For any of you who have never been in the same room or in some way up close to Jim Johnson, let me tell you he is one very big dude. He is an intimidating pitcher and a great choice to have in most games in the 9th inning with a lead.
But I have to say that I was hoping to have some “relief” as a fan about this role of 9th inning “relief!” After the disastrous Kevin Gregg closing debacles – which themselves stood in a long line of similar disasters – I really hoped for a change from what was aptly described last year as bringing in “Captain Chaos.” It is difficult upon the heart and the pigmentation of the hair (though I’m past that hair color thing completely, but would still like to maintain the heart for a few more decades).
But here we are again with a closer loading the bases before getting the final out. Jim Johnson took 31 pitches today to seal the Orioles 5-3 win over the White Sox. He retired the first two … but then gave up a walk, a single, and a hit batsman … before striking out Alex Rios to end the game. THAT is straight out of the “Chaos-Causing Compendium of Closing Cliffhangers!”
But, so far, so good – no blown saves! And the Orioles are 5-2 on the road trip and headed to Anaheim with their other captains of chaos – those causing it for the other team!
Adam Jones is just crushing the ball and showing every evidence of becoming the star player always projected for him to be. It is awesome! He drove in 3 runs today – 2 on a homer, and made the scoring happen. Nolan Reimold sat out today, but we’ve all been writing about his exploits of late. Matt Wieters is just beastly these days, and I’m thinking we are going to hear more and more blasts and successes from Chris Davis as well. All together, it is causing some chaos for opponents.
And overall, the pitching is getting the job done. Sometimes it is a bit circuitous in the way it is done – ah… “circuitous” is not really a good baseball blog word – sorry – it means they sometimes take the long way around in getting the job finished. But hey, we can live on this pitching.
HOWEVER – there are some reasons for concern, although I guess we never really get away from that ever, not even the great teams do. There is always someone struggling with a nagging issue or a slump. Hardy and Markakis need to hit better, but I’m not actually worried that they will not – a day will likely come when others will cool off and those guys will carry the Birds. I’m not as down on Reynolds as many others – I was last year and typed off my fingers complaining about him. He gets enough walks to make up for many of the strikeouts and he’ll get his hits and homers eventually. Reimold – yo – enough with the cramps and pulls and stuff!
But I am not encouraged about the Nick Johnson situation. This simply does not seem to be working out at all. And the jury is still out for me on Betemit – though I’m warming up – especially after the final out last night on a nice play! (We’ve gotta stop letting these bases get loaded in the 9th.)
Regarding pitching concerns: We still need these starters to go a bit deeper. I’m worried about the Japanese league guys – Wada got totally shelled today in a rehab assignment; and Chen, though having guys off balance nicely, does not have the “out” pitch (it appears to me) … thus his pitch count is going to extend. And with Matusz especially, and even the others, there remains a learning curve.
But in the big picture, in the wake of the O’s headed west there are three stunned teams that got a bit more run over than they anticipated from the Orioles: Minnesota, Toronto, and Chicago! So, 8 wins and 5 losses… projected to 162 games = 99.69 wins! OK, that is getting a bit ahead, but there is no arguing that we are seeing a very decent start to the season.