Welcome, Birdland! Every week, in this space, I will be going through a number of topics in the world of Orioles baseball. But hey – a baseball season can be an emotional roller coaster. I want to be sure that I don’t ride the highs or the lows too hard, and as such, I’m going to stick to two positive notes (Two On) and two negative notes (Two Out) as a way to balance whatever I’m feeling at the moment. Let’s not pretend that I won’t break the rules from time to time.
This works best when the conversation runs two ways – I’m going to want to hear your thoughts, too. Be sure to leave comments below as to what your Two On, Two Out are each week, or why exactly (and there are many ways to articulate it) I’m an idiot for what I have selected. Also, feel free to tweet BSR @BalSportsReport with #2On2Out.
I don’t know about you, but when I watched Dylan Bundy jog out to the mound in Boston for his Major League debut, this is exactly what I hoped his future would be: a guy to take the ball on Opening Day and have his way with the other team.
And did he ever. It’s just one start, but it’s all we have to work with. What I took away from Bundy’s performance on Thursday was the depth and efficiency of his start. Sure, it was great that he struck out seven against a single walk, and sure the fact that it was a scoreless outing was important. But Bundy went seven innings on 88 pitches (64 for strikes).
As frightening as this may be, the Orioles will only go as far as their rotation will carry them this season. Being able to depend on Bundy for innings and results will be a huge shot in the arm to a team who was let down by its pitching staff in 2017.
They key to Bundy’s success was his slider. On Opening Day, it was a swing-and-miss pitch. Caleb Joseph did point out in his post game interview that the shadows at Camden Yards were a clear benefit to Bundy (refreshing honesty, when we’re used to nothing but Bull Durham quotes), but the slider was a good sign. Since his return from Tommy John surgery, Bundy can no longer rely on an electric fastball. Now, he is a pitcher who can only be on top of his game when he’s spotting his (less exciting) fastball, and working in the off-speed pitches. This is what Orioles fans were treated to in Game One. It was certainly enough to make me look forward to his next start.
Hope Finally Springs Eternal
I’ll admit it – I was pretty negative about the off season. After the Andrew Cashner signing, I was pretty sure that the O’s were done – patting themselves on the back for an off season well done, and looking ahead to a season that was sure to disappoint. Watching Lance Lynn sign elsewhere on a one-year, $12MM deal did nothing to dispel those feelings.
I was wrong, and the crow is delicious.
Alex Cobb was probably as best O’s fans could have hoped for this off-season, and the Orioles went and got him. Finally, we had something to be excited about – finally, we could reasonably hope this team might compete.
And what better way to enter Opening Day than to root for a team where – if enough things go their way – could be playing meaningful games in September? Excitement built from the end of Spring Training, directly into Opening Day. A lot is going to have to go right for the Orioles to return to the playoffs in 2018. But it’s nice to feel a little less silly when we ask “why not?”
OK, I’ll be that guy: I’ll trash Brad Brach for tossing one “bad” inning, after only one game has been played. Brad Brach deserved better than what he got on Opening Day. Chris Davis let him down in the field, and the damage was done on a bloop single.
That aside, Brach has never satisfied me as a replacement for Zach Britton. Admittedly, you don’t just replace Britton without some drop off, and it’s possible that O’s fans have become spoiled in this area. If Brach cannot get himself together in the ninth inning, I would rather Buck use him in other high-leverage situations, in which he has excelled in the past. The luxuries of Darren O’Day and Mychal Givens in the same bullpen mean that the Orioles don’t have to depend on Brach to close games.
I’m not sure how long a leash Brach has as the short-term closer, but I wanted it to be short before the rough ninth inning on Opening Day.
The Supporting Cast
I was recently a guest on the Locked On Orioles podcast, and noting bottom of Thursday’s lineup, said “the Orioles are depending on guys like Colby Rasmus, Pedro Alvarez, Craig Gentry, and Danny Valencia. What a time to be alive!”
Call me a glass-half-empty kind of guy (I’ve been called worse), but I worry that the supporting cast the Orioles have put together doesn’t leave much margin of error for the headliners. In a 162 game season, the likes of Manny Machado, Jonathan Schoop, and Adam Jones won’t always be able to save the day. Slumps happen.
I suppose it’s important to remind myself that the Orioles played guys like Lew Ford and Ryan Flaherty in the playoffs. Or that Gentry proved his utility in Thursday’s game by making two excellent catches.
Still, I hope Buck truly likes these guys, because I’m not sold on them.