two runs scored in his first rehab game with Triple-A Norfolk. He's expected to play at least two more games before possibly coming off the disabled list.

How should the Orioles make room for him?

Freddy Garcia could come off the 40-man roster, assuming he's really going to decline the option to Norfolk. As for the 25-man, well, the Orioles carried Roberts, Casilla and Ryan Flaherty on opening day and they certainly can do it again.

Is this finally the end for Ishikawa? Does Danny Valencia get optioned despite being such a weapon against left-handers?

Can Valencia survive the return of both Roberts and Reimold?


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