Ori­oles hope to over­come pitch­ing woes, power way to play­offs

Cecil Whig - - SPORTS - By JOR­DAN SCHATZ

jschatz@ce­cil­whig.com

— The Bal­ti­more Ori­oles’ record-spend­ing off­sea­son en­sured that the team will once again rank near the top of the ma­jors in homers af­ter it placed third in the league last sea­son with 217 long balls.

The team’s in­abil­ity to ad­dress one of last year’s worst ro­ta­tions could be the fac­tor that keeps it from mak­ing the post­sea­son for a con­sec­u­tive year.

The re-sign­ing of first base­man Chris Davis af­ter he led the ma­jors with 47 home runs last sea­son, the ac­qui­si­tion of right-handed slug­ger Mark Trumbo in a trade from the Seat­tle Mariners and the spring train­ing ad­di­tion of for­mer Pitts­burgh Pi­rates power hit­ter Pe­dro Alverez are the ma­jor moves from the Ori­oles’ ac­tive win­ter that the team hopes will cre­ate an of­fense with plenty of power from both sides of the plate. High­lighted by the re­turn of Davis, who signed a team-

BAL­TI­MORE

record seven-year, $161 mil­lion con­tract in Jan­uary, the trio is ex­pected to slide into a lineup that al­ready fea­tures third base­man Manny Machado and cen­ter fielder Adam Jones –a pair of righthanded hit­ters who have pro­duced 30-home run sea­sons dur­ing their ca­reers.

“We’re ca­pa­ble of do­ing some real dam­age, said Trumbo, who hit 22 home runs be­tween the Ari­zona Diamondbacks and Seat­tle last sea­son. “Just from see­ing the kind of pres­sure that we put on teams in spring train­ing, we have an ex­tremely po­tent lineup. I know ev­ery­one knows that but I think as you re­ally see things de­velop and peo­ple get more com­fort­able with who’s in front of him and who’s be­hind him, we could re­ally put up some crooked in­nings.”

Trumbo hit more than 30 home runs in both 2012 and 2013 while a mem­ber of the Los An­ge­les An­gels of Ana­heim. He hopes the smaller con­fines of Cam­den Yards, which yielded the most homers of any sta­dium in the ma­jors last sea­son, will help him gen­er­ate a re­turn to his for­mer power.

“I’m ex­cited about the pos­si­bil­ity of putting up some big num­bers,” Trumbo said.

Machado (35 homers, 86 RBIs) spent much of last sea­son and this spring bat­ting near the top of the or­der. Jones (27 homers 82 RBIs) is slated to hit be­hind him, while Davis, Trumbo and Alverez will likely fill out the mid­dle of the or­der. Catcher Matt Wi­eters, who hit 22 home runs two years ago, will start Open­ing Day af­ter ap­pear­ing in only 75 games last sea­son while re­cov­er­ing from Tommy John surgery.

Sec­ond base­man Jonathan Schoop (15 homers in 305 at bats) and short­stop JJ Hardy (411 at bats) are ex­pected to pro­vide power and solid de­fense near the bot­tom of the or­der af­ter miss­ing sub­stan­tial time a year ago due to in­jury.

Jones, who started last year’s All-Star Game, will be mak­ing his ninth-ca­reer Open­ing Day ap­pear­ance.

“Ev­ery sea­son you want to win a cham­pi­onship, the World Se­ries. There’s no other rea­son to play,” Jones said. “I’m not just here to be able to play, I’m here to win. I made that ev­i­dent with how I speak. The only thing that mat­ters to me is win­ning.”

Start­ing pitcher Chris Till­man will take the mound to face the Twins on Open­ing Day. He rep­re­sents the first Ori­oles pitcher since Mike Mussina from 1998-2000 to make three con­sec­u­tive Open­ing Day starts. The right-han­der ex­pe­ri­enced a down year in 2015 af­ter mak­ing the All-Star game the sea­son be­fore.

“I didn’t pitch as good. I think that’s what it comes down to. I didn’t ex­e­cute and I think it all comes down to ex­e­cu­tion like I said all year,” Till­man said in De­cem­ber. “That’s go­ing to be some­thing that I have to get bet­ter at if I want to get back to where I was. I like where I’m at right now.”

Till­man (11-11, 4.95 ERA) will an­chor a ro­ta­tion that re­turns starters Ubaldo Jimenez (12-10, 4.11) and Kevin Gaus­man (4-7, 4.25) from a group that ranked sec­ond-worst in the Amer­i­can League. Wei-Yin Chen (11-8, 3.34), the ro­ta­tion’s top starter from a year ago, de­parted to the Mi­ami Marlins in free agency, while the team re­leased Miguel Gon­za­lez (9-12, 4.91) last week af­ter a dis­ap­point­ing 2015 cam­paign and rocky spring train­ing.

To help bol­ster the ro­ta­tion, Bal­ti­more signed Yo­vani Gal­lardo to a twoyear deal. The right-han­der boasts a 102-75 record with a 3.66 ERA in nine sea­sons be­tween the Mil­wau­kee Brewers and Texas Rangers.

A pair of rook­ies, Mike Wright and Tyler Wil­son, along with for­mer Pitts­burgh pitcher Vance Wor­ley, will bat­tle for the fi­nal spot in the ro­ta­tion.

One of the league’s premier bullpens will once again be an­chored by Al­lS­tar closer Zach Brit­ton (36 saves, 1.92 ERA) and set-up man Darren O’Day (1.52 ERA). O’Day re-signed with Bal­ti­more in the off­sea­son.

“I hope it’s set,” Ori­oles pitch­ing coach Dave Wal­lace said of the bullpen in De­cem­ber. “But more than any­thing else, you need depth. You have Zach, you have Darren, you have [mid­dle re­liever] Brad Brach. You have [mid­dle re­liever My­chal] Givens. You have [left-han­ders] Brian Ma­tusz and [T.J.] McFarland. But you know what? As you all know, it’s not 13 or 14 pitch­ers over the course of the sea­son. So you’re al­ways look­ing for depth, es­pe­cially if one of our strengths is the bullpen. That’s a con­ver­sa­tion that’s go­ing on each and ev­ery day. How can we be­come a lit­tle bit bet­ter? How can we get more depth if some­thing hap­pens out of the bullpen? So, al­though it’s good on pa­per, it’s al­ways a con­cern for a man­ager and a pitch­ing coach.”

Fol­low Jor­dan Schatz on Twit­ter: @Jor­dan_Whig

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