Opening Day Musings: Jones adds to his Orioles legacy (and thoughts on Brach, Gentry, Buck) - BaltimoreBaseball.com
Dan Connolly

Opening Day Musings: Jones adds to his Orioles legacy (and thoughts on Brach, Gentry, Buck)

Photo credit: Ty Lohr

You probably didn’t need to see Adam Jones wallop a 92-mph fastball from Minnesota’s Fernando Rodney into the left field seats in the 11th inning Thursday to understand what Jones means to this club, this organization.

But a walkoff homer on Opening Day and a double serving of shaving cream pie in the face, simply adds to his legacy.

“One of the first guys I spent some time with when I got here was Adam. So, obviously, I’ve got a little special affinity for the things he brings,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “I understand him and the rough edges we all have, but he’s very consistent. Especially with his baseball. You know what you’re getting every night. That’s a lot of games to not ever walk up the runway and not feel like he wasn’t ready to play.”

Jones played in his 1,469th game as an Oriole on Thursday, seventh most in club history. The homer was his 249th as an Oriole, fifth all-time.

It was his 11th straight Opening Day start for the club – tied for seventh (with Brady Anderson) and second for center fielders behind only Paul Blair (12).

“Each one is more and more special because it shows I’ve been able to maintain and stay in the big leagues,” Jones said. “I think this one is probably more important because my kids are able to talk a little bit better and they understand what’s going on better. And that’s who I play for.”

Let’s not forget that Jones is a free-agent after the season. So, this could be his last Opening Day as an Oriole. He wouldn’t bite on that angle after the game.

“Who knows? But, right now, I’m here and it’s awesome,” he said. “So happy about that.”

If you want to put Jones’ importance to these Orioles in perspective, consider this: Since Jones made his Orioles’ debut in 2008, the club has had eight different starting left fielders on Opening Day and five different right fielders, including five in the past five years (including Nick Markakis’ final one in Baltimore in 2014).

In that time, the Orioles have had six Opening Day starting third basemen, five shortstops, three second basemen, six first basemen, five catchers, eight designated hitters and seven Opening Day starting pitchers.

And one center fielder.

A center fielder who is hitting .341 (15-for-44) with two homers and eight RBIs on Opening Day.

Yeah, his portfolio here keeps increasing. And it wasn’t just the homer that continued it Thursday. After his heroics, Jonathan Schoop and Manny Machado rushed onto the field and hit Jones with two shaving cream pies as he was conducting a TV interview.

The young bucks Jones’d Jones.

And what was the veteran’s response?

“I knew they were coming with something,” he said, smiling. “I’m glad they continued our legacy on with that. I won’t complain about that.”

Brach more bad luck than bad

When it comes to acceptance, big league closer is a thankless job. All the pressure is on you, and if you don’t get the job done, well, it’s your fault.

Brad Brach entered Thursday with a 2-0 lead in the top of the ninth. He left with the score tied at 2-2 and his first blown save in his first save opportunity of the season.

Brach walked two and allowed two singles while recording two strikeouts. Not pretty, especially when you include that he threw 34 pitches.

But first baseman Chris Davis could have ended the afternoon early, but lost a high-hopper – presumably in the sun – that was ruled a hit. And the two-run single Brach yielded to Robbie Grossman blooped into left field just over the outstretched arms of Machado. Oh, and Brach lost an 11-pitch battle with Max Kepler on a close pitch that was ruled ball four.

“Borderline pitch could have gone either way, 3-2. Gives up a … flare today that broke the guy’s bat and he dumped it into center field after we get a ball in the sun we can’t see,” Showalter said. “That’s why you don’t play the game on paper and completely analytically, because things like that you can’t evaluate. So many things that happen in innings like that.”

Plenty of people question whether Brach can handle the closer duties while Zach Britton is out. And we’ll see what happens as the season progresses. But he deserves a bit of a pass on Thursday’s outing. Davis handles that ball and Brach gets his first save and his line is one inning, one walk, two strikeouts and no runs.

Gentry makes Showalter’s point in right

It was a strange and noteworthy Opening Day decision: Starting right-handed-hitting Craig Gentry in right field against right-hander Jake Odorizzi.

The reasoning was twofold: Gentry had modest success against Odorizzi (2-for-4) in his career while left-handed-hitting Colby Rasmus hasn’t (1-for-11 with six strikeouts). And, typically, Odorizzi fares better against lefties (.221 opposing batting average) than righties (.250).

The other part – and why right-handed-hitting Danny Valencia (3-for-10 versus Odorizzi) didn’t get the start – is that Gentry is considered an above-average outfielder. Showalter loves Gentry’s speed and the jumps he gets on flyballs.

That was in evidence twice Thursday.

In the first inning, Miguel Sano tried to beat a left-side shift and hit a fly ball toward the foul line in right, but it stayed up long enough for Gentry, who was shading to center, to catch it on a sprint.

Then, in the second, Gentry’s start really paid off.

Minnesota cleanup hitter Eddie Rosario hit a deep fly to center that continued to carry. Gentry kept tracking it closer and closer to center and then jumped at the wall to rob Rosario of a home run. We didn’t know it at the time, but it preserved Dylan Bundy’s shutout outing, and, ultimately, assisted in the Orioles’ one-run victory.

