Jim Johnson retired all six batters he faced last night after replacing Zach Britton in the seventh inning. I'll say it again: He's got to be in the top three voting for Most Valuable Oriole.
His name will appear on my ballot.
I talked to one reporter who said he'd choose Mark Reynolds over Johnson for third place behind Adam Jones and J.J. Hardy. I can't omit Johnson, who leads American League relievers in innings pitched and lowered his ERA last night to 2.58.
We can continue to debate whether Johnson would be more valuable to the Orioles as a starter or set-up man. He's got three plus pitches, which screams starter. But who else do you trust to take the ball in the late innings, especially with Koji Uehara and Michael Gonzalez pitching in Texas?
If anyone doubted whether Brian Roberts was done for the season, it should be obvious after watching his interview yesterday on MASN2. Roberts didn't completely eliminate the possibility that he could play later this month, but he said "It would probably take, at this point, everything to go really, really, really well for the next couple of weeks."
It's really, really, really apparent that the Orioles must bring in another second baseman and hope that Roberts complicates the issue by being full-go in spring training.
I'm sure there's a segment of the fan base that wants Robert Andino to stay at second. I don't have a huge problem with it if the Orioles make other upgrades, but I still believe Andino is more valuable moving around the infield. He's been very good at third base, though his inexperience showed on the botched bunt defense a few nights ago, and he could provide rest for shortstop J.J. Hardy, who tends to wear down.
I like Andino more as a super-sub, but there isn't another player on this team who has exceeded expectations as much as this guy.
Reynolds should be the first baseman next season unless the Orioles can actually sign Prince Fielder, which I'm not expecting to happen. And if Fielder came here, I'd insist that he serve as the designated hitter because Reynolds' glove really plays at first base.
Alfredo Simon makes the start tonight, with left-hander Brian Matusz being skipped in the rotation. Matusz threw a bullpen session yesterday. He's fine physically. But he's not scheduled to make another start.
That doesn't mean he's being shut down or used in relief over the final month. He's just not starting at the moment.
The Orioles will face Tampa Bay's Wade Davis tonight, and nobody is happier than catcher Matt Wieters. He's 6-for-15 with a double and three RBIs lifetime against Davis.
Hardy is 5-for-13 with three doubles and three RBIs. Nick Markakis is 6-for-28 (.214) with a triple and two RBIs.
Bobby Bundy pitched an inning in relief last night for Double-A Bowie and allowed two runs and three hits to leave his ERA at 9.60.
Shameless plug alert: I'm appearing on "Wall To Wall Baseball" today from noon-2 p.m. on MASN.