Monday, April 14, 2008

How bout them Orioles

Yeah you're right, it is early, and it probably isn't going to last. But, if you're an Orioles fan and you aren't excited about the future, you haven't been watching.

Right now, the Birds are 9 outs away from getting sole possession of first place back. Adam Jones stands at first base after picking up his third hit of the night. That comes one day after striking out four times. Good for the young kid. He's one of the ten players the Orioles picked up in the offseason while trading away Miguel Tejeda and Erik Bedard.

Jones is the marquee player the Orioles acquired. He's the five-tool prospect that the Orioles have planted in centerfield. They expect him to grow roots and be there for some time. He's hitting .268 after his perfect night tonight. He stole his 2nd base tonight and he's shown some pop in his bat.

Matt Albers picked up the win in his first start tonight. He has pitched very well in relief this year and earned his second win. His ERA is 0.79 thus far this year. The knock on Albers entering the season, was that he didn't throw enough strikes. He certainly has shown good command for the Orioles as his walk tonight was the first he's issued in 11 and a third innings this year. At just 25 years old, he could be part of the O's plans for quite some time.

George Sherrill got his sixth save in six opportunities tonight. Tonight was the first time, he's given up any runs, surrendering Alex Rios' two-run homer in the ninth. The lefthander may be better suited in a setup role or as a situational lefty, but he's been closing the door quite nice for the first-place Orioles.

Luke Scott has been the type of hitter the Orioles need right now. He's been consistent and he's getting on base when he isn't getting hits. His average is at .375 and while nobody expects that to continue, he just might provide more power than what he's shown early on. Personally, I've been impressed enough with Scott early to think that he could hit up in the line up. Maybe in the second hole if the Orioles ever wanted to drop Melvin Mora in the order or give Scott Moore a more profound role.

Dennis Sarfate seemed like a throw-in in the Tejeda deal, but his stuff is just flat out filthy. He's pitched some as a starter in the minors, and the Orioles are trying to stretch him out a little and get more than an inning in relief out of him. But for now, he seems best served in the shorter roles. He suffered somewhat of a meltdown Saturday night in Tampa, when the Rays caught up with him for three runs in just an inning of work. He walked four in that outing as his control seemed to be lacking for the first time this year. Still the other four times he's been on the hill, he's looked like he's a keeper.

Troy Patton is the other member of the ten who is on the Major League staff. It was believed that of the two starters the Orioles got from Houston, that Patton might have the most potential. He breezed through the early minor leagues and had some success in Houston late last year. But he's had some arm problems and a shoulder injury has him on the Disabled List this year. Don't expect to see Patton until next season.

Mike Costanzo is the minor league offensive player that the Orioles got from the Astros in exchange for Tejeda. He is a big basher, who has a lot of power, but doesn't really have a postion. He plays the corner infield slots and the Orioles have experimented with him behind the plate. Thus far at AAA-Norfolk Costanzo hasn't really had a lot of success. He's scuffling along at .171 with one homer. But it wouldn't shock me if we see Costanzo in Camden Yards sometime this summer.

Chris Tillman might be the guy that you look back at and say that Erik Bedard deal really worked out well for the Orioles. The young righthander, turned some heads in spring training, and then was fantastic is his second start at AA-Bowie. He threw five no-hit innings before being removed due to reaching his pitch count. He's just 19 (for at least another couple hours) so I'm not sure you'll see him in Baltimore regardless of how well he pitches this year. But if he continues to progress, you would think he could be fighting for a roster slot next spring.

Kam Micklio is a teammate of Tillman's with the Baysox. The huge lefthander, and we mean huge at 6 feet 9 inches, has a 2.70 ERA in four outings with Bowie while working out of the pen. He turns 24 midway through the summer and he might be someone the Orioles want to see later in the summer at the Major League level as he's in his third professional season after a college career at Utah Valley State. However, he does need to get more consistent with his mechanics and might still need some more seasoning.

Tony Butler is another big lefthander the O's plucked from the Seattle system. At 6-7, I thought he might have been the hidden gem of the deal. He pitched very well down the stretch at Wisconsin in the Midwest League. He's repeating that level at the moment, which might say something about the Orioles pitching depth at the lower levels, starting the season at Delmarva. He made one relief appearance before starting his next two times out. At the moment, he's 0-1 with a 4.50 ERA. But the promising side of the stat sheet shows 9 strikeouts in 12 innings with just one walk issued.

So those are the ten guys the Orioles got for two this winter. In addition, the Orioles added three players when they traded Steve Trachsel last season, after Andy MacPhail had arrived.

At that point, they acquired Scott Moore, who interestingly enough the Orioles are getting some innings at shortstop for in Norfolk. Watch that closely. Moore is a former number one pick, who has shown he can play second base and the corner infield positions as well as taking some fly balls in spring training. Now the Orioles are experimenting at short. We'll see how that fits in the plans. I think Brandon Fahey's time in Baltimore may be limited if Moore fits the role of being able to handle short at Norfolk.

Rocky Cherry, the reliever the Orioles acquired is currently on the DL.

I don't know what type of ceiling Jacob Renshaw has. He didn't become part of the Trachsel deal until the Cubs made the playoffs, but he's 2-0 at Frederick in the Carolina League. He'll turn 22 later this month, so just being at Adv-A Frederick is questionable, but opponents have hit just .114 against him and he's fanned 11 in 13+ innings. We're watching him closely and hope to maybe get a chance to see him in the upcoming weeks.

The O's are in first place, they are exceeding expectations at the moment. It's a long summer, and it might not be time to get too excited about the current season. But there might be more reality than fluke to what they are doing right now and certainly the future looks more promising than anything we've seen recently.

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