Fielding questions and concerns about the Orioles

I had to dig my glove out of basement storage after arriving home late last night - flight delays providing the appropriate ending to the trip - to handle all the questions about the Orioles that have been hit to me. The experience is making me a contender for a job as utility infielder.

What’s wrong with the rotation? What’s wrong with the offense? What’s wrong with the defense?

Otherwise, everything is good through the first 16 games of the season.

I’m not fretting over the rotation because I know that Alex Cobb will be much better than what he showed in his debut, Dylan Bundy has been outstanding in four starts with a 1.40 ERA, Kevin Gausman is ticking upward and Andrew Cashner has allowed one run in his last 13 innings.

Chris Tillman is in the eye of the worry storm with his 11.90 ERA and 2.824 WHIP in three losing starts. There’s no way to brighten 15 runs, 22 hits and 10 walks in 11 1/3 innings.

What happens next to Tillman is a mystery. If I had to guess, and I’ve been wrong once or twice, the Orioles will push back his next start and give him more workdays to focus on his mechanics and maybe clear his head. Yesterday’s postponement made it easier to adjust.

His velocity is down and an inclination to pitch up in the strike zone is troublesome with a fastball that’s 89-90 mph. Poor location also is sabotaging his outings. The ball is all over the place. But the Orioles are convinced that he’s healthy and they certainly got an extended look at him in the offseason while he worked out and threw at the Ed Smith Stadium complex.

They didn’t wander blindly into their agreement.

The offense is resembling past editions, with large groups slumping simultaneously.

jones-bat-gray-close-side.jpgJonathan Schoop produced back-to-back multi-hit games before going on the disabled list, but they only lifted his average to .230 with a .610 OPS. Adam Jones is batting .221/.239/.368, Anthony Santander .190/.244/.333, Tim Beckham .175/.209/.270, Chris Davis .132/.233/.208, Danny Valencia .130/.286/.304 and Caleb Joseph .097/.125/.161.

Colby Rasmus was 2-for-21 with 13 strikeouts before going on the disabled list with a hip injury.

The Orioles offense has produced 177 strikeouts to lead the majors and a .216/.286/.340 slash line won’t soften the blow. But it’s a streaky bunch that can heat up with the weather. We’ve seen it happen - and then stop again. Enjoy the ride.

Defense used to be a strength of the Orioles before the slippage over the past two seasons that made improvement a priority in the offseason. And then Manny Machado moved to shortstop, leaving his two Gold Gloves and one Platinum Glove at third, and Beckham switched to the hot corner, where he accumulated five career starts in the majors.

Results have been mixed in a small sample size. Machado has made some outstanding plays, but he also registered a two-error game in Boston that stirred critics of the move. One throw hit the runner trying to score and shouldn’t be used to critique is ability to transition back to his original position, but J.J. Hardy’s steady play, as expected, is missed and hard to duplicate.

Beckham has made plays and decisions that contradict his inexperience at the positions, but there have been a few rough patches, as well. No one should be stunned considering how he’s a natural shortstop. The move didn’t figure to be seamless.

Schoop’s oblique injury could force the Orioles to seek outside help that might lead Beckham back to third base. I’ve noted their previous interest in Erick Aybar, who remains unsigned and whose reduced range at shortstop wouldn’t be a concern. They also liked Jace Peterson, who refused an outright assignment from the Yankees earlier this week, became a free agent and accepted a major league deal from them yesterday afternoon.

So much for that story angle. Where’s the delete button?

Peterson, 27, attracted interest from a number of teams before the Yankees signed him, offering what was believed to be the most money in a split contract. The Orioles saw him up-close during their series in the Bronx, when he was 3-for-9 with a walk and started twice in left field. He’s played every position except the one that puts him behind the plate, with the vast majority of his experience at second base.

The Padres made Peterson the 58th overall pick in the 2011 draft out of McNeese State University before trading him to the Braves three years later in the Justin Upton deal. The Yankees signed him in January and again yesterday, removing a player who might have been a good fit for the Orioles.

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