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February 10, 2011

Sleeper picks, darkhorse candidates and bad jokes

With spring training beginning in earnest Monday with the Orioles’ first pitchers and catchers workout, this seemed like a fine time to talk about our darkhorse candidates to make the club’s 2011 Opening Day roster.

Our buddy over at, Roch Kubatko, is going with recently signed right-handed reliever David Riske. An interesting pick since there could be a spot available in the bullpen and Riske, before arm surgeries, was a quality big-league reliever.

I will warn you, however, that a couple years ago Roch had more confidence in Brad Hennessey’s chances of making the club out of spring than Brad Hennessey’s parents did in their own son. So Rocco’s past selections are checkered.

Then there is my Sun colleague Jeff Zrebiec, who has gone on record as saying Ryan Drese is his sleeper pick. Drese was once a successful starter – winning 14 games for Buck Showalter and the Texas Rangers in 2004 – but the big right-hander hasn’t pitched in the big leagues since 2006. That’s not sleeping; that’s hibernation. That’s an actuary training video.

Sun columnist Peter Schmuck, who is still living off his Wilfrido Perez three-pointer shot in the dark a few years ago, has selected outfielder Randy Winn. No one doubts the veteran’s character or ability to be a back-up outfielder, but that field is pretty crowded right now.

That leaves me. My initial (and substantial) gut instinct is infielder Robert Andino, who was placed on waivers at the end of last spring but remained in the organization. Cesar Izturis is the projected utility infielder, leaving Andino, Jake Fox, Brendan Harris and Nick Green likely battling for one other bench spot. Andino’s ability to play third base helps and Showalter likes the kid after his play last September.

That’s exactly why Zrebiec has discounted my pick, calling me unprintable names for my lack of risk and creativity. So, I’ll give you a sleeper/deep REM pick: Right-handed reliever Mitch Atkins.

Atkins is only 25, pitched five games in the big leagues last year and -- perhaps most important -- is a former Chicago Cub, which gets you to the front of the Orioles’ roster line.

By the way, I get extra credit if Andino and Atkins both make the club.

We’re taking ideas from you as well.

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Posted by Dan Connolly at 2:52 PM | | Comments (46)


I really like Robert Andino. He's still young and he's very athletic. He was blocked by Hanley in FL and kind of hindered here in his 1st year because he had to stay on the team. I think his time in the minors and short time in the majors last year showed that he has some pop and speed. I actually look at Andino and think of a young Melvin Mora. When Melvin came here, he was a super sub, but when given the chance, he turned into the 2nd best third baseman in O's history. I believe that Andino is athletic enough to play the outfield as well as 3B, 2B and SS so given BRob's back and how tricky back injuries can be plus the fact that Hardy has been dinged up the last couple of years, makes me feel that Andino could have a big role for the 2011 O's.


I would think the only chance Winn has of making this team is if the O's trade Pie and a prospect for a SP during ST and let Reimold play every day for the Tides. Do you think he has any chance? I've always heard that Randy is a 1st class guy, but I don't see how he makes the club.

That or injuries. I think he is an insurance policy this spring, and a good one to have. But that's the extent barring injuries or a trade of Pie.

Just an FYI that I really liked the short video of you, Jeff, Steve & Peter talking the off season moves of the O's. Here's my vote for more of that in the future. Thanks...

Wynne Pelzer. No reason, other than he has a cool name.

I wanted to (lightly) comment on overused sportswriter/broadcaster cliches and grammatical tendencies. I bring it up since you use the word 'darkhorse' and 'sleeper.' They're not really overused since they're only used in training camps, but man, they're all over the place right now. I also bring it up because I was watching the new Sun video with you guys and Schmucker, which is good stuff by the way. I heard both Jeff and Dan use indefinite articles ('a' & 'an') with a player's name-- "an Albert Pujols" or "a Prince Fielder." I've heard that so many times in the vocabulary of sportscasters recently. Funny how you all take on a language of your own. The only ones I beg you not to use, though, are "tremendous upside" (short for 'sucks') and "he put on a clinic." If I hear about Cliff Lee "putting on a clinic" one more time on SportsCenter this season I think I'll throw a shoe through my TV.

I need a new one anyway.

Yeah. Wynne Pelzer.

That post on sports cliches was mine by the way. I forgot to sign it. Feel free to put my username on that instead of Anonymous if possible.


I agree, the only way Winn goes north is if they trade Pie or an injury.

