The worst team ever assembled readies for baseball season

It is hard to see.

When you are in the midst of a history-making season, your thoughts don’t scream out to you: “This has never been seen before!”

It’s only in the aftermath of what took place that you realize, “Never before!”

Be warned. When the 2012 American League season gets its start, there will be a team the likes of which has never been seen in the modern era of baseball from 1946 to 2012.

The Baltimore Orioles — new batting practice hats and all — is the worst team ever assembled since World War II.

No quality starting pitchers. Only cast-offs, often-injured “never were’s”, and porous Class AAA middle relievers. And no “closer” with any “out” pitches.

Even though the new General Manager, Dan Duquette, has rid the roster of 14 pitchers from last season, the collection of 22 pitchers he is taking to Spring Training might not have a nine-game winner in the bunch.

Gone are Guthrie, Uehara, Jakubauskas, Eyre, Gonzalez, Hendrickson, Accardo, Rapada, Reyes, VandenHurk, Atkins, Viola, Rupe and Worrell. No first names needed. Few mailing addresses (Uehara and Guthrie) to be secured for those still in the big leagues.

Eight pitchers are new to the 40-man roster for 2012.

Two of the new faces played in Japan before deciding on Baltimore as their American team. Tsuyoshi Wada has a stop-and-go windup that he used in Japan. Wei-Yin Chen was 8-10 with Chunichi last season. Both are left-handers and should have meaningful roles when the season begins. Brian Matusz needs to move his ERA below 10 runs a game. Zach Britton hasn’t shaken his arm trouble when Spring Training opened.

Darren O’Day had a 5.40 ERA in 16 innings with Texas. Dana Eveland pitched in five games with the Dodgers. And Jason Hammel was in 32 games with Colorado. He’s 31 years old and the Orioles are already placing him in their starting rotation.

Matt Lindstrom recorded two saves in his 63 appearances with Colorado. He’s 32 years old.

Oliver Drake toiled in the minors at Frederick and Bowie. His ERA at Bowie was 5.20. Dylan Bundy was the Orioles’ first-round draft selection last June after pitching for Augie Garrido at the University of Texas. Bundy will not start the season in Baltimore.

And now for the holdover starting pitchers on the 40-man roster.

Chris Tillman. Jake Arrieta. Tommy Hunter. Armando Galarraga. In addition to Britton, Matusz, and Brad Bergesen. Those are the huddled group of possible starters besides Wada, Hammel, and Yin Chen.

Tillman has been injured. And he has been joined on the disabled list at times by Matusz . . . with Britton waiting in the wings.

And now for middle relief.

Luis Ayala. Jason Berken. Troy Patton. Alfredo Simon. And Pedro Strop. Those are the holdovers. Several of those not being released when bypassed as starters will probably be kept as long relievers.

The holdover candidates for Orioles’ closer are Jim Johnson and Kevin Gregg. Lindstrom or Ayala might be subjected to water torture and forced into the closer’s role. Or those two unfortunates from Colorado could also be given innings in middle relief.

Barring a trade or two for equals, those are the pitchers Baltimore will have to use against New York, Tampa Bay, Boston, and Toronto in its own division.

Is there a nine-game winner in the crew?

Baltimore had these players at some time in 2011 — Vladimir Guerrero, Luke Scott, Felix Pie, Jake Fox, Cesar Izturis, Craig Tatum, Derrek Lee, Mark Angle, Brandon Snyder and the law firm of Florimon, Hudson, and B. Davis.

None of those players remain.

Their replacements are seven in number. Endy Chavez is a 34-year-old outfielder who had 256 official at-bats and a .301 batting average for Texas. Chavez is the likely starter in left field on Opening Day. Jai Miller had 68 plate appearances in the last three years in Oakland.

Infielders Joe Mahoney hit .289 at Bowie, Ryan Flaherty batted .237 at Iowa and .305 at Tennessee in the minor leagues, Matt Antonelli last played in 2008, and Wilson Betemit is 30 years old and played sporatically with three different major league teams in 2011. Nick Johnson, the always-injured first baseman, was signed to a minor league contract and could make the big league roster.

The only catcher on the 40-man roster besides Matt Wieters is Taylor Teagarden, who had 34 at-bats with Texas. Ronny Paulino will go to Spring Training.

Those seven players will be trying to usurp first baseman Chris Davis, second baseman Robert Andino, shortstop J.J. Hardy, and third baseman Mark Reynolds and outfielders Adam Jones, Nick Markakis, and Noland Reimold.

Infielder Brian Roberts has returned and will attempt to leave his headaches and concussion symptoms behind. He’s now 34 years old and may not play again. The other infielders are Ryan Adams and Josh Bell. Both were sent down.

Reynolds did have 37 homers last year, but his fielding errors were non-stop and his strikeouts numbered 196. Hardy homered 30 times and drove in 80 runs. Jones hit. 280 and had 83 RBIs. Markakis batted .284, drove in 73 runs and was a stellar fielder.

Wieters hit .262 and drove in 68 runs.

Some of the starters from 2011 will provide solid seasons. But will the Orioles have the same unproductive bench that makes Manager Buck Showalter want to keep four or five players coming back 162 times in a 162-game schedule?

Has any pennant contender ever had a dugout filled with infield reserves like Adams, Antonelli, Bell, Flaherty, and Mahoney, outfielders Chavez and Miller, and catcher Teagarden?

This mess could be historical in nature. It could resemble the depleted rosters of the early 1940s when many able-bodied major leaguers were in the armed services and a part of World War II.

Finding a five-game winning streak with this roster could be an item for Ripley’s Believe It or Not.

Finding a nine-game winner whose losses didn’t number at least 14 would also be a player who would be a candidate for a late-July trade.

Baltimore’s losing seasons now number 14 in a row. But this season could be one for the ages. History being made while you stare in disbelief.

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