Here are some observations as we look back on spring training so far and the completion of two weeks of games:
Pitching Overall – This has been largely a positive, apart from a couple of brief moments. It is reasonable to ratchet up our seasonal expectations a few notches on the hope-o-meter. Rumors abound of a trade for a starter (as if there are extras of those out there somewhere) and I’ll evaluate it when/if it happens, but I’m good to go to war with this crowd (so DD – you have my approval – just sayin’).
Hitting Overall – It is not time to panic – though I think that time is just over the next horizon. That the pitchers are rather clearly ahead of the hitters does take away some measure of the enthusiasm about our pitchers’ performances – at least potentially.
Defense Overall – It really looks like spring training.
Chavez, Miller, Betemit – Chavez has to be kept – welcome to the Baltimore Orioles! I’m falling off the Jai Miller bandwagon and am sad about that; he is THE athlete of athletes on this team, but any guy who will strike out so much as to make Mark Reynolds look like a contact hitter is not helpful. Betemit likely will be kept – whether he should or not… I’m not close yet to “feeling it” for Betemit – and hope we are not locked-in on this guy. I’d rather see Nick Johnson, who is proving his worth and reputation in the OBP category.
Brian Matusz – This is certainly better than we could have hoped for, as the numbers are adding up against some decent players. From every appearance I am able to note from a distance, Brian seems like as fine a young man as can be found – so I am pleased for this revival. I’ll confess I did not expect it, not after seeing him return last year after the injury – whatever it was. I saw him pitch in Frederick in rehab; and though he shut down a Carolina League opponent, his fastball was not worthy of the name – though it could have been used to measure the straightness of laser beams.
Gregg, Strop– Mr. Short Arm is mysteriously not pitching many innings. Maybe the Orioles don’t want to display his ineffectiveness and lower his trade value. Speaking of trade value, I’ve had to, from time to time with investments, call one a loser and get rid of it before it hurt me more! OK, Gregg was a gamble, and the Orioles lost. Let’s move on. I’m gonna go postal (in blogging terms) if the Orioles keep Kevin Gregg but lose Pedro Strop – who is out of options!
Britton – Ugh! The sore shoulder is back! Since the guys nearby can’t for certain evaluate the seriousness of it, surely a blogger from 1,000 miles away cannot. I don’t know, but having been a pitcher in college, there is some amount of inflammation going on all the time – which is what the icing is all about. I am sure the team is erring on the side of caution.
Arrieta, Tillman, Bergesen – The early returns are sufficiently good. With Arrieta, I believe it was just a matter of getting over the surgery, and I think this guy will be pitching every fifth game for the Birds for a long time. With Tillman, it appears the Brady Anderson experience has done wonders for him; and remember, he is still quite young. With Bergesen, going back to a motion from the successful season of 2009 – ah, yep, good idea! With all of them (and several of the others), they have not been served well in recent years by coaching – such as with a change of horses in mid-stream last year! Young pitchers rushed to the bigs … surrounded by fluctuating and marginal coaches – it is no wonder disaster came calling! Hopefully this too is a new day.
Ryan Flaherty – He is sure looking like a keeper – like a Chesapeake Bay stripper in season and well over the minimum. Why lose $25K now by seeing the Cubs take him back in accord with Rule 5 dictates? He can play all over the field. I’m sold (at least for today!).
Fading Out – Alfredo Simon has enough groin troubles to not be looking good for April. I’m OK with that, as I fear he is a career 4.50-5.00 ERA guy. Berken is also still struggling and likely too far behind to make the opening roster. Teagarden as well has a lot of ground to make up in a short time, though I’m not going to stress over the backup catcher situation in the early weeks of the season.
Buck Showalter – He sure does remark a great deal about non-tangibles such as, “I like the look in his eye,” or, “The look on his face is a good one,” or, “You gotta like the way he carries himself.” I don’t mean to doubt Buck – the best baseball guy we’ve had in that dugout in a long time – but I’d like to go more on the look in the other guys’ eyes when the fastball flies past them or the change freezes them or the ball flies out of the park! Buck likely just runs out of new things to say to the press.
Starting Rotation – There are so many variables yet to be clarified, and one wonders how the situation can possibly “solve itself” – am not sure it will, and the ultimate decisions may be wrenchingly difficult. However, here is a unique observation: made by Steve Melewski of MASN this week, who picked the starting five at this moment to be Jake Arrieta, Wei-Yin Chen, Jason Hammel, Tommy Hunter, and Zach Britton. He finished the article by saying, “… if this is the starting five for the Orioles, those five would make a combined total of around $8.3 million this year. Sabathia alone will earn $23 million in 2012.” Now that is an interesting perspective!!