4 Things We Learned About the Baltimore Orioles in Spring Training
The beginning of the regular season is just a week and a half away, which means that the end of spring training is near.
Teams use the spring training exhibition season to evaluate their roster's makeup and capabilities. For the Baltimore Orioles, the spring was spent checking out some top prospects and fighting for an open starting rotation spot as well as bench roles.
In the 23 games the Orioles have played this spring, fans got to see a lot of what they already knew was there (such as strong pitching and defense) but also some things that may have been a bit of a surprise.
Here's what we've learned from the Baltimore Orioles this spring.
They Can Stage a Comeback
I'm sure O's fans remember how the spring season started.
The team lost its first game of the spring 15-2 to the Detroit Tigers, and it was seemingly all downhill after that; the O's at one time sported a 3-11 record.
Then, the team righted the ship, as it rallied to a current 9-14 record entering Thursday's action. That's a strong turnaround for a team regardless of the fact that it's just spring training.
And if you want to look back at one game in particular, let's take it back to St. Patrick's Day when the O's hosted the Minnesota Twins. The Birds were down 10-1 entering the bottom of the sixth, yet managed to rally and make it a 10-9 ballgame, a score that would eventually hold as the final.
While the team didn't win that game, it was awesome to see them rally together and make a game of a contest that many would have already considered over at that point, especially a contest that "doesn't count."
It's obvious that this team has a lot of want-to entering the regular season. And as every baseball fan should know, a good mentality goes a long way in this crazy game.
Ubaldo Jimenez May Crack the Opening Day Rotation
A week ago, I didn't think that the Orioles' most expensive starter, Ubaldo Jimenez (pictured), would crack the Opening Day rotation.
Three straight solid starts later, and Jimenez is making a strong case for his spot in the rotation.
In Tuesday's 9-2 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates, Jimenez was able to get ahead of hitters and pitched five innings, giving up just four hits, striking out three and holding the Pirates scoreless.
The most impressive stat about Jimenez's last three starts? One walk in 13 innings. For Jimenez that's huge, as he's had trouble finding the strike zone throughout his career and walked 77 batters in 125.1 innings in 2014.
After this recent string of strong pitching, don't be surprised if Jimenez begins the season in the O's starting rotation.
Matt Wieters Is in Fact Human
The Orioles were hoping that catcher Matt Wieters would be ready to go on Opening Day after having undergone Tommy John surgery last June.
However, after his first catching experience in a spring exhibition game, Wieters felt some discomfort in his surgically repaired elbow, causing the team to shut him down. He'll be placed on the disabled list entering the season.
If Wieters had been ready to go on Opening Day, that would have meant he'd have recovered from Tommy John surgery in under 10 months. As Wieters has been one of the top offensive and defensive catchers in the American League throughout his career, it's definitely a wise decision not to push the limits of what his body can handle.
Unfortunately, the O's won't have their switch-hitting catcher to start the season, but the hope is that he'll be fully recovered and ready go by May. He could provide a nice boost on the field as well as to the team's morale at the time of his return.
The Offense Isn't a Consistent Machine
While the O's offense appears as though it'll be another run-producing, home run-belting juggernaut, it likely won't be very consistent.
The O's have hit over 200 home runs the last three seasons, leading the majors in homers the last two. But unfortunately the team isn't the best at getting on base, posting a .310 OBP this spring, "good" for 27th in baseball. Last year, the O's were 17th in baseball in OBP, sporting a .311 mark.
The more often a team gets on base, the better chance that team has of scoring runs, and the O's lost their second-best on-base man from 2014 when Nick Markakis and his .342 OBP signed with the Atlanta Braves this winter.
The inconsistency is already there this spring, as the O's have scored five or more runs just nine times in 23 spring games entering Thursday, and at one point had eight straight games of scoring three runs or fewer.
The O's are going to need some strong pitching and clutch home runs this season if they're going to contend. Luckily for them, they're good at both.