Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The 25 man it is!

Dave Trembley confirmed his starting rotation in the following order (LH denotes left-handed, RH right-handed):

1. RHP Kevin Millwood
2. RHP Jeremy Guthrie
3. LHP Brian Matusz
4. RHP Brad Bergesen
5. RHP David Hernandez - surprisingly beat out Tillman

The bullpen will almost certainly look like this, although technically there are still a few extra relievers left in camp:

6. LHP Mike Gonzalez
7. RHP James Johnson
8. LHP Will Ohman
9. RHP Cla Meredith
10. RHP Matt Albers
11. LHP Mark Hendrickson
12. RHP Jason Berken - likely earned long relief spot

The infield is set, with the utility position set, just unannounced

13. C Matt Wieters
14. C Craig Tatum - won backup role over veteran Moeller
15. 1B Garrett Atkins
16. 2B Brian Roberts
17. 3B Miguel Tejada
18. SS Cesar Izturis
19. 1B/3B Ty Wigginton
20. 2B/SS Robby Andino (replaced by Julio Lugo)

The outfield is final as well

21. LF Felix Pie - rewarded with Opening Day start
22. CF Adam Jones
23. RF Nick Markakis
24. OF Nolan Reimold
25. OF/DH Luke Scott

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Tillman is cut...and some other guys

Chris Tillman was officially demoted to Norfolk. He took it well and hopes to quickly work his way back to the big leauges. I still disagree with the decision, but hey, there's nothing I can do about it. David Hernandez will be the fifth starter.

Pitchers Alfredo Simon, Alberto Castillo, and Ross Wolf, catcher Adam Donachie, and outfielder Jeff Salazar were also cut.

Inside word has it that Craig Tatum will be the backup catcher over Chad Moeller. I think Trembley just enjoys confusing people.

The last real decision to make then comes from the bullpen, where one cut remains to be made. The candidates are Matt Albers, Jason Berken, and Kam Mickolio. Hey I can solve this problem, let's throw Hernandez in the pen, send Berken to Triple A as an emergency starter/organizational filler guy, and put Tillman where he belongs. Then let's trade Albers before he gets injured again and give Mickolio a shot. Problem solved. Don't get me started on Ty Wigginton.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Some late surprises

Koji Uehara is heading to the DL which means that Matt Albers and Kam Mickolio have to like their chances...except that Mickolio apparently isn't too hot right now according to Trembley, and may be joining Uehara on the DL or spending some time on the DL. That in turn would open up a spot in the bullpen for Jason Berken or David Hernandez, but wait! Hernandez evidently has an inside track on Chris Tillman for the 5th starter spot! Confused? Yeah, tell me about it. Then Trembley mentions that Felix Pie will probably find his way into the Opening Day lineup and Luke Scott seems to be playing first base every day and you start to wonder...

My take: Hernandez has outpitched Tillman and has earned a spot, but why not in the bullpen? And why do we keep making the mistake of sending Mickolio down? Oh well, they must know something that I don't...

Friday, March 26, 2010

More cuts

In addition to Jake Arrieta, the O's have cut pitchers Frank Mata, Josh Perrault, and Dennis Sarfate. Infielders Brandon Snyder, Josh Bell, Michael Aubrey, Rhyne Hughes, and Pedro Florimon were also cut along with outfielder Jonathan Tucker.

Sarfate was my only surprise, but remember that he's not on the 40 man roster. That means the competition between Matt Albers, Kam Mickolio, and David Hernandez should heat up for a right handed spot or two in the bullpen. I expect that we will see Arrieta, Snyder, and Bell, the top 3 prospects at their respective positions, later in the season.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

A glance at the position players

20 games into the exhibition season, there are 16 position players remaining fighting for 13 spots. Those 16 have combined to hit for an average of only .236, with 41 runs, 16 home runs, 3 stolen bases, and 47 RBIs in 428 at bats. Hey that sounds like Melvin Mora’s line from last year. Anyways, catchers Michel Hernandez, Caleb Joseph, and Luis Bernardo have already been cut, along with infielders Miguel Abreu and Blake Davis, and outfielder Matt Angle. Catcher Adam Donachie, infielders Michael Aubrey, Brandon Snyder, Scott Moore, Rhyne Hughes, Pedro Florimon, and Josh Bell, and outfielders Josh Tucker and Jeff Salazar are still in camp, but have no real shot at sticking with the club at least for now. Hughes has been impressive with a .333 average and 3 home runs. Let’s look at the remaining 16.

