Sarasota, FL The 2011 Baltimore Orioles were 6-1, first place in the AL East. They finished the season 69-93. Andy McPhail wasn't brought back as GM and in his stead Dan Duquette was hired to replace him. In addition Duquette brought in a young protege N51_Rob to be his assistant. The two look to bring the Orioles back from the depths of the super competitive AL East.
For Baltimore this spring will be all about figuring out which players fit in which place. Starting with the #1 Spot in the line up. With Brian Roberts likely out until at least June the O's will need a lead off man to set the table for a line-up that has considerable pop behind it. Nolan Riemold will be given every opportunity to win the job as not only the lead off man, but the everyday LF. Riemold brings more HR power to the lead off spot similar to Brady Anderson's 50 HR year. Riemold will need to be more consistent, at the plate and in the field. Should Riemold falter the O's would look to Endy Chavez.
The O's are also looking for a #4 hitter. They have several choices they are looking into. Adam Jones, Matt Wieters, and Mark Reynolds all with the potential to hit in the #4 spot. All three players will get a good long look this spring. Jones is the front runner, with Wieters the teams next logical choice. Reynolds hit 37 bombs last year, but his high strike-out numbers are alarming for a guy that could often come to the plate with runner on. Jones had a career year last year, and the O's are hoping that Jones can continue that, he was also prominent in trade talks, talks that could be restarted if the O's falter.
Baltimore, is also looking to replace Brian Roberts at second base. Robert Andino, who is a fan favorite with Tampa Bay fans for his game winning single last year to knock the Red Sox out of the play-offs. Andino is an improving player and the extended innings could do him and the Orioles good, as Brian Roberts isn't getting any younger and coming off a serious head injury. The O's will be looking at several players this spring to fill in as a utility man and possible replacement if Andino struggles early. Ryan Flaherty would seem to have the inside track on that.
The biggest hole is obviously the pitching staff. To remedy that Duquette brought in a pair of imports to go along with the youngster the O's hope can bounce back from disappointing seasons a year ago. Wei-Yin Chen adds another young left handed starter to go along with Zach Britton and Brian Matusz. Chin who won the Nippon League ERA title in 2009 with the Chunichi Dragons is a player the O's are excited about. There are several names fighting for 5 spots in the rotation. In addition to Chen, Britton and, Matusz there is Jason Hammel, Tommy Hunter, Brad Bergesen, Armando Galarraga and, Chris Tillman. The O's made the questionable decision to trade away inning eater Jeremy Guthrie for Hammel and RP Matt Lindstrom. The O's will need someone to step up and be "The Man" in the rotation. This will be the most interesting watch this spring.
The Bullpen will have no shortage of guys that can bring the heat. Lindstrom and Jim Johnson are consistently in the mid to high 90's and Kevin Gregg can light it up from time to time as can Pedro Strop. There is an opening for a left handed specialist, Dontrelle Willis, Dennys Reyes, Troy Patton and Tsuyoshi Wada are all lefties that will be given the chance to be that guy. The O's are also looking for a long man, and will probably select one of the starters who doesn't make the rotation. Johnson is the closer, but he understands that there are others who have eyes on his job.
The O's know they looking at an uphill battle to not only make it to the playoffs, but more importantly look to finish at or above .500. They team has been strong finishers under Buck Showalter, but what good is a strong finish if you are 20+ games out of 1st most of the season? The O's know that they need to be more consistent, everywhere in the field, on the mound at the plate. As they start the 2012 season this spring that will be what players and coaches look improve.
*I will probably be starting this tonight or tomorrow afternoon. So stay tuned! And, thanks for following!*
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