It feels like spring training has been going on forever and we’re still four weeks away from Opening Day. The Orioles have lost a core group to the World Baseball Classic, but at least it appears that injured players Chris Tillman, J.J. Hardy and Zach Britton are all progressing well and remain on the timetable set by the team.
Bundy More Comfortable with Cutter/Slider
One of the more intriguing storylines this spring has been Dylan Bundy’s willingness to add his cutter/slider back into his repertoire. This is a situation that will have O’s fans, myself included, holding our breath through the season, as many believe that pitch has led to his elbow issues. However, it appears it will just be in the arsenal instead of a main pitch. That could change as the season progresses or in future years, but at least it’s comforting to know the team and Bundy will not overdo it.
By employing the cutter/slider either early in the game or when he faces hitters for the third time, Bundy will now have four pitches hitters have to think about which, in theory, should allow him to pitch deeper and more effectively in games.
While setting expectations so high is probably too much to ask at this stage in their careers, this season could really be determined by the performances of Bundy and Kevin Gausman.
What we don’t know is how much better Gausman can be this year and what Bundy will do in his first full season as a starter. If they both take their games to the next level, there’s no doubt in my mind this team can head into September once again positioned for a playoff berth.
The Battle for Leadoff
The good news is that no matter how this shakes out, Adam Jones will not occupy the top of batting order to begin the season. I still believe Jones should hit lower in the order, but he will more than likely settle into the second spot.
Buck Showalter has rotated both Seth Smith and Hyun Soo Kim at the top with the other batting sixth when the usual regulars are in the lineup. Joey Rickard looks to be the guy that will bat leadoff when a lefty is on the mound.
It will be interesting to see who wins the job, but this could be a battle that continues into the regular season and could change daily depending what pitcher is on the mound.
Since the Orioles don’t steal bases, it really doesn’t matter who is leading off as long as they can make a pitcher work.
However, what is concerning is if Welington Castillo bats eighth and Hardy bats ninth, there will be a TON of slow runners clogging the bases when the order turns over. But that’s a problem for another day.