MLB Network takes a look at the Orioles

The Orioles were the featured team last night on MLB Network’s “30 clubs in 30 days.” Analysts Harold Reynolds and Mitch Williams talked about the O’s in the studio, while Ron Darling reported from O’s camp in Sarasota, Fla.

We’ll save some of their season predictions later, but here is what they said on several O’s topics.

Darling on the rotation:
“This is the crux of the Baltimore Orioles, and why they went out and got Ubaldo (Jimenez). They feel like a team of two and three-type starters, not that big No. 1 ace. But remember on the horizon, Kevin Gausman yesterday struck out eight in four innings. They think he’s well on his way and he might make the team out of spring training. And Dylan Bundy, who had Tommy John surgery, is supposed to be the cat’s meow and he might be back in June.”

Reynolds on the O’s position players:
“You know, we talk about the core a lot with the Yankees. This core comes to play. They play every day, 148 games for the catcher, that is barely having time off. Look at the others playing 160 and 160 games. These boys come to play every day and that is what Buck Showalter has built. And that is why it is so important for the Orioles to keep this group together.”

Williams on the team overall:
“I think their lineup has depth, it has power. They are able to catch the ball and throw the ball. My question marks are going to be in the rotation. Can that rotation and Ubaldo compete in the American League East with the pressure that will be on him? And then their bullpen. They are asking Tommy Hunter to be their closer. In talking with Buck Showalter last year, he had question marks whether he could use Tommy two or three days in a row. He has the stuff to do it.”

They spent some time talking about Manny Machado and the fact that he will miss the beginning of the season, and whether that will be a factor to hurt the Orioles.

“You take Manny’s bat out of that lineup, you still have the rest of a lineup that can produce, and they added Nelson Cruz,” Williams said. “That is thump in the middle of the order and Manny will not be on the DL long. I don’t think there is any way Baltimore falls out of this race in April because Machado starts on the DL.”

The network featured some interesting soundbites late in the show from a few Orioles and manager Buck Showalter.

“We like our depth,” Showalter said. “We are sending some people out (to the minors) this spring that really make you scratch your head and say ‘gosh, was that the right thing or not?’ But we are able to hold onto them and that is a real tribute to our front office.”

“I was confident last year, but even moreso this year with the guys we’ve added,” Chris Davis said. “I really think we have the mix this year and I think we kind of like that no one talks about us. It’s kind of our MO, we fly under the radar.”

“We are the type of team, we don’t promote ourselves. We let our game talk for itself,” Machado said.

MLB Network showed the Baseball Prospectus Pecota projections for 2014 for the AL East:

Tampa Bay at 90-72
Boston at 88-74
New York at 83-79
Toronto at 82-80
Orioles at 78-84

Now for the analysts predictions about the Orioles for this year.

Reynolds: “This division, you can flip a coin, but I’m flipping my coin toward the Orioles being a postseason team. I think this is a very good club. They will be in the postseason.”

Williams: “I think they are going to finish between second and third. The only question mark for me is their bullpen. Can Tommy Hunter close and can the guys in front of him get him the ball to do so.”

When asked how the O’s would do if the bullpen came through with a very good season, Williams said, “They could win the division because of that lineup.”

Darling: “They have definitely closed the gap and Baseball Prospectus is whacked. There is no way they are going to lose more games than they did last year. They are going to be a better team.

“Two things have to happen though. I think that lineup, which has great length, is going to have to be kind of a mini murderers’ row and it can definitely be that.

“Second, I think Kevin Gausman or Dylan Bundy, who comes up late in the year, has to be a Gerrit Cole or a Michael Wacha for 2014 for the Birds and then they go.”

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