Hal, Barrington, R.I.: When are the O's going to start to make some real moves? The GM's of the Red Sox and Yankees always seem to go out and bolster their clubs if they have a chance to win. Now the O's have the best chance in eight years and they have been decimated by injuries. Now is the time to step it up.
Roch Kubatko: Hal, I feel your pain. Well, I understand it anyway. And you're not alone. Many fans are expressing the same thoughts. Rest assured, the Orioles are looking for ways to improve themselves and stay in the division race. They're still gauging which players are available, or could become available shortly - A.J. Burnett, Jason Schmidt, Kip Wells, Mark Kotsay, to name a few. I'd expect Kotsay to end up with the Yankees (sorry, I just added to your pain) if the A's are willing to trade him. But Jim Beattie and Mike Flanagan recognize the need for a frontline starter. Barry Zito's name could become prominent in talks again, according to a source in Oakland.
Brian, Catonsville: What would the Orioles be willing to offer up as trade bait to acquire a top-notch starter?
Roch Kubatko: Jorge Julio might be the team's best bargaining chip, but not if he keeps serving up line drives like cocktail peanuts. Plenty of teams need late-inning relief help - the Marlins come to mind. He easily could be packaged in a trade, with Chris Ray gaining so much of manager Lee Mazzilli's trust. It would be much easier to deal Julio if Steve Reed was pitching better, but Jason Grimsley could return before the break.
Larry Bigbie and Jay Gibbons also are possibilities. Many teams have inquired about Ray, Daniel Cabrera, Hayden Penn, Jeff Fiorentino and Nick Markakis. The Orioles have to be extremely careful about surrendering anyone from that group.
Michael, Baltimore: If you could make one major roster change/trade for the Orioles, who would it be, and what would you be willing to give up to make it happen?
Roch Kubatko: My right arm for Salma Hayak. Baseball-wise, as stated earlier (if you didn't just scroll down looking for your name), this club needs a proven starting pitcher for the top of the rotation. Easier said than done, but nonetheless, that's what they need. And this is probably the best time to move Julio, if you're going to do it. Just hope he doesn't blossom like Armando Benitez. I'd be very reluctant to part with either Cabrera or Penn. It's nice to have some pitching depth in the system now, but I'm not sure there's quite enough yet to give up one of those arms. Especially with Adam Loewen struggling. Call me selfish, but I'd hoard Penn and Cabrera and refuse to share them with others.
Greg, Aberdeen: I'm worried that if the Orioles make a trade, it will bust up what appers to be good team chemistry. Won't having Javy Lopez and Erik Bedard come off the DL give the team pretty much the same boost that a trade would, without tinkering with chemistry?
Roch Kubatko: That's exactly the front office's thinking. Is this Jim Beattie using a different name? I'm trusting that it's really you, Greg. Plug Melvin Mora and Javy Lopez into the lineup again and insert Erik Bedard in the rotation, and the Orioles are a much, much better team. Just make sure they're not 12 games under .500 by the time it happens.
Danny, Las Vegas: Do the Orioles regard Walter Young as a legitimate replacement for [Rafael] Palmeiro at first?
Roch Kubatko: Walter Young could replace the B&0 Warehouse. This is a large man. They use one of his belts to rope off a section of the bleachers in Ottawa. We're talking large here. Instead of a post-game spread, the players just eat the crumbs off his shirt. This isn't a small man. OK, anyway, Young is an intriguing prospect for a team like the Orioles, who have been lacking in young power hitters for years. They want him to improve defensively and continue to improve his pitch recognition at home plate. If he does these things, then yes, he could be the eventual replacement for Palmeiro. Good thing he's so large, because those are some pretty big shoes to fill.
Ron, Tuscon, Ariz.: Why have the Orioles been so reluctant to bring up John Maine from Ottawa?
Roch Kubatko: It appears that the Orioles believe he needs more seasoning - I wish they had the same concerns about the food in the media dining room - and don't want to rush him. And he was being out-pitched when the club needed help for its rotation. If he had been 8-1 with an ERA smaller than Erik Bedard's postgame quote sheet, he would be here by now. He was being touted as a potential No. 1 or 2 starter in the majors while pitching at Single-A Frederick, but it looks more like 4 or 5 if he gets there. Not that there's anything wrong with that.
Matt, Towson: What is the latest on Erik Bedard and when might he be pitching again for the O's?
Roch Kubatko: Erik is supposed to throw off a mound Saturday before he can go on an injury rehab assignment. Once a certainty to return before the break, it's now anybody's guess. Only Erik knows his body, as he's quick to point out. He's improving. No setbacks. That's the good news. Now, if he was just a better quote. But that's not your problem.
Joey, Pikesville: What happens when Erik Bedard comes back? You assume that Hayden Penn would be sent down because of his inexperience, but on the other hand he's been much more effective than Daniel Cabrera or even Sidney Ponson. Any chance Cabrera gets sent down or Ponson traded/waived?
Roch Kubatko: There's no way Ponson gets waived, so let's eliminate that one right off the bat. Penn should be continuing his education in the minors. And he might not stick around long enough to have Bedard replace him. But Lee Mazzilli said there are no immediate plans to change the rotation. Doesn't James Baldwin deserve a look? Maybe he'd be exposed too many times through the order, but from where I sit, he keeps throwing strikes and retiring hitters. He really stopped the bleeding last night. He'd make a great usher at Yankee Stadium.
Matt, Baltimore: Now that D.C. has a baseball team of its own, do you know if the Orioles plan to put the word 'Baltimore' back on the road uniforms?
Roch Kubatko: I love the obsession with the word "Baltimore" on the road jerseys. I bet if you polled 1,000 Orioles fans and asked if they'd rather have the old road jerseys or world peace, they'd go for the jerseys. As someone who grew up in Severn and watched the Orioles before I was out of diapers, I'd like to see the city's name return - I always see Boog Powell's image, for some reason - but I haven't heard of any plans to do so. Sorry.
Tavon, Baltimore: Do you think the O's can keep it going in the second half of the season?
Roch Kubatko: If they get healthy and stay that way, and add a starting pitcher, yes. I'm not sure the current rotation, or even plugging in someone from the minors, is enough. I'm not as concerned about adding a bat because, once Melvin Mora and Javy Lopez return, it'll be business as usual. It's imperative, however, that Rafael Palmeiro not wear down in the second half. Am I crazy, or didn't the front office say he'd be the full-time DH this year to stay fresh? And shouldn't the right fielder be hitting more home runs?