“That was one of the things that Gentry brings,” Showalter said. “He’s going to figure out a way to impact not only your game, but what the other manager can and won’t do, especially late in the game.”

Showalter is a perfect 8-0

OK, maybe it is just a weird stat, completely coincidental. But, hey, that’s my job to bring you those factoids.

Showalter is now 8-0 on Opening Days for the Orioles. Really.

Some on Twitter responded that it was a meaningless stat – and that as relayed to the manager.

Showalter’s response: “We know Twitter is always right, so why are we even discussing it?”

There was a concern that the streak may end this year. Showalter’s oldest daughter, Allie, who lives in Texas, attended the first seven, but couldn’t make Thursday’s. She was worried she had jinxed her dad.

“She called me after the game. It’s the first Opening Day she’s ever missed,” he said.

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19 Comments

19 Comments

  1. Mau

    March 29, 2018 at 8:52 pm

    Jones is a keeper.

    Davis needs to bat lower in the order.

    Bundymania.

    Caleb hits a triple and drives in 2 runs on opening day LOL. Baseball is unreal.

    O, and to be sure I think your writing style is fantastic but find “what” you missed in your musings.

  2. Osfan73

    March 29, 2018 at 9:00 pm

    >Always great to start the long season with a Win!! Bundy, Joseph, Jones, Gentry-Awesome today!!
    I don’t know about CD to leadoff, but I’m not feeling it. Too many potential strikeuots and no speed are the least of it. I’m all for ‘mixing it up’ as it were to stop a losing streak or slump, however I think I’d rather see anyone else on this team hit leadoff.
    Brad Brach needs a good case of amnesia about now and just keep working, there are still 161 of these left. Going to need him especially the first half of the season. GO Os!!!!

    • Dan Connolly

      March 30, 2018 at 12:51 am

      Exactly about Brach. I’ll think he’ll be fine. I’m sure he looks at that one as unfortunate not disastrous.

  3. Boog Robinson Robinson

    March 29, 2018 at 9:07 pm

    Maybe Crush doesn’t lose that “high hopper” ground ball in the sun (really Dan.. you say he lost it in the sun?) if he keeps his body in front of it instead of side straddling it as is his typical M.O. And am I the only one that misses JJ quick-slapping the tag on runners sliding into 2nd base with lighting speed on throws from the behind the plate? I’m also already missing Manny playing like Brooks Robinson at 3rd, instead of a matador named Beckham fumbling grounders. All this and nary an error in the box score. Nothing like some home cooked score keeping. But why nitpick when the team just got the 1st of 93 wins in the books? It’s fun to have the boys back.

    Go O’s!!

    • Dan Connolly

      March 30, 2018 at 12:53 am

      I wasn’t saying it Boog. That’s what your fearless manager suggested. I’m not sure what happened. But I would have called it an error.

  4. Bruce

    March 29, 2018 at 9:21 pm

    Use o Day for closer. Brach can not get the ball over the plate.

    • Dan Connolly

      March 30, 2018 at 12:54 am

      He did struggle some with his command. But I don’t think you pull him after Game 1. That’s a super knee jerk.

  5. jkneps63

    March 29, 2018 at 9:23 pm

    Better lucky than good…did AJ have his eyes open on that swing?

    • Dan Connolly

      March 30, 2018 at 12:55 am

      I think his eyes may have been saucers with the location of that pitch.

  6. Mr. Jones

    March 29, 2018 at 9:29 pm

    Most of the end of year FA talk has been about Manny returning or not, however in my opinion the Orioles need to secure one Adam Jones. You mention how much he means to the organization. It would be a travesty if he was not locked in as an Oriole for life.

    • Dan Connolly

      March 30, 2018 at 12:55 am

      There are few that can be said about. Imagine Jones is one of them

  7. TxBirdFan

    March 29, 2018 at 9:37 pm

    I’ve always liked Adam Jones. Rock solid Oriole Way. Nuff said.

    • AlaskanOsFan

      March 29, 2018 at 11:39 pm

      Luv the blue collar Bird AJ10..should ask him after his WBC ‘Merica Momental Catch what is his best/favorite Os highlight?

    • AlaskanOsFan

      March 29, 2018 at 11:42 pm

      And how bout his old RF mate with his own walkoff for Atlanta tonight! Markakis!

    • Dan Connolly

      March 30, 2018 at 12:56 am

      2110 Eutaw Street revisited?

  8. Tyler10Davis

    March 30, 2018 at 6:27 am

    Bundy looked fantastic yesterday. Super excited to see what this rotation can do. I don’t like that it took a walk-off to win it, but it is always fun to see one. I agree that Brach will be fine, opening day jitters in a new role. Just found your podcast a few days ago and that led me to here. Looking forward to great reads, and better discussions! Go O’s!

    • Dan Connolly

      March 30, 2018 at 9:36 am

      Welcome aboard. I think you’ll find we have a real educated and respectful community here. And this group is pretty funny too.

  9. Bancells Moustache

    March 30, 2018 at 10:13 am

    Stolen bases? Triples? Gloriously moustachioed relievers? What time machine did I stumble into at 3 pm yesterday?!

    Seriously, Darren O’Day should immediately have his number retired and ground should be broken for his centerfield statue for such majestic facial foliage.

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