With spring training finally here, you might find yourself looking out onto the field and say to yourself, “Who the heck is this guy?” Well, wonder no more, as I will break down some of the new faces in the Baltimore Orioles’ training camp.
Luis Ayala – RP – The Orioles signed Ayala to a free agent deal on February 13, and it will be interesting to see how he does out of the bullpen. Ayala spent his 2011 with the New York Yankees and posted a career best 2.09 ERA. One scary note would be his 20 walks—compared to only 39 strikeouts in 56 innings. If he can get that control in order, he should be a nice addition to the bullpen, but I would look for his ERA to be closer to 3.00 than the 2.09 he put up last year.
Nick Johnson–1B–Johnson was signed to a minor league deal on February 9, and could get some playing time at first this year. Coming up with the Yankees, Johnson had high hopes, but injuries have plagued him his whole career. Johnson didn’t play in the majors in 2011, so it will be interesting to see what the 34-year-old can bring to the diamond in 2012. Johnson was always an ‘On Base’ kind of guy, posting an OBP over .400 six times in his career. The closest thing he cane to a full season of play was back in 2006 with Washington where he played in 147 games, hit .290 with 23 home runs and 77 runs batted in. He also laced 46 doubles and walked 110 times, giving him an OBP of .428.
Baltimore can sure use guys getting on base, and when healthy, Nick does just that.
Jason Hammel – SP – Brought over in the trade that sent starter Jeremy Guthrie to Colorado, Hammel looks to throw his name in the rotation mix. During his three years in Colorado, Hammel went 27-30. His best year was 2009 when he went 10-8 with a 4.33 ERA.
Matt Lindstrom–RP–Also part of the Guthrie deal, Lindstrom had one of his best seasons in 2011. His ERA of 3.00 and WHIP of 1.22 were career bests even though he wasn’t the main closer with the Rockies. With Jim Johnson and Kevin Gregg already fighting for that spot, Lindstrom might not need to worry about closing games out, and if he can do what he did last year, that’s quite all right.
Wilson Betemit – Utilityman – Betemit pretty much plays every position under the sun. Mostly a corner infielder, he can also play the corner outfield spots. Betemit will mostly play in a support role, giving Mark Reynolds and Chris Davis some time off. Betemit played pretty well in 2011 as he split time with the Kansas City Royals and Detroit Tigers as he hit .285 in 323 at bats. One scary thing about Betemit however is his penchant for striking out, something he did 105 times in those 323 at bats.
Darren O’Day – RP – I liked this deal as soon as it happened. O’Day didn’t have the best 2011, but he fought through injuries all season which saw him throw only 16.2 innings. If you check out his 2010 numbers, he threw 62 innings and posted an ERA of 2.03. The year before saw O’Day threw 55.2 innings for a ridiculous 1.94 ERA.
Wei-Yin Chen – SP – I can’t say I’ve seen Chen pitch before, but all reports point to this 26 year old being special. In four seasons in the Japan Central League, Chen posted a 36-30 record with an ERA of 2.48. I know Major League Baseball is much different, but he should be fun to watch this year.
Endy Chavez – OF – Chavez is another great utility guy to have on the team that can give some time off for Nolan Reimold and Nick Markakis. A career .274 hitter, Chavez hit .301 last year while with the Texas Rangers over the course of 256 at bats.
Dana Eveland – P – After struggling mightily in 2009 and 2010, Eveland pitched well for the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2011, posting a 3-2 record in five starts to go along with a solid 3.03 ERA. It’s always good having a lefty on the team. He could be an asset coming out of the bullpen.
Taylor Teagarden – C – I don’t think Matt Wieters has to worry about his job this year, but Teagarden will provide a decent bat when Wieters takes a day off. Teagarden has spent his four-year career with the Texas Rangers which has seen him hit .220 with 16 home runs in 350 career at bats.
Tsuyoshi Wada – SP -The Japanese-born Wada will give Baltimore another left handed starter to throw into the rotation. Wada, 31, has pitched in the spotlight before, playing in the 2004 and 2008 Olympics as well as the 2006 World Baseball Classic for Japan. He won’t blow the ball by hitters, but his delivery should throw some hitters off.
by Andy Mindzak