There are a lot of leftovers from today’s interviews with current and former players at Camden Yards.
Anyone object to leftovers for dinner?
The Royals lead the majors in stolen bases, and their ability to be disruptive on the basepaths has become a popular storyline leading into Game 1 of the American League Championship Series. The Orioles must find a way to control their running game.
Is the defense forced into making adjustments?
“A lot,” said shortstop J.J. Hardy, owner of a new three-year, $40 million extension. “When they’ve got speed like that, it adds a lot to us. Hit and runs, steals, all this stuff. Where we’re going to be playing position-wise. It puts a lot of pressure on the defense here. They’re a tough team and the speed definitely makes it tougher on our job.”
A few of the Orioles, including Bud Norris, noted how the Orioles have worked on controlling the running game since they were in Sarasota.
“I think all facets of the game, it’s something that we’ve been doing since Day One in spring training,” Norris said. “All our starters and all our relievers have good times to the plate. It’s something that J.R. (John Russell) does very well from the bench side of it with the catchers behind the plate.
“I don’t think it’s something that’s going to change now. It’s something we’ve monitored the entire season. We understand the strengths that they have, but we’re going to continue to play the baseball games that we’ve been playing.”
Reliever Darren O’Day offered a logical solution.
“The key to controlling that is to not put them on base,” he said.
“You can’t pinch-run for everybody, so there’s only limited times you can do that. If you have a good time to the plate and it’s not the two fastest guys on the team, he’s taking a chance he’s going to get thrown out because we have catchers who throw well. Now, the few guys who are extremely fast, you’re going to have to work a little harder. You’re going to have to stay more focused on the hitter at the plate. It puts a little larger demand on the pitchers, but we’re a detail-oriented team and they’ve done a good job of getting us ready to control the running game. It’s something we pride ourselves on.
“You don’t see a lot of guys, if you go through our times to the plate, you don’t see guys who are slow to the plate unless they’re left-handed and have a good move. It’s something we work on. If you can’t be a 1.3, 1.35 to the plate, you can’t pitch here. It’s something that we work on all year to be ready for stuff like this.
“There’s a couple guys on the roster who are the top one percent runners in the league, but you know they’re going to run, they know they’re going to run, everybody knows they’re going to run. It’s just when. And the other guys who can run a little bit, it’s gonna be a good matchup to see if we can throw thme out.”
The Orioles held a distinct advantage over the Tigers’ bullpen, but that’s not the case with the Royals.
“In terms of bullpens, it’s pretty even,” O’Day said. “I think they’ve got a top-notch bullpen and I’d like to think we’re up there with them. It’s tough to find guys who throw that hard with secondary pitches like they have.
“We’ve got to score early and we’ve got to score from that transition from the starter to the bullpen because they have good starters, they have good relievers, so you’ve got to kind of get them in the middle there. Get them early or get them in the middle because they can shorten the game real quick.”
Speaking of relievers, left-hander Brian Matusz still doesn’t know whether he’s going to be included on the ALCS roster. He was excluded in the Division Series.
“The roster has to officially be in tomorrow at 10 a.m. and I’ll find out at 10,” he said. “For me personally, I’m just planning to be there. Not sure exactly how the roster’s going to be put together, but all I can do is prepare, plan and be ready to pitch tomorrow if that’s how it winds up.”
Norris said he hasn’t been told when he’ll start. Manager Buck Showalter is supposed to inform everyone later tonight.
“He’s given us tidbits here and there,” Norris. “We’ve got scheduled bullpens and stuff, but he hasn’t said much more than that.
“It’s something different because during the regular season, you know the next five days you’re going back out there. But Buck’s letting us have an opportunity to soak it all in and be part of the group and know that when you get the ball to really just go out there and do the best you can. We have a bunch of qualified pitchers who can do the job. Anybody can do the job on any given night, so we’re all waiting for the ball and we’ll get it when we get it.”
Zach Britton knows he’ll be closing again. He arrived this morning after taking a red-eye from California following the birth of his son, Zander Lee.
“It’s been a hectic couple of days,” he said.
