More importantly than the result in yesterday’s 7-7 tie against Pittsburgh, Buck Showalter announced after the game that Manny Machado would begin the 2014 season on the DL. To anyone who follows the Baltimore Orioles closely, this should come as no surprise. In fact, the announcement itself is probably nothing more than a formality. Machado was sent to the DL backdated to yesterday, and he’ll be available to come off the DL on April 6th. Presumably he’ll see time in a few minor league rehab starts before formally joining the Orioles.
Both starting pitchers in yesterday’s game gave up lead off home runs. Starling Marte led off the game by homering off of Kevin Gausman, and Nick Markakis followed suit in the last of the inning to tie the Orioles at one. Coming off of an off year following an injury in September of 2012 (and going into a contract year at that), Markakis is having what one might call a “beast” spring this year. That bodes well for the O’s going into league play in another week. The Birds took a 2-1 lead in the last of the second with Jermile Weeks’ on an RBI-groundout, and they broadened that lead to 3-1 in the third with a Chris Davis homer.
Gausman was limited to only four innings after a 26-pitch first. Gausman’s line: 4 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 2 BB, 8 K. He took a bit of extra time in the first to settle down, however Gausman has had a great spring as well. Pittsburgh was able to put four runs across while batting around in the sixth to take a 5-3 lead, however the Birds weren’t behind for long. Ryan Flaherty hit a two-run homer in the last of the inning to tie the Orioles back at five. After Delmon Young‘s RBI-single gave he Orioles the lead in the last of the seventh, Jonathan Schoop made a rare error that led to a run in the eighth inning to tie the sides at six again.
Zach Britton appeared to be injured in that eighth inning as he walked off the field with trainer Richie Bancells, however Buck Showalter later said that Britton was fine. He had misinterpreted Britton’s body language. Britton would later start throwing again in the bullpen after he came out. Presumably, once Showalter had gone out to get him he didn’t want to leave him in so he lifted Britton and once everything was clear he let him finish his outing in the ‘pen.
Andrew McCutchen homered in the ninth for Pittsburgh to give them a 7-6 lead, however
Schoop made up for his earlier error in the last of the inning when he sent one of his own over the fence to tie the game again at seven. As Orioles fans now know very well, teams normally play a nominal tenth inning in spring training and call it a day if the game hasn’t been decided by that point. For the second straight day, that’s exactly what happened. The Orioles will take on Boston this afternoon in Sarasota, a game that will be started by Brian Matusz. It’s also the last televised game in spring training, on MASN at 1 PM.
The Orioles have a lot of big decisions to make in a short period of time this week. The most glaring is probably second and third base, and they’re both connected. Obviously it’s a given that Manny Machdo will be the third baseman whenever he’s ready, however what do the Orioles do in the interim? Does Alex Gonzalez get the nod at the hot corner with Flaherty at second base? Or do the Orioles slide Flaherty over to third and bring Jonathan Schoop north to play second base? My personal opinion is that the latter of those two options is the better one because it would allow the O’s to keep an extra outfielder for a period of time (perhaps Nolan Reimold or Steve Pearce).
If his spring numbers mean anything, Schoop might very well be ready to play at the big league level. So if that’s true, what happens when Machado comes back – does Schoop go back down to Norfolk and Flaherty becomes the second baseman, or does Flaherty become a utility player again? Again, these are all very tough decisions, and Buck Showalter and Dan Duquette will have to make them later this week. The pitching rotation is also still somewhat in flux, however I presume that Wei-Yin Chen, Miguel Gonzalez, and one other (Gausman, perhaps?) will round it out. And left field is another contested position, but as I said if the Orioles were to go with Gonzalez at third and Flaherty at second, they could arguably keep an extra outfielder.
It’ll be interesting to see how Boston and the Orioles play this game today. While in the Orioles’ case there are still some position battles to be determined, these two teams will also play each other one week from today at Camden Yards on Opening Day. No reason to show anything to the other side this late in the game before the bullets start flying for real. But then again, the O’s have seen Boston several times already this spring, and will do so again on Wednesday in Ft Myers.
Update: The Orioles pulled off a trade this morning, sending IF Alex Gonzalez to Detroit in exchange for utility player Steve Lombardozzi. This is a good trade for the Orioles, who are sending a veteran who wasn’t guaranteed to make the team, away in exchange for a young utility player that could help in numerous areas. The icing on the cake is that Lombardozzi is a Baltimore-area native (Columbia, MD), and odds are he’s already familiar to local fans as he was drafted by and later played for the Washington Nationals. In Lombardozzi, the Orioles also get a player that in theory could be with them for some time, as he’s not eligible for arbitration until 2015, and he’s not a free agent until 2018. Lombardozzi won’t put the Orioles over the top, but he does act as depth in the infield, and perhaps even opens up the Birds to trade someone else (such as Ryan Flaherty) for depth elsewhere.