Today, on Super Bowl Sunday, let’s talk some baseball. Seems appropriate even on such a big day for football as Orioles pitchers and catchers report to Sarasota, Fla., a week from Tuesday.
Today we’re looking back at a few stories published here in recent weeks. Feel free to post some comments on those stories and/or present any other O’s comments and questions.
The crack of the bat will soon be heard under the Florida sun.
In this story, published Jan. 1, we began the new year looking ahead to the new season and I asked readers and fans what will keep you invested in the 2020 Orioles? We presented a few possibilities like trying to find the next John Means, the expected arrival of Ryan Mountcastle and the club holding the second pick in the 2020 draft. The Orioles have now picked 1/1 twice but they’ve never held the No. 2 overall pick - until now.
What will you be watching for when spring training starts?
On Jan. 13, we took stock of the position players as camp draws near. We looked back at who made the most starts at each position in 2019 and who might do that in 2020. Take another look at this story and let me know if you have any surprises in mind for 2020.
In this entry dated Jan. 20, I took a look at how the Orioles bullpen might be better this season. It surely needs to be as the club’s 5.63 ‘pen ERA last year was the worst in the American League. Four pitchers have thrown better for the club in the past than they did in 2019 and that could lead to some improvement. That group of four includes Richard Bleier, Mychal Givens, Miguel Castro and Paul Fry. Having Hunter Harvey for hopefully a full year should be a big lift for the bullpen. Do you foresee a better ‘pen this year?
What about Wilkerson and Kline?: Two players that have their share of fans were designated for assignment by the club in recent days. On Thursday, right-hander Branden Kline was DFA as the club reclaimed infielder Pat Valaika. The next day, Stevie Wilkerson was DFA as the Orioles claimed right-hander Travis Lakins from the Cubs.
Kline, a Frederick, Md., native, was the Orioles’ second-round pick in 2012 out of the University of Virginia. He earned praise and respect for overcoming Tommy John surgery in October 2015 and complications from that that kept him out for most of three full seasons.
Kline’s comeback story led him to the mound at Camden Yards last April 20 for his major league debut. It was an emotional night for his family and friends and his mother was in tears in the stands. The Orioles are hoping Kline clears waivers and remains in the organization.
I wrote this story on Kline when he first made the 40-man roster in the offseason ahead of the 2019 season.
Wilkerson drew praise and respect for his ability to do whatever the 2019 Orioles needed. That included starting 80 games in the outfield last year - 58 in center field - despite playing only a handful of games there in the minor leagues. He also pitched three times and he entered the game in the 16th inning on July 25 at Anaheim and pitched a scoreless inning. He closed out a crazy win and became the first position player to ever record a save. I was at Angel Stadium that night and morning and wrote this after Wilkerson got the final three outs and the game ended at 4:27 a.m. in Baltimore.
He threw 14 pitches, averaged 54.3 mph and got Albert Pujols out to end a 1-2-3 inning.
“I don’t think I’ve wrapped my head around it yet,” Wilkerson said after that win in what was a tired yet very boisterous Orioles clubhouse. “What a wild game. That was just crazy. I’m glad I could go out there and be part of getting us a win. I think that was a gutsy performance by everybody. We stuck it out, and anytime you come out on top in a game of that length, it’s a good feeling.”