Monday, March 29, 2010
As spring training winds down this week, two developments are starting to unfold.
The biggest surprise is that it appears likely that David Hernandez will beat out Chris Tillman for a spot in the starting rotation to begin the year.
In 2009, Hernandez was 4-10 with an ERA of 5.42 and a K/9 rate of 6. Hernandez was a strikeout machine in the minors, so it was disappointing to see him struggle getting K's at the major league level. However, this spring Hernandez has increased his K totals (20 K's in 15 IP), while Tillman is still struggling with control (10 K's, 9 BB's in 16.1 IP).
Many fans will be upset to hear this news, but I won't be one of them. Sure, I wish Tillman had pitched his way into the rotation this spring, but this isn't the end of the world. Tillman struggled last year at times, and some extra time in Norfolk won't hurt. He'll have a chance to get some things worked out and should be back on the Orioles before long.
After all, Jeremy Guthrie has been hammered so far this spring (7.47 ERA in 15.2 IP). And after a disappointing 2009 season, the Guthrie era in Baltimore might soon become very similar to the Rodrigo Lopez era. Lopez, like Guthrie, was a pitcher the O's acquired off the scrap heap, eventually having success in the rotation for a couple of years before ultimately flaming out. I'm pulling for Guthrie, since he's a workhorse and a great person, but the writing could be on the wall.
The other development is Felix Pie getting more playing time in LF. Nolan Reimold has been recovering from surgery on his achilles tendon during the offseason and has struggled this spring (.176 AVG). He's still noticeably bothered by the injury, but should still be able to travel north with the team. It wouldn't be surprising to see Reimold begin the year on the DL, but either way, it looks like Pie will get some starts in LF at the beginning of the year.
Pie had a whirlwind 2009 season, opening the year as the team's starting LFer before being benched in favor of Reimold who absolutely torched AAA before gettting called up. Pie also struggled mightily at the plate with a .461 OPS in April when he was receiving everyday AB's. He also became a liability on the basepaths, getting picked off and trying unsuccessfully to stretch base hits into doubles.
But then Adam Jones went down with an injury in August and Pie received the starting CF gig. He made the most of it, posting a 1.045 OPS in August including a game where he hit for the cycle. He also played stellar defense in CF despite showing some confusion on where to throw the ball on some plays.
So far this spring, Pie is hitting like it was August '09, with a .348 AVG and a .696 SLG, so it will be interesting to see which Felix Pie shows up on opening day.
Other than that the O's roster is pretty much set and opening day is a little more than a week away.
Let's play some ball!