We are now days away from the start of a Major League Baseball season unlike any other. Teams will play 60 games and the Orioles will open Friday night at Boston. They’ll play three at Fenway Park and then two games in Miami before the home opener on Wednesday July 29, also against Miami, at Oriole Park.
So this is our last offseason edition of 10 questions. Answer one or all and feel free to respond to other readers’ opinions. That makes the blog go around and keeps it fun. And bring on opening day.
1. In order, project the O’s rotation to start the season.
2. Who will lead the Orioles in homers and how many will that be?
3. Who will lead the Orioles in steals and how many will that be?
4. Who will leads the Orioles in saves and how many will that be?
5. Predict one or two players that will be added to the 60-man player pool.
6. What will be the order of finish in the American League East?
7. Should teams use piped in crowd noise or not and provide some reasons for your answer.
10. What will the O’s record be in this 60-game season?
From the Mexican League to the AL?: Who is César Valdez and can he really make the Orioles’ opening day roster?
Well, the veteran right-hander keeps impressing the brass. His latest strong outing was four scoreless innings on two hits in Friday night’s intrasquad game. He was not invited to big league spring training in Florida, but he got called over from Twin Lakes Park and pitched in a few games. Over five scoreless innings, he gave up just two hits with no walks and nine strikeouts.
Valdez, 35, was signed by the club as a minor league free agent on Jan. 9.
He was originally signed by Arizona in 2005 and made his major league debut for the Diamondbacks on May 3, 2010. He pitched in 11 games in 2017 between the A’s and Jays. In 20 career big league games with six starts, he is 2-3 with a 7.64 ERA.
Last season, he was the Mexican League Pitcher of the Year. He went 15-2 with a 2.26 ERA. Over 147 2/3 innings, he walked just 17, fanned 122 and posted a WHIP of 1.06.
“It’s a really interesting story,” O’s manager Brandon Hyde said after Friday’s outing. “You know, he’s a pitch-maker in that he’s able to utilize both sides of the plate, changes speeds. I mean, I was sitting behind home plate last night. He may have missed one or two spots the entire four innings. Really getting guys out in front with a great changeup he throws from different arm angles, a slider that he throws from different arm angles.
“And he can locate his fastball to both side of the plate. And even though it plays in the mid-80s, mid to upper 80s at times, it plays a little firmer because of that changeup. It’s almost like a screwball in that he can really shape it to dive down and arm side.
“I just like to continue to take a look at the guy. Every time he’s pitched for us, he’s had a lot of success. There is not a whole lot of panic there. And he’s really confident on the mound. He’s done it for a long time and he’s got as good a shot as anybody. We’re going to continue to take a look at him.”
Valdez’s inclusion on the opening day roster would be quite the story.