When I was a kid my late grandmother would pile my cousins and I into her Mercury Grand Marquis for the 45 minute trip to Path Mart in Newark, DE (from Rising Sun, MD) when she’d do her grocery shopping. Once we’d all be settled she’d look at all of us and with her thick Italian accent say, “…let’s roll!” That was always symbolic to me in that it told us that the journey (to the store) was beginning. And now, so many years later, it’s something that I still recall fondly.
After watching almost every other team in the league open the season yesterday, the Baltimore Orioles will get their first crack at 2013 this afternoon at Tropicana Field against Tampa. At just after 3 PM US east coast time this afternoon, the response to the best season in the last 15 years will begin. David Price will throw the first pitch to Nick Markakis, and the season will be off. And with that said let’s start right there; Markakis will return to the lead off spot in the lineup this afternoon, which he stumbled upon in effect by accident last season. With Brian Roberts injured and the Orioles having no other options to lead off, it fell to Markakis when he returned from injury after the all-star break…
Courtesy of Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
…Markakis hit .335 as a lead off hitter, with an OBP of .390. That was amazing production out of that spot for the Orioles, and it lasted until September 8th when he was hit in the hand by NY’s CC Sabathia. One gets the impression however that Buck Showalter might have obsessed a bit during spring training with regard to who would bat lead off. With Brian Roberts returning to the lineup in apparent great shape and Nate McLouth re-signing with the Birds, there was decision to be made. It will most certainly be interesting to see this afternoon exactly how that lineup functions with Roberts wraping up the bottom of the order and then having it turn back over to Markakis. For the record that, along with the presence of McLouth and Nolan Reimold, should give fans a lot of hope.
Jason Hammel will head to the bump this afternoon for the Birds, in an apparent nod to him being the staff ace. When he wasn’t injured last year, Hammel was arguably the Orioles’ best pitcher. He developed a two-seam fastball in being traded to Baltimore last year, which served him well all season. The question however surrounding all Oriole starters is whether or not they got the necessary seasoning during spring training. Buck Showalter held them all out of the big league games in the second half of spring training so as to not show his hand to competitors. On one level I suppose that’s understandable, however one has to hope that they all got their work in properly to the point that they’re ready to go.
Tampa will send David Price to the mound, a guy who’s given the Orioles fits over the years. In fact that can be said about most of Tampa’s pitchers and many of their players. Joe Maddon’s team always competes, and with all of the turnover they have year-over-year, they seemingly find some way to be in the mix. That’s a tribute to Maddon and his coaching staff. This year their big losses were “Big Game James” Shields, and of course BJ Upton in centerfield. However the Orioles will have to find a way to defeat the likes of Price, Evan Longoria, et al, if they’re going to start the season on the right foot.
Regardless of the outcome of today’s game, I would remind Orioles fans that it’s only one of 162. Throughout spring training we spoke of giving as little importance as possible to the actual results of the games. Now the results matter and then some! However in saying that we should remember that one game is just that…one game. The famous line in Bull Durham is “…some days you win, some days you lose, and some days it rains.” (I can guarantee that rain won’t be an issue in this series given that Tampa plays in a dome!) However it’s always good to get off to a good start, especially when you start with division games right off the bat. So with that said…ladies and gentlemen, let’s roll!