Only 159 wins from perfection

I almost put a Tampa dateline on this blog entry, since I typed its first words after my Southwest flight took off for home tonight. I needed to get a head start. The morning is going to be a hectic one.

I’ll have to re-introduce myself to my daughter, who’s going to love the spring training hooded sweatshirt that I bought for her at the Orioles store at Ed Smith Stadium. I’m proud that she did laundry, ironed, cooked her meals and ran the dishwasher while I was gone. Now I’m prepared for her to ask me to microwave a hot dog. It’s back to square one.

The Orioles don’t need to start over. They’re 3-0, and I’m still amazed that they swept the Rays at Tropicana Field with their makeshift rotation, and without heavy contributions from the middle of their lineup.

Brian Roberts proved again that he’s the most important hitter on this team. I’ve always stated it and I’m not shying away from it.

I’m assuming that J.J. Hardy would replace Roberts atop the order if necessary, but let’s hope it never gets to that point. Hardy is a real luxury in the ninth spot.

Also, it’s apparent that Kevin Gregg is the closer. Maybe it’s taboo to use that word, but he got the save Saturday night and he began to warm up today before the Orioles tacked on a run in the ninth.

It would be a shocker if Luke Scott is in tomorrow’s lineup. It makes sense to sit him, give him Tuesday’s off-day and hope he can return on Wednesday. If not, we may see Nolan Reimold.

Major props to Zach Britton, who showed a tremendous amount of maturity and composure in his major league debut. I thought the wheels might come off the cart after the two walks and his failure to cleanly field a safety squeeze bunt, but he regrouped and made it through the sixth with only one run allowed.

As each game passes, Matt Wieters’ value behind the plate becomes more apparent. The Orioles didn’t draft him exclusively for his arm and ability to handle a pitching staff, but let’s not forget that those tools were a major part of his appeal. He’s a real weapon back there. But yes, we’d all like for him to speed up the bat and start launching tape-measure home runs.

I have some leftover quotes from Wieters. Here he is talking about Britton:

“It was really impressive. The way he was able to control his secondary stuff was the most telling. Everybody knew how good his fastball was coming out of spring. He was getting behind a little bit today, but he was able to rely on his secondary stuff, which is what he’s going to need at this level to be able to be successful. You’re not going to have your fastball every day. It was good when he had to throw a changeup or a slider, he threw it for a strike.”

Britton pretty much shelved the two-seamer.

“We still threw a few, but for the most part we were just trying to get ahead,” Wieters said. “His secondary stuff was that good today where you could almost use his changeup like a sinker because it had such a good drop to it. We still threw a few, but probably not as many as he’s used to throwing. But it’s one of those things where whatever he has that day, we’ll be able to go with that because he has that kind of stuff.”

Wieters didn’t sense that Britton was nervous.

“No, I thought he was real calm, especially for a first start,” Wieters said. “I was expecting him to be a little amped up today, but he came in here like it was just another work day. That was impressive that he was as calm as he was out there.”

Like everyone else, Wieters is amped up - I’ve grown to love that word - to play at a sold-out Camden Yards for the home opener.

“I expect a good turnout,” he said. “Baltimore is a great city. If you’re winning, they’re going to come out and support you. Hopefully, they can get behind this team and we’ll be able to keep winning.”

Is there any doubt that Buck Showalter receives the loudest ovation during pre-game introductions?

My question: Who draws the second-loudest response?

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