SB Nation Blog
The Opponent in one sentence
The Orioles are trying to hang on for at least one more run with this current core in Manny Machado’s final year of control before free agency, but it seems like a lack of pitching and depth could make it a familiar finish for Baltimore fans.
Neutral. Things could certainly be going worse for the Orioles, and if the Red Sox had been playing them just one series earlier they’d be catching a Baltimore team riding high fresh off taking two of three from the Yankees in New York. That high has let down some by losing two of three to the Blue Jays, however, and overall they are 4-3 in their last two series.
4/13: Eduardo Rodriguez vs. Chris Tillman, 7:10 PM ET
The first game of this series will feature Rodriguez going up against his former organization as he looks to make a better impression than he did in his first start back from knee surgery. The good news is that the lefty’s stuff was there in that outing against the Rays and he was able to get plenty of whiffs. He just needs to find a way to get some better command, and it also wouldn’t hurt if he attacked hitters more confidently in an effort to be more efficient. We’ve discussed it many times before, but Rodriguez has the potential to take a real step forward in 2018 and that one mediocre start coming off of an injury is not going to discourage me too much from thinking he can do it.
Tillman is an Extremely Orioles Pitcher, so it was heartening to see the righty sign a one-year deal to go back to Baltimore this winter. He’s had some good years here and there, but for the most part the recent track record for Tillman is not one for Orioles fans to be excited about. After pitching to a 7.84 ERA a year ago, the soon-to-be-30-year-old (his birthday is on Sunday) has an 8.68 ERA through his first two starts this year. He also has three strikeouts and eight walks through 9 1⁄3 innings, so, yeah. Tillman made one start against the Red Sox last year and allowed five runs (three earned) over six innings with three strikeouts and four walks. The righty features a low-90s four-seam fastball, a two-seam fastball a few ticks below that, a changeup and a cutter.
4/14: Hector Velazquez vs. Alex Cobb, 1:05 PM ET
Velazquez hasn’t officially been named the starter yet, but they’ve indicated that this is their plan with Drew Pomeranz needing at least one more rehab start to get ready. Velazquez has already been moved around the pitching staff a bit this year with some bullpen work and some rotation work, and presumably if/when everyone is healthy he’ll also get some time in Pawtucket. Depth is good, though, and the righty is showing that he is a valuable part of this roster. He was outstanding in his one start of the year, holding the Rays to just one run over five innings on five hits, a walk and five strikeouts. It’s not fair to expect dominance from him, but he’s proven capable of keeping this team in games at the very least.
Cobb, as I’m sure many of you remember, had spent his entire career before this season with the Rays. He was one of the last high-profile free agents to sign a deal, eventually agreeing to terms with the Orioles shortly before the start of the regular season. Since he signed so late, he didn’t have a real spring training and has been working to come back with minor-league appearances. Saturday will mark his first major-league start with his new team, and hopefully the Red Sox can give the Boston-born righty a hearty welcome back. They know him plenty well, as they faced him five times last year with varying success. Overall, he pitched to a 3.38 ERA over 29 1⁄3 innings with 18 strikeouts and eight walks. Cobb relies heavily on a low-90s sinker and supplements it with a splitter and a curveball.
4/15: Chris Sale vs. Dylan Bundy, 1:05 PM ET
Sunday is Sale Day, and the early returns of these days have been strong this year. That being said, we’re still waiting for the outing in which the Red Sox ace has absolutely everything working in terms of both stuff and command. His last outing against the Yankees was great, make no mistake, but he had some period where he couldn’t quite spin his slider. The good news is that he’s shown he can get great results even without his peak stuff, which is terrifying for opponents. For what it’s worth Sale struck out 33 Orioles and walked just three in 22 innings against them last year. Pretty good!
Bundy is a former top prospect and represents arguably the best chance Baltimore has at getting a top-flight starting pitcher on their roster, but he hasn’t been able to throw consistently well enough to get that designation. The righty may be changing that perception this year, as he’s been outstanding through his first three starts of the year. Bundy has gone at least six innings in each of his starts and he has a 1.35 ERA to go with 25 strikeouts and just five walks in 20 innings of work. It hasn’t come against exclusively weak competition, either, as he pitched six innings of two-run (one earned) ball against the Astros. Bundy also made five starts against the Red Sox last year, pitching to a 3.94 ERA with 14 strikeouts and nine walks in 29 2⁄3 innings. He throws a low-to-mid-90s fastball to go with a changeup, curveball and slider.
