This is more of what we expected. These are the Orioles that everyone thought we would see when the season began Monday.
No one expected a 4-0 start from the Orioles – who, along with the Detroit Tigers (3-0), are the only remaining undefeated teams in the American League.
But everyone, even those experts who predicted the Orioles last in the AL East this year, thought this club would bash its share of home runs.
Through their first three games, the Orioles homered just three times, one each from Manny Machado, Chris Davis and Joey Rickard.
In Friday’s 6-1 win against Tampa Bay, the Orioles hit four homers, including three in one inning. And all of the longballs came against the Rays’ Chris Archer, one of baseball’s best hurlers.
“There’s no beating around the bush about this lineup. We have, I think, (seven) of the nine guys who can hit 20 homers – and have done it in the past,” said Machado, who homered for the second consecutive game. “We are going to hit the ball. Hopefully when the weather starts getting a little warmer, the ball starts flying a little more.”
It carried plenty Friday on a blistery evening. Davis hit his second homer of the season in the second inning. In the fifth, the Orioles homered three times in four at-bats: Jonathan Schoop and then back-to-back shots from Nolan Reimold and Machado.
After the game, Orioles manager Buck Showalter downplayed the fireworks display, talking about small ball and Davis going to first to third on a single.
That’s great and all, but Friday’s game was won by creating souvenirs for the fans (and reliever Darren O’Day, who caught Schoop’s homer on the fly in the bullpen).
No one knows how the Orioles’ starting pitching is going to hold up (so far, so good). Or if injuries will rock this club (Adam Jones and J.J. Hardy sat out Friday, but both are day-to-day).
What we do know is this team has got some serious power.
It took four games, but, yeah, we saw plenty Friday night.
Worley over Wilson for Sunday
The Orioles announced their starter for Sunday – assuming the rotation order isn’t pushed back due to inclement weather Saturday – will be Vance Worley and not Tyler Wilson.
To me, it’s a bit surprising, mainly because I figured the club was happy with what Wilson did as a starter in a brief look last year. And though Worley is more experienced, this is also his first year in the organization. So I thought the starter-you-know would win out.
Worley, however, has not pitched since last Friday’s exhibition game in Philadelphia, in which his outing was cut short due to rain.
“We wanted to get everyone out there and pitch and everybody has, expect Vance,” Showalter said. “Just thought it would be a good spot for him.”
This is just speculation, but going with Worley over Wilson also may have something to do with bolstering Triple-A Norfolk’s rotation while securing regular work for one of the organization’s more promising starting candidates in Wilson.
Wilson has minor league options remaining and could be sent down to start every fifth day in Norfolk instead of remaining in the big league bullpen. Worley is out of options and would have to pass through waivers to get him to Triple-A – and the club doesn’t want to lose him.
So Wilson could be a candidate to be sent down Sunday when lefty reliever Brian Matusz (intercostal strain) returns from injury. Relievers T.J. McFarland and Mychal Givens also have options remaining and are currently in the bullpen.
Pearce returns to Baltimore
I had a chance to talk with Tampa Bay Rays first baseman/outfielder Steve Pearce on Friday, his first trip back to Camden Yards as a visitor.
It was typical Pearce. There’s no bitterness about not re-signing with the Orioles this winter. He appreciates the Orioles gave him a chance to play and wishes he could have performed better in 2015. But trying to live up to the bar he set in 2014 — while trying to find a hitting rhythm and playing through minor injuries — was a difficult task.
So now he is playing for the team closest to his boyhood home in Lakeland, Fla. That was one of the reasons he signed a contract with the Rays. He also said he’s always loved the way the Rays play matchups and use their entire bench nearly every game. That’s key for a guy like Pearce, who possesses defensive versatility and pop in his bat. So even when he isn’t starting, he has a real chance of getting into the game.
Heading into Friday, Pearce had played in three of the Rays four contests with two hits in seven at-bats. He didn’t play Friday.