Tag Archive | "Orioles"

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2018 Orioles preview: Colby Rasmus

Posted on 19 March 2018 by Luke Jones

With Opening Day less than two weeks away, we’ll take a look at a member of the 2018 Orioles every day as they try to bounce back from a disappointing last-place finish a year ago.

Manny Machado
Kevin Gausman
Trey Mancini
Brad Brach
Tim Beckham
Andrew Cashner
Adam Jones
Mychal Givens
Jonathan Schoop
Richard Bleier

OF Colby Rasmus

Opening Day age: 31

Contract status: Under contract through the 2019 season

2017 stats: .281/.318/.579, 9 HR, 23 RBI, 17 R, 1 SB, 129 PA, 1.2 WAR (Baseball Reference)

Why to be impressed: In an abbreviated season, Rasmus once again showed impressive power after averaging 21 home runs per season from 2012-16 and owns a career 8.8 percent walk rate, which would have ranked third on the 2017 Orioles. He’s also been a plus defender during his major league career and registered an impressive 20 defensive runs saved in 2016, his last full season.

Why to be concerned: Rasmus walked away from baseball last summer because of lingering hip issues and a desire to spend more time with his family, making it fair to wonder if his health and renewed enthusiasm for the game lasts. He also owns a career .242 batting average and a strikeout rate that’s hovered around 30 percent over the last five years and spiked to a Chris Davis-like 34.9 percent in 2017.

2018 outlook: Likely to be the starting right fielder against right-handed pitching to begin the season, Rasmus offers power and good defense as a platoon corner outfielder and can serve as an adequate backup to Adam Jones in center. However, he holds a profile too similar to the incumbents in a lineup likely to again have the impressive peaks and frustrating valleys we’ve come to expect over the years.

Not-so-scientific projections for 2018: .241/.306/.447, 15 HR, 44 RBI, 48 R, 1 SB, 335 PA, 1.8 WAR

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jones

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Twelve Orioles thoughts winding down spring training

Posted on 19 March 2018 by Luke Jones

With Opening Day a little over a week away, I’ve offered a dozen Orioles-related thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. Despite not striking out a batter, Chris Tillman fared better in his second spring start than his disastrous debut by allowing one run and no walks over five innings against Detroit’s regulars. Whether he turns his career around remains to be seen, but Monday was a positive step.

2. I’m shocked Alex Cobb doesn’t have a job with the opener around the corner. Baltimore isn’t the ideal destination on a cheap one-year deal, but the organization’s lack of aggressiveness with major rotation needs and money to spend — based on last year’s payroll — is extremely disappointing. He’d help beyond 2018.

3. I touched on Mark Trumbo recently, but news of him missing the next few weeks with a quadriceps injury doesn’t bode well for a turnaround from 2017. He needs at-bats, and I wonder if the Orioles will prolong his rehab assignment as much as they can when the time comes.

4. Trumbo’s absence could create more chances for Anthony Santander, which is an interesting development. The Rule 5 pick was mostly an unknown last year because of an elbow injury the Orioles used to their advantage, but he has a .914 OPS with four homers and 16 RBIs this spring.

5. I’m not sounding the alarm as long as he’s healthy, but Dylan Bundy sporting a 9.00 spring ERA in 15 springs innings makes you a little more uneasy remembering he’s coming off a career-high 169 2/3 innings, 60 more than he pitched the year before.

6. On the bright side, early reviews on Andrew Cashner have been positive with how he’s fit in and his first two spring outings (1.00 ERA). It’s a good start, but he’ll need to miss more bats to have a chance to finish anywhere near his 3.40 ERA from 2017.

7. Austin Wynns’ demotion narrowed the backup catcher competition to Chance Sisco and Andrew Susac. If Sisco can benefit from catching more games at Norfolk, that’s fine. However, the backup needs to play frequently enough to keep Caleb Joseph fresh, which sounds like a decent role for the rookie.

8. Hunter Harvey will make another major league spring start on Wednesday. If the Orioles are truly considering having him begin the year in the rotation, the season slogan should read, “We really don’t care what happens after 2018.” Unfortunately, the club hasn’t used the same mindset in addressing the rotation.

