Baltimore Orioles Preview

2005 Overview: Prior to the All Star break the Baltimore Orioles were playing like they were destined for one of those dream seasons. On June 21, Baltimore held a two-game lead over the division rival Boston Red Sox and had assembled an impressive 42-28 record. The Orioles were also just 24 days away from celebrating Rafael Palmeiro's 3,000th career hit and were 4th in the American League with a .278 team batting average. But after June 22nd Baltimore's dream season quickly faded. The Orioles would lose their next six games and win only 32 of their final 92 games (just under 35%).

Rafael Palmeiro would be suspended for steroid use on Aug. 2, and second-year manager Lee Mazzilli would be fired just two days after Palmeiro's suspension. The three offensive bright spots in 2005 were shortstop Miguel Tejada (.304 36 98) 3rd baseman Melvin Mora (.283 27 88) and outfielder Jay Gibbons (.277 26 79).

On the downside, 1st baseman Rafael Palmeiro (.266 18 60) appeared in only 100 games and the off season acquisition of Sammy Sosa (.221 14 45) proved to be a wasted gamble. As far as pitching, only starters Rodrigo Lopez (15-12 4.90), Bruce Chen (13-10 3.83) and closer B.

J Ryan (36 saves in 41 opportunities) proved reliable. The Orioles ended their season with a disappointing 74-88 record, 21 games behind the division-leading Yankees and Red Sox. Off Season Moves: After Free Agent Closer B.J Ryan signed with the division rival Toronto Blue Jays, Baltimore quickly traded Steve Kline to Giants for RHP LaTroy Hawkins (2-8 3.83 6 saves in 2005, 25 saves in 2004 for the Chicago Cubs). The Orioles also added Free Agent catcher Ramon Hernandez (.

290 12 58) and 1st Base/ Outfielder Jeff Conine (.304 3 33) as well as former Red Sox Kevin Millar (.272 9 50) hoping to supplement the loss of Rafael Palmeiro as an offensive force in the everyday lineup. Baltimore also traded SS Nate Spears and LHP Carlos Perez to the Cubs for Corey Patterson (.

215 13 34) in order to better jumpstart their offensive production in 2006. To address their starting pitching problems the Orioles traded with the Mets for RHP Kris Benson (10-8 4.13) in exchange for relief pitcher Jorge Julio. 2006 Analysis: Expect the offensive additions to help better protect Tejada and Mora. The newly acquired Millar and Conine will probably split time between 1B, outfield and DH. The starting five appear at this point to be Lopez, Erik Bedard (6-8 4.

00), Daniel Cabrera (10-13 4.52), Chen and John Maine (2-3 6.30) plus newcomer Kris Benson who is expected to bump Chen or Maine to the bullpen. Although the addition of Benson will help, the starting rotation doesn't quite offer enough to seriously contend against Toronto, Boston and New York. The departure of lefty closer B.J Ryan will clearly be missed.

The Orioles are keeping their fingers crossed that LaTroy Hawkins can once again close games like he did in 2004. Relievers Eric DuBose (2-3 5.52), Chris Ray (1-3 2.

66), Tim Byrdak (0-1 4.05) and Todd Williams (5-5 3.30) complete the Oriole bullpen. Javy Lopez will most likely DH this year with the acquisition of Free Agent catcher Ramon Hernandez joining the club. .

By: Jack Scrafford


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