I'm looking forward to David Hernandez's first start of the year tonight against the Toronto Blue Jays. The kid worked his butt off to win the fifth starter role after arriving in spring training as the odd man out in the rotation. Dave Trembley insists that was never the case, of course, but all you had to do was see who was starting every fifth day (Chris Tillman) to know that Hernandez did not start out with an equal opportunity this spring.
He pitched well and he deserves another chance to establish himself as a major league starter. His repertoire was too limited last year for him to be real successful, but he has learned to work more in the lower end of the strike zone, which should help him be more consistent.
If you haven't already, take a look at my column about Brian Roberts and Michael Gonzalez in today's print edition or right here. We can all just cross our fingers that Brian's abdominal strain is minor and only keeps him out for a few days. I'm rooting heavily for Gonzalez, because he seems like a standup guy, but I don't see enough command or velocity to get major league hitters out. Hope I'm wrong.
He has been a very good relief pitcher throughout his career, but he has been a mystery all spring. He needs to figure it out in a hurry or the Orioles need to figure something else out for the closer role. The first thing I would do is push one of the situational guys into the early part of the eighth inning and use Jim Johnson for the last one or two outs of the eighth and the first out of the ninth. That would relief some pressure on Gonzo and maybe bring him to the mound in a different mindset.
Self-promotion dept.: I'm back on the radio today, doing the noon Sportsline program on WBAL (1090 AM). We'll be talking Orioles and taking your calls, so tune in and join in the fun. If you're out of signal range, go to WBAL.com and click on the "Listen Live" icon. I'll take you right up to the start of our live Masters coverage at 2 p.m.