As for Andino, I'd love to see him in Baltimore. The only reason he got sent down last spring was a very lackadasical play near the end of ST, when he fielded a ball and took his sweet time about it. His lollygagging got him sent o Norfolk.

But his youth and versatility make him a natural. The problem is, they like Izturis and Cesar is likely to go north. That being the case, can we do without a traditional back-up catcher and go with Fox? He packs more wallop than anyone else, can play multiple positions and would be the main backup at the corners. Even though the Orioles lineup will not give a lot of opportunities for pinch hitting, never hurts having a power bat on the bench.

I'd expect to see to see Tatum, Andino, Pie, and Izturis, but would rather have Fox, Andino, Harris, and the backup OF, whether it's Pie, of if he's traded, Winn.

Harris hit 12 HRs as recently as 2007 for the Rays, and before last year, was a consistent 260 hitter with some pop.
If he's over his injury big from last year, and the main concern right now is that we have to ask that question of just about everyone in O's camp this spring, he might could provide some offense and be the first choice if Roberts does go down.


Maybe im just not understanding something but is craig tatum a lock to make the team? I say this because every blog i read has "Andino, Jake Fox, Brendan Harris and Nick Green likely battling for one other bench spot. " Why not fox as a back up cather with cesar, pie, and adino? And who will back up lee this year luke scott? I dont know if i like that too much. I guess my question is what do you see the o"s bench shaping up to be this year barring trades or injuries

Jeff Z's reply: No, Tatum is not a lock. He'll battle with Fox for the backup catcher spot.

"So Rocco’s past selections are checkered."

You're just talking about my sleeper picks, right?

baseball only. No comment on Roch's other selections. Or whether "sleeper" is an appropriate term for those.

I think Harris has a better chance of making the team over Andino. Harris had a tough year with the Twins last year, but hit .375 with a team leading 12 RBI's, and 0 errors last ST and lost the starting 3rd base job to Nick Punto who hit barely over .200 with 3 errors. Not to mention, while Harris was with the Twins, he played 1st, 2nd, and 3rd last year without committing 1 error. You think maybe this guy just needed a change of scenery?! Harris also hit .287 with the Rays in 2007 and as a career .260 hitter, in my opinion he's the better pick for the bench role.

I'm going with Clay Rapada, who I think is just the lefty specialist the team is looking for. I expect him to come north with the Birds in April.

Which makes me wonder ... will the Birds even come north before heading back down to TB? Or will they go straight from spring training over to the Trop?

Jeff Z's reply: No, like last year, they'll go right over to the Trop the day before Opening Day and work out there.

Send tillman and Pie to Twins for fransisco Liriano who won 14 games for the twins struck out 210 and the twins are wanting to trade him go get him Andy!

The sleeper pick? Chorye Spoone will make the big league club.

I hope you are right about Andino...I prefer him to Izturis, but I think Buck likes Izzy better. I'm going with Troy Patton.

Dan--I have two dark horses finishing in a dead heat, i.e., they both make it: Rapada and Andino.

I say your all wrong. Pedro Viola will come north on the 25 but will last only 2 weeks.


I would like to predict Andino, Itzturis, Fox, Tatum and Pie.. Then after a few off days cut one more to add to the pen the second week. IT is not that unusual or unheard of.

I'm going with Chris Tillman to knock someone out of the rotation.

Well, I was gonna pick Rapada because I think although everyone is penciling in Hendrickson for that last BP spot, Mark Connor has some knowledge of Rapada already.

But since Dave already chose Rapada...

I'm going with Adrian Rosario.

How about Angle (Matt, right?)

BTW, I would really like to have a blog about sportswriters' language. As a retired English teacher (with a Master's from Johns Hopkins!), I have always enjoyed the special languages that emerge from various groups/professions/interests. English is the most versatile, evolving, complex language in history, and thus, gives the maximum opportunities for creative word play.

To get this idea started, my favorite un-favorite expression sports people use is: "We have to give 110% to win this one." Well, you can't give 110% of your effort. You can spend 110% of your income, or raise your company's budget by 110%, but you simply cannot give more effort than you can give! If they give 110%, we're going to have to give 111%, right?

My other unfavorite is broadcasters saying "After one quarter, there is no score," or, "At the end of the second inning, there is no score." YES THERE IS! The score is nothing to nothing. There has been no score-ING, but there always IS a score.

Sorry ....

Chris Britton will pitch lights out and force the Orioles to take him North. If you are ready, you are ready. Two lefties in the starting rotation make it more problematic for other teams.

One of the other potential starters will begin the season on the DL.

