Its about that time. Time to get out your lucky cocktail glass and fill it once again with that great tasting orange kool aid. That’s because Charm City’s other birds have flocked down to the Sunshine State in preparation for the 2013 MLB season and I for one couldn’t be more excited.
Of course, last year’s ride on the orange kool aid train was something I’ll never forget. But as that legendary band Pearl Jam sang, “That’s in the rear view mirror” now. You can wipe clean those historic extra innings and one run game stats. Those were as impressive as Kate Upton’s upper torso, but like Ms. Upton’s busty’s they also don’t get to stay up forever.
This year’s version of Birdland is shaping up to be a little different than last year’s version. For starters, phonom Manny Machado will be manning (no pun) the hot corner for an entire season. Also, the Deputy (Chris Davis) takes over the full-time duties at first base due to the Sheriff’s (Mark Reynolds) departure to Cleveland. Add in a full season from OF Nate McClouth, who resurrected his career late last year, and you can see why many people outside the 410 area code are taking notice of Buck’s Club.
But for me, it’s pitching, pitching, and more pitching if you want to make another magical run. And this year’s Orioles staff might be it’s deepest since the salad days of the early 90’s. And that’s with no “bonafide ace” of the staff as Jason Hammel doesn’t exactly bring back memories of Jim Palmer for anyone. But his success before suffering that freak injury late in the season has him getting the pill April 2nd vs. David Price. Wei-Yin Chen seemed to lose some zip on his fastball late in the season last year, but with a full year of American Baseball under his black belt and some off-season work he should be the #2 starter.
To be as transparent as the Oscar Pistorious trail, I’ve been a full blown fanboy of Chris Tillman since the day he made his first start vs. the Oakland A’s at OPACY two years ago June. I understand @SimplyAJ10 was the diamond in the movie, “The Fleecing of Seattle Trade”, but don’t sleep on Tilly. Especially after his heater was clocked in the mid-90’s last year in several starts into the 7th inning of his starts. Now I’m not sure why Buck didn’t start him once in the playoffs, but in Buck I Trust.
After Tillman, I see Miguel Gonzalez and either Zach Britton or Steve Johnson rounding out the starting staff. Rule 5 invitee T.J. McFarland will get long look as well since he is out of minor league options. He also could move the bullpen, but with Brain Matuez and Troy Patton already holding down the lefty roles it could be tough.
And this is exactly what I’m talking about, depth. For the first time in my 12 years of covering the club, I don’t remember them having this much depth in the pitching department. And I haven’t even mentioned future ace of the staff Dylan Bundy and last year’s first round pick Kevin Gausman (who could be pitching at the Yards by June).
Of course, there will be injuries that we can’t predict as of now in doldrums of Febuaray. Projecting players performances this early on is second only to betting NBA games in predicting accuracy.
But what I can see is the imprint both Buck and “Dandy” Dan Duquette have done to reshape this entire organization from top to bottom. If you can play, no matter where, Double D or Buck will find you. If you can’t see Buck at the Yards, you could be sitting next to him in Bowie as he takes in minor league games on home off days. Don’t think he doesn’t.
Double D, on the other hand, is trolling the waiver wire like some nerd on Twitter trying to find the next Gonzo or McClouth to help the ballclub. These guys are baseball grinders who as hacky of a cliché as it is “eat, drink, and sleep baseball,” and I for one am ecstatic their leading my baseball organization for years to come.
So on the eve of the first Spring Training game vs. the Twins (who is the O’s home opener opponent April 5th), join me in raising your glass of Orangkoolaid and toasting another season of Orioles baseball and pray it’s half as tasty as 2012 was!