Opening Day 2012 at Camden Yards was an experiment of sorts.
It wouldn’t be accurate to say that this year’s version of the O’s lineup has a new look (unless you’re talking about the cartoon bird logo, which I love). In the batting order, a number of youngsters returned, including Nolan Reimold, Adam Jones, Nick Markakis, Mark Reynolds, Robert Andino, J.J. Hardy and Matt Wieters. For the Birds, offense has never really been the problem in the past.
It’s all about the starting pitching.
For years, the Orioles have lacked the one thing that every playoff team possesses: a solid starting staff. If one takes a glance at Philadelphia, New York, St. Louis or Texas, it’s easy to see why these clubs find success. In 2011, the starting pitching was an absolute train wreck for Baltimore. Youngster Brian Matusz had one of the worst seasons (statistically) in the history of baseball. The squad’s ace, current Colorado Rockies starter Jeremy Guthrie, couldn’t find a lick of run support on a week-by-week basis. Add on injuries to the staff’s two bright spots, righty Jake Arrieta and southpaw Zach Britton, and the 2011 campaign was one to forget.
For that reason, the front office, led by Vice President of Baseball Operations Dan Duquette, decided to take a new approach. The Orioles tapped into the international market, acquiring both Tsuyoshi Wada and Wei-Yin Chen. He also swapped starters with Colorado, sending Guthrie to Denver and receiving Jason Hammel and reliever Matt Lindstrom in return. Suddenly, the Orioles’ starting staff had a different feel. It wasn’t “The Cavalry” that many Orioles fans had dreamt of since the acquiring of the trio of Arrieta, Brian Matusz and Chris Tillman. It was a group unlike Orioles fans had ever seen (take that as a positive or a negative…your choice).
So when skipper Buck Showalter finally posted his starting five, O’s fans couldn’t help but wonder how the season would turn out.
- Jake Arrieta
- Tommy Hunter
- Jason Hammel
- Brian Matusz
- Wei-Yin Chen
For the O’s sake, Arrieta had to start the season off on a positive note. And that he did.
At times, Arrieta looked unhittable on the mound for the Black and Orange, as his wind-up appeared to be more fluent and the velocity returned to each of his four pitches. Arrieta, who had surgery on his elbow in the offseason, was the confident, dominating young starter that the O’s witnessed at the beginning of the 2011 season. He went seven innings, surrendering a mere two hits, two walks and recording four Ks. It was a sigh of relief.
He may not be Roy Halladay or James Shields, but he’s the Orioles’ ace, whether you like it or not.
As for the remainder of the weekend, it will be interesting to see how Hunter and Hammel follow Arrieta’s stellar performance.
Hunter faces Francisco Liriano tomorrow, and Hammel will be opposing Liam Hendricks on Sunday afternoon.
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