Showalter confident in the roster he has right now

The Baltimore Sun
The Orioles have found a way to win games, and Buck Showalter said they don't need help from the outside.

It takes more than a half-season to disprove your doubters, and Orioles manager Buck Showalter doesn't spend a lot of time paying attention to them anyway.

So, he wasn't a ton of help when Sunday's game was over and he was peppered with questions about the degree to which the first-place Orioles had met his preseason expectations.

"I didn't come in with any preconceived notions,'' he said. "I know this sounds clich?, but I just wanted to do everything to make sure we're as good as we're capable of being. That's the thing, to seek your level and not have anything distract you."

The Orioles have done that so far, overcoming a sketchy starting rotation to spend all but 15 days of this season on top of the American League East standings. Whether they can stay up there much longer with both the Red Sox and Blue Jays surging into the break remains an open question, but Showalter has not changed his opinion of the team since it opened the season with the first of three seven-game winning streaks.

"I just talked to them before we split up for four days,'' Showalter said. "Make good decisions the next four days. Remember the pact we made with each other when we left Sarasota. Nobody's counting, bring what you bring."

For the most part, the Orioles have done that. They've hung together through some key injuries and they've won 51 games against all conventional logic. They've done it with only one full-time, healthy starter – Chris Tillman – who has won more games than he's lost.

"Our guys don't dwell on conventionality," Showalter said. "…We don't always follow a script, (but) there are some constants we want to maintain if we want to get where we want to go."

Those are obvious. The Orioles have gotten this far on a dynamic mix of raw power, highlight-film defense and terrific late-inning relief. That has – so far – outweighed the deficiencies in the starting rotation and fueled the us-against-the-world clubhouse chemistry that Showalter has so successfully exploited throughout the past 4 ? seasons.

Everyone knew the O's would hit a lot of home runs. How could they not with the re-signing of Chris Davis, the arrival of current major league home run leader Mark Trumbo, the consistent presence of team leader Adam Jones and the continuing maturation of power-hitting infielders Manny Machado and Jonathan Schoop?

But legitimate World Series contenders don't usually live on home runs alone, something that the sporadic offense of the 2015 team learned the hard way. The Orioles still score a high percentage of their runs while they are trotting around the bases, but they finally added some more on-base potential to the equation.

No one imagined it on Opening Day, but Korean star Hyun Soo Kim knew what he was doing when he refused the club's request that he accept a minor league assignment after struggling horribly at the plate during spring training. He has been a steady on-base presence since he started cracking the lineup regularly, but his status is now unclear after he pulled a hamstring on Sunday.

Apparently, Dan Duquette also knew what he was doing when he and his scouting staff plucked Joey Rickard off the Tampa Bay Rays' unprotected list during the Rule 5 Draft last December. Both Rickard and Kim have contributed significantly to a more cohesive offensive attack.

The volatility in the starting rotation has created some instability in the bullpen, where the Orioles have been mixing and matching middle and long relievers all season, but the pen has been watertight in the late innings – even in the absence of injured set-up man Darren O'Day.

The late relief has been so good, in fact, that premier middle guy Brad Brach and his 0.91 ERA joined Zach Britton and his league-leading 27 saves on the All-Star team.

Which brings us back to Showalter's original premise and the obvious follow-up to his contention that he came into this season only wanting to make sure his players got the opportunity to be as good as they are capable of being.

Well?

"We've got another level,'' he said. "We always think we've got another level. Help is right here, this group. We are not coveting other people's players. They don't want to hear me talk about what somebody is doing in Norfolk or Bowie. They don't want to hear about some guy [on another team] that we're interested in. I don't want them to hear the manager talk about that. I tell Dan [Duquette] to tell me at the 11th hour and we'll talk about the fit. Every answer we need to have is in here."

peter.schmuck@baltsun.com

twitter.com/SchmuckStop

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