It’s finally here

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - All the talk, all the debating, all the words plastered on this blog.

We tracked every rumor at the winter meetings - didn’t Nolan Reimold almost get traded? - and waiting for the Orioles to find a first baseman and veteran starting pitcher. We wondered if they would finally hire enough coaches to start the season. We argued the merits of signing Vladimir Guerrero and whether it would actually happen.

It seems so long ago.

Now here we are, ready to kick off the 2011 season. Opening night has finally arrived. And already, the Orioles are a half-game behind the Yankees.

A few teams got a head start last night, but the Orioles don’t mind waiting. They’ll play tonight before a packed house at Tropicana Field.

The game didn’t sell out until yesterday afternoon. Must be a giveaway night.

Albert Pujols went 0-for-5 and grounded into three double plays last night. I think the Orioles can get him at a bargain rate if they hurry.

Did anyone catch Ramon Hernandez’s walk-off home run for the Reds?

He was the first in line for the postgame spread and finally blocked a plate.

Here’s tonight’s lineup again, in case you need a reminder:

Brian Roberts 2B
Nick Markakis RF
Derrek Lee 1B
Vladimir Guerrero DH
Adam Jones CF
Luke Scott LF
Mark Reynolds 3B
Matt Wieters C
J.J. Hardy SS

Jeremy Guthrie RHP

I’m predicting two hits each for Lee and Guerrero. Would be nice if they go back-to-back.

Here’s another prediction: Markakis finally makes the All-Star team, though he’ll get robbed again in the Gold Glove voting.

Guerrero will lead the club in home runs and RBIs. Some fans will argue that he should be the All-Star rep.

Reynolds will keep his average above .200. Unfortunately, the same might be true with his strikeout total.

I selected Jones as my breakout player for 2011 while dining with colleagues in Sarasota. We went around the table and chose an Oriole.

Be sure to watch “The Mid-Atlantic Sports Report” on MASN beginning at 5:30 p.m., followed by “O’s Xtra” at 6:30 p.m.

Let me know what you think about the guy interviewing Jake Fox. You might recognize his tanned face.

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