Running down the rosters: Baltimore Orioles

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After sitting out the chase for Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder, the Orioles are staring down a fifth straight last-place finish and a seventh consecutive 90-loss season. Such is life in the AL East.

Rotation
Jason Hammel – R
Zach Britton – L
Jake Arrieta – R
Wei-Yin Chen – L
Tommy Hunter – R

Bullpen
Jim Johnson – R
Matt Lindstrom – R
Kevin Gregg – R
Luis Ayala – R
Tsuyoshi Wada – L
Pedro Strop – R
Alfredo Simon – R

SP next in line: Wada, Dana Eveland (L), Brad Bergesen (R), Brian Matusz (L), Chris Tillman (R), Armando Galarraga (R)
RP next in line: Troy Patton (L), Jason Berken (R), Darren O’Day (R), Willie Eyre (R), Pat Neshek (R), Dennys Reyes (L)

Dan Duquette shook up the pitching staff in his first offseason as Orioles GM, trading the team’s one reliable starter in Jeremy Guthrie for Hammel and Lindstrom and importing two Asian pitchers in Chen and Wada. His moves have given the Orioles a ton of pitching depth; in fact, their second five starting pitchers could go toe-to-toe with some of their starting rotations from the  mid-aughts. Still, whether the quality is there to go with the quantity is the big question. If Britton is healthy, if Chen recovers his stuff, if Matusz returns to 2010 form, if…

Unfortunately, many of the bullpen decisions will come down to option years: Strop, Simon and Patton are all out of options and thus may make the team over more deserving pitchers. The Orioles might end up just releasing Gregg if he fails to impress this spring, opening up a spot for someone like Patton or Berken. They could also put Wada in the rotation and send Hunter to Triple-A.

Lineup
LF Nolan Reimold – R
SS J.J. Hardy – R
RF Nick Markakis – L
CF Adam Jones – R
C Matt Wieters – S
3B Mark Reynolds – R
DH Wilson Betemit – S
1B Chris Davis – L
2B Robert Andino – R

Bench
C Taylor Teagarden – R
INF Matt Antonelli – R
INF Ryan Flaherty – L
OF Endy Chavez – L

Disabled list: Brian Roberts (S)
Next in line: C Ronny Paulino, 1B Nick Johnson (L), 1B Joseph Mahoney (L), 2B Ryan Adams (R), INF Steven Tolleson (R), OF Jai Miller (R), OF Xavier Avery (L)

Obviously, the lineup sets up much, much better if Roberts can pull off a successful return from post-concussion syndrome. If Roberts is out, as most expect, then the Orioles will have to try to cobble together their leadoff situation. I prefer Reimold, but Hardy, Andino, Chavez and Antonelli could also see time there. Markakis actually might be the best option of the bunch. It’s not like he’s been hitting for much power lately anyway.

Power is what the lineup has going for it; besides the second baseman, everyone in the lineup is a candidate to hit 20 homers. That won’t make it an elite offense on its own, but if a couple of guys have career years, the team would be capable of surprising.

Then again, things never seem to break quite right for the Orioles. Since winning 98 games 15 years ago, the franchise has finished under .500 every year. At least the team is younger these days, and while the farm system isn’t exactly awash with prospects, the team’s last two first-round picks (SS Manny Machado and RHP Dylan Bundy) appear very, very promising. With Wieters as a foundation, there is reason to hope the Orioles will be in a better position to compete come 2013 or ’14.

Anthony Alford to miss 4-6 weeks following wrist surgery

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Blue Jays’ outfielder Anthony Alford will miss at least 4-6 weeks after undergoing surgery on his left wrist, the team announced on Saturday. Alford was placed on the 10-day disabled list earlier in the week after sustaining a left hamate fracture on a foul pitch, and could miss significant time in what looks to be a lengthy rehab process. MLB.com’s Gregor Chisholm reports that the procedure has been scheduled for next week and will be performed by Dr. Donald Sheridan in Arizona.

Alford, 22, was called up to the majors from Double-A New Hampshire last Friday. He went hitless in his first three outings, finally catching a break against the Brewers on Tuesday when he pinch-hit a leadoff double in the seventh. The injury occurred two innings later when Alford fouled off a pitch in the ninth inning, fracturing his wrist in the process.

Alford will join eight other players on the Blue Jays’ disabled list, including outfielders Steve Pearce (calf strain), Dalton Pompey (concussion) and Darrell Cecillani (partial shoulder dislocation). He’s expected to be replaced by 24-year-old outfield prospect Dwight Smith Jr.

Stephen Strasburg hit a new career high today

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Good luck getting a hit against the Nationals this weekend. Stephen Strasburg followed Max Scherzer‘s 13-strikeout performance on Friday with a dazzling outing of his own on Saturday afternoon. The right-hander whiffed a career-best 15 batters in seven innings, allowing just three hits and a walk in the Nats’ 3-0 win.

It took Strasburg several innings to get into a groove after pitching into (and out of) a jam in the first inning. The Padres loaded the bases with Allen Cordoba‘s leadoff single, a throwing error by Ryan Zimmerman and a four-pitch walk to Cory Spangenberg. By the third, Strasburg was cruising, striking out the side on 18 pitches and keeping the Padres off the basepaths until the sixth. He recorded his 15th and final strikeout in the seventh inning, catching Padres’ prospect Franchy Cordero swinging on a 1-2 pitch to effectively end his outing.

While 15 strikeouts set a new career record for the Nationals’ ace, he came close to reaching the mark twice before. The first time, he struck out 14 of 24 batters during his major league debut against the 2010 Pirates, though the 5-2 win did little more than keep the Nationals neck-and-neck with the Marlins at the bottom of the NL East. Five years later, he tied his 14-strikeout record against the 2015 Phillies, tossing a one-hitter in eight innings to cement his ninth victory of the season.

The only one who doesn’t seem overly enthused by the new record? Strasburg himself, who told MLB.com’s Jamal Collier and AJ Cassavell: “It’s pretty cool, but there’s another game five, six days from now. I’ll enjoy it tonight, but back to work tomorrow.”