The final two weeks of spring training will have the Orioles finalizing roster spots along with structuring starting lineups and a rotation. There is constant debate on how relevant spring training really is. Well, I’m sure most players feel it’s pretty relevant. Justin Duchscerer for instance, whose spring has been a constant reminder that his surgically repaired hip isn’t 100% and may keep him out of the starting rotation. A recent MRA showed no new damage and hopefully he can work through his discomfort and pitch. I look forward to seeing him throw in Camden Yards, but it sounds like it could take some time and patience on both his part and the team. This spring probably feels all too real for him.
Let’s look at the other off season acquisitions and springs relevance. Derrek Lee has played in one Grapefruit league game. After resting a sore wrist this spring, he fouls a pitch off his left foot in the one and only game and is scratched for the following day. He went for his second MRI this spring, (first one was for his wrist) and everything looked fine and he will try to get some more at bats in before opening day. Jake Fox, a late 2010 acquisition who could be the one resting Lee during the season is killing it, 7 homers, 12 RBI’s and a .333 avg. Let’s hope his spring is relevant, along with Vladimir Guererro’s, who’s batting .341 with 11 RBI’s. Unfortunately Mark Reynolds spring I’m sure will be relevant, as he has 45 at bats with 16k’s. JJ Hardy has had a decent spring, batting .333, and after having a down year in 2010 the hope is Camden Yards will be a better fit for Hardy’s bat
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I guess pitching results in spring training would be the least relevant, simply because pitching is the least predictable. Jeremy Accardo, signed during the off season has pitched in six games with a 1.17 ERA. Josh Rupe, a non roster invitee has pitched in 6 games as well, resulting in a 0.00 ERA. Rookie Zach Britton has made a good case for himself to possibly be the fifth starter, he’s started 2 games and pitched in a total of 3, resulting in a 0.00 ERA with 9 innings pitched. Out of the top 4 spots in the rotation only Brian Matusz has an ERA under 4, Jake Arrieta and Brad Bergesesn are approaching 6 and Jeremy Guthrie the #1 starter is at 6.00. Kevin Gregg, the proposed closer signed during the off season has pitched in 6 games, 5.1 innings with a chart topping 13.50 ERA. Our returning closer Koji has only pitched in one game this spring due to arm problems. He received a cortisone shot in his pitching elbow and has been throwing off flat ground. I guess we’ll just cross our fingers. In spring training one bad inning can kill an ERA, and pitchers don’t get enough total innings to balance it out. It’s easy to see why spring stats for pitchers can be unreliable.
I know all Oriole fans hope that Brian Roberts spring is irrelevant. He’s played very little, has gotten several treatments, spot injections, and an MRI for lower back spasms. He returned to the line up on Sunday apparently with no discomfort and is scheduled to play again on Tuesday. I for one hope that this spring isn’t a prelude for what’s to come for Roberts this season. His lead off presence is important to this team, and without him the offense will have a difficult time getting off the ground.
I’m not trying to solve the age old question, “How much does spring matter?” But it’s more important than all the talking heads make it out to be. What confuses me is sports reporters who cover and report on spring training only to downplay what they report. Then after the start of the season they will reference the spring training numbers that don’t matter to validate a point. I mean which is it? I guess your check clears either way. If the stats don’t matter, talk about something else. As I stated above pitching stats don’t really matter in spring, but if you asked Zach Britton, I bet he would happily use his to try to break into the O’s starting rotation. At the same time it’s incredibly important for pitchers to get their work in to be ready for the war of attrition known as the MLB season. So it does matter, it is important, batters are working off the winter rust, players are trying to be on opening day rosters, and forgive me if I’m wrong, but I believe better stats in spring whether they matter or not are more likely get you a spot on an opening day roster.