Two front-office sources have confirmed the initial report of the Kevin Millwood trade, signalling that Texas and Baltimore may only be an approved medical report away from making things official. The Rangers seem set to send Millwood and cash considerations to the Orioles in exchange for former closer Chris Ray, who is coming off a down year after an elbow injury.
The timetable for the team to review the medical reports is unknown, and it could take as little as a few hours or as much as a few days. Texas will likely be interested in the condition of Ray’s shoulder, which was repaired in 2007 and caused him to miss the 2008 season.
Baltimore, meanwhile, will want to check out the wear-and-tear associated with Millwood’s arm, an appendage that has logged more than 2,000 innings over his career. If everything passes muster, Millwood will give the Orioles another veteran arm at the top of the rotation to help support highly touted youngsters Brad Bergesen, Chris Tillman and Brian Matusz.
— Spencer Fordin
Baltimore has been talking with Texas about a potential deal for Kevin Millwood all week, and at least one published report has them close to nearing completion. <i>The Baltimore Sun</i> reported Wednesday afternoon that the Orioles are close to sending reliever Chris Ray to Texas in exchange for Millwood, who has one year remaining on a lucrative contract.
Millwood, set to make $12 million next season, would help Jeremy Guthrie mentor one of the youngest pitching staffs in the league. Texas would also send an undisclosed amount of cash considerations to Baltimore in the deal designed to help balance out the scales. Ray, a former closer, struggled last year in his return from surgery on his pitching elbow.
— Spencer Fordin
The Orioles will see a pair of hard-throwing relievers move closer to a full recovery in the next week, as both Dennis Sarfate and Chris Ray work their way back from injury. Ray will pitch for times for Double-A Bowie, and Sarfate will throw four times for Triple-A Norfolk. The Orioles will evaluate both of them at that point, which figures to be shortly after August starts.
“Each guy has got four rehab assignments, and at the end of those four, we’ll re-evaluate,” said manager Dave Trembley. “Hopefully, they’ll both be ready to come join us at that time.”
Chris Ray’s march back from tendinitis in his right biceps began with a small step on Saturday, when the erstwhile closer began a throwing program. Ray will go to the team’s Minor League complex in Sarasota to continue his program and edge back to health.
Baltimore manager Dave Trembley said the causes of the injury are still unclear.
“I asked him in Anaheim, and he just felt he was trying to get more movement on his pitches,” said Trembley of Ray’s sore arm. “I think he was trying to get up on top and got a little higher than normal. That’s what he told me.”
Ray, who missed all of the ’08 season while recovering from ligament replacement surgery on his elbow, is still trying to find the form that allowed him to log 49 career saves. The Orioles will bear with him as long as it takes, even if it means a demotion to Triple-A Norfolk.
Baltimore manager Dave Trembley announced a new policy Sundat night and stuck to it Monday, when he said the Orioles wouldn’t use George Sherrill as their dedicated closer anymore. Trembley will now mix and match, using Chris Ray and Jim Johnson too.
“I’m going to play the ninth inning as a day-by-day situation and do what I think is best to try and win the game,” Trembley said Monday. “I think sometimes it depends on the score and also depends on who’s available and who’s pitching well. And I also think sometimes you have to go away from the norm a little when things aren’t going well for you. And right now, things aren’t going well for us. I think it’s important to do something different.”
George Sherrill had another rough spring outing on Thursday and said he wouldn’t be surprised or dismayed if the Orioles elected to re-think his role. Sherrill was named closer early in camp in an effort to take some pressure off former relief ace Chris Ray, who is coming off an entire season missed due to surgery on his right elbow.
And while Ray has thrived, Sherrill has had a typically slow spring. With that in mind, the southpaw was asked if he’d understand if the Orioles made a change in plans.
“For sure. He’s doing good this spring,” Sherrill said of Ray. “If that’s something they want to do, they’re going to do it. All I want to do is win, no matter what my title is.”
Sherrill, who has been scored upon in three straight outings, said that his spring statistics are part of a larger trend that has been with him for much of his career.
“Up until last year, I’ve had to make a team every year. I’ve never really helped my cause,” said Sherrill. “There was probably one year, in ’06, where it went down to the wire. I ended up making the club, but I had like a 14.00 [ERA]. Obviously, I want to be better but it’s just a matter of going out there and getting it done.”
If you’ve been wondering why most of Baltimore’s best relief pitchers haven’t thrown in a game, the answer has become readily apparent. Manager Dave Trembley said Saturday that he’s tried to get George Sherrill, Dennis Sarfate, Jim Johnson and Jamie Walker extra work on the practice mound, thus pushing back their timetable to pitch in games.
“With the extra week of spring training, all those guys we’ve held back,” he said. “They’ve gotten their work in the back throwing simulated games or batting practice sessions.”
Trembley was also asked to clarify his late relief picture on Saturday, and he reiterated that Sherrill is his closer and that Chris Ray will still get scattered save opportunities.
“I didn’t want Chris Ray to think he was coming into camp and it was a tryout,” he said. “I told George he was the closer on the team but he was not going to get every save opportunity. I did it for both guys. I didn’t want Sherrill to come in here and think he had to hurry up and get out there, and I didn’t want Chris Ray wondering what his role on the club was going to be.”
The Orioles have shared their pitching rotation for the first few days of spring, providing a glimpse into their plans for the first few games. Baltimore will have several top-flight prospects lined up to pitch against Team Italy on Tuesday, an exhibition game before the Spring Training slate begins. Brian Matusz will start that game, and the Orioles will also allow Jake Arrieta and Chris Tillman to show their wares against the Italian national team.
Right-hander Brad Hennessey will start the true Spring opener against the Mets on Wednesday, and the Orioles will also throw Chris Waters, David Pauley, Brian Bass and Jim Miller in that game. Hennessey, Pauley and Waters are battling for a rotation spot.
The starter for Thursday’s game against the Marlins is as yet uncertain, but Baltimore will throw Danys Baez, Matt Albers, Chris Ray and Bob McCrory in that game. Things get more exciting on Friday, when Koji Uehara will make his stateside debut against the Marlins.
If there was any question that Chris Ray’s stuff wouldn’t survive Tommy John surgery, you can consider it officially answered. Ray took the mound for his second bullpen session of Spring Training Tuesday and looked positively electric, pumping high velocity fastball after fastball.
The right-hander was hitting his spot over and over again, and manager Dave Trembley singled him out as the arm that impressed him most on Tuesday. Baltimore also got encouraging signs from George Sherrill and Danys Baez in the morning throw sessions.
Baez, who’s coming back from the same surgery as Ray, appeared to be strong and healthy. And Sherrill, who had a sore shoulder toward the end of last season, also threw without strain and without incident. Baltimore will learn a little more about its pitchers later in the week, when position players report and the team begins to stage live batting practice.