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The Orioles wrapped up a 7-game road trip today and will be back in the comfort of Camden for the next 6. The trip was a split success as the Birds took 3 of 4 from the White Sox in Chicago, but dropped 2 of 3 against the Royals in Kansas City. Jake Arrieta picked up two wins on the trip and Chris Tillman split his two starts. Kevin Gregg looked to get his season headed in the right direction with two saves.

That bats woke up on the trip and fans will hope to see the hit parade continue during the home stand. In 5 of the 7 games the O’s had 8 or more hits. Luke Scott had 3 homers, bringing his season total to 6. Nick Markakis raised his average from .204 to .225. Matt Wieters had 5 RBI in the five games he played in and Robert Andino had 7 hits in his 23 at-bats for a .304 average on the trip.

The Orioles are currently 14-16 and still .5 game up on the Red Sox, which still has to feel good, and only 3.5 games behind the division leading Yankees. Tampa Bay comes to town this weekend, and after the off day on Monday Seattle will be here for three Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. David Price pitched today for the Rays so they won’t face him, which is never a bad thing. At 2.5 games behind Tampa in the division, a series sweep would mean when Seattle comes to town the O’s would be in second place.

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Off To A Good Start

After the Brian Matusz news this afternoon I’m sure the spirits of O’s fans were a bit down heading into the opener. 3+ hours later those frowns are upside down after a 4-1 victory over the division rival Rays.

The Good:

Jeremy Guthrie – You might not have been able to script a better start to the season for Guthrie than the 8 inning, 3 hit, 1 walk, 6 strikeout, and 0 ER outing he threw tonight. He mixed up his pitches well, was aggressive in the strike zone, and stayed ahead of hitters all night.

Brian Roberts – Had a key at bat in the 5th inning when he hit a triple that scored Wieters and Hardy. The most impressive thing about the at bat wasn’t even the hit itself. Watching him fight off pitches to keep the at bat alive is exactly what you want to see from your leadoff hitter. I’m sure I, along with many, watched Roberts rounding the bases wondering if we we would see him pull up due to those lingering back issues he had been fighting all spring. Test passed. He looked great rounding bases, a good sign for both Showalter and his fantasy owners.

Nick Markakis – In the third inning, like Roberts in the 5th, he worked Price into giving him a pitch he could handle and hit a clutch 2-out single to give the Birds a 1-0 lead. A great job of situational hitting in the 5th saw him lift the ball into the outfield over a drawn in infield for a sacrifice fly that plated the fourth and final run.

The Bad:

Not much. J.J. Hardy had the only walk of the evening. The Orioles struck out 7 times against David Price, but he finished 8th in the AL last year with 188 so that was probably expected. Jim Johnson gave up a leadoff homer to Ben Zobrist in the bottom of the 9th, but he came back and recorded the next two batters via strikeout before getting Manny Ramirez to ground out to Hardy to end the game.

Good start to a season that started with optimism coming out of spring training. Looks like the O’s are picking up where they left of last season after Buck Showalter took over. More of this please.

Notes:

Brittany Ghiroli, from mlb.com, reported that Matusz will be headed to the DL with a back strain. So we’ll see Tillman on the mound tomorrow in game two and Zach Britton will make his much anticipated debut on Sunday.

Orioles Down to 25-Man Limit

Today is a day that was anticipated by some and dreaded by others. Final cuts were made to get down to the 25-man limit today. Backup catcher Craig Tatum was optioned to AAA Norfolk and Brendan Harris was sent to the minor-league camp. The third name was one that O’s fans were hoping to not see, but unfortunately saw anyway.

Top pitching prospect Zach Britton will start the season in Norfolk along with Tatum. A stellar spring of 3-0 with a 1.35 ERA wasn’t enough to earn him a spot on the big league roster for opening day. This won’t be the last we hear of Britton this year for sure and I’m not referring to the impressive numbers he’s sure to put up in AAA. We’ll just have to be patient to see his name on the Camden Yards scoreboard.

Brad Bergesen and Chris Tillman will break from camp part of the squad. One will likely get the start this Sunday. Buck’s keeping us in the dark a bit longer on that one it seems. Due to the off days scheduled early in the season the Orioles won’t need a fifth starter till April 10th, so which ever doesn’t start Sunday should get the ball that day.

The feel good story of this year’s spring training had to be Jake Fox. After being acquired last June in a trade from Oakland he struggled to find playing time and came into this spring as a long shot to make the team. That long shot turned into reality today as he found out he will serve as the team’s backup catcher.