C Matt Wieters (.179 AVG, .286 SLG) – with only 5 hits and 1 home run in 28 at bats, he’s not off to as great a start as last year. It would be good to gain some momentum coming into Opening Day. Chances of making the team: Certain

C Chad Moeller (.375, .813) – he has done surprisingly well with the bat, adding 2 home runs to his high average, but has managed 2 errors in 7 games. Still, he has the veteran experience the O’s are looking for. Likely

C Craig Tatum (.143, .214) – the younger option to back up Wieters has done little in his 14 at bats to get noticed, but hasn’t committed any errors. Unlikely

1B Garrett Atkins (.212, .364) – I know it’s spring, but I hope he picks things up and proves he’s not a deadweight. His 1 RBI off a solo home run in 33 at bats is discouraging. Certain

2B Brian Roberts (-) – Injuries have kept him out all spring but he is hopeful to begin playing next week. Certain (pending ability to play)

3B Miguel Tejada (.121, .182) – both infield additions came with suspicions of being well past their prime. In 33 at bats, he has done nothing to ease those fears with his 1 RBI and 3 errors as he makes the transition to third. Certain

SS Cesar Izturis (.097, .129) – he is a light hitter, but 3 for 31 with 0 runs is not what you want to see. Certain

IF Ty Wigginton (.235, .471) – compared to the rest of the infielders, 8 for 34 seems great, especially with the 2 HRs, 4 runs, and 4 RBIs. Certain

IF Robby Andino (.229, .429) – if you put Andino in Roberts place, which will likely happen if Roberts isn’t ready, the starting infielders have combined to hit .169 with a .281 slugging percentage and only 3 home runs in 160 at bats. He has stolen 2 bases and seems pretty safe. Very likely

IF Justin Turner (.348, .391) – in his 23 at bats, he has hit for a high average and committed no errors, maybe enough to earn a spot, especially if Roberts is injured. Unlikely

OF Nick Markakis (.316, .553) – with 2 home runs and a team-leading 12 hits in 38 at bats, Markakis seems poised to get off to a good start, something that has eluded him in past seasons. Certain

OF Adam Jones (.257, .571) – the center fielder has been average in his 35 at bats. Certain

OF Nolan Reimold (.074, .074) – after failing to get a hit in his first 21 at bats, Reimold needs to cement his starting spot in these last few games, although it’s pretty safe. Certain

OF Luke Scott (.313, .594) – the DH has hit well, with 10 hits and 10 RBIs in 32 at bats, helped by 2 home runs. Certain

OF Felix Pie (.462, 1.077) – slowed but recovered from injury, he has 2 home runs and 6 hits in 13 at bats. Almost certain

OF Lou Montanez (.306, .389) – there doesn’t seem to be room for him, but the O’s have given him 36 at bats this spring, which he has taken advantage of with 11 hits and 3 doubles. Very unlikely

On a side note, pitcher Jake Arrieta was reassigned to the minor league camp as I predicted.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

20 game breakdown: pitchers (very long)

The Orioles have now completed their first 20 exhibition games, with a record at 8-12. Overall, their pitchers have performed reasonably well compiling a 4.20 ERA and a 1.43 WHIP with 132 strikeouts and only 17 home runs allowed in 152 innings. Those numbers exclude the pitchers who have already been cut, Troy Patton, Brandon Erbe, Luis Lebron, Chorye Spoone, Mike Hinckley, Chris George, and Armando Gabino; and the pitchers who don’t have any real hopes of making the team: Alfredo Simon, Ross Wolf, Frank Mata, and Josh Perrault. Let’s take a look at the remaining contestants, pitcher by pitcher.

