Series Preview: Tampa Bay Rays @ Baltimore Orioles

The first two games are 7:05 PM starts, and the last one is a 12.25 PM start.

Monday, July 19: Wade Davis (5.69 FIP) vs. Chris Tillman (5.18 FIP)

Tuesday, July 20: Matt Garza (4.42 FIP) vs. Jake Arrieta (4.71 FIP)

Wednesday, July 21: James Shields (4.27 FIP) vs. Brad Bergesen (5.59 FIP)

The Orioles are having a season cursed by Murphy's Law: everything that could go wrong has. They've had a couple injuries to developing players like Felix Pie and Matt Wieters, lost a big trade chip (Luke Scott) to injuries right at the end of June, had their $12M investment (closer Mike Gonzalez) explode within the first week of the season, and have been without Brian Roberts almost all season. More worrying than the injuries, though, is the complete failure of their young talent to develop at the major league level. Going into the 2010 season, the Orioles looked primed to improve from last season, counting on budding stars like Adam Jones and Matt Wieters to keep improving and for top pitching prospects like Chris Tillman, Brian Matusz, and Jake Arrieta to step in and produce.

Sometimes, though, fate throws you a fickle hand.

The Orioles are a great reminder of why rebuilding a team can be so difficult. They've stockpiled talent for multiple years now, letting their young prospects progress slowly and waiting for the day when they will all be ready. And now that all their top prospects are finally at the major league level, they've been stuck watching players struggle to adjust to the majors. Luke Scott and Felix Pie have had terrific seasons, but besides for that everyone has fallen flat. Matt Wieters has failed to set the league on fire with his .298 wOBA (Weighted On-Base Average); Nolan Reimold has seen his power and average fall away; Adam Jones is showing even less plate discipline than normal; Jake Arrieta and Chris Tillman are walking as many batters as they strike out; and Brad Bergesen simply can't strike anyone out.

The sad truth is these sort of things happen with prospects all the time. We're frustrated watching Wade Davis struggle through his adjustment to the majors, but imagine swapping shoes with Orioles' fans for a minute. While we have one pitcher causing us headaches with his lack of adjustment, the Orioles have an entire rotation to cause them migraines. Also, if Wade Davis doesn't pan out, the Rays still have four solid starters in the majors and Jeremy Hellickson waiting in Triple-A; if Arrieta, Tillman, and Matusz don't work out, the Orioles' franchise will be set back years in development.

The key is patience, which can be tough for O's fans to swallow. Matusz and Arrieta both have spectacular pitches and have shown flashes of dominance on the major league level already. Tillman and Bergesen are a bit more worrying because of their lack of strikeouts, but at least they both generate an above-average amount of groundballs. People frustrated with Wieters' bat need only look at Joe Mauer's career; catchers typically develop slow. All these prospects could break out at any time, and so the O's can only remain patient and hope for the best. They could piece things together and go on a tear in the second half, or they could continue to flop around as players slowly adjust to the majors. It's nigh impossible to predict.

Until all those prospects come along further, the Orioles should be easy prey for the Rays. Sweeping this series is do-able; winning two of three is needed. 

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