Welcome to the first edition of Tidal Waves. Baseball season is here and I’ll be covering the Baltimore Orioles Triple-A affiliate, the Norfolk Tides. The Tides are what Orioles fans hope will be the eventual pipeline between the minors and “The Show” in Baltimore for highly-touted prospects.
Last season the Tides finished 4th in the South with a 56-87 record as they struggled through injuries and inconsistencies. Of course, AAA is also a place where pieces can be moved back and forth between Norfolk and Baltimore, so that added to the end result as well.
This season under manager Ron Johnson, the Tides will look to improve on last season’s mark, relying, at least initially, on pitchers that have options after the Orioles spent much of the winter adding depth to their pitching staff.
The Tides open their home portion of the 2012 schedule, April 9th against the Gwinnett Braves. Let’s first take a closer look at what the 2012 Norfolk Tides will look like.
Tides Roster Breakdown
John Hester – Opening Day Age: 28
Hester came from the Reno Aces in the Pacific Coast League last season after 10 games and was the Tides starter at catcher for most of the season. He’s depth for the Tides but not much more than that.
Chris Robinson – Opening Day Age: 27
Came from the Chicago Cubs organization as a career minor leaguer. Will provide depth and most likely split time at catcher with John Hester.
Joe Mahoney – Opening Day Age: 25
Mahoney has slowly made the climb through the minor league ranks and the 2010 winner of the Brooks Robinson award takes the next step forward to Triple-A. He’s a big guy with a lot of power who has a decent glove at first base. He’s even played the outfield before which is amazing for a guy his size. He’s a guy that will be interesting to watch this season for the Tides.
Ryan Adams – Opening Day Age: 24
Saw some time with the Orioles last season and held his own against major league pitching. But with Robert Andino the starter at 2nd base for the foreseeable future and Brian Roberts soon returning from a concussion, Adams will get to start every day at second for the Tides.
Matt Antonelli – Opening Day Age: 26
Spent the entire 2011 season with the Washington Nationals organization. Signed to a Major League deal this off-season and placed on the 40-man roster for the Orioles in 2012. A former first-round pick of the San Diego Padres, can play second and third base and has a career .373 OBP in six minor league seasons, something O’s GM Dan Duquette wants.
Zelous Wheeler – Opening Day Age: 25
The Orioles claimed Wheeler and his awesome name off the waiver wire from the Milwaukee Brewers at the end of March and added him to the 40-man. He’ll see time at third base but has played all over the infield. The reason Duquette brought him in: a .371 career OBP in his six minor league seasons.
Josh Bell – Opening Day Age: 25
Once the jewel of the George Sherrill trade to the Dodgers in 2009, Josh Bell has really fallen off the radar. Spent majority of the season with Norfolk last season and will do that again in 2012. Will see time at both third base and DH for the Tides.
Steve Tolleson – Opening Day Age: 28
Played for both the Athletics and Padres organizations before signing a minor league deal with the Orioles last November. Was battling with Matt Antonelli and Ryan Flaherty for the Orioles utility spot, but will instead play most of the infield positions for the Tides.
Xavier Avery – Opening Day Age: 22
Avery spent his second straight season with Bowie in 2011 and makes the jump to Norfolk this season. Has great speed and plays solid defense in centerfield. Strikes out a good amount for a guy who doesn’t have a lot of power, but on the bright side, had 31 doubles last season.
Scott Beerer – Opening Day Age: 29
Beerer is a former pitcher-turned-outfielder who was originally a second round pick of the Colorado Rockies. Beerer was the first signing by Orioles GM Dan Duquette and will get plenty of starts in the outfield for Norfolk. Has some pop in his bat after hitting a combined 16 homers last season.
Jamie Hoffmann – Opening Day Age: 27
The Orioles signed Hoffmann to a minor league deal after the Los Angeles Dodgers released him this spring. Hoffmann listed at 235 pounds, brings pop to his bat after his 2011 season with the Dodgers. Has four hits in 22 at-bats in parts of two seasons in the majors. Will most likely play LF for the Tides.
