Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Roster Moves on the Horizon?

Thru May 26th, the Orioles have played .500 baseball, which is significantly better than most anyone would have expected preseason. That doesn't mean there isn't room for improvement, right? I believe that a few roster moves could help to improve the team and also take another step forward with the youth movement.

The Orioles' biggest weakness so far this year has been on offense. They rank 27th in team BA (.245) and 25th in team OBP (.315). Of course as I write about how bad the Orioles' hitting is, they are playing home run derby with the Yankees. They've hit 5 HR thru the first 5 innings. Anyway, back to improving this offense.

There are 2 players who stand out in Norfolk - Luis Terrero & Oscar Salazar. Terrero is hitting .322/.393/.517; Salazar is hitting .305/.352/.482.

Looking at the 25 man roster, Terrero looks like he'll have to wait until Jay Payton is no longer an Oriole before he gets a shot at the 4th outfielder spot. We need to make sure Payton gets plenty of playing time, and with a 12 man pitching staff, there is no need for a 5th outfielder.

That leaves Salazar as the more likely man to be called up. He can contribute at both infield corners and DH. In the past, manager Dave Trembley has talked about bringing Salazar up to serve as a versatile right handed bat off the bench when the O's enter interleague play, but I see no reason to wait that long. Luis Hernandez has become the forgotten man on the bench, slotted behind Freddie Bynum and Alex Cintron at shortstop. The Orioles should option him back to Norfolk for a more useful bat, like Salazar. I would expect Hernandez to pass waivers easily.

In contrast to the offense, the pitching has been a pleasant surprise. The staff ERA is 4.05, good for 13th in the MLB. That's middle of the pack, but inside that number is a 3.27 bullpen ERA, which is worlds better than the nightmare that was last year's bullpen. The weakest link in what has been an improved pitching staff has been the aged veteran, Steve Trachsel. In his 8 starts he has failed to complete more than 3 innings 4 times. At this point, he isn't really contributing anything on the field and it would be best to keep him off of it.

If you want to bring a starter up from Triple-A Norfolk, Radhames Liz is the best choice. After a slow start (4.55 ERA in April), he's starting to turn things around (3.73 ERA in May).

The other choice is to bring up a reliever and give long reliever Matt Albers a more permanent spot in the rotation. This route offers several arms to choose from, but none of them will knock you off your feet. Greg Aquino struggled in Baltimore to start the year, but has pitched well in Norfolk. He could find himself getting another chance. Jim Miller is another option. He's pitched at both Bowie and Norfolk this year and is holding opponents to a .175 BA. If you want to stick with the true "prospects", then recalling Bob McCrory might be more to your liking. But he still isn't showing the control that I'd like to see, so it might be better to let him get comfortable in Norfolk before yanking him back up to the Major Leagues.

It looks like the Orioles are waiting as long as they can to make this decision though. It's been announced that Steve Trachsel's next start will be skipped. If he isn't on the mound getting ripped, then there isn't as much pressure to remove him from the rotation permanently.

If it were up to me, I'd be looking closely at Radhames Liz and Jim Miller.

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