I thought I wrote a pretty decent recap of last night’s 10-3 loss to Pittsburgh; imagine my surprise when I opened up Birds Watcher this morning and realized that my text hadn’t properly saved and I had a blank column! In the spirit of moving onward and upward, I’m not going to re-write it. The Orioles’ next game is this afternoon in Ft. Myers against the Boston Red Sox. I will say this however; I’d like to see Brian Matusz command his pitches a little better than he did last night. I was very pleased with his velocity (low 90’s for the most part), however he needs to locate his pitches better if he’s going to continue to pitch at the big league level. The Orioles also seemed to have some timing issues at the plate and in the field, with many batters flailing at bad pitches and double-play balls being bobbled. Getting those kinds of kinks out is why we play these spring training games. If the Pirates seemed to have an answer for everything the Orioles threw at them, it’s worth mentioning that this was their third Grapefruit League game, while it was the Orioles’ first.
This afternoon’s game against Boston should be interesting for a couple of reasons. First off, Dana Eveland will be making his Orioles’ spring training debut. Eveland you’ll remember came to Baltimore in a trade with the L.A. Dodgers last December. Many people are under the impression that he’s a long shot to make the rotation out of spring training, yet here he is starting the Orioles’ second game. He’ll be followed in the game by Chris Tillman, Pat Neshek, Jon Link, and Oliver Drake. According to MASN analyst and Hall of Famer Jim Palmer on last night’s telecast, Chris Tillman has been hitting the mid-90’s on the gun thus far in workouts. If that’s true and it continues into games, that’s a great sign for the Orioles. If both Tillman and Matusz are getting their velocity back they’ll be forces with which to be reckoned. Obviously their command is another story, however again that’s why they play these games.
I don’t want to overplay this point with regard to this afternoon’s game because again it’s only spring training. However today will be the first (unofficial) time that the O’s and BoSox have met since September 28th of last year when the Orioles ceremoniously ended Boston’s season. Obviously the Red Sox have a new regime as well with Bobby Valentine at the helm, however many of the players are still the same. The Red Sox are a team that’s often seemed to take losing personally, and they seem to enjoy taking that out on teams such as the Orioles. Again, it’s spring training and all…but it’ll be interesting to see if they pitch someone such as Robert Andino inside.
I can’t stress enough that it’s spring training and that these games don’t count towards the season standings. Having said that, I don’t want to come off sounding like today is a “must-win,” however keep in mind that this is an Oriole team that’s gone through cavernous losing streaks of eight and nine games in several instances over the past two seasons. So even though this is an exhibition game, I think that coming out and winning today (especially against an AL East opponent) would help their confidence. Even though last night’s game counts as much or as little as today’s, losing 10-3 isn’t fun. It’s also fair to state that the regular players weren’t in the lineup in the second part of the ballgame, so who knows how that plays out in a regular season situation.
On Sunday night I watched a replay of the Red Sox Grapefruit League home opener on MLB Network. Boston moved into a new facility this year called Jet Blue Park, and it appears to be somewhat of a miniature replica of Fenway. I would say that if you’re ever heading down to spring training, that would be a park you might want to hit up. It looked like a beautiful place to watch a ballgame; they even had seats on top of the miniature Green Monstah in left field. Today’s game is at 1:30, so it’ll be the Orioles’ first game underneath the blonde Florida sunshine. Fans can tune into WBAL-AM 1090 for the play-by-play with Joe Angel and Fred Manfra.
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Update (5 PM): The Orioles sent their B-squad to Ft. Meyers today to play the BoSox, however they fell 5-4. The Orioles trailed early but a fifth inning rally tied the game at four. Rookie Dylan Bundy also pitched a scoreless inning, which is a very promising sign. Again let me stress that very few Oriole regulars played in this game, so if anything the B-squad held up very nicely against the likes of Pedroia and company.