Manager: Dave Trembley General Manager: Andy MacPhail
Home Ballpark (multi-year Park Factors): Oriole Park at Camden Yards (101/102)
Who's Replacing Whom:
Luis Hernandez inherits Miguel Tejada's playing time
Adam Jones replaces Corey Patterson
Luke Scott replaces Jay Gibbons and some of Jay Payton's playing time
Brandon Fahey inherits Chris Gomez's playing time
Guillermo Quiroz replaces Paul Bako
Adam Loewen returns from the DL to replace Erik Bedard
Brian Burres takes over the starts of Garrett Olson, Jon Leicester, and Radhames Liz
George Sherrill replaces Chris Ray (DL)
Dennis Sarfate replaces Danys Baez (DL)
Greg Aquino replaces John Parrish
Matt Albers replaces Rob Bell
Randor Bierd replaces Kurt Burkins
Jim Jones replaces Paul Shuey
1B - Kevin Millar (R)
2B - Brian Roberts (S)
SS - Luis Hernandez (S)
3B - Melvin Mora (R)
C - Ramon Hernandez (R)
RF - Nick Markakis (L)
CF - Adam Jones (R)
LF - Luke Scott (L)
DH - Aubrey Huff (L)
R - Jay Payton (OF)
L - Brandon Fahey (UT)
R - Guillermo Quiroz (C)
R - Jeremy Guthrie
R - Daniel Cabrera
L - Brian Burres
R - Steve Trachsel
L - Adam Loewen
L - George Sherrill
L - Jamie Walker
R - Chad Bradford
R - Greg Aquino
R - Dennis Sarfate
R - Randor Bierd
R - Matt Albers
R - Jim Johnson
15-day DL: R - Chris Ray, R- Danys Baez, R - Fernando Cabrera, L - Troy Patton, R - Jim Hoey, R - Rocky Cherry, L - Freddie Bynum (UT)
S - Brian Roberts (2B)
R - Melvin Mora (3B)
L - Nick Markakis (RF)
R - Kevin Millar (1B)
L - Aubrey Huff (DH)
L - Luke Scott (LF)
R - Ramon Hernandez (C)
R - Adam Jones (CF)
S - Luis Hernandez (SS)
The Orioles have split three two-game series, lost two three-game series, and swept one four-game series at home against the Mariners. That M's sweep stands as an aberration on both team's records as the M's are 4-1-1 in series thus far this season, and the O's are 1-2-3. The Yankees, meanwhile, are 2-2-2, all but one of those six series coming against AL East opponents. The Yankees are 8-6 against their own division with a .667 winning percentage against the Jays and Rays. In fact, what separates them from a .667 or better winning percentage against the division as a whole is Mike Mussina's inability to retire Manny Ramirez. The Yankees lost the two games Mike Mussina started against the Red Sox by a combined three runs. In those games, Ramirez went 4-for-5 against Mussina with a double, three home runs and six RBIs. If you count the run Ramirez scored after driving Mussina from the game in Boston, Manny was responsible for 7 of the Red Sox's 11 runs in those two games. Fortunately, the Orioles, the one AL East foe the Yankees haven't faced yet this year and the team against whom they open a three-game set in Baltimore tonight, don't have anyone as dangerous as Manny Ramirez in their lineup. They also won't get the privilege of facing Mike Mussina.
Over the past decade, the Orioles have become a contemptibly bad franchise. They finally made some moves in acknowledgment of that fact last year by bringing in Andy MacPhail, the architect of the Twins' two World Series winners, to head up their baseball operations, assigning him to the task of rebuilding. The grandson of late-40s Yankees general manager Larry MacPhail and son of former Yankees and Orioles general manager Lee MacPhail, Andy got right to work by trading two of the team's most marketable commodities, shipping slugging shortstop Miguel Tejada to Houston and lefty ace Erik Bedard to Seattle for prospects.
