Baltimore Orioles: First stop along the line


Until today, the last game preview/recap of any meaning here on Birds Watcher was this one, which told of the Orioles’ ALCS game four loss in Kansas City. Yes, I’ve managed to narrate many of the spring training games as we’ve gone along, but the key phrase in that first sentence was of any meaning. That changes today, as the Baltimore Orioles get set for the biggest baseball game in the history of western civilization – for today at least.

The Orioles will open the season at Tropicana Field in Tampa at 3 PM this

Courtesy of Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

afternoon against the Tampa Rays. Chris Tillman heads to the bump for the Birds on Opening Day, and he’ll be opposed by Tampa’s Chris Archer. Let’s be frank; win or lose, we aren’t going to learn very much about the 2015 Orioles today – short of how they’re going to faire on Opening Day, that is. Each game is only 1/162nd of the regular season schedule…

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…so if that game in Kansas City last autumn was the end of the line, today is obviously stop number one in a sense. One thing that the Orioles need to forget beginning today is the fact that they won the AL East in 2014. Perhaps not in the sense that they still need to defend their crown, however my point is that this is a different season and thus a different team. As the train pulls into the first stop on the line this afternoon, the Orioles need to approach things with the same fervor and hunger that they did last year.

One very early season storyline for the Birds will be the absence of Matt Wieters and J.J. Hardy. According to the Orioles, both players will be coming off the DL on April 11th – which is this coming Saturday. It’s unknown how accurate that is set to be, however publicly that’s what the Orioles are saying. But fans should also remember that Caleb Joseph filled in valiantly for Wieters last year, and the Birds were without Hardy for several games over the course of week one as well due to some back problems. So the situation isn’t unprecedented.

We won’t know for sure until the lineups are published later on today, however I suspect that Evereth Cabrera will be filling in at shortstop. Cabrera had a bit of a rough spring in the field, however he was dynamite at the plate. But one thing that can’t happen too often as we go through this first month is to reference spring stats – they mean nothing any longer – that is if they ever meant anything at all.

Incidentally, the O’s will be facing a Tampa team who will be missing several key components due to injury. Perhaps more importantly, these aren’t your Daddy’s Tampa Rays – Joe Maddon is now in Chicago managing the Cubs, and he’s been replaced by Kevin Cash. But Tropicana Field is still a place that hasn’t always been kind to the Orioles, and the fact is that you still have to go out and win the games be them against good or not-so-good teams.

After today the O’s will still have 161 games left to play. But getting off to a good start is always welcome in a major league season. And as an added bonus, the Birds have an opportunity to win some division games very early in the season. But needless to say it’s probably best to prepare for the long haul, because as I’ve said this is only the first stop along the line. So with that said…ladies and gentlemen, let’s roll.

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