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Friday Bird Droppings: One week until Opening Day

A compressed spring training is nearing its end, leaving the Orioles with a lot of questions and not a lot of time to answer them.

MLB: Texas Rangers at Baltimore Orioles Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Good morning, Camden Chatters.

Boy, this spring training is going fast, huh? There’s a sentence I never thought I’d say.

Most years, the initial excitement of pitchers and catchers reporting to camp quickly gives way to impatience and boredom as teams slog through a month-long slate of meaningless exhibition games. This year, though, the lockout-induced delay of the start of the season has turned spring training into a sprint. (Sprint training, if you will.) It was only three weeks ago yesterday that the work stoppage ended. Two weeks ago, Grapefruit League games began. One week from now, the regular season begins. Hope the Orioles are ready!

The O’s did make one big (and easy) decision yesterday, announcing John Means as their Opening Day starter, which was the obvious choice all along. Manager Brandon Hyde also anointed Jordan Lyles and Tyler Wells as members of the starting staff. Beyond that, many questions still remain. Who fills out the rest of the rotation? Who’s in the bullpen — and with Wells now a starter, who replaces him as the closer? What exactly is the Orioles’ starting infield right now, beyond Ryan Mountcastle at first? And have any of these guys, particularly the pitchers, gotten enough reps in this shortened spring to be ready for the regular season? (Lyles, for instance, has made only one spring appearance.)

Every MLB team is in the same boat, of course, but it seems like the truncated spring has been particularly rough on the Orioles, who haven’t gotten nearly as much time as they would’ve liked to evaluate their young players and sort out their many open roster spots. Don’t get me wrong — I’m very glad the season is starting soon, especially when it seemed for a time like we might not get baseball for months and months. But an already thin (and young) O’s roster, with less time than usual to prepare for the 162-game grind, could be in for a bumpy ride once the season begins.

Links

Tyler Wells gets reacclimated to starting role (game ends 4-4) - School of Roch
Roch Kubatko’s got the deets on yesterday’s exhibition tie, which saw Wells continue to stretch out and Cesar Prieto make an emotional spring training debut.

The Orioles are $100 million off the league-average payroll. What would closing that gap have looked like this winter? - Maximizing Playoff Odds
Jon Meoli imagines a world in which the Orioles could have signed Carlos Correa, Chris Taylor, Kevin Gausman, and Eduardo Rodriguez this offseason and still carried just a league-average payroll. Jon Meoli for GM!

A look at Triple-A Norfolk’s break-camp roster - Steve Melewski
The Tides’ season starts before the Orioles’ does, just four days from now. There’s plenty of intrigue on their Opening Day roster, and that doesn’t even include Adley Rutschman, who is likely to start the year at Norfolk but hasn’t been assigned there yet. This Tides team could be fun.

2022 Positional Power Rankings: Center Field | FanGraphs Baseball
FanGraphs continues its position-by-position rundown with center field, where the Orioles place a respectable 10th, thanks to Cedric Mullins. Just don’t look at where the O’s ranked at second base, third base, and shortstop.

Orioles birthdays and history

Is today your birthday? Happy birthday! People better not give you any guff about your birthday being on April Fools’ Day. And happy 27th birthday to Keegan Akin, who’s currently battling for a rotation spot on the Orioles’ Opening Day roster. Good luck and enjoy your day, Keegan. Former Orioles born on April 1 include 1999-2000 utility man Rich Amaral (60) and 1986-87 lefty Mike Kinnunen (64).

The Orioles have played five regular season games on this date in history, going 4-1. That included Opening Day wins in 2002 — in which the O’s crushed the Yankees’ Roger Clemens for eight runs, including a Tony Batista grand slam — and 2011, a 4-1 victory in Tampa Bay led by Jeremy Guthrie’s eight shutout innings.

And on this date in 2009, in a trade with the Marlins, the Orioles acquired Robert Andino, who had three nondescript seasons as a utility infielder before transforming into a legendary Red Sox killer down the stretch in 2011, culminating in his walkoff hit that completed a Boston collapse. I always welcome any excuse to show that clip.