5 burning questions for the Orioles

Orioles Preview

April 05, 2009|By Dan Connolly

Will the pitching keep up with the solid offense?

Anything is possible, but the club's apparent lack of quality starting pitching looks to be its downfall. Jeremy Guthrie (left) is the ace, but he has only two full major league seasons, and the No. 2 starter, Koji Uehara, has never pitched in the majors.

Alfredo Simon won a spot with a strong spring but has pitched in just four major league games. Although Adam Eaton (career 4.89 ERA) and Mark Hendrickson (career 5.07 ERA) have experience, neither posted a sub-5.00 ERA the past two seasons. Uncertainty in the rotation could spell another year of overuse for a bullpen that's talented but susceptible to injuries.

Is Dave Trembley a lame-duck manager?

The simple answer is no. But history says that could change with the pressure of another poor season. Team president Andy MacPhail inherited Trembley but took off the interim tag in 2007 and renewed him for 2008 and 2009.

The club holds a one-year option to renew Trembley's contract for 2010, and MacPhail is a patient man who understands Trembley is at a competitive disadvantage in the American League East. But that hasn't saved previous managers - there have been eight in Peter Angelos' 15 years owning the Orioles.

When will we see Matt Wieters in an Orioles uniform?

Not soon enough for most fans, but the Orioles want their top catching prospect to play at Triple-A. He will certainly stay there for at least 12 days to guarantee he isn't eligible for free agency until after the 2015 season.

They could also keep him down beyond late May, which would prevent him from qualifying for a fourth year of arbitration. That, however, doesn't seem to be a major factor. The Orioles are likely to promote Wieters once he establishes dominance at Norfolk. Best guess: Expect Wieters here by mid- to late June.

How much patience will the Orioles have with Felix Pie?

Plenty. As they did with Adam Jones in center field last year and Nick Markakis in right in 2006, the Orioles are willing to put Pie, 24, into left most days this season. Because 2009 is considered a developmental year, and with Pie considered an above-average defender, the Orioles believe they can start him until he proves he can't be an everyday hitter. It would likely take a disastrous first half for the Orioles to pull the plug on the Pie experiment and try other options such as Lou Montanez or Nolan Reimold.

Are Aubrey Huff and Melvin Mora (right) midsummer trade bait?

Their contracts expire at season's end (though the Orioles have a 2010 club option for Mora). The Orioles explored trading Huff in July but did not receive any sufficient offers. It could be a different situation this year. He would be a two-month rental for a contender looking for a hitter. If Huff performs as he did in 2008 and the Orioles struggle, he'll probably be on the move. Mora's situation is more complicated. He has a full no-trade clause, so the Orioles would have to get his permission before dealing him. That's not to say it can't happen, but it adds another hurdle to consummating a deal.

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