Rangers castoff Darren O’Day comes up huge for Orioles

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A workhorse submariner who often pitched a couple or three innings at a time, Darren O’Day had a 2.78 ERA in his final three seasons at the University of Florida. And it’s not like he went unnoticed while amassing a 0.87 ERA in 10 1/3 innings before the Gators lost in the finals of the College World Series in 2005.

Still, O’Day wasn’t among the 1,500 or so players chosen in the 2006 draft after wrapping up his collegiate career. He signed with the Angels for next to nothing and then promptly went about working his way up to the majors, pitching at five levels over the next two years before debuting with the Halos in 2008. He wasn’t a huge success, but he hardly embarrassed himself by posting a 4.57 ERA in 43 1/3 innings.

Unfortunately, O’Day was diagnosed with a torn labrum at season’s end. The Angels, thinking he wouldn’t contribute in 2009, dropped him from the 40-man roster. He went unclaimed on waivers, but then the Mets grabbed him in the Rule 5 draft in Dec. 2008. He made the team after rehabbing his shoulder, only to be jettisoned after allowing two unearned runs in three innings.

That’s when the Rangers stepped in and grabbed O’Day off waivers. He gave Texas two great seasons, finishing with a 1.94 ERA in 55 2/3 innings in 2009 and a 2.03 ERA in 62 innings in 2010.

Still, O’Day never stopped being viewed as a fringe talent. After hip and shoulder injuries limited him to 16 appearances in 2011, the Rangers waived him rather than commit $1.2 million-$1.5 million to him for 2012. The Orioles picked him up, signed him for $1.35 million and then watched him amass a 7-1 record and a 2.28 ERA in 67 innings as a middle reliever.

On Friday, he pitched two scoreless innings in the wild card win over Texas. The only hitter to reach against him did so on an infield single.

Because he throws in the mid-80s and relies so much on deception, O’Day may well always be one of those guys who is three bad weeks away from the waiver wire. But at least he doesn’t have to worry about that right now. Barring a late injury here, he’ll probably be brought back for $2 million-$2.5 million next year, easily his biggest payday yet.

So, let’s hear it for O’Day, a guy appreciated by neither scout nor computer after college. Up to this point, he’s had a better career than all but six or seven guys picked in the first round of what was actually a pretty strong draft in 2006, and only next season will his career earnings surpass the signing bonus that No. 1 overall pick Luke Hochevar got from the Royals that year.

Jose Canseco to join NBC Sports California as an A’s analyst

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Hey, I have a new coworker: Jose Canseco has been hired by NBC Sports California as an Athletics pregame analyst.

OK, maybe he’s not technically a coworker, as the folks at NBC Sports California — formerly CSN Bay Area — and I do not hang out at the water cooler, have potlucks in the conference room or exchange secret Santa gifts at Christmas time, but dang it, I’m gonna TELL people I work with Jose Canseco. The only downside will be people assuming that, because he and I are on the same team, my performance is something less than authentic. Or, perhaps, Canseco may write another book and tell all of my secrets.

Anyway, Canseco will be part of NBC Sports California’s A’s Pregame Live and A’s Postgame Live shows. Live TV can be hard. I’ve done a bit of it, and there is certainly more to that gig than meets the eye. You can’t always prepare for what happens on the fly. I’m sure Canseco will do well, however, as he’s great with coming up with the best stuff off the top of his head.

2017 Preview: Cleveland Indians

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Between now and Opening Day, HardballTalk will take a look at each of baseball’s 30 teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally breaking down their chances for the 2017 season. Next up: The Cleveland Indians.

The Cleveland Indians almost won the World Series without their best hitter for the whole season and two of their starting pitchers for the playoffs. This year that hitter — Michael Brantley — is back and the starters — Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar — are healthy. Oh, and they added arguably the best free agent bat available in Edwin Encarnacion.

Baseball teams love to downplay their expectations, but given where the Indians are at the moment, anything less than another American League Pennant will have to feel like a disappointment, right? Fortunately for the Indians, they stand as the favorites to do just that.

They didn’t lose much in the offseason. Yes, World Series hero Rajai Davis is gone, but the Indians outfield will be fine if Brantley remains healthy. Mike Napoli‘s loss will be felt but it will be made up for with Encarnacion’s bat and probably then some. Coco Crisp left too, but he was not a key part of the equation.

The biggest losses are guys from last year who will start the year on the disabled list, most notably Jason Kipnis and Lonnie Chisenhall. Kipnis is just starting to work out following time off to rest his sore shoulder. Chisenhall ran into a wall the other day and is being evaluated. There is no sense that either will miss extended time, however.

Otherwise, the lineup should score a lot of runs, with on-base machines Jose Ramirez and Francisco Lindor setting the table for Encarnacion, Brantley and Carlos Santana, who is entering his walk year. The Indians trailed only the Red Sox in runs scored in the American League last year and they should score a lot of runs this year as well.

The strength of the club, however, remains its pitching. Corey Kluber looked like his old Cy Young self last year, particularly in the playoffs. Danny Salazar built on his excellent 2015 season in the first half before falling prey to injury. Carlos Carrasco posted an ERA+ of 141 before breaking his hand and Josh Tomlin and Trevor Bauer both stood out for fourth and fifth starters.

The bullpen is excellent too, as relief ace Andrew Miller is joined by Cody Allen, Bryan Shaw and newcomer Boone Logan make up one of the relief corps in baseball.

Pitcher health is probably the biggest uncertainty for any contender, but the Indians have the best pitching in the AL if everyone stays healthy. And maybe even if one or two guys don’t.

It’s hard to find much fault with the 2017 Cleveland Indians. They are the class of their division and, while the slog of the regular season turns a lot of surefire contenders into hash before it’s all said and done, there is no reason to look at the Indians right now and think of them as anything other than the best team in the American League.

Prediction: First place, American League Central.