Orioles' spring highs and lows

The Baltimore Sun

Three things that went right

Melvin Mora was a force at the plate and a presence in the clubhouse: The veteran third baseman's numbers have been in decline, but he worked on his hitting mechanics in the offseason and had a tremendous spring, leading Orioles regulars in batting average (.431), homers (two), RBIs (13) and walks (nine). He has also stayed positive and worked with some of the younger players, mainly shortstop Luis Hernandez.

Several relievers emerged to provide bullpen depth: When the spring began, George Sherrill, Jamie Walker and Chad Bradford were the only pitchers to have bullpen spots locked up. However, Dennis Sarfate, Randor Bierd and Greg Aquino all had strong springs, giving manager Dave Trembley plenty of options out of the bullpen, which has been one of the team's biggest holes.

Dave Trembley gained support with his businesslike approach: Trembley had plenty of support in the Orioles' clubhouse when the spring started, but it has grown significantly over the past six weeks because of his communication skills and respectful treatment of the veterans. Trembley sat down the veterans when the spring began and laid out his plans and expectations and never deviated from them.

Three things that went wrong

Luis Hernandez looked shaky in the field and at the plate: The starting shortstop's job was Hernandez's to lose when the spring began, and he nearly did just that. He struggled at the plate, hitting just .186, and looked shaky defensively, making six errors while appearing nervous and uncomfortable. Trembley has dropped hints that Hernandez is still his starter but hasn't made it official.

Starters struggled to log innings and find consistency: Last spring, four Orioles starters pitched 20 or more innings, but this year Daniel Cabrera was the only one to do so. It was partly by design because new pitching coach Rick Kranitz wanted to evaluate the staff and give everyone an opportunity, but all the starters had up-and-down springs.

The Brian Roberts situation went unresolved: The Brian Roberts trade drama with the Chicago Cubs has lingered for three months and has clearly been a distraction for Roberts. He and Trembley have vowed that they won't talk about it anymore. Club president Andy MacPhail said Roberts won't be dealt before Opening Day, but the topic isn't going away. Roberts is forced to ignore it, and the club has to hope he won't let it or the disappointment of not being on a contender affect his play.

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