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Answering questions from Orioles fans

Recently, I've been getting a lot of e-mails from fans asking different questions about the Orioles -- from my thoughts on the Orioles' projected starting rotation to the status of certain minor leaguers in the organization.

While I can't guarantee that I know the answer to each inquiry, I'll try to give you the best response and collect additional information on the topic if necessary.

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It's always good to receive feedback from readers, and that's what makes the blog such an interactive tool. So, I'd like to share some of the questions, as well as my responses.

Remember, if you have any questions, comments or concerns, please don't hesitate to send me an e-mail or write a comment in the blog. You can also get in touch with me on the Facebook fan page for O's on Deck.

Stan: What are the chances Matt Wieters starts the season with the big club? If none, when would you expect him to come up?

Dean Jones Jr.: I think it's pretty slim that Wieters starts the season in the major leagues. That's not a knock on his ability, but more a reflection on Andy MacPhail's goals. He seems to want to be patient with Wieters, and personally I think that's a good idea. If Wieters completely tears it up at Triple-A Norfolk to start the season, he'll be in Baltimore before too long. We'll see how it all plays out.

Mitch: I haven't heard much about Blake Davis since he was drafted [in 2006], and he doesn't make any top prospect lists. I would like to know more about him. Does he project as a starter in the major leagues or more of a utility guy?

Dean Jones Jr.: To be honest, I like Davis, but I'm not sure that he hits enough to become a full-time starter in the majors. In three seasons in the minor leagues, the 25-year-old shortstop has a .277 batting average, 11 home runs and 111 RBIs. Davis could always improve, but I believe his ceiling at this point is as a utility player. And that's if he even makes it to the major leagues.

Brian, Federal Hill: As of right now, what kind of rotation [do] you think the Orioles are looking at for the beginning of the regular season?

Dean Jones Jr.: Jeremy Guthrie and Koji Uehara are locks to anchor the top two spots in the rotation.

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You have to put Rich Hill in the mix if he's able to recover from the arm troubles that have bothered him to this point. Adam Eaton will definitely factor into the decision based on his experience. Mark Hendrickson also has an advantage because he's a veteran, but you can't rule out the performances by Brad Bergesen and Hayden Penn to this point. Matt Albers, David Pauley and others are still in the discussion.

The only thing certain about the rotation is that the competition is still wide open. Right now, I'll go with Guthrie, Uehara, Eaton and Hendrickson in the first four spots. When the Orioles need a No. 5 starter in the early part of the season, I'll stick with my prediction that Penn will be this season's surprise and take him in that role. Of course, the final three spots are almost certainly going to change a lot over the next month.

BP, Albany, N.Y.: In the age of year-round workouts, personal trainers, advanced nutrition and "babying" pitchers, why are so many of them breaking down? I read O's, Yankees and Mets stories this morning and they all talk about pitchers breaking down. A generation ago, every team had four starters who only came out for pinch hitters, and there were only a fraction of arm problems.

Dean Jones Jr.: I wish I had a great answer to give you. If I did, I'd probably be making a lot of money as a trainer for one of the teams that you reference (or any of the other ones in the major leagues).

Perhaps it's the culture of "babying" the pitchers that doesn't make their arms as strong as before. Maybe it's the lure of money, as well as the fear of losing the big payday if they pitch while injured. It could be a combination to those two reasons, in addition to other factors.

You'd think, like you said, with all the better conditioning techniques that pitchers would be better instead of worse. With that said, maybe the techniques today aren't as good for pitchers as they used to be in the past. I'm not sure.

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Matt, Baltimore: How is 3-for-9 with a home run, two RBIs and two runs scored for Wieters considered thumbs down?

Dean Jones Jr.: Sorry for the miscommunication. I meant Wieters gets a thumbs down for that day's performance, not for the 3-for-9 for the spring so far. I'm sorry I didn't clarify that in the blog post. For others who might be confused, in the recaps for the Orioles' spring training games, I'm only measuring a player on his performance during that specific game.

Rick, Darlington: What's your opinion of Tyler Kolodny? He was a fan favorite at Aberdeen last year. I expect him to go to Delmarva this year. He has lots of hustle, great attitude and good power. He seems to have trouble with the long throw to first base, but appears to be paying attention to that. He strikes out too much, but seems to work hard on his weaknesses.

Dean Jones Jr.: Well, I'm pretty sure I could copy and paste your analysis here. You did an excellent job of summarizing the young infielder's strengths and weaknesses. If I had to name a player in the major leagues that looks similar to Kolodny, I'd pick new Orioles utility player Ryan Freel. Both players take a tremendous mental approach to the game, and it sometimes affects them negatively.

Kolodny committed 33 errors at third base in his first two minor league seasons, but that might have been influenced by his willingness to sacrifice his body in order to try to make difficult plays.

Kolodny will turn 21 next week, so there is still plenty of time for improvement. I'm not ready to throw in the towel on him yet. Let's give Kolodny another couple years at third base and see if he's able to improve his defensive skills. The Orioles could always look to switch his position if he excels offensively but continues to struggle with the glove. As long as he expresses the willingness to get better, I think Kolodny could eventually make it in the major leagues.

Do you have a question about the Orioles and the minor leagues? E-mail me at djones@baltimoresun.com or post a comment below and I'll provide an answer as soon as possible.

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