In the span of less than a week, the
Boston Red Soxhave gained some separation from the rest of theirThe Orioles have their rotation lined up with their four top starters slated to face Boston, a luxury they didn't plan for but won't shy away from.
BOSTON — The
Oriolesarrived at Fenway Park on Monday having taken two of three games from theThe Orioles and Boston Red Sox dramatically altered the playoff race with series wins on the road against AL rivals this weekend.The Washington Nationals' decision to get Strasburg signed now might be another sign that the assumptions about the market for baseball's top potential free agents have changed, which could impact when young superstars Manny Machado and Bryce Harper get the megacontracts they almost certainly will command and just how much those deals will cost.Orioles outfielder Nolan Reimold is one of several reasons why the team has fared so well against left-handers this season.The Orioles have lost two games in a row, which would not be particularly alarming if they didn't look so much like last year's team.The Orioles' hot start shouldn't keep fans from licking their lips at the prospect of making all those so-called experts eat their words if the club turns out to be way better than any of them predicted.Before Joey Rickard became a star, he was just that neighborhood kid who raids your fridge when he's over and unrepentantly eats your favorite food.The Orioles struck out 15 times in Monday's victory over the Boston Red Sox, but there are good reasons for that and no reason to be alarmed.On the same day that the Orioles expected Dexter Fowler ¿ a 29-year-old who was projected to become the team's starting right fielder and leadoff hitter ¿ to arrive in Sarasota, he was instead in Arizona finalizing a contract with the Cubs.It was widely reported that Fowler had agreed to terms on a three-year, $33 million deal with the Orioles pending a club physical ¿ news that was confirmed to The Baltimore Sun by a high-level industry source. But on Thursday, Fowler signed a one-year deal to remain with the Chicago Cubs.In two weeks and two days, Orioles pitchers and catchers will report to the Ed Smith Stadium complex in Sarasota for the beginning of spring training.With the player they called their priority, slugging first baseman Chris Davis, now officially locked up, Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette said the team is still in the market to bolster a pitching staff that many blame for the step backwards in 2015.Keeping Chris Davis certainly is a huge step in the right direction, but they are not a measurably better team than they were last season and won't be unless they can find a way to upgrade the starting rotation.There are important moves to be made and the lingering uncertainty of the Chris Davis situation seems — to a certain extent — to be holding the Orioles hostage as baseball front offices prepare to reopen after the holidays. No one in a position of authority is going to come right out and say that, of course. Dan Duquette said Saturday that the club is "maintaining a dialogue with the free agents we are interested in."Agent Scott Boras, who represents Chris Davis, held his annual media scrum with reporters at the winter meetings Wednesday afternoon. Boras said he continues to have a dialogue with the Orioles on getting a deal done with Davis. He said he still has meetings scheduled with other teams regarding Davis.The Orioles had a few meetings with agents and clubs late Sunday after arriving at the Winter Meetings at the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center, but their efforts to land players really begin today with the meeting¿s official first day.The Orioles have been uncharacteristically active early in the offseason, trading for slugger Mark Trumbo, retaining catcher Matt Wieters on a one-year qualifying offer and nearing a deal with relief pitcher Darren O'Day.It was bound to happen eventually. Baseball's free-agent market erupted this past week with a string of giant contracts that are certain to impact the big-name players who remain unsigned — most notably top slugger Chris Davis.That first domino probably fell on Sunday, when the right-hander Jordan Zimmermann reportedly agreed to terms on a five-year, $110-million deal with the Detroit Tigers.If Wednesday¿s ALDS Game 5 outcomes were any indicator, this year¿s American League Championship Series should be an entertaining one, but watching the Kansas City Royals and Toronto Blue Jays play for a ticket to the World Series has to make more Orioles fans gag.Toronto sluggers Josh Donaldson and Jose Bautista exit Division Series opener with injuries. Rangers third baseman Adrian Beltre also leaves with back problem.On Monday, Orioles manager Buck Showalter and executive vice president Dan Duquette laughed at the idea that there was "intense friction" between them or that they were at all concerned about their futures. Both are signed through 2018 and are one season removed from winning the top national awardsLast season, the Orioles rotation posted a remarkable 2.98 ERA after the All-Star break, emerging as the biggest strength down the stretch as the club won its first division title in 17 years. But as the Orioles failed to meet high expectations this season, the dramatic decline of the team's starting pitchers might be the biggest disappointment in 2015.Orioles first baseman Chris Davis, who is this year¿s recipient of the Louis M. Hatter Most Valuable Oriole award, admitted Friday that he surprised he won the honor over third baseman Manny Machado.Orioles center fielder and team leader Adam Jones has said repeatedly that he will make his opinions known to management and ownership on what he would like to see happen this offseason. On Thursday, while holding court with reporters, he was asked specifically about his feelings toward slugger Chris Davis potentially leaving the team after four-plus seasons as an Oriole. In his typical style, Jones didn't shy away, calling Davis "probably the highest priority" for the Orioles.One of the side benefits of Adam Jones' persistent back stiffness is that it has allowed the Orioles to take the occasional look at Gerardo Parra in center field, in case there is a future need. Where Parra's future will be, however, is undetermined. But the pending free agent said he has enjoyed his time in Baltimore and would like to come back if there's a fit.Manager Buck Showalter has fielded a number of questions from reporters over the past 18 hours about the likelihood that his team will retaliate for the second inside pitch that hit Machado on the shoulder and led to Papelbon¿s ejection from the game.The Orioles need Chris Davis. That much has been made as apparent as ever by his club-carrying hot streak that helped the Orioles emerge from their late-August swoon.Orioles catcher Matt Wieters missed Saturday afternoon¿s game against the Blue Jays with a left wrist injury he sustained while diving toward the first-base bag attempting to tag Toronto shortstop Troy Tulowitzki in the sixth inning of Friday night¿s game in Toronto.The Orioles failed to adequately replace right fielder Nick Markakis last winter, but Gerardo Parra came better late than never. He gives the Orioles both the on-base potential and defensive ability that they lost when Markakis signed as a free agent with the Atlanta Braves.Sometimes you need a little luck to make the postseason. And as the Orioles battle for a playoff spot with the final third of the season getting under way, it seems they have developed a knack for missing opposing teams' aces.Before last Friday's deadline, the O's traded pitching prospect Zach Davies to the Milwaukee Brewers for outfielder Gerardo Parra and sent reliever Tommy Hunter to the Chicago Cubs for outfielder Junior Lake.