The 45-40 record is about to be forgotten. Second half play is at hand for the Orioles, and attention must be paid to these important questions. The answers will be revealed over the next 3 months.1. Do the Orioles need additional starting pitching if they want to contend?
Absolutely. When three of the pitchers who started the first four games of the season are in the minors, reinforcements are needed.One is Zach Britton, who pitched brilliantly on Thursday night for Norfolk. Britton, who hasnt pitched this season because of shoulder problems and caution by team management, should start on Tuesday in Minnesota.For now, Miguel Gonzalez and Chris Tillman are the other two starters, but thats subject to change. Gonzalez and Tillman had excellent starts last week, but that was just one start. Dan Duquette is on the lookout for improved starters, and that means trades.2. Will Duquette be aggressive between now and July 31?
Absolutely. It wouldnt be surprising to see Duquette add a starter or even two, and make a deal for a third baseman, first baseman or left fielder. One who could lead off would be even better.3. What do the Orioles have to trade? Theyre not going to trade Dylan Bundy or Manny Machado. Any of the three Norfolk starters who began the season with the Orioles is possible, Jake Arrieta, Tommy Hunter and Brian Matusz. Gonzalez and Tillman could be on the market, too. They have little in the young and cheap position player category. Other than Bundy and Machado, the best position player in the system is probably Bowie second baseman Jonathan Schoop. He may have to go to get something worthwhile.4. Can the bullpen be as good in the second half of the season as it was in the first?Probably not. It would be astounding if Jim Johnson saved 26 of 27 games in the second half of the season. Pedro Strop needs to be as good, and Luis Ayala, who wasnt quite as sharp in recent weeks as he was early in the season, needs to recapture his early season magic. Matt Lindstrom, who missed a month, is needed, but in his absence Darren ODay was terrific. He needs to be terrific again.5. Is there anyone in the minor leagues who can help?Britton should be coming up Tuesday. Arrieta is most likely going to have to stay in Norfolk for several starts before the Orioles are convinced hes fixed what ails him. Hunter or Matusz could come back; Matusz will have to prove that his shutout outing wasnt a fluke.6. Can Nick Markakis heal what ails the offense?
In the first 50 games, the Orioles werent shut out. Markakis played them all. While he was out, they were shut out six times. J.J. Hardy and Adam Jones suffered offensively. Hell be back on Friday, six weeks after a broken hamate bone was removed from his right hand. 7. Can Mark Reynolds find some offenseand maybe some defense, too?Reynolds had a horrible first half. The team would have liked to trade him, but his value is low. Theres no chance hell be back in 2013, so if hed like to increase his free agent standing, hed better start hitting.8. Can Brian Roberts catch a break?Apparently not. Roberts hasnt decided on season-ending hip surgery yet. Hes probably going to try the rehab route first. It was invigorating to watch his rehab and thrilling when he was able to return with a three-hit night. Now, his future is once again sad to think about. 9. Can the defense get any better?Seventy-five errors in 85 games. The Orioles hope it cant get worse. A third of the errors were by Wilson Betemit and Robert Andino, and there are no replacements for them on campus. Matt Wieters, who made five last season has already made eight.
10. Does Chris Davis have a position?With Markakis out, Davis sometimes played an adventurous right field. Perhaps Buck Showalter will try him again at first on occasion. Hes unlikely to put him at third and hes never played left field in the majors.11. Whos going to lead off?Didnt we ask this question in March? Well, Nolan Reimold and Brian Roberts arent going to. Endy Chavez may be reactivated on Friday, and even though he wasnt effective, Showalter may give him another chance. Andino looked overmatched in the last two months, and Showalter seems to be reluctant to commit to Xavier Avery.12. How important is it for the Orioles to finish with a winning record?Its vital. Even if the team cant contend for a playoff spot, they can break the 14-year losing streak.