Pitchers and catchers report on Thursday. Awesome. Isn’t it?
The Baltimore Orioles won the American League’s Eastern Division Championship in 2014 by 12 games in what was their finest season in 17 years. They were able to advance to the ALCS before being swept by the Kansas City Royals in four games.
The Birds have had three-straight winning seasons and have made the playoffs in two of the last three campaigns. Not too shabby, I would say.
In 2015, the Orioles will seek to put together their fourth-straight above .500 season. That is something that hasn’t been accomplished by the Baltimore organization in 30 years.
From 1968 to 1985, the Orioles were all about winning baseball. Starting in 1986, however, things began to go south as the Birds suffered through 20 losing seasons over the next 26 years until 2012.
Even though OF Nick Markakis, OF/DH Nelson Cruz and RP Andrew Miller have moved on, winning again in 2015 is an absolute reality for the Orioles.
3B Manny Machado and C Matt Wieters return from injuries and 1B Chris Davis will return from a suspension that cost him the final weeks of the regular season and all of the playoffs.
That being said, a big reason why the Orioles will be contenders again is the starting rotation.
The Baltimore starting staff posted a 3.61 ERA in 2014 which was good for fifth-best in the AL. Their ERA after the All-Star break was a strong 2.94 as they rolled to the AL East crown.
All of the starters are back for 2015.
Wei-Yin Chen (16-6, 3.54 ERA), Chris Tillman (13-6, 3.34 ERA), Bud Norris (15-8, 3.65 ERA), Miguel Gonzalez (10-9, 3.23 ERA) and Kevin Gausman (7-7, 3.57 ERA) will all look to duplicate if not exceed what they did on 2014.
RHP Ubaldo Jimenez (6-9, 4.81 ERA) was terrible last season and will have to impress during spring training to get himself back in the rotation.
We know the Orioles will hit home runs and they will be stout defensively and in the bullpen.
But the key to another winning season and a return trip to the postseason will be the performance of the starting staff.
Let the fun begin.