After two one-run losses to open the season against the Tampa Bay Rays, the Orioles really need a victory tonight to avoid heading into Friday's home opener at 0-3. Orioles manager Dave Trembley has some key decisions to make, and several questions to consider as he writes out his lineup card.
Here are a couple of them:
Will Brian Roberts play?
The guess here is that he won't, and that has nothing to do with the 0-for-10 and the eight base runners he's stranded in the first two games. Orioles manager Dave Trembley said late in the spring that it probably wouldn't be smart for Roberts to play the first three games on turf with a herniated disk in his back. That, coupled by the fact that the Orioles have such a quick turnaround before their home opener on Friday at 3:05 p.m. -- and I promise you Roberts will be in there for that one -- tells me that the leadoff man will sit. Plus, it will give Trembley a chance to get Julio Lugo in the lineup.
Who will play left field?
With Felix Pie (strained rotator cuff) probably unavailable again to play left field, Trembley's options will be Nolan Reimold and Luke Scott. Reimold, who is still not 100 percent after having left Achilles surgery in September, couldn't get to two balls in last night's loss that he may have gotten to if he was fully healthy. There is also the issue of his surgically-repaired Achilles taking a pounding on the turf on consecutive days. It probably makes the most sense to use Scott in left and Reimold at designated hitter, but Trembley could use it as an opportunity to get Ty Wigginton a start as well.
Who will be available in the bullpen?
The biggest question mark is top setup man Jim Johnson, who has some inflammation in his right elbow that took him out of consideration to pitch last night. Johnson doesn't think it's that serious, but he may need a couple of days off. Lefty specialist Will Ohman has pitched in back-to-back games, so you'd have to think that if the Orioles need to get out left-handed hitters Carl Crawford and Carlos Pena in a crucial moment late in the game, Mark Hendrickson would get the call. Closer Michael Gonzalez and Matt Albers have also either gotten in the game or up in the bullpen the first two nights.
How will Brian Matusz perform?
The rookie left-hander has been walking around the clubhouse with a huge smile on his face, barely able to contain the excitement of making his 2010 debut. The pressure will certainly be on the youngster to get deep in the game, and to help prevent what would be a deflating season-opening sweep by the Rays. Despite the two losses, the Orioles got solid outings from their two veterans, Kevin Millwood and Jeremy Guthrie, both of whom struggled in spring training. Matusz was dominant for most of the spring, and now it's his turn to transfer that into the regular season.