It’s getting close to that time of year again. Baltimore sports fans spend countless hours preparing by researching the players, making predictions about the season, and hanging out by the watercooler. Yes, it’s almost April 26th, the first day of the NFL Draft.
What did you think I was talking about? The Aberdeen Ironbirds season doesn’t begin until June 17th. What’s that? The Orioles?
How could I forget? Opening day is Monday, March 31st. There is a buzz around Camden Yards this year, and it’s not just coming from the new scoreboards. The Orioles roster is full of fresh faces. For all but the most dedicated fan, there is a good chance you have no idea who these players are. Never fear, The Dagger is here!
Let’s start with the pitchers…
Matt Albers – 23rd round draft pick by the Astros back in 2001. Albers was named Texas League Pitcher of the Year in 2006. Acquired in the Miguel Tejada trade.
Greg Aquino – Claimed off of waivers by the Orioles in December. Originally signed as a 16-year-old infielder by the Diamondbacks in 1995, which could be beneficial to the Orioles this year. Playing shortstop is like riding a bike, right?
Danys Baez – Defected from Cuba in 1999. Former All-Star (2005) who also has led the league in blown saves (2003). We won’t see him blowing games for the Orioles until late in the season, if at all, due to elbow surgery last year.
Randor Bierd – Selected by the O’s in the Rule 5 draft, so if he doesn’t make the team, he goes back to his former team, the Detriot Tigers. In his best minor league season, Bierd was 4-3 with a 2.93 ERA in 42 games.
Chad Bradford – Chad Bradford is the greatest pitcher in playoff history. In 17 appearances, his ERA is 0.00. Could come in handy for the O’s this year (as trade bait).
Brian Burres – Brian Burres’ OPS (which for you non-stat geeks is On Base Percentage + Slugging Percentage) is 1.000. Barry Bonds career OPS is 1.051. Uh oh.
Daniel Cabrera – Cabrera has been with the O’s for a few years, so we won’t go into much detail. Here’s some encouragement. According to baseball-reference.com, similar pitchers at his age include Chris Carpenter and Jason Schmidt. We can dream, can’t we?
Fernando Cabrera – The Devil Rays claimed this Cabrera off of waivers last year, then decided they really didn’t want him. Luckily, the Orioles were there to swoop him off. That were the state of the O’s is, happily taking Tampa Bay rejects. Actually, this Cabrera has potential, but I won’t blame you for confusing him with the other Cabrera after watching him pitch.
Rocky Cherry - Rocky Cherry has the greatest name in professional baseball. It’s a scientific fact. The O’s got him for Steve Trachsel last year at the trade deadline.
Jeremy Guthrie – Guthrie is one of the best waiver pickups the Orioles have ever had. He was a Rookie of the Year candidate in his first season with the O’s last year. He will be 29 this year, which may seem old for a rookie, but he went on a 2-year mission after his freshman year of college, and went back to school for a few more years upon return.
Jim Hoey – Hoey had his number retired at his high school in New Jersey last year. I don’t think he sported his major league ERA of 8.13 while there. If so, I’m going to start lobbying my high school for recognition.
Adam Loewen – Two interesting Loewen “facts” from wikipedia: He was the first pitcher in Major League Baseball history to face Cy Young winners in his first four starts and he is the highest drafted Canadian ever.
Troy Patton – Just skip this entry and come back (hopefully) next year. Patton just had surgery to repair a torn labrum.
Chris Ray – Another bird with a wounded wing. Chris Ray is a promising closer who had 33 saves in 2006. We may see him back in action late in the season.
Dennis Sarfate – Also acquired from Houston in the Tejada trade. Struck out 14, walked one, and gave up only one run in 7 relief appearances with the Astros late last season. He could make us forget Danys Baez. Oh wait…
George Sherrill – Meet our new closer. The O’s got him in the Bedard trade. Sherrill was not drafted out of high school or college, and toured the Independant Leagues before impressing scouts from the Seattle Mariners. He doesn’t give up many home runs, and is murder against lefties.
Steve Trachsel – The most exciting pitcher in baseball is back for his second tour of duty with the Orioles. Trachsel will be 38 this year and is a former all-star, making the team 12 years ago.
Jamie Walker – Jamie Walker is a secret agent. You may know him better by his aliases: Makoto Miyagi (not from Miyagi-do Karate), Daryl Smith, Steve Cardwell or Jim Wilson. Actually, because he participated in MLB during the 1994 strike, Walker is not part of the Player’s Association. All the names previously listed are his video game dopplegangers.
