Grading The Orioles

July 11, 2002|By Joe Christensen


After scoring 10 runs on Opening Day, the Orioles scored six in the next six games, leaving them at 1-6. In mid-May, No. 3 hitter David Segui went on the disabled list with a wrist injury, and a hamstring injury sent No. 4 hitter Jeff Conine to the DL in mid-June. But with those two out of the lineup, the Orioles are 11-8.


The Orioles committed just 49 errors in the first 85 games, ranking among the top teams defensively in the American League. Injured much of last season, short-stop Mike Bordick has a 06-game errorless streak. Geronimo Gil has helped the Orioles shut down the running game, throwing out 32.7 percent (17 of 52) of base stealers.


The original starting five -Scott Erickson, Jason Johnson, Sidney Ponson, Josh Towers and Calvin Maduro - are a combined 11-25. But two rookies have come from nowhere to make this a formidable bunch. Rodrigo Lopez and Travis Driskill are a combined 14-4.


With 36-year-old Buddy Groom being a stable force - 1.89 ERA in 39 appearances - this group has been strong all season. Closer Jorge Julio, 23, had a rough May, but he has been solid otherwise, converting 17 of 22 save opportunities. And Willis Roberts has emerged as another dependable set-up man, with a 1.99 ERA to complement Groom.


Injuries to Segui and Conine forced the Orioles to dig into their reserves, and they quickly learned that Gary Matthews can be a player. A career .217 hitter coming into the season, he finished the first half batting .281 and has hit No.3 in the lineup 20 times. But this team is nowhere as deep as the Yankees or Red Sox and has just five hits in 35 pinch-hit at-bats.


Mike Hargrove was patient with his club after a 4-11 start, allowing the players to find themselves. And when they looked lack-adaisical on May 19 in a 4-0 loss to Tampa Bay, he closed the doors and chewed their tails. Even if a move here or there has lent itself to second-guessing, Hargrove has melded a group of young and old players into winners.

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