The exhibition schedule always contains one open date, and we’ve reached it today.
The complex is closed to the media. Gates are locked. Keys have been swallowed. (OK, they don’t go that far, but the Orioles really want reporters to stay away.)
I’ll be covering both games in Jupiter beginning tomorrow, which requires me to spend two nights on that side of the state. I’ll probably swing by Fort Lauderdale Stadium to check whether it’s still standing, and if the executive airport has expanded to make better use of that land. Maybe I’ll visit the new gift shop.
I won’t be available to answer questions today, but I’ll try to move the comments along periodically to keep the discussions and debates alive. It’s a travel day for me, and also a mental health day - though I don’t think there’s much hope. That ship has sailed. Just ask my family.
I’ve been here for almost five weeks, so it seems like a good time to highlight the good and the bad so far from Spring Training 2010.
* Nick Markakis is hitting lefties, he’s hitting righties. He’s just plain hitting. His average sits at .324 with a .588 slugging percentage.
Those tape-measure blasts in batting practice gave us a hint. He showed up looking stronger, and he still has that sweet swing. If he can get any sort of protection in the lineup, he should be a monster this year.
* Brian Matusz is my pick to be the Opening Day starter in 2011, but first, I’ll make him the early favorite for 2010 Rookie of the Year. He’s every bit as good as advertised. The kid has a real feel for pitching. Great arm, great head on his shoulders. Matusz has posted a 2.51 ERA in four starts, with two walks and 18 strikeouts in 14 1/3 innings. He’s an absolute joy to watch.
* Will Ohman and Cla Meredith are looking like solid choices as the left-handed and right-handed specialists, respectively. They’ve been nothing short of dominant.
Ohman struck out the side in the sixth yesterday and still hasn’t allowed a run in six innings. He’s permitted only one hit, walked two and struck out nine. I think it’s safe to say his elbow and shoulder issues are a thing of the past. He’s also become a media favorite.
Meredith has allowed only two baserunners in six scoreless innings, both of them reaching on singles during Saturday’s split-squad game in Fort Myers. That Oscar Salazar trade is looking a little better these days.
Honorable mention: Luke Scott’s average has dipped to .286, but he leads the team with nine RBIs and has homered twice. If only the Orioles had a position for him that didn’t include the letters D and H.
* Brian Roberts took live batting practice from both sides of the plate yesterday, and the Orioles were ready to organize a parade. I was waiting for the city of Sarasota to rename a street in his honor. That’s how badly he’s needed in this lineup, and how much concern hangs over his every movement. Roberts still hasn’t played this spring and he’s dealing with a herniated disk in his back. President of baseball operations Andy MacPhail notified his scouts to be on the lookout for available second basemen. It’s been a real downer.
* We can’t blame the WBC for Jeremy Guthrie’s struggles, so where do we point the finger? (And be careful which one you use). Guthrie has allowed 11 earned runs and 19 hits in 10 2/3 innings. He’s walked seven and struck out five. He surrendered three home runs in the same game. It might be nothing. It might be a lot. He still has a few weeks to get straightened out. Tomorrow’s start against the Marlins would be a good time to iron out the wrinkles.
* This isn’t School of Roch Classic on MASNsports.com. Koji Uehara injured his hamstring again. He was pitching great before limping off the field during Thursday’s game in Dunedin. Now the Orioles don’t know whether he’ll be ready for Opening Day. They’re saying all the right things, but you better believe they’re concerned and frustrated. He’s viewed as an important component of the bullpen, but they can’t keep him healthy. When the door opened to the Asian market, I’m surprised it didn’t swing back and smack him in the forehead.
Honorable mention: Cleanup candidate Miguel Tejada is batting .138 with no homers and one RBI, but at least he’s looked comfortable at third base. Garrett Atkins is batting .200 with one homer and one RBI. Matt Wieters is batting .200 with one homer and two RBIs. (And two of his five hits, and one RBI, came in yesterday’s game.) I’d like to see a little more production from the new corner infielders and my Sports Illustrated cover model (Sorry, couldn’t resist.) OK, I’d like to see A LOT more production.