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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.

30 Clubs in 30 Days: Baltimore Orioles

Yesterday, MLB Network’s tour of all 30 major league team spring training sites stopped in Sarasota where they previewed the upcoming season for the O’s. The hour long special was hosted by Paul Serevino, with Lisa Kerney reporting, and Dan Plesac & John Hart as the analysts.

One overwhelming theme was the influence of Buck Showalter. On Showalter, Hart said “There used to be a time when the Oriole Way really meant something. I see that coming back with Showalter.” To anyone who has followed the history of the Orioles, that means something. A team with a tradition rich history has not left fans with much worth remembering for the past decade, but when Showalter took over for Juan Samuel last July things turned around and wins followed. After his arrival the O’s went 34-23, which was the best record among A.L. East clubs over that span.

Both Hart and Plesac were quite complimentary of the key components of the lineup in Roberts, Jones, Markakis, and Wieters. Roberts was labeled as “the key to the lineup”. Hart sees Jones as a 20 homer guy with .300 potential. Hart also spoke of Markakis as the face of the franchise, who should be a consistent .300 hitter.

I was fortunate enough to be at Camden Yards on May 29, 2009 when Matt Wieters made his much anticipated debut. The television stations and radio stations were almost drooling. From the moment it was announced earlier that day, the game (which previously wasn’t announced as being a sellout) sold out. The feel around the stadium was electric. As he walked to the plate for the first time the theme to the movie “The Natural” played over the loud speakers. No pressure at all though, not in the least. When speaking about Wieters Hart cautioned us all to temper our expectations just a bit, atleast for now. He mentioned that his vast offensive potential will be reached, but for now his defense and handling a young pitching staff were his main priorities.

On the pitching staff he had extra praise for Jake Arrieta and Zach Britton. On Arrieta he said, “This is a big, strong, physical kid with pluses all across the board.” When it came to Britton his praise was just as high, “All the things you want to see young pitchers do, this kid does it. At worst, he’s going to be a middle-of-rotation starter and could go as high as number two in a rotation.”

The consensus at the end of the show was that they saw the Orioles as a .500 team this year, which would be a 15 win improvement over last year’s 66-96 record. I would tend to agree as the offense should be much improved and should score enough runs to give the young starters a bit more leeway on the days they don’t have their best stuff. It should be a fun season as the optimism around town is higher than it’s been in a while. I’d be happy with a 15 win increase and I think, inside, most O’s fans would be as well.

For those of you who missed the show, here are links to a few segments via MLB Network.

Nick Markakis discusses the impact of Buck Showalter

Jeremy Guthrie talks about how to make 2011 better than 2010

Matt Wieters’ expectations for this year’s pitching staff

Derrek Lee on his new team

Off Season headlines 12/4

Extension talks between the Orioles and Nick Markakis have_been_shelved.

I saw the headline and thought the worst. Once you read the article, its not nearly as bad as it sounds. The talks have been suspended for the next six weeks and after that talks will resume. The reason for the break is for Markakis and his agent to see what outfielders are getting in this season’s free agent market. I understand it, but I don’t necessarily agree with it. Not with the current economy. The money will be there for the few big names on the market (Tex, CC, Manny…the usual suspects) but the middle tier guys probably won’t get as much as they would have in years past.

Its hard to use the names on this season’s free agent market as a gauge because well…let’s look as this season’s premier free agent outfielders.

Manny Ramirez

Adam Dunn

Pat Burrell

Garrett Anderson

Milton Bradley

Ken Griffey Jr.

Of course, all of these players except for Dunn (29) are in their 30’s. Anderson and Griffey are in the twlight of their careers, so it wouldn’t be wise for Markakis to base a contract of them. Manny is 37, but revived the Dodgers into a playoff run last season. He’ll get big money from some team, something like 25 million a year or some such, so Markakis and him is a bad comparsion. There’s not a comparsion with any outfielder in the free agent market. But whatever.

