You have to look past the Orioles' spring training record

SARASOTA, FLA. — The Orioles will reach the mathematical halfway point in the Grapefruit League exhibition season on Wednesday and one characteristic of last year's team remains very much in evidence.

Team Counterintuitive is at it again.


If you were to look at the 4-12 exhibition record, which just happens to equal the worst spring record in the major leagues, you might assume the Orioles were battling through all sorts of tricky issues to get ready for the regular season.

And, of course, you would be wrong, because the Orioles are never that easy to figure out.


Remember how they turned the statistical probabilities upside down on their way to the American League Championship Series? Go back and look up their offensive numbers against the most dominating pitchers in the game in juxtoposition to those same statistical categories against the guys who usually throw the ball and duck.

For some strange and unexplainable reason, the O's generally did whatever you had no right to expect them to do.

Which brings us back to this spring and the fact that — ugly record and soft offensive numbers notwithstanding — everything has been going just fine.

Even in a game in which the Orioles fell behind by nine runs in no time flat, there were silver linings all over the place.

Catcher Matt Wieters made his first start behind the plate against major league competition since he underwent Tommy John elbow surgery nine months ago. He wasn't tested, but he said afterward he felt comfortable and was not concerned about how his right arm might respond over the next 24 hours.

He appears to be on schedule to be in the starting lineup when the Orioles open the regular season against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field on April 6.

First baseman Chris Davis, who turned 29 Tuesday, also appeared to take another step forward in his attempt to shake off the season-long struggle that was 2014. He put the Orioles on top — albeit briefly — in the first inning with his second opposite-field home run in as many days.

It's early, of course, and Davis is batting just .231, but he has three homers and 10 RBIs and the fact that he has been able to drive several balls to left field would appear to be an indication that he has fixed what ailed his swing last year.

Davis said at Fanfest in late January that he believed his inability to hit the ball to left was at least partly the result of the oblique injury that sidelined him early last season. The proof is in the spray charts, which show that he hit just six homers to left or left-center field in 2014 after hitting 17 during his 53-homer campaign the year before.

If the Orioles' chances of winning the American League East depend heavily on successful comebacks by Wieters, Davis and Manny Machado, then all indicators are pointing in the right direction at the moment. And, just as important, the Orioles have avoided any serious health issues among their projectable major-league regulars.

In response to questions about any of that, however, Showalter literally knocks on wood.

"Like I say every spring, the biggest thing you want to get out of this … is the health, and so far pitchers are maintaining their health and the people that we know are going to be on the club and serving a significant role are where they need to be," Showalter said. "I think we all know that probably in a week or so you'll probably see a little different sense of the timetable. You start seeing the finish line and you know there's X-number of opportunities to get yourself ready."


In other words, when the competitive timeclock ticks down to a certain point, the Orioles should start to look more like the team that ran away with the AL East last September.

Unless they're feeling counterintuitive, of course.

Read more from columnist Peter Schmuck on his blog, "The Schmuck Stops Here," at baltimoresun.com/schmuckblog.

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