NEW YORK—Opening Day meant the major league debuts for the two Orioles Rule 5 players. Saturday might mean they’re both in the starting lineup.
Richie Martin, the more publicized of the picks, started at shortstop, played flawlessly, and was hitless in three at-bats.
Drew Jackson, who drew notice during spring training for his versatility, was a pinch-hitter and played left field in the eighth inning.
With left-handers pitching for the New York Yankees today and tomorrow, it’s possible Jackson will get his first start.
“It’s really exciting,” Jackson said on Thursday morning.
“It probably will be a lot more emotional as I get on the field and see the whole stadium packed, but I’ve been breathing a lot and focusing on my routine. Ultimately, this is an amazing day, and I’m superexcited for it.”
Jackson impressed manager Brandon Hyde with his ability to play the infield and corner outfield spots during camp, and he got the word he was coming north the day before the Orioles headed home.
“Sunday morning before the game, Hyde came over to my locker, shook my hand gave me a hug, said ‘Congrats,’” Jackson said. “It’s been four days now.”
Jackson had a number of friends and family fly in from California for the weekend.
“I was able to help them out with tickets,” Jackson said. “So blessed to have those people in my life.”
Jackson was selected by the Philadelphia Phillies from the Los Angeles Dodgers organization. At the conclusion of the draft, the Orioles sent international signing bonus money to the Phillies for Jackson, who quickly felt part of the team.
“Off the bat, everyone was very welcoming,” Jackson said. “I was able to meet some of these guys at FanFest. They made it easy to assimilate into the clubhouse and feel comfortable doing my thing. Over time, getting reps at more and more positions, I got more and more comfortable. At first, going out to the outfield felt a little bit foreign because I hadn’t been there so much, but after a few days of work and games, it became second nature.”
Jackson hadn’t been to Yankee Stadium before, but Martin had. Both expressed a fondness for New York.
“I’ve always loved the city,” Jackson said. “It’s high energy. It’s pretty surreal that this is going to be my Opening Day.”
Martin’s sister, who attended Opening Day, lives in New York, and Martin had been to games at Yankee Stadium.
“It was awesome, all the star power here,” he said. “I think Joe Torre was there, Mariano Rivera. That’s what you can get in New York, so that was pretty cool.”
Hyde wants Martin to know his primary job with the Orioles.
“I just want you to focus on your defense, and catch the ball in the middle of the field, and do what you did in spring training defensively,” Hyde said. “It’s a tough job, and he’s making a big jump. I just don’t want him to get discouraged offensively. However he starts offensively, I want him to focus on his defense and compete at the plate, but he did such a great job in spring training defensively.”
Martin has listened to Hyde’s advice.
“He says focus on your defense, but I can’t go up there and just give at-bats away,” Martin said. “I have to be productive out of the nine-hole. I know it’s the first day, but I’ve got to have better at-bats than that.”
Martin is likely to get an extended opportunity at short. The Orioles don’t have major league-ready prospects in the high minors.
“He’s a cool customer, and he has a lot of confidence,” Hyde said. “Richie walks around with this aura that he belongs. That’s a big part of the battle in this game at this level.
“I don’t think anybody can prepare for that, but when you have that much confidence in yourself, and if anybody’s ready for something like that, he is He’s got some strong mental makeup. He’s a tough kid What a great place to make your debut.”
If Jackson gets the start today, he knows what to expect
“Be ready, go out there and get reps at any position,” Jackson said. “I never know when my name is going to be called.”
For Martin and Jackson, the time has come for real evaluation.
“How do you stack up compared to big league players?” Hyde said. .
“There’s a lot of good players in the big leagues and a lot of really good teams. Now, you’ve put yourself in a position at this level, and how do you stack up as a big league player, how are you going to deal with the adversities that come with it, everything that comes with playing in the big leagues. Now, they’re going to find out.”
NOTES: The Orioles will celebrate the life of Frank Robinson on April 6 at 6:15 p.m., before the 7:05 game with the Yankees.
Jim Palmer, Boog Powell and Brooks Robinson are among those scheduled to attend “A Celebration of Frank,” which will include a video tribute. Robinson, a Hall of Famer who led the Orioles to their first world championship in 1966, died on February 7 at age 83.
The Orioles signed Mason Williams as a minor league free agent and assigned him to Triple-A Norfolk. Williams has a .289 average in 76 games over the last four seasons with the Yankees and Cincinnati.
Infielder Yeltsin Gudino was acquired from Toronto for cash considerations and assigned to High-A Frederick.
Follow Rich Dubroff on Twitter @RichDubroffMLB
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