Baltimore Orioles: Why are the bats asleep?


I’m a bit surprised that the offensive production of the Baltimore Orioles has been a bit lower than I would have thought thus far in the spring. Many folks will crassly point to the departures of Nelson Cruz and Nick Markakis as the reasons, however I’m not sure that’s 100% fair. However speaking of fairness, we shouldn’t lose sight on why these spring games are played – to get guys back into the groove.

Brian Matusz got a rare start yesterday, as Buck Showalter is attempting to “stretch him out.” Matusz’s line: 3 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 3 K. Matusz later said after leaving the game that he was working primarily on his changeup. Whatever he was looking to work on, he looked pretty good in giving the Orioles three really solid innings. 

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Following Matusz the Orioles brought in prospect Tim Berry, who struggled a bit but later got into a groove. However Tampa took the lead on Berry and the O’s in the top of the fourth when Rene Rivera hit a two-run homer. And this is why we have to be careful in terms of paying too much attention to spring training results; Berry is a guy that’s probably slated for the minors. So while the good news is that he righted himself and pitched well after the homer, if this exact same game scenario is played out in the regular season he wouldn’t be giving up that home run.

Kevin Kiermaier would add an RBI-double for Tampa in the sixth, off of reliever Chad Roe. However the Birds started to make a comeback in the last of the sixth, when J.J. Hardy put an RBI-double of his own across to cut the Tampa lead to 3-1. An inning later Steve Pearce would knotch his first homer of the spring to bring the Orioles to within 3-2, however that’s as close as they would get. With the loss, the Orioles fell to 3-10 on the spring.

The main story of the game for the Birds was probably Brian Matusz, who still believes he can be a starter. As he told Michal Kolligian of, the only thing that’s different between starting and relieving is the routine:

"It was really just a matter of relearning the pregame routine of when to get out, when to start playing catch and things like that. It was nice to have guys like [Chris] Tillman around to help."

It’s unclear what Showalter’s plan is regarding Matusz; are the Orioles planning on making him a long man of sorts? Or are they looking to showcase him a bit in hopes of including him in a trade?

Going back to the offense, the good news was that the two guys who were

Courtesy of Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

responsible for the Orioles’ runs were regular players. (Or in Pearce’s case let’s say a semi-regular player.) However while the losses aren’t necessarily a problem, the one glaring issue in these games in my mind has been the lack of run suport. And make no mistake about the fact that I’m not referring to games such as Friday’s5-3 loss to Toronto – very few regulars were in that game.

Let’s just say that it’s unfair to look at these games the same way we would a regular season game. We have to be as analytical as possible in the sense that players are being told to focus on various things throughout their outings in spring games. Through the first week or so of games, I noticed a lot of players fouling off numerous pitches down the lines. Sometimes these balls would go into the stands, and sometimes they’d end up as outs.

But now as we’re starting to reach the mid-point of spring training, we’re seeing more drives to the outfield. This should tell us that guys’ timing is starting to come back. Oriole bats have often been a bit impatient at the plate, swining at a lot of first pitches which have induced outs. But while that needs to change a bit, keep in mind that the O’s are a free-swinging team – that was part of their luster in 2014. So while the one “glaring” issue I see right now (if it can even be called that after 13 spring games) is the offensive output, I also think that we’ll start to see the offense click as we progress into the latter part of the spring.

I also want to send out a congratulatory note to an Oriole prospect, Patrick Connaughton. He was selected by the O’s in the fourth round of last year’s draft, and was sent to short-seaon class-A Aberdeen. Connaughton is also a member of the Notre Dame men’s basketball team, who defeated North Carolina last night to win it’s first ever ACC title. Without going off on a tangent about this, most local fans will probably love the fact that an Oriole prospect helped his team defeat North Carolina. For what it’s worth, Notre Dame’s head coach, Mike Brey, is also a Maryland native.

The O’s will travel up the road to Bradenton this afternoon to take on the Pittsburgh Pirates. Wei-Yin Chen will make the start for the O’s, and he’ll be opposed by Pittsburgh’s Vance Worley.