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Rebuilding O's have talented core

Rebuilding O's have talented young core

The Orioles have been waiting for the new season to enact their new rebuilding philosophy, a plan that has drawn quite a bit of scrutiny over the last six months. Baltimore has gone full-speed ahead in a new direction, hoping that its farm system will be getting healthier even if the team struggles at the big league level.

Shortstop Miguel Tejada and staff ace Erik Bedard were the first casualties of the rebuilding movement, and Baltimore fans will get their first official look at the new team Monday against Tampa Bay. Jeremy Guthrie will get the ball on Opening Day, and the Orioles hope that offseason acquisitions Luke Scott and Adam Jones will help foster a new environment.

Scott, acquired in the Tejada trade, is expected to start in left field and provide a power threat that was sorely missing from Baltimore's lineup last season. Jones, the centerpiece of the Bedard deal, is the team's new center fielder and should team with right fielder Nick Markakis to provide a young and talented core for the Orioles to build around.

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The real crux of the season, though -- and of the future, for that matter -- is the collection of young pitchers the Orioles are beginning to assemble. Guthrie may head the rotation, but arms like Daniel Cabrera and Adam Loewen will need to step forward. And after that, the Orioles will be waiting on Hayden Penn, Garrett Olson and Radhames Liz.

Three of those arms will start at Triple-A Norfolk, but Baltimore manager Dave Trembley has said that he expects to see them at some point. The Orioles know that their season -- and their immediate future -- depends on their rotation.

"I'm excited for the season," said first baseman Kevin Millar. "I think that three of the five guys in our starting rotation are going to step up and have career years, and I'm curious to see which three of those guys it's going to be."

Perhaps it's fitting that the Orioles match up against the Rays first in 2008, because several analysts are picking Tampa Bay to move past Baltimore in the standings. The Rays have an emerging cast of pitchers and a deep stock of position players that are ready to make the leap, and the O's are mired in a string of 10 straight seasons with a losing record.

Guthrie gets the first chance to erase that stigma, and he'll be trying to make his own great leap forward. The former first-round Draft pick began last season as a waiver claim and had to fight just to make the roster. Guthrie eventually worked his way into the rotation and thrived enough to earn the honor of pitching for Baltimore on Opening Day.

"It's a great honor to have the confidence from [Trembley]," Guthrie said recently, "And I felt the same from my teammates, that they feel like if I'm out there, we have a chance to win. ... I'm sure we'll have a great crowd. It will be a lot of fun with the festivities that they do on Opening Day in Baltimore, a giant crowd. Maybe we can start the season 1-0."

The Orioles will open up with three games against the Rays and four against the Mariners before they take their first road trip, and there should be plenty of memories on the line. Bedard and former manager Sam Perlozzo will visit Camden Yards with Seattle, giving the Orioles some deja vu to where they've been and a reminder of where they'd like to go.

"I've been ready to go since October," said third baseman Melvin Mora. "We're going to give a hard time to any team we play."

Pitching matchup
TB: RHP James Shields (12-8, 3.85 ERA in 2007)
Shields was 7-3 with a 3.53 ERA at home and 5-5 with a 4.25 mark on the road last year.

BAL: RHP Jeremy Guthrie (7-5, 3.70 ERA)
Guthrie gave up more than two earned runs in just three of his first 17 starts as an Oriole.

Bird bites:
Seven of Aubrey Huff's 15 home runs came against Tampa Bay last season. The designated hitter scored 14 times against the Rays, which was double his output against any other team.

On the Internet
 MLB.TV
 Gameday Audio
•  Gameday
•  Official game notes

On television
• MASN2

On radio
• WHFS, 105.7 FM

Up next
• Tuesday: Off-day
• Wednesday: Orioles (Steve Trachsel, 7-11, 4.90) vs. Rays (Matt Garza, 5-7, 3.69), 7:05 p.m. ET
• Thursday: Orioles (Daniel Cabrera, 9-18, 5.55) vs. Rays (Andy Sonnanstine, 6-10, 5.85), 7:05 p.m. ET

Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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