Through the first quarter of the season, things haven’t gone as planned for the Baltimore Orioles. Don’t get me wrong — the AL East leaders have performed admirably, posting a 22-18 record and looking very much like a playoff contender.
But that’s all happened in spite of one fact: the lineup that manager Buck Showalter envisioned going into 2014 has not yet seen the field.
When the season began, starting third baseman Manny Machado was on the DL as he recovered from last year’s knee injury. When Machado came back, starting first baseman Chris Davis hit the DL with an oblique strain. Two weeks later, when Davis returned, it was revealed that starting catcher Matt Wieters was experiencing elbow discomfort and he was eventually put on the DL.
As soon as one key player returned, it seemed another had to be shut down.
But instead of falling behind as the team endured injury after injury, the team pushed ahead to establish themselves as one of the better teams in the American League. Thanks to GM Dan Duquette, each loss was offset by a valuable addition.
Many of the stars on the 2012-2014 Orioles were brought-in by former general manager Andy MacPhail, but Duquette has done a great job of adding to the roster and insuring the stars with quality replacements.
Where would the Orioles be if Nelson Cruz wasn’t signed in the offseason to supply power while Davis and Wieters were out? Imagine if Steve Pearce wasn’t retained to fill in so admirably for Davis at first base. How many games did the .300-plus hitting Delmon Young fill-in in the No. 2 hole for the absent Machado?
The list goes-on. Steve Clevenger, who came to the Orioles in a trade last year, is looking more and more like a steady replacement for Wieters if he is out for an extended period. Ryan Flaherty, though he’s been weak at the plate, provides the Orioles the assurance of a backup at every position.
On the mound, Duquette is responsible for acquiring four fifths of the starting staff, signing Ubaldo Jimenez, Bud Norris, Wei-Yin Chen, and Miguel Gonzalez during his tenure. Duquette also added Ryan Webb, who registered a 2.91 ERA last year, to bolster the bullpen.
However, if those guys need to be replaced due to performance or injury, a litany of starters and relievers with major league experience are waiting in AAA to fill-in for any shortcoming on the staff. Johan Santana, Kevin Gausman, T.J. McFarland, Evan Meek, and others are among Duquette’s additions that will or already have seen time in the major leagues this year.
Duquette realizes that seasons do not always go as planned and your backup plans are often as important as your plan A. If the proper pieces weren’t in place, the Orioles could have fallen behind the rest of the division as they waited for their stars to return. Instead, the Orioles are a game ahead of the second-place New York Yankees and look to be surging.
One of the most reassuring things about the 2014 Orioles is knowing that everyone on the 40-man roster has the capability to contribute when needed. With Duquette at the helm, the Orioles have shown the depth to overcome obstacles that would have crippled other teams.
Duquette knew he would need it. It is baseball, after all.