It took rookie Zach Britton just six starts to win five games this season. Last year, the Orioles didn't have their first five-game winner until July 29, and that was David Hernandez who won all but one of those five games in relief. The first full-time Oriole starter to hit the five-win plateau last year was Jeremy Guthrie on Aug.3. Guthrie led last year's staff with 11 wins.
If you want another example of how good Matt Wieters has become behind the plate, consider the case of Juan Pierre. The White Sox's speedy leadoff man tried swiping second in Friday's series opener and was thrown out on a perfect throw by Wieters. Yesterday, he reached base four times and never attempted to steal once. Two of those times, he led off the inning and another he reached first with two outs, both running situations. Now to credit just Wieters wouldn't be fair. Lefties are often tough to run on, and Britton is particularly quick to the plate. But you don't swipe 68 bases last year and log 86 steal attempts, like Pierre did, by being bashful. Wieters has thrown out 6-of-12 would-be base stealers this season and I'd have to think word is getting out to run at your own risk.
Shortstop J.J. Hardy is still about two weeks away from a return and Brian Matusz is closer to three. So a lot could happen before they rejoin the club. However, since I'm getting regular questions on how the roster will shake out, my best guess is Matusz will replace either Brad Bergesen or Chris Tillman in the rotation, while Hardy will take the roster spot of one of the relievers, allowing the Orioles to return to a 12-man pitching staff. Unless the Orioles suddenly decide that Cesar Izturis doesn't have a role – and I don't see that happening just because the respect they have for him and what he means in the clubhouse – I don't really see any other direction that they could go.
Former Oriole starter Kevin Millwood opted out of his minor league deal with the New York Yankees yesterday and is now a free agent. The Orioles have had internal discussions about Millwood, and I'd be surprised if they didn't at least touch base with the veteran's agent, Scott Boras. But obviously, Millwood would probably have to go to Triple-A Norfolk first, and I'm not sure that he'd be willing to do that knowing that Matusz is returning soon, and Justin Duchscherer and Alfredo Simon also are rotation options later in the month.
With Single-A Delmarva shortstop Manny Machado absolutely tearing up the South Atlantic League, the questions have already started about when he'll be bumped up to Single-A Frederick. A .337 average, five homers (all over the last seven games), 20 RBIs and 17 walks will obviously spur some conversation. However, it's important to note that the Orioles are working with the 18-year-old on a variety of things – offensive approach, baserunning, defensive footwork – so while they're thrilled that the top prospect is performing so well, they're looking at more than just his statistics. Also, don't completely discount the jump from low-A to high-A. Outfielder Steven Bumbry hit .111 (4-for-36) with zero homers, two RBIs and 16 strikeouts in 14 games for Frederick. He was demoted to Delmarva, where he's batted .357 (10-for-28) with one homer, five RBIs and six strikeouts in seven games. Machado will move up to Frederick at some point this season, probably in the not too distant future. And I'm guessing that he'll hit pretty well there, too. He's that kind of talent. But there is no reason to rush him through levels this early in the game.
Third baseman Mark Reynolds has made four errors this season, and he's undoubtedly been saved a couple of others by first baseman Derrek Lee, who seemingly catches everything. But after watching him for the last seven or eight weeks, I am of the opinion that he's been much better defensively than his reputation suggests. You can see him lose focus there from time-to-time, but he certainly makes some very good plays. He was all over the place yesterday and his defense should not be overlooked in that victory.