Summer’s here! Actually, not yet but here’s a sure sign we’re moving in the right direction. The Orioles open the Grapefruit League season Saturday when the host the Twins. It’s not much different than the NFL pre-season, the goals in order; stay healthy, get your work in and if it’s not too much trouble win the game and to repeat one more time STAY HEALTHY!
Unlike the NFL exhibition games (they demand we call them pre-season) baseball tickets are discounted. God Bless you Mr. Selig and MLB for being up-front and admitting that these are just practice games and the real thing is still to come. You wouldn’t expect to pay full price for a Big Mac if you only got the bun. Shame on the NFL for pedaling us those empty August buns all these years. So as Hope Springs Eternal for the O’s and 29 other teams (can I really include the Astros with a straight face?) here’s my list of 5 Orioles I’ll be keeping a close eye on for the next 5-6 weeks.
They may not be the 5 most important Orioles but for various reasons here are they guys I want to know more about this Spring.
Brian Roberts— As Herm Edwards would say…HELLO!!! I guess B-Rob makes everybody’s what if list. I’ve said you can’t expect much from a guy who’s had little impact the past 3 seasons and is 35. Any production from the former all-star is gravy. There will never be another 50 doubles/40 stolen bases season, but just what if he stays healthy hits .270-.280 and hits 25-30 doubles and plays a steady 2nd base? Not expecting it but pulling for this guy.
Jonathan Schoop (pronounced like Scope)– He won’t be in Baltimore for Opening day and he’ll miss camp time playing for the Netherlands in the WBC but he could be with the big Birds in the not too distant future. The Orioles are hoping he can be a solid infielder with some pop in his bat. Does he get to Baltimore this year or next? I’m anxious to see more.
T.J. McFarland— This guy is the Rule 5 pitcher the Orioles picked up from Cleveland. A year ago the Orioles selected Ryan Flaherty in the Rule 5 draft and he was a contributor with a HR in the post season. McFarland will have to stay on the 25 man roster all year or be offered back to the Indians for a mere $25,000. The lefty sinkerballer profiles more as a starter, 48-31 in the minors, but the Orioles will see how he may adapt to a relief role this Spring.
Nolan Reimold— Like Roberts, this Orioles outfielder is a large question mark due to his multiple injuries. Unlike Roberts, Reimold is only 29. He plays hard and has power from the right side of the plate. If he’s healthy he’ll get time in left field and perhaps add at bats at DH.
Bundy & Gausman— A 2-fer here. All the projections say this 1-2 punch has a chance to be top-notch at the top of the Orioles rotation, something we haven’t seen in Baltimore for a long time. Like Matt Wieters and Manny Machado they carry that frightening “can’t miss label.” Dylan Bundy is listed as the number 2 prospect in MLB, the 20 year-old dominated A-ball last year but found AA more challenging. Kevin “Dunkin” Gausman came out of LSU last year and was considered the top college pitcher in the June draft. Scouts say he’s baseball wise beyond his 22 years. These 2 right-handers have a chance to be special, not sure what their ETA is but can’t wait to see them this Spring.