9. If you haven’t read it, I recommend checking out the piece by MLB.com’s Anthony Castrovince on the one-year anniversary of Adam Jones’ unforgettable catch in the World Baseball Classic. Seeing the Orioles center fielder make that play on that stage was truly special.

10. Jones had an eventful weekend on Twitter as he helped recruit Michael Crabtree to the Ravens, gave props to UMBC, and ribbed former teammate and Virginia alum Tyler Wilson about the Retrievers’ historic victory. Funny stuff.

11. Speaking of UMBC, a friend of mine suggested senior guard Jairus Lyles throwing out the first pitch at an Orioles game this season. I wholeheartedly agree, but why stop there?

12. I’m all for charitable causes and celebrating patriotic holidays, but does anyone honestly like how these caps look? Is there some middle ground Major League Baseball can find with these initiatives? Now if you’ll excuse me, I must go yell at a cloud.

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2018 Orioles preview: Richard Bleier

Posted on 15 March 2018 by Luke Jones

With Opening Day less than three weeks away, we’ll take a look at a member of the 2018 Orioles every day as they try to bounce back from a disappointing last-place finish a year ago.

March 5 – Manny Machado
March 6 – Kevin Gausman
March 7 – Trey Mancini
March 8 – Brad Brach
March 9 – Tim Beckham
March 10 – Andrew Cashner
March 11 – Adam Jones
March 12 – Mychal Givens
March 14 – Jonathan Schoop

RP Richard Bleier

Opening Day age: 30

Contract status: Under club control through the 2022 season

2017 stats: 2-1, 0 saves, 1.99 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 3.7 K/9, 1.8 BB/9, 6 HR, 63 1/3 innings

Why to be impressed: Not making his Orioles debut until early May, the left-hander finished 2017 with the best ERA on the club and the fifth-best mark in the American League among pitchers throwing at least 60 innings. Perhaps even more impressive was Bleier’s “Britton-light” 68.8 percent ground-ball rate, which ranked second in the majors among pitchers with 60 or more innings.

Why to be concerned: Bleier induced the second-lowest hard contact rate of any Orioles pitcher, but his strikeout rate was the worst of any major league pitcher (min. 60 innings), making his success even more remarkable. Taking that a step further, his .259 batting average on balls in play will be very difficult to repeat, making the southpaw reliever a natural regression candidate as opponents become more familiar.

2018 outlook: The Orioles love Bleier’s deceptive delivery and effective sinker, but it’s difficult imagining him posting another sub-2.00 ERA with such an inability to miss bats. However, his pitch-to-contact style of inducing ground balls should continue to give him a reasonable chance to be a solid middle reliever in the Baltimore bullpen if the revamped infield defense lives up to expectations.

Not-so-scientific projections for 2018: 2-4, 0 saves, 3.52 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 4.4 K/9, 2.2 BB/9, 7 HR, 61 1/3 innings

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schoopallstar

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2018 Orioles preview: Jonathan Schoop

Posted on 14 March 2018 by Luke Jones

With Opening Day less than three weeks away, we’ll take a look at a member of the 2018 Orioles every day as they try to bounce back from a disappointing last-place finish a year ago.

March 5 – Manny Machado
March 6 – Kevin Gausman
March 7 – Trey Mancini
March 8 – Brad Brach
March 9 – Tim Beckham
March 10 – Andrew Cashner
March 11 – Adam Jones
March 12 – Mychal Givens

2B Jonathan Schoop

Opening Day age: 26

Contract status: Under club control through the 2019 season

2017 stats: .293/.338/.503, 32 HR, 105 RBI, 92 R, 1 SB, 675 PA, 5.1 WAR (Baseball Reference)

Why to be impressed: A major reason why Schoop was the 2017 Most Valuable Oriole was his dramatic improvement against left-handed pitching, posting a .955 OPS against southpaws after entering the year with a career .607 mark. His plate discipline also improved substantially as he set a career high with 35 walks and swung at just 37.1 percent of pitches outsize the zone, down from 43.0 percent in 2016.

