Thanks to some good off-season moves, Orioles fans should start to believe in their team.
“Believe.” That is the simple, one word motto of Baltimore City.
For years, Baltimore fans have struggled to believe, but now thanks to a talented young outfield and other good off-season moves, there is reason to “believe” in these Orioles.
Andy MacPhail had a goal when he arrived in Baltimore and he started towards that goal by trading the team’s two best players.
Miguel Tejada and Erik Bedard were sent to Houston and Seattle for nine players that nobody really ever head of.
With the 2009 season right around the corner, Bedard is an outcast in Seattle and Tejada is answering steroids questions in front of Congress, making both trades favorable to the Orioles.
Last year, the Orioles were fourth in the league in runs scored and got career offensive years from Aubrey Huff, Luke Scott and Melvin Mora. Nick Markakis and Brian Roberts were solid, but their futures in Baltimore were in question.
After signing Markakis to a six-year extension and Roberts to a four-year extension, it is certain that these two will be the centerpieces of the Orioles lineup for years.
One player acquired in the Bedard deal was 22-year-old phenom Adam Jones, who was given the center field job from the day he arrived in Baltimore. Jones had a decent year at the plate, but his defense is what impressed people the most.
Jones is considered a five-tool player and people can see greatness in his future. Despite battling an injury last season, Jones comes into spring healthy and bulked up, and he should improve his power numbers and average.
Luke Scott had a career year offensively; however, he is not the most fleet of foot in the field. Enter Cubs outfielder Felix Pie, who will likely be the starting left fielder.
Pie was the Cubs' No. 1 prospect but has yet to pan out on the major league level. Pie is known for his speed and defense, and his bat should improve throughout the year.
With Jones, Pie and Markakis in the outfield, any ball that does not leave the stadium is likely to be caught.
After trading Miguel Tejada, the Orioles had a huge hole at shortstop. Five different players manned the position for Baltimore with little success.
Enter Gold Glove shortstop Cesar Izturis, who will team up with Roberts to make a formidable double-play combo. Izturis was acquired mainly for his glove and will likely bail out the pitchers with many sparkling plays. Orioles’ fans will be “hailing” Cesar all season.
Baseball America released its top 100 minor league prospects earlier this season, and tops on that list was Matt Wieters. After flying through single- and double-A last year, Wieters is hitting well over .400 this year and is showing that he will be in the big leagues sooner than later.
Wieters might not be the Opening Day catcher but should be called up by June 1 to start what many think will be a Hall of Fame career.
Defensively, Wieters needs to improve, but his bat and arm will provide joy for O’s fans everywhere.
The Achilles heel of this team will be its pitching. Jeremy Guthrie, the Orioles' No. 1 starter, would likely be a third or fourth starter on any other team. Guthrie has gotten rocked this spring and in the WBC, but he was productive in the regular season last year.
Koji Uehara became the first Japanese player to be signed by the Orioles and is penciled in as the No. 2 starter in the rotation. Koji has looked good this spring but is nursing a hamstring injury.
Uehara throws strikes, which is the most important thing; couple that with the batters' unfamiliarity with him, and that should lead to success.
The O's acquired Rich Hill from the Cubs in hopes that he would be the team’s third starter, however, thanks to an elbow injury, Hill will not pitch until the second week of April.
While there are questions as to who will round out the rotation, the future is bright for the Orioles pitching staff.
Minor leaguers Chris Tillman, Jake Arietta and Brian Matusz are the future of the Orioles pitching staff and might see some action this season. In addition to those three, Brad Bergeson had a great spring and showed he was major league ready.
While Andy MacPhail does not want to rush these guys, many fans want to see them in the big leagues this season. These pitchers are young and talented, and if they pan out, they will be the cornerstones of this rotation for years to come.
While a 12th straight losing season seems inevitable this year, Orioles fans should be happy with the direction the team is going. The lineup is good and they should be able to score runs with any team in the league.
An improved defense will save a lot of runs and make the pitchers and the fans happy.
There is nothing better than a warm summer night at Camden Yards watching the Orioles. Despite their record, this will be a fun ball club to watch and there should be some hope in “Birdland.”
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