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Talking Behind Their Backs: Yankees

Now that the New York Yankees have left town, we can talk about their three-game series in Baltimore

In those three games (two Orioles wins) we learned that these Orioles can hit, especially at the top of the order.

Baltimore's 1-2-3 combination of Brian Roberts, Adam Jones (whom ESPN's Tim Kurkjian featured here) and Nick Markakis combined to go 14-for-32 with 11 runs. As a team, the Orioles put up 19 runs while chasing two New York starters in three games. The 19 runs put Baltimore fourth in the AL in runs scored through the first few days of the season.

Of course one of the teams ahead of the Orioles in runs scored is the Yankees who, despite dropping two of three in Baltimore, managed to outscore the O's thanks to an 11-run outburst in Thursday's finale. This illustrates a point that everyone already knew about this Orioles team heading into the season: Pitching will be a major problem.

Surprisingly, the biggest cause for concern with the pitching staff has been the bullpen, rather than a set of starters that were either unproven in the majors (Koji Uehara and Alfredo Simon) or completely terrible this spring (Jeremy Guthrie).

In their starts, Guthrie, Uehara and Simon all failed to reach the seventh inning with only Guthrie making it through the sixth. Despite that, the Orioles' starters have a combined ERA of 4.50 compared to the corpulent 9.00 ERA of the bullpen, which has yielded 11 runs in 11 innings.

One of the biggest culprits has been Chris Ray, the team's former closer who is returning from Tommy John surgery. Ray posted a Blutarsky-like ERA of 0.00 in the spring but has allowed four runs in 1 1/3 innings of relief in two appearances.

All of which is to say the Orioles pitching staff has been predictably bad but not for the reasons everyone expected.

Now the Orioles play host to reigning division and league champs the Tampa Bay Rays.

Both teams will be throwing out the back-end of their rotations and their Opening Day starter. The difference between the two teams is that the Rays' fourth starter (Andy Sonnanstine) had more wins last year (13) than Guthrie (10).

The Orioles will get their first regular season looks at two guys that made the rotation almost out of default -- Mark Hendrickson (the team's only lefty in the rotation) and Adam Eaton (who will actually be called up for his Sunday afternoon start).

Last season's AL Rookie of the Year, Evan Longoria has already gotten off to a hot start having hit home runs in the past two games, taking both Jon Lester and Daisuke Matsuzaka deep while batting .429 (in an admittedly tiny sample size) so he may feast on the likes of Hendrickson and Eaton.

By CJ Holley  |  April 10, 2009; 4:15 PM ET
Categories:  Orioles , Rays , Yankees  
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