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    Spring Training Progress Report (3/24)

    Written by Chris Slade

    Spring Training Progress Report (3/24)

    The excitement is building in Baltimore as we are now just a week away from Opening Day. Here's an update on how everyone is performing this Spring and the roster battles that will have to be settled sometime this week.

    Image by: Baltimore Sun

    Projected Rotation

    1) Chris Tillman (Spring Stats: 4.97 ERA, 12.2 IP, 14 H, 7  ER, 2 HR, 2 BB, 14 K's)

    2) Ubaldo Jimenez (Spring Stats: 5.40 ERA, 10 IP, 9 H, 6 ER, 4 BB, 4 K's)

    3) Wei-Yin Chen (Spring Stats: 6.39 ERA, 12.2 IP, 19 H, 9 ER, 2 BB, 11 K's)

    4) Miguel Gonzalez (Spring Stats: 2.35 ERA, 15.1 IP, 17 H, 4 ER, 1 BB, 8 K's)

    5) Bud Norris (Spring Stats: 2.31 ERA, 11.2 IP, 9 H, 3 ER, 5 BB, 13 K's)

    Unless an unexpected injury or trade arises, this group will comprise the Orioles opening day rotation. Buck announced last monday that Tillman will take the ball opening day, followed by Ubaldo in Game 2. He has yet to officially announce the pitching order after those two, but I assume Chen or Gonzo will pitch Game 3 versus the Red Sox with the other taking the mound Friday, April 4th in Detroit. Norris will more than likely handle the 5th spot in the rotation.

    Other Starters:

    Kevin Gausman (Spring Stats: 2.45 ERA, 11 IP, 7 H, 3 ER, 4 BB, 14 K's)

    Brian Matusz (Spring Stats: 3.00 ERA, 6 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 5 K's)

    Steve Johnson (Spring Stats: 2.57 ERA, 9 IP, 6 H, 6 ER, 3 BB, 9 K's)

    T.J. McFarland (Spring Stats: 4.05 ERA, 8.2 IP, 10 H, 4 ER, 5 BB, 9 K's)

    These are the other guys who have been stretched out in a starter's role this Spring.

    Matusz will return to his role as a left-on-left reliever role in the bullpen, a role he has served the O's well in. Based on Buck's comments, it sounds like the primary reason for stretching him out as a starter this Spring was to provide more innings for him to work on developing his changeup as an outpitch versus righthanders. But, it's possible that (if he made a favorable enough impression this Spring) the O's could consider a move back to the rotation at some point later in the season.

    Gausman continues to display the kind of ace caliber stuff that allows O's fans to dream big on his future outlook. However, as far as I know, he's seems like a lock to begin the season at Norfolk. Why? Because there's no room for in the rotation and he needs to continue to pitch every fifth day as a starter, develop his slider as a more consistent outpitch, and work on his overall pitch command. Like Buck says, its not a matter of if, but when Gausman will make an impact in the majors. He'll likely be up sooner than later if he consistently dominates down at Norfolk.

    Johnson and McFarland are expected to join Gausman in Norfolk's rotation and will also provide the O's with starting depth or an arm to call upon when Buck needs an extra long man out of the pen.

    Bullpen Situation

    Closer: Tommy Hunter (Spring Stats: 4.50 ERA, 6 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 5 K's)

    Buck won't formally announce it but Hunter is the guy who will get the nod in save situations to start out the season.

    Set-Up: Darren O'Day (Spring Stats: 0.00 ERA, 5 IP, 5 H, 0 ER, 3 BB, 7 K)

    O'Day should assume the go-to 8th inning role he's served the O's well in the last two seasons. I would presume he's a fallback option to close if Hunter falters, especially if O'Days new changeup helps him improve his shaky numbers versus lefties last season.

    Other Locks:

    Ryan Webb (Spring Stats: 3.86 ERA, 7 IP, 12 H, 3 ER, 1 BB, 4 K's)

    With an above average mid 90's sinker, Webb looks like he'll be the groundball specialist and/or 7th inning go-to reliever for the O's. He's been shaky performance wise this Spring but Buck has said that he looked much sharper in his most recent outing.

    Brian Matusz (see above)

    Zach Britton (Spring Stats: 0.93 ERA, 9.2 IP, 6 H, 1 ER, 4 BB, 9 K's)

    Britton has been working in one inning stints lately, continuing to look sharp while touching mid 90's with his sinker. He entered the Spring on the bubble but has assuredly locked up a bullpen spot with his impressive performance and lack of minor league options.

