Orioles open Grapefruit League play


No you’re eyes aren’t deceiving you…for the first time since last October I’m categorizing this column under “game preview!” At 1 PM this afternoon the 2013 Baltimore Orioles will take the field for the first time in a game against another team – the Minnesota Twins in this case – with real umpires and real fans that paid admission to see them. Let’s not kid ourselves however; what we’ll see today and on subsequent days in Florida will probably bear little resemblance to what we’ll see starting April 2nd in Tampa. Don’t be overly surprised if we see some pretty bad baseball today and in the coming days. That’s what spring training is for, to work those things out before it really counts.

Courtesy of Joy R. Absalon-USA TODAY Sports

Buck Showalter will trot Zach Britton out to the mound to start this afternoon’s game, and he’ll be opposed by righty Kevin Correia of Minnesota. What’s unclear is how many innings or how many pitchers Britton will throw. I wouldn’t expect him to be in for more than an inning or so. Britton of course has had a rocky couple of years, but he’s looked good in camp thus far. This could be a very important start for him in that if his sinker isn’t sinking properly his pitches are going to travel a long distance…well past the fence that is. Jake Arrieta is scheduled to be second out of the ‘pen following Britton this afternoon, and his time in the game could be as important as that of Britton. Arrieta started strong last year, but was unable to keep that trend up throughout the course of the season (eventually heading back to triple-A). Following Arrieta into the game will be Tommy Hunter, Steve Johnson, Dylan Bundy, T.J. McFarland (a rule 5 pick this off season), Zach Clark, and Adam Russell.

The pitching is something that we’ll be watching all spring to see who distances themselves from the field. Britton is likely one of the contenders for a slot in the rotation, so again he’ll definitely be someone to watch in this afternoon’s ballgame. However there are also a few other players/items on which to keep your eyes in today’s game and throughout the spring:

  • Chris Davis (1B) – As I detailed yesterday Chris Davis’ play in the field at first base could be a major key for the Orioles this year. If his defense isn’t up to par, the O’s risk losing his bat in the lineup. This afternoon he’ll begin his quest to be a better first baseman than he was last spring.
  • Second base -I Brian Roberts will be starting at second base this afternoon, however he’ll leave camp immediately after collecting one or two at-bats to attend the wedding of a friend. Roberts’ injury problems have been well documented. Will he provide the same level of bravado at that position to which we’ve become accustomed? Or could Alexi Casilla beat him out for the starting job, relegating Roberts to the utility infield position?
  • Batting order – Nick Markakis and Nate McClouth were both superior in the lead off slot at various times last year. So does either one of them lead off in 2013, or (presuming Roberts is the starting second baseman) does Brian Roberts reclaim that mantra? Buck Showalter has also mentioned wanting to move J.J. Hardy down in the order, so I suspect we’ll see several variations of the batting order this spring starting today.
  • Left Field – Nate McClouth and Nolan Reimold are expected to platoon in left and potentially at DH throughout the year, but it’ll be interesting to see if one of them distances himself from the other starting today in spring training games. I think that both players are assets to the club, and I still feel that Reimold can be a decent day-to-day player for the Orioles if he’s able to stay healthy.

There are a million different storylines in camp, however I think that today’s probably more about getting these guys reps on the field in a game situation against another team than anything else. This afternoon’s game can be head locally on the Orioles’ radio flagship station, WBAL-AM 1090, starting at 1 PM. Orioles’ radio announcers Joe Angel and Fred Manfra will have the call, and the same is true of tomorrow’s game at Toronto in Dunedin, FL. Orioles fans will have their first shot to see the team live on television on Monday when they take on the New York Yankees in Sarasota at 1 PM (game to be shown on MASN).