Off to a Rockies start

How many Orioles fans were outraged by the February trade that sent No. 1 starter Jeremy Guthrie to the Colorado Rockies for pitchers Jason Hammel and Matt Lindstrom?

How many national publications ripped it to shreds - one of them calling it the worst deal of the offseason?

It’s too early to evaluate any trade made over the winter. We’re 18 games into the 2012 season. But Hammel improved to 3-0 with a 1.73 ERA last night after tossing seven shutout innings, and Lindstrom struck out two in a scoreless eighth and still hasn’t allowed a run.

Guthrie is 2-1 with a 5.92 ERA, 10 walks and five strikeouts in four starts. He gave up six runs in back-to-back outings before holding the Milwaukee Brewers to one run and three hits over seven innings Sunday - his second quality start of the season.

There’s a perception in baseball, and it’s fueled by the Orioles, that pitchers don’t want to sign here. Hence, the “grow the arms” philosophy. Hammel and Lindstrom didn’t have a choice, and they don’t have any complaints.

“I’m excited,” Lindstrom said. “I think the best part about the whole situation is I really enjoy being around my teammates. Not that I didn’t in Colorado, but I feel like I fit in here a little bit better. The type of guys we have in here, we like to keep it loose and have fun, so for Jason and I to come over and help this club, we’re excited. We know we have a lot more baseball to play.”

Exactly. Let’s hope that’s a good thing.

Hammel has been very good, holding opponents to two earned runs or fewer in all four starts.

“Jason and I, we were good friends in Colorado, too,” Lindstrom said. “I knew when we came over here together what kind of pitcher the Orioles were getting out of him. They can just kind of throw me in there as well.

“He’s mixing his pitches well, but what I’m also seeing is Jason using his two-seam fastball, utilizing that a lot more in counts when hitters think they’re getting a four-seamer. It’s devastating. I’m his catcher partner. I think we’re helping each other along the way.”

As for tonight’s game, the Orioles will face Blue Jays rookie right-hander Drew Hutchison., who’s 1-0 with an 8.44 ERA in one start. The Royals scored five runs off him in 5 1/3 innings. They homered twice off him, collected eight hits, drew three walks and forced him to throw 99 pitches. And they lost.

Hutchison, a 15th-round pick in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft, had never pitched above the Double-A level before making his major league debut on Saturday.

No pressure tonight. He’s just trying to help the Jays avoid a sweep.

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