• Apr

    Back in the USA, but is trouble ahead for the O's?

    Thank God I’m back. If you ever get annoyed with living in the United States it should only take you about two days in a place like India to remind you how good we have it in our country. Although our guests treated us very well, the country as a whole is dirty, pushy, and extremely overcrowded. And to make matters worse, it’s the last place you want to be when the baseball season starts because their ESPN only believes, cricket, soccer, formula one racing and Tennis exists apparently. Great food though, but I’m ready for a hamburger and fries.



    After winning the first two games of the year we go and drop three straight to the Red Sox at Camden Yards. Now I’m not one of the those guys who gets too high of too low with fast or slow starts, but it sure doesn’t bode well when you can’t muster one win against a division rival at home in a three game series.


    Sam Perlozzo is pretty much saying everything you expect “The hitters are pressing,” and “We have an offense that can score some runs, we're just not doing it.”


    Well maybe, maybe not. Looking at it a little closer, do the Orioles really have an offense that should scare anyone? Brian Roberts has a lot to prove this year. Coming off a significant elbow injury, the 28-year old second baseman has to prove his first half of the season last year wasn’t a fluke. Unfortunately, his second half stats of .274/.351./419./.770 resemble his last three year marks (.286/.357/.421/.778 ) more than his .345/.416/.591/1.007 first half last year. Now don’t get me wrong, Roberts is coming into his prime as a player and even his three-year stats make him a solid starting second basemen, but it would not put him among the elite of lead-off hitters.


    The heart of our order isn’t exactly murderer’s row. Melvin Mora-Miguel Tejada-Jay Gibbons are all solid hitters, but that order pales to the Ortiz-Ramirez-Nixon the Red Sox run out there and the Jeter-Sheffield-A-rod lineup the Yankees run out on daily basis.


    The rest of our lineup is ok, but again, really doesn’t strike any fear in the other teams. Moving on to the rotation, it can’t feel too good to see Daniel Cabrera implode in his first start of the year. Some scouts have been buzzing for years that his best role in the major leagues would be as a closer since he’s just too consistently inconsistent to be a starter. He certainly didn’t put those rumors to rest after being just plain horrible in his 2006 debut. Now Cabrera has just as much chance to come out and dominate in his next start, but the wildness will continue to hold him back from being a top-flight pitcher and there is no indication that his inconsistency has sub-sided.


    The rest of the rotation has not been very sharp so far although Kris Benson and Bruce Chen gave solid outings. Rodrigo Lopez continues to be well…Rodrigo Lopez. He’s a  4th/5th starter on a contender and his inconsistencies has been his trademark over his career as a starter. Erik Bedard didn’t pitch particularly well in his first start, but I’m not overly concerned with him, he’ll be fine if he can stay healthy.


    The fact that the Orioles have already made two roster moves in the first week of the season tells us all we need to know about the fringe status of our 23-25 men on the roster. Although our bench has more athleticism than in the past, Cory Patterson has only showed so far through spring training and the early going that his free-swinging days are not behind him. I’m not so sure that using his last option to play everyday in Triple-A is a bad idea.


    On the bright side, besides Jim Brower and the departed Eric DuBose, the bullpen has been very good, but with consistently inconsistent starters like Cabrera and Lopez, as well as the fact that Bedard and Chen usually average around six innings per start, they better be ready to pitch well often.


    Mother bear with Markakis

    We should be rightly excited about Nick Markakis, but Perlozzo seems to be protecting him like a mother bear protecting her cubs here in the early going. He sat against Scott Kazmir on opening day and then against the knuckleballer Wakefield yesterday. Now I can understand how a guy like Wakefield can screw up a hitter’s timing and I can understand that Kazmir is a tough lefty, but maybe we need to find out if Markakis can hit these kind of guys? Nobody else can hit Wakefield, so maybe the rookie can? As for Kazmir, I don’t have a huge problem with him not starting against a pitcher like that (although Markakis has shown an ability to hit lefties in the minors) but on opening day, he deserved the start since he’s going to be an everyday outfielder.


    Loewen Stars in Double-A Debut
    Wow, can you have a better Double-A debut than Adam Loewen had the other night? Here’s a bit from Hangout Baysox reporter Joey Flyntz on Loewen in case you missed it.


    “Bowie Baysox starting pitcher Adam Loewen was simply dominant in his first start of the season, taking a no-hitter into the eighth inning and striking out 12 batters over eight innings in Bowie’s 4-0 win over the Reading Phillies Friday night, the Baysox’ (2-0) second straight over Reading (0-2) to start the season.


    Loewen retired the first 14 batters he faced before a fifth-inning error by shortstop Rayner Bautista gave Reading its first baserunner.  Loewen fanned the next batter to end the inning, however. 


    Loewen then proceeded to retire the next seven hitters in order before Phillies’ first baseman Bryan Hansen doubled to left to break up the no-hit bid.  Left fielder Jeff Fiorentino nearly preserved the no-hitter with a diving attempt, but came up just short. 


    “He [Fiorentino] gave it a good effort,” Loewen said.  “He probably couldn’t have caught it, but he gave it a good effort.  Any pitcher would appreciate that.”


    An unnerved Loewen promptly fanned the next two Reading hitters to get out of the inning and end his night after eight innings.


    After the game, Loewen admitted that he started thinking about the possibility of a no-hitter fairly early on in the game.


    “Probably [started thinking about it] like the third or fourth inning actually,” he said.  “Any time there’s zero hits on the board I kind of think about it.  But, I wasn’t expecting to go that deep in the game without any hits.  I just wanted to keep my team in the game and give us a chance to win.”


    “It really helps a lot when you can jump on the sticks that fast and everybody’s hitting well early in the game,” Loewen said.  “I just tried to get everyone back in the dugout as fast as possible and the defense did a great job behind me.”


    “…Loewen just looked tremendous tonight.  He was unbelievable.” Bowie Manager Don Werner said.


    The most impressive part of his night was zero walks. Not only did he get the 12 strikeouts while allowing just one walk, he didn’t let the wildness that has been his trademark throughout his career to show up. Pretty darn impressive if you ask me.


    Boy, I’m looking smarter and smarter for placing Loewen 10th on the prospect list after last season. Somehow I think he’ll end up a bit higher


    Got a comment? You can always start a thread here and talk about it.


    Visit the Orioles Hangout Message Board

Tony Pente

Tony has owned and operated Orioles Hangout since 1996 and is well known for his knowledge of the Baltimore Orioles organization from top to bottom. He's a frequent guest on Baltimore-area sports radio stations and can be heard regularly on the 105.7 FM The Fan. His knowledge and contacts within the Orioles minor league system and the major league baseball scouting industry is unparalleled in the Baltimore media and is known as an expert on the Orioles prospects.