Why to be concerned: There’s little to nitpick about his 2017 season, but Schoop had a poor September (.590 OPS) for a second straight year after again playing at least 160 games, leaving one to ask if he’d benefit from a few more days off during the season. His defense remained steady at two defensive runs saved, but his size makes you wonder how much longer his range suits second base as he gets older.

2018 outlook: Schoop will keep himself in the All-Star conversation if he can maintain or even build on his improved plate discipline from last year and keep his extra-base-hit rate at 10 percent. With Manny Machado expected to depart in the coming months, you’d hope the Orioles prevent the same scenario from happening with Schoop, but another All-Star season would make that extremely difficult.

Not-so-scientific projections for 2018: .281/.323/.483, 31 HR, 88 RBI, 86 R, 1 SB, 653 PA, 4.0 WAR

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2018 Orioles preview: Mychal Givens

Posted on 12 March 2018 by Luke Jones

With Opening Day less than three weeks away, we’ll take a look at a member of the 2018 Orioles every day as they try to bounce back from a disappointing last-place finish a year ago.

March 5 – Manny Machado
March 6 – Kevin Gausman
March 7 – Trey Mancini
March 8 – Brad Brach
March 9 – Tim Beckham
March 10 – Andrew Cashner
March 11 – Adam Jones

RP Mychal Givens

Opening Day age: 27

Contract status: Under club control through the 2021 season

2017 stats: 8-1, 0 saves, 2.75 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, 10.1 K/9, 2.9 BB/9, 10 HR, 78 2/3 innings

Why to be impressed: After lefties batted .366 against him in 2016, Givens held lefty bats to a miniscule .184 average and .619 OPS as he improved his changeup as a real weapon against them. The right-hander also posted the fifth-best strand rate (86.3 percent) of all major league relievers completing at least 70 innings and was worth 2.3 wins above replacement, making him the club’s most valuable reliever.

Why to be concerned: Givens saw both his home run and hard contact rates increase from his first two seasons despite improving in both areas after the All-Star break. However, his ERA and walk rates were higher in the second half as he pitched a career-high 78 2/3 innings in 2017, making it wise for the Orioles to keep an eye on Givens’ workload as the season progresses.

2018 outlook: Free-agent-to-be Brad Brach figures to receive the early save opportunities with Zach Britton sidelined, but the Orioles would be wise to throw some chances Givens’ way as he profiles as the closer of the future. If Givens can continue his success against lefty hitters and miss bats at a rate a little closer to his 2016 level, he should be more than ready to handle the ninth inning in 2019 and beyond.

Not-so-scientific projections for 2018: 7-3, 9 saves, 2.62 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 10.9 K/9, 3.2 BB/9, 7 HR, 71 innings

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jones

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2018 Orioles preview: Adam Jones

Posted on 11 March 2018 by Luke Jones

With Opening Day less than three weeks away, we’ll take a look at a member of the 2018 Orioles every day as they try to bounce back from a disappointing last-place finish a year ago.

March 5 – Manny Machado
March 6 – Kevin Gausman
March 7 – Trey Mancini
March 8 – Brad Brach
March 9 – Tim Beckham
March 10 – Andrew Cashner

CF Adam Jones

Opening Day age: 32

Contract status: Under contract through the 2018 season

2017 stats: .285/.322/.466, 26 HR, 73 RBI, 82 R, 2 SB, 635 PA, 2.5 WAR (Baseball Reference)

Why to be impressed: Coming off a down season in 2016, Jones posted his highest OPS since 2013 and finished with a solid .739 OPS against lefties after struggling dramatically against them the previous year (.580). The veteran outfielder also hit at least 25 home runs for the seventh consecutive season, the longest streak in Orioles history and another reminder of how consistent Jones has been over the years.

Why to be concerned: Jones remains the club’s best everyday option in center field, but he finished at minus-12 defensive runs saved and a minus-0.8 defensive WAR, making one wonder how much longer he will stay in that spot. And while he was very productive at the plate in his age-31 season, his average exit velocity of 86.7 miles per hour was his lowest since the start of the Statcast era in 2015.

