Rougher waters loom for the Orioles young, depleted pitching staff

April 06, 2011 |

We are four games into the 2011 season and the optimism of a “brand new start” is resonating throughout this city. I suppose four consecutive wins, featuring solid pitching and good fundamentals will attract the wandering eye, huh?

In this span of just five days, the Orioles have garnered a splash or two on the national stage, as well. Such exposure also rallies the attention of many casual, local baseball fans who’ve lost interest over the past several seasons.

This renewed excitement is certainly noteworthy and even if it’s short-lived, the feeling is rekindling for many of us. I applaud the reborn enthusiasm, but I will also take this moment to serve as the cautious voice of reason …..

I’m not casting a conspicuous warning that 158 games remain on the balance of the schedule. Everybody can count, and we’re all aware of the slight fraction of a season that has expired. Plenty of good (and bad) baseball remains.

I have been pleased with a product that appears to be building on last season’s late success. However, I’m also very cautious about the immediate schedule of opponents looming directly ahead.

I’m not looking beyond the Detroit Tigers, as two games remain in this first series on the home slate. At some point, Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez and Magglio Ordonez are likely to awaken to find the deliveries of Brad Bergesen and Chris Tillman appetizing.

But, starting this Friday, the action and potential threats to this young pitching staff will arrive front and center. In defense of their American League Championship, the Texas Rangers will become the kinda guests we won’t welcome for a weekend series to wrap-up the first homestand.

The Rangers are not the Rays.

Their lineup doesn’t expose an easy out, with combinations of power, speed and plate discipline clogging nearly every spot from top to bottom. They’re obviously the real deal and quite capable of knocking the Orioles young pitching staff down a couple notches.

If Zach Britton turns in a duplicate performance of last Sunday’s debut, one of the game’s lesser known legitimate rockstars will likely plant a “WELCOME TO THE SHOW” souvenir on the flag court:
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And if it’s not Nelson Cruz, it will be Josh Hamilton, Ian Kinsler, Adrian Beltre’ or just about any other guy in that lineup. In truth, Britton was hit pretty hard, and he benefited from a bit of luck when it came to scorching liners finding gloves.

I get it …. Sunday’s game marked his first time on a big league mound and the “butterfly effect” was most certainly a factor. But, excuses won’t save the young phenom if he surrenders early counts in his favor, as he did numerous times against Tampa.

The same cautionary suggestions apply to Jake Arrieta if he deals the very hand witnessed in Monday’s home opener. He fell behind, while customarily wrestling with command and benefited from a less than patient approach by the Detroit lineup.

When the curtain comes down on the Texas series, the birds head to the Bronx for the first of three visits. The Yankees will pose a similar threat to the Rangers; they’re going to force these young pitchers to work and they’ll KILL mistakes.

Robinson Cano has emerged as the team’s best hitter and he feasts on poor pitching performances …..
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Mark Teixeira has started the season on a hot streak and the Jeter/A’Rod combination is not going to hit a substandard .270 again. Tillman will avoid the Texas bats, but he’ll be forced to protect Yankee Stadium’s short porch in right field against a compliment of 6 hitters from the left side of the plate.

It is what is, I suppose …..

The Orioles are manning an unblemished 4-0 record, and all of us understand its a bit of an aberration. Losses on the scoreboard await this team in the very near future and everybody who loves baseball comprehends the realities of a 162 game schedule.

Many of us have claimed that we want to see improvement, beyond anything else. And, while the win/loss record usually dictates success, I think the overall performances we witness from this impressionable pitching staff is just as vital.

In an ironic way, a pitcher’s statistical performance can be as misleading as a perfect 4-0 record. I’m not buying high, nor selling low, I’m just taking a wait and see approach with the likes of Tillman, Britton, Arrieta and company.

Some notable bumps in the road await each young arm in this rotation, and quite honestly, I’m betting a few of those bumps are just a few days ahead of us.

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