Now that football season is officially over – and Baltimore is planning a parade for its Super Bowl champion Ravens on Tuesday– the city’s sports focus will quickly turn to baseball.
On Sunday night, Joe Flacco starred, Beyonce gyrated, Jacoby Jones dashed, the electricity failed and Baltimore celebrated.
Now, as you wake up Monday morning, it is just eight days until the Orioles’ pitchers and catchers report to spring training in Sarasota, Fla.
Yes, it seems like just yesterday when the Orioles’ season ended in Game 5 of the American League Division Series in Yankee Stadium. And thanks to this spring’s World Baseball Classic, spring training starts a little earlier.
Coming off their first playoff berth in 15 years, the majority of the Orioles’ 93-win team returns from 2012. Still, the general consensus from fans is that the Orioles’ didn’t do enough to improve this offseason, especially considering the maneuvering of their AL East brethren – most notably the Toronto Blue Jays. Even though they re-signed outfielder Nate McLouth, they didn’t net the power bat they were seeking via trade.
There are some question marks this spring – how Chris Davis adjusts to first base and how a crowded outfield will shake out – but there are much, MUCH fewer than last season. I guess that’s what success does.
It will be interesting to see how the Orioles’ starting rotation is decided. There could be just one spot open. There’s a plethora of capable relievers in a bullpen that was one of the best in baseball last season. The team suddenly has a load of pitching depth. There are plenty of capable major league arms in camp and there won't be enough spots on the major league roster.
We will spend much of the early days of spring training focusing on the organization’s young players. They’ll get a lot of playing time initially once Grapefruit League games start on Feb. 23. That will give fans a closer look at right-handers Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman, the organization’s top two prospects.
While I start packing my short-sleeve polo shirts for seven weeks in Florida, I’ll ask, “What are you most looking forward to about Orioles spring training this year?”