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BALTIMORE — Clarke Schmidt made only one mistake Monday, and it wasn’t a bad pitch. The New York Yankees starter thought Gunnar Henderson looked awkward fouling off two straight knuckle-curves, so he threw the Baltimore Orioles leadoff hitter a third one. It was sharper than the previous two — not exactly where he wanted it, but close.

With Schmidt’s stuff, particularly crisp on this balmy night, close is usually good enough. Not against Henderson.

Henderson crushed the baseball 112.3 mph, 410 feet over the tall right-field wall at Camden Yards for a leadoff home run. The laser gave the Orioles a lead they wouldn’t fumble in their series opener against the rival Yankees, and it made history: The 22-year-old shortstop became the youngest player in Major League Baseball history with 10 home runs before the start of May.

“That’s the kind of player,” Schmidt said, “to build a team around.”

For several years, baseball talk in Baltimore was about the future. The farm system represented hope while the big league club floundered with rosters designed to lose. The Orioles endured three seasons with at least 108 losses. They went six consecutive years without a postseason berth.

Then last season, results finally flipped. They won 101 games and their first division title since 2014.

Henderson was in the thick of the turnaround, starring for the resurgent franchise en route to winning American League Rookie of the Year. The mustached, mulleted dynamo mirrors the Orioles’ trajectory over the past half-decade — from promising rebuild to ready for prime time to finally, perhaps, a perennial force.

“I want to ultimately be one of the best players to play the game,” Henderson said. “I feel like that’s how I’ve carried myself.”

Now the everyday shortstop — he split time primarily between shortstop and third base as a rookie — Henderson is garnering MVP buzz as the Orioles settle into their unfamiliar status as AL East favorites. They passed their first stiff test of the season this week, taking three of four games from the Yankees, their main competition in the AL East so far, in a series that featured an electricity at Camden Yards rarely generated this early in a season.

Henderson began the series with some thump, but pitching dominated the four-game set. The Orioles, whose bullpen limped into the series after blowing two games to the Oakland Athletics, held the Yankees to just six runs over the four days. Luis Gil carried the Yankees to their lone win, tossing a career-high 6⅓ innings in a 2-0 victory Wednesday. Other than that, the Orioles rolled.

“It’s still early,” Orioles manager Brandon Hyde cautioned after the Orioles’ series-closing 7-2 win Thursday.

It was the O’s 16th straight series win against an AL East foe, a date that stretches back more than a year. It’s why this year, even coming off a disappointing Division Series sweep at the hands of the Texas Rangers last fall, expectations are different in Baltimore.

The Orioles were among the preseason favorites to win the World Series. They’re first in their division, with the best record in the American League. The O’s lead the majors in home runs — by seven — and rank second in runs. The pitching staff this week received reinforcements when starters Kyle Bradish and John Means were activated from the injured list. Bradish, fourth in AL Cy Young voting in 2023, made his season debut Thursday, holding the Yankees to one run over 4⅔ innings.

There are still players to develop and prospects to incorporate at the major league level. But after years building to this point, to annual contention, they have a chance to bring the franchise’s first championship to Baltimore since 1983.

“The future is now,” Orioles reliever Danny Coulombe said. “We’re in our window already.”

Adley Rutschman, who joined the big league club in 2022, is now one of the sport’s premier catchers. Jordan Westburg and Colton Cowser — both under 26 — have excelled. The lineup is so deep that Heston Kjerstad, a top-100 prospect, has mostly been stuck on the bench since mashing his way to a promotion on April 23. Then there’s Jackson Holliday, the consensus No. 1 prospect in the sport, back in Triple-A — for now — after a rough big league introduction.

Coulombe, at 34 the third-oldest member of the Orioles, recalled looking around during spring training and marveling at the nameplates above the lockers.

“I remember being like, ‘There is so much talent in this organization,'” Coulombe said. “It’s a lot. Gunnar, obviously, is probably the best one. It’s hard to deny that.”

The Los Angeles Dodgers drafted Coulombe, a left-hander, in the 25th round in 2012. The Dodgers’ first-round pick that year was a high school shortstop named Corey Seager. Henderson, Coulombe said, reminds him of Seager — but with speed. A big, left-handed hitter. The drive, the preparation. The way the game looks so easy to him.

Henderson’s other teammates see it too.

“He always wants to improve and that’s what separates one ballplayer from another — a star from a regular player,” Orioles veteran infielder Jorge Mateo said in Spanish. “To me, he’s a star already. And I know he’s going to keep improving.”

Henderson’s rise wasn’t linear. A year ago, he was scuffling in his first extended stint as a major leaguer. He slashed .201/.332/.370 over the season’s first two months, then the 2019 second-round draft pick turned it around in June. Henderson finished the season batting .255 with 28 home runs and an .814 OPS.

“It’s like, got to go up there and you got to trick yourself into having that self-confidence because you just go through it every single day and it really beats you down mentally,” Henderson said. “It’s definitely tough.”

There’s been no slow start to overcome this year. On Friday, Henderson — who slashed .291/.356/.624 in March/April — was named American League Player of the Month.

“I don’t know what tool he doesn’t have,” Hyde said. “He’s doing a little bit of everything, and he’s got the physical ability and the mental ability to be as good as there can be.”

