The Baltimore sports scene is blessed with a bunch of talented bloggers who bring their unique perspective to the conversation. Each week, I hope to chat with one of them in a regular feature called Blogger on Blogger. This week, I exchanged emails with Amanda Redman, who blogs about the Orioles for the Birds Watcher blog.
MV: The Orioles entered Monday night's AL East showdown with the New York Yankees with five straight losses, all at home. I know there is still a long way and many, many games between now and late September, but are you concerned that these Orioles might be finally falling back to Earth?
AR: Certainly you don't want to enter a series against the Yankees having dropped five straight, but I don't think there's any reason to count this team out. The 2013 Baltimore Orioles are not considered to be overachievers, as the 2012 Orioles were categorized all of last year. Offensively all the pieces are there. Defensively this team is sound. The problem now is that the starting pitching hasn't been as consistent as it needs to be in order to win. This has caused a chain reaction, which has started to affect a normally solid bullpen. There is talent in the starting rotation, and plenty in Norfolk as well. Every team has its ups and downs over the course of a long season, and I am confident that things will fall back into place.
MV: How patient should the Orioles be with their rotation? Wei-Yin Chen and Chris Tillman have been their only consistent starting pitchers, and Chen is on the disabled list with an oblique injury. Is it too soon to start thinking about calling up Kevin Gausman or exploring a trade for a starting pitcher?
AR: I'm not convinced that Miguel Gonzalez's issues didn't have more to do with that blister on his right thumb than he let on. He has looked great at times during his starts, and it could be that after a few innings the blister would start to act up and cause him to make poor pitches. Now that he is coming off the DL on Tuesday, I am expecting to see much more consistency out of him. I also expect to see improvement from Jason Hammel, who just isn't throwing enough strikes. I can see the Orioles going out and getting a veteran starter as they did last year with Joe Saunders, but only if the price is right. To this point, Dan Duquette has been reluctant to trade some of the good young arms in the minors, so it will be interesting to see what the O's are willing to give up, if anything. Listening to Buck Showalter talk, it does sound like we will see Kevin Gausman at some point later in the season, likely not until August.
MV: Entering the Yankees series, Jim Johnson had blown back-to-back blown saves after a record stretch of successful save opportunities. Any concern there or does he get the benefit of the doubt?
AR: Jim Johnson has great stuff, and he's got enough of a track record that no one should be worried about him. Every closer blows saves, though his timing is particularly poor -- while the rest of the staff is struggling so mightily. Orioles fans are spoiled by Jim Johnson. He's basically been automatic since he stepped into the closer role. Just ask Tampa Bay, or Detroit or really any team whose closer isn't named Mariano Rivera. Part of what makes Jim Johnson a good closer is his personality. He maintains composure on the mound, even in tough situations. He does not allow his emotions to control him. Buck Showalter has said definitively that he will not hesitate to use Johnson as normal. That confidence in his players is perhaps one of Showalter's greatest attributes as a manager.
MV: The Orioles, who have been looking to solidify the second-base position with Brian Roberts out, recently sent down Ryan Flaherty and called up Yamaico Navarro. It's only been a few games, but what have you seen from Navarro so far and do you think he could potentially be a decent stopgap?
AR: Certainly I'm excited to have Yamaico Navarro's bat in the lineup over Ryan Flaherty's. Flaherty's hitting had been just plain awful, but his defense was really solid. Navarro missed two plays at second base in Sunday's game that Flaherty likely would have made. Remember that the Orioles really turned it on last year when their defense improved. Moving Mark Reynolds to first base, and bringing up Manny Machado allowed the unearned runs to go down, saved pitch counts for starters, and in turn the bullpen was able to be used more effectively. I am hopeful that Navarro's defense will be strong enough until Flaherty's bat comes alive in Norfolk. Even with Flaherty's struggling bat in the lineup, the Orioles are still fourth in the league in runs scored.
MV: Another week, another impressive stat line for 20-year-old third baseman Manny Machado. How much of a joy has it been watching him do his thing at the plate and in the field every day (or night)?
AR: Manny Machado is simply one of the most exciting players I have ever watched. He proved himself with his glove last year, but despite collecting some memorable hits he hadn't really figured out big league pitching quite yet. I was surprised that Buck Showalter decided to bat him second in the lineup this season, but the results have been incredible. You can see how much work Machado has put into his hitting. He is much more patient at the plate, and shows such maturity in his willingness to use the whole field. What's most impressive to me though is his poise. He is not arrogant, he looks for and takes instruction well, and is willing to work hard. He seems to personify the "Oriole Way." I'm so proud he's an Oriole, and can't wait to continue to watch him play for many years to come.
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