Here in the mid-Atlantic region we’re treated to a bi-annual “Battle of the Beltways” featuring the Orioles and the Washington Nationals. The teams see each other twice a year with three games at Camden Yards and three games at Nationals Park in Washington, DC. However this year the Battle of the Beltways will feature a supplementary game during spring training as Washington makes the trek across Florida on Interstate 4 to Sarasota this afternoon. Ironically, the Washington Nationals will travel 180 miles from their spring training facility in Viera, FL to get to Sarasota today, where as in June when they come to Camden Yards they’ll only travel 40 miles.
Let’s be frank; this is far from the Subway Series or even the Cross-Town Series in Chicago. If there is a rivalry between the Orioles and Washington, odds are it won’t be manifested here. However aside from the fact that Jake Arrieta will try to continue his resurgent spring this afternoon, there is one big story line in this game. Davey Johnson played second base for the Orioles from 1965-72, and after playing for a few other teams went into managing. He managed the Mets to a world championship before going to the Reds and then back to the Orioles. Johnson managed in Baltimore in 1996 and ’97 before resigning for varying reasons (I’ll just leave it at that). The Orioles of course were in the playoffs under Johnson, and haven’t returned since. After a stint with the LA Dodgers, Johnson took over as manager in Washington last season after Jim Riggleman abruptly resigned. Johnson is still widely beloved by Oriole fans, and today will be his first time managing against his old team.
I don’t really follow the Nationals too much and I most certainly don’t cover them, however I am a Davey Johnson fan like most everyone else in Baltimore. So I most certainly wish him well in DC. Furthermore, his teams have always had moxie, which is a stamp of Davey Johnson as a player and a manager. Nevertheless as I said Jake Arrieta will get the start this afternoon. He’s the guy that I’m predicting will be the Opening Day starter for the Birds, and I’ve been really impressed with how he’s conducted himself thus far in games. I suppose I’m not surprised given the fact that he’s always had a decent amount of swagger on the mound, however that’s more mental than physical. Arrieta’s consistently been hitting 93-95 on the gun this spring, which is certainly good to see.
I’ll be interested to see how long Buck Showalter allows Arrieta to go in this game. Jason Hammel was due to throw five innings or so yesterday, but he was lifted after two due to a high pitch count in the Orioles’ 6-5 win over Boston. We’re getting ready to enter the last full week of spring training, so it might stand to reason that Buck Showalter would give the starters more field time as things wind down. Nick Markakis won’t play in today’s game so that he can take a couple of days off before playing Monday night against Pittsburgh in Bradenton. Markakis hit his first home run of the spring yesterday against Boston, a two-run opposite field shot which admittedly was wind-aided. Adam Jones continued his assault on opposing pitching this spring with a two-run homer of his own. For what it’s worth, Oriole’s majority owner Peter Angelos is in Sarasota this weekend for his annual spring training trip.
Today’s game is televised by MASN at 1 PM, and yes for the record it is the Orioles’ version of MASN. The Orioles will also be shown on MASN in the final Grapefruit League game next Sunday afternoon in Sarasota against Tampa. The Birds will then play two exhibition games at Ed Smith Stadium on Monday April 2nd and Tuesday April 3rd against local college teams, before heading north to play their triple-A affiliate Norfolk Tides in an exhibition game on Wednesday April 4th at Harbor Park in Norfolk, VA. Presumably the Orioles will arrive in Baltimore after the game on Wednesday night, have an off day at home on Thursday, and open the season on Friday afternoon at Camden Yards. This will be the first time since 2009 that the Orioles have opened at home; the past two seasons the league has scheduled them to open at Tampa since they were down there anyways for spring training. Things are starting to wind down for the Grapefruit League season, but first thing’s first: today vs. Washington.
Follow me on Twitter @DomenicVadala