Once their season concludes with today's game, the Orioles will begin preparations for their organizational meetings in Sarasota, Fla.
Daniel Cabrera's name is bound to come up.
Cabrera remains the tallest pitcher on the staff, and its biggest puzzle. He couldn't hold a five-run lead last night, failing to record an out in the fourth inning, and suffered his 18th loss, 11-10, to the New York Yankees before a sellout crowd of 47,616 at Camden Yards.
The Orioles (69-92) must prevail today to win their first season series from the Yankees since 1997 and only their third in 25 years. They will need to do a better job of navigating through a watered-down lineup.
Yankees manager Joe Torre rested third baseman Alex Rodriguez, shortstop Derek Jeter and left fielder Hideki Matsui on the final weekend before the playoffs, and removed catcher Jorge Posada and pitcher Andy Pettitte after the fifth. But his club sent 10 batters to the plate in the fourth before making an out and scored 10 runs off Cabrera and relievers Kurt Birkins and Victor Santos.
Ramon Hernandez hit a three-run homer in the fifth to reduce New York's lead to 11-9, and the Orioles added a run in the eighth, but they lost for the 27th time in 38 games.
Cabrera (9-18) was charged with six earned runs and 10 hits in three-plus innings. He went 0-6 with two no-decisions and a six-game suspension since his last victory Aug. 14 in New York. Counted on to make significant progress this year, he will bring lowered expectations into next spring - and perhaps a lower slotting in the rotation.
"He probably requires as much patience as anybody," said manager Dave Trembley, whose club has allowed 10 runs or more in an inning three times in the past 38 games. "I think you have to understand the big picture."
It's not always easy to understand the big pitcher.
Cabrera teases with his upper-90s fastball and sporadic ability to dominate a game, but his 18 losses lead the majors and are tied for second most in franchise history.
Given a 2-0 lead in the first inning, he surrendered a leadoff double and single in the second to give back a run. Ahead 6-1 in the fourth, he allowed three straight singles to begin the inning, saw Alberto Gonzalez reach on rookie shortstop Luis Hernandez's throwing error, and gave up a two-run double to Melky Cabrera and an RBI single to Wilson Betemit.
The Orioles have been waiting for the proverbial light bulb to come on, which many people inside and outside the organization expected to happen this season.
"In most instances, you would think that by the third year in the big leagues, it would go on. In his case, it hasn't fully done that yet," Trembley said.
"Let's hope that he goes to the Dominican this winter - he's going to pitch some - and he comes into spring training and it's better for him. I don't know what else to say. Let's just hope it's better for him, because I think it's an agreement and consensus among everybody that's seen him, the guy's got a great arm. But the great arm, and I don't think I'm saying anything out of line here, hasn't translated into winning as many games as everybody has felt he would at this point and time. So the other avenue that you take is there's still an upside."
Note -- Aubrey Huff didn't start last night because of soreness in his neck and lower back. Trembley was waiting to receive a medical report before speculating whether Huff would play today. If he doesn't, he'll conclude his first season with the Orioles with a .280 average, 34 doubles, five triples, 15 homers and 72 RBIs in 151 firstname.lastname@example.org