Some thoughts and observations from the Orioles’ series in Anaheim:
* Wei-Yin Chen is a major league pitcher. He throws strikes, he’s not afraid of the competition. And he has good stuff. When a lefty can throw his fastball in the low-90s and locate it, he can pitch at this level. I also like the fact that Chen had a personal goal of lasting seven innings on Sunday. He didn’t get there – he was pulled after 6 1/3 – but going deep into games is an important goal for any starter to have.
The concern for Chen – really, for anyone who has pitched exclusively as a pro in Japan – is how he adjusts to pitching every fifth day instead of every sixth. The Orioles were careful to spread out his starts early, but he threw on four days rest Sunday. That likely will be the norm for much of the rest of the season. So far, so good. But it is a long year, and pitching so often can be a huge challenge.
* It’s impossible to evaluate Nick Markakis so far in 2012. He looked great in his first two games – two homers, four RBIs – and then had no homers and one RBI in his next 13 games before his three-RBI day Sunday. The guy is coming off major abdominal surgery and was sick most of the past week. The last player who has tried to come back so quickly from abdominal surgery – Washington’s Ryan Zimmerman in 2011 – didn’t hit his weight in his first month back last season. Eventually, Zimmerman returned to being Zimmerman. Markakis is going to be under more scrutiny, though, because his offensive production has been an issue the past two years.
* The Orioles have made errors in 11 of their past 13 games. They made three in each of their first two games of the Angels series. That’s unacceptable. Publicly, Buck Showalter said he thinks it is “a break from the norm.” It better be. This is not a shocking stat, but the Orioles are 4-0 when they don’t make any errors. This team does not have a large enough margin of error to give away outs.
* We put a lot of attention on Mark Reynolds’ defensive struggles at third early this season, but the truth is his offense is equally concerning. He was 3-for-31 on this road trip with two doubles and one run driven in and now has a slash line of .125/.208/.250. He is homerless and has struck out 22 times in 48 at-bats. Perhaps the good news is he batted just .169 with two homers last April and ended up smashing 37. Maybe there’s no need for panic. Concern? Yep.