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COUNTDOWN TO OPENING DAY: Baltimore Orioles

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Meet the Orioles
Projected lineup:
2B Jerry Hairston
CF Chris Singleton
1B Jeff Conine
DH David Segui
3B Tony Batista
LF Marty Cordova
RF Jay Gibbons
C Brook Fordyce
SS Mike Bordick
Projected rotation:
1. Scott Erickson, RHP
2. Sidney Ponson, RHP
3. Jason Johnson, RHP
4. Josh Towers, RHP
5. Calvin Maduro, RHP
Bullpen:
LH: Buddy Groom, B.J. Ryan
RH: Jorge Julio, Kris Foster, John Bale
Closer: Willis Roberts

2002 Baltimore Orioles

Last Year's Record: 63-98, fourth place in AL East (32.5 games back) Last Year's Headline: LET'S WIN 63 FOR CAL As Cal Ripken closed the book on a marvelous career, the Orioles believed they could send him into retirement with a winning season. They failed miserably. In a season marred by injury, inexperience and mediocrity, the Orioles could not sustain early season competitiveness, losing a major league-worst 51 games after the All-Star break and finishing the season with an embarrassing 98 losses. This Year's Question: Is six feet enough? After finishing 28th in the majors in homers and dead last in slugging percentage, it was obvious the Orioles needed to ratchet up their power quotient. But instead of signing or trading for a free agent slugger (apologies to Marty Cordova), the Orioles brass opted instead to bring the fences at Camden Yards back to their original dimensions -- four feet closer to home plate in left, six feet in center and two feet in right. Yet six feet hardly seems close enough given the lack of punch in Baltimore's heart of the order. David Segui has never hit more than 21 home runs in a season, but has somehow managed to acquire the label of power hitter. Cordova seemed to regain his stroke with the Indians last year, but he's still a career platoon player. Tony Batista showed hints of improvement towards the end of last season as he upped his average from a miserable .209 to a respectable .266. Jeff Conine finished the season with a .311 average, but only 14 home runs. Only Gibbons, at 24, is a true power hitter with tremendous opposite-field power, but he still has yet to learn major league pitching. Why This Team Could Be a Contender: Despite years of mismanagement by owner Peter Angelos and questionable moves of GM Syd Thrift, the Orioles still were able to cultivate a solid young nucleus of pitchers. Sidney Ponson has been labeled an underachiever but has the physical tools to be the staff ace. Josh Towers, who garnered Rookie of the Month honors in June with a 5-1 record and 1.51 ERA, has uncanny control and a mild temperament that has drawn comparisons to Greg Maddux. The staff will be anchored by veterans Scott Erickson, a once-dominant sinkerball pitcher whose velocity has returned after 18 months of rehab, and Johnson, who last year led the team in wins. Why This Team Could Be Contracted: Boredom. This team was dreadfully boring to watch last year, and without Ripken in 2002,there's next to nothing compelling about this team. While the Orioles brass might try to claim the organization is in the midst of a youth movement, the position players on the team are actually closer to grizzled veterans. The expected opening day roster has an infield with an average age of 31 while the outfield is only slightly younger at 28. Hello My Name Is... Chris Singleton. I'm a smooth-fielding centerfielder that will bring leadership and grit to the Orioles' clubhouse after coming over from a trade with the White Sox. In my three seasons in the majors I'm a .283 hitter with 54 stolen bases and 35 home runs. Barring injury, I will be the Orioles starting CF wire-to-wire in 2002, so expect me to bring much-needed defensive help to the O's outfield and maintain a .300 average, steal 20 bases and hit 15 home runs. A Moment of Silence For... Brady Anderson. Sure, Ripken is the obvious choice, but Anderson was released with very little fanfare despite his tremendous production and contributions as an Oriole. An Oriole for virtually his entire major league career (save 41 games with the Red Sox in '88), Anderson is second all-time behind Ricky Henderson with 43 leadoff home runs and one of only two players (Barry Bonds is the other) to post season totals of 50 home runs and 50 stolen bases. The Orioles' all-time leader in steals and a top five leader in at bats, runs scored, hits, doubles, home runs, and walks will be missed in Baltimore. Add It to Your Palm Pilot... Cleveland Indians at Baltimore, May 6-8. Brady Anderson and former Orioles favorite Jose Mercedes return to town. The fact that this is the most exciting series tells you what kind of season it will be for the O's.
Tagged: Orioles

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