orioles, Steve Melewski

A talk-show caller had a question on a Baltimore radio show last night. How many games does Andy MacPhail feel the 2010 Orioles can win?

You won't get a straight answer from MacPhail on that one.

Almost any answer he could give would upset someone. If he took a real conservative route and said the team could improve to 75 wins, some fans would say "is that all" and bemoan another long season.

If he said let's shoot for .500 and 81 wins, some would say "there go the O's, shooting to be mediocre."

If he said this team could win 90 or more he'd be accused of over-hyping the club or putting a spin on the season.

While the Orioles look decidedly improved to me, how many more wins will that get them in the rugged AL East?

There are so many questions to be answered. Will the young pitchers like Matusz and Bergesen be as good as they looked in 2009? Will Wieters and Reimold hit even better than they did? How will Tejada be on defense at third? Can Mike Gonzalez be a top closer? Will ketchup, mustard or relish lead the way in the nightly condiment race? (Sorry, couldn't help myself).

I'll probably come through with a more educated prediction late in spring training, but for now I'll say a .500 season would be a solid goal for this club.

That would mean an 81-81 record, which would be a 17-win improvement and even that might be hard to do.

In addition to the overall record, the team needs to show vast improvement in the games vs. Boston and New York, needs improvement in its road record and its record in one and two-run games.

I put a lot of stock in the projected starting rotation for 2010 of Millwood, Guthrie, Bergesen, Matusz and Tillman which seems light years better than the five of Guthrie, Koji, Simon, Hendrickson and Eaton that opened last year.

Having Reimold and Wieters on the team from day one and not starting at Norfolk should be big. Nick Markakis could have a monster year in a revamped O's lineup.

Of course, like with every team, some Orioles will perform better than expected and some will perform worse.

It appears the pieces are in place for a better season. It's about time and soon, under the Florida sun, the club will take the field to start a season that could be the first in a stretch of seasons that return winning baseball for the Orioles and their fans.

By the way, I thought Miguel Tejada could not have handled himself much better at his Tuesday press conference.

He showed respect to the current O's, sounded like the last thing he wanted to do was take Adam Jones' number 10 and said this is his second chance to be a winner in Baltimore.

He said he kept a home here because he wanted to return someday as a player or later in life and called Jones "the future."

He also admitted to watching some Orioles games while getting ready to take the field for games with the Houston Astros.

He also said "this time it's not about me" and praised the O's young talent. He certainly hit every note he needed to hit and seemed totally excited about the coming season.

It was a great first step in his return to Baltimore. Now the fans and media will be watching as he takes bigger steps over the next few months.

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