A team with almost nowhere to go but up looks to keep itself from falling into the gutter again…
The Orioles are 9 games under .500 with 3 games to go until the All Star Break. Adam “Donkey Kong” Jones is the lone All Star representative for the team (Nick Markakis had a shot at it, but he went into a tank usually reserved for people with the name “Mendoza” attached to their batting average). The Most Interesting Catcher In The World (little known fact – on an off day, Matt Wieters went to a Yankees/Red Sox game in his Orioles jersey. Both teams lost) is still adjusting to life in the majors, and by adjusting I mean he is holding himself back like Clark Kent did when he played football for Smallville High, making “mistakes” and “missing pitches” so that he will be allowed to have a semblance of a normal life.
But in the midst of this, there are some serious bright spots…
Brad Bergesen is looking more and more like a legitimate front of the rotation starter (his last start was 6.0 innings and 3 earned runs, technically a “quality start”, and it was obvious he was having control issues. He is 5-3 with a 3.59 ERA, and his ERA over the last 8 starts is 2.79 through 58.1 innings). Nolan Reimold was voted AL Roookie of the Month for July after he batted .320 with 4 home runs, 9 RBIs and 13 runs scored, as well as a .520 slugging percentage and a .420 on base average. Mark Hendrickson has seemingly accepted that he is best suited as a long relief guy, and has pitched to a sub 3.0 ERA since moving to the bullpen. And Chris Tillman is making it very hard for the team to keep him in AAA Norfolk for much longer, after pitching to a 7-5 record with a 2.50 ERA in 16 starts. And just to make his point he has 88 strikeouts and 22 walks in 86.1 innings pitched and he currently has a 13.2 inning scoreless streak going for him. Brian Matusz is simply overpowering the hitters at AA Bowie. Currently he is 3-0 with an ERA of .98 (yes, he is giving up an average of less than 1 run per 9 innings pitched since his promotion). He has 21 Ks and 8 BBs in 18.1 innings. 1 earned run.
I'll give you a moment to let those numbers sink in.
It looks like the outfield of the future is in place, with Jones in center, Markakis in right, and Reimold in left. Barring injury or severe regression of any of those pieces, the team has a solid outfield with one average and two plus defensive pieces (Reimold being the average cog), and all three having plus offense skills. All joking or hyperbole aside, Wieters is coming along nicely, continuing to progess both at and behind the plate. Robert Andino could be the real deal at shortstop (he more than capably filled in for Izturis while he was out with the appindicitis, he is only 25, and I have spoken in the past about his potential and how we lucked into getting him here. Brian Roberts is under contract for what is probably the rest of his career and has not yet shown any sign of losing a step, so the combination of him and either Andino OR izturis provides a solid defense up the middle combination. Mora's bat speed might not be what it was even last year, but he is still playing solid defense, and Huff is holding his own at 1st. I think a 2nd half collapse (4-32 ring a bell to any of you fans out there?) is unlikely, and a .500 season is attainable for this team. I still think they have one more year after this before they are serious contenders, but being in the wild card discussion in August next year is not out of the question. Now let's see how I feel after the Blue Jays come to town. I am going to break out my old Cito Sucks shirt and head to the park tonight. Anyone want to meet me for an overpriced beer on Eutaw Street?
About the Author
Written by Ron Burr
Ron is a lifelong resident of Maryland and has been a passionate player and fan of sports for as long as he can remember. When he is not watching the games or explaining to his lovely wife why he is cursing at the television, he runs an improv/sketch comedy troupe, Drop Three. He can't hit a curveball or run a sub 4.5 40 yard dash, but he knows the games and loves talking about it with anyone. Differing opinions are welcome and encouraged!