The legend of Joey Rickard continues.
Three games in, the 23-year-old Rule 5 pick is getting curtain calls.
Yes, this is happening.
“It’s been surreal. It’s hard to explain,” said Rickard, who has played in 29 games above Double-A Ball before starting the first three games of this season for the Orioles. “It’s been everything I imagined and more. I’m having a lot of fun right now, and I hope to keep it going.”
Rickard bulldozed his way onto the roster with a tremendous spring training. On Thursday, he got his first shot at leading off and playing center field for the Orioles. He had just one hit – bringing his average all the way down to .455 (5-for-11) – but it was a biggie.
With the Orioles up one run in the bottom of the eighth, Rickard smashed a Trevor May pitch to left-center field for his first big league home run. He had just 13 longballs in four minor-league seasons.
“It was amazing. It happened so fast,” he said. “I’m just glad I got that out of the way with friends and family present, certainly something special.”
What was more special was what happened after that. Rickard already has become an immediate darling in Baltimore. And the fans that were left on a freezing, rainy night at Camden Yards began chanting “Joe-eey, Joe-eey,” after Rickard had returned to the dugout.
He wasn’t sure he wanted to answer the curtain call, not during his third big league game, but his teammates, like veteran shortstop J.J. Hardy, told him to acknowledge the fans. So he dashed to the top step of the dugout, raised his hand and quickly ducked back in.
“I kind of kept looking around at teammates to get the OK, and, ‘What should I do?’ And I finally look at J.J. and he just pointed up and he was like, I’ve got to do it,” Rickard said. “I listen to him, he’s been around, he knows what to do. So as soon as he did that I knew I had to go up there.”
An incredible moment in a crazy week for Rickard.
Bundy’s big inning
It was just one inning: a soft grounder, a blasted fly out at the wall, a ripped single and a caught stealing.
But it was much more than that.
Dylan Bundy, the organization’s top prospect basically since he was drafted with the fourth pick overall in 2011, was back on the Camden Yards mound for the first time since Sept. 25, 2012.
“Even though it’s been four years, it seems like just the other day I was doing it. But I was nervous,” said Bundy, who lost much of the last three seasons to injury, including elbow surgery. “I think everybody saw that. I didn’t really have my fastball command. But it was still fun to get back out there since it’s been so long.”
Bundy was consistently hitting 93 with his fastball and he mixed in a changeup about 10 miles slower. We didn’t see much else from him; he threw only 11 pitches.
But just the fact he was on the mound said plenty – 1,290 days had passed since the 23-year-old’s last big league outing.
“I did not know that number. I just know it was a long time,” he said. “That’s a lot of games.”
Rickard keeps stealing the show here, but Thursday’s most inspirational performance goes to Bundy.
Beating the Twins; getting a sweep
Showalter has said repeatedly that he thinks the Twins are going to be very competitive this year. So that’s one reason to feel good about the Orioles’ three-game sweep of Minnesota.
Here’s another: Last season, the Twins swept the Orioles in seven contests between the clubs.
And another: The last time the Orioles began the season with a sweep was in 2012 against the Twins. The Orioles went on to make the playoffs that season, their first postseason berth in 15 years.