In my opinion the next 2 or 3 weeks will be the most important part of the 2012 season for the O’s and could go very far in determining whether or not we will be playoff contenders come August and September. Everybody knows what has happened so far. The O’s got off to a really hot start and shocked the entire MLB by taking the AL East lead and even owning baseball’s best record for a short time. Their starting pitching was solid, the bullpen fantastic, and their offense was one of the best in the league. Lately however the Orioles have gone into a skid losing 10 of their last 13 prompting O’s fans to go into their usual “here we go again” mentality. My advice to Orioles fans: just hold on.
So we have been in a funk lately, our starting pitching has gone downhill (what the hell happened to Arrieta?), and we have injuries up and down our offense. So what? We can’t just ignore the last couple of weeks but we had gotten off to such a fast start that we are sitting 1 game out the lead in the very difficult AL East and the top wild card team on June 5th. If you would have told any Oriole fan that 2 months ago they would have been unbelievably happy. We had to come back to Earth at some point, we weren’t going to get a quality start every time from our starters and our bullpen had to give up a run at some point this season. But like I said even after losing 10 of our last 13, if the season ended today, we would be playoff bound and as of right now we are right in the thick of it.
And that brings me to why I think this next two or three week stretch is the most important for the Orioles and it brings me back to my original advice of “just hold on”. Right now the O’s are reeling and I am not just talking about the wins and loss record. One of the biggest reasons we have struggled lately is because we have been decimated by injuries. Right now there are 4 key guys who are out for the Orioles, who if they come back healthy will be key contributors to this team. First is Zach Britton who has been out all season with a shoulder injury. However he has slowly been recovering and has been doing very well in his rehab assignments and actually has his last one tonight in Norfolk which means he could be pitching for the Orioles as early as next week. How nice would it be the have Britton on the mound every 5th day rather than Hunter? Next is Brian Roberts who hadn’t played baseball in a year because of a concussion (hit himself in head with a bat). Just a couple of weeks ago he started rehabbing in the minors and all reports are that he looks good. He is the biggest wildcard in all of this however because he hasn’t played in a year nobody really knows what to expect from him. But if he comes back close to the player he was before, he would add a great dimension to our lineup. Then you have Nolan Reimold who has been out for like a month and a half with a neck injury. He has had 2 epidurals and his recovery has taken longer than though but I have heard reports that he has started to feel better and while his injury is difficult to judge, it seems like he is fairly close to getting back to baseball. That leaves us with our most recent and important injury in Nick Markakis. Markakis broke a bone in his hand but he says it is healing and he is hoping to get back on the field by June 22nd.
That last paragraph was fairly depressing (and long) but it also provided hope. I am not a doctor or anything close but from what I am hearing is seems like all of these guys will be back on the field for the Orioles by the end of the month. Can you imagine getting Reimold, Markakis, and Roberts back in the lineup for Betemit, Flaherty, and Reynolds (Roberts 2nd, Andino moves to 3rd if Rob is healthy). That lineup would definitely be one of the best in the league while the one right now lacks depth due to all of the injuries. Than you add Zach Britton to a rotation that is decent already and he could easily step and be one of the top guys that we have. At the very least he should add solid depth and be a better pitcher for us than Hunter was.
Every team deals with injuries but while the O’s are certainly improved this year, we don’t have the talent to withstand a series of injuries like this for a long period of time. Unfortunately for us however we are going to have to endure at least a week or two of playing tough ball teams and I really believe that if we can just survive and go something like .500 against these guys we will still be in the race for when our reinforcements. I understand that it is only a 2 or 3 week period but it really seems like a time where the Orioles can lose hold of their season and everything the worked so hard for. I just read something on rotoworld that said this: “Britt Ghiroli of MLB.com believes Zach Britton (shoulder) and Brian Roberts (concussion) could both be back for Interleague play.” I’m telling you Orioles fans, help is coming; you just gotta hold on for a couple of weeks.