Since Nelson Cruz officially left the Baltimore Orioles this week, I felt it would be timely to feature him in this week’s Throwback Thursday column. Of course this was to be done yesterday, but with the untimely departure of Nick Markakis there were more important things to discuss. The 2014 season dawned on a beautiful sun-splashed afternoon at Oriole Park at Camden Yards as the O’s took on the defending champion BoSox. Ironically in a year when the Birds would lead the league in homers, they engaged in a pitchers duel in game one. However the end of that pitcher’s duel served as a harbinger for the remainder of the season.
Cruz drew a leadoff walk in the last of the second inning, battling back from being down 0-2 in the count. He would later come into score, giving the Orioles an early lead. However Boston starter Jon Lester and the Orioles’ Chris Tillman quickly locked in, and the game was tied at 1-1 for some time. You always want to get off to a good start on Opening Day, and while Cruz’s heroics were what carried the Birds that afternoon, we also saw the beginnings of Tillman’s good season and that of the bullpen.
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Cruz came to bat against a tiring Lester in the last of the seventh with nobody down, and promptly turned on a 91-MPH fastball, smacking it over the fence to give the Birds a 2-1 lead. Cruz of course was fresh off of signing a one-year $8 million deal with the O’s, which immediately paid off in the regular season. The Orioles would go onto win that game with Cruz’s home run standing up for the team in their 2-1 victory on Opening Day.
That’s one of 40 home runs that the Orioles are now tasked with replacing in the lineup. I’ve heard rumors that they might be interested in free agent outfielder Michael Morse, who played for the Orioles briefly in 2013. However time will tell. Bear in mind that Duquette shines in the latter weeks of the hot stove season, and even well on into spring training when it comes to free agents. So put your minds at ease in a sense – the Orioles will be ready to play in 2014.