Orioles plan on taking another power trip to AL playoffs
BALTIMORE (AP) The Baltimore Orioles have found a formula for success, and they're sticking with it.
Hit the long ball, play solid defense, close out the game with your outstanding bullpen. For three of the past five years - including last season - that's gotten the Orioles into the playoffs.
That's the plan for 2017, too.
With defending major league home run champ Mark Trumbo, slugger Chris Davis and hard-hitting Manny Machado leading the way, Baltimore hopes to have enough power to compensate for a starting rotation that lacks depth and experience.
Former first-round picks Kevin Gausman and Dylan Bundy stand atop a rotation that will start the season without ace Chris Tillman, who's nursing a shoulder injury that will keep him on the disabled list through opening day. Right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez (8-12, 5.44 ERA) and lefty Wade Miley (9-13, 5.37) are coming off lackluster seasons, and if they don't rebound the Orioles might find themselves in a whole lot of high-scoring games.
If that's the case, then Baltimore will need another prolific season from a lineup that led the majors in long balls and had five starters hit at least 25 home runs.
Executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette brought back Trumbo as a free agent during the offseason after doing the same with Davis one year earlier. Why bother with bunts and stolen bases when you can get three runs with one swing of a bat?
''That's the way we like it,'' manager Buck Showalter said. ''It fits us perfect.''
If Baltimore's starters can keep the game close for six or seven innings, the bullpen can win it. All-Star closer Zach Britton was brilliant last season, compiling a 0.54 ERA and converting every one of his 47 save opportunities while operating behind standout setup men Brad Brach and Darren O'Day.
Quite by design, this team looks very much like the one that went 89-73 last year.
''That's really nice when you walk in for a new season to have a lot of the same group,'' Davis said. ''And not only the same group, but a lot of guys have been together for five and six years.''
Some things to know about the 2017 Orioles:
CORNER SUPPORT: The Orioles shored up the outfield defense around CF Adam Jones, placing Hyun Soo Kim in left and newcomer Seth Smith in right. ''The bullpen remains a strength, the infield is top notch, both offensively and defensively, and we're going to have to find some solutions through better defensive outfield play,'' Duquette said.
NEW LOOK: Duquette sacrificed a piece of the rotation, Yovani Gallardo, to get Smith in a trade with Seattle. Not only did Smith hit 16 homers last season, but he's more efficient in right field than Trumbo. Even better, he can get on base ahead of the team's big boppers. ''I think Seth is going to be good for us because he knows how to work the count, he knows how to get on base,'' Davis said. ''We know we can hit the ball out of the yard, but I'd rather see us do it with one or two runners on.''
GAUSMAN AND BUNDY: Both right-handers are poised to anchor the rotation after operating on a strict pitch-count last season. ''It's going to be nice this year not to have those restrictions on them,'' Showalter said.
NEXT STEP: Not content to just make the playoffs, the Orioles want to go the distance this year. ''That's everyone's goal, that's everyone's dream,'' Machado said. ''We all have been in here. Everyone wants to be the last team standing. It's something I think we're getting closer and closer to doing.''