MLB Network sizes up the Orioles

For a franchise that lost 98 games last year, has not had a winning season since 1997 and has not won the World Series since 1983, the Orioles are getting their fair share of positive publicity.

Countless national media outlets and big-time writers, broadcasters and columnists are bullish on the O's.

No one is predicting the playoffs but the message from most is some variation of this - they are clearly making strides forward and getting better and could really have some fun this year if they were in another division.

The latest to throw some bouquets Baltimore's way is the MLB network.

The Orioles were the subject of the network's 30 clubs in 30 days hour-long show on Monday. The announcers, anchor Greg Amsinger, analysts Dan Plesac and John Hart and reporter Matt Yallof provided a solid, in-depth look at the club and its hopes for 2010.

Among some highlights -

Plesac said of Nolan Reimold, Adam Jones and Nick Markakis: "As far as young outfielders, the Orioles might have the best young outfield in baseball. They are athletic and can run. They've got the total package in the outfield."

Plesac also had praise for Baltimore as a baseball town: "This is truly one of the best baseball cities in the Major Leagues. They've been on a bad run for a while. If this team gets better, this is like the American League version of St. Louis. There is not a better fan base and a place to play than for the Baltimore Orioles. They are going to get good again and when they do they will get that fan base back."

Hart talked of catcher Matt Wieters: "This kid is special. This guy's bat will be good for a catcher, I think he'll eventually hit .300 and provide some power. The real key is having a young catcher come along with young pitchers. He really knows his way around on defense."

Hart had some reservations about the club's offense: "They are going to be a nice offensive club but they just don't have a typical American League lineup, where you look at three or four big-time power guys. This is not a club that has a tremendous amount of speed other than Roberts. They could be missing that big power you look for."

Plesac had an opinion on new closer Mike Gonzalez: "It won't be quite as easy as it was in the National League. But in the AL East you need a quality lefty at the back end. You have the Yankees with Curtis Granderson and you can turn Posada around. You have Ortiz with Boston, Carl Crawford and Carlos Pena (with Tampa). You need a lefty to negate the left-handed power hitters."

Hart said a key for the O's bullpen this year would be to find some hurlers that can work multiple-innings during a single appearance.

During the show, several players and manager Dave Trembley were interviewed.

Brian Roberts said: "One area of emphasis in spring training has been situational hitting, getting guys over and getting guys in and finding new ways to score runs. We don't have a 40-homer guy in the middle like Boston and New York. But we are capable on offense one through nine."

Roberts said he was excited about the club's young talent: "This is kind of the spark we've been waiting for. The influx of young talent. Andy MacPhail did a good job with a couple of trades. These guys are now penetrating our Major League team. Our fans, our city and front office has been looking for this for a long time."

Adam Jones was asked about his Gold Glove award: "It's going on the mantle. Right on the mantle. My mom wants it at her house, but she can't have this award."

Kevin Millwood was asked yet again about his role of mentor on the pitching staff: "Whatever we are doing, just do things the right way. Show these guys if something goes wrong, let them know. If something goes right, applaud them a little bit."

Plesac said Trembley is very well respected by his players and that he "makes young players feel comfortable." Hart called Trembley "a teacher and player development guy down to his toes."

Near the end of the telecast they pointed out that Baseball Prospectus projects the Orioles for 79 wins. Plesac likes their progress but thinks the O's will still finish in last in the East, not able to make up 11 games on Toronto.

Hart said the O's will finish fourth and "and will be much better than last year."

If you missed the broadcast, according to the network's website it will be re-broadcast today (Tuesday) at 9am, 11am, 4pm and Wednesday at 4am.

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