2018 outlook: Most attention has understandably been on the future of Manny Machado this offseason, but Jones has been the heart and soul of this era of Orioles baseball and should be celebrated if this is his final act in Baltimore. Despite complaints about his aggressive style at the plate over the years, Jones has been as consistent as anyone and should again be a productive contributor if healthy.

Not-so-scientific projections for 2018: .279/.319/.455, 27 HR, 77 RBI, 85 R, 3 SB, 645 PA, 2.6 WAR

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2018 Orioles preview: Andrew Cashner

Posted on 10 March 2018 by Luke Jones

With Opening Day less than three weeks away, we’ll take a look at a member of the 2018 Orioles every day as they try to bounce back from a disappointing last-place finish a year ago.

March 5 – Manny Machado
March 6 – Kevin Gausman
March 7 – Trey Mancini
March 8 – Brad Brach
March 9 – Tim Beckham

SP Andrew Cashner

Opening Day age: 31

Contract status: Under contract through the 2019 season

2017 stats (with Texas): 11-11, 3.40 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, 4.6 K/9, 3.5 BB/9, 15 HR, 166 2/3 innings

Why to be impressed: In addition to having the 15th-best ERA in the majors among qualified pitchers last year, Cashner’s 48.6 percent ground-ball rate ranked 15th in the majors and should translate favorably to pitching at homer-friendly Camden Yards. His velocity did improve as 2017 progressed, which leaves some optimism despite real concerns about a career-worst 86.4 percent contact rate.

Why to be concerned: His strikeout rate was next to last among qualified starters and his opposing batting average on balls in play was a career-best .267, factors explaining why many are predicting substantial regression for Cashner this season. Durability has also been a problem for the veteran right-hander in the past as he’s eclipsed 160 innings just three times in his major league career.

2018 outlook: It’s difficult looking at the Cashner signing without thinking of Yovani Gallardo with the plummeting strikeout rate and fortunate BABIP, but he’s maintained his fastball velocity, making you hope he can miss more bats like he did with a solid 7.6 per nine strikeout rate in 2016. He’s as strong of a regression candidate as you’ll find, but Cashner should be able to eat innings at the very least.

Not-so-scientific projections for 2018: 10-12, 4.97 ERA, 1.41 WHIP, 5.7 K/9, 3.6 BB/9, 23 HR, 154 2/3 innings

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2018 Orioles preview: Tim Beckham

Posted on 09 March 2018 by Luke Jones

With Opening Day less than a month away, we’ll take a look at a member of the 2018 Orioles every day as they try to bounce back from a disappointing last-place finish a year ago.

March 5 – Manny Machado
March 6 – Kevin Gausman
March 7 – Trey Mancini
March 8 – Brad Brach

INF Tim Beckham

Opening Day age: 28

Contract status: Under club control through the 2020 season

2017 stats (between Tampa Bay and Baltimore): .278/.328/.454, 22 HR, 62 RBI, 67 R, 6 SB, 575 PA, 3.3 WAR (Baseball Reference)

Why to be impressed: The former first overall pick couldn’t have had a better start after being traded at the deadline, collecting 18 extra-base hits and posting a 1.062 OPS in the month of August. Previously regarded as a draft bust with the Rays, Beckham set career highs in batting average, home runs, OPS, RBIs, extra-base hits, walks, and plate appearances to finally become a major league regular.

Why to be concerned: Beckham came crashing back down in September by hitting .180 and posting a .603 OPS in September, but he wasn’t helped by a .226 batting average on balls in play. The infielder was able to lower his strikeout rate upon being traded, but his career 29.7 percent mark would be second worst behind only Chris Davis on the current club and he only walked 5.2 percent of the time in 2017.

2018 outlook: He’s said and done the right things moving to third base, but you wonder how Beckham will handle a position change on top of trying to continue his 2017 improvement at the plate. Remaining committed to using the opposite field (27.7 percent in the second half of 2017 compared to a 21.5 percent career mark) would keep him consistent enough to play every day if he can at least be average at third.

