The 2014 season saw the Orioles win 96 games, clinch their first American League East title in 17 years and make a run to the American League Championship Series. Yet, as they report to 2015 spring training in Sarasota, Fla., the O's still have their fair share of questions to try to answer at camp. How will their injury-rehabbing stars fare? Can they find quality options to replace key 2014 contributors Nelson Cruz, Nick Markakis and Andrew Miller, who left the team as free agents? Let's take a closer look at some of the Birds' top storylines for spring training.
The Orioles Injury Report
For all the Orioles' 2014 success, just imagine what they might have done if their Gold Glove catcher and third baseman had been healthy all year. Two O's All-Stars will be returning from injury in 2015, and the O's will be watching them carefully during camp.
This is the second straight year Machado has been listed in the spring training injury report. At the 2014 camp, he was coming off knee surgery. In 2015, he's doing the exact same thing, except this time it's his right knee instead of his left.
A year ago, still hampered by his Oct. 14, 2013 surgery, Machado couldn't participate in Grapefruit League games, and didn't return to the Orioles until May 1. But one advantage Machado has this season over last is that he's a couple extra months removed from his surgery. When spring training begins, it will have been nearly six months since his Aug. 27, 2014 procedure to repair a partial tear of his right knee ligament. The average recovery time is six and a half months, meaning Machado could be back in action by March and full-go by Opening Day. Still, Orioles fans will likely be holding their breath every time Machado dives for a ball or takes an awkward swing.
When it comes to Tommy John surgery, there's plenty of documented history about how pitchers recover. But for position players? Not so much. Wieters is one of a very few catchers who has undergone the procedure, so the O's will be keeping a close eye on his rehabilitation this spring. If his recovery follows the same timeline as the average pitcher's -- about one year to regain full strength in his throwing arm -- he might not be 100 percent until close to midseason, when he'll be 12 months removed from his June 17, 2014 surgery.
Wieters' elbow doesn't restrict him from swinging a bat, so if nothing else, he's ready to contribute on the offensive end. But if Wieters doesn't recover enough arm strength to serve behind the plate by Opening Day, the O's will have a difficult decision on their hands. They'll either have to restrict Wieters to designated hitter duty while his elbow recovers, or place him on the disabled list -- potentially for a month or two -- until he's ready to defend.
Feb. 19: Pitchers and catchers report to spring training
Feb. 24: Full squad reports to spring training
March 3: First spring training game (1:05 p.m. at Detroit Tigers in Lakeland, Fla.)
March 4: First home spring training game (1:05 p.m. vs. Detroit Tigers in Sarasota, Fla.)
April 4: Final spring training game (3:05 p.m. at Atlanta Braves in Kissimmee, Fla.)
April 6: Regular-season opener (3:10 p.m. at Tampa Bay Rays in Tampa, Fla.)
April 10: Regular-season home opener (3:05 p.m. vs. Toronto Blue Jays in Baltimore)