It’s the dog days of summer as far as Major League Baseball is concerned. The non-waiver trading deadline has now passed, and the Baltimore Orioles sit 5.5 games back of Boston for first place in the AL East, as well as 1.5 games back of Oakland for that coveted second Wild Card spot. The birds lost to San Francisco 3-2 on Saturday, despite Chris Davis swatting his league-leading 42nd homerun in the 8th inning to make it a one-run game. They did, however, win a crazy one late Friday night in 10 innings, so when Bud Norris (8-9, 3.78) takes the hill for Baltimore Sunday afternoon against Matt Cain (7-7, 4.47), they will have a chance to take the series from the Giants before continuing their West Coast swing against Arizona. As the team prepares to turn onto the season’s final straightaway, they know what their M.O. is: pitch well enough to keep the team in it until the offense breaks out. I have written that story many times this summer, so instead, I have compiled some of my own observations and opinions on what the team needs to do as the leaves start to fall.
The waiver wire
The Orioles would be wise to scour the waiver wire in search of another righty bat to add to the bench. They cannot afford to rely on guys like Danny Valencia and Alexi Casilla with the playoffs on the line. A guy I’d take a flyer on? Mark Reynolds. Yes, the former O’s 3B fell into a horrifically bad slump this season in Cleveland after a blistering start. But, he’s a proven power bat that is very comfortable hitting in Camden Yards, and would look very nice in a platoon DH role alongside Henry Urrutia. If they don’t want to take on his $6M salary, they can wait until he clears and force Cleveland to pay the brunt of it. The Phillies also reportedly placed Michael Young on waivers today, and while he lacks Reynolds’ raw power, he would bring a veteran presence and the ability to still play the field at multiple spots, if someone needs a day off, as well as DH against southpaws. Either one of these guys would be a welcome addition to the lineup.
Don’t rely on Betemit
I’ve read a few places that the Orioles are reticent to make a waiver wire trade due to the impending return of Wilson Betemit, who has missed the entire year up to this point with a right PCL tear. I’m not necessarily sure that is the best move. Betemit did hit .261 overall last season, but he had dramatic split numbers, as he hit .302 against LHP and a measly .140 against RHP. With Urrutia seemingly cementing himself as the DH against LHP, there is no clear role for Betemit in the starting lineup. Plus, no one knows how his knee will hold up once he is back playing everyday. Is there a spot for him on the bench? Of course, especially when rosters expand in September. But the thought of him sliding smoothly into the starting lineup against right-handers is ridiculous.
Norris shines in initial outings
Bud Norris was even better than advertised in his two starts since joining the club on July 31st in a trade from Houston. He has a 1.08 WHIP and a 2.50 ERA with the O’s, with a 9.75 K/9 ratio as well. There are still some people worried that he is too much of a fly-ball pitcher to succeed in Baltimore over the long-term, and he did give up two solo shots in his Camden Yards debut, but people said that about Wei-Yin Chen as well, and he has had great success in Charm City thus far. If Norris keeps on rolling, this trade could be looked back on as a steal, especially since he in under Baltimore’s control for next season as well.
Jones sizzles in home state
California’s burning, and it’s all thanks to Adam Jones’ bat. The All-Star CF has been red hot since the team entered the Golden State, hitting .625 over the last 4 games, with 1 HR, and 3 RBI in the process. He has also raised his season average from .292 to .303. Hailing from San Diego, Jones grew up a Padres fan, admiring guys like Steve Finley and Tony Gwynn. These days, it is Jones who has made himself an icon in the eyes of young kids across the country with his stellar offensive (and defensive) play.