SARASOTA, Fla. – Now that the Orioles are finally done with their rough opening stretch of five road games in their first seven contests, they can get accustomed to the friendly confines of Ed Smith Stadium.

The Orioles will play three of their next four Grapefruit League games – and four of their next six – in Sarasota, meaning we will see the club's starters more regularly over the next week.

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"Oh yeah," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said when asked Sunday whether he was looking forward to playing at home more often. "The coaching staff has basically been away from a lot of our guys who are going to be on our club for four straight days. It's hard to get much done there besides just play the game. It presents an early challenge physically."

The Orioles are still winless this spring. They are 0-6-1 in Grapefruit League play. And most of their losses haven't been close. Four of their six losses were decided by four or more runs, three of them by seven or more runs. And while I can sense the panic 1,000 miles away, I'll also advise fans not to get too worked up about the Orioles' rough start.

Yes, there have been some issues over the last week. As a whole, the starting pitching hasn't done well. South Korean left fielder Hyun Soo Kim has struggled at the plate and in the field, which has compounded the club's corner outfield concerns as they try to figure out who will play right field.

Jimmy Paredes is hurt. So is left-handed reliever Brian Matusz. Right-handed starter Chris Tillman will pitch in his first spring game on Thursday. We get our first look at right-hander Yovani Gallardo on Wednesday. And we will follow the status of left-handed T.J. McFarland, who left Sunday's game prematurely with a tender left elbow.

The Orioles need to see an improved performance from right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez in his second spring training outing on Monday after he allowed six runs on three hits over 1/3 inning in his first spring start last week. They also need to see progress from right-hander Miguel Gonzalez on Tuesday after Gonzalez allowed seven runs on eight hits over 1 1/3 innings in his first start of the Grapefruit League schedule.

So even though it is too soon to panic, if you don't see improvements across the board this week -- especially among the starting pitching -- there could be cause for concern.

eencina@baltsun.com
twitter.com/EddieInTheYard

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