Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Spring Forecast

It looks like a stormy April on the horizon for the Baltimore Orioles. Of the 22 games on the schedule, 16 are in the AL East with 13 of those against the Rays, Red Sox and Yankees against whom the O's were 16-39 last season. Those 16 games are sandwiched around a 6 game west coast road trip where the O's have long been poor performers.

Although not officially announced, the starting rotation appears to be set. Kevin Millwood, Jeremy Guthrie, Brian Matusz, Brad Bergesen and David Hernandez.

Millwood has had the worst spring of the group by far. Given his track record, though, he gets a pass and is reasonably expected to be ready to pitch on Opening Day.

Guthrie has also had a bad spring. He looks just like he did last season, walking batters and then giving up the home run. I expect another long season for him and suspect he may be ruined (mentally) for Baltimore. O's management has always had more patience than I in these situations, and I hope it pays off this time.

Matusz (rookie), Bergesen (sophomore) and Hernandez (sophomore) have had solid springs. While this is a bright spot, it is unreasonable to expect the youngsters to carry the load, but that is what will be needed for the Orioles to weather the month of April with their heads above water.

In the bullpen, Koji Uehara will most likely start the season on the DL with a bad hamstring (the same problem that put him on the shelf in 2009). Nagging hamstring problems at his age may mean he won't pitch again. This is a significant loss because of the flexibility a healthy Uehara could have provided to the bullpen in terms of long relief, short relief, closing and spot starting.

Kam Mickolio impressed last September and was expected to be in the bullpen in 2010. He's hurt and will likely not make the team.

In the field, Brian Roberts missed most of the spring with a herniated disk. He's been in the lineup the last several days and appears to be healthy.

Nolan Reimold (expected to be the starting left fielder) is nursing a sore achilles heel from offseason surgery. He started the spring o for 21 at the plate and limping. His bat has heated up lately with 5 multi-hit games and no noticeable limp. There remains some question as to whether he's strong enough to play every day. Felix Pie will likely be the Opening Day starter in left.

Other than that, the O's are healthy. Adam Jones (CF), Nick Markakis (RF) and Luke Scott (DH) have posted solid springs and appear ready to play. Miguel Tejada (3B), Garrett Atkins (1B) and Cesar Izturis (SS) are veterans, healthy and can reasonably be expected to deliver their standard performances once it counts.

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