The Orioles have had youngsters before, quite a few of them. Some, like Infielders Ron Hansen and Brooks Robinson, have been up and down several times. Others, like Pitchers Jerry Walker (left) and Milt Pappas, scarcely know what bus trips and cheap hotels are like. They came up and stayed up, playing alongside a Paul Richards assortment of baseball leftovers. This year the Orioles are putting the old folks out to pasture: aging Bob Nieman and unpredictable Billy Loes were traded; skillful hangers-on Billy Klaus and Billy Gardner have lost their starting jobs; familiar names like Walt Dropo and Arnold Portocarrero may drop right off the roster. Of the old bunch, only Catcher Gus Triandos and Outfielder Gene Woodling can still call themselves regulars. "The youth movement," said a happy club official this spring, "is in full swing."
But the Orioles, who scored fewer runs than any other team in the league, must depend again on pitching and defense, because the club still lacks power. Baltimore's young pitchers are admittedly remarkable. Pappas was the Orioles' leading pitcher last year at the ripe old age of 19: he completed 15 of 27 starts (second only to Washington's Pascual) and won 15 of 24 decisions for the best won-lost percentage on the staff. He compiled an ERA of 3.27, to rank 10th among American League pitchers, but only fourth among Baltimore starters (behind league-leader Hoyt Wilhelm, Walker and since-traded Billy O'Dell). Walker, at 21 a thinker with good control and plenty of breaking stuff, slacked off after a fast start (7-3 in early July) and finished the season with 11 victories, 10 defeats and an ERA of 2.92. Jack Fisher (21) pitched only 89 innings for Baltimore last year (1-6 but a 3.03 ERA) before being sent to Miami for more seasoning. A fast-baller with both a control and a weight problem, he has the best potential of any of the young pitchers and is expected to be a regular starter, along with Chuck Estrada (22), the real sleeper of the staff. Estrada (14-6 at Vancouver) didn't get out of service until late in March and has had no major league experience, but he has a fast curve, a good changeup and a blazing fast ball that can explode in any direction.
The departure of O'Dell left erratic Billy Hoeft and veteran loser Rip Coleman as the only southpaws on the roster. Hoeft, once the Tigers' best pitcher, has picked up a slider and slip pitch (a Richards variation on the palm ball) and is his usual optimistic self. Steve Barber, a 21-year-old lefty, has a fine sinking fast ball but almost nothing that breaks. Richards is resigned to a makeshift bullpen operation. Former relievers Wilhelm and Hal Brown, who last season won 26 games as starters, will split their time between starting and relief work. Ex-Giant Gordon Jones will be in the bullpen every day, with the kid starters available for spot duty.
?LIQUIDATE THE INFIELD
Baltimore is determined to remake its weak-hitting infield, and only first base—for want of a good young candidate—will escape the general purge. Third base has been deeded outright to Brooks Robinson, who had made three previous unsuccessful bids for it. A tiger defensively, Robinson at last shows promise as a hitter as well; in 88 games last year he had 89 hits and a batting average of .284. Another classy fielder, gangly Ron Hansen, has taken over at shortstop. Hansen, still only 21, appears to have few equals in fielding his position. He is a low-average hitter but he has some power, and it's generally conceded he can hold the shortstop job with a .220 BA. Slender Jerry Adair was the best prospect at second base until a hustler named Marv Breeding showed up. Breeding hit surprisingly well in training (14 for 23 at one point) and fielded competently. Either he or Adair could start the season at second, but the aggressive Gardner, a first-rate double-play man, will probably move back into the lineup before long. Bob Boyd has survived a half-dozen unimpressive candidates to retain squatter's rights at first. A weak fielder, Boyd's BA dipped to .265 in 1959 after three straight years over .300.
?A GOOD-LOOKING OUTFIELD
The departure of slow Bob Nieman and the arrival of fleet Jackie Brandt has strengthened the outfield immeasurably. Brandt, a line-drive hitter with occasional power, is a fielder capable of meeting Memorial Stadium's dual challenge: a cavernous center field and a stationary left fielder, Gene Woodling. At 37, Woodling is content to hit his .300 and leave the outfield's quick starts and long runs to the younger men. Willie Tasby, on Brandt's other flank, is fast and well-coordinated, and is sure to benefit from his switch from center field. Left-handed-hitting Al Pilarcik, a .282 hitter last year, will take over in right if Tasby tails off.
[This article contains a table. Please see hardcopy of magazine or PDF.]