With the conclusion of the Orioles’ 8-2 loss on Monday, from this point on, when the Orioles take the field, the games will matter. Opening Day is only two days away, so it is time to talk big here.
Today I bring you five things the Orioles need to reach the playoffs. While the success of the 2023 Orioles will be debated if this team doesn’t make the playoffs, most will agree that making it to the dance will be considered a success.
Start Off Hot
Last year the O’s started horribly, going 7-14 in April. They scored three runs or fewer in thirteen of those twenty-one games. While Adley Rutschman not being on the roster and Chris Owings getting meaningful starts (remember him?), along with the other pieces which were bad last year, combined in the blame, that offense was horrible. When the year ended, the O’s were three games out of a Wild Card spot, and looking back at all those losses in one-run games…yeah, that hurts.
This means that the O’s are going to have to learn from last year and get off to a solid start to set up the team the best they can. Luckily their April schedule is pretty weak. With playing teams like the Red Sox, White Sox, and A’s, and only playing the Yankees once, the schedule makers showed mercy on the Birds.
This team can’t afford a bad start.
Bullpen Pieces Step Up
What could hurt this team is the injuries right now. Dillon Tate is out until at least May or longer, and Mychal Givens is going to the IL to start the year. We know we have the Mountain waiting in the back of the bullpen, but other pieces need to step up. Pieces like Michael Baumann, Kegan Akin, Bryan Baker, Cionel Perez, and others stepping up will be essential while their brethren are on the shelf.
The bullpen was the biggest strength for the O’s last year, so repeating that success while missing some pieces will be crucial.
Adley is a Top 3 Catcher
This may be too much pressure on a guy who only has one MLB season under his belt, but to be honest, Adley is just that good; he can do it. The only thing Adley had to work on was improving from the right side. This was a strength in the minors, yet he didn’t do that last year. This spring, he crushed lefties. If that continues, watch out.
We understand how good Adley is, but if he rakes off lefties and righties this year, the Orioles are in good shape to make the playoffs.
Get More Aggressive with Call-Ups
This is a response to the events of yesterday.
The Orioles fanbase got toxic on Monday when the Orioles lost 8-2… just kidding. Fans got mad about Grayson Rodriguez not making the rotation out of camp and Jordan Westburg not making the roster despite having a very good spring. These decisions sent the fan base into a ballistic rage on a level I have never seen, and that includes when Trey Mancini got traded.
So what are my reactions to it? I was heartbroken at first, but as the day went along, the facts started to become clear. As much as fans don’t want to hear this and think this all has to do with some evil scheme to torture fans and Elias is some supervillain in a comic book, GrayRod didn’t look good at all in Grapefruit League play.
What I think did it in for GrayRod was the fact that he couldn’t get through the fourth inning once this spring. Rodriguez’s stuff looked good, but he got hit around a lot and lost control the second time through the lineup. You can’t do that, and if we view his starts like a job application, he failed. Grayson is a great pitcher and is going to be a future ace, but you can’t perform poorly and just be given a spot just because you are a highly touted prospect.
This isn’t about service time either. Rodriguez just dropped the ball a bit, and he will be up in late April or May.
Westburg’s is a situation that needs to be discussed, though. If a prospect like that is performing well, then the Orioles need to clear space for him because Westburg is legit blocked right now. Ramon Urias and Adam Frazier-type players have to go if the prospect is the better choice. If Frazier isn’t hitting by May, then get rid of him. Elias has done this with Chris Owings; he has it in him to get rid of veterans to make way for prospects.
With the pipeline the Birds have built, this situation is going to keep coming up. If a prospect is playing well, make room for him (just don’t do it if the prospects are struggling).
Gunnar Plays Like a Rookie of the Year
Gunnar Henderson had a slow spring but picked it up a bit toward the end. Gunnar has unbelievable potential, no matter where he is. He has such a pretty swing, and his defense at short or third is awesome. He might not hit for the highest average, but the power and the discipline will help him eventually slot into the third spot in the lineup right behind Adley.
Thank you for reading, and get hyped for Opening Day.