The Orioles are monitoring Kevin Millwood's status, but I wouldn't say that there is serious interest in a reunion with the team's Opening Day starter last season. Millwood, currently pitching for the New York Yankees' Triple-A affiliate, has an opt-out clause in his contract that he can exercise if he's not promoted to the big leagues by Monday. He pitched poorly in his last Triple-A outing, allowing six runs and seven hits, including two homers, over two innings, fueling the belief that the Yankees won't call him up by the deadline. The Orioles have not sent anybody to scout Millwood, though the word in scouting circles is that Millwood's stuff hasn't been crisp, and his velocity is down. I wouldn't rule it out by any means because the Orioles are obviously concerned about their starting pitching depth, and they know well what Millwood can and cannot do. If Millwood is willing to sign a minor league deal with no promises, I could see that interesting the Orioles. Anything other than that, I think it would be unlikely pairing.
As I wrote in today's notebook, Alfredo Simon is scheduled to throw five innings today in an extended spring training game. If all goes well, it will likely be Simon's last outing at extended spring. The Orioles are prepared to take him off the restricted list and have him join the starting rotation of one of the club's affiliates. They'd have to make a 40-man move to accommodate his return to the roster, but that shouldn't be difficult as there are a couple of guys on the 40-man who clearly have fallen out of the team's long-term plans. Simon, on the other hand, appears to be very much on the Orioles' radar. He is in far better shape this year and the reports on his stuff have been positive. It's pretty amazing how quickly this has come together, considering that the pitcher was still in a Dominican Republic prison about eight weeks ago.
For all the talk about Buck Showalter's organization and leadership skills, the people I talked to when he was hired as Orioles manager really felt that he'd help the franchise most in one key area: evaluating its own talent. Let's face it, the Orioles have mostly failed in that area in the recent past. I thought about that again last night while watching infielder Robert Andino get three hits, draw a walk and pretty much be in the center of every Oriole rally. He's now hitting .333 and playing a pretty strong shortstop, the error last night notwithstanding. The Orioles had tired of Andino's attitude and antics last year while he was with Triple-A Norfolk and were prepared to let him go. However, Showalter wanted to take a look at him before they did. A September call-up, Andino finished the 2010 season strong, made this year's team out of spring training, and he's really flourished in J.J. Hardy's absence. All you'd need to do is watch Andino take groundballs for two minutes to determine a lack of talent is not his issue. He has good feet, lightning-quick hands, a good arm and a quick release. He handles the bat pretty well and has decent speed. He also has the type of attitude and swagger- Mark Teixeira found that out last week - that Showalter craves in his players. The problem for Andino has always been staying focused and playing hard. He's been doing both and it certainly appears that Showalter has his attention. The most memorable interview I've done since spring training began was with Andino after he was informed that he had made the Orioles' Opening Day roster. An emotional Andino talked about how proud he was of himself, and about how he felt it was one of the first times in his life that he didn't screw up. I know there are a lot of Orioles right now that are real happy that he's getting an opportunity and doing well.
I certainly wrote plenty about catcher Matt Wieters last night, both on the blog and in today's paper. However, one aspect that we really haven't discussed is how much Wieters is playing. He has started 22 of the Orioles' 24 games behind the plate. Last year, Wieters also started 22 of the team's first 24 games, prompting many to blame then manager Dave Trembley for playing the catcher too much and wearing him down. With a night game tonight and a day game Sunday, I bet Wieters gets one of the next two days off and Jake Fox will catch. I'm guessing it will be tonight because I think Showalter and pitching coach Mark Connor would prefer Wieters catching rookie Zach Britton Sunday.
The starting rotation has obviously pitched real well of late, compiling a 3.41 ERA over the last 10 games so I don't want to nitpick. However, I don't think I'm breaking any news here when I say that while the starters are giving the Orioles a chance to win most nights, they better start getting deeper in games. Oriole starters have pitched six innings or less in six straight games. Nine outs is a lot to get every night, especially when a couple of members of the bullpen have struggled and just aren't trusted right now in tight spots. Jim Johnson and Jason Berken have both been getting a lot of work lately, even if it's just been in the bullpen warming up. And while we are on the topic, I read some criticism of Showalter tonight after he yanked Jake Arrieta following five innings despite the fact that his pitch count was at 86. I agreed with the move even before Arrieta admitted that he was pitching with some right hip soreness. That was a big game, and after coming back from down three runs, it was important to start the road trip with a W. Arrieta battled and he surely has better days ahead, but he didn't have it last night as evidenced by the countless balls that the White Sox either smoked right at Oriole defenders, or hit to the warning track. The ball wasn't carrying much at U.S. Cellular, which worked in Arrieta's favor.