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Tuesday Bird Droppings: Where we’re waiting for Jake Fox

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As the exhibition schedule heats up, who will be this spring’s random Oriole to come out of nowhere and take the Grapefruit League by storm?

MLB: Spring Training-Toronto Blue Jays at Baltimore Orioles Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports

Good morning, Camden Chatters.

The Orioles’ Grapefruit League slate is underway, and there’s one question on everybody’s mind: who will win this spring’s prestigious Jake Fox Award?

That title, of course, is named after the Orioles’ flukiest spring training dynamo. In 2011, Fox — a 28-year-old journeyman with no real position — laid waste to the Grapefruit League with an incredible 10 home runs and 17 extra-base hits in 74 spring at-bats. The powerhouse performance was enough to land him a spot on the Orioles’ Opening Day roster as a backup catcher, despite the fact that he didn’t really, well, catch.

But spring training is spring training. You’re facing pitchers who haven’t yet gotten themselves — or their pitches — into game shape. In many cases, you’re facing no-name minor leaguers or washed-up veterans who don’t stand a prayer of making the club. What happens in spring training means almost nothing once the lights come on and the regular season starts.

Fox, alas, became the poster child for that harsh reality. In the regular season that year, he hit just two homers in 27 games, and his defense behind the plate proved to be unplayable. Fox never made it back to the majors after that season.

Every year, it seems, there’s a Fox-esque performance. Last spring, non-roster lefty Joely Rodriguez was one of the Orioles’ last cuts after he posted a sparkling 0.87 ERA in 10 Grapefruit League games. He was assigned to Triple-A Norfolk, struggled to a 5.11 ERA, and finished the season pitching in Japan. So much for those spring training stats.

So who will be this year’s Jake Fox? Which unheralded organizational player or non-roster invitee will dazzle everyone with a red-hot spring? Will he make the team? If he does, will he fizzle out like so many Jake Foxes have before? The suspense is killing me.

Links

Wrapping up a 7-1 loss - School of Roch
Among the highlights of yesterday’s Orioles exhibition was the fact that Hunter Harvey made it through his outing unhurt and feeling strong. He wasn’t exactly fooling hitters, but hey, baby steps.

Wearing a Twins uniform, Jonathan Schoop faces the Orioles for the first time - BaltimoreBaseball.com
Confirmed: Jonathan Schoop is still the best. The new Twin has plenty of kind words about the Orioles as well as fellow ex-Birds Manny Machado and Bobby Dickerson.

MLB: 2019 Baltimore Orioles team, fantasy baseball preview - Yahoo Sports
Yahoo Sports offers its preview of the 2019 Orioles. National media assessments tend to be hit or miss, but this one seems pretty spot on. Shockingly, they predict the Orioles to be bad.

With a new organization, Renato Núñez showed some promise. Can he do enough with his glove to stay in the Orioles’ lineup? – The Athletic
It’s kind of weird that Renato Nunez, who has spent all of two months with the Orioles, is now one of the grizzled veterans of their lineup. Matt Kremnitzer takes a closer look at what 2019 might hold for the Birds’ presumed third baseman.

Cervenka hoping to rep Czech Republic in MLB - Orioles.com
If Double-A catcher Martin Cervenka makes his way to the bigs, he’ll be the first native of Czechia ever to play in the majors. Who says the Orioles haven’t accomplished anything in the international market?

Orioles birthdays

Is today your birthday? Happy birthday! You have just one O’s birthday buddy: 2001-02 righty Josh “Control” Towers, so nicknamed because of his impeccable strike-throwing ability. He averaged just one walk per nine innings in his rookie year, going 8-10 with a 4.49 ERA, but also struck out just 3.7 batters per nine. He was sent packing after posting a 7.90 ERA in five games in 2002, then strung together a few decent years with the Blue Jays. Towers turns 42 today.