Every year around this time Orioles fans dare to dream. No, not the impossible dream. Even the most ardent O’s fans don’t allow themselves to conjure up images of Camden Yards in October. But we can allow ourselves to dream of the first 81+ win season with the club playing .500 ball.
But the team won’t make it to .500 in the big bad AL East by standing pat. That much was obvious when the Red Sox made the O’s look like a Little League squad in Fenway. To keep things interesting, The Birds will have to get creative with the roster. Here are a few suggestions that might help the O’s stay afloat in 2009 as they await the arrival of the big three pitching prospects.
1. Make Bergesen the 3rd starter
Let’s start with the obvious. Alfredo Simon may never pitch again, according to last week’s rumblings. And even if he did, there’s a reason when the club found him he was wasting away in the Mexican League. Bergy put together a great season in the minors last year. One good start does not make him a lock, but Bergesen was getting guys out by painting the black, throwing an array of pitches, and working at his own (fast) pace. It wasn’t smoke and mirrors. Let him keep doing his thing and adjusting as clubs get better reports on him.
2. Cut Ryan Freel and keep Lou Montanez
Ryan Freel lost his place with the team when they trade for Felix Pie and Ty Wigginton. Now, Freel is pretty much a 3rd option at any place in the field. He’s struggling at the plate, where his bat speed seems to have disappeared. Freel complained to the team about his playing time and questioned being placed on the DL. He won’t get any better with 6 at-bats a week and even if he did, there’s no reason to keep a 33-year old utility guy on this team. Cut him, and let him try to get his swing back with another team’s minor league affiliate. Let Lou start a few games a week.
3. Page Rich Hill
Hello, Rich? When are you going to be ready to play? Hill had a rough 2008, but he still has more upside than Adam Eaton. Eaton hasn’t put together a season with an ERA under 5.00 since 2005. His velocity and movement don’t exist. He’s a major league hitter’s dream. Don’t rush Hill, whose struggles last year had a lot to do with injury. But as soon as he’s ready, cut Eaton and throw Hill out there.
4. Get Matt Wieters to Camden Yards; Introduce Chad Moeller to Norfolk
As soon as Wieters is healthy, it’s time to bring him to Camden Yards. The club has already held him down long enough to get the extra year of salary arbitration they wanted. With Ty Wigginton struggling in the number 5 spot, it’s time to bring up Wieters get his bat in the lineup. He shouldn’t have trouble adjusting, and he’ll have a good amount of protection in the middle of the order. Tell Chad Moeller thanks for keeping the seat warm. We’ll call you if we need anything.
5. Leave Felix Pie in the lineup until June 15th; keep Nolan Reimold on speed dial; look for suitors for Scott
I know a lot of people don’t like Pie, but I can’t believe how fast he is. When I saw him play in person his speed really struck me. See if he can work on his defense and his plate discipline. If he drops into the low .200s or worse by mid-June, bring on heavy-hitting Nolan Reimold. If he doesn’t, try to find a way to trade Luke Scott and bring up heavy-hitting Nolan Reimold.
6. Tell Troy Patton he’s on deck; Get Hendrickson comfortable in the pen; Make a pink slip for a struggling reliever
After Rich Hill, Troy Patton is the next MiLB pitcher in line for a shot in the bigs. Bring him up as soon as Bergy, Hill, or Hendrickson show signs of trouble. Save Chris Waters for the inevitable emergency situation. He has the lowest ceiling of the O’s starting options. Keep an eye on the other pitching prospects and bring up the kids as soon as they are ready. Don’t get sentimental about Dennis Sarfate, Brian Bass, or Matt Albers. If any one of them becomes a liability, cut ties. Put Albers on the DL long-term if he struggles. Be ready to move Hendrickson to the pen as the long reliever.
These moves won’t guarantee a .500 season, but they give the team a chance by allowing the young, hungry players a chance to prove themselves. A lot of things would still have to go right in order for The Birds to earn 74 or more wins in addition to the 7 they currently have. A .500 season may not mean much more than a 72-80 win season in a division where the winner may win 100, but it would show fans and potential free agents that the club is ready to step it up.
In the meantime, give credit to the front office for bringing up Montanez and Bergesen. Let’s keep both on the big league squad and see what they and the other young guys can do.
Dear reader, do you agree with these moves? Disagree? Are there any other maneuvers you’d like to see? No, not signing Pedro. That’s not going to happen. Anything more realistic? Feel free to chime in.