Not-so-scientific projections for 2018: .267/.314/.438, 24 HR, 69 RBI, 81 R, 5 SB, 639 PA, 2.2 WAR

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2018 Orioles preview: Brad Brach

Posted on 08 March 2018 by Luke Jones

With Opening Day less than a month away, we’ll take a look at a member of the 2018 Orioles every day as they try to bounce back from a disappointing last-place finish a year ago.

March 5 – Manny Machado
March 6 – Kevin Gausman
March 7 – Trey Mancini

RP Brad Brach

Opening Day age: 31

Contract status: Under club control through the 2018 season

2017 stats: 4-5, 18 saves, 3.18 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 9.3 K/9, 3.4 BB/9, 7 HR, 68 innings

Why to be impressed: In addition to recording a career-high 18 saves, the right-hander posted an ERA of 3.18 or better for the fourth straight year as he’s been one of the more consistent middle relievers in baseball. Brach pitched 68 or more innings for the third straight year, something that shouldn’t be taken for granted with both Zach Britton and Darren O’Day having missed significant time recently.

Why to be concerned: Brach’s strikeout rate and velocity dipped while his walk rate (4.55 per nine innings) increased after the break, factors to monitor early in 2018. He also registered the lowest strand rate of his four years in Baltimore and saw his ERA balloon in the second half for the second straight year, making one wonder if the 158 1/3 combined innings he pitched in 2015 and 2016 caught up to him.

2018 outlook: Set to become a free agent at the end of the season, Brach should benefit filling in once again for the injured Britton as the closer and could boost his trade value as well as his appeal on the open market. He’s built up quite a track record of durability and reliability over the last four years, but last year’s second half should be a reminder for Buck Showalter not to push Brach too hard early on.

Not-so-scientific projections for 2018: 4-3, 19 saves, 3.06 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 9.7 K/9, 3.3 BB/9, 6 HR, 63 innings

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Start of spring not encouraging for Davis, Trumbo turnarounds

Posted on 08 March 2018 by Luke Jones

We all know the starting rotation is the overwhelming reason why expectations remain low for the Orioles three weeks ahead of the start of the 2018 season.

But even if ownership were to suddenly loosen the purse strings — perhaps simply to last year’s payroll level — to sign Lance Lynn and Alex Cobb to upgrade the projected starting five, Baltimore would still need some substantial improvement from within to dramatically increase its chances to contend. The Orioles finished last in the majors in starter ERA, but their trademark over the last six years also declined last season.

Buck Showalter’s club still hit plenty of home runs, but not at the same impressive clip that’s made Baltimore the standard in that department over the last six years.

For the first time since 2011, the Orioles finished outside the top three in the American League in homers, ranking fifth with 232 after hitting a league-leading 253 the previous season. To be clear, they hit only nine fewer than the top-ranked New York Yankees, but a new major league record was set for home runs across baseball in the 2017 season and the average AL club hit 14 more than the previous year. And when you consider Welington Castillo and Trey Mancini provided upgrades in the home run department from 2016 starters Matt Wieters and Hyun Soo Kim at those respective positions, one could have expected the Orioles to at least match the previous season’s total rather than hit 21 fewer and be one of only four AL clubs to hit fewer homers in 2017 than the year before.

The reason that didn’t happen falls on the shoulders of Chris Davis and Mark Trumbo, who combined to hit only 49 long balls. Trumbo nearly matched that total by himself with 47 the year before while Davis clubbed 47 in 2015 and a club-record 53 in 2013. No one could have reasonably expected the pair of high-priced sluggers to match those career highs in 2017, but the Orioles instead received one of the worst seasons of each veteran’s career.

Unfortunately, the start of spring hasn’t served as a harbinger of a rebound for either player. After going 2-for-13 with a homer and seven strikeouts in early Grapefruit League action, Davis remains sidelined with a sore right elbow that prompted an MRI several days ago to rule out any structural damage. Meanwhile, Thursday brought news that Trumbo would miss some time because of a sore quadriceps. We know better than to jump to conclusions based on spring training results or minor ailments, but both sluggers are already on the wrong side of 30 and don’t profile as the type of hitter who ages particularly well. Frankly, each could stand to benefit from as many reps as possible as well as some positive results this spring to help put last year behind them.

