NEW YORK—Brandon Hyde was intrigued by the idea of the opener. He was even more enthused about it once the Orioles picked up their first win of the season, and his first as a big league manager by using it.
It took six pitchers, and Mike Wright’s first major league save to scratch out Saturday’s 5-3 win over the New York Yankees, and once it was over Hyde was shoved into a laundry cart and doused with syrup and beer by his happy players.
Ain’t the beer cold! 🍻 pic.twitter.com/yJsjvy2Jd7
— Baltimore Orioles (@Orioles) March 30, 2019
Nate Karns, who hadn’t pitched in a major league game, threw two scoreless innings to start things off. Jimmy Yacabonis allowed a run in three innings, and was given credit for the win.
Miguel Castro added two more shutout innings, and Mychal Givens threw a scoreless eighth. After Richard Bleier allowed three hits while recorded only one out, Wright finished it off.
“I had a bunch of different scenarios,” Hyde said. “Whether it was tight, we were down a bunch, we were up a bunch. All kinds of things. But we were navigating.”
Karns, who missed nearly two seasons because of injuries, was able to throw those first two innings, though he walked the bases loaded with one out.
“It was pretty big for me out there,” Karns said. “First thing was, ‘What did I get myself into?’ It’s not the way I kind of drew it up. It worked out, and I’m proud of what I was able to accomplish [after] those two years I was injured. It’s not done, yet, and I’ve got to keep going right now.”
Offensively, the Orioles were led by Jesus Sucre, who had three hits and three RBIs. Sucre was with Tampa Bay last year when the Rays used the opener, and the catcher had lots of adjustments to make.
“Those guys are going to drive me crazy a little bit,” Sucre said. “Seeing a different pitcher every inning in there is not easy, but it’s something I’ve got to get used to. And they did a really, really nice job today.”
Wright has started, pitched in long and middle relief, and was challenged by his first opportunity to close a game when he entered with two on and one out. He struck out Giancarlo Stanton, allowed an RBI single to Luke Voit and fanned Miguel Andujar.
“That wasn’t necessarily what I thought was going to happen today,” Wright said. “When they call down and you’ve got to go in the game, it’s get outs.”
Hyde hasn’t designated anyone as the team’s closer. Givens closed for the final two months of 2018, but he struggled during the spring. It wouldn’t be surprising to see him close—or for Hyde to call on Wright again—or maybe others.
“I want to show our guys confidence,” Hyde said. “This is such a hard game and there’s so much adversity — and it’s challenging — and to be able to show guys confidence and put guys in tough spots and let them persevere, that’s what it’s about and that’s how guys get better. So I’m going to continue to put guys in tough spots and see how they react.”
Not everyone is thrilled with the idea of the opener. Alex Cobb, who was scheduled to start Thursday’s Opening Day game but missed it because of a sore right groin, shared his misgivings.
“I’m conflicted on it,” Cobb said. “Honestly, I don’t like the idea of it. I think that we’re in a position to experiment with it, but I think it causes a lot of uncertainty with the rotation with guys not knowing when they’re going.
“Guys who have been starters their whole career being forced to pitch out of the bullpen, not have their normal routine, so there’s a lot more question marks surrounding it for me than really the positives. I still don’t understand the reasoning behind it other than turning the lineup around. Even answering this question I realize I’m not a fan of it, but we’ll see how it turns out.”
Hyde said that he wanted the opener to be used after an off-day when the entire bullpen had a day off. Cobb’s place in the rotation was taken by Andrew Cashner. Cobb is scheduled to start the April 4 home opener.
“I don’t think I had anything to do with the decision to go with it,” Cobb said.
“…You have to have a bullpen full of guys with options, and it’s not a fun roster to be on if you’re one of those guys, but I’m not going to criticize it too much. I think it’s something that front offices want to see how it’s going to turn out and what it looks like. But, honestly, I don’t even think it’s good for baseball. I don’t think anybody really wants to come and watch a guy throw two innings and another guy throw two innings. I just don’t think that’s very enjoyable to watch, especially with the pace of play that they want to do and all those sorts of things.”
Whether Cobb and others like it or not, it seems as if it’s going to be part of the Orioles’ strategy for now, and it could be used again as early as Wednesday in Toronto.
“Well, Wright’s not starting tomorrow or the next day, so…yeah, as of right now probably until we can kind of figure out a rotation situation. But..I think Karns will go. We’re going to start an opener one more time, probably before Cobb starts (Thursday).”
Davis sits: Chris Davis, who struck out in all three at-bats on Thursday, didn’t play against Yankees left-hander James Paxton. The Yankees are starting another left-hander, J.A. Happ, on Sunday.
“I see Chris being a part of our lineup,” Hyde said. “This is just a day I felt like would be a good day to take a breather. I’m trying to get him off to a good start. I want Chris to feel good. I want all of our guys to be involved and feel like they’re going to be a part…I don’t want our guys to sit too long, get them the best opportunities to have success. I think really good coaches do that. I don’t really know our club yet. We have so many guys with so little experience that we’re going to see what we have.”