Mega-Sized Spring Training Round-up!!

Hadn’t done a great deal of in-depth posting lately, so here’s a big whopper of a post today.  

Jeff Zrebiec has a good article up about the issues facing the O’s this Spring in the Sun today.

A few highlights:

Loewen has recently rediscovered the touch on his curveball and said he will focus on his fastball command. Regardless of how well he pitches tomorrow, the biggest development will be how his elbow feels as he walks off the mound.

Let’s cross our fingers and hope that 1) he pitches well tomorrow and most important 2) that his elbow feels awesome when he steps off the mound. This is a big season for him because there’s no number pitcher in this rotation. Jeremy Guthrie has thus far been a feel great story. Hopefully, he’ll move on from a one year feel good pitcher to establishing himself has a good pitcher. Daniel Cabrera is a huge frustrating question mark. Steve Trachsel is Steve Trachsel and then there’s a slew on young pitchers. A healthy Loewen could go a long way to making the rotation better.

On the five spot in the rotation

The Orioles have plenty of internal candidates, but none have had sustained success in the big leagues. That group includes Matt Albers, Brian Burres, Lance Cormier, Jon Leicester, Radhames Liz, Garrett Olson, Troy Patton and Hayden Penn.

Even if Patton avoids season-ending shoulder surgery, he’s far enough behind where he’s a long shot to make the Opening Day roster. Unless he’s totally dominant, Liz is headed to the minors, while the club is looking at Cormier more as a long reliever. That leaves Albers, Burres, Leicester, Olson and Penn in a five-man race.

It’s a relief the club is wanting to use Cormier in the bullpen instead of the rotation. I don’t want Cormier on the team in the first place, but long relief is better than rotation. Albers, Olson, and Penn are likely the main competition for the spot. Burres had a little luck last season, but he’s more long relief than a starter in my opinion. Hayden Penn slipped off the radar last season, but I think he can have a strong spring and finally live up to that potential we’ve been waiting for. Olson, despite last season’s rocky call-up, still has talent. Albers, I still don’t know much about but that’s what spring is for and I’ll get into Albers a little later on this post.

The bullpen

Trembley will carry a seven-man bullpen and he said today that only George Sherrill, Jamie Walker and Chad Bradford are definites. Dennis Sarfate, the hard-throwing righty acquired in the Miguel Tejada trade, and Randor Bierd, the Orioles’ Rule 5 selection, are near locks unless they falter badly this spring.

The long reliever spot will come from the pool of pitchers competing for the fifth starter’s spot. That leaves Greg Aquino, Rocky Cherry, Jim Hoey and Bob McCrory in the running for the last bullpen slot.

Sherrill, Walker, and Bradford weren’t in doubt. Bierd is a bit of a surprise, but since he is a rule 5 selection he has to make the team or he goes back to Detroit. We’ve heard Trembley rave on Sarfate this spring already. A seven man pen is a far cry from Sam Perlozzo’s 12 man pen last season.

Sherrill, Walker, Bradford, Bierd, and Sarfate are likely going to be five that are in the pen, the other two spots are up for grabs. Cormier and Burres will be vying for the long relief role. Rock Cherry is still around. Hoey and McCrory will likely start the season in Norfolk. Greg Aquino is probably going to be given every chance to make the team with his closer experience 

The slick-fielding Luis Hernandez currently has the advantage on Brandon Fahey and Freddie Bynum to replace Tejada as the starting shortstop. If Hernandez holds his own offensively this spring, the job is his. Trembley will give all three a shot early with the hopes of naming a starter by the middle of March. And club president Andy MacPhail has already said that the front office has identified several teams with a shortstop surplus in case the Orioles aren’t satisfied with their internal options.

Luis Hernandez is what he is. As a backup he’s ok, but as a starter he’s going to have to be better than advertised. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that MacPhail will pull the trigger on a trade that’ll bring someone else in to play short.

If he’s not traded, Jay Payton will be the fourth outfielder, leaving one more spot for either Scott Moore, Tike Redman or Chris Roberson. And the Orioles will have a decision to make in mid-April when outfielder¸designated hitter Jay Gibbons comes off the suspension list and needs to be placed on the 25-man roster.

Does Jay Gibbons have to come back? Ughhhhh. By that time, Payton should be an ex-O and a bench can be something like Moore, Guillermo Quiroz/Ben Davis, Bynum, and Redman.

On the eternal Roberts trade

The Orioles will dispatch a scout to Mesa, Ariz., the site of the Cubs’ training facility, next week to get a closer look at some of the names that the two teams have discussed. It’s expected that infielder Ronny Cedeno and pitching prospect Sean Gallagher would be in the deal, but the third and¸or fourth player still hasn’t been decided. There remains optimism from both sides that a deal could get done.

Same old song with the usual tune but its worth posting….again.

Adam Jones Watch

Here’s our big Adam Jones moment this spring, from Roch

Scott Moore drew a bases-loaded walk off Fredy Deza in the fourth inning to break the scoreless tie, and Adam Jones followed with a grand slam

Jones launched a fastball over the fence in right-center field for his second hit of the day.

That’s what I’m hoping for right there. Granted it is Fredy Deza and it is the spring but its still a Grand Slam. He did misplay another ball in the outfield today, but its not worth worrying about unless it keeps happening.

