Ed Smith stadium, the spring home of the Baltimore Orioles since 2010, has once again been brought to life by the thousands of tourists that visit Sarasota every year. But for every excited fan, there are three more that have serious qualms about the completeness of the ball club.
Entering spring training, the team had only two pitchers on their roster in the form of Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman, both are good in their own right, but neither will be truly great like annual Cy Young contenders Clayton Kershaw and Justin Verlander. Since the start of Grapefruit League play, the birds have signed former Texas Rangers pitcher Andrew Cashner and have brought Chris Tillman back into the fold.
With an empty space still where a fifth starter should be, the Orioles keep an eerie sense of calm around the organization, never seeming to panic even though the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox have managed to add some of the MLB’s top hitters to their respective lineups. Former Tampa Bay Rays pitcher Alex Cobb has been the apple of many a fan’s eye, but folks will wonder when Orioles owner Peter Angelos will do his part to make the team not only competitive, but a legitimate World Series threat.
With most of last year’s batting lineup returning except OF Seth Smith, the potential for high scoring games is there yet again for the birds of Baltimore. SS Manny Machado and C Caleb Joseph have both been crushing the ball since reporting to Florida earlier this year, with a .429 and .444 respectively.
Set to open up the season on March 29th, the Orioles have been projected by many to finish towards the bottom of the top-loaded American League East division. With the New York Yankees adding reigning National League MVP Giancarlo Stanton to a roster that was only one game away from taking on the LA Dodgers in the World Series, it puts an immense challenge in front of Baltimore. This challenge is not only to keep the hitters from being effective, but to match them hit for hit.
Because of the lack of a salary cap in the MLB and the obscene amounts of money that is shelled out by big market cities such as NYC and Los Angeles, the Orioles are at a serious disadvantage from a spending standpoint. Manager Buck Showalter has been the glue that’s held past teams together and he is famous for getting the most out of his players, even if they aren’t the most talented. Seeing as the Orioles are falling behind, though, in terms of signing big name players, Showalter can only do so much with the pieces that he has been giving by GM Dan Duquette.
The Orioles first opponent will be the Minnesota Twins on March 29th at Oriole Park at Camden Yards and the stakes this season couldn’t be higher. If the Orioles fade into irrelevance again after only re-emerging 6 years ago, they risk losing not only their star players, but the new crop of fans they attracted with all of that success.
*Articles reflect the views of the author and or those quoted and do not necessarily represent the views of CCBC or the CCBC Connection.