Notes on Britton, Fielding Bible Awards, spring games and more

Someone needs to explain to me why the World Series managers would consider pulling their starting pitchers and turning to bullpens that insult Dumpster fires whenever comparisons are made.

Justin Verlander could give up five runs in the first inning tonight and run his pitch count to 72, and I’d look the other way. Same with Rich Hill on the home side. He was removed in Game 2 after allowing one run, striking out seven batters and throwing 60 pitches in four innings, and the Astros rallied for a 7-6 win.

The Astros thought they had a deal in place for closer Zach Britton at the non-waiver deadline before the Orioles backed off due to the medicals on two of the prospects. Houston’s bullpen has registered a 7.58 ERA in the World Series, with 16 runs and five home runs in 19 innings. Closer Ken Giles is 0-2 with an 11.74 ERA and 2.217 WHIP in the postseason, allowing runs in six of his seven appearances.

It’s a reflex to wonder how much the Astros regret their failure to obtain Britton, though the Orioles shut him down in September due to soreness in his left knee.

zach-britton-black-side.pngBritton received a stem cell injection in the knee on Sept. 22. He would have continued to pitch for the Astros, of course, because their season extended past 162 games. But we’ll never know how effective he would have been for them.

We’ll just assume that he’d be an upgrade over anyone the Astros are trotting out these days.

The Dodgers also made a play for Britton, but to set up closer Kenley Jansen. The Dodgers bullpen has posted a 5.32 ERA in the World Series, with 14 earned runs (15 total), 28 hits and nine home runs in 23 2/3 innings.

Britton never got back to his 2016 form, his season interrupted twice by trips to the disabled list with a left forearm strain and cut short because of the knee. He allowed only two runs in eight September appearances over 10 innings, but he permitted baserunners in six of them.

The injection will allow Britton to undergo a normal offseason, with no restrictions as he begins workouts and his throwing program. Maybe the Astros will come knocking again before the next non-waiver deadline.

* The Orioles were excluded from this year’s Fielding Bible Awards, with the Rockies’ Nolan Arenado getting the nod at third base over Manny Machado.

As you must have figured out, only one player is chosen for each position. The awards aren’t divided among two leagues.

Machado is the only Oriole to be named a finalist for the Rawlings Gold Glove.

The Fielding Bible Awards are determined by a 12-person voting panel. They’ve been in existence for 12 years.

Here are the winners:

First base: Paul Goldschmidt, Diamondbacks
Second base: DJ LeMahieu, Rockies
Shortstop: Andrelton Simmons, Angels
Third base: Nolan Arenado, Rockies
Left field: Brett Gardner, Yankees
Center field: Byron Buxton, Twins
Right field: Mookie Betts, Red Sox
Catcher: Martín Maldonado, Angels
Pitcher: Dallas Keuchel, Astros
Multi-position: Javier Báez, Cubs

* The Braves released the home portion of their spring training schedule and the Orioles aren’t included on it.

Though it’s subject to change, there’s no trip to Lake Buena Vista for an Orioles team that dreads going there. The distance makes it an unpopular destination. Also, the infield dirt at Champion Stadium is like concrete.

Manager Buck Showalter expressed his dissatisfaction with the surface following a game two years ago.

“How about some water on the field?” Showalter said. “They must be using all the water at Disney World for the Pirates of the Caribbean, because they ain’t putting any on this field. That’s terrible.”

Speaking of Pirates, they have to make two trips from Bradenton to Disney next spring.

* Infielder Steve Wilkerson hit his first home run yesterday for the Salt River Rafters in the Arizona Fall League.

Wilkerson hit a solo shot off right-hander Kyle McGowin, who pitched at three levels of the Nationals farm system this year. The Nationals acquired McGowin and pitcher Austin Adams from the Angels in December 2016 for infielder Danny Espinosa.

The home run and double were part of a 2-for-4 afternoon and gave Wilkerson seven extra-base hits with Salt River, including three doubles and three triples. He’s batting .318.

The game provided Wilkerson with another chance to play shortstop instead of second base. He committed a throwing error.

Anthony Santander went 2-for-3 with an RBI and his first stolen base.

* I wrote yesterday that FanFest is slated for Jan. 27, 2018 at the Baltimore Convention Center. More information is coming at a later date, including player appearances, autograph stations and ticket purchasing.

The Orioles are again including Kids Press Conferences, one of the more popular features at FanFest. Showalter and executive vice president Dan Duquette will participate in Q&A forums.

Last year’s event drew more than 15,000 fans.

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