After one eventful week, Orioles are already a tough team to figure

Team has shown both promise and reasons for concern in the early going

April 09, 2013|Peter Schmuck

The only thing the Orioles have proven at this very early point in the new baseball season is how many ways a team can toy with your emotions in a single week.

Orioles fans were mentally printing World Series tickets after the season-opening road series against the Tampa Bay Rays and the electric victory over the Minnesota Twins in the home opener at Camden Yards. Now, they're going to have to sweat out the rest of the current road trip through Boston and New York to see which O's team returns next week to Baltimore.

Will it be the one that hammered a very good Rays pitching staff or the one that found too many ways to lose to a Twins team that won just 66 games a year ago? Will it be the one that plays sterling defense or the one that lost Saturday's game on a ninth-inning error by Chris Davis and lost Sunday's game in the bright April sky above Oriole Park?

Adam Jones was right to react sarcastically to questions about the team's state of mind after losing another close game on Monday at Fenway Park. The Orioles aren't going to spend a lot of time "holding each other's hands, just walking through the Prudential Center, just crying" over their three-game losing streak or the fact that they are below .500 for the first time since 2011. They're going to lose some games against guys who pitch like Clay Buchholz.

What is fair to note, however — even after just one week of the regular season — is that every potential soft spot that was considered a matter of real concern coming out of spring training has revealed itself during the Orioles' first seven games.

The offensive lineup looked solid from top to bottom with Nolan Reimold and Brian Roberts contributing in the opening series at Tropicana Field, but fears that both would struggle to stay healthy all season were realized all too soon. Roberts is expected back in a month after rupturing a tendon near his right knee on Thursday. Reimold hopes to be back Wednesday night after experiencing hamstring soreness Sunday.

The top three pitchers in the starting rotation have performed pretty much as expected, but Jake Arrieta and Chris Tillman struggled with their command in their 2013 debuts. Both will get the chance to bounce back at Fenway Park, with Arrieta set to face veteran Ryan Dempster on Wednesday night and Tillman matched up against left-hander Felix Doubront in the series finale.

It's way too early to draw any conclusions about either one of them, but the next two games suddenly hold additional significance because the Orioles do not want to head into Yankee Stadium in a serious early-season slump.

Nobody is too concerned about the defense, though Davis did allow that routine grounder to get under his glove at a bad time in Saturday's one-run loss to the Twins. He worked hard to polish his skills at first base in the spring and has performed capably except for that one lapse, which was pretty easy to overlook considering he was the American League Player of the Week.

There is one statistic that can be taken out of the first week of play that can be viewed as either a positive or a negative, depending on how you want to rationalize it. The Orioles have lost four games by a total of five runs, which is a sign that they have been competitive in every inning of the first seven games.

That would be the logical view, but the fact that they are 0-3 in one-run games after setting a major league record with their 29-9 record in one-run decisions last year is going to be viewed by some as a sign that the baseball gods are taking payment for last year's magical playoff run.

There's really nothing mystical about it. The bullpen that was so air-tight for most of last season has had a few shaky innings, and the difference between a losing record and a winning one is a ball that disappeared in the glare of a beautiful Sunday afternoon at Oriole Park.

Nothing to cry about.

Read more from columnist Peter Schmuck on his blog, "The Schmuck Stops Here" at and listen when he co-hosts "The Week in Review" at noon Fridays on WBAL (1090 AM) and at

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