- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 3, 2010

The last dozen years have been a stark departure from the “Oriole Way,” the era during which Baltimore was one of the most feared teams in the American League.

Instead of contending for pennants nowadays, the Orioles have had trouble even approaching the .500 mark, putting together a 12-season streak of losing seasons following the club’s 1997 AL East pennant — the second-worst such streak in the bigs behind Pittsburgh’s 17 straight.

But under the direction of club president Andy MacPhail, the Orioles seek to finally pass the break-even point and begin to make inroads towards the big guns in the division.

The O’s went out and traded for Kevin Millwood to shore up a young rotation and revamped their infield with first baseman Garrett Atkins from Colorado, former shortstop Miguel Tejada to replace Melvin Mora at third and Julio Lugo to help play second with Brian Roberts ailing.

MORE COVERAGE: Baseball 2010: The chase begins

All of this is to help Baltimore and to close the gap against the AL’s elite, as the team was 9-37 combined against Boston, New York and Los Angeles.

“You want to bring in guys that want to win. Our record was what our record was, but we were horrible against the Yankees, Red Sox and Angels,” MacPhail told AP. “We need to get better against the real good teams. I think we can play with everybody else, but we’re going to have to learn how to play with the elite clubs.”

“It’s definitely got to change,” catcher Matt Wieters told reporters. “For us to get to the playoffs, those are teams you’ve got to beat. We need to change our mentality. You have to go from having your eyes wide open, thinking, ‘I’m playing against A-Rod and Jeter,” to ‘I’m competing against you and I’m going to beat you on this day in this game.’”

The big question on the roster is how the team’s rotation will hold up facing the potent AL East lineups. While Millwood is a veteran presence in the rotation, he joins three starters who just made their major-league debuts in 2009. The Orioles had the worst team ERA in the majors last season, no doubt fueled by playing some of the best hitters in the majors on a regular basis

“You’re not going to win in any division without pitching,” Millwood told AP. “It’s an honor to be called the go-to guy, but we’ve all got to be aces when we pitch. If we don’t think we’re capable of that, we shouldn’t be pitching anyway.”

Lugo was acquired this past week because of question marks surrounding Brian Roberts, whose bad back has limited his playing time this spring.

“I’m going to have to see when he gets here and see what we’re going to do, but he’s got experience, has some energy. We’ll look forward to fitting him in,” Orioles manager Dave Trembley told AP after the deal.

The biggest change in Baltimore also seems to be the philosophy, as the team is now reluctant to get quick fixes rather than long-term progress.

“In order for it to get back on track, you have to be patient and you have to be persistent,” Trembley told AP. “I think the quick-fix didn’t work, won’t work, never has worked. You have to stay the course, you have to trust your people, you have to develop better in the minor leagues and fill in the pieces accordingly with free agents that fit the bill.”

Of course, the big question for fans heading to Eutaw Street this summer will be to see how much the team can close the gap between the haves and have-nots in the AL East.

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