“It’s exciting. When the baby was delivered and everything, it was a pretty cool feeling. It’s been a really cool year for me and my family with everything that’s going on.”
For example, he had no real role in the bullpen when the Orioles broke camp before emerging as a shutdown closer with 37 saves in 41 opportunities during the regular season.
A really cool year.
Britton had to tear himself away from Zander and wife Courtney. It’s never easy.
“It’s a family here,” he said. “They understand. I was telling my wife when I got in, yeah, it was so hard to leave, but I also know that this is what I’m coming back to. And the guys have been in that situation before. Andrew (Miller) was last year. I just talked to those guys and they understand. Hey, it’s hard, but you’ve kind of got something to take your mind off it for a little while. Put together a good couple of weeks and we can go hang out.”
Britton was able to leave the team for Zander’s birth and make it back in plenty of time.
“I guess it went from bad planning to almost too good to be true, because she was full-term and the doctor, when we clinched in Detroit, he sent me a text like, ‘This couldn’t have worked any better,’” Britton said.
“It worked out perfectly that we were able to win in three games and have the three days off. I feel like this whole season, everything’s gone according to plan.”
Three members of the 1997 ALCS team - Cal Ripken Jr., Brady Anderson and Mike Bordick - were made available to reporters earlier today. I’ll post some quotes in the morning, but here’s Anderson on the Orioles’ turnaround.
“Feels great to be a part of it sort of from the beginning,” he said. “You really can’t overestimate Buck (Showalter’s) presence on and off the field, how he’s contributed, how he’s brought the organization together along with Dan Duquette, not just at the major league level, but throughout the minors. The way the whole system works is night and day from how it was. And it’s nice to see the team rewarded that way.”
Anderson struck out on a high fastball to deny Ripken a chance to bat one last time in his final game before retiring, a moment he was forced to relive today via a reporter’s question.
“Thanks for that question about Cal, but I do remember that,” he said. “I thought to myself, when I came up at that last at‑bat, I had a good game that day, I kept looking in the dugout thinking they might walk me. I was hoping they’d walk me intentionally just to get to Cal and make it sort of a fitting ending. But I do see that high strike that I swung at in my dreams sometimes.”
Ripken had a little fun when asked whether he holds a grudge.
“I hold a grudge against (manager) Mike Hargrove. He batted me behind him,” Ripken said.
“No, I was happy, however my career was going to end. You go up there and you play and play it all the way to the end. I was emotionally spent at that time. But it was a fun, competitive game. And unfortunately, my last at‑bat was a fly ball to centerfield, I think.
“I was hoping I’d get a chance, but I don’t hold a grudge.”
Bordick, now an analyst with MASN, was asked about the importance of playoff experience.
“Playoff experience isn’t going to hurt, that’s for sure,” he said. “I think the more times you’re in it the more comfortable you’re going to be, you know what to expect and you make your adjustments from there.
“I think as a young player in the postseason you just kind of lean on the veterans. You see how they’re responding, see how they’re handling the attention, do things change in the clubhouse? And I think most good teams, quality teams, have veterans that can instill that confidence and let younger players know that everything is going to be OK. We’ve been through this, go ahead, jump on my coattails and I’ll pull you through this.
“It’s all about trying to get guys to relax and everybody on the same page and get that focus as soon as possible in the postseason.”
Anderson offered a different opinion.
“I always like looking at numbers and statistics, I have my whole life, and there’s a lot of talk about playoff experience,” he said. “Mike talked about it and I’m not saying his opinion is wrong. It’s a common one, but I never found that playoff experience means much. When you look through the numbers, there’s some veterans that struggle year in and year out in the playoffs and you’d think the team would be able to rely on them. And I think the playoffs are the time you get unexpected heroes. For instance, I think 2012 (Raul) Ibanez was really hot, but teams were not quick to catch on. He was the Miguel Cabrera of that series.
“But I remember hearing about a lot of playoff experience when I was about to go into my first playoffs. I didn’t know, so I couldn’t comment, but it was not really that big a transition for me. I was swinging well when the season ended, I went into the playoffs swinging well. So I think that experience is really overrated, in my opinion.”