Orioles agree to terms with three more top-7 draft picks

The Orioles have agreed in principle with three of their top seven draft picks, including second-rounder Branden Kline, a right-hander who just finished his junior year at Virginia after graduating from Thomas Johnson High School in Frederick.

The club also agreed to terms with their two draftees from South Carolina: Fourth-rounder Christian Walker, a first baseman, and seventh-rounder Matthew Price, a right-handed pitcher. It's a particularly quick turnaround for Price and Walker, who could not negotiate until after the Gamecocks lost in the College World Series on Monday.

The deals will not become official and announced by the team until the players pass physicals — which are expected Monday or Tuesday.

The three are believed to have signed for slot money — which is approximately $793,700 for Kline; $349,900 for Walker and $149,300 for Price.

When official, the Orioles will have inked 27 of their 40 picks, including eight of their top 10. Only first-round pick Kevin Gausman, a right-hander from LSU, and fifth-rounder Colin Poche, a left-handed prep pitcher from Texas, remain unsigned in the top 10.

The deadline isn't until July 13 at 5 p.m., so the Orioles are much farther ahead of where they have been in the past. That has a lot to do with the new drafting rules, which includes a top 10 bonus pool. If a team surpasses the figure it is allotted — for the Orioles it is $6,826,900 for their top 10 — it will have to pay a tax and could lose future picks.

So far the Orioles have not exceeded the allotted slot for any of their top signees and were $115,000 below the suggested amount for their 10th pick. That money can be used for other pool picks.

Lineup shuffled

Orioles manager Buck Showalter had a different look for his lineup Friday against the Cleveland Indians.

For the first time this season, catcher Matt Wieters was dropped to seventh — a day after he hit sixth for the first time in 2012 — and Wilson Betemit was moved up to fifth, the sixth time he has started in that spot.

Showalter was playing the hot hand with Betemit, who came in hitting .542 in his previous eight games and .383 in the month of June. He batted behind cleanup hitter Adam Jones.

"Wilson's swinging the bat well, probably as good as anyone we've got. Plus, he gives Jonesy the protection. That's another factor too," Showalter said. "You kind of look at your team from the other team's eyes sometimes. … Who are they going to [have] anxiety about in different spots?"

Wieters hasn't been struggling either, hitting .276 in his past eight games.

Also, Showalter said the lineup was staggered with lefties, righties and switch-hitters in an attempt to create pitching mismatches for the Indians' bullpen.

One thing he won't do, however, is move Brian Roberts out of the leadoff spot. Roberts was hitless in his past 15 at-bats heading into Friday and had scored just one run since returning to the Orioles in mid-June. He scored in the first inning after reaching on an error and singled in his second at-bat to break the skid.

"You put him on any team and [leadoff] is where they will hit him for the most part," Showalter said. "We're happy to have him back. It will happen."

Pitching pow-wow

After Thursday's 7-2 loss to the Cleveland Indians, the third straight time the Orioles allowed seven or more runs, the club held a brief, pitchers only meeting on a side, "team prep" room off the clubhouse.

Showalter and pitching coach Rick Adair were there, as well as the entire pitching staff. It didn't last more than five minutes.

The players aren't commenting on what was said, but one source with knowledge of the meeting said it was called to make sure the entire staff was on the same page. Sort of a kick-in-the-butt, let's-get-back-to-what-made-us-good, kind of thing.