    Final Two Bullpen Spots Competition:

    Josh Stinson (Spring Stats: 0.00 ERA, 7 IP, 4 H, 0 ER, 2 BB, 7 K's)

    Alfredo Aceves (Spring Stats: 4.50 ERA, 10 IP, 11 H, 5 ER, 3 HR, 2 BB, 6 K's)

    Evan Meek (Spring Stats: 1.29 ERA, 7 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 5 K's)

    Brad Brach (Spring Stats: 2.45 ERA, 7.1 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 8 K's)

    We said our goodbyes over the weekend to a former member of the bullpen competition, Kelvin De La Cruz, who I correctly predicted last week would be designated for assignment.

    That leaves us with these final four. Aceves is an interesting case and we'll know his fate first because he has an opt out date in his minor league contract coming up this Friday by which the O's must inform him whether he's made the club or not. The veteran has had a decent showing this Spring and is a versatile arm in the pen. But, his inconsistent major league track record is likely why he was available on a minor league deal in the first place. Some are fairly confident he'll earn a spot but I'm more 50/50 on his chances.

    "Blessed are the" Meek has put himself on the radar with a strong showing this Spring and may have done enough to earn a spot. He says his arm feels the best it has since his all-star season as the Pirates setup man in 2010, and is reportedly throwing in the mid-90's again. His emergence is a reason why I'm a skeptic of Aceves' chances of making the team. However, he doesn't have an opt out clause in his contract, so the O's could possibly stash him away at Norfolk and call him up first when a need arises.

    Stinson seems like the best bet of this group to earn a bullpen spot. He's the only one who's BOTH on the 40 man roster and out of options. More importantly, he has pitched well this Spring, earned some praise from Buck Showalter, and can work multiple innings as a former starter.

    Brach has a minor league option remaining which really works against him but he's has some major league success before, notably in 2012, and has been quietly having an impressive Spring.


    Starter: Matt Wieters (Spring Stats: 9-for-25, .360 AVG, 1 HR, 6 RBI, 3 BB, 2 K, .407 OBP, .400 SLG)

    Backup: Steve Clevenger (Spring Stats: 12-for-28, .429 AVG, 1 HR, 6 RBI, 3 BB, 2 K, .484 OBP, .607 SLG)

    Wieters dealt with a sprained ankle mid-Spring but he's fine now and ready to start on opening day. He's hit well this Spring but I wouldn't read too much into that. He crushed the ball last Spring too.

    Barring an acquisition of a veteran backup in the next week, Baltimore native Clevenger will break camp as the Orioles backup to Wieters. He's a capable backup defensively and hit the ball with authority this Spring, beating out Johnny Monell (who was DFA'd yesterday) and Caleb Joseph.

    First Base

    Chris Davis (Spring Stats: 13-for-30, .433 AVG, 4 HR, 6 RBI, 4 BB, 10 K, .486 OBP, .900 SLG)

    Who says he can't follow up last season? CRUSH has been putting on a laser show this Spring and looks ready to have another big offensive year. Repeating last year's numbers is definitely a tall order but I don't think he's going to fall off a statistical cliff either (like ESPN Magazine seems to think).

    Second Base/Third Base

    Favorite: Ryan Flaherty (Spring Stats: 9-for-31, .310 AVG, 2 HR, 6 RBI, 4 BB, 10 K, .362 OBP, .571 SLG)


    Jonathan Schoop (Spring Stats: 14-for-35, .400 AVG, 2 HR, 7 RBI, 3 BB, 11 K, .436 OBP, .686 SLG)

    Steve Lombardozzi (Spring Stats: 9-for-35, .231 AVG, 0 HR, 5 RBI, 1 BB, 1 K, 6 SB, .244 OBP, .231 SLG)

    Jemile Weeks (Spring Stats: 5-for-35, .143 AVG, 0 HR, 6 RBI, 6 BB, 7 K, 7 SB, .295 OBP, .171 SLG)

    Things have gotten real interesting on this front lately.

    - First, we got confirmation from Buck of what we already figured; that Manny will not be ready in time to start at third on opening day.

    - Second, we found out this morning that veteran infielder Alex Gonzalez had been dealt to Detroit in exchange for Maryland native, Steve Lombardozzi.

    Flaherty will has hit well this Spring and shown impressive defensive versatility according to Buck. He figures to be the Orioles primary second baseman in the early going of the season but could also see regular starts at third base while Machado is out.

    Schoop, the Orioles top hitting prospect, has seen his stock rise dramatically this Spring after coming into camp as a longshot to make the team. With Manny on the DL and Alex Gonzalez traded, he may be in line to start at second or third base for the Orioles on opening day next Monday.

    Lombardozzi can do everything Weeks can do as a hitter and baserunner and is more versatile defensively. After serving the Nationals well in a UTL role the last two seasons, he seems like the favorite to assume the backup infielder role.

