Ten Orioles thoughts with April in the books

May 01, 2013 | Luke Jones

6. The recently-demoted Jake Arrieta embarrassed himself via social media Tuesday night, only adding fuel to the doubts that he lacks the mental toughness to pitch in the big leagues. Arrieta exchanging barbs with fans on his official Twitter account isn’t that big of a deal in the grand scheme of things, but any professional athlete expecting to win an argument with knuckleheads on social media will only end up looking foolish when it’s over. No one should excuse fans attacking a guy who innocently offered a tweet about watching the CrossFit Games — during the first inning of the Orioles’ Tuesday game in Seattle — but Arrieta would have been wise to treat the hecklers like he would in any opposing stadium by simply ignoring them. It’s a major stretch to provide a connection of any real substance between his Twitter activity and poor performance on the mound, but you do wonder whether Tuesday night was a simple snapshot into his fragile psyche, which has been plagued with anxiety and confidence issues that contributed to his early-season struggles.

7. The Orioles’ production at second base has been abysmal and no help appears to be imminent. The position has been a major problem from the moment veteran Brian Roberts tore a tendon behind his knee in the third game of the season. Ryan Flaherty is just 7-for-56 on the season while utility infielder Alexi Casilla hasn’t been great either at 7-for-32. Roberts has just begun light baseball-related activities in Sarasota and isn’t running at full speed yet, so it’d be difficult to project him to return much sooner than the end of the month at this point, meaning the Orioles will need to suffer through the combination of Flaherty and Casilla a little longer. You can understand why Showalter has tried to give the 26-year-old Flaherty opportunities to get on track after showing promise late last season, but you do wonder whether he’d benefit from a mental respite after such struggles to begin the season. To those clamoring for infield prospect Jonathan Schoop, the 21-year-old is hitting just .222 with one home run and 10 RBIs for Triple-A Norfolk, making it clear he’s not ready for a promotion just yet.

8. Adam Jones collected at least one hit in 23 of 27 April games but walked just three times in 117 plate appearances. The 27-year-old center fielder is hitting .327 and carries a .350 on-base percentage despite his free-swinging ways, which can be overlooked when he’s hot but are magnified when Jones struggles. Unsurprisingly, Jones sees fewer pitches than any hitter on the team at just 3.59 per plate appearance. Even with his flawed approach at the plate, Jones’ hot start is good news for the Orioles after his disappointing postseason and as he plays the first season of a six-year, $85.5 million contract. Surprisingly, Jones’ defense has created the most concern as his struggles tracking balls directly over his head have cost the Orioles on a few occasions. The defensive hiccups were magnified because they came in such a short period of time, but it hasn’t changed my assessment of Jones’ defense. Overall, he is a good defensive player but often drifts toward balls, which usually isn’t an issue with plays to his left or right but occasionally creates trouble for him with balls hit right over his head. His defensive style has way more to do with the lapses than his propensity for blowing bubbles, which doesn’t create a good perception but has little to do with his ability in center field.

9. If the Orioles are doubting whether they can continue the T.J. McFarland Rule 5 experiment, they’d be wise to consider him as their fifth starter before potentially parting ways. Showalter has hesitated to use a three-man bench with the Orioles currently winding down a 20-game stretch without a scheduled day off, leading many to believe the Orioles cannot continue to carry the 23-year-old lefty at the expense of the rest of the bullpen. Even if the Orioles make the decision that they can’t keep McFarland, they’d be wise to at least try him as their fifth starter before offering him back to Cleveland. His fastball doesn’t impress you at 87 miles per hour, but the sinking action he gets is rare for a southpaw and a nice fit for homer-friendly Camden Yards. In 11 1/3 innings pitched in five appearances this season, McFarland has posted a 2.38 ERA and opposing hitters hold just a 69-percent contact rate, which is tied with reliever Darren O’Day for best on the club. It’s difficult to expect a contending club to essentially carry 24 players on the roster and to waste a coveted bullpen spot, but the unrest with the fifth starter job makes it a no-brainer to at least offer McFarland a chance in the rotation before making any potential decision to let him go.

10. Hall of Fame second baseman Roberto Alomar may have only played three seasons in Baltimore, but the standard laid out for the Orioles Hall of Fame makes him an appropriate choice for induction. Wednesday’s announcement sparked discussion over whether Alomar is worthy of the honor, with some pointing to the spitting incident in 1996 and others simply objecting to his short body of work in Baltimore. However, the club has never held an incredibly high standard for the privilege, which has been magnified in recent years with players like Mike Bordick and Rich Dauer being inducted. A closer look shows that outfielder Gene Woodling was elected in 1992 despite only four solid seasons in Baltimore. Perhaps the best comparison to Alomar would be 1982 inductee Luis Aparicio, who only spent five seasons in Baltimore and went into Cooperstown as a member of the Chicago White Sox. It’s no secret that the Orioles haven’t produced a plethora of great memories and players since their last World Series title in 1983, which leads you to conclude that they’ve had to stretch to find candidates for the Orioles Hall of Fame. However, Alomar was a major part of two of the club’s most successful seasons of the last 30 years and recent inductees such as Bordick and Dauer as well as past selections like Woodling and Aparicio really make his induction pretty easy to support — even if he didn’t feel like a real Oriole to many fans because of his brief tenure in Baltimore.