Baltimore Orioles: Is 2012 Team Good Enough to Compete in Tough AL East?

John Jenkins@jjenksIIContributor IIIMarch 5, 2012

It will probably be another tough run for the Orioles in 2012 (picture taken from the Baltimore Sun)
It will probably be another tough run for the Orioles in 2012 (picture taken from the Baltimore Sun)

It is hard to believe spring training is already upon us. 

Good season or bad season, teams are putting 2011 behind them. But, can the Baltimore Orioles put 14 consecutive losing seasons behind them? 

Spring training should be the most optimistic time of the year, but after losing for so long, even the most upbeat, diehard Orioles fans may have a difficult time setting expectations too high. 

The Orioles made quite a few additions and trades over the offseason.  Few of these acquisitions made big headlines, but Baltimore's heavy involvement in the international market is noteworthy. 

Pitchers Wei-Yin Chen and Tsuyoshi Wada were signed from the Nippon Professional Baseball League and are being counted on to be major contributors to the organization. 

Perhaps the biggest move made in the offseason was trading away Jeremy Guthrie, arguably their best pitcher, to the Colorado Rockies for starting pitcher Jason Hammel and relief pitcher Matt Lindstrom. 

Other noteworthy additions include pitchers Dana Eveland and Luis Ayala, outfielders Jai Miller and Endy Chavez and utility players Wilson Betemit and Matt Antonelli. 

Some lesser-known new players that could be a surprise for the club include first baseman Nick Johnson, and pitchers Casey Fosum and Armando Galarraga. 

But, are any of these moves enough to compete in the big, bad American League East?

The Orioles starting rotation is in flux, and who will be the starting five is anyone's guess.  The starting pitching competition is no doubt the story of the Orioles camp, with as many as ten—or more—pitchers in the hunt to start. 

This rotation will face a vaunted New York Yankees line-up and go head-to-head with a rotation highlighted by C.C. Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda and Michael Pineda eighteen times. 

The O's will face another imposing line-up in the Boston Red Sox another 18 times. They will go head-to-head against a rotation that includes Josh Beckett, Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz.

A little further north, the Toronto Blue Jays have a batting line-up lead by a guy you may have heard of in Jose Bautista.  Although not as formable as Boston, New York, or the Tampa Bay Rays, the Blue Jays still have a bona fide ace in Ricky Romero.  They will face the Blue Jays 18 times, as well. 

In Tampa, the Rays brought back Oriole killer Carlos Pena and boast one of the best rotations in baseball, highlighted by David Price, James Shields, Jeremy Hellickson and—eventually, if he does not start in the rotation—Rookie of the Year contender Matt Moore. You guessed it—that's another 18 games.

For those who are keeping track, that is 72 times that an unsettled Orioles rotation faces juggernaut line-ups and/or stellar pitching staffs.  To make up for a rotation that has some major question marks, Baltimore will feature a line-up without a true clean-up hitter.

They could also be without a true lead-off hitter if second baseman Brian Roberts cannot play.

Perhaps the Orioles will improve on last season's 69-93 record, but this year's Baltimore Orioles club will be hard pressed to climb out of the basement and finish above fifth in the division.

It's especially tough when a third of your games are against the Yankees, Red Sox and Rays.