Baltimore Orioles: The spirit of the Fighting Showalters


If the 2014 Baltimore Orioles go onto have a season to remember, few people will point back to yesterday’s 9-7 spring training victory over Toronto and say that it was the launching point. Let me rephrase that; NOBODY will point back to yesterday. However all good teams have to have the element of a comeback in them at various points in the season, and that’s something we saw yesterday. The O’s trailed 7-2 going to the last of the eighth, and when all was said and done they put seven runs on the board that inning to take a 9-7 lead (which stood up as the final).

We should bear in mind that the guys who orchestrated the comeback are hardly the lovable group that we saw turn into the Fighting Showalters in the latter part of 2011 and throughout 2012. For the most part, the guys who orchestrated the comeback are just hoping for a spot on the big league roster – anyone’s big league roster at that. But perhaps they channeled the spirit of the Fighting Showalters, and brought it forward into today as part of their quest for work in professional baseball. Needless to say, it was a welcome sight for Orioles fans.

Courtesy of David Manning-USA TODAY Sports

Miguel Gonzalez got the start for the O’s yesterday, and as he admitted later in the game on MASN, threw primarily fastballs. Gonzalez’s line: 2 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 0 BB, 0 K. The lone run Gonzalez allowed came on an RBI-single which followed two stolen bases. It was certainly not a bad outing for Gonzalez, however I think most fans would have liked to have seen him mix up his pitches a bit. But that’s an element to these spring games (especially early) in that often times managers will pick one pitch for their pitchers to work on. The most impressive part of the day in my view was David Lough in left field and leading off. Lough had an impressive play in the field, and reached base by legging out an infield hit. Lough struck out to open the last of the first, but worked the count full on nine pitches. That’s exactly the type of at-bats you want out of your leadoff guy.

Following the aforementioned infield hit, Nelson Cruz drew a walk and both Cruz and Lough crossed home plate on Chris Davis‘ two-RBI double (Davis took third on the throw home). Steve Johnson also bounced back nicely from a rocky appearance in an intrasquad game last week by retiring all six batters he faced.

The game seemed to spiral out of control for the Orioles in the fifth when reliever Edgmer Escalona gave up five runs, the last three of which came on a Dan Johnson home run. For awhile, it appeared that the saving grace of the day would be that the Orioles were leading when most of the regulars left the game. (Incidentally, Toronto played their starters for much longer than did the Orioles – for whatever that’s worth.) When the smoke cleared, the O’s trailed 7-2; if you lived and died with Grapefruit League results, you probably weren’t too pleased at this point. However driven by a three-run triple by Francisco Peguero and a two-RBI single by Xavier Paul, the Orioles put the aforementioned seven runs on the board in the last of the eighth to take a 9-7 lead.

For what it’s worth, Josh – WAIT FOR IT – Stinson got the win in relief. (If you’re like me and a mega-fan of CBS’ show, How I Met Your Mother, you’ll get the implication wait for it. If not, forget I mentioned it.) The guys who finished the game for the O’s will probably not be on the final 25-man roster, however it’s good to see that Buck Showalter‘s concept of always playing until the final out is echoed at the top and all the way down to the bottom of the organization. What fans should have seen at the end of the game is a group of guys who are hungry, and who also know that if there’s not a place for them on the Orioles or in the Orioles’ organization there are plenty of other teams out there who might need players up and down their organizations.

The Orioles will travel to Ft. Myers, FL to take on the Boston Red Sox this afternoon at 1 PM, with Brian Matusz getting the start for the Fighting Showalters. He’ll be opposed by Felix Doubront. It’ll be interesting to see which players the Orioles bring today, given the fact that it might behoove them to start seeing where they stack up against teams like Boston. It’s also worth noting the interest that I’m taking in the fact that Brian Matusz is starting today. Over the course of the winter Matusz expressed his yearn to be a starting pitcher, however with the addition of Ubaldo Jimenez those odds seem even more far-fetched than they did previously. So given the fact that the MLB Network is picking up NESN’s (Boston’s TV network) feed of the game nationally today…are the Orioles showcasing Matusz? If he pitches well in spring training, he might end up being one of those guys who’s worth more to the organization on the trade block than he is on the roster.

As I said above, fans can tune into MLB Network at 1 PM to see this afternoon’s game if they wish. You can also hear the game via WBAL’s broadcast with Orioles’ announcers Joe Angel and Fred Manfra. On a side note, Henry Urrutia will miss a couple of days with a sore shoulder. It’s not considered serious, but he’s being held out as a precaution.