We start a 3 game series with the Orioles tonight. We complain when MLB schedules us to play on the road on Canada Day, but here, on an American holiday, the Orioles miss out on the attendance bump they'd get from playing on a holiday Monday.
The Orioles at tied for the lead in the AL East with the Rays. It's hard not to feel jealous, it was supposed to be us. Everyone was picking us to make a move in the division and no one figured the Orioles improved at all. But, it is nice to look at the top of the standings and not see the Yankees and Red Sox, so I won't feel too bitter.
Anyway, I sent some questions off to Stacey at Camden Chat and she was nice enough to send some answers back.
Have Oriole fans become believers? What do you think, are they a playoff team?
I'm sure that there are some Orioles fans who are believers, but most of us are skeptical. Trying to enjoy the winning while it lasts, but not getting our hopes up. It varies by fan, of course, but a lot of us are afraid that the second we do start believing, the Orioles will punish us. It's happened before. I do think that there are a lot more positives about this team than most people believed going in, and that in itself is really nice.
What do you think about Adam Jones contract?
I love it. While Jones is probably not going to keep up the pace he's on so far this season, but he's a very good center fielder. There had been rumors that Jones didn't want to talk about an extension, rumors that it would take north of $100M to keep him here. So to get Jones locked up through 2018 and most of his prime years at $85M makes me very happy.
Who is your closer these days and how is he doing? I don't suppose you would consider using Kevin Gregg in the role for the next three games?
Jim Johnson is the Orioles closer this year, and he's awesome. He is 16 for 16 in save opportunities this year with a WHIP and ERA both under 1.00. He didn't get used much in the Kansas City, so he's well rested for you guys. I don't think Kevin Gregg will take his place over the next three days, but if you love him so much we could arrange to leave him behind in Toronto after the Orioles leave.
Can we have a quick scouting report on the starting pitchers we are likely to see?
Tommy Hunter -- There is a mantra over at Camden Chat. "Tommy Hunter sucks." When he's on the mound we mostly just hope that he'll keep the Orioles in the game and that the bats will show up. Hunter doesn't strike out very many or walk very many, but he gives up home runs. A lot of home runs.
Jake Arrieta -- When the season first started, Arrieta pitched well and some on CC were declaring him an "ace" as I rolled my eyes. Unlike Hunter, though, Arrieta is very capable of shutting down a team. In the month of May he shut down the Yankees with 8 shutout innings and 9 strikeouts, but he also lasted just 3 2/3 against the Rays. He has the talent to be very good, but he can't always keep it together.
Jason Hammel -- Hammel has been the Orioles best starting pitching this season. About three weeks ago Hammel was skipped in the rotation due to an inflammation in his knee, and upon his return he made two starts that began well but he couldn't last deep into the game and he fell apart. But in his last start he pitched six shutout innings with seven strikeouts, and he said that his knee felt a lot better than in previous starts, so hopefully he's back on track.
Who has been the the biggest surprise of the young season? Biggest disappointment?
It's hard to pick one biggest surprise, given that a team I expected to be floundering in the basement of the A.L. East is in first place on May 28th. But I'll go with Jason Hammel. When Jeremy Guthrie was traded for Hammel I wasn't expecting much. He'd had a few good years but was in the bullpen in Colorado. At best he seemed like he'd replace Guthrie, performance wise, only that we'd get one more year before he was a free agent. But he has been so much better than that. Those people that know these sorts of things say that it's not a mirage; his increased used of a sinking two-seam fastball appears to be the key to his success.
Biggest disappointment? It's totally foreign to me to have to reach for a disappointment. Usually the whole team is a disappointment. I was pretty excited about Jake Arrieta going into the season and his first few starts seemed to reinforce that. But he's been so up and down since then that it's been a letdown. Mark Reynolds (currently on the DL) has also been disappointing. Everyone knows he's no defensive marvel, but we at least thought we'd see a bunch of home runs. We have not.
Anything else we should know about the Orioles?
They're coming off of back-to-back losing series for the first time this season, so this set against the Blue Jays will be a test to see how they'll respond. When they're on, this team finds a way to win even when those of us watching are ready for a loss. Matt Wieters has really been slumping at the plate, so if the Blue Jays can keep him down they'll be in good shape. I believe he'll be fine, so when he gets out of his funk it's going to be really, really bad for other teams.
Oh, and if the last series against the Blue Jays is any indication, calling them the OrioLOLs seems to piss them off, so you might want to pass on to your constituents that it's a bad idea.
Thanks for this Stacey.