Rotation Taking Shape

On Thursday we learned what the Orioles rotation will look like to start the season, well part of it anyway. Despite an up and down spring Jeremy Guthrie, to no one’s surprise, will start the opener this Friday against Tampa Bay. It will be the third time in the last four years Guthrie will get the ball to get the season started.

24 year-old left-hander Brian Matusz will get the start on Saturday and second-year starter Jake Arrieta will get the ball on Monday in the home opener against Detroit. On starting in front of the home fans Arrieta said, “Everybody’s going to be excited for the 2011 season. I plan on going out there and showing them what we’re capable of doing this year.”

The spot for Sunday’s game is still up in the area and Showalter is believed to be deciding between Chris Tillman, Brad Bergesen, and top pitching prospect Zach Britton. Britton took an interesting approach to the news that he’s still in contention for starting the season in the rotation, “Obviously I don’t have the experience of the other guys, but I haven’t had the opportunity. Until I get that chance, I’m always going to be the guy without experience.” His time of no longer getting that chance will almost certainly end this season, it’s just a matter of when. Even if he’s not on the opening day roster there aren’t many that believe that he won’t be called up at some point this season.

Due to continued soreness in the hip he had off-season surgery on, it looks like Justin Duchscherer will start the season on the DL. That would give two of the three starters listed above with a shot at being in the rotation, atleast for a short time. The hope is that Justin will be back towards the end of April to take over as the fifth starter.

There’s still a few days left for Showalter to brainstorm about the remaining pieces to his rotation puzzle, but we’ve got more of an idea of what it will look like than we had a week ago. With the injury track record of Duchscherer I would imagine that this won’t be the only time this season we’ll hear about someone filling in for his spot in the rotation so the shuffling may not be completely over yet.

Chris Tillman Interview Info

Just got a heads up to pass along, tomorrow the Orioles’ Prized Pitching Prospect (try saying that 5 times fast) Chris Tillman will be on the Baseball Digest Daily Live, a Podcast that airs Saturdays from noon-1 pm.

Tillman will be the first segment tomorrow and they’ll be talking about his first season in the Oriole organization. For the record, Tillman has a nice year_thus_far.

To visit Baseball Digest Daily Live and check out their archieves, visit them here.

O’s talking to Loshe, trade for Loretta?

Maybe its a sign that the Brian Roberts trade is creeping to a conclusion, the Sun is reporting the O’s have interest in Mark Loretta.

Seeking to add some infield depth and to find a potential replacement if they trade second baseman Brian Roberts, the Orioles have expressed interest in Astros utility infielder Mark Loretta.

I like it. If Roberts goes, who plays second? Someone like Loretta can fill the gap until a longterm second baseman is found. He’s aging, but on a rebuilding team, if you don’t have a kid who can fill the bill, then get a vet for a year.

With Freddie Bynum out for awhile with surgery, someone is needed for utility infield. He’d be better than Brandon Fahey.

Also, the O’s are talking to Kyle Loshe again.

Still considering adding a veteran to the back end of their rotation, the Orioles have had several discussions with Scott Boras, the agent for free-agent pitcher Kyle Lohse, 29. Lohse, a right-hander who is 63-74 with a 4.82 ERA over seven big league seasons, was originally seeking a five-year deal for approximately $50 million. However, his asking price has reportedly dropped significantly. The Orioles have yet to make an offer.

Kyle Loshe turned down a 3 year 30 million offer down in the offseason for the Mets. Smart move on his part. Steve Trachsel is already here. If Loshe is added, then 2/5ths the rotation is medicore veteran filler. Loshe has never been all that good and I’m afraid he’ll get lit up in the AL East. If MacPhail and Trembley feel like Loewen’s shaky (he is at the moment, but he’s coming off major surgery) and that Liz and Olson need some more time in the minors and that Albers and Penn would be better served in long relief for the moment, then it might be an ok move. I still think Loshe is a medicore pitcher AT BEST. If he comes in on a one year low base deal, then its no big deal. We’re going lose plenty this year with or without him. Maybe if he performs well, we  can flip him at the deadline for a prospect.

In that same article, Matt Wieters, Chris Tillman, Kam Mickolio, Ryan Keefer, and Estaban Yan were sent to minor league camp. No surprise really. Wieters, Tillman, and Mickolio were going to the minors this season anyway. Yan…no surprise there.