Orioles To Watch
Saturday, February 19, 2005; Page D12
The Orioles' lone big-name acquisition this offseason is out to prove his career is not in decline. His 35 home runs in 2004 were his lowest total since 1994. Sosa enters spring training without a contract past the 2005 season, by choice. In order to accommodate a trade to Baltimore, Sosa waived an option that would have guaranteed him $18 million after this season. He intends to earn back some of that money with a big year.
The former closer supposedly will be given a chance to earn back his old spot. Rumors persist, though, he will be traded before the season starts. Julio is young (25) and talented, but the Orioles have grown weary of his inconsistency.
Perhaps the most dominant left-handed reliever in baseball, Ryan will be given every opportunity to become the closer. Lefties hit just .094 against Ryan last year.
For the first time in his career, Roberts enters the season as the undisputed second baseman. For several years, Roberts faced a fight for the job with Jerry Hairston, who was traded to Chicago in the Sosa deal. Last year, Roberts flourished in the starting role and led the American League in doubles.
A stint in jail and a renouncement of his home country of Aruba highlighted Sir Sidney's offseason. Perhaps no one on the team is more eager for the season to start. Without a major pitching acquisition, Ponson is the favorite to be the team's number one starter.
Both showed flashes of brilliance last year and both were often undone with bouts of inconsistency. The Orioles turned down possible trade deals for pitching because of their faith in Cabrera and Bedard. The two will face more pressure this year.
Baltimore was convinced Matos was its center fielder of the future after the 2003 season, when he hit .303 with 13 home runs. Last year, Matos suffered through various injuries and his stock fell dramatically. He enters spring as the favorite in center, but will need to earn the spot.
Several pitchers will compete for the fifth spot in the rotation, but none may be more talented than Riley. None may be more frustrating either. Often undone by a lack of concentration and commitment, Riley should win that fifth spot. Chances are he will find a way to end up in the minors again.
Last year's organizational offensive player of the year has an outside chance of starting the year with the major league club. If Matos fails to earn the starting spot in center, Baltimore could move left fielder Larry Bigbie to center, opening up a spot for Majewski.
Last year Loewen began the spring as the Orioles' top pitching prospect. But he was pounded during spring training and ended the year with a shoulder injury. Only 20 years old, Loewen still has an opportunity to regain his top prospect status.