It’s been a great week so far to be an Oriole fan, and by all accounts this is just the beginning. As sad and painful as it is to admit, it’s tough to remember a better week, both on and off the field, for Orioles baseball in at least the last 10 years. And still, as sad as that revelation truly is, even that isn’t enough to dampen the enthusiasm that I and most who have suffered with this team throughout the last decade plus, have gotten from them over the last week or so.
For those like myself, who have been lamenting in wait, for the young guns to arrive here at the big league level, I hope you didn’t blink. If the combination of horrible early season baseball, and an ultra-exciting NBA Playoffs momentarily distracted you from the train wreck that appeared to be developing at the yards this season, it’d be tough to blame you. But if it did, then allow me to cordially invite you back once again to the Orioles’ bandwagon, as it is certainly beginning to pick up some steam.
Obviously, the biggest news of the week will come to fruition on Friday, when Matt Wieters makes his much anticipated debut, in front of what should be the most enthusiastic Camden Yards crowd in recent memory. Perhaps lost, somewhat in the shadows though, is the fact that when David Hernandez makes his debut on Thursday, in place of the injured Koji Uehara, it will give the O’s a rotation with only Jeremy Guthrie remaining from opening day.
What’s more, is that the young pitchers, who seem to be coming up and holding their own at least, still aren’t among the top pitching prospects in the organization. Even with Bergeson, Berken, Hill and Hernandez on the current big league staff, it’s easy to believe that the best is yet to come, as the minor league system still boasts the likes of Brian Matusz, Jake Arrieta, Troy Patton and Chris Tillman among others.
On the field, Berken picked up his first big league win this week, and Nolan Reimold took a giant step toward cementing his place in left field for the long term, by adding walk off homerun to his growing list of credentials and accomplishments. The Orioles outlasted Roy Halladay, despite giving up 8 early runs, and managed a comeback for the ages. A comeback made even more improbable, when put in context with the O’s inability to win the final games of series’ and particularly their inability to complete sweeps over the last few seasons. And a comeback fitting with this week’s theme, as it was capped off by a rookie.
I must admit that the debut of AAA strikeout artist David Hernandez has me, maybe more intrigued than even Wieters’ eminent debut on Friday. Not having had the privilege of seeing Hernandez pitch yet, his stat line certainly has me taking notice, and it’s tough to remember an Oriole pitcher’s debut since Ben McDonald that I have been more anxious to watch. Since I’ll be on the air for the start of both Thursday and Friday’s games, I won’t be at either, but given the choice of tickets for Hernandez’ debut on Thursday or Wieters debut on Friday, it’d be a tough decision but I’d probably opt for Hernandez. If the seats were behind home plate, I’d go with Hernandez for sure.
For a team that that has gotten their fan base used to respectable starts to seasons, followed by miserable swoons and disappointing finishes, April was enough to have some fans bracing for the worst. Now, it appears that the O’s could be changing another trend, and actually picking up momentum as the season goes along. Whatever the outcome winds up being, they’ve at least gotten folks who were otherwise disinterested back into the mix. And as for those of us, like myself, who can’t seem to stop watching, no matter how painful it becomes, they’ve gotten us excited once again. Now it’s up to them to sustain that good will, and build on it.
Personnel wise, it’s tough to remember a more exciting couple of weeks, since the December 1995 spending spree that brought in Randy Myers, Roger McDowell, Roberto Alomar, BJ Surhoff and David Wells. In that case though, it was December, a full four months out from the start of the season. This time it’s happening before our eyes, day by day, in real time.
It’s an exciting time to be an O’s fan, for once, for now, for sure.