Baltimore Orioles: Not time to panic


Bud Norris was scheduled to throw two innings yesterday afternoon against Boston in Sarasota, but after giving up four runs he was limited to just the first inning. Norris’ line: 1 IP, 4 H, 4 R, 1 BB, 2 K. All things said, Norris and the Baltimore Orioles hoped that his first outing of the spring would have yielded better results. However I can’t stress enough that this is part of why they play these Grapefruit League games. Norris later said that he probably focused a bit too much on his changeup, which drove his pitch count up and created traffic on the bases.

Courtesy of Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Jackie Bradley Jr. scored on Jermile Weeks’ RBI-triple in the first against Norris, and Boston had an early lead right off the bat. Blake Swihart would then send a two-run homer over the fence, and the O’s were in a three-run hole before even coming to bat. However in the last of the first the Orioles would get an RBI-single from Chris Davis to cut the lead to 3-1, only to have Bryce Brentz tack that run back on in the fourth with a solo homer.

The last of the sixth gave us a small view of what the Orioles are hoping their offense will look like this year. Alejandro De Aza got hit by a pitch, and J.J. Hardy drew a walk (and was lifted for Dariel Alvarez). Both runners advanced on a wild pitch, and Adam Jones later grounded into a fielder’s choice which scored De Aza. Alvarez would score on a sac fly-RBI by Chris Davis, and the O’s closed the gap to two runs.

The idea here isn’t to receord outs; it’s to record meaningful outs with guys on base. So if the Orioles can raised their team OBP, they’ll have more guys on base and they’ll have a better chance of replacing the overall run production that they lost with Cruz and Markakis. This is not to say that there’s no place for power at all, as Davis, Jones, and Wieters will still need to produce their share of home run balls, however it’s sequences like that sixth inning that will come up big for the O’s in 2015. Boston would tack on two more runs in the seventh on an RBI-double by Allen Craig, and an RBI-single by Bryan LaHair, resulting in the Orioles going behind 7-3.

However even in spring training, the Orioles don’t easily give up. With two runners on in the last of the ninth Dariel Alvarez had a long at-bat and was down to his last strike. Alvarez fouled off quite a few pitches with two strikes and hung in there – providing the type of at-bat that will most definitely register with Buck Showalter. And the Birds were rewarded for Alvarez’s tenacity, when he sent a deep shot into the stands, cutting the lead to 7-6. The O’s would push the winning run to first base, however a flyout would end the game with Boston winning 7-6.

The fact that former Oriole farmhand Eduardo Rodriguez pitched three perfect innings against his former organization seemed to ruffle a few feathers around Birdland. Rodriguez of course was traded by the Orioles to Boston last year in exchange for reliever Andrew Miller (who signed with New York this past off season). To this point, I’ve maintained that the Miller trade was the best move the O’s made all season, and a nice outing by Rodriguez in a spring game isn’t going to change that viewpoint. You have to give up quality to get it in return; both sides pulled that trigger last year.

Dylan Bundy also pitched 1.2 innings, and gave up two runs. Presumably the plan was for Bundy to pitch two innings, however I suspect he reached his pitch limit which prompted Buck Showalter to move to replace him mid-inning. Ultimately as I’ve said all week, you don’t want to put too much weight behind results of these games. While the Orioles certainly wish that they looked better than they did yesterday, these games are much more about guys getting into a groove and getting their timing back. At the end of the day, the Orioles’ and everyone else’s records still stand at 0-0 for 2015.

And the big takeaway for the Orioles on the positive side in the game has to be the very end, with Alvarez’s at-bat and the late rally. That’s the type of thing that will stand out to a manager in a spring game. Play all of these guys forward three or four years, and you might see Alvarez and Urrutia playing out that same scenario at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. A meaningless loss is still a meaningless loss, however the fact that it’s meaningless means that we can in fact look at the positives in the game. And the positives in that ninth inning were numerous for the O’s.

This afternoon the Birds travel down to Ft. Myers to take on the Minnesota Twins at the CenturyLink Sports Complex. Ubaldo Jimenez will make his second start of the spring, and he’ll be opposed by Minnesota’s Ervin Santana. Today’s game is televised nationally on MLB Network live at 1 PM, via Minnesota’s television feed. You can also hear the game on Baltimore’s 105.7 “the fan.” I would submit that today is a very important one for Jimenez, that is in the wake of his previous start. Tune in at 1 PM (in some manner) and see how he does!