Jai Miller – Opening Day Age: 27
Miller brings a big-time bat and provides depth for the Tides. The O’s traded for Miller from the Athletics in the off-season for cash considerations and they’ll want to keep his bat in the organization. Got off to a hot start this spring, but cooled off considerably. He’ll have to learn how to consistently hit the breaking ball to see time with the O’s in 2012.
Chris Tillman – Opening Day Age: 23
Tillman has options remaining and the Orioles view him still as a starter after a strong camp. Instead of being a long reliever in Baltimore, he’ll start every 5th day in Norfolk. Some forget he’s only 23 years old. Tillman pitched 12 1/3 innings with an 2.92 ERA in five games (one start) for the Orioles this spring.
Brad Bergesen – Opening Day Age: 26
Bergy shuffled between Norfolk and Baltimore last season. While with the O’s came out of the pen while also starting 12 games. This season, they’ll stretch out Bergesen to be a starter in Norfolk. Could start for the O’s at some point this season if the pitching falters, but I see him more as a long man out of the pen. Note: Bergesen will be the Opening Night starter against Charlotte.
Armando Galarraga – Opening Day Age: 30
Another guy brought in by Orioles GM Dan Duquette to provide depth and competition in camp this spring, will most likely start every 5th day in Norfolk for the Tides.
Jason Berken – Opening Day Age: 28
Berken struggled last season with the O’s after a solid 2010 season out of the bullpen. He’s battled with a hamstring injury most of the spring that seems to be getting better. He’ll most likely pitch in the ‘pen for the Tides with all the starting depth there. Can still be a useful option if he can locate his slider well.
Steve Johnson – Opening Day Age: 24
Son of former Oriole Dave Johnson, split his time between Bowie and Norfolk as a starter last season and fared pretty well, striking out 122 batters. He’ll be in the starting rotation again this year for the Tides.
Brandon Erbe (DL) – Opening Day Age: 24
The Baltimore native and Orioles former third round pick in 2005 is slowly working his way back after tearing the labrum in his right shoulder in 2010. He wants to put the last two years behind him and get back to 2009 numbers (5-4, 2.70 ERA). Erbe could figure into the starting rotation plans for the Tides after getting some innings out of the bullpen.
Willie Eyre – Opening Day Age: 33
Pitched in only three games with Norfolk in 2011, but he finds himself being a piece in the Tides bullpen in 2012. He’s a good middle-inning guy for the Tides. Would see time in Baltimore if there’s an injury in the bullpen most likely.
Chris George – Opening Day Age: 32
George, the former first round pick of the Kansas City Royals, will most likely be one of the long men out of the Tides bullpen, but can also start, as he made 19 starts last season for Norfolk. Career minor leaguer who has some major league experience, but gives the Tides depth.
Jon Link – Opening Day Age: 28
Link comes from the Los Angeles Dodgers organization and is a former draft pick of the San Diego Padres. The O’s signed him to a minor league deal last November and figures to a piece in the Tides bullpen. Can also close for Norfolk as he saved 11 games for the Isotones last season.
Pat Neshek – Opening Day Age: 31
Originally signed by the Minnesota Twins, Neshek comes to the Tides from the Padres organization and is another guy brought in for depth by Dan Duquette. Did not allow a run in his spring training appearances and could definitely see some time with the Orioles this season.
Miguel Socolovich – Opening Day Age: 25
Spent last season in the White Sox organization. Has slowly worked his way up the ranks but will spend most if not all of the season with Norfolk.
Oscar Villarreal – Opening Day Age: 30
Villarreal spent time in the Dodgers organization in 2011 but also the Mexican League with Sultanes de Monterrey where he posted a 2.80 ERA in 43 games. Could be a middle-to-back end bullpen guy for the Tides.
Dontrelle Willis – Opening Day Age: 30
Willis will try to bounce back with his fourth team in four years. Signed a minor league deal with the O’s March 20th after being cut by the Philadelphia Phillies. Didn’t look good in his one spring outing, walking three batters in an inning. Provides depth at Norfolk, but may stay at AAA for most of the season.
Zach Phillips – Opening Day Age: 25
Phillips had perhaps the best spring of all the relievers, posting a 1.35 ERA in 13 1/3 innings. A surprise to some, Phillips did not make the Orioles 25-man to start the season because he has options. He will definitely see time in an Orioles uniform in 2012 as he can be a very useful lefty.
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