Five Unnerving Things About The 2013 OriolesPosted on April 11, 2013
By Stan "The Fan" Charles
Although the Orioles used a five-run ninth inning to get a comeback win in Boston April 10 and end their three-game losing streak, there are a few things about the 2013 team that have me feeling uneasy.
1. The starting rotation has been only so-so. No matter what you think about this season, this was a club that picked up Joe Saunders in August 2012 to fortify itself down the stretch last season and has added Jair Jurrjens and Freddy Garcia to the mix of more immediate options that aren't named Dylan Bundy or Kevin Gausman. Also looming as a potential ace in the hole is Japanese lefty Tsuyoshi Wada, who might be this year's version of Saunders come July 1.
2. The bench depth is kind of a myth. Much was made of the accordion nature of last year's ever-expanding 25 man roster. Three key players that add depth are designated hitter Wilson Betemit, second baseman Brian Roberts and outfielder/designated hitter Nolan Reimold. Betemit and Roberts are on the disabled list, and by all accounts Nolan Reimold is trying like heck to both stay off the DL and prove his worth yet again. Unfortunately for Reimold, Nate McLouth has pretty much supplanted him as the everyday left fielder, and Reimold bats at the bottom of the order as a DH. That doesn't say much about Reimold's level of play or a team that has to bat its DH eighth or ninth.
3. The bullpen has been tough to be bullish about. The Orioles really like Rule 5 draft pick T.J. McFarland and want to hang onto him all season, but it was impractical to keep 13 pitchers and eight bullpen arms sharp. With the recent trade of Luis Ayala to the Braves, the club brought up outfielder Chris Dickerson to get the pitching staff back to 12 and give manager Buck Showalter one more option off the bench. What it has also done is set up a dynamic in which right-hander Tommy Hunter is going to have to sink or swim in that role of sixth- or seventh-inning bridge guy. So far, during his limited number of opportunities, Hunter has had trouble keeping the ball in the park, even with his increased velocity. Don't forget, Gausman could be an early season pickup if Hunter bombs out. Think of Gausman as the 2013 pitching equivalent of Manny Machado last season.
4. Who will stick as the second baseman? Cynical people have had two or three seasons to no longer trust in Brian Roberts' ability to be in the lineup often enough to make a difference. Nobody I know is rooting against Roberts, but everyone I know is tired of the tease. Roberts has one year left on his four-year, $40 million contract, and the club has done the right thing in allowing him every opportunity to play himself back into a meaningful role. Executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette didn't allow sentimentality to take over. He acquired Alexi Casilla from the Twins and had carryover Ryan Flaherty already on the roster. Neither of them has staked a claim on the job during the week since Roberts injured his knee. While mid-April is way too soon to project Jonathan Schoop as the second baseman, don't be too shocked if sometime in early June, if Roberts, Casilla and Flaherty are not quite cutting it, Showalter turns to the team's best position player in the minors.
5. There are problems you can't put your finger on. It seemed Showalter was a pinch too late on a pitching change April 5, Chris Davis made an error that helped hand the Twins a win April 6 and Adam Jones slowed his motor down just enough to let a ball drop between him and Nolan Reimold April 7. Of course, eight games into a 162-game schedule is too soon to panic, but when you see a team that was a remarkable 29-9 during one-run games in 2012 jump out of the gate 0-3 during those games this season, it's concerning.
As the headline says, these are five unnerving things about the Orioles of 2013. But perhaps during the same span of time it took to get unnerved, the team will get back to the quiet, calm confidence that oozed all summer long a year ago.
Posted April 11, 2013