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Glimmers of Hope

By on June 13

So much has happened in the past couple of week, it’s been hard to keep up. The O’s lost what was their 10th straight, polishing that worst record in baseball, Manager Dave Trembley was fired, third base coach Juan Samuel assumed the interim manager position, Brian Roberts had more setbacks (no pun intended). In effect, not a lot of positives.

But the O’s optimist in me recognized a few things this past week which offer small glimmers of hope. Let’s look at a couple of performances that caught my eye, starting with the audition of Jake Arrieta–one of the touted arms of the Orioles farm system.

Interestingly, Arrieta arrived with meager anticipation when compared to the auditions of Brian Matusz and Chris Tillman last year. Perhaps it was a lack of expectation knowing he was facing the Yankees. Or maybe it was the burden of a lost season (in May!) taking it’s toll on any positive thinking. But by the end of the night, it was one of the most encouraging signs in a long time.

Arrieta performed quite admirably: 6IP, 3ER, 4H, 6K, 2BB, 2IBB, 106 pitches. I’ll take that any night against the Yankees. It’s hard not to like a guy who throws upwards of 97 mph, but what struck me more was the way he battled out of tough spots against a potent lineup. There’s a lot of things that the Oriole’s lack, and “clutch” players are one of them (see Luke Scott). Could Arrieta break that trend? That remains to be seen. But it’s clear this kid has what it takes to handle a jam, and showed the bulldog mentality we heard about. Arrieta makes his next start against the Giants on Tuesday. I’ll certainly be tuning in to watch.

Right there with Arrieta’s impressive debut has been David Hernandez’s transition to the bullpen. Hernandez fell out of graces with the coaching staff as a starter when he proceeded to walk the bases like Daniel Cabrera while simultaneously giving up homeruns like 2009 Jeremy Guthrie. Some expect Hernandez to return to the rotation once he gets his act together, but he may never look back. He’s adjusted so quickly and effectively to the the back end of the ‘pen that he may even find himself the closer by the end of the season. Okay, so maybe “closer” doesn’t mean much in Baltimore, but the numbers tell the story. In his six appearances totaling 8.1 IP, he’s allowed only 1 ER, with a 6:3 K:BB ratio while allowing no home runs. In his last appearance he earn his first save after closing the door on the Yankees with just 13 pitches. The early signs suggest Hernandez’s stuff plays up in short stints. After watching him blow through consecutive Yankees 1-2-3 makes me think he’s made for the role. Let’s hope he can continue this success…and stay healthy.

The last person I’d like give the Tejada “spot light” to is Adam Jones. Jonesy’s struggles have been pretty glaring for over a year now. Since his hot streak of April-May of 2009, the league adjusted to Jones and Jones simply failed to adjust back. Jones’ most glaring weakness has been his inability to get ahead in counts. This is usually followed by him flailing at a low-n-away breaking ball or a fastball upstairs. Partly the product of his trying to pull everything, and partly him over-thinking at bats, Jones has found plenty of ways to give away at bats. Recently, however, Jones has improved his approach by taking more pitches, going up the middle with the ball, and even laying down the occasional bunt attempt. Just Saturday night, Jones found himself behind in the count on Takahashi (Mets) but managed to sharply send a ball up the middle. Unfortunately Jones was robbed by Ruben Tejada’s web gem just barely beating out Jones at 1B. But as long as his approach remains consistent, those hits will fall in. Right now he’s riding an 8-game hitting streak and has raised his average to .260. His strikeouts show he still has a lot of work to do, but this new approach is producing results already.

Hopefully, the O’s will give me enough to make this recap a regular occurrence. Until then, I look forward to seeing the young arms and the young bats develop into the O’s we think they can be.

3 Responses to “Glimmers of Hope”

  1. Adam
    Adam says:

    Totally agree Casadilla. Even more than his assortment of pitches or command, I think it’s Arrieta’s mental makeup that gives him the potential to be a special kind of pitcher. Every team needs at least one guy who thrives on the spotlight and lives for the big game. I just hope he can be that guy for the Os.

  2. Mark
    Mark says:

    Arrieta seems like the kind of guy who would drill A-Rod in the face and not feel bad about it. I respect that.

    I also boldly predict that Hernandez will be the first real closer we’ve had since BJ Ryan.

  3. Casey says:

    I like your optimism guys.

    We need players with that fierce personality…and the ability to drill A-Rod in the face.

    It’s still very early in their ML careers, so we’ll have to wait and see. But it’s about time some of that pitching started to step up.

    Arrieta is on the bump tonight for the rubber against the Giants.

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