We start a 3 game series with the Orioles this afternoon (3:00 Eastern starting time) in beautiful Camden Park park, where you can get yourself a very tasty crab cake to enjoy while you watch the game. . As I'm sure you remember, the O's ran away with the AL East title last year, with a 96-66 record, finishing 12 games above the second place Yankees and 13 games ahead of the Blue Jays.
The Orioles went 2-1 against the Rays in Tampa, so they sit tied with the Jays and Red Sox after three games.
The O's had a pretty quiet off-season, losing Nelson Cruz and Nick Markakis and picking up former Jay Travis Snider. They also had JP Arencibia in camp but he was released.
We send some questions off to Mark Brown , manager of Camden Chat, SB Nation's Balitimore Orioles blog and he was nice enough to send us back some answers.
You have my favorite former Blue Jays prospect, Travis Snider. How did he look this sping and how has his season started. What is his role on the team going to be?
Snider did a good job making a first impression on Orioles fans with three RBI in the first three games. He also happened to walk three times, which the Orioles generally don't do. Small sample size, of course, but that couldn't have gone much better for him. The hope is that he'll be part of a platoon that can replace or exceed what the O's might have gotten from Nick Markakis, who left for the Braves in free agency. I figure he'll be playing right field except against lefties, and maybe against some of them, too.
What's the status on Matt Wieters? When is he due to be back? Who catches in his place and what do you expect from him?
No one really knows what Wieters' status is. Just within the last couple of days, he acknowledged that he'd probably be out until at least May 1. He'd spent some time playing at DH while working his way back from last year's Tommy John surgery. He was 0-for the spring in those games. Then after catching one game, where he never even had to throw someone out, he was back on the shelf and mum's been the word ever since. Even once his elbow heals, it's likely he will need some rehab action to get back up to game speed before he can be activated, especially when it comes to his timing at the plate.
For now, he's being replaced by the tandem of Caleb Joseph and Ryan Lavarnway. Joseph was a surprise find last year, a longtime minor leaguer who was seen as weak defensively, then when pressed into duty he was throwing runners out left and right and proving to be excellent at framing pitches as well. I think they'll be in good hands.
Can we have a quick scouting report on the starters we are likely to see from the Orioles?
The Orioles starting pitchers will be Bud Norris, Ubaldo Jimenez, and Chris Tillman. Norris had a good season last year under the watchful eye of pitching coach Dave Wallace, negating the significant platoon advantage that lefty batters had enjoyed against him. He never looked good in spring though, so I'm worried about him. Jimenez... God only knows. He walked the world last year and never had his mechanics under control. He had some good spring starts and some bad ones. I'll always be worried about him.
As for Tillman, he might not be a mythical "ace" pitcher. He is the deserving #1 in this rotation for sure. He sometimes succeeds in a way that leaves you scratching your head, with a fastball that's tough to pick up and a delivery that makes it very tough for there to be any kind of running game against him. He pitched 207.1 innings last year and there were only four attempted steals against him.Are Orioles fans confident that the team can repeat as AL East? It seems like every team in the division has question marks, who are you most worried about in the division?
After a great 2013, Chris Davis had a tough 2014. Without Nelson Cruz, the Orioles really could use him to find his power again. Which Davis do you expect to see this year? How was his spring?
Sometimes I feel like I'm the only person in the world who's not concerned about Davis bouncing back. Davis himself has said that his struggles last year were the result of an oblique injury, for which he went on the disabled list, that was not entirely healed even when he was back. He was fine enough in spring training, showing some of the opposite field power he lacked last year.
He went hitless in his first couple of games for the O's; maybe he's trying too hard to prove himself, or maybe he had more problems last year than just the oblique and they're not all fixed yet. I hope he can still manage a season like he did in 2012, where he hit "only" 33 home runs and slugged "only" .501.
Are Orioles fans confident that the team can repeat as AL East? It seems like every team in the division has question marks, who are you most worried about in the division?
I don't know that I'd say Orioles fans are confident of the team winning the division. It does look wide open though, and fans are definitely confident of exceeding the mediocre record predicted by places like PECOTA and Fangraphs. Perhaps I've bought too much into their media hype wagon, but I'm personally most worried about the Red Sox, who are like horror movie villains. You might kill them but they won't stay dead for long and they'll be back with an axe or a chainsaw and out for vengeance. They spent gobs of money, are about to unleash a wave of prospects who are supposedly very good, and as mentioned, they will rise from the dead.
Maybe their starting pitching will actually be terrible and we won't have to worry about them. I'm not holding my breath.
Thanks for this Mark.