First thing’s first; it’s AWESOME to be back in the states! I had a great trip to Italy with my family, and I sincerely appreciate readers putting up with some of the quirks that came with the articles published during that period of time as a result of my absence here at home. Obviously I wasn’t able to include as many of the details in games as I wasn’t physically watching them. However I will say that going abroad always makes me appreciate more the luxuries that we have here in America, not the least among them is the great sport of baseball!
The Baltimore Orioles now find themselves in a strange position as they get set to open up the second half of the season with only 66 games remaining. This of course is due to the fact that the all-star break was a week later than normal this year, being in the third week as opposed to the second week of July. Nevertheless, you still play 162 in some way, shape or form! The main concern for the O’s remains the starting rotation, although that has been bolstered a bit with the return of tonight’s starter Wei-Yin Chen (who re-joined the team just before the break), and the addition of Scott Feldman. Many fans are still hoping and even counting on Dan Duquette to add a top-of-the-rotation arm to the mix via trade; Cliff Lee‘s name always seems to continue coming up. Whether or not that happens remains to be seen as we get closer to the deadline at the end of the month. My personal opinion is that if the O’s can continue getting by with what they have until then, Duquette might be inclined to make a trade through waivers prior to next month’s waiver deadline.
However that aside, the Orioles are once again building towards October in the second half of the season. Tampa’s winning streak at the end of the first half projected them into second place in the division at the break. The O’s are currently 4.5 games out of first, and two games behind Tampa for second. They’re also a game behind Texas in the second wild card spot, which makes this weekend’s series an important one. However most importantly, they’re within striking distance of first place in the AL East. Texas has not been an easy place for the Orioles to play the last few seasons, although their most recent excursion to Rangers Ballpark was pretty successful: last October they won the first-ever AL Wild Card game there. On the flip side, players such as Chris Davis and Adam Jones (who finished the first half on hot streaks) have an opportunity to allow the Orioles to have a field day at the plate all weekend. Thus the key for the Birds is for their pitchers to keep the ball in the park.
Chen will be opposed by Derek Holland of Texas tonight to get that second half going. The Orioles will make two roster moves prior to this evening’s game, recalling Danny Valencia to the big league club, and selecting the contract of outfielder Henry Urrutia from triple-A Norfolk. Urrutia of course is a Cuban defector and was signed by the O’s this season; he also comes to the team after slaying minor league pitching. It’s unclear what the corresponding moves will be, however the O’s will have to send two guys out in order to make room for Valencia and Urrutia. Keep an eye on my twitter feed (@DomenicVadala) and our Birds Watcher twitter feed (@BirdsWatcherFS) for information as it comes.