Spring Training for the 2013 season is in full swing with all players having been in camp for at least a few days now and the Baltimore Orioles are seeing some good things, great things, and even hearing some bad things.
Let's examine some news and notes out of the Orioles Spring Training thus far and even an amazing line set early for Baltimore's win total this season.
First, and although I will not take credit for being one of the first to predict (almost a month ago) that Zach Britton would emerge with the fifth spot in the starting rotation, but after almost a week into Spring Training, he has looked very very good. Last season, Britton was battling a shoulder injury that really kept him from doing any offseason workouts, and greatly limited him in Spring Training to the point that when he finally joined Baltimore in the middle of the season, he was still in "Spring Training mode" and never really got his arm strength to where he wanted it to be. Thus far, Britton has been extremely impressive at camp during his two bullpen sessions. The biggest improvement from what we saw out of Britton last season? His command! Zach has gotten the zip back on his fastball, but more importantly is keeping the ball down in the zone and is hitting the catcher's mitt more often than not thus far. If Britton can return to his 2011 form, Baltimore could be set up to have a very nice starting rotation.
A lot of talk has occurred this offseason on whether or not Nick Markakis should be the leadoff man after his very successful campaign there last season, but lost in the shuffle is whether or not JJ Hardy should remain in the two-hole. Orioles manager Buck Showalter has stated a couple of times that he wants to move Hardy down in the order, and not because he struggled offensively last season, but because he believes that Hardy would succeed more down in the order to be able to do what he does best, hit the ball for power and drive in runs, but the question will be if someone else shows that they can handle that two-hole responsibility as you need a hitter who can hit to all fields, lay a bunt down when needed, and preferably have the speed to beat out a tough double play ball.
As perfect as segways go, a great candidate for that spot, if healthy would be Brian Roberts, who will be one of the most watched Orioles in camp this Spring. Roberts will be heavily analyzed for a number of reasons, the first of which is the most obvious and that is if he can stay healthy or not. If he can show that he is finally healthy, the focus will then turn to his offensive and defensive ability and if it is better than that of Alexi Casilla and Ryan Flaherty. Roberts, if he can simply produce at 80-85% of his career averages, will be a huge addition the Orioles line-up and a perfect guy to anchor that second spot in the order and allow Hardy to move down in the order.
Lastly, as I promised, an unbelievable line has been set out of the gambling world in regards to the over-under on wins for the Orioles this season. Casinos and sports betting books have set the Orioles over-under win total odds at 76.5, good enough for last in the AL East. Although not a single player or coach in the organization would tell you that they give a lick about what anyone other than the team thinks about them, I can't believe how low the number is. Everyone doubted this team last year, and it already appears that everyone is doubting them again, which can bode very well for a team that seemed to love proving people wrong and shutting them up. In case you were wondering, both the New York Yankees and Toronto Blue Jays are set at 86.5 wins, the Tampa Bay Rays are 86 and the Boston Red Sox at 79.5.
Other than the knee of Jair Jurrjens, all news that has come out of Orioles Spring Training thus far has been good news or at least promising news. Hopefully all will remain that way.
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