On June 3rd, the Baltimore Orioles had stumbled their way to a 23-29 record. Fans were saying “sell”. Get what you can, they said, for Chris Davis, Matt Wieters, and the rest of the team’s expiring contracts in an attempt to salvage the lost season.
Now it is June 13th. Now the O’s are cruising forward in the midst of a five-game win streak. Now the mournful tune that disgruntled fans were previously humming has turned vibrant and peppy. Now the team must become a buyer. Right?
Call to the Pen
To win this division, the Orioles will certainly need some help, but it is going to come from where they least suspect it. From within.
The first two pieces to the playoff puzzle just recently (re)joined the club, and they came in the forms of Matt Wieters and Nolan Reimold. Fans sort of wrote Wieters off after he had missed over a full season recovering from Tommy John surgery. The team won 96 games without him, and Caleb Joseph was turning into a very serviceable catcher after completing his first year in the majors.
But why had so few predicted an instant pop for a struggling lineup when a player with a resume like Wieters’ returned? Wieters is a three-time AL All-Star, two-time Gold Glove recipient, and a guy who’s hit 20 home runs three times in his career. Needless to say, the O’s have been 7-1 since his return. Not only has his bat provided an extra spark (.316 average in five games), but his pitcher management has been superb with a 2.67 pitcher ERA in his four games behind the plate this year.
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Reimold, on the other hand, has played in just two games for Baltimore, but has a homer and two walks — if you’re a fan who’s been watching this team, you’ve learned to appreciate a patient hitter who can earn a free pass to first. Nolan has struggled throughout his career with injuries, but if he can stay healthy, it is not too much to expect him to serve as a great defensive player who can hit in the high .200’s.
Still think the team needs another bat? How about a young and powerful second baseman? A 23-year-old who is also a former Minor League Player of the Year in his organization’s farm system? By now I hope you realize that we are talking about Jonathan Schoop. Before going down with a knee injury in late April, Schoop was hitting .259 with three home runs at the bottom of the smoking-hot O’s lineup. Jonathan recently returned to Baltimore after spending time rehabbing in Sarasota, and coach Buck Showalter believes that the team will have him back sometime before the All Star break.
In terms of pitching, the Orioles are set. It seems that they will always be looking for a “true ace”, but in my opinion, the team has a healthy surplus of starting pitchers. With Bud Norris coming off of the DL with a strong start, the team has five solid starters in the rotation, with the promising arms of Mike Wright, Tyler Wilson, and Kevin Gausman waiting in the wings.
Wright has been great in his limited time with the club, and will likely take the spot of the very impressive Miguel Gonzalez while he is injured. Gausman, who is currently recovering from shoulder tendinitis, should be ready to join the team later in the month as a strong arm coming out of the bullpen. He is also a prime candidate for a few late-season starts if the team is making a playoff push.
This is not a ball club that seems to need any help right now, but at some point they will. But like Buck Showalter has said time and time again: “I like our guys.” And at this point in the season, I think you should too.