SP Kevin Millwood (0-2, 12.97 ERA, 3.12 WHIP) – in 3 starts covering 8 1/3 innings, he has given up 21 hits, 12 earned runs, and 3 home runs. Those numbers are not ace material, but manager Dave Trembley is not worried and Milwood gave up only 1 run in 5 innings in his most recent start. Chance of making team: Certain

SP Jeremy Guthrie (0-3, 7.47, 2.17) – in 5 starts, he’s allowed 25 hits, 13 earned runs, 9 walks, and 3 home runs in 15 2/3 innings. This is obviously not what the O’s are looking for, but he rebounded in his last start (2 runs in 5 innings) and is in no danger of losing his spot in the rotation unless the Orioles decided to trade him, which seems a little too early. Certain

SP Brian Matusz (1-1, 2.51, 0.63, pictured at right) – in 4 starts, he has dominated with 18 strikeouts to 2 walks in 14 1/3 innings, allowing only 7 hits. I’m starting to think AL Rookie of the Year… Certain

SP Brad Bergesen (2-0, 6.24, 1.62) – in 3 starts, he has struggled some in his 8 2/3 innings of work. However, he is coming off injury and has not been extremely ineffective, so I expect him to rebound well and return close to last year’s form. Certain

SP Chris Tillman (0-2, 3.75, 1.25) – in 4 games, 3 of them starts, he has performed average. He definitely has not dominated, with only 6 strikeouts in 12 innings, and has walked 5. Still, there’s no reason he shouldn’t hold the number 5 spot over David Hernandez, Jason Berken, and Jake Arrieta. Almost certain

SP/RP Hernandez (0-1, 4.50, 1.40, pictured at right) – in 4 games, 1 a start, he has struck out 14 and walked only 1 in 10 innings. The 3 home runs have hurt him, but he has proven he can be a highly effective reliever, and he even did well in his lone start. I think he may force his way onto the team even though it was thought he would be given innings in Triple A. Maybe

SP/RP Berken (0-1, 4.16, 1.39) – in 5 games, 1 a start, has ran into trouble recently and allowed Hernandez to overshadow him. On the bright side, he hasn’t surrendered a home run in his 8 2/3 innings. Unlikely

SP Arrieta (0-0, 5.40, 2.20) – in 4 relief appearances, he has struck out 9 in 5 innings but has allowed a lot of baserunners and has not been given a start, indicating that the team seems to think he needs more time in the minors. He may be cut soon. Very unlikely

RP Mike Gonzalez (1-0, 3.00, 2.33, 0 SV) – in 3 games since recovering from a lower back injury, he has struck out 3, walked 2, and allowed 5 hits in 3 innings. Hopefully the closer will be at full strength by the time the season starts. Certain

RP James Johnson (0-0, 4.77, 2.12, 0) – in 6 games, he has shown why he was considered a potential closer (7 strikeouts in 5 2/3 innings), and why he is no longer (10 hits). Certain

RP Koji Uehara (0-0, 1.69, 0.75, 1) – in 6 games, he has made an effective transition to reliever. Certain

RP Mark Hendrickson (0-0, 2.57, 1.19, 0) – 5 games, has proved his reliability once again. Certain

RP Cla Meredith (0-0, 1.29, 0.57, 0, pictured at right) – in 8 games, he has locked up a spot in the pen with only 4 hits and no walks in 7 innings. Certain

RP Matt Albers (0-0, 2.80, 1.04, 1) – in 8 games he has impressed me with 9 2/3 innings of solid pitching, issuing just 1 walk, 1 home run, and 3 runs in total. He is out of options and has likely earned a spot in the bullpen. Likely

RP Will Ohman (2-0, 0.00, 0.50, 0) – in 7 games, he has made a convincing case that he deserves a spot as lefty specialist, with 9 strikeouts and 1 hit allowed in 6 innings. Likely

RP Kam Mickolio (1-0, 2.40, 1.56, 0) – in 7 games, he has made things scary (7 walks in 8 1/3 innings), but shown why I think he deserves to be on the team (8 strikeouts and 2 runs). The Orioles may choose to send him down one last time. Maybe

