Know Your Enemy: Baltimore Orioles

Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports

This series now moves on to the Cubs' interleague opponents.

There used to be a joke, when the Cubs were contending last decade and the Orioles were bad, that all the Cubs' rejects would wind up in Baltimore. Beyond the trade of Sammy Sosa to the Orioles back in 2005, ex-Cubs who found their way to Camden Yards since 2000 include Chuck McElroy, Yorkis Perez, Scott Moore, Rocky Cherry, Steve Trachsel (who was then traded back to the Cubs for the aforementioned pair), Freddie Bynum, Luis Montanez and Jake Fox.

And then there were the guys who came the other way -- Jason Berken, Rodrigo Lopez, Miguel Socolovich... you really don't want me to go on with this list.

And that's not even including the trade the two teams made last year (Scott Feldman for Jake Arrieta and Pedro Strop) or the signing of ex-Oriole Jason Hammel.

So these two teams should be pretty familiar with each other, right?

Not really. The Orioles (along with the Rays) are the team the Cubs have played the fewest times in interleague play, just twice (2003 in Baltimore and 2008 at Wrigley Field), just six games. The Cubs won two of three in Baltimore; the O's won two of three at Wrigley.

Baltimore, after 14 straight losing seasons, roared their way into the playoffs in 2012 with an outstanding bullpen (a MLB-record 29-9 record in one-run games was the biggest reason). They weren't quite as good in 2013, but still put together a good 85-77 record, in large part due to the offensive explosion of Chris Davis (.286/.370/.634 with 53 home runs). Manny Machado, the 20-year-old sensation, was injured with just a few days left in the season and had to have knee surgery. He has been making progress in his recovery, but is likely to start the year on the DL. That will mean a big downgrade at third base for them until he returns.

Adam Jones (33 home runs), Matt Wieters (22 home runs) and J.J. Hardy (25 home runs) are still in the power-laden lineup that led the major leagues with 212 home runs in 2013. Unfortunately, the O's didn't have enough men on base in front of those power hitters. They finished 14th in the American League in walks and 10th in OBP.

The O's rotation wasn't great in 2013 -- Hammel, now a Cub, was part of that problem -- as they had only two dependable starters for most of the year, Miguel Gonzalez and Chris Tillman. The Orioles have attempted to address that by signing Ubaldo Jimenez to a four-year, $50 million deal. Ubaldo has been very good at times... not so great at others. Kind of like the Orioles, come to think of it.

Baltimore's closer of the last two years, Jim Johnson, is gone, traded to the Athletics for Jemile Weeks. Baltimore was going to sign the A's closer, Grant Balfour, as his replacement, but they apparently didn't like his medical reports and Balfour wound up with the Rays. The Orioles' depth chart doesn't list anyone as closer at this writing, although Tommy Hunter appears to have the inside track.

There are still a few Cub-connected players in Baltimore, even with Feldman departed for Houston. Steve Clevenger, who was also sent to the O's in the Feldman deal, is still on their 40-man roster, as is former Cubs minor leaguer Ryan Flaherty, and Julio Borbon is a non-roster invitee.

The Cubs will face the Orioles in a three-game series at Wrigley Field August 22-23-24, so it's now 11 years and counting since the Cubs have visited Camden Yards.

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