O's face Toronto in Grapefruit League home opener

The Baltimore Orioles defeated Tampa yesterday in the Grapefruit League opener by the score of 4-2. First off, let’s keep in mind that the results aren’t nearly as important as what goes on in the actual games. In this particular case, the Orioles pretty much sent their B-team to Port Charlotte to face Tampa’s A-squad…and the O’s came away with the win. Go figure, former Oriole Erik Bedard was on the mound for Tampa, but the O’s touched him up early in the first inning. Jermile Weeks was plated by Steve Clevenger‘s RBI-single, and Alex Gonzalez put the Birds ahead 3-0 with a two-RBI single. Weeks would also make a leaping catch at second base, and come into score another run in the second inning off of a Bedard wild pitch.

Perhaps the best news was the outings turned in by Chris Tillman and Zach Britton. Tillman’s line: 2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 3 K, 0 BB. Britton’s line: 2 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 1 K. Tillman was obviously right on top of his game early, and while Britton did give up the lone run of the day for the Orioles he was pretty sharp overall. To the credit of the Orioles’ pitching staff, the Birds held what’s presumed to be Tampa’s Opening Day lineup at bay for most of the afternoon – or at least while the likes of Molina, Longoria, et al were in the game.

Buck Showalter was very happy with how Chris Tillman and Zach Britton looked, calling the Chris Tillmanoutings “sharp.” If you’re looking for a takeaway from this game with regard to the 2014 season, that’s it. With the exception of perhaps Nolan Reimold (and who really knows with him), those were the only two “regular guys” on the field for the O’s. For whatever two innings in a spring training game (the first one at that) means for either one, one supposes that’s a good thing.

The Orioles return home to Sarasota where they’ll host the Toronto Blue Jays in their Grapefruit League “home opener” at Ed Smith Stadium. Showalter will send Miguel Gonzalez to the mound this afternoon, presumably for two innings as we saw out of Tillman yesterday. However the real exciting part for Orioles fans watching at home on MASN today will be that “the Orioles” will be playing; the likes of Jones, Davis, Markakis, Hardy, etc., that is. The A-team, if you will.

Besides Miguel Gonzalez, there are a few things that I’d recommend Orioles fans watch today (and throughout camp). First off we have the leadoff spot in the order; Showalter seems to be indicating that we’ll see Nick Markakis leading off a lot this year, however I suspect that decision will formally be made during this month in Sarasota. Another is Nelson Cruz, who will debut with his new teammates this afternoon. Where does his bat fit into the order? Consequently, what does that mean for the likes of Chris Davis and Adam Jones? Might we see Jones sliding down a bit in the order? Those decisions will begin to be made today.

The Orioles were also chagrined to have to announce yesterday that their Director of Public Relations, Monica Barlow, passed away at the young age of 36 from lung cancer. Barlow had worked for the Orioles for 14 years, and was well loved by players and coaches. Orioles’ majority owner Peter Angelos issued the following statement:

“It was with deep sadness that I learned of Monica’s passing this morning. In her 14 years with the club, she was a beloved member of the Orioles family, starting as an intern and becoming Director of Public Relations. Over the past four and a half years, the work Monica did to raise awareness and funds for cancer research was a testament to her dedication to helping others. The strength and resiliency she displayed by not letting her illness define her was a great inspiration to all who knew her. Her loss will be felt deeply by not only our front office staff, but also our manager, players and coaches, with whom she worked on a daily basis. On behalf of the club, I extend my condolences to her husband, Ben; her parents, Wayne and Ramona Pence; her brother, Jonah; her sister, Natalie; and her family and friends.”

On behalf of all of our writers at Birds Watcher and the Fansided Network, I send my deepest of condolences to all who knew and loved Monica.

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