The real race

If you'd rather shield your eyes from the division standings, and it's like staring at the sun until you get a searing headache, I have a better race for you.

Who is the greater source of frustration for manager Dave Trembley - Koji Uehara, Mike Gonzalez or Felix Pie?

Uehara was limited to 12 starts last year because of hamstring and elbow injuries. The hamstring first became an issue in spring training. And his stamina was so poor, he'd break a sweat opening a bottled water.

Now the hammy has him on the DL again, after he declined to run one day in camp because of his allergies. He's thrown twice off a mound in Sarasota since we left and is scheduled to face live hitters on Saturday - since, as you know, the dead ones always have the take sign.

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(Too bad I don't have a cleaning woman to dust off my old jokes.)

Uehara was supposed to be an integral part of the bullpen, serving as a bridge to the set-up man or handling those eight-inning duties himself. He might have replaced Gonzalez as the closer this month.

Instead, the wait continues.

Gonzalez wasn't popping the mitt all spring, and he wasn't admitting to a shoulder injury. He vowed to turn it up once the lights were on, but nobody's home. He blew two saves, threw the entire fan base into a group panic attack during his one successful chance, and is headed to Sarasota to start a three-week program after going on the DL and having his MRI come back negative.

Trembley suggested that the lefty might want to turn it up sooner, but Gonzalez never found the switch. And now we can't find Gonzalez. And now Trembley has to switch closers.

Pie is batting .400 in eight games, matching the number of ailments that have struck him since the beginning of last season. He just can't stay healthy, whether it's a hamstring or his shoulder or his stomach.

Something is wrong with that shoulder. The injury is classified as a "strain," which we're told began when he tried lifting more weight than recommended.

See what happens when you give players a nice, big weight room in spring training?

This is why we can't have nice things.

Pie is unorthodox, to say the least. Like that box of chocolates, you never know what you'll get with him. I keep waiting for him to line a ball into the gap and go from home to third. But he can hit, he can throw, he can run down balls that otherwise would bounce off the turf. You sort of take the good with the bad - when he's able to stay in the lineup.

Ah, there's the rub.

No leadoff hitter, no closer, no valuable reliever, no starting left fielder.

No one who can step to the plate with runners in scoring position without breaking out in a rash.

It's going to get better. It has to get better. The Orioles didn't return home from Florida in a time machine set for 1988.

That doesn't mean the frustration level hasn't risen to the heights normally reserved for the team charter.

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