2009 record: 64-98, fifth in AL East
Manager: Dave Trembley
Key additions: RP Mike Gonzalez, SP Kevin Millwood, 1B Garrett Atkins, 3B Miguel Tejada
Key losses: 3B Melvin Mora, RP Chris Ray, RP Danys Baez
Outlook: The Orioles are the only franchise in Major League Baseball to see its win total drop in each of the last five years, and their 12 straight losing seasons are second only to the Pittsburgh Pirates, who lead the world with 17 in a row.
The latter of Baltimore’s two streaks may continue, but the former has a good chance of being halted as the O’s seem poised for a turnaround.
With prime pitching prospects Brian Matusz and Chris Tillman throwing to the “next great thing” at catcher in Matt Wieters, a young outfield the envy of others, a new closer and depth in the minor league system, Baltimore may finally trend in the right direction.
It may sound cliche, but it all comes down to pitching. The Orioles have had a team ERA above 5.00 for four straight seasons and finished last in the American League again in 2009 with a 5.15 mark.
But former staff leader Jeremy Guthrie does not have the World Baseball Classic to deal with this year (he started 4-7 with a 5.42 ERA in 2009), and Kevin Millwood was signed to take over that No. 1 spot, taking some pressure off Guthrie and giving the youngsters another horse to lean on.
Millwood has made at least 25 starts in eight straight seasons and is coming off a bounce-back year in his last season in Texas.Matusz, a southpaw selected fourth overall in 2008, showed his ability to dominate late last season by ending the campaign with three straight wins over Cleveland, Texas and the Yankees. Tillman and Brad Bergesen should round out the rotation that will hopefully hand more leads to newly acquired closer Mike Gonzalez and a bullpen which allowed opponents to hit .284 against it last year.
No other bullpen in baseball allowed opponents to hit above .270.
The corner spots in the infield are new, as one-time Orioles shortstop Miguel Tejada was picked up to play third base, and Garrett Atkins, who averaged 25 home runs and 110 RBIs from 2006-08 for Colorado, will play first.
The rest of the position players remain in place, with second baseman Brian Roberts and shortstop Cesar Izturis rounding out the infield, and the trio of Nick Markakis, Adam Jones and Nolan Reimold across the outfield.
The threesome combined for 52 homers last year, and none of them are older than 26.
What it means to the Red Sox: Camden Yards has been called “Fenway Park South” over recent years, not only due to the fact that Red Sox fans visit in droves, but also because they always have plenty to cheer about.
Boston is 65-25 against Baltimore over the past five years and 32-13 in Camden. Such dominance is a big reason why the Red Sox have managed to make the playoffs in four of those years. Should the O’s ever turn it around and consequently compete again with Boston, it would wipe away some of those surefire Red Sox wins.