RP Alberto Castillo (1-0, 2.46, 1.36, 0) – in 7 games, he has been less dominant than Mickolio, but more consistent with 0 walks, and he is left-handed. I’m just saying. Maybe

RP Dennis Sarfate (0-0, 5.14, 1.29, 0) – in 5 games, he has shown signs of his old self with 6 strikeouts in 7 innings, but he is not on the 40 man roster and has not proved he is more deserving than other candidates. Unlikely

RP Wilfrido Perez (0-0, 0.00, 0.60, 0) – 4 games, he has tossed 3 1/3 scoreless innings. I’d like to see him given a chance to pitch, but based on his limited innings, it seems the O’s are leaning in a different direction. Very unlikely

The last two bullpen spots really come down to the lefties, Castillo and Ohman, and the righties, Hernandez, Albers, and Mickolio.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Player notes

Brad Bergesen made his first start after returning from injury, and each of the other four starters have pitched twice with the following results:

Jeremy Guthrie - 4.1 IP, 4 Ks, 2.08 ERA, 1.62 WHIP
Chris Tillman - 4.1 IP, 4 Ks, 2.08 ERA, 1.15 WHIP
Brian Matusz - 4 IP, 10 Ks, 6.75 ERA, 1.00 WHIP
Kevin Milwood - 3.1 IP, 2 Ks, 29.73 ERA, 5.41 WHIP

Guthrie and Tillman have been solid. Matusz gave up a costly home run but has dominated with 10 strikeouts in 4 innings! Milwood is the one to be concerned about, allowing 16 hits, 11 runs, and 2 home runs in less than 4 innings. Hopefully he will figure things out.

Koji Uehara has got off to a nice start in his new relief role, allowing only 1 hit and no runs in 3 innings. Will Ohman, competing as a lefty specialist, also has 3 scoreless innings and adding 5 strikeouts. Jason Berken, with 4 scoreless innings, has faired better than his main rival, David Hernandez, who despite 12 astonishing strikeouts and 0 walks in 6 and 2/3 innings, has allowed 3 home runs and has a 7.11 ERA. If Hernandez can learn to avoid the long ball, he will be a dominant reliever.

Moving to the position players, RF Nick Markakis (.429 AVG, .929 SLG, 2 HR in 14 AB), 1B Garrett Atkins (.417 AVG, 2 2B in 12 AB), OF Felix Pie (.333 AVG, .889 SLG in 9 AB), and OF Luke Scott (.364 AVG in 11 AB) have gotten off to solid starts. C Matt Wieters, on the other hand, has managed only 1 hit in his first 11 at bats.

The leading candidate to be Wieter's backup, Chad Moeller, has already committed 2 errors. Brandon Snyder, the 1B of the future, is 0 for 8, while his competitor, Rhyne Hughes has 3 HR in 12 AB and a .333 AVG. Top 3B prospect Josh Bell has 2 home runs, but those are his only 2 hits in 10 at bats and he too has made 2 errors.

Remember not to get too excited about any of these stats, but if you do want to make some early predictions, these might be it.

1. Jake Arrieta won't be taking Tillman's spot in the rotation. He's struck out 4 in 2 innings, but walked 4 and gave up 2 runs. He needs to be flawless to beat out Tillman.
2. The last relief spots will go down to the end of spring. Matt Albers, Alberto Castillo, Kam Mickolio, Wilfrido Perez, Luis Lebron, Berken, and Ohman are all off to great starts.
3. Unless Brian Roberts isn't ready for Opening Day or Ty Wigginton is traded (please!), don't expect any surprise hitters to make the team. Robby Andino is receiving all the at bats early on. Justin Turner and Michael Aubrey don't seem to be in the picture.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Spring Training Update

The Orioles are 2-6 and playing sloppily, but there are more important things to worry about in Spring Training.

Brad Bergesen (right) finally made his return, allowing 1 run in an inning and a third. He didn't show his normal control, throwing only 17 of 35 pitches for strikes, but the key is that he seems healthy.

Brian Roberts (left), who suffered from a herniated disk and a virus or medical reaction that kept him out longer than expected, is optimistic about his chances of being ready by Opening Day. Andy MacPhail had expressed some concern.