The Orioles open up spring training this week coming off their most successful season in 15 years. While Opening Day is still six weeks away, there are some important developments to watch for down in Sarasota.
- Nolan Reimold is said to be 100 percent after undergoing surgery on his neck and missing almost all of last season. Reimold underwent the same surgery as Peyton Manning, who successfully returned to a sport that is much more physically demanding. That gives the O's and Reimold high hopes heading into the 2013 season, especially after he got off to such a strong start last year. The O's are hopeful that Reimold can be their every day left fielder and also see time as the designated hitter. Given that he is now 29-years old, this could be a make-or-break year for him in Baltimore.
- Jason Hammel's knee will be another topic of discussion in Florida. Hammel's knee injury may have cost the O's a division title last year and they will need him healthy and pitching well at the top of their rotation.
- As has been the case the past several years, there will be a lot of focus on the young starting pitchers. Will Brian Matusz be able to land a spot in the rotation or will he be ticketed for the bullpen again as a lefty specialist, which could be his ultimate career path? Can Jake Arrieta bounce back and put his mental issues aside to show why he has some of the best raw stuff on the roster? Can Zach Britton stay healthy and consistently pound the bottom half of the strike zone to become one of the team's top pitchers? Will Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman impress in the spring and when might one of them claim a spot in the major league rotation? Chris Tillman went from big-time prospect to potential bust to suddenly realizing his potential. Can he build off that in 2013?
- Miguel Gonzalez had an unbelievable season, but one must wonder whether he is a one-hit wonder or just finally figuring everything out. Along the same lines, is there another hitter or pitcher that Dan Duquette picked off the clearance rack that will suddenly turn in a career year?
- Will Brian Roberts be a factor in 2013? He claims to be as healthy as he has been in a few years and the competition for the starting job at second base is wide-open. It's unlikely Roberts can return to his past form given that it's been three years since he has been an impact player, but anything resembling the guy who used to set the table at the top of the lineup, hit 50 doubles in a season and steal a bunch of bases would be a big bonus.
- Will the Orioles make any late additions to the roster? Kyle Lohse and Michael Bourn are still looking for a home and either player could really help the club. The O's may not want to surrender the draft pick it would take to sign either player, or maybe they are just waiting out the market and hoping to land one of them on a club-friendly contract.
- The bullpen was unbelievable last year, so can it possibly look as good in 2013? Kevin Gregg is gone, but will the rest of the staff be able to repeat its 2012 success? Pedro Strop really struggled down the stretch, so it will be interesting to see if he can find his release and throw strikes in spring training. Tommy Hunter was fantastic once moved to the bullpen, regularly throwing in the high 90's. With Jim Johnson's salary sharply rising and his trade value never higher, the club has to be intrigued by the possibility of converting Hunter into a closer.
- The young nucleus of the O's took a big step forward last year at the plate. Will the improvement continue or is some regression the way? Chris Davis had a monster season, but how will he handle first base duties and can he replicate his numbers from last season? Adam Jones hit more than 30 home runs but slowed down in the second half of the season. Will he continue to improve his plate discipline? Matt Wieters isn't the offensive monster many expected him to become, but maybe this is the season he really explodes onto the scene. Manny Machado made third base look like a breeze, but is he heading for a sophomore slump?