view of the base used for Jackie Robinson Day during a game between the Rays and Orioles at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Credit: Joy R. Absalon-USA TODAY Sports
The Baltimore Orioles play in the most difficult division in MLB, but the American League East has not been nearly as powerful as in the past or as predicted for 2014. At least not yet. Every team in the division is dealing with some varied issues and challenges.
The combined record of AL East teams after play on Wednesday, April 16th is 37-36. The AL Central is 33-32 and the AL West stands at 36-36.
There is a great opportunity for the Baltimore Orioles to take advantage of the current overall situation if they are able to play well in the coming two weeks. It has been acknowledged all along that the Orioles have a very difficult early schedule. Some have said that the Birds would do well to simply get through the month of April with a .500 record. Right now they are at 7-7 with 12 games remaining in the month: four against Boston, three with Toronto followed by three with Kansas City, and then two with Pittsburgh.
If the Orioles can bag wins now, they can presumably perform better than the other AL East teams later in the season that will face greater difficulties in their schedules – particularly against each other.
Though the Baltimore Orioles have played much better in recent days after scoring only five runs in 30 innings against the Jays, there has been much to cause concern for Birds fans. The sketchy performance of the rotation has validated the primary fears of so many about this Achilles heel for the O’s; and the hitting has been very (shall we say?) hit and miss. All in all, though Birds lovers may have wished for one or two more wins at this point, the Orioles have done well, all things considered, to be 7-7 at this juncture.
With Miguel Gonzalez throwing a fairly strong outing yesterday, and with Bud Norris and Wei-Yin Chen also performing well in their most recent starts, hope exists that they will provide some stability behind the lights-out ace Chris Tillman. Only Ubaldo Jimenez is still on the wrong side of the stats in terms of having any sort of good start over the first 14 games.
Every team in the AL East has had to deal with some injuries. The Orioles are still hoping that Manny Machado may return before too long. Other injuries have not been as devastating … at least as compared to divisional rivals.
Boston Red Sox
There has been a rash of injuries striking the Orioles’ next four-game series opponent – the Boston Red Sox. Right now may be an opportune time to be playing the defending World Champions. Dustin Pedroia is back from an inflamed wrist injury, though he is not likely his full self, batting at .246. Mike Napoli dislocated his ring finger in a slide on Tuesday and is day to day. Shane Victorino (hamstring strain) and Will Middlebrooks (right calf strain) are on the 15-day DL. Koji Uehara has been set aside for a few days with shoulder issues. And, of course, Ryan Dempster is out for the season.
The Red Sox pitching has been decent – especially with Clay Buchholz having a first respectable outing just last night – but the offense has been anemic. David Ortiz is batting a mere .237, and the RISP is well south of .200 on the young season.
Tampa Bay Rays
Certainly the Rays are the team picked most often by the most prognosticators as the team to beat in the AL East this year. Though they may yet put it all together, those predictions were made before the onset of a host of pitching injuries hit the team. Matt Moore is now out for the season, and Alex Cobb and Jeremy Hellickson are not likely to be pitching very soon – especially the latter, who is assumed to be out until at least late May.
The Rays have trouble generating a great deal of offense and are thus very dependent upon their pitching. Frankly, the Rays looked terribly anemic and weak the past couple of days. There was nothing about them that gave any appearance of a top-drawer outfit.
New York Yankees
Again, somehow the Yankees win and stand at 9-6. Masahiro Tanaka may well prove to be worth all the Shekels or Yen or whatever currency he is paid in. But problems remain all over the field. Mark Texeira is on the DL, Brian Roberts has back troubles (imagine that), and back-up catcher Francisco Cervelli has been put today on the 60-day DL. Their bullpen is suspect with David Robertson on the DL until 4/22.
Toronto Blue Jays
Other than shortstop Jose Reyes, the Jays have had less of the injury problems than the rest of the division (unlike last year!). They have had pitching performances beyond what has been expected or what could be anticipated to continue. Even though they recently took two out of three games against the Baltimore Orioles, honestly, that is not a great lineup, and many of them are performing below historic levels. Though this team is a bit improved over 2013, it is simply not a great squad.
Conclusion – Though every year in MLB we see a team or two who puts it together in the second half of the season and makes a run into the playoffs, the time to win is now … it is always the time to win! And wins now could prove to be very fortuitous for the Baltimore Orioles as the season progresses.