Boy Gil, I hope you mean Zach Britton. If Chris Britton re-joins the organization and forces his way into the 2011 opening week rotation, that'd be extremely problematic for the Orioles. But that'd be a heckuva darkhorse.

two words jeremy accardo

I say Pelzer makes the bullpen, and Randy comes north as the spare outfielder.

It's a Wynn-Winn situation.

Thanks, I'm here all week. Try the veal.

OK, I smiled hard.


"That’s not sleeping; that’s hibernation. That’s an actuary training video."

Nicely turned two, however, you do get a mark down for not remembering that any player named Atkins is Kryptonite for the Orioles.

And for that matter, when is someone going to have the nerve to go up to Andy MacPhail and tell him that for the good of the team he needs to bite the bullet and start going on an Atkins Diet?

My pick, and I don't know that it's that big a surprise or dark horse, is Jake Fox over Craig Tatum, as back-up catcher. More pop, more versatility are the deciding factors.

Watched "The Insiders - Part I". Kind of fun watching Pete pretend to hold court in the conference room as some intern walks past the door window. Exactly how old are the photos of you guys on this website? OK, my Facebook photos are old too and will remain there until 2014. Touche!

I said on Pete's blog that Rapada would be the lefty specialist to make the 25-man. VandenHurk becomes our long reliever. Hendrickson would come up a few weeks later when someone goes wrong. Just don't see anyone wowing Buck and the coaches to the point of making the Opening Day roster.

Fox/Tatum/Izzy/Harris, just a matter of who's hot in the spring (both hitting and fielding) and hoping they can carry that momentum into April. If not, then the other guys are ready in Norfolk. Not a bad problem to have (assuming the Norfolk guys are producing).

I say there is a guy who makes this club on the bench or bullpen who isn't currently on the team or invited to spring training. Right now I feel like we might want to think about another lefty, or, an infielder with a little more versatility.

Kudos to Colorado Oriole. That was a hoot - and long overdue.

Enthusiasm is back in Baltimore for the first time in many years, going back to when the O's were a contender in the late 90's, spurred by the addition of Vlady, Lee, Reynolds, Hardy who along with their present corps of young prospects should help create a winning atmosphere at Camden Yards, where attendance could possibly exceed 2.5 mil this season.

This year marks the O's 20th season at Oriole Park, which opened it's doors in April of 1992 to much heralded fanfare, where during the first few season they consistently drew crowds in the low to mid 40's, which could happen again if this team contends, though in the tough AL East that is going to take a monumental effort from the entire team. But it's not out of the realm of possibility, particularly if their starting pitchers reach their potential with guys like Arrieta, Bergeson, Guthrie, Matusz and newly acquired Justin Duchsherher.

It should be interesting considering how well they played down the stretch after Showalter took the managerial helm back in August when they finished with a record of 34-22, which was the best record posted by any team in the AL east during the last two months of the season. Buck has a reputation for getting the most from his players, which is indicative of how well teams fared under his tutelage, as the Yankees, Rangers and D'Backs all were contenders during his tenure as manager with those teams.

I know I probably sound overtly enthusiastic, but: "Hope springs eternal in the spring."

Rudy J. Hedgpeth
Richmond, VA

Truthfully, I believe Andino is better than Itzuris. He may not have as good of a glove, but his bat is much better. Plus, he has more versatility than Itzuris, or should I say he has more proven versatility. I think he has a better arm as well. I don't know why we even signed Itzuris if we had so many possible infielders. I like his glove, but his bat is sooooooo bad.

So Birdland Todd thinks Melvin Mora was a better 3rd baseman than Brooks Robinson! What an Idiot!!!

Sorry Birdland, I misread your post, you did say 2nd best, you have my apologies, who feels like the idiot now!!!

I still don't see what everyone does in Andino. Yeah's he's athletic and somewhat versitle but so are a lot of others around.

Andino made 35 errors at AAA last year and as a reserve you have to be a great defender or you better bring a big stick off the bench. I don't see either in Andino.

My sleeper is Tillman. I think he comes to camp with something to prove since just about everyone has him penciled to start in AAA.

Let's get it on. Go O's!!!!!!!!!!!!!

..And I hope they are not related :)

I saw Zach Britton pitch three times last year. The kid has nasty stuff and all his pitches move. He also has an attitude, and will pitch inside. Before it is all said and done I think he may be better than anyone currently in the set rotation. I have not been as impressed by an Orioles pitching prospect since a young Jim Palmer.

Nope, Dan.

