What a title; I’ll be honest I didn’t think that I’d be using that one! Throughout camp I’ve been extremely impressed with Oriole pitching for the most part. When I say Oriole pitching I’m talking mostly about guys that I presume will be on the Opening Day roster as opposed to minor leaguers. There have been plenty of games that have been tied going into the later innings which have ultimately been blown by guys that will presumably be in the minors all year, and that’s going to happen on all teams this time of year.
Looking at yesterday’s 11-1 bludgeoning of the Minnesota Twins, Wei-Yin Chen pitched the first five innings of the game, which of course was enough to qualify for the win. Victories by starting pitchers are rare until the end of spring training because they don’t normally pitch long enough to get through the fifth inning. That’s also a round-about manner of saying that spring training is beginning to come to a close, as starters are going deeper into games. (There’s always more than meets the eye!) Chen’s final line: 5 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 0 BB, 1 K. He was followed by Jim Johnson and Dana Eveland, both of whom held Minnesota bats scoreless, after which came Chris Tillman. Not only did Tillman pitch a scoreless inning of work, but he struck out the side.
The idea was to bring as many pitchers as possible into camp, and to take the five best north when camp broke. The Orioles are very much in line to do that, however Buck Showalter certainly has some tough decisions to make. I can remember Chris Tillman’s major league debut a few years back and thinking to myself that this kid had a chance to be something special. Then injuries and inconsistency hit him hard, and coming into spring training he was nothing more than an afterthought. However in my opinion he has an opportunity to make the team outright out of camp. As I’ve chronicled throughout spring training, Brian Matusz and Jake Arrieta also have looked very good, as has Wei-Yi Chen.
For the record, my personal prediction is that Tillman will not be on the roster on April 6th. I say that for this reason: time in the game. As I said, when you start to get into the last last week-and-a-half of so of spring training games the manager’s thinking about who’s going to be in the rotation much more thoroughly, and he’s strategically putting guys into games to get them into a rotation of sorts. Chris Tillman has pitched in relief this spring training, and he only got an inning in yesterday’s game. I suppose that Tillman could in fact pitch out of the bullpen, however my personal prediction is that he’ll at least start the season as one of the anchors in the Norfolk Tides’ rotation. Having said that, the Orioles working some sort of trade with another team involving Tillman, Kevin Gregg, and perhaps Brad Bergesen would surprise me either.
As I said, the O’s beat Minnesota 11-1 yesterday. This is not to say that this is going to be the normal status quo for the Birds this year; whenever you have a blowout of those proportions in sports I firmly believe that it isn’t indicative of how either team is capable of playing. However one of the more positive things to come out of the game was that the O’s tagged starter Carl Pavano for six earned runs over eight hits. Only four Orioles struck out in the game, which means that the Birds’ hope of improving team OBP might be starting to work.
Coming Attractions: I might have gotten ahead of myself above in saying that spring training was starting to come to an end! However it is worth mentioning that Grapefruit League play culminates only one week from this Sunday. In that period, fans will be able to see this afternoon’s game vs. Boston, tomorrow afternoon’s game vs. Washington, and the Grapefruit League closer on April 1st vs. Tampa on MASN. As I’ve said a few other times, I’ll be really interested to see who starts that April 1st game in Sarasota (presuming an actual Opening Day starter isn’t announced before then). In weeks without a day off during the season, a Sunday starter will take his next turn in the rotation on Friday. Given that Opening Day is on a Friday, it would stand to reason that whomever starts on Opening Day would start on April 1st. That’s not gospel by any means, but it just stands to reason.
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