Orioles Q&A with Jeff Zrebiec

James: Are you surprised by Luke Scott's hot start, and what kind of numbers do you expect him to finish with?

Jeff Zrebiec: I am a little surprised, primarily because Scott did not look too sharp in spring training, and he's not historically a fast starter. He's a career .194 hitter in March/April, and between that, and adjusting to American League pitching, I figured he'd have his struggles early on. Even though he's cooled off considerably recently, he's already proven me wrong. As for his projected numbers over the season, I've been asked that question in a previous Q&A, and to be honest, I forget what I predicted. But I'll go with a .280 average, 18 homers and 75 RBIs.

David: What ended up happening to Jay Gibbons? Do you expect him to sign with another club in the near future?

Jeff Zrebiec: From what I understand, Gibbons is in Phoenix, training and waiting for a team to call and give him an opportunity. I honestly have no idea how it's going to play out. It certainly doesn't help Gibbons' cause that there are a few other DH-types -- Barry Bonds, Mike Piazza -- that are looking for work and have had far more recent success than he has. I do think Gibbons has something left in the tank, but what I don't know is if he has the desire and willingness to work his way up through the minors again to get back to the big leagues. That's what he'll have to do. He's carrying some baggage obviously with the performance-enhancing drugs stuff and the injuries, but you'd like to think that a team would be willing to at least take a shot on him with a minor league deal. But it wouldn't surprise me if that doesn't happen until next spring or Gibbons has to go to Japan to play and prove himself all over again.

Rob, Westminster: Now that trade talks seem to have died down, are the Orioles giving any thought to signing Brian Roberts to an extension and building around him instead of shipping him out or letting him walk?

Jeff Zrebiec: Not that I hear. Orioles president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail is letting things play out with Roberts. He's keeping in contact with different teams, and I still think Roberts gets traded at some point before the trade deadline. I know the Cubs are clicking now and don't appear to have a glaring need, but things happen. The Colorado Rockies are getting little production from their second base spot and have some nice middle infield prospects that will intrigue the Orioles. There will be interest in Roberts near the deadline. With the direction the Orioles are going, I still think they need to trade Roberts if they get exactly what they are looking for. Also, remember, it takes two to sign a contract extension. Roberts extended his contract by a year before the 2007 season. Roberts didn't want to commit longer because he wanted to see the direction of the team. Barring this hot start continuing throughout the season, I just don't see Roberts committing to the Orioles long-term. He wants to win now. I can tell you this -- I'd be utterly shocked if they let him walk. That's just not something I think MacPhail will allow to happen. He's much too smart for that.

Andrew, New York: Assess Daniel Cabrera's performance so far this year. How many more chances will he get with the O's, and what is his trade value?

Jeff Zrebiec: If he keeps pitching the way he has for the last three outings, he'll get plenty of chances. Cabrera has really impressed me, both with his demeanor and his performance. The biggest criticism you've heard about him in the past is that "he just doesn't get it." But that's certainly not the case this year. The guy has always had a great work ethic, but his focus this season and the way he's absorbed new pitching coach Rick Kranitz's teachings has been exemplary. He appears to have grasped the concept that if he throws strikes and attacks with his two-seam fastball, he's very tough to hit. Now, I'd still have to see more to say with any confidence that Cabrera has turned the corner. He's had good three-start runs before. As for his trade value, it's obviously not as high as it was say two seasons ago when people were predicting that he'd win multiple Cy Young awards. But with the kind of stuff and raw talent he has, there will always be organizations interested in him, thinking that they'll be the team to turn him around.

Dan: Given what we've seen from Adam Jones, where do you think he ranks defensively among American League center fielders?

Jeff Zrebiec: After about four weeks, that's tough to do, Dan. I really haven't seen enough of him to be able to do that with any accuracy. Guys like Torii Hunter, Vernon Wells, Ichiro Suzuki and Grady Sizemore have been doing it year after year. I will say this -- Jones has made drastic improvements in such a short period of time. I saw him in that first intrasquad game this spring and he botched a couple of balls, turned the wrong way a couple of times and didn't get such great jumps. I haven't seen any sign of that since the season started. He's been solid and even spectacular at times. And he makes it look very easy. I know of at least one scout that doesn't think Jones can play the position long-term and is more suited for a corner outfield spot. But I'm sold after watching how much he's improved in such a short period of time.

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