4/16: Brian Johnson vs. Andrew Cashner, 11:05 AM ET
This Patriots Day start was originally supposed to belong to David Price, but after leaving his last outing early with a “sensation” in his throwing hand, the team has decided to push that start back to Tuesday on the road against the Angels. Instead, it will be the left-handed Johnson heading back to the rotation. Like Velazquez, Johnson has been impressive early on in this swingman role bouncing back and forth between the bullpen and rotation. It’s an underrated role, but it’s one that he’ll be playing all year long for this team.
Cashner is a new addition to the Orioles, which is kind of amazing because like Tillman he is an Extremely Orioles Pitcher. To his credit, he has unfathomably gotten strong results over the last couple of years, pitching to a 3.31 ERA since the start of 2017 despite striking out five batters per nine innings while walking more than three per nine. It really doesn’t make sense. This year he has 16 strikeouts and eight walks in 18 innings of work while managing to pitch to a 2.50 ERA. In fact, he’s allowed just one run over his last two outings with 11 strikeouts and six walks. I don’t know. The Red Sox saw Cashner twice last year and in those outings he allowed seven runs (five earned) over 12 innings with six strikeouts and seven walks. The righty throws both a four-seam and two-seam fastball, both in the low-90s, with a curveball and a cutter.
None. Stupid Orioles
Notable Position Players
Manny Machado is in the final year of his contract and will be the face of this franchise as long as he’s still a part of it. The former third baseman who’s back to shortstop this year obviously didn’t make friends with the Red Sox last year, but his talent is undeniable. He’s off to a massive start in his walk-year, hitting for power and average while also drawing a ton of walks. He’s going to be scary every time he comes to the plate.
Jonathan Schoop was something of a breakout in 2017, but he’s off to a rough start this year. The second baseman is uber-aggressive at the plate and has some swing and miss in his game, but he’s a threat to go deep any time he gets his bat on the ball.
Adam Jones is not the player that Machado is, but if anyone were to challenge the infielder for “face of the franchise” it’d be him. The center fielder is past his prime, but he can still make good contact and play solid defense (though metrics disagree). He’s also off to a rough start this year.
Trey Mancini finished behind Aaron Judge and Andrew Benintendi in last year’s Rookie of the Year voting, and while he doesn’t have the profile of those two he’s a good hitter. He’s like just about every other Orioles hitter in that he strikes out some and doesn’t walk much but can hit for power.
Chris Davis is the ultimate all-or-nothing player, and so far this year it’s been mostly nothing. Interestingly enough, he’s spent a fair amount of time in the leadoff spot this season.
Tim Beckham is a former number one overall pick who came into his own after being traded to the Orioles last summer, but he’s off to a rocky start in 2018 as his contact issues are catching back up to him. He’s moved from shortstop to third base to allow Machado to move back to the middle infield.
Brad Brach is the Orioles closer while Zach Britton is injured (more on that in a second), and he’s an underratedly solid and consistent reliever in this league. The righty has had some trouble with control early on this year, but he’ll miss bats at a high rate in the late innings.
Mychal Givens is probably the most exciting reliever in this Orioles bullpen, though he’s still a little rough around the edges. He greatly improved his control in 2017, but he’s had some issues again in 2018 while maintaining his high strikeout rate. Givens is also prone to home run problems here and there.
Darren O’Day has been in the back of the Orioles bullpen for what seems like forever, and he’s still good back there even if he’s taken a step back. He’ll still miss bats and keep his walks in check, but he’s been hurt by this new homer-happy league in recent seasons.
Richard Bleier is the top (and only) lefty in the Orioles bullpen. He hardly misses any bats, but Baltimore will run him out there against righties and lefties alike and he limits free passes while inducing a ton of ground balls.
Zach Britton was mentioned above, and for the second straight season the left-handed closer is spending significant time on the disabled list. This time around, he ruptured his tendon during an offseason workout that his kept him out all year and figures to hold him out until at least June.
Mark Trumbo has had an up-and-down career with the Orioles, and the slugger suffered a quad injury during camp and has missed all season. His timetable to return is still unclear.
Colby Rasmus stepped away from the game last summer for unknown reasons, but he came back this winter and signed a minor-league deal with the Orioles. The outfielder/DH made the Opening Day roster, but he suffered a hip injury just a week or so into the year. They expect him back by the end of the month.
Gabriel Ynoa is a depth pitcher for the Orioles who has been out since early spring with shin issues.
The first two games of this series are looking golden, with temperatures expected to reach the 60s Friday afternoon and skies supposed to stay clear through Saturday afternoon. The second half of this series gets a little sketchy, though. It’s supposed to cool down on Sunday with showers off-and-on through the day, and on Monday it should warm up but the rain is expected to stick around. Hopefully, these forecasts change.