Notice in my title I said that the Orioles are rounding third…but not heading for home; not quite yet. This week will bring the final week of Grapefruit League play for the O’s, culminating with a game next Sunday afternoon against Tampa on MASN in Sarasota. The O’s will then play two more exhibition games in Sarasota against local college teams, and one in Norfolk against the Tides. With all of that said, somehow it still feels as if April 6th is so far away! Sports kind of comes in waves as you lead up to the beginning of any season. There’s a wave of excitement when players report to camp, and then as exhibition games begin to start you ask yourself how you could have been so excited about players merely reporting. Then you get to a certain point of the schedule and you’re just ready to start the regular season. That’s kind of where we are now!
As camp has gone on we’ve seen more and more playing time for the regular players. Matt Wieters had four turns at the plate yesterday and went 4-for-4. In the NFL it seems that teams will use their third exhibition/preseason game as the true dress-rehearsal in that their players will play much longer into the game. That’s kind of what I suspect this week will represent for the Orioles, and for teams all across the league. In the past couple of games we’ve seen Oriole bats come alive, which according to Buck Showalter indicates that the hitters are catching up to where the pitchers have been all along. So ideally you want that trend to continue, and the presumed starters will see more and more action as this coming week unfolds.
Having said that, this is still spring training and teams will often not put too many of their A-List guys on travel rosters. The O’s have a road game this afternoon against Philadelphia, tomorrow night vs. Pittsburgh, Wednesday vs. Toronto, Thursday vs. NY, and Saturday vs. Pittsburgh. I do know that Nick Markakis is on the travel roster for tomorrow night’s game against Pittsburgh in Bradenton, however it wouldn’t surprise me to see more regulars making the trips this week. Obviously in the Orioles’ home games in Sarasota (Tuesday vs. Minnesota, Friday vs. Detroit, and Sunday vs. Tampa) we’ll see the regulars in the lineup, and I suspect for a bit longer than we have up to this point.
The idea is to get the regulars as close to mid-season form as they can be. Baseball isn’t a game whereby you just walk up to the plate and hit the ball. You have to get your timing and hand/eye coordination down in order to play the game at this level. That’s what these games are for. If the past few days are any indication, the Orioles seem to be getting that kind of stuff figured out. Dropping 12 runs on someone (the Washington Nationals) is no small accomplishment, be it an exhibition game or not. So the need to keep that momentum going so that they can move right into the season and be ready to go.
Speaking of travel rosters, the “regulars” that made the trip to Clearwater today for the Phillies’ game are Robert Andino (2B), Chris Davis (1B), Nolan Reimold (LF), Wilson Betemit (3B), and Brian Matusz (LHP). (Betemit is playing third base today however I presume that the majority of time that he’s in the lineup this year he’ll probably be a DH.) Philadelphia will send Roy Halladay out to the mound to oppose the Birds this afternoon, so I’ll be very interested to see how they faire against a perennial all-star such as Doc.
Incidentally, my prediction is that after that game next Sunday against Tampa the O’s will probably allow for their reserves and/or minor leaguers to play the majority of reps in those final tune-ups against colleges and the Tides (similar to week four of the NFL preseason). That’s not to say that the regulars won’t see the field, however I suspect that they won’t be in the game long. Just a prediction; it won’t be long until we find out!
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