Opening Day is a special day in Baltimore every year. The fact is that there’s nothing like it; people literally begin their day at various bars and restaurants around the Inner Harbor as they prepare to congregate at the yard for the first time in 2014. The final roster is set, the players and coaches are ready, and the fans have been starved for real baseball for six months or so; it’s the perfect concoction for some old fashion Baltimore fun. They say that hope springs eternal everywhere on Opening Day – and for 14 years that was never more true in a place other than Baltimore. At the very least for that one day, fans could convince themselves that their team was in contention. But that’s not the case any longer…
…the fact that the feeling lasts just that one day, that is. This Baltimore Orioles team is expected to be in contention today, and for much of this season. But before we get to those final 161 games, let’s focus on today. First and foremost, Oriole ace Chris Tillman will be on the mound today, opposite Boston’s Jon Lester. So for the second consecutive season, the Orioles will open the year on “Tillman Island,” which is my own personal play on words. Tillman of course is a guy who struggled for some time when he came up to the Orioles (2009), and upon his elevation to the bigs in 2012 he finally seemed to “get it.” Does this guarantee that he’ll get what could be a memorable season off to a memorable start today? No, but ultimately he’s the staff ace and the Opening Day starter for a reason.
One concern for the Orioles today has to be Nick Markakis, who started feeling pain in his neck after the team’s charter flight from Sarasota to Norfolk, VA on Saturday (prior to their exhibition game against the Norfolk Tides). Buck Showalter has apparently made out two lineups, one with Markakis and one without him. The good news is that the Orioles have outfield depth and that this isn’t serious one way or the other. In fact depending upon how he’s feeling later, there’s a good chance Markakis might well sit out today as the Orioles are off tomorrow anyways.) The bad news of course is that this is an issue at all. As I said above, this isn’t anything serious – for right now. But it’s something to watch, because a player having neck spasms isn’t a good thing. However we have to trust that the Orioles will be careful with Markakis.
Another thing of note, Boston is possibly in the same boat with Markakis’ right field counterpart. Shane Victorino is insure whether he’s going to be able to play today due to a hamstring problem. The Orioles struggled against Victorino last year, as did a lot of teams. However I would submit that Boston isn’t quite as talented as they were the last time we saw them; Jacoby Ellsbury and Ryan Dempseter are gone, as is Jarrod Saltalamacchia. However make no mistake about the fact that this is a very powerful team that’s looking at today’s game as the first phase of their title defense. So the question is whether or not clam chowder will be the food of choice tonight in Baltimore, or will it be “Tillman Island”-style crab cakes? Stay tuned!