As much as I like Andino, he only makes the club if they only carry Fox as backup.

I consider Fox a surer thing because he can play first, third, catch and outfield. Plus he averages a home run every 20 at bats.

Forget Winn. Schmuck must have been too busy packing Hawaiiian shirts and sandals to understand the question.

Not knowing how long the young starters will go when the season breaks leads me to speculate that "long" relievers will be Showalter's choice out of the gate. And that may mean a Patton.

Izturis and Fox as utility & backup catcher. Pie in outfield. 5 starters. Possibly 8 in the pen. Why 8? Too many 1-inning specialists already: Gonzalez, Johnson, Gregg, and Koji.

Last year the bullpen got devastated early. Unless our young starters go 6-7 innings regularly a deep pen is a must.

I think Reimold's gonna have a great spring, making the roster decision-making really hard.

i love the upside of Reimold, he reminds me of Jason Wirth a few years back. hope the o's don't give up on him too.

I am pulling for Nick Green to get the other utility infielder spot. Living in VT now, it is hard to avoid the Red Sox on TV. I watched Nick Green fill in admirably for an injured player. He is a gritty player that will do what ever you ask. He is also very versatile.
Ultimately though, I think that the primary concern for the utility IF spot should be based on strong middle infield defense as both our starting 2B and SS are injury prone. Cesar is a lock because he will be logging some time this year as a starter. Roberts and Hardy both playing a full season is a pipe dream.

Barry Bonds. He will take over left field.

Andino better put more effort into becoming a solid fielder if he wants to stick in the majors. Seems to have raw tools to be a good utility guy, but only if he improves mental part of game and work habits.

When Melvin came here, he was a super sub, but when given the chance, he turned into the 2nd best third baseman in O's history.

So Birdland Todd thinks Melvin Mora was a better 3rd baseman than Brooks Robinson! What an Idiot!!!

Posted by: MikeB | February 11, 2011 7:52 AM

Mike, good thing you aren't a fact checker for the O's. I guess you don't know what 2nd best means which is probably good for you because if #s aren't your thing, the O's probably looked like they were in contention the last 13 years!

Going to bat for Birdland Todd here, but I wonder if MikeB thinks Brooks Robinson is #2 and has someone else at #1, dying to know who he thinks is better than Brooks Robinson at 3rd base.

I agree, Mora was probably the second best 3b this team has ever had, Although I never saw Doug Decinces play, I hear he was pretty good too.

Of course I'm also biased as Mora is my favorite Oriole of all time - fellow Venezuelan. Here's hoping he has a good 2011 with the D-Backs!

Van den Hurk!
He came during last season and deserved more changes at the end. He could become a suprise 5th starter or important reliever.

This is a much more pleasant conversation than the old one; how many AAA players are going to be in the 25 man on opening day?

garrett atkins


Decinces had the misfortune of being the player who played third after Brooks, and he was never fully appreciated by the fans. I think he was steadier, smoother and had more range at third than Mora. Melvin certainly had some good years with the bat, and so did Doug. Decinces hit one of the longest home runs ever hit by an Oriole off of Ron Guidry at old Yankee stadium. I think if Decinces had played in Camden Yards he would have hit 5 to 10 more homeruns a year.

It's apparent that this spring's going to be different regardless of who comes north ---

I think it's someone not yet on the roster..Who knows what's up AM's sleeve.

Matt Angle

My sleeper pick this year is Felix Pie . This young man couldnt have thrilled with Vlad and Luke bumping him to 4th outfielder job . Plus he is coming injuries last season .
I hope I am wrong but with Vlad , Jones , Luke with their injury history , and with 6 month long season , someone might collaspe which will lead to Pie's opportunity to make a name for himself .

Vamos Pie !

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About the bloggers
A Baltimore native, Dan Connolly has been covering sports for 14 years, and baseball and the Orioles for 10 seasons, including the past six with The Sun. His first year covering baseball on a daily basis was Cal Ripken Jr.'s final season as a player. It's believed that is just a coincidence.

Steve Gould is an assistant sports editor for The Sun, overseeing Orioles coverage. The Columbia native joined The Sun as a sports copy editor in 2006 after graduating from the University of Maryland.

Peter Schmuck has been covering baseball for a lot longer than Steve Gould has been on this earth. He is now a general sports columnist, but has been a beat writer covering three major league teams (the Dodgers, Angels and Orioles) and also spent a decade as the Sun's national baseball writer. If you want more of his insight on the Orioles and other sports issues, check out his personal blog -- The Schmuck Stops Here.

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