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Ten days. That is it. Ten days away from the Orioles’ Opening Day of the 2014 season. Talking to several Orioles fans in the Baltimore area, you can feel the excitement starting to reach its boiling point. With Duquette’s late burst of off-season moves, fans feel like this team can make a run for the 2014 Postseason. There is a lot to be excited about when the season kicks off next Monday against the Red Sox.
New Faces in the Orange and Black
The Orioles added some key players to the lineup over the off-season. In time, fans will be able to see pitchers Ubaldo Jimenez and Suk-min Yoon on the mound pitching for the Birds. However, the new players we all will be able to see play on Opening Day will be David Lough and Nelson Cruz.
Despite experiencing concussion-like symptoms as of late during some Spring Training games, Lough should be ready
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to go for next Monday. I have been most impressed by Lough this past month. You can really tell he plays hard when he is in the lineup. Running out grounders and making superb catches in the field is what Orioles faithful can expect to see this season. This spring, Lough is hitting .321/.367/.500 in 28 at bats. This Akron, Ohio native is going to bring a lot of tenacity and excitement to the ball club this season and I, for one, am really pulling for this player to make good. And if he does, expect “YOLOugh” t-shirts to soon follow.
Cruz was the final piece to the Orioles’ lineup conundrum. More than likely, he will be taking over the designated hitter position that gave the team so many woes throughout last season. He has the power to come through big for Baltimore this season. At the plate this spring, he is hitting .333/.429/.533. I believe I have made my excitement for Cruz being a part of this team very evident in articles past so I will not repeat myself too much. All I will say is having a nine-year veteran on the roster who can hit both consistently and with power will prove to be a crucial asset come late September.
Who Will Step Up?
Every position is basically figured out for the Orioles, except for one: second base. It is down to two candidates: Jonathan Schoop and Ryan Flaherty. By the numbers, Schoop is in prime position to start on Opening Day.
In his first start at the Major League level last season, Schoop turned heads when he drove a ball deep to right-center field. This spring , Schoop has made his case as to why he should get the starting spot at second. His fielding has proven excellent; turning two with ease and posting a .966 fielding percentage with just one error in 14 games of work. His bat speaks just as profoundly as his glove. Posting a .406 batting average in 32 at bats, Schoop has driven in 6 runs and hit one round-tripper during Spring Training.
Flaherty is no pushover himself either. Hitting .282 with four RBIs of his own, Flaherty will prove to be a good pinch hitter in late inning situations if Schoop gets the starting job at second and Showalter decides to keep Flaherty on the active roster.
Can Lightning Strike Twice?
We all know Chris Davis had the best year of his career last season, hitting 53 home runs. Can he have another stellar year again for the Orioles? I am not asking him to hit 53 home runs again, even though many would not mind if he did. What all Orioles fans expect from Davis is about 30+ home runs and 80-90 RBIs.
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Yet if you look at Davis’ spring numbers, he is on track for an even better season than last if that is at all possible. Despite taking 30 less at bats, “Crush” has hit the same amount of home runs (3) and five more RBIs than last spring with eleven.
Hitting .444/.500/.852 from the plate, many fans and critics of the Orioles will have to wonder going into Opening Day: “Does lightning really strike twice?”
There is plenty to be excited about if you are an Orioles fan. This team has the potential to be something great. So grab your Natty Boh, put on your lucky Orioles shirt and get ready for the 2014 “Orioles Magic” to start-up in ten days.