Those deals yielded 22-year-old shortstop-turned-center fielder Adam Jones, left-handed closer George Sherrill, and three minor league pitchers from the Mariners, and lefty platoon outfielder Luke Scott, minor league third baseman Michael Costanzo, and another trio of young pitchers from the Astros. Sherrill and Scott are stop-gaps, complimentary players in their early 30s who won't be around for the next Baltimore run at contention. Constanzo is 24, in his first year at triple-A, and has struck out 399 times in 359 minor league games and made 61 errors at third base in the last two years.
Of the six young arms obtained, two are on the O's 25-man roster. The oldest of the bunch, Dennis Sarfate, is a 27-year-old righty who was converted to relief last year and is with his third organization in the last eight months. He has strikeout stuff, but has given up six runs in his last four innings. Matt Albers is a 25-year-old righty who pitched poorly as a swing man in the Astros pen last year after being rushed through triple-A and is back in that role for the O's this year, though with better results thus far. The best pitcher the O's acquired was probably 22-year-old lefty starter Troy Patton, but he's going to miss the entire season following surgery to repair the labrum in his pitching shoulder. The three arms the O's got from Seattle all have potential, but are pretty raw. Twenty-year-old right-handed starter Chris Tillman is the best of the bunch. He's making the leap to double-A this year where he's joined by 24-year-old 6-foot-9 righty Kameron Mickolio, who has closer potential. Lefty Tony Butler is just 20, but also still in the Sally League.
That leaves Jones, who delivered a game-winning single last night, as the best get. He should form a solid two-some in the outfield with 24-year-old right fielder Nick Markakis. The O's also have 2007 first-rounder Matt Wieters at high-A this spring and hope he will move quickly to take the big league catching job from Ramon Hernandez, who's four-year contract runs out after next season. Those three should form the core of the O's rebuilt offense, but they'll need more.
Right now, second baseman Brian Roberts is their most valuable commodity, though MacPhail was unable to work out a deal with the Cubs during spring training. Hernandez could also have value on the trade market as catching is extremely thin around the majors and, at 32, he should retain his value through the end of his contract (which contains an option for 2010). Of course, Hernandez will have to restore his value first after a poor, injury-plagued 2007 season. If Jeremy Guthrie can repeat his breakout season of a year ago, he might be a good chip, as the late-blooming 29-year-old is only a month younger than Bedard and still in his team-control years. The O's could also flip Scott or Sherrill if either is able to build off his hot start.
Whether they cash those players in or not, the Orioles will look very different two years from now. Setting aside kids such as Markakis and Jones, who are under team control, the Orioles don't have a single player under contract for 2010. That opens up a lot of opportunity for rebuilding, but the O's still need prospects to fill those holes. They have Luis Hernandez, a career .250/.296/.325 hitter in the minors, replacing Miguel Tejada at shortstop right now. That sort of thing will only take the Orioles from contemptibly bad to pathetically bad.
Speaking of which, Daniel Cabrera starts tonight against Phil Hughes. Cabrera is now 27 and never did figure it out. He's walked 12 against 11 Ks in 16 2/3 innings thus far this year and his 5.94 ERA isn't out of line with what he did last year (5.55 in 34 starts). The Yanks saw Cabrera a whopping five times last year and walked 17 times against 18 Ks in those five games while Cabrera posted a 6.67 ERA and his team went 1-4. As for Hughes, he faced Baltimore twice last season, but will make his Camden Yards debut tonight. It was beautiful in Baltimore today, with temperatures in the 80s. It will drop down to about 60 tonight, but that's still a big improvement over the mid-40s temperatures Hughes had to deal with in his last two disastrous starts. Hughes is facing a bad team under good conditions, so the stage is set for him to get back on track.
In other Yankee news, here's the latest from Joba. Pete Abe reports that Edwar Ramirez is in the visitors clubhouse in Baltimore. With Scranton thus far this season, Edwar has allowed three baserunners in seven scoreless innings and struck out 11. I won't speculate as to whose roster spot he might be taking.
Joe Girardi is playing the same nine men at the same nine positions as Tuesday, the first time he's repeated a defensive alignment all year. He has, however, swapped Giambi and Cano's spots in the batting order, so it counts as his 18th unique lineup in 18 games.