Roch has a Troy Patton Update

But the news isn’t as good concerning Troy Patton, who sounds pretty discouraged at his lack of progress from the shoulder stiffness that’s kept him from competiting for the fifth starter’s job.

Patton described his bullpen session as “nothing real great” and said he still doesn’t have the same arm strength and action that he possessed before the injury.

“I’m not coming back as easily as I thought I would,” he said. “It’s a little frustrating when you’re used to throwing the ball a certain way.”

Surgery’s probably going to happen for Patton. If he does have to have it, the sooner the better. He’s young and could possibly come back and pitch well from this. There’s also a good chance that after this injury and this surgery that he won’t be the same pitcher.

In cause you were wondering, MacPhail knew about his injury before the trade, from Spencer Fordin’s mailbag on the O’s website.

Surgery is still a worst-case scenario, and the Orioles would likely choose to have Patton try to rehabilitate it before they opted to put him under the knife.

Now, you may be asking, why would the Orioles complete the trade if they already knew he was injured? Patton’s upside made them think the risk was worth the potential reward, and the indecision around his pitching shoulder may have allowed the O’s to obtain a player that wouldn’t have been available under other circumstances.

And I might add, it gave the O’s a chance to unload a player who would untradeable the next day.

and Fordin on whether we might see Nolan Reimold this season

The Orioles have several outfielders in camp already and want Reimold to stay healthy for a half-season before he joins the parent club.

Last year, the former second-round pick went on the disabled list twice due to an oblique injury, but he was a productive player at Double-A Bowie whenever he was healthy. Reimold is the heir apparent in left field, which puts pressure on Scott to produce this season or risk losing his job whenever the prospect brings his game to the next level.

One thing the Orioles won’t ask Reimold to do is play center field. He always seemed more comfortable in a corner slot anyway, and now with Jones in the fold, that’s exactly where he’ll play. Nick Markakis is entrenched as the right fielder for years to come, and if Reimold can make the big league leap, he’d give Baltimore one less question mark.

Reimold at midseason if he stays healthy? His health has been a bit of an issue the past few seasons but he’s young and a big first half will apparently get him up to Baltimore.

More on Matt Albers

From the O’s website, a write-up on pitcher Matt Albers; who’s vying for a rotation spot.

 A highlight:

Albers retired six of the eight batters he faced, and four of his six outs came on ground balls. Albers made first baseman Kevin Millar foul off several pitches before allowing his only blemish, a solo home run in the second inning. Backup catcher Guillermo Quiroz singled off Albers, but the youngster threw 20 of his 26 pitches for strikes.

“I liked Albers,” said Baltimore manager Dave Trembley. “He worked fast, kept the ball down and throws strikes. He gave up the home run and came right back at the next guy. … That was a heck of a job of pitching there in that situation.”

That’s good. I’ve seen Daniel Cabrera give up a homer and then come unraveled. Sounds like he’s got some control and some thick skin.

Also in the article, there’s some notes and if Matt Albers had a strong debut, Garrett Olson did not have a good one.

Olson went right back to being wild on Tuesday, contradicting the scouting reports that label him as a command-and-control southpaw. Olson walked one batter and hit two — catcher Ramon Hernandez and reserve infielder Scott Moore — but managed to work out of trouble in each of his two intrasquad innings.

“He pitched down, but his command wasn’t where it needs to be,” said Trembley. “He needs to show he can command his pitches in order for him to be successful. … If you take a positive spin on it, that’s better than what I saw last year when he got called up. He’s still got a ways to go, and for his first time out, there’s room for improvement.”

It’s still early, but its a big spring for Olson to prove that his debut last season was just a bad rushed debut.

And from the Is Nothing Sacred Department

ESPN has an article up when the Cub’s current owner, Sam Zell, says he won’t hestiate to sell the naming rights to Wrigley Field regardless of what fans think.

Zell said he plans to sell the Cubs and Wrigley separately and in his own time frame. He also disclosed that Major League Baseball has approved “four or six” potential ownership groups and that any one of them would be fine.

I’m a big fan of stadiums that don’t have a corporate name. With the money naming rights have, the traditional name stadiums are rare. Despite what we think of Peter Angelos, we’re still got Oriole Park at Camden Yard. Yankee and Shea Stadium are closing and will have new corporate names. RFK is done but the Nats have aptly named their park Nationals Park. The Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome is living out its final years. Jacobs Field is now Progessive (ugh) Field. The Braves still have Turner Field. There’s still Dodger Stadium and New Busch Stadium. Fenway is still Fenway.

Baseball still has a large number of stadiums without the clunky names of big businesses. The possibility of Wrigley Field being turned into something like Pepsi Stadium at Wrigley Field is sad. Its a reality that now days in sports that money means more than tradition. Zell with make tons of money by selling the team and stadium, but he can make even more by selling the naming rights too. Its sad, but it is what is.

Yesterday, my city’s minor league team also announced they had sold the naming rights  to their stadium. What was once West End Field has now become Fluor Field in the West End. I hate that they tried to compromise by still keeping West End in the name. Greenville has made a big effort to bring back the West End of downtown. They’ve done a great job, but still having it in the title is clunky. You really can’t have it both ways.

Fluor Field in the West End. Ugh.

I think that’s enough for now.


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