* ESPN's Jim Bowden, Keith Law and Buster Olney ranked the Orioles last of 30 major league teams in their inaugural Future Power Rankings (ESPN Insider required to read full entry). Here are Bowden's and Olney's comments on the Orioles.
Olney: "This will be the 15th season since the Orioles last appeared in the playoffs, but there are few signs that they are moving in the right direction, or that they have established the kind of organizational bedrock needed to build in baseball's toughest division. Dan Duquette has replaced Andy MacPhail as general manager, and the list of what he needs is long: Frontline pitching, more pitching, even more pitching and a wave of position prospects.
"It appears the Orioles will get little return from the $20 million they will pay Brian Roberts over the next two seasons, and Adam Jones will be eligible for free agency after the 2013 season. What needs to happen for the Orioles is a complete turnaround from Brian Matusz, who had a disastrous 2011 season, and more development from Zach Britton. Prayers could be useful, too."
Bowden: "What used to be a Baltimore staple in the 1970s and '80s has been difficult to replicate in recent years. The Orioles' starting pitching staff needs to be rebuilt. Baltimore's No. 1 pick in 2011, Dylan Bundy, offers a good start. The Orioles must continue to develop pitching from within, and even consider trading Adam Jones for arms if necessary"
"The Orioles aren't hopeless. But it's difficult to imagine how they're going to restore the luster to this once-great franchise until Peter G. Angelostakes the first step off baseball's skid row.
"He's got to admit he has a problem and ask for help.
"Cal Ripken Jr. is ready any time the Orioles' owner is willing to swallow his apparently inexhaustible supply of pride and make his best effort to give Baltimore a winning baseball team again."
* CBS Sports' Matt Snyder identifies sorting out the pitching staff as the Orioles' biggest positional battle this spring.
"So let's see ... the following pitchers might have a chance at the starting rotation: Zach Britton (very safe bet [Note: This was written before news of Britton's continuing shoulder inflammation]), Jason Hammel (safe bet), Jake Arrieta, Brad Bergesen, Brian Matusz, Chris Tillman, Dana Eveland, Wei-Yin Chen, Tsuyoshi Wada, Alfredo Simon and Tommy Hunter. That's quite a mix of pitchers to sift through, but the job isn't over with yet, because we have to look at the bullpen.
"Three pitchers -- Jim Johnson, Matt Lindstrom and Kevin Gregg -- will compete for the closer job, with Troy Patton, Pedro Strop andDarren O'Day also being part of the bullpen mix. Of course, guys like Simon, Hunter and Bergesen will get a shot in the bullpen if they miss out on the rotation, too. There are more ... but I already named 17 pitchers vying for 12 spots."
"Matusz was the fourth overall pick in the 2008 draft and rated the No. 5 prospect in all of baseball prior to the 2010 season and was the pre-season favorite for the Rookie of the Year. He had a slightly disappointing, but fairly typical series of rookie ups and downs that season, but finished strong, going 7-1 with a 2.18 ERA and 3.25 strikeout-to-walk ratio over the season's final two months.
"Then, last year, he hit the disabled list with an intercostal strain before his first start of the regular season, didn't return until June, and after two solid but short starts, was awful the rest of the way, going 0-9 with a 13.03 ERA and 17 home runs allowed in 38 2/3 innings (nearly four homers per nine innings) over 10 starts interrupted by a July demotion. Matusz wasn't awful in Triple-A in July and August -- he posted a 3.62 ERA in eight starts, allowing just four home runs, and if you take out one disaster outing his ERA drops to 2.54 in seven starts -- but that only made his major league struggles all the more confusing. Was it a fluke, a side-effect of his seemingly minor injury, or the beginning of the end of a promising career?"