By Will Carroll
March 01, 2011
One of the first widely-read columns I wrote was about the death of Steve Bechler. It was an odd combination of sports medicine and an early look into the dangers of some performance-enhancing drugs. While things haven't been that bad since for the Orioles, it hasn't been good either. No team outside of their new neighbors, the Nationals, has lost more money to injuries over the last decade. Meddling owners, a revolving door at every coaching spot, and a general malaise over the franchise could be blamed, but the medical staff has been a constant throughout this, with Richie Bancells holding a fine reputation among his peers. I'm not going to impugn Bancells here, but I will say that his results, on any measure, haven't been good. Last season was better, so 2011 will be the real test, because the Orioles should be pretty healthy based on pure risk. They don't have a lot of risky players that will draw time in the training room. They do have a young pitching staff that will need to be watched closely, but that shouldn't be beyond any team. If the Orioles can't make a step forward this season, both in the standings and in the injury ratings, it's going to be time to take a very hard look at the medical staff. One thing that could help is that Buck Showalter seems to have a Bill Parcells-like knack for improving team health. There's no clear reason for it, but teams will take it however it comes from Baseball Moses.

(HEAD TRAINER: Richie Bancells; FIVE YEAR RANK: 24; 2010 RANK: 10)
For explanation of these ratings, click here
C Matt Wieters
He's not Chuck Norris, but the unrealistic expectations aside, Wieters is a very good young catcher who should grow with his young pitching staff. Keeping him healthy should be the team's number one priority and that should involve at least some time at DH or first base.

CF Adam Jones
Jones' shoulder issue held him back last season, but shouldn't be a long term worry. He's still a nice B-level talent, though certainly no Willie Mays, as some have ignorantly suggested earlier in his career.

DH Vladimir Guerrero
Guerrero at DH is green. More than a few ventures into the outfield puts him into deep yellow territory.

SP Jeremy Guthrie
Guthrie's not the prototypical ace. He is a guy with value here, in that he'll take the ball, save the pen, and generally keep a team in a game. He's slightly better than his stats suggest, but don't expect a huge difference in '11. He might be the least talented of the O's starters, but his performance is going to make or break the other four.

Also Green:
3B Mark Reynolds
CL Kevin Gregg
RF Nick Markakis
1B Derrek Lee
Lee's last season in Chicago was marred by a thumb ligament tear. Like the several other players coming back from this, it should not be a long-term issue. Lee is aging and could bear some spot rest, which might be how Felix Pie gets worked back into the lineup (with Scott moving to first base.)

LF Luke Scott
Scott would have been green if he'd stayed at DH, but the signing of Vladimir Guerrero means he'll have to play left. A right-wing left fielder; that's a nice touch for Buck.

SP Brad Bergeson
Bergeson's the kind of No. 5 that makes you long for the four-man rotation. They'll need him to take innings, if nothing else, but his stuff is so edgy and fine that any minor injury makes him near worthless. He's very risky above 120 innings.
2B Brian Roberts
Roberts' 2010 was a loss, a fit of stops and starts. He ended the season playing, but he was limited. If the back problems are clear, as he insists, he could bounce back some, but don't expect him to return to the elite levels. The intriguing thing here is that his speed stayed in place once he was back, a huge positive.

SS J.J. Hardy
Hardy has every skill in the book but health. He was never quite healthy enough to help the Twins and they flipped him for some filler. He could bounce back in the power department with his wrist healthy and really, aside from the injuries, he has shown a consistent talent level. He's a good late-round pick, but a bad starter.

SP Brian Matusz
Matusz has sick, sick stuff. He got a bit out of whack mechanically at midseason, but adjusted and found his dominance again. The big innings jump is the worry and needs to be managed more closely this season. The problem is that the O's don't have the pitching depth to protect Matusz and the other two young possible studs, Arrieta and Tillman. How Mark Connor, Showalter's longtime pitching guru, handles this has to be his top priority. Getting these three through '11 and '12 healthy could give the O's a real chance.

SP Jake Arrieta
Everything above on Matusz holds true here, but there's also the issue of a bone spur in his pitching elbow. He elected not to have it taken out, largely because of the experience of Joe Nathan and others, who popped the UCL after having spurs cleaned out. There's a school of thought among orthos that the spurs might be the body's adjustment to pitching rather than a problem in all cases. We'll see, but Arrieta is as risky as he is talented right now.

SP Chris Tillman
Young, talented, and risky ... stop me if you've heard this before. Teams would kill to have three young pitchers like this, who have proven at some level that they can get major league hitters out. Tillman doesn't have the stuff of Matusz or Arrieta, but if he can work on his efficiency, he might put up the best numbers of the bunch this year.

RP Koji Uehara
Uehara was worn down when he came over from Japan, his ace days in the rear view. He's still cagy and still useful if the O's can keep him intact.

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