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Projecting the X factors, tactics and key matchups that will swing Rangers-Panthers




Projecting the X factors, tactics and key matchups that will swing Rangers-Panthers

The NHL’s conference finals have arrived, and if you asked around in September, the four teams remaining were some of the most likely answers to the question, “Who will win the Stanley Cup?”

We didn’t get here the way many would have imagined, though. In the East, there can be no debate that the Florida Panthers and New York Rangers are the best teams, and were the best teams over the course of the season.

The West, however, was a little more surprising. The Dallas Stars battled the Colorado Avalanche and Winnipeg Jets all season for the No. 1 spot in the West, with all three teams having spells at the top. The Edmonton Oilers had times during the season when they were wholly unconvincing as playoff threats, including a dismal start that saw them nine points out of a playoff spot in November, leading to the dismissal of coach Jay Woodcroft.

In our series previews, we look at specific areas: key points of difference in the series, the X factor, which team my model favors and the reasons why, along with a projection on the series result.

The model is a neural network that accounts for player strength, offensive, defensive and special teams performance, goaltending, matchup ratings and rest. As the model ingests data, it improves, with the heaviest weights on recent play. The model allows for players to be added and removed, with their impact on the game results measured.

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M’s Rojas: Yankees’ Schmidt ‘was clearly tipping’




M's Rojas: Yankees' Schmidt 'was clearly tipping'

NEW YORK — With a little nod of his neck as he took his lead off second base, Josh Rojas seemed to signal Mariners teammate Dylan Moore that a cutter was coming from Yankees pitcher Clarke Schmidt.

Moore drove the 93.1 mph pitch 386 feet into the left-field seats for a 2-0 lead, helping Seattle to a 6-3 win over New York on Tuesday night.

“Everybody’s always trying to look for something,” Rojas said Wednesday. “We’re out there trying to find anything we can to gain an advantage.”

MLB Network showed a frame-by-frame comparison of Schmidt in the set position with Moore at the plate in the third inning. Rojas could see none of the ball before a sinker, a little of the ball ahead of a sweeper and a significant portion before a cutter.

Moore had fouled off Schmidt’s first full-count pitch, a sweeper, before the right-hander came back with a cutter.

“You can see in the video he was clearly tipping,” Rojas said.

Schmidt, 28, said after the game the Yankees were aware of the tipping and quickly worked to ensure it wouldn’t happen again.

“Obviously tipping is a part of this game and it’s a factor and it’s always in the back of our heads and something that we’re well aware of,” Schmidt said. “They got two runs on it. But I was able to make adjustments after we saw the video and just part of the game. Another factor in it.”

Schmidt said tipping had been an issue with him in the past.

“It’s just something that we’re constantly with all our guys paying attention to and working on,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said.

Mariners manager Scott Servais, a big league catcher from 1991 to 2001, said technology has forced teams to become more alert to tipping.

“You didn’t have all the cameras and all the people working in front offices. It was actually a learned skill,” Servais said. “The days that you weren’t playing, you’re just locked in on that pitcher. Where does he comes set? When does his hand go into his glove? Where’s his eyes? Does he bite his lip when he throws his slider? There’s all kinds of stuff that happens, and in our day, you would just sit and stare at the guy until you try to figure it out for yourself.”

Asked who was the best at picking up tips, Servais brought up his own experience.

“Veteran players that didn’t play much — like myself — knew what to look for,” he said. “I always thought catchers had a good sense for it because they all knew that pitchers all did something a little bit different.”

Rojas said figuring out pitch tips “is a pretty common thing.”

“Even if you have something, it’s still pretty hard to get a hit,” he said.

Major League Baseball’s approval in 2022 of the PitchCom device for communication between pitchers and catchers has largely eliminated catchers signaling pitchers — and the ability of runners at second to pick up those signs. That causes runners to focus on the pitchers.

“Now it’s strictly a game of trying to find little things like that that will give you a tell,” Rojas said.

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Padres’ Bogaerts broke shoulder diving for ball




Padres' Bogaerts broke shoulder diving for ball

CINCINNATI — San Diego Padres All-Star second baseman Xander Bogaerts broke his left shoulder attempting a diving pickup and was placed on the 10-day injured list Wednesday.

“I’m not a big timetable guy,” Padres manager Mike Shildt said. “Obviously he’ll be on the sidelines for a period of time. It’s really impossible to say how long. We’re still gathering information.”

Bogaerts injured his shoulder while diving for a ground ball in the first game of a doubleheader Monday against the Atlanta Braves. Bogaerts was escorted off the field after being evaluated by training staff.

Initial imaging of Bogaerts’ shoulder came back negative, but the fracture was revealed when further tests were done on Wednesday.

“Not as good (of news) as we clearly would have hoped, especially after the initial imaging,” Shildt said.

The Padres said Bogaerts, 31, did not suffer a labrum tear and does not require surgery at this time. The bone needs time to heal, but Bogaerts said he hopes to return to the lineup by late summer.(

Bogaerts, who was placed on the IL retroactive to May 21, is hitting .219 with four homers and 14 RBIs.

In related roster moves, the Padres selected the contract of outfielder David Peralta and transferred right-handed pitcher Luis Patiño to the 60-day IL.

Luis Arraez started at second base for the second straight game on Wednesday. Shildt said he will get creative in terms of replacing Bogaerts moving forward.

“The good news is, we have options between three or four different guys,” Shildt said. “We’re still in the process of figuring things out.”

The Associated Press and Field Level Media contributed to this report.

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