Like any other team during spring training, the Baltimore Orioles have had their share of surprises and issues during camp, both good and bad.
The Orioles have faced injuries and poor performance, but they have also enjoyed watching some players surprise this spring. Overall, the team has performed well during exhibition games. The depth that the Orioles have built has been on display this spring.
Some players have stood out, a few have struggled and others are going about business as usual.
Knuckleballer Eddie Gamboa has impressed this spring, pitching 4.2 scoreless innings in five appearances. He has allowed just one hit and one walk while striking out six batters. The 29-year-old could find himself making his big league debut this season after six seasons in the minors.
Top prospect Jonathan Schoop has put on quite a show this spring, as he's batting .400 with one homer, six RBI and four doubles in 30 at-bats. He's showing he really wants to be the O's second baseman on Opening Day, and he's trying to convince executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette and manager Buck Showalter that he doesn't need more minor league seasoning.
Steve Clevenger, vying for the backup catcher roster spot, has hit .545 this spring in 22 at-bats, including two doubles, a homer and six RBI. Showalter likely will consider defense a more important issue than offense when deciding on his backup catcher, but with the show that Clevenger is putting on, he may force his manager's hand.
And besides, it's not as if Clevenger is a slouch behind the plate.
Zach Britton is out of options and is doing everything he can to make the squad. In eight innings, the lefty has given up just one run, walked two and struck out eight. While a rotation spot may not be where he ends up, Britton is making his case to at least be the second lefty in a bullpen that includes left-hander Brian Matusz.
Evan Meek, a former All-Star in 2010, is also seizing his chance as well by throwing five innings in four games and allowing zero hits, zero runs, zero walks and tallying two saves while notching five strikeouts. Josh Stinson, looking to crack the pen as well, and thrown six innings in four games, giving up one run (unearned), two walks and striking out seven.
On the flip side, second baseman Jemile Weeks, brought over from the Oakland Athletics in the Jim Johnson trade, is having a poor showing this spring. In 28 at-bats, Weeks has managed an average of just .143 with only one double. He has more walks and strikeouts (five) than hits (four), though that is helping him in showing his capability to get on base, as his OBP sits at .306 even with that low average.
Still, the O's would like to see him be a more capable hitter and not rely on the opposing pitcher making mistakes.
Alfredo Aceves, signed to help provide depth for both the rotation and bullpen, has had a pretty atrocious spring, as he's given up five runs, 11 hits and three home runs in eight innings of work. And he had to throw three scoreless innings (allowing four hits with one walk and zero strikeouts) against the Toronto Blue Jays on Sunday to get to that point.
As of now, Aceves isn't looking like one of the O's best options.
David Lough, brought over from the Kansas City Royals for corner infielder Danny Valencia, has had a solid spring. He's batted .261 with a .320 OBP in 23 at-bats with two triples and two stolen bases. The O's see him as a replacement for outfielder Nate McLouth, who signed with the Washington Nationals this offseason, but in order to do that Lough will need to stay healthy.
Lough has been dealing with neck stiffness as of late, and the team shut him down for 48 hours on Tuesday. The left-handed hitter is likely destined to make the team, as MASN Sports' Roch Kubatko points out that the O's have been impressed with his glove work and baserunning skills and that the team knows what it's getting.
Unfortunately for the O's, the news for Manny Machado isn't as hopeful. After making serious progress all winter and on path to have a good chance of being ready for Opening Day, Machado suffered a setback recently as it was reported on Saturday that the third baseman hadn't been able to run for five days due to scar tissue in his surgically repaired knee.
Machado has yet to appear in a game this spring, but as Showalter has pointed out, Machado could easily rack up the at-bats he needs in a few minor league games. It just all depends on if he can get healthy, and as of right now, it doesn't appear like he'll be ready in time for Opening Day.
With spring training nearly over, the O's look to have strong depth and plenty of quality on their roster, even with the injury setbacks that they face. O's fans are surely excited for Opening Day to arrive.
The 2014 MLB season is almost here.
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