Notes: Perlozzo not too worried yet
Skipper says numbers should change once regulars play more
JUPITER, Fla. -- The numbers don't count, but that doesn't mean they're irrelevant. The Orioles have struggled to hit the ball throughout Spring Training and find themselves stacked near the bottom of the league standings in nearly every offensive category. It's an alarming trend, but nobody in Baltimore's clubhouse is panicking just yet.
"Last year, there were a couple guys who didn't hit in the spring and hit [well] during the season," manager Sam Perlozzo said. "I think overall, as a general group, we need to score more runs this spring -- especially toward the end. We need to win a few games to get things going. You prepare yourself to do well all the time."
Baltimore went into Wednesday's game with a 9-9 record and two ties, but the offense paints a less flattering picture. Only two teams in the big leagues had posted a lower on-base percentage (.299) or slugging mark (.336) this spring, and the Orioles were also tied with Tampa Bay for the fewest home runs (seven) of any Spring Training team.
Perlozzo said those numbers should start to change as he plays his regulars more, and he also said the Orioles may be able to capitalize on their schedule, which features three home games and six more road games. Most of the team's early games were at home, and Fort Lauderdale Stadium has been a pitchers' park this spring.
In fact, when asked about one of his players, Perlozzo cited the park's conditions.
"He's been what I expected," he said of Aubrey Huff before Wednesday's game. "I'd like to see him drive the ball a little bit more, but I think that will come. In our ballpark, that's been very difficult with the wind blowing in all the time. ... We're going to want to see him have a little more power when the season comes, but I think that'll happen."
Of course, those conditions have also been felt on the other side of things. Baltimore's pitching staff has the third-best ERA (3.57) of any American League team, the fewest home runs allowed (seven) and is tied for the most strikeouts (148).
Perlozzo is resisting the urge to draw any conclusions, but he's seen enough to choose his team. The Orioles may allow their final roster decisions to drag into their three-day odyssey in Columbus, Ohio, Norfolk, Va., and Washington at the end of Spring Training, but the pitching staff should be settled by then.
"I have a feeling it's going to be late," Perlozzo said of the final roster cutdown. "There's always a chance that somebody becomes available out there who you might like. I foresee it going down to the end for our position players.
"Pitching, I think, we can try to settle a little bit before we break. We'll see."
In to win: Perlozzo found himself delving into Huff's psychology Wednesday, when he was told that the slugger was eager to start his first season on a team other than Tampa Bay. Huff was traded at midseason in 2006, but he had spent every Spring Training with the Devil Rays, who have never posted a winning record.
The losing wore on Huff, and he hopes to help Baltimore end its streak of nine straight seasons with a losing record. Perlozzo said that mind-set reminded him of the way his own players have felt over the years. That attitude may be starting to lift, courtesy of incoming players like Huff who see a winning season within reach.
"You've seen our guys complain about it the past couple years -- about losing," Perlozzo said. "I think this spring was the first year you saw guys coming in who have been here for a while who feel a little excitement -- that we're going to be a little better than we have in the past. We still have to do it on the field.
"It's certainly not something we can just walk in and do. It's going to be hard for us and we've got a lot of work to do. But if we stick together, we'll be fine."
Huff, incidentally, had three hits in Baltimore's 4-1 win over St. Louis on Wednesday.
Marquee matchup: Adam Loewen's outing intensified twice Wednesday, when the southpaw was forced to face Albert Pujols, the National League's Most Valuable Player in 2005. Pujols hit one clean single and made a loud out on a tough play by second baseman Brian Roberts. In all, it was a good lesson for Loewen.
"He catches your eye when he steps in the box. He's one of the most respected hitters in the game," Loewen said of Pujols. "Maybe right now I can get away with a couple pitches, but when the season rolls around, he's swinging it well. I look forward to that one day -- maybe in Interleague or maybe in the World Series."
Quotable: "You're always looking for guys like Corey [Patterson] to get better, better and better. ... We want to see him get going, get a little bit better, get more consistent, so he can step right in and we don't have to wait two months for him to get going. We need to pick that part up." -- Perlozzo, on Patterson
Coming up: The Orioles will travel to Vero Beach on Thursday for their third straight road game, and veteran Steve Trachsel will make his fifth start of the spring against the Dodgers at 1:05 p.m. ET. So far, Trachsel has allowed 22 hits and 11 runs in 11 innings.
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.