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Orioles news, notes and opinions

We've talked plenty about all the factors that contributed to the Orioles' 4-3 loss to the Chicago White Sox last night: Nick Markakis getting a bad read and not scoring from second on Vladimir Guerrero's line single, J.J. Hardy not getting a run in with a man on third and one out, Robert Andino not making a routine tag that ultimately cost the Orioles a run, third base umpire Phil Cuzzi not being able to make a correct call right in front of him on a Markakis steal attempt. However, the Orioles approach in the bottom of the sixth should not be overlooked. To review, the Orioles had scored three runs off White Sox starter Gavin Floyd and forced him to throw 20 pitches in the bottom of the fifth. Chris Jakubauskas, who would have been the Game MVP if the Orioles came back and won, did well to pitch a scoreless top of the sixth and get the offense right back up to the plate. Three Orioles hitters then managed to make Floyd throw all of five pitches to get out of the sixth. Chris Davis saw three of those pitches and Mark Reynolds and Matt Wieters made first-pitch outs. It's unacceptable that late in a one-run game against a potentially tiring pitcher to go down that meekly.

I'm going to try and avoid making a knee-jerk reaction on Chris Davis because he just doesn't have many big league at-bats and I'm sure he's pressing a little to try and make an immediate impression on his new club. (Missing three games with a sore right shoulder can't help either). However, I think it would be absolutely foolish to conclude that his acquisition in the Koji Uehara trade or Reynolds' recent strong play at first takes the Orioles out of the market for a first baseman. The Orioles for the umpteenth straight offseason need just about a sure thing at first base. They need a guy who is an all-but lock to at the very least hit 20-plus homers and drive in 80-plus runs. Davis could very well turn into that guy and I'm not suggesting that he doesn't have a future with the club. He can play first, third and some left field, and the Orioles also could have a vacancy at designated hitter if Luke Scott is non-tendered. There will be opportunities for him if he produces. But I don't think it would be smart to pencil him in as the starting first baseman for 2012.

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One thing that is making the Orioles' freefall even worse is the fact that there is nothing (other than the Ravens but I'm talking about on-field stuff) to take the attention away from the poor product on the field. Most organizations have a stud prospect to call up in September. I'm not sure there is one guy in the Orioles system with a chance to get called up who would get the fans excited. Zach Britton long bowed out of the A.L. Rookie of the Year race. There are a couple of guys having good statistical seasons, but nobody is doing anything that really warrants daily monitoring. In fact once Monday's deadline to sign 2011 draft picks passes (yes I believe the Orioles will sign Dylan Bundy), the two lingering storylines will be if President of Baseball Operations Andy MacPhail returns (I'd be extremely surprised if he does in his current capacity), and whether the Orioles lose 100 games for the second time since 1954 (I think they will).

I was a little surprised that Nolan Reimold didn't get an opportunity to hit in the ninth inning last night. With tough lefty Chris Sale on the mound and one out, bench coach John Russell, who was the acting manager with Buck Showalter having been ejected, opted to pinch-hit Felix Pie with switch-hitter Josh Bell. Showalter said that he believed the reasoning that Bell was called on was White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen would have countered with right-handed closer Sergio Santos the second that Reimold emerged from the dugout. Right-handed hitters entered the night 10-for-86 (.114) with 40 strikeouts against Santos. That's all well-and-good, but I like Reimold's chances of running into a fastball or a hanging slider better than Bell's chances from the right side against Sale's nasty stuff. Bell, by the way, grounded out, and Santos came on to strike out Andino to end the game.

Nobody asked me but here is the lineup I'd run out on most night: 1. Robert Andino, 2B; 2. Nick Markakis, RF; 3. J.J. Hardy, SS; 4. Adam Jones, CF; 5. Mark Reynolds, 3B; 6. Matt Wieters, C; 7. Vladimir Guerrero, DH; 8. Chris Davis, 1B; 9. Nolan Reimold, LF. I'd also have no problem keeping Jones in the three spot, hitting Reynolds cleanup and slotting Hardy fifth. Admittedly, it is not ideal to have Andino hitting first, but he does have the second highest on-base percentage on the team among regulars, and with Brian Roberts out, there are just not a whole lot of options at that leadoff spot.

Though the Orioles' developmental staff has taken plenty of criticism over the years, I continue to hear good things about the Double-A Bowie coaching staff of manager Gary Kendall and coaches Kennie Steenstra, Denny Hocking and Einar Diaz. Several players on that team have shown steady improvements throughout the season. Hocking, a former big leaguer who is the Baysox field coach, has especially garnered raved reviews. It would not surprise me if he garners a promotion next season, either within the Orioles' system or somewhere else.

Waiting for some good news? It appears that the Orioles miss Detroit Tigers ace Justin Verlander in this weekend's series. Verlander is 6-0 with a 2.64 ERA in eight career starts against the Orioles, and 4-0 with a 2.50 ERA in five career starts at Camden Yards.

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