Okay I admit that the mere act of the Baltimore Orioles beating New York in a Grapefruit League game yesterday doesn’t really make up for losing to them in the 2012 MLB postseason. However I think that most Orioles fans are probably satisfied at seeing the orange and black beat the pinstripes at any level…even when they bring their “B team” to Sarasota. The Orioles’ regulars played a very solid game yesterday in my view. Southpaw Brian Matusz began his quest to return to the starting rotation with a good outing. Matusz’s line: 2 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 1 K. Matusz also became the first Orioles starting pitcher to record a win in spring training; tough feat to accomplish when you’re only in the game for two innings or so. Some of Matusz’s pitches appeared to be a bit up in the zone, however I felt he battled out of that tendency nicely.
Defensively the big star was Chris Davis. As much as has been said about Davis’ poor defense last spring training and on, if two games are any indication he’s worked through a lot of those issues. Davis showed great range on the first at-bat of the game when he dove to his right to collect a ground ball. (Here’s a big difference between spring training and the regular season; even though Brett Gardener was safe at first on that play, the key is that Davis got the ball.) Later in the game he did his best Mark Reynolds impression in holding his toe on the bag while falling down so as to ensure that the runner was out. Apparently Texas scouts were a bit surprised that Davis struggled in the field last year, and again if two spring training starts are any indication it appears that he might have found the groove that the Rangers thought he had.
Here’s another positive sign: Brian Roberts is up to his old tricks. Roberts doubled in the first inning (batting from the two-slot as opposed to lead off), and his consistent dancing and feinting to steal down at second caused a balk from the New York pitcher, Nuno. Roberts would score on a Nick Markakis double; in fact both Roberts and Markakis doubled twice in yesterday’s game. Nate McClouth pinch-hit for Nolan Reimold after Reimold’s two turns at the plate, and promptly doubled home two runs in the last of the fourth to give the O’s a 4-0 lead. The Orioles would hold New York off the scoreboard until the top of the ninth with two outs (and New York down to their final strike) before they were able to put up one run off of reliever Adam Russell.
Again, we don’t want to read too much into the wins and losses at this point in the season. However it’s worth noting that Oriole pitchers appear to be attacking the strike zone very deftly, and there are a lot of positive signs in the field. I’d submit that fans should be more excited about Chris Davis looking good at first base and Brian Roberts inducing a balk than they should the 5-1 win over New York, or Sunday’s win over Toronto, etc. I really can’t stress enough that Davis going into the season as the starting first baseman was something that was a huge concern for a lot of people. The fact that he’s looked extremely good in the first couple of games serves as a relief for the Orioles. Just like any player I’m sure that the time will come when he makes an error or a mistake, and he’ll have to learn from that; nobody’s perfect! But overall he’s looked pretty good whereas last year overall he looked incredibly suspect. Those are the kinds of things that fans should be looking at in these games.
The Orioles will travel to Bradenton this afternoon for a 1 PM game against the Pittsburgh Pirates. They’ll have a split squad day on Wednesday against the New York Yankees in Tampa at 1 PM, and at home in Sarasota at 7 PM against the Boston Red Sox.