Monday, May 11, 2020

Orioles Victory Card Number 12 (1987 Season Edition): Ch-ch-ch-changes are finally on the way

Baltimore Orioles Victory Number 12: 7-6 over the Chicago White Sox

1987 Topps Floyd Rayford

With the sporting world on hold due to the novel coronavirus shutting down the world for a few months we here at The Hopeful Chase are going to our rain delay programming. For the last two seasons we've posted a baseball card following every Baltimore Orioles victory (I know, talk about the minimum commitment required). It's fun and keeps us writing about baseball and collecting. Rather than sit back and stare forlornly at the outside world we've decided to continue the series with a season from the past.  The season of choice - 1987. Please enjoy.

After dropping the series final to Minnesota (another loss for Mike Flanagan) the long rumored line-up shake-up finally got under way. The first player to be dispatched to Rochester was catcher/third baseman Floyd Rayford. It was a bit of a surprise that Rayford was sent down despite his numbers. He was the back-up catcher and reserve infielder. Unfortunately he wasn't producing. The numbers at the time of his demotion - .077/.077/.308.

His one hit was a home run off of future hall-of-famer Steve Carlton, which for a singular highlight was pretty good. His two errors in limited action (including one that cost the team a win in his last start) didn't help his cause. What did the GM think about the start to Rayford's season?

"We've reached the point where we didn't think he could contribute anything to this ball club".

Harsh, man...real harsh.

In his place the Orioles called up rookie prospect Jeff Ballard to take a spot in the rotation along with catcher Dave Van Gorder who wasn't exactly lighting things up in Rochester having gone 1-for-14 in four games with the Red Wings. Ballard had been scorching in AAA posting a 5-0 record and a 1.18 ERA.

Other moves would come before and after the win against the White Sox. Reserve infielder Jackie Gutierrez was sent down prior to the game to make room on the roster for Lee Lacy who returned from the disabled list after missing 21 games. Unlike most players on the roster Gutierrez hadn't been struggling, mainly because he hadn't played. He'd only appeared in 3 games, all as a defensive replacement.

With Lacy's return the Orioles had an extra outfielder and so they sent John Shelby to Rochester following the game. His dismissal was the Orioles brass acknowledging that they had made a mistake in naming Shelby the starting right fielder at the beginning of the season. Despite a spring training where he failed to hit, he got the starting nod primarily because of his defense.

Unfortunately his defense wasn't enough to justify his lack of hitting. At the time of his demotion he was slashing .188/.212/.281. Granted he played an errorless outfield, but with Lacy returning and Larry Sheets .317/.420/.415 sitting on the bench, it was pretty much a no-brainer to send him down.

Did the roster shake-up motivate the Orioles? Who knows, but it did help that it appears Eddie Murray was finding his swing again. It was his two-run home in the ninth that gave the Orioles the lead. For Murray it was the second big fly of the game (he hit one from the left side and one from the right side in the game) and his third during a four-game hitting streak that has raised his average from .174 to .213 (I have a feeling he's not done yet).

It's nice to see one of the big guns in the line-up start to warm up, but the key to the Orioles getting back into their winning ways would be their pitching. Ballard would hopefully give them some innings and take the pressure off of the beleaguered bullpen. The team was also expecting Don Aase back in the next few days as well which would allow them to reorder things in the 'pen.

With Mike Young also expected back soon following the thumb surgery that had kept him out all season, more changes were in the O's future.

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