Ramon Hernandez – Hernandez is a former all-star catcher (2003) who is entering his 3rd season with the Orioles. He is coming off his most disappointing season in a while, and with the O’s using a first-round draft pick last year on the best catcher available, Ramon’s time is Baltimore may be limited. To Hernandez’s credit, all reports say that he understands this, and reached out to Matt Weiters in spring training.
Guillermo Quiroz – Quiroz was a highly regarded prospect, and even received a $1.5 million dollar signing bonus when he was only 16. He has bounced around the minors with multiple teams, suffering injuries and depth chart squeezes. He should be a solid backup for the birds.
Brandon Fahey – Brandon Fahey is due for a breakout year. You know why? Because he shares a birthday with former O’s greats Brady Anderson and Scott McGregor. He also shares his birthday with Governer Martin O’Malley, and we all see how great of the year he is having. Just look at his approval rating. Oh, and he shares a birthday with me too, therefore becoming my default favorite Oriole.
Luis Hernandez – Luis Hernandez batter .290 for the O’s last year in 30 games. His career minor league average was .250. Known for his defense, Luis hasn’t had a good spring, making at least 6 errors to date in limited chances.
Aubrey Huff – If you haven’t heard, Huff stirred up a little controversy over the winter. On a radio show, he called Baltimore a “horseshit city”. You wanna know what is horseshit? Huff’s pre-All Star game season stats.
Kevin Millar – Kevin Millar is one of the most popular players from the 2004 World Series Champion Boston Red Sox. To show their appreciation for his effort on and off the field, the Red Sox management invited Millar to throw out the first pitch at game 7 of the 2007 ALCS. This was a great honor for one of Boston’s finest. It’s not very often that current players get to throw out the first pitch. It’s even less often when they actually are on the roster of a different team in the same division. In fact, it’s never happened, and probably won’t again.
Scott Moore – Scott Moore has had a string of bad luck in his career. He was the 8th pick overall in the 2002 draft by the tigers, but was blocked from reaching the majors by Brandon Inge. He was dealt to the cubs, only to be blocked by Aramis Ramirez. Now he’s with the O’s, and blocked by…
Melvin Mora – yeah, he has a lot of kids. Quintuplets to be exact. Which is kinda cool since he plays third base, which is position #5 when scoring the game. But he also has an older daughter, which makes 6. Luis Hernandez, watch out!
Brian Roberts – You may have heard that Brian Roberts could get traded any day to the Cubs. Not knowing where he will be playing has to put some stress on him. But not as stressful as when he was 5 years old and had open heart surgery.
Finally, the Outfielders
Freddie Bynum – Freddy Bynum has been competing with Luis Hernandez and Brandon Fahey to win the “Little Shortstop Who Could” award this spring training season. Unfortuantely for Freddy, he needs knee surgery, and will be out until mid-April. Another player out until mid-April is…
Jay Gibbons – Or is he? Jay Gibbons was suspended 15 games by MLB for receiving multiple shipments of performance-enhancing steroids and human growth hormone (HGH). His suspension may now be lifted.
Adam Jones – Adam Jones was the centerpiece in the Erik Bedard trade this winter. He is regarded one of the best young prospects in baseball. He too was originally a shortstop, but will be patrolling centerfield for the O’s this year.
Nick Markakis – Markakis is the only Oriole who has a silver medal from the European National Championships, which he won while playing for Team Greece in 2003. Team Owner Peter Angelos promptly fired manager Davos Johnsonos and promoted the pitching coach to manager. They haven’t sniffed the playoffs since.
Jay Payton – Jay Payton and relief pitcher Chad Bradford were actually traded for each other back in 2005, when Payton was with the Red Sox and Bradford with the A’s. Because of a logjam in the outfield, chances are Payton will get traded by the O’s for a relief pitcher.
Tike Redman – Julian Jawann “Tike” Redman was a solid pickup in 2007 from the York Revolution, a member of the Freedom Division of the Atlantic League of Professional Baseball, which is not affiliated with MLB. The Revolution are coached by former O’s Chris Hoiles and Tippy Martinez. The O’s could use a power-hitting catcher and a crafty left-handed pickoff specialist. I smell a potential deal.
Luke Scott - Acquired in the Tejada trade, Scott is better known in Venezuela as “el monstruo de cuadrangular”, or “The Home Run Monster”. His colorful lucha libre costume consists of a pinstriped unitard (the new 2008 model says Baltimore on the away version) and a mask resembling a batters helmet. His signature move is called “The Sacrifice Fly”, where he launches his partner high in the air onto a dazed opponent.