In his previous start this spring, Jason Hammel was lifted after two innings against the Red Sox due in large part to the fact that he labored through a 39-pitch second inning. Hammel’s line last night in Tampa against the NY Yankees: 5.1 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 0 BB, 5 K. Hammel was pulled with one out in the third after both Alex Rodriguez and Mark Texeira ran the count full. Of the 89 pitches that Hammel threw in the game, 59 were for strikes. Afterwards Hammel said that he definitely felt much better in this game than he did in his previous outing. That’s a good sign. As I’ve said a couple of times this week, my prediction is that Hammel will be in the starting rotation on Opening Day.
Before people jump all over me for saying that Hammel had a decent outing because of the two runs surrendered, I would remind folks of the opponent last night. For what it’s worth, the O’s defeated the Yankees in their lone road appearance against the bombers this spring by the score of 4-3 on the heels of a Ronny Paulino RBI-single in the top of the ninth inning. Matt Wieters also chimed in with a triple, which is a rarity for someone who resembles the Queen Mary while running! In monitoring twitter last night around the time that the game ended, the sentiments among Oriole fans was that while it’s only spring training for sure, it’s always nice to beat the Yankees. For the record, right fielder Nick Markakis also played seven innings last night in right field, which is another good sign in terms of him progressing into regular season form.
The really good sign in my opinion is that while it took some time for them to get going, Oriole bats have definitely been hot in the second part of camp. The above-mentioned Matt Wieters is 10-for-13 in his last thirteen plate appearances. Granted the Orioles didn’t drop a 12-spot last night as they did last week against Washington, however again consider the opponent. In that vain, you also have to keep in mind that the regulars were not on the field when the game was in effect decided (top of the 9th). However when they were on the field the game was a close affair, and in effect was a tie. With a few exceptions, the Orioles have not had too much trouble keeping up on the scoreboard with their AL East competitors this spring.
Today beings the final weekend of Grapefruit League play with a 1 PM contest against the Twins this afternoon. Brian Matusz will start that game, Jake Arrieta will get the start tomorrow against Pittsburgh, and Tommy Hunter on Sunday against Tampa (on MASN). The biggest question that most fans (and writers alike!) have right now is the rotation. I suppose you never want to read into anything, but as we all know it seems that there’s always more than meets the eye. I suppose what I’m getting at is that I feel that it’s no coincidence that Hammels, Matusz, Arrieta, and Hunter are starting the games this Thursday-Sunday. Are we seeing the beginnings of a rotation?
If my theory about Sunday’s starter being the guy on Opening Day, then I suppose it would be Tommy Hunter. However I do think that Jake Arrieta has earned the Opening Day nod; one would then think that perhaps the O’s are giving him an extra day’s rest or something along those lines. Regardless of who starts Opening Day, I think that the four above-mentioned pitchers (along with Wei-Yin Chen) will be starters coming out of camp. I’m not sure who Buck Showalter has in mind to start the three non-Grapefruit League exhibition games next week, however if the likes of Arrieta, Hunter, etc. aren’t involved in those plans I wouldn’t be surprised if they were sent north a few days early. Time will tell…and that time is coming near!
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