Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Young Guns Shine By The Bay

In what has to be considered the Orioles best overall pitching performance of the season, starter Jake Arrieta (2-0) held the San Francisco Giants to one run on three hits in seven plus innings, and David Hernandez notched his second save in two chances as the Orioles beat the Giants 4-1.

Arrieta, making his 2nd career start, was dominating from the start. He flashed his mid-90’s fastball with ease, and mixed in a terrific slider to go along with it. He simply overpowered the Giants hitters and hit his spots very well. He looks like he belongs in the big league rotation, and with a sub-3.00 ERA, it looks like the Orioles have found a guy who throws hard, commands his stuff, and can go deep into games. That’s a combination the Orioles haven’t had in quite a while.

Hernandez looked impressive, too. Since his move to the bullpen, he has flashed an upper-90’s fastball to go along with a slider that he rarely goes to. The difference between starter and reliever has made a tremendous difference for him. Instead of pacing himself to go six innings, Hernandez just lets the ball go and he goes from a mid-90’s fastball to an upper-90’s heater. The difference in speed is major. If Hernandez continues to command his fastball and pick his spots, he can be a successful closer at this level. Closing is all about command and speed. Hernandez looks to be able to have that for a one or two inning stretch. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.

Adam Jones also seems to have gotten back on track after his latest hot streak, which culminated with a long home run yesterday. After hitting .223 in the month of April, Jones is now hitting .260 with 8 home runs and 24 RBI’s. He seems much more relaxed at the plate having been moved down in the order, and he has been able to lay off the slider down and away for the most part. Jones still needs to work on plate discipline as he only has eight walks all season, but he should steadily improve on that as he gets more experience.

People forget that this is only his third full season in the major leagues, and he doesn’t turn 25 until August. Jones is continuing to improve in the outfield, too, although I’d like to see him be a little more accurate with his throws. He has the arm; the accuracy needs to come next. He can still go get ‘em with the best of them.

The Orioles are still the worst team in the league, but they certainly have shown fire under new manager Juan Samuel and nobody has given up. There is a difference between showing no life and simply not being too good. The Orioles steal more, hit and run more, and run absolutely everything out of the box hard. Think the manager doesn’t make a difference? It does. The players are clearly responding to what Samuel preaches, and that’s a no-nonsense attitude. Play the game hard and force the issue. You can’t sit back and wait for a home run that will not come. Big power lineups can do that---not the Orioles.

There is still much work to be done, but the Orioles are on the right track with their young players. They just need to be given time to develop and some veterans around them. You can’t put the weight of the world on 21-26 year olds in the major leagues. It just doesn’t work like that, and guys begin to crack. Hopefully the Orioles will get some veteran help for 2011 or they could be in serious trouble again.

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