Baby Birds Show Early Signs of Life
This afternoon, in their home opener, the Orioles won again. Wow, 4-0; who would have thought it? Now, I know the season just started and the Os still have 158 more games to go, but at least allow me to savor this moment. After all, as a long-suffering Orioles fan, their start is a like a breath of fresh air.
Iâ€™m certainly not going to get ahead of myself, though. Neither, Iâ€™m sure, is Buck Showalter. During this afternoonâ€™s post-game press conference, in fact, when a reporter asked him if the 4-0 record could be the start of something special, Buck recalled that heâ€™s managed 100-win teams that have lost four, five or six in a row, and heâ€™s also managed 95-loss teams who have won that many in a row. So you never can tell; you just have to go out and play the games.
Granted, the four games represent a mighty small sample size; nonetheless, the most promising aspect of the Os performance thus far has been their young pitching staff. As if Jeremy Guthrieâ€™s three-hit, no run gem on Opening Day wasnâ€™t masterful enough, along came Chris Tillman on short notice to fill in for an injured Brian Matusz and he eclipsed Guthrieâ€™s performance with a six-inning no-hitter. Hopefully, the soon-to-be 23-year old (April 15) is finally going to turn the corner. He gave glimpses of his stuff last July in Texas, when he limited the Rangers to two hits and an unearned run in 7 1/3 innings. If Tillman can finally realize his potential, he could solidify his place as the fifth starter, and push Brad Bergesen to the bullpen.
And what to make of the phenom, Zack Britton? He had by far the best showing in spring training, yet he also has options, so he was sent to Triple-A Norfolk on the last day of camp. Then, again due to Matuszâ€™s early injury, he was almost immediately recalled, and yesterday, in his major league debut, shut down Tampa on a run and six hits. Matusz, perhaps the brightest and best of the young prospects, was placed on the 15-day DL, but what happens when he comes off? Ah, itâ€™s been awhile since the Os have had to worry about these kinds of speculative moves among a plethora of young pitching talent, so Buck and Andy McPhail will earn their money by making the tough decisions. (I havenâ€™t even mentioned Jake Arrietaâ€™s six-inning, six-hitter in todayâ€™s win over Detroit.)
Does anyone remember what happened the last time the Orioles started the season 4-0? It was in 1997. That was quite a team. En route to a division title and their second consecutive playoff appearance during the two-year tenure of Davey Johnson, Baltimore fielded an infield of Palmeiro, Alomar, Bordick and Ripken (although the little-used Jeff Reboulet actually opened the season at second due to Alomarâ€™s five-game suspension for spitting on umpire John Hirschbeck the previous season). Unfortunately, they lost to the Yankees in the ALCS, however, and thirteen consecutive losing seasons have followed.
Now, Iâ€™m not saying theyâ€™re destined for the playoffs this year. By dredging up that team, Iâ€™m just reminiscing. But, somehow, after all these losing seasons, it just feels like good things might happen to this team, too, and the start gives me reason to hope that my team might finally once again be a winner.
Keep your hopes up Os fans.
Join Chip and Ted Leavengood each Friday at 7:00 p.m., as they host the Seamheads National Podcast, â€œOutta the Parkway,â€ discussing all things baseball at each end of the Baltimore-Washington Parkway.