The Baltimore Orioles have a lot to focus on this Spring as they prepare to have a bounce back season.
The Baltimore Orioles had their first full squad Spring Training workout this past Wednesday and are preparing for their first game against the Atlanta Braves on Wednesday March 1st. I’ve been following coverage of the Spring inter-squad workouts and I’m excited how well everyone is coming along. It’s important Baltimore has a strong Spring if they want to start the 2016 season out strong and bounce back from 2015.
Over the years I’ve always been criticized by my peers for putting more emphasis on Spring Training than the next guy. I stand behind my belief that creating a winning attitude starts in Spring Training, whether it be within the guys headed back to start in the farm or the guys on the 25-man roster. Winning is winning and momentum begins the moment the winning does.
It doesn’t matter who you are, winning always feels great. Although Spring Training is the opportunity to fight for a spot on the 25-Man, it’s also a time to gel with your teammates, knock the Off-Season rust away, and most importantly, build up some confidence. The better the team plays the more confident you enter the season. With so many returning players this year, Spring Training should feel more like a family reunion than a meet, greet, and train.
I’m not saying there’s a concrete correlation between the Spring record and the regular season record but the last couple years, results would beg to differ. In 2014 the Orioles Spring record was 13-9 and the regular season ended with a 96-66 record and a Division title. Last year, the 2015 Spring record was second to last with a 12-19 record and the Regular season ended at 81-81.
This years Spring is very familiar to the Spring Training of 1983, with the exception of the newly hired manager Joe Altobelli, and was the last year Baltimore won a Championship. That Spring they also made it a point to have the core crew back and made very few additions. That was the year Leo Hernandez came in from Venezuela, in a similar adaptive situation as Kim. They spent that Spring developing a winning mentality early and it clearly translated so is it possible for Baltimore to repeat the results?
So am I saying that if Baltimore rocks out the Spring schedule we are more likely to rock out the regular season? Not necessarily but there is something to be said about team cohesion and the faster this cohesive atmosphere begins the more likely it will translate into W’s. With only three Key Off-Season additions, Mark Trumbo, Hyun Soo Kim, and Yovani Gallardo, the team should be more likely to be cohesive, especially being those three guys aren’t fighting for a starting spot they’re nearly acclimating themselves.
With that being said, the pressure truly falls on the shoulders of the veteran players Adam Jones, Chris Tillman, Matt Wieters and Chris Davis to help those guys feel at home and form some trust. The moment a new guy feels confident he can fall and his teammates will pick him back up, and vice versa, that’s when the team starts playing with confidence.
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Brittani Ghiroli of MLB.com reported that Chris Tillman is suffering from a core muscle injury, it’s not serious yet but they’re being cautious with him, otherwise, it seems like the whole squad is leaner, meaner, and ready to have a great season. Dylan Bundy is looking sharp and should be solid in the bullpen this year, at least for the first half, and the new guys are fitting in well.
Buck Showalter has already complimented the play of OF Joey Rickard, on more than one occasion, which gives me hope for RF and Kim is getting along well in LF. Adam Jones may finally have the support he’s needed in the corners which will allow him to concentrate on his play. Assuming Jones stays healthy, I expect another solid year statistically as he anchors what could be a great outfield crew.
Hyun Soo Kim stated in an MLB.com video that he has been accepted by the teammates in a kind and open minded fashion so now he can focus on adapting to America, culturally and communicably. This is a great sign because it means he can settle into his position better as we watch his production transfer from KBO League Baseball. A solid performance in LF, in any manner, will be a huge upgrade this year in comparison to the lack luster rotisserie we saw last year.
I’ll be in Sarasota next week to see the guys for myself but needless to say I’m confident Baltimore is going to have a very competitive team regardless of Fowler staying in Chicago. If Yovani Gallardo is able to perform well and the rotation performs as they did in 2014, the way we know they can, then I can see Baltimore finishing the year at the top of what’s bound to be a very competitive division.