By the end of the week, we could have Brian Roberts, Mike Gonzalez, and Kevin Millwood back in Orioles uniforms, all healthy for the first time this season. Whether Millwood’s difficulties were more due to exhaustion and overuse early in the season is up for debate, but either way, the O’s could be looking at a team that is starting to resemble the club that fans hoped would win games back in March. Luke Scott has already returned, though he hadn’t been gone for nearly the stretch that Roberts or Gonzalez had. Pie has been back in the lineup and has taken on the leadoff spot he occupied oh-so-briefly early in the season after Roberts first went down. Hey, with all of these players coming back, maybe they can take Dave Trembley off the DL to manage. Just kidding.
I won’t pretend that this will turn Baltimore’s season around, but it will be good to have a genuine leadoff man in the lineup who understands how to work a count- the major element that has been missing from the Orioles lineup with the notable and vocal exception of Nick Markakis. Having him in the lineup could stabilize the team and provide an example for the younger players to follow. Or not. Even if the likes of Adam Jones, Matt Wieters (when he returns) and Felix Pie don’t follow his example, Roberts’ presence at the top of the order will set the team up for a great number of opportunities. Not that getting opportunities has always been the problem this season. The Orioles are riding the Mendoza Line with runners in scoring position this season, but any added bump could do wonders for them.
I don’t know how I feel about Chris Tillman being sent down to Norfolk for what will invariably be another 2 or 3 starts before he is yanked back up again. That is just abuse to the pitching staff and is hindering his development more than anything else. When a pitcher knows that one bad outing will send him down, he doesn’t have the confidence and poise to trust his stuff. That said, I am glad that it will allow Kevin Millwood to come back cleanly into the rotation. Early in the season Millwood was the only bright spot on this team, despite the team failing to give him any meaningful run support. If he can com e back healthy and work that 5.77 ERA down to where it was at the beginning of the season, the Law of Averages says that the Orioles should help him out. I am not saying they will, but the veteran presence certainly can’t hurt.
And then there’s Mike Gonzalez, a player who I don’t think we have seen play yet this season. I understand that he blew 2 out of 3 save opportunities to start the season before heading to the DL, but he hid his injuries from the club and fans never actually got a chance to see a healthy Mike Gonzalez pitch. There is a chance that he could still be a very good reliever and possible closer material when healthy- we know nothing more about him than we did in February except that he is an idiot when it comes to disclosing when he doesn’t have his stuff. Fans I think resent the fact that he told everyone that he would “turn it on” once the regular season started and proceeded to completely fail when the lights came on. That kind of dishonesty is not going to endear any player to fans, especially one who hasn’t shown anything yet to those fans.
So by the end of this week the Orioles will finally start to look like they were supposed to back in March, only this time healthier than ever. With the dead weight of Garrett Atkins out of the picture, the team will have to see whether that preseason vision of a decent ballclub will come together as the last few months tick away on a so-far disastrous 2010 season.
UPDATE: The Orioles have recalled LHP Troy Patton from Triple-A Norfolk. Josh Bell has been optioned and Mike Gonzalez has been reinstated from the DL.