O's rotation has impressed, but team is close to stalling

April 13, 2007|By PETER SCHMUCK

If I had told you on Opening Day that the three young starters at the heart of the Orioles' pitching staff would turn in five solid performances in their first two times through the rotation, would you have imagined the club could lose six of its first nine games?

Talk about a classic good news/bad news scenario.

The Orioles and their fans have to be thrilled with the way Erik Bedard, Daniel Cabrera and Adam Loewen have pitched from the first day of spring training. They have a right to look to the future with some legitimate optimism. And yet, the early returns have been disappointing, especially when you consider that the law of averages is lurking.

These guys can't be expected to pitch well five out of every six starts, though they certainly have the talent to do that, and they aren't going be able to carry a team that can't score enough runs to put them in the win column when they are at or close to their best.

I realize they played the defending AL Central champion, the defending AL East champion and the defending American League champion in successive series, but the Kool-Aid is already starting to run low.

Point/counterpoint

In a continuing effort to be fair and balanced, I will concede that the difference between the Orioles winning two series in a row against very good teams and losing two of three series to start the season was a game that was scoreless through 11 innings ... and Tigers starting pitcher Justin Verlander has yet to give up an earned run this season. That's probably not a coincidence.

Soft parade

The schedule has turned in the Orioles' favor, which makes the next week a pretty important juncture in the early season. The Kansas City Royals opened a four-game series at Camden Yards last night, and the Orioles head to Florida to face the Tampa Bay Devil Rays starting Monday.

If the Orioles are truly a team capable of finishing at or above .500, they have to win both series.

Your alibi

Of course, if you want to be an Orioles enabler, you could point out that it's unfair to expect them to beat anybody consistently while catcher Ramon Hernandez and left fielder Jay Payton are on the disabled list, but the club doesn't want your pity.

During spring training, manager Sam Perlozzo, executive vice president Mike Flanagan and vice president Jim Duquette agreed on the unofficial slogan for 2007:

No excuses.

Depth be not proud

What exactly did everyone expect when Payton arrived at spring training as the projected fourth outfielder and ended up throwing the roster into disarray when he pulled his hamstring late in camp?

I realize he had re-established himself in the starting lineup by then, but the Orioles had a relatively healthy spring, and that one injury was enough to send a ripple through the roster. Not a good sign.

The Hernandez injury, which was revealed Opening Day, was even more disruptive, but that's understandable. He is one of the game's top defensive catchers.

Wright revisited

Let's stop with the second-guessing about the acquisition of Jaret Wright until some of the big-money free-agent pitchers start winning. Last time I looked, $126 million left-hander Barry Zito was 0-2 with an 8.18 ERA and Jason Schmidt ($15.7 million this year) left his most recent start with a hamstring injury.

One more gripe

It would be fair to criticize the Orioles for carrying too many pitchers if there was a position player in the minor league system who would significantly upgrade the team and outweigh the value of an eighth reliever. Unfortunately, there isn't, so the Orioles are forced to wait for Hernandez and Payton to return to rebalance the 25-man roster.

Non sequitur of week

While we're on the subject, Don Imus is still an idiot.

peter.schmuck@baltsun.com

Listen to Peter Schmuck on WBAL (1090 AM) at noon on Saturdays and Sundays.

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