The 2010 season is underway, and after four games decided by one run, the Orioles begin the season with a 1-3 record.
Despite two heartbreaking collapses by Mike Gonzalez, the Orioles have to be reasonably satisfied with their offseason additions.
Garrett Atkins is hitting .375 with three RBI through four games, and Miguel Tejada celebrated his homecoming to Camden Yard by going 3-for-5 for four RBI. Matt Wieters has delivered early in the season, and looks focused on proving his late-season success was no fluke. So far, he is 6-for-14 with two RBI.
Unfortunately, the Orioles have let a number of opportunities slip through their fingers.
Brian Roberts’ abdominal strain, combined with back issues during spring training, could be a sign that Roberts may be in for an injury-plagued season. Veteran replacement Julio Lugo will be able to sufficiently man second base, but there is little chance that the Orioles can replace Roberts’ plate discipline, experience, and speed in the leadoff spot.
They could consider moving Adam Jones, Tejada, or Nick Markakis, but their lineup would suffer later in the order.
Jones and Markakis could supply the necessary speed to bat in that position, but Jones may not possess as much patience as the Orioles would like to have in the leadoff role. Markakis is unlikely to be moved.
Tejada’s approach at the plate would most certainly fit well in the role. The Orioles would like more than five to seven stolen bases a year from the No.1 spot though.
Orioles’ pitching has been neither impressive nor completely unnerving, aside from Gonzalez’s aforementioned adventures in the ninth.
Kevin Millwood pitched well enough to earn the victory in the opener before Gonzalez took the mound.
The bullpen combination of Jim Johnson, Will Ohman, Mark Hendrickson, and Matt Albers has held its own and kept the O’s in close games through the eighth inning.
Brain Matusz performed as advertised in his season debut. He was able to help the Orioles avoid the opening-series sweep by pitching five innings of two-run, seven-strikeout ball.
This is, however, where things go downhill for Baltimore.
Mike Gonzalez has been downright awful in three appearances this year. The trouble began on Opening Day, after Gonzalez struck out Pat Burrell to open the ninth. Gonzalez then proceeded to give up three hits and two runs en route to his first blown save of 2010.
Two days later, Gonzalez earned his first save by striking out the first two batters he faced, but still walked two batters and gave up one hit before retiring the side.
Gonzalez’s erratic pitching continued in the O’s home opener. Once again, he allowed one walk and one hit to turn it into a one-run victory for the visiting Blue Jays.
At a glance, it may appear as if the Orioles are headed for another season of disappointment. Long-suffering fans have more than a little right to feel apprehensive about building too many expectations.
Overall though, the Orioles have performed well so far this year.
As expected, the pitching staff has a lot to improve on, but at the very least the Orioles have shown the ability to keep pace offensively in the AL East. However, the Orioles can’t afford to let too many close games get away.
The fans have already made their voices heard loud and clear. The Phillies waited all year in 2009 for Brad Lidge to correct his problems, and it never happened.
How long will they wait on Gonzalez to settle in?