Five things we learned about opening weekend in MLB

The Baltimore Orioles’ Brian Roberts (1), Mark Reynolds (12) and Derrek Lee (25) celebrate with teammates and third base coach John Russell (77) following their 4-1 win over the Tampa Bay Rays during their MLB American League baseball game in St. Petersburg, Florida, April 1, 2011. REUTERS/Brian Blanco (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT BASEBALL)

There’s a good chance that this post will be irrelevant in the next couple of weeks but I’m going to write it anyway. You can’t tell me what to do.

Here are five things we learned about opening weekend in MLB.

1. The Orioles are for real.
I’m kidding – relax. The Orioles are for real after just three games? That’s an over exaggeration on my part, although who can blame the Baltimore faithful for being excited about the start of the season? Their team just swept the Rays on the road and did so in rather convincing fashion, limiting Tampa to just three runs in three games. Considering how brash Buck Showalter was this offseason in his comments about Theo Epstein and Derek Jeter, it has to be refreshing for fans that the O’s came out of the gates hot. It’s also nice to see Brian Roberts (4-for-13, 1 HR, 5 RBI, 3 runs) get off to a good start after injuries limited his production last year, and guys like Nick Markakis make plays both offensive and defensively (what a catch he had over the weekend when he crashed into the wall). Given the young talent that this club has, it’s not a stretch to think that they could surprise this year in the AL. But if nothing else, at least there’s a little excitement in Baltimore again.

2. The Red Sox’ pitching is still a concern.
Again, again, again: It’s early. Just because the Rangers swept the Red Sox over the weekend doesn’t mean that the BoSox won’t make the playoffs or that they’re overrated. That said, this was about as bad of a start for the Red Sox as Yankee fans could ask for. They dropped three consecutive games to open a season for the first time since 1996, they were outscored 26-11 and their pitchers surrendered a whopping 11 home runs in just three games. Jon Lester gave up a career-high three home runs, while John Lackey served up two and Clay Buchholz gave up four solo shots. Granted, pitchers know that when they travel to Texas their chances of serving up a long ball are great. But 11 home runs in three days? Yikes. This was an ass kicking to say the least and one that brings Boston’s pitching concerns back into focus.

3. The Giants’ defensive issues are concerning.
Everyone knew there was going to be a bit of a transition period for Aubrey Huff when he moved from first base to the outfield to make room for rookie Brandon Belt. But considering he logged about 500 innings in the outfield last year, nobody thought he would make right field look like he was playing in the freaking Amazon or some foreign, unknown patch of land. The Giants committed five errors in the first two games against the Dodgers this weekend, and Huff had two foul-ups on Sunday night that cost his team runs. (On one, he turned a single into a triple when he miscalculated on a diving attempt and on the other, he spun around so much on fly ball over his head that you thought he was practicing a dance routine.) Granted, when Cody Ross comes off the DL the Giants can shift Huff to left field and Pat Burrell to the bench. That should, at the very least, limit Huff’s destruction in the outfield. But Huff wasn’t the only one made costly errors in L.A. Buster Posey, Miguel Tejada and Pablo Sandoval all had throwing errors, while pitcher Jonathan Sanchez couldn’t handle a routine comebacker on Friday, which essentially cost the Giants Game 2 of the series. Sloppy doesn’t even begin to describe the defending champ’s play to start the season.

4. Matt Kemp is on a mission.
Kemp was routinely criticized in L.A. last year from anything from his weak batting average to his laziness on the basepaths. But if the first four games are an indication of whether or not he’s motivated to rebound, then he could be in store for a MVP-type performance. Kemp has started the year hitting .417 after going 5-for-12 at the dish this weekend. He drove in three runs, scored four times and hit a home run off Barry Zito on Sunday night that still hasn’t landed yet. He also swiped a bag and scored on a throwing error by catcher Buster Posey to help the Dodgers win Game 1 of the series. Simply put, the guy looks focused again.

5. The Reds aren’t going to just hand over the NL Central.
There were many pundits (this one included) who thought that Adam Wainwright’s injury opened the door for the Brewers to eventually seize the NL Central. But if their play in Cincinnati this weekend is any indication of how the Brewers’ season will play out, then the Reds should have no trouble defending their division title. In Cincy’s three-game sweep over Milwaukee, the Reds scored 23 runs and hit eight dingers. There’s a long way to go but considering Cincinnati essentially returned the same roster as it did a year ago, maybe people should have given the Reds more respect this offseason.

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