    Weeks can fly and has usefulness as a pinch runner but lacks Lombardozzi's defensive versatility. He also lacks punch at the plate, showing a disciplined approach, but not much else and has had a pedestrian showing this Spring. His chances of making the team have taken a hit with Schoop's strong showing and the Lombardozzi acquisition.


    J.J. Hardy (Spring Stats: 10-for-32, .313 AVG, 1 HR, 8 RBI, 3 BB, 4 K, .371 OBP, .469 SLG)

    Hardy is set to enter the last year of his Orioles contract with extension talks not coming to fruition this Spring. He's healthy and should perform at his usual level this upcoming season.


    David Lough (Spring Stats: 9-for-31, .290 AVG, 0 HR, 1 RBI, 1 BB, 5 K, 4 SB, .333 OBP, .452 SLG)

    Adam Jones (Spring Stats: 5-for-28, .179 AVG, 1 HR, 5 RBI, 4 BB, 3 K, .281 OBP, .321 SLG)

    Nick Markakis (Spring Stats: 13-for-36, .361 AVG, 1 HR, 5 RBI, 0 BB, 2 K, .378 OBP, .611 SLG)

    Lough has impressed this Spring, showing a plus glove in left and ability to utilize his speed on the basepaths. He looks like he can become a legitimate starting option for the Orioles in left field, although he may sit against tough lefthanders...After a sluggish start, Jonesy is beginning to heat up with the bat and looks ready to have another all-star caliber season for the O's in center field...Markakis is set to enter the final year of his contract. After posting career lows in AVG, OBP, and SLG last season, Nick put on 25 pounds this offseason and seems determined to have a big year. If the way he hit this Spring is an indicator, he likely will. Now, will he or David Lough be the Orioles primary leadoff hitter? Stay tuned.

    Designated Hitter

    Nelson Cruz (Spring Stats: 10-for-34, .294 AVG, 0 HR, 4 RBI, 5 BB, 6 K, .385 OBP, .471 SLG)

    Cruz figures to see the majority of DH at bats this season but may also see some time in left field. He's on a one year deal, has a great hitting track record at Camden Yards, and is motivated to re-establish his free agent value. I think he could have a big offensive year in this lineup.

    Final Two Bench Spots

    Delmon Young - OF/DH (Spring Stats: 11-for-38, .289 AVG, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 0 BB, 9 K, .289 OBP, .447 SLG)

    Steve Pearce - OF/1B (Spring Stats: 12-for-45, .267 AVG, 1 HR, 4 RBI, 2 BB, 10 K, .298 OBP, .422 SLG)

    Nolan Reimold - OF/DH (Spring Stats: 9-for-35, .257 AVG, 1 HR, 5 RBI, 7 BB, 9 K, .381 OBP, .343 SLG)

    Henry Urrutia - OF/DH (Spring Stats: 10-for-35, .286 AVG, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 1 BB, 6 K, .306 OBP, .486 SLG)

    Michael Almanzar - 3B/1B (Spring Stats: 7-for-35, .200 AVG, 1 HR, 9 RBI, 3 BB, 7 K, .275 OBP, .371 SLG)

    Still the most intriguing competition in camp. With Francisco Peguero injured, it figures to come down picking your favorite two of Reimold, Pearce, and Young. Not an easy decision for the O's to make or for me to predict.

    Young is in great shape and has ripped the ball over the last week. He figures to have the most hitting upside for the Orioles in a DH role versus lefties, but his outfield defense is suspect at best. He doesn't have a spot on the 40 man roster which could work against him if the O's don't want to cut Reimold or Pearce.

    Pearce is a solid professional hitter who can backup first base if needed as well as the corner outfield spots. He's a favorite of Buck (and mine; Gamecock bias) and might be better suited for a bench role than Young, if the O's don't want to lose him.

    Reimold is owed a little over 1 million this upcoming season and appears to be healthy after missing much of the last two seasons with two neck surgeries. He might be the toughest decision of the three. If the Orioles are sold that his upside of a capable starting outfielder remains, they'll likely keep him or look for a trade partner.

    Urrutia has minor league options so I assume he's a safe bet to start out the year at Norfolk. The Orioles like Almanzar's upside but he's not major league ready yet. Finding a way to keep the Rule V draftee on the roster all season is a stretch and it sounds like Duquette is in the process of offering him back to the Red Sox. No surprise there.

    Hitting the DL

    Manny Machado - 3B

    Francisco Peguero - OF (Spring Stats: 4-for-15, .267 AVG, 0 HR, 3 RBI, 0 BB, 2 K, .313 OBP, .400 SLG)

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