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3. BALTIMORE ORIOLES

Wednesday, March 30, 2005; Page H10

The arrival of Sammy Sosa was certainly celebrated but it did not fill the Orioles' greatest need: starting pitching. Baltimore had hoped to at least add one starter to its young rotation, but instead will rely heavily on a starting staff whose eldest member is 28 years old.

The team is certain second-year players Erik Bedard and Daniel Cabrera will make a grand leap this season. They may only need to be adequate for the Orioles to challenge for their first winning season since 1997.


Orioles right-hander Daniel Cabrera, who won 12 games as a rookie last season, is part of a young starting rotation whose eldest member is 28. (Charles Krupa -- AP)


Adding Sosa makes the Baltimore lineup potent. Perhaps the most underrated player in baseball last season was Miguel Tejada, who led the majors with 150 RBI. He won't be expected to repeat those numbers, but he may not have to. Jay Gibbons appears healthy after struggling last season with a hip injury. Center fielder Luis Matos is also healthy after missing most of last season with a shin injury. The team hopes he can repeat his 2003 season.

The team's true strength may lie in the bullpen. Adding Steve Reed and Steve Kline makes the bullpen one of the best in baseball. B.J. Ryan takes over the closer role and Jorge Julio will be his setup man. The starters may only have to reach the sixth inning in order for the team to be successful.

A playoff pursuit is not inconceivable.


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