I had a rare switch of days off this week which happened to enable me to watch the televised Orioles game against the Blue Jays yesterday. Along with a pleasant day that melted the few remnants of the total bust that was Winter Storm Saturn (not complaining), it made for a good afternoon. Yes, I’d rather be in Sarasota, but any early March day with Orioles baseball is far from a loss.
Here is a variety of observations from the game:
- Spring training baseball is ugly. It reminded me a bit of my several years coaching the Junior Division of Little League Baseball – the 7th and 8th-graders who are playing on a 90-foot field for the first time. Between continual lineup shifts, marginal major-leaguers, rusty skills, and a high sky on a windy Florida day … well … it was not a thing of beauty.
- A walk-off win. Winning a game with a walk-off homer with two outs and two men on base and a 3-2 count … THAT is a thing of beauty at any season of the year at any level of baseball! It might be the biggest swing of the year for Ryan Flaherty (more on that later).
- Conor Jackson looks really good. This guy is an athlete and not just a baseball player. One can see why he was such a high draft choice. Jackson deserves the longest of looks this spring as a potential keeper.
- Several O’s pitchers looked really bad. My guess is that Daniel McCutchen had a painful night … following a painful day. I hurt for all these guys who are trying to make a good impression in such a small window, and then it just unravels on them. And T.J. McFarland just does not look ready to be kept. It does appear he has the tools, and Buck talked about Peterson seeing tweakable stuff … so maybe he can be offered back to the White Sox, and maybe they won’t take him back. I have to also add here that Mark Hendrickson did indeed look good – appearing difficult to hit, and missing corners by small amounts.
- Nate McLouth appears to be totally at home. He makes all the plays in the outfield as a top-of-the-line defender, and he is putting nice swings on the ball. Everything about this situation has the look and feel of a guy who has been on the road for a long time, and who has now come home.
- Nolan Reimold is going to be fine. There is clearly nothing wrong with his ability to still put a charge into a ball he gets centered on. I don’t think this sore arm business is worth any amount of ink to print and talk about.
So who are the Orioles going to keep? If we put McLouth in LF and Reimold as DH and believe Roberts to be healthy, that leaves four others, among who will be Taylor Teagarden (or another backup catcher, but let’s hope not!). Wilson Betemit is under contract and can play several positions along with hitting right-handers well. He will be kept, for better or worse (and to quote Forest Gump, “That’s all I got to say about that.”). So, two more – a largely utility infielder and a utility outfielder … and yes, there is a ways to go in spring training. It would seem to come down to Pearce or Jackson and Flaherty or Casilla. Right now I’d go with Jackson and Flaherty. Jackson has the better athleticism and better career average (.271 to .234). Flaherty has the good history with the Orioles, though a strong showing by Alexi Casilla throughout this month could yet put him on the team. There is too much time yet to get a read on a 5th starter or the two extra bullpen guys who could bridge to the five short-innings throwers.
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