The Orioles played their second MASN-televised game of the spring on Wednesday, a game started by Mike Wright, another less-than-thrilling name thrown into the mix for the fifth and final spot in the rotation.
On the broadcast, announcers Jim Hunter and Jim Palmer fawned over the big right-hander for retiring six of the seven batters that he faced. Never mind the fact that he continuously missed his spots, throwing just 16 of his 31 pitches for strikes while facing a travel roster of Cardinals minor leaguers.
On the radio side of things, Joe Angel and Brian Roberts could also be heard singing Wright’s praises on the airwaves, talking about the owner of a 5.86 ERA in 144.1 big league innings as though he was the second coming. Did I miss something here? Was I watching a different pitcher in a different game?
All I saw was a glaring weakness for a team looking to improve upon a starting rotation that posted a franchise-worst 5.70 ERA in 2017. Mike Wright is just the latest in a barrage of names that ownership, management, and the front office alike are trying to pass off as legitimate rotation contenders to the fan base. And why? Because he’s out of options? So is Gabriel Ynoa, another name thrust into the competition who has no business starting every fifth day in the American League East.
Fans have to sit back each day and check the box scores of games started by the likes of Wright and Ynoa, not to mention two Rule V picks and a journeyman reliever whom the team picked up for next to nothing last season because he was deemed “uncoachable” (Miguel Castro).
Meanwhile Kevin Gausman and Dylan Bundy are getting lit up (I know spring stats don’t mean anything, but it would be nice to see some success after last season’s failures) and recent signees Chris Tillman and Andrew Cashner have yet to throw a pitch in anger – between the two of them – this spring.
On the offensive side of things, fans get the privilege of watching the Orioles enter another season content with a platoon situation in right field. Here’s a news flash: John Lowenstein and Gary Roenicke aren’t walking through those clubhouse doors anytime soon.
Nick Markakis has still yet to be replaced. Travis Snider was a complete waste of everybody’s time, and Seth Smith had the most misleading .258/.340/.443 slash line ever, as seemingly none of his hits came in critical situations after the beginning of May.
Enter Colby Rasmus, another hitter who–stop me if you’ve heard this one before–struggles to hit his weight, doesn’t get on base, and strikes out a ton. He should fit right in. Not to mention the fact that Rasmus up and decided to quit baseball last season for “personal reasons.”
Look, I get it, the man wanted to spend time with his family. But so does everybody else. Who’s to say he won’t have another change of heart midway through 2018? No worries, though. He’s left-handed and Buck loves him (Ryan Flaherty anyone?), so he’s got a job. Personally, I’d rather they hand the job to Austin Hays and see if he sinks or swims, but who am I?
The bottom line is this: the Orioles payroll sits right around $125M for 2018, roughly $30M below last season’s payroll, and they’re putting together the missing pieces of a team that isn’t too far away from contention with sticks, mud, and duct tape.
Last I checked, Alex Cobb, Lance Lynn, Jake Arrieta, Jon Jay, Carlos Gonzalez, and Melky Cabrera still don’t have jobs. But don’t fret, Baltimore, Scott Feldman is on their radar and Pedro Alvarez is back in the minors, just in case Mark Trumbo or Chris Davis gets injured.
Dan Duquette said all offseason that the Orioles are constructing a roster with the intention to compete and contend, yet the prized pieces they’ve acquired are Cashner (ERA of 4.34 and 5.25 prior to ‘17) and Tillman (7.84 ERA in ’17).
It’s time to you-know-what or get off the pot in Baltimore. This team believes it can contend as currently constructed, with a platoon in right field, four middling starters, and four Rule V players.
I’m not buying it, and neither should you.