Entering the third season of the seven-year, $161 million contract signed two years ago, Davis is coming off his worst campaign since 2014 and will try to avoid seeing his home run total and on-base plus slugging percentage decline for the third straight year. Even more concerning is that Davis batted .215 while sporting a .301 batting average on balls in play, which was dramatically higher than his .242 BABIP in 2014 when he batted a brutal .196. That means he wasn’t even unlucky in the midst of struggling.

Most assumed at the time of Davis’ signing that his record-setting deal would be problematic in its latter stages after some productive seasons, but he was worth minus-0.1 wins above replacement (Baseball Reference) and struck out looking 12 more times than anyone else in the majors despite playing only 128 games last season. His .688 OPS after the All-Star break prompted Showalter to lower him in the order, and Davis’ defensive metrics at first base also declined to minus-five defensive runs saved after registering an above-average eight in 2016 and an above-average count in the two seasons before that.

In other words, without a meaningful rebound in 2018, his contract is already bordering on disastrous without having reached the halfway point of its duration. Turning 32 next week, Davis spoke at the start of spring about his need to be more aggressive early in counts and to not take as many strikes, but he’s missed valuable at-bats to test out his revamped mindset.

Making less and only being under contract through next season, Trumbo was worse than Davis in 2017 as he hit only 23 homers and posted a career-low .686 OPS in his second year with the Orioles. Some questioned the wisdom of re-signing him last winter after a career season at the plate that still registered only a 1.6 WAR because of his fielding deficiencies, but the organization deemed a three-year, $37.5 million contract to be a bargain after the rest of the market was largely disinterested in his services.

The Orioles wisely kept Trumbo out of the field last year to try to maximize his value at the plate, but the veteran responded unfavorably to the most extensive action of his career as a designated hitter and batted only .202 with a .600 OPS after the All-Star break. His .278 BABIP was identical to the previous season when he posted a career-best .850 OPS and was not terribly far behind his .286 career BABIP, making it difficult to chalk up too much of his performance to bad luck. Trumbo hit more grounders (43.3 percent to 39.5 percent) and fewer fly balls (40.6 percent to 43.1 percent) than in 2016, which certainly isn’t an encouraging development for a one-dimensional power hitter.

Perhaps more troublesome is the fact that Trumbo’s 2017 campaign came on the heels of his 2016 second half that was boosted by his 19 homers and still included a .214 average and a so-so .754 OPS. That’s a significant sample of below-average offense to follow his incredible first half in Baltimore that fetched him a 2016 All-Star invitation.

Trumbo is a cerebral individual who’s used new-age numbers such as launch angle to refine his approach, but he said at January’s FanFest that he may have been too consumed by those numbers last season in trying to adjust his swing. And though he wouldn’t use his increased DH role as an excuse for his poor performance, one could easily reason that a hitter not playing the field would be more inclined to obssess over his struggles at the plate between at-bats. Of course, Trumbo playing anywhere in the field other than maybe first base mostly negates what value he offers when swinging the bat well.

The attempt to simplify his approach hasn’t produced positive results so far this spring as he’s off to a 3-for-20 start with nine strikeouts in the Grapefruit League and will now miss at least a few days with the quad injury.

The recent signings of Pedro Alvarez and Danny Valencia provide depth and insurance for worst-case scenarios playing out with the incumbents, but it’s difficult not to wonder if a DH platoon of Alvarez and Valencia might be better than Trumbo at a fraction of the cost. That’s little more than buyer’s remorse at this point, however, as the remainder of his contract would be extremely difficult to move.

It would be unwise to write off Davis or Trumbo after both produced monster seasons in recent memory, but the problem is the Orioles are paying them lucrative money to be difference-makers and both are bigger question marks than answers at this point. That’s not encouraging, especially for an organization that’s been unwilling to use the necessary resources to try to significantly improve the starting rotation.

We all know the Orioles need to pitch much better more than anything else to succeed in 2018, but they would further boost their chances by recapturing their edge in the long-ball department.

That needs to begin with Davis and Trumbo bouncing back in a meaningful way from their nightmare seasons a year ago.

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