Peter Schmuck: For Oriole fans, the waiting was the hardest part - BaltimoreBaseball.com
Peter Schmuck

Peter Schmuck: For Oriole fans, the waiting was the hardest part

Photo Credit: Kim Klement Neitzel-USA TODAY Sports

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The defending American League East champion Orioles will take the field for the 2024 season opener at Camden Yards on Thursday to what will certainly be a heroes’ welcome after what has been a rare winter of content in Birdland.

Executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias certainly kept us in suspense for the first four months of the offseason, but he spent a portion of the club’s surplus of strong minor league talent on a former Cy Young Award winner to anchor the starting rotation and brought a team back from spring training that arguably is better than the one that won 101 games last year.

But let’s get real for a minute.  The Orioles probably won’t win over 100 games again. They probably won’t get their second straight American League first-round playoff bye. That kind of thing doesn’t happen every year, especially in one of the game’s deepest – and richest — divisions.

The good news is, they don’t have to. They only have to reach the playoffs with a healthy pitching staff that, along with new ace Corbin Burnes, includes one or both of the top-of-the-rotation starters that will start the regular season on the injured list.

Kyle Bradish, who pitched well enough to finish fourth in last year’s Cy Young balloting, should be back relatively soon from a concerning bout of elbow soreness, and John Means is entering the third year of his recovery from Tommy John surgery. When you’re dealing with elbow stuff, nothing is certain, but the Orioles probably have enough pitching depth to get to the postseason without them.

The rest of the team that made its first playoff appearance during the Elias era is largely intact, though it must seem like the entire Orioles universe has changed in the past two months. The team was sold after years of promises that it would stay in the Angelos family, and just days later the Burnes acquisition seemed like a sign of even better things to come.

Of course, the final days of spring training will be remembered more for the passing of longtime owner Peter Angelos, who died Saturday at the age of 94 after a very long illness. How he will be remembered depends a lot on whether Marylanders wish to judge him on his many contributions to the Baltimore community and his record auction bid that brought the Orioles back under local ownership or his tumultuous tenure as the team’s managing partner.

Training camp broke with one last bit of baseball drama when the team decided not to put 20-year-old mega-prospect Jackson Holliday on the Opening Day roster, a move that was not received well by fans who followed his quick progress through the minor league system last year and his strong performance in Sarasota this spring.

Though I think the team’s reasoning for giving him a few more weeks in the minor leagues is sound, it’s hard not to be disappointed that he won’t be in the starting lineup when the O’s open against the Angels on Thursday afternoon.

RAVENS NEWS from BaltimoreSports.com

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