Hope springs eternal during training season

Written by on March 23, 2012 in Orioles - No comments

Spring training is fun. It’s one of the few times every fan can be optimistic about their team’s chances.

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For Baltimore fans, this is basically our October, but there is still reason to be optimistic this year, and it might come from unexpected places.

Not that long ago staff ace Jeremy Guthrie was traded to the Colorado Rockies for Jason Hammel and Matt Lindstrom. I wasn’t exactly thrilled with that deal, mostly because I thought they should have held out until the trade deadline,  ship Guthrie to a desperate team and get a huge return, and they got two pitchers from the Rockies whose stats don’t exactly jump out at you.

Nick Markakis is recovering strongly from abdominal surgery. Photo by Tom Scilipoti

Well, so far this spring not only has Hammel jumped out at me, he kicked my shins for doubting him. He has looked sharp in his 9.2 innings pitched. During his time on the mound, he has struck out eight and walked only three. Not too shabby. His ERA is 1.86 and hitters are batting only .219 against him. I take it all back, Hammel!

Another pitcher who has quietly been making his return is Brian Matusz. He was knocked around a little during his initial start against the Pittsburgh Pirates, but has settled down nicely. In his 10 innings of work, Matusz has struck out 13 and walked none. That’s fantastic news!

His Spring ERA is an impressive 2.70 and seems to have his velocity back. Did I mention he hasn’t walked anyone yet? What makes that stand out is he needs his control to get hitters out, and if he’s locked in like that, we will see the 2010 Matusz and not the 2011 version. I feel will be a big part of this team for years to come.

Endy Chavez. Write that name down, because you’ll be hearing it a lot this year. The utility outfielder is playing well enough to earn a starting spot at this point.

In all fairness, I still think Nolan Reimold should get his chance to start in left this year, but his spring numbers are not helping. Perhaps that can be chalked up to getting hit in the head by a pitch. Chavez, on the other hand, has been steady since joining the O’s, hitting .462 in 26 at bats. He has a good glove and will be a huge asset to this team.

A little bit of good news is that Nick Markakis actually looks ok. His health was a huge concern after an offseason stomach surgery that many (including myself) question just how soon he can effectively come back this year.

With all good news usually comes a bit of bad news. I have always been pulling for Brad Bergesen to get back in the starting rotation, but the way he has been pitching this spring, that looks unlikely. So far in nine innings of work, Bergy has given up five earned runs.

Not the way to make a good impression. Bergy is a nice kid and I’d like to see him do well, but he needs to find a way to step it up a notch.

One last note to help you leave with a smile on your face, so far this Spring, the O’s pitching staff has a combined ERA of 3.12. Yes, I know it’s Spring, but like I said, everyone is hopeful in March!

by Andy Mindzak
birds@baltimoreguide.com

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