With Opening Day just 14 days away, I’ve offered 14 Orioles-related thoughts, each in 50 words or less:
1. Even if it proves to be minor, Kevin Gausman missing time due to shoulder tendinitis for the second straight year is concerning and once again makes you question the Orioles’ handling of their prized pitching prospect over the last few years.
2. J.J. Hardy hitting .370 and continuing to say his left shoulder feels good this spring are positive signs as the veteran shortstop attempts to rebound from the worst season of his career.
3. Speaking of Orioles middle infielders, Brian Roberts sounded like a natural as part of Sunday’s MASN telecast, and I look forward to hearing more from him this season. His in-game discussion with third base coach Bobby Dickerson about infield shifts was particularly enlightening.
4. Buck Showalter is the first to warn against being fooled by spring training, but it’s difficult not to be intrigued by Rule 5 pick Joey Rickard — and his .426 on-base percentage this spring — based on the Orioles manager’s positive comments about the 24-year-old outfielder.
5. I didn’t love the Pedro Alvarez signing because it shifted Mark Trumbo to right field, but you can’t help but think the slugger’s opposite-field power is going to land a few balls in the Orioles bullpen this summer. Camden Yards should be a good fit for the former Pittsburgh Pirate.
6. I’m interested to see how Dylan Bundy is used in the bullpen. Many have compared him to a Rule 5 pick, but you don’t have that finish line of being able to send him to the minors next year. Bundy needs to pitch if he’s going to realize his potential.
7. Hyun Soo Kim is 8-for-17 since his 0-for-23 start in the Grapefruit League, but he’s still looking for his first extra-base hit and has drawn only one walk after his on-base percentage was supposed to be a strength. The South Korean newcomer is looking better, but he’s still very much a work in progress.
8. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the 1966 World Series, and I wouldn’t mind seeing the Orioles adopt the uniform from that era as a Sunday throwback. At the very least, I hope we see that classic look make a cameo appearance at some point this season.
9. Dan Duquette has already said that Christian Walker would need more time at Triple-A Norfolk to learn the outfield, but showing an ability to play there would make the blocked first baseman an interesting possibility in Baltimore at some point this season.
10. The fact that Nolan Reimold is out of options helps his case in an underwhelming corner outfield competition, but the 32-year-old is just 6-for-34 and not making much of a statement this spring.
11. The poor performance of his starting pitchers this spring has probably forced Showalter to think more and more about the potential — and annoying — need to have an eight-man bullpen this season.
12. Despite the 2016 investment made in Matt Wieters and his current elbow issue, the catching position reverting to more of a timeshare with Caleb Joseph wouldn’t be the worst thing given the latter’s pitch-framing ability and defense that could help improve a rotation needing every edge it can get.
13. It’d be unfair to expect more than what Manny Machado offered as the club’s most valuable player in 2015 — with apologies to local media-voted Most Valuable Oriole Chris Davis — but it’s still fun to ponder whether the gifted 23-year-old has even reached his full potential as a player.
14. Already third on the franchise list in wins and games managed, Showalter is entering his seventh season in Baltimore and would be just 34 games shy of Paul Richards by the end of 2016. As the manager often says about others, the Orioles are very lucky he’s passed their way.