The Baltimore Orioles have had quite the see-saw of season in April, teetering back-and-forth between wins and losses. Every time it looked as if the O’s finally found their footing and rattled off a couple of wins in a row- bam- “Crush” Davis goes down or Ubaldo Jimenez takes the mound. Although, that is not all fair to throw Ubaldo under the bus, he has been performing better as of late. However, when the Orioles signed Jimenez last season for four years and $50 million, there is no doubt they expected a little more production out of him.
Jimenez’s record of 0-4 with a 6.59 ERA in the month of April is not ideal for him or the O’s. If Baltimore hopes to make a playoff run this season, May will have to be a month that he shows some slight improvement or some signs of life as fans are growing impatient. The time in Baltimore, however, is not to panic over Jimenez’s April output, as he has always been a notorious slow starter. Last season with the Cleveland Indians, he finished up April with a 1-2 record and a 7.13 ERA. How did he finish? Just with a measly 12-7 record and a 2.72 ERA to boot.
Thankfully for the O’s, not every offseason signing this year has had as rough of a start with the team. The offseason signing of veteran outfielder Nelson Cruz is one signing in particular that is paying off in huge dividends. Cruz this season leads the Orioles in HR’s (7), RBI’s (25), Runs (18) and OPS (.956). His home run and RBI totals place him fourth in those categories in all of baseball. David Lough’s signing has been an above average one. Lough has never been known to have a stellar OBP, but he has been known to possess an amazing glove. His 1.000 fielding percentage, coupled with some amazingly acrobatic plays this season, and a .300 OBP over the past week has fans excited for the bottom of the lineup left-fielder.
Skipper Buck Showalter has always been a manager known for handling his bullpen well. With the off season departure of closer Jim Johnson to the Oakland A’s, Showalter made a big move in moving right-handed specialist Tommy Hunter into the closer role. This move appeared to be a rocky one at first, but the right hander appears to have found his footing and has settled in the role nabbing five saves in six opportunities in April. The save totals could be higher, but the win-big, lose-big mantra of the season for the O’s has reduced Hunter’s opportunities. Other bullpen notables so far this season have to be ex-starter Zach Britton and right-handed (well, recently any-handed) specialist Darren O’Day. Britton is 3-0 on the season with a 1.17 ERA. His 0.98 WHIP and opponent’s batting average of .182 leads the team. O’Day’s 1.04 ERA in ten appearances leads all O’s pitchers.
If Ubaldo Jimenez can do what he does best in May, coupled with a return to all-star form from Manny Machado, this could be a month where the O’s finally move over the .500 mark, close the two game gap and grab a division lead for the first time since they were a 0.5 game up on the New York Yankees and the Tampa Bay Rays, June 6, 2012… which lasted only one day.
Top Baltimore Orioles Player for April: Matt Wieters
Nelson Cruz could have easily nabbed this top spot for the month of April, but Matt Wieters has had too good of a start not to mention him at the top. Wieters has a team leading .338 BA, which places him fourth best in the AL. His four long balls and 15 RBI’s are second on the team only to the hard hitting Nelson Cruz. In the last seven days, Wieters is absolutely killing the ball with a .667 SLG percentage, a 1.056 OPS, and a .389 BA.
Top Baltimore Orioles Pitcher for April: Chris Tillman
Tillman came into this season as the undisputed “ace” of this staff and he has done nothing but prove that that is exactly where he should be. The 26-year-old leads all starters on the staff with a 3.38 ERA, which if anyone knows anything about the AL East, that number is highly respectable. Tillman also leads the team in strikeouts (27) and is second among team starters in WHIP (1.250). Tillman looks to nab his fourth win of the year against the struggling Pittsburgh Pirates.
Commentary by Ryne Vyles; the O’s-Zone
Guardian Liberty Voice Sports Writer for the Baltimore Orioles