ST. PETERSBURG -- No one said it would be easy. The long rebuild the Orioles find themselves in has forced the tough task of teaching, developing and -- most important -- evaluating young players at the Major League level. Perhaps some were ready for the promotion. Some were not. But regardless, the opportunity is here for the taking. And as the losses pile up, Baltimore has the tough task of not letting the lopsided scores or rough pitching lines impact every decision.
"It's one thing if you're playing clean games, that you can see everybody kind of improving, and you can see guys moving in the right direction and kind of taking advantage of opportunities, but that's just not what we're seeing," catcher Caleb Joseph, one of the few holdovers from the 2014 American League East champions, said following the O's 8-3 series-sweeping loss to the Rays on Sunday at Tropicana Field. "It's extremely, extremely disheartening when you kind of play this sloppy game, [giving up] extra bases, missed coverages, missed execution on all kinds of different things.
"It's tough for a guy that's been here for a number of years, it's quite a change. But we got to pull it together. This is an opportunity to take advantage of some time for these young guys, and even some older guys, to get some stuff ironed out."
There is always concern that seasons like this will impact a young pitcher's confidence or make a rookie unsure on the basepaths or at the plate. There's no doubt these young Orioles (41-102), who completed a 1-8 road trip that marks their worst yet, are learning some tough lessons.
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"That's self-inflicted, too," manager Buck Showalter said. "We'll meet Tuesday and go over a lot of game mistakes and see if we can keep from repeating them. We did a lot of things that young players do, but also, whether it's Triple-A, Double-A or the big leagues, it's not anything you can overlook."
The organization is hoping, amid a season headed for the worst record in franchise history, that there are faces here who will be part of the turnaround.
Sunday starter Josh Rogers is one of those hopefuls. Acquired as part of the deal with the Yankees for Zach Britton, Rogers made his third -- and likely final -- start and didn't do much to help state his case. The lefty allowed five first-inning runs and couldn't make it out of the second, giving up six runs total on the day. Jimmy Yacabonis had a solid follow-up, holding the Rays -- winners of seven of eight -- to a run over the next 4 2/3 innings.
"As soon as I got in the game, everything was kind of elevated," Rogers said. "The slider was non-existent, and when they can eliminate one of my three pitches, it's going to be a long day for me. … Couple decent pitches, and a lot of really bad ones for me today."
The O's offense was absent for all but a three-run seventh. Jace Peterson drove in two of those runs with a triple to right field off Yonny Chirinos. Joseph scored him on a sacrifice fly.
"It's stuff that, it's fixable, a lot of it is mental. And even physical issues we can fix. It's not like it's a lost cause, there's tons of talent in here. It's just time for that talent to start showing itself," Joseph said. "And in spurts it has. … We have to put together a full nine-inning game. How many times have we seen it this season, where we've put in a full nine innings of a good, crisp, clean Baltimore-style game?"
The Orioles struck out 10 times on Sunday, and 35 total times over the three-game series.
HE SAID IT
"You've heard me talk a lot about spring and fall being a great fooler, and you can actually make a lot of mistakes on players negatively in something like this. Nothing is ever as bad as it seems. It's never as good as it seems. Somewhere in between that. So instead of casting a negative blanket over everything, there's some [positive] things, you've got to keep that in mind. You really do." -- Showalter, prior to the loss, on evaluating players
Alex Cobb, who has delivered a quality start in seven of his past eight outings, will get the ball on Tuesday following an off-day. Cobb will be opposed by Oakland righty Mike Fiers, as the red-hot A's come to Baltimore for a three-game set at Oriole Park. First pitch is slated for 7:05 p.m. ET.