How about the_Pedoria_extension?¬†He’s an AL ROY, AL MVP and he’s making¬† 40 million over 6 years. That has to have MacPhail grinning like a cat. That’s a horrible line, but I’m leaving it there anyways. But if the MVP is making around 7 million a season, that strengths the O’s spot. Pedoria plays 2nd base and Markakis plays RF, go ahead and give the him a little more. I’m betting an extension gets reached in January or February.

Not hearing to much about a Brian Roberts extension. Big surprise there.

Jorge Julio re-emerges…as a closer?

The Brewers signed former Oriole batting practice pitcher Jorge_Julioto a contract. The Brewers lost Salomon Torres to retirement and Eric Gagne to free agency, though I doubt they shed any tears over the later. With the market full of closers, I find it laughable that the Brewers would sign him with visions of him closing. Taking a cheaper flier on him for bullpen depth is a gamble that about 20 teams have done already, but when Trevor Hoffman, Franciso Rodriguez, Brian Fuentes, Kerry Wood, and whoever else I’m missing is available, signing Julio to close would be insane.

All the crummy shortstops are getting snapped up!

The O’s need a shortstop and the options out there an underwhelmingly plentiful.

Edgar Renteria has progessively gotten worse and the Tigers were more than happy to part ways with him, so it only makes sense that the San Francisco Giants would give_him_a_2_year_18_million_dollar_contract.Good job, San Fran, next up is for Sabean and company to sign Jay Payton for 3 years and 27 million. Andy MacPhail may move at a turtle’s pace, but I’m thankful that he’s smart enough to not even consider signing Renteria.

This signing is even stupider because:

With the acquisition of Renteria, Sabean now might look to trade talented prospect Emmanuel Burriss— or give Burriss more time to develop and perhaps even use him at second base. The 23-year-old Burriss, selected by San Francisco in the first round of the 2006 draft, played 95 games last season as a rookie.

Just looking at his Baseball_Reference_page,I’d be more than happy if the O’s traded for Burriss. I’m sure the O’s have a few over the hill veterans that the Giants would love. Melvin Mora? Ramon Hernandez?

The Padres trade Khalil_Greene_to_the_St.Louis_Cardinals

I’m relieved. I didn’t want Greene. He’d probably be an upgrade over Juan Castro and company but I still didn’t want to trade anything of value for him. I suspect Garrett Olson was the asking price and while I’m willing to trade Olson, I’m not willing to trade him for Greene. Greene’s a free agent next season and giving up too much for him would be foolish.

This guy batted .213 and had an OBP of .260. Give me Caesar Izturis! (I think we’ll sign him)

In Game Thoughts- O’s at M’s

A few things before I go to bed and turn off this nonsense.

  • Home plate umpire Brian Runge’s strike zone is a joke. Markakis struck out on a ball that was 4 or 5 inches outside of the plate.
  • Luis Hernandez might have met his end tonight. He, Luke Scott, and Adam Jones were all in the territory of a popup. It was a ball that any shortstop should call as their own, seeing as to where he had the easy play on it. He backed completely off and Luke Scott had to charge on it to try to catch it, but he couldn’t get to it in time. I’m not seeing this “plus defense” that we’re supposed to be getting from him. Alex Cintron, see you next week.
  • Jim Palmer really like Brian Burres. I mean really really really likes Brian Burres. I don’t think Burres is bad, but I think he’s an average swingman. Palmer thinks he’s the second coming of..well…Jim Palmer.
  • Horrible base running in the 5th. Ramon hits the world’s longest single. Huff tries to go to home from second via the Juan Samuel wave. Huff is dead in the water because he gets a horrible jump. The jump was so horrible that Adam Jones gets to third while Huff is trying to get back to third. Samuel starting to become a windmill.
  • So far, so good from Daniel Cabrera. Once again, the defense has messed him over some. I’m impressed with his number of pitches so far. Through 5.1, he’s only at 67 pitches with 3 Ks. Good night….so far.
  • Hey, we tied this game up. 2-2.