So, 2018 Orioles fans, you have a new leadoff hitter.
Let that soak in for a moment.
The 6-foot-4, 230-pound Big Fella who has twice led the league in homers is leading off. It will be the first time Davis has batted leadoff in his entire major league career, spanning 1,168 games.
He also becomes the third first baseman in the past 20 years to leadoff on Opening Day, joining Darin Erstad and John Jaso, according to baseball-reference.com.
When that fact was relayed to him, Davis threw his hands up in that air in celebration. He’s liking this decision – this experiment, anyway.
Orioles manager Buck Showalter is committing to Davis as his leadoff man for Thursday only. It could happen again, it could happen throughout the season – or it may not.
I’d bet on this not being a consistent thing.
Here’s what Showalter had to say about that today when his Opening Day lineup was unveiled.
“It’s maybe unconventional, but Nick Markakis (leading off) wasn’t conventional, Manny wasn’t conventional. …We’ll see where it takes us. It’s kind of like the journey of the season, kind of take it as it goes,” Showalter said. “It’s definitely a today thing. We will see what tomorrow brings. I talked to Chris and Scott (Coolbaugh) a little bit. It’s something that everyone felt this was a good way to start. Chris is a very important part of our club, potentially, and I hope this kind of helps him. Sometimes you have to give a new toy, something that signifies a new start.
Orioles lineup; Gentry starts
Here is the Orioles’ Opening Day lineup against the Minnesota Twins: Davis 3, Machado 6, Schoop 4, Jones 8, Mancini 7, Beckham 5, Alvarez DH, Gentry 9, Joseph 2. Bundy 1.
Besides Davis’ spot, the biggest surprise is the inclusion of 34-year-old reserve outfielder and defensive specialist Craig Gentry in the starting lineup, hitting eighth and starting in right field.
The assumption is that left-handed-hitting Colby Rasmus would get the start, but Rasmus is 1-for-11 with six strikeouts against Minnesota starter Jake Odorizzi. Gentry is 2-for-4 in limited action versus Odorizzi.
Normally, a right-handed pitcher like Odorizzi would face a stable of left-handers – such as Rasmus – but Showalter said Odorizzi is one of the biggest “reverse-split” pitchers in the majors, meaning right-handers often fare better than lefties against him.
So, Gentry gets the call and Danny Valencia and Rasmus will comprise a pretty good bench for Showalter today.
Four players DFA’d, including Liranzo
To make room for several non-roster invitees on the 40-man roster, the Orioles had to make a series of moves before Thursday’s game.
They put Mark Trumbo (quad) and Gabriel Ynoa (shin) on the 10-day disabled list and designated pitchers Alec Asher, Stefan Crichton, Michael Kelly and Jesus Liranzo for assignment.
All four could end up in the minors with the Orioles if they pass through waivers. None had been designated previously. Crichton and Asher pitched for the Orioles last year, but were demoted in a numbers crunch this spring. Kelly was added to the 40-man roster in December, but was given little chance to make the Opening Day roster.
The biggest surprise – if you call it that – was the designation of Liranzo, a 23-year-old with a big arm and mid-90s fastball who has had trouble harnessing his control over the years. Last season, Liranzo had a 4.85 ERA in 31 games (12 starts), walking 43 and striking out 75 in 65 innings.
One good thing about the Liranzo decision: It means the Orioles feel like they have more polished pitchers in the system and aren’t sticking with a high-ceiling pitcher who has struggled in multiple opportunities. In that sense, it says something about the organization’s improved quality in the minors.
Showalter said the Orioles are hopeful all four will return to the organization.
“Our hope is that they clear and put them back in the system. … I’m hoping they clear and they continue the system because we all like them,” Showalter said. It’s more about the people we had to add and we knew somebody was going to have to come off at some point, but we felt like we took the best team we could, you know, short term and long term and with that comes a price.”