Encouraged in April

The Orioles are off to a solid 4-3 start. At the beginning of the year if you told me that the Orioles would have that record, I would take it and be happy. however, getting swept by the Yankees in heartbreaking fashion after sweeping the Twins definitely stung. The Orioles needed that win against Toronto in Toronto last night for a couple reasons. They needed to halt an early three-game skid; They needed to get off to a good start on the road and they needed to start turning things around in Rogers Centre a notorious house of horrors for the team.

The road has been particularly harsh for the Orioles. The Birds have not had a winning percentage over .400 on the road since 2007. Against Toronto the Orioles are 18-36 over the last three seasons, and that number is inflated by a 9-9 season in 2009.

Last night the Orioles came out on top of a slugfest. The Jays and O’s combined for seven homers, all solos, but it was the Orioles that got the last big hit for a change to finish with a 7-5 victory.That alone is good to see.

There are other reasons to be encouraged about the team in the neonatal 2012 season. There are the obvious ones: The core bats of the team are off to a good start, particularly Adam Jones and Matt Wieters; Robert Andino is simply tearing the cover off the ball right now and he is playing a very solid second base; The pitching has been solid outside of Brian Matusz’ shaky start against the Yankees and Jim Johnson seems to have shaken off his spring training cobwebs and has already locked down his first two saves of the year with little effort.

One more thing that the Orioles are doing right now that I don’t think is getting enough attention. This one aspect of their game early on is something that bodes very well for the team going forward: They are being patient at the plate. So far the Orioles as a team are averaging 3.9 pitches per PA. For comparison the Yankees and the Red Sox last season had a P/PA ratio of 3.92 and 3.95 respectively. Against the Yankees the Orioles allowed Freddy Garcia to nearly lose the game all by himself and the made CC Sabathia throw over 100 pitches through six innings any pitcher other than CC would have been chased by the fourth or fifth inning.

Last night, Blue Jay’s starter Brandon Morrow did make it through the seventh inning, but it took him 104 pitches and the Orioles did not make it easy on him with an average of almost four P/PA. If the Orioles continue to remain patient at the plate it will only mean good things for the team going forward.

Other observations:

-The new Jays uniforms do look really nice. I love the Orioles’ new/old bird it is amazing and the new hats, especially the home uniform hats, do make the team look like they are wearing whole new unis but Toronto did a complete overhaul and they did it right.

-The Boston Red Sox took a massive hit yesterday when center-fielder Jacoby Ellsbury dislocated his shoulder sliding into second base trying to break up a double-play yesterday against the Rays. Ellsbury is expected to be out at least the next two months. This is one of those injuries that can send shockwaves through the division. Ellsbury is a massive part of the Red Sox offense and defense and coming out of a chaotic offseason and the shadow of the epic collapse the Red Sox need to make some big decisions to overcome that loss.

-Mark Reynolds made his first appearance as a DH last night. It is no secret that he has been working hard at his fieidling, but after struggling a but during the first homestand he was clearly struggling. Look for Reynolds to get more looks at first, especially if Chris Davis continues to underwhelm at the plate, and at DH. This should clear the way for Rule 5 pick Ryan Flahrety to get some looks in the field shortly.

-It was nice to see Nolan Reimold get his forst homer last night for a key insurance run in the top of the ninth but more impressive was Robert Andino’s monster shot to straight-away centerfield. What exactly do the Orioles have in Andino? The guy that came with a bag of balls from the Marlins for Hayden Penn is currently batting .318/.333/.538/.871 and that is an insane tear for him. It is highly doubtful that Andino keeps this up for much longer, let alone the rest of the year, but if he remains more consistent then the Orioles may have found their mid-term Brian Roberts replacement, and a good one.