Pitchers and catcher report to spring training this week and despite the teams outlook for this season, I’m still excited. There is no better time of year than baseball season. Having a good time at the yard and playing a little ball myself are probably my two favorite things to do and this is the only time of year they both happen simultaneously.
The Orioles offseason appears to be paused until spring training. There are rumblings they are interested in signing Jarrod Washburn but I don’t see it happening. I have a hard time believing that he would be interested in coming here or that the Orioles really want Chris Tillman to start the year in Norfolk. He has already dominated AAA hitters and if he is going to learn to get major league hitters out he needs to do it against major league hitters at this point. People are forgetting that this kid was 21 years old last year and pitched the most professional innings he ever had in a single season. We aren’t going to compete this year and everyone knows it, let him learn at this level now. If midseason he is struggling mightily we have Jake Arrieta, David Hernandez, and Jason Berken waiting in the wings to take some starts. Let’s not forget we are talking about the fifth starter here. Tilman doesn’t have to be very good to be comparable to most fifth starters around the league. We have depth we haven’t had in quite some time in the pitching staff, and most of it is homegrown and cheap. There is also many promising arms in the pipeline.
With spring training about to begin, the O’s believe they have 21 of their 25 roster spots set. The positions up for audition are several bullpen spots, and backup catcher. I think Chad Moeller ends up returning as the second backstop but he will be “competing” with Michel Hernandez, recently of the Tampa Bay Rays, and Craig Tatum, a waiver pickup from the Cincinnati Reds. The final 3 spots on the roster will be bullpen arms. It appears there will be a heavy competition for these three spots between David Hernandez, Jason Berken, Kam Mickolio, Cla Meredith, Matt Albers, Dennis Sarfate, and Will Ohman. Don’t get me wrong here, I love Will Ohman’s Harry Carey impression as much as the next guy, but I just don’t agree with the Orioles notion that you need a LOOGY in the pen. I think Ohman ends up with one of the spots simply because he throws with his left hand. If it were me, I take the guys I think are the 3 best pitchers on the team regardless of what hand they throw with. We already have two lefties in Gonzalez and Hendrickson, we don’t need a one out guy who is going to pitch an inning per week. Give me three guys that can get guys out no matter what side of the plate they are on who can pitch whole innings regularly. In my scenario, the 3 spots go to Mickolio, Meredith, and David Hernandez. Mickolio looked very promising before injury last year and is a power arm who can miss some bats. Meredith was not impressive last year but he has had solid years and is a groundball machine when he is right. David Hernandez also seems destined for the pen with a power fastball and inconsistent secondary pitches. I believe if told he was only throwing an inning or two he could be a dominant two pitch reliever if he finds command in the pen. Fat Albers is out of options and could be lost to waivers in this scenario but I don’t see that as a big loss with the plethora of arms on the way, not to mention he is not very good. What do I think the Orioles end up doing? I think the last 3 bullpen spots end up going to Albers, Meredith, and Ohman, with the rest of the bunch being sent back to AAA because, well, they can.
I don’t believe the Orioles are done making moves before Opening Day however as I think we will possibly see a trade or waiver pickup before the start of the regular season but I will not speculate on that just yet. Ultimately, spring training will be interesting for the same reason it always is, the baseball season is right around the corner. I will be in Sarasota for a few games between March 25th and 29th to give some reports, stay tuned.