What’s happening? – John Means, who’ll be the Orioles’ Opening Day starter, will pitch on Monday against the Pittsburgh Pirates at 1:05 p.m. at LECOM Park. Means has a 5.40 ERA in four spring starts. He’ll be opposed by Mitch Keller.
Means is scheduled to be followed by Fernando Abad and Konner Wade.
Manager Brandon Hyde said that DJ Stewart, who hasn’t played since March 6th because of a strained right hamstring, will find it tough to make the Opening Day roster.
“It’s becoming more and more challenging,” Hyde said. “He was out there doing some drills with us this morning. He’s just not 100 percent yet, and I’m not going to put him on the field in a game until he’s 100 percent, so we’ll see. As the days get closer, it becomes a little more challenging because I think he needs to play in some games before we break.”
The Orioles’ final exhibition game is a week from now, March 22.
Veteran right-hander Félix Hernandez, who left the game with Tampa Bay on March 16th because of discomfort in the right elbow, is improving.
“He’s still getting treatment on his elbow, and he’s playing catch,” Hyde said. “I think he feels a little bit better every day. We don’t have him slated to pitch in a game yet just because we need to get him on the mound again first before we see him in game action.”
What happened? Jorge López, who’s competing for a spot in the starting rotation, allowed three home runs in a seven-run third inning as the Orioles lost to the Minnesota Twins, 12-7, at Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota, Florida on Sunday.
JT Riddle hit a solo shot and Ken Garlick a two-run homer. Richie Martin, who was playing his first game of the spring, committed an error to extend the inning, and Williams Astudillo hit a three-run home run.
López pitched 3 2/3 innings, allowing seven runs, four unearned, on seven hits. He walked two and struck out three.
“I left everything up,” López said. “That’s when I get hurt.”
López realizes the margin for error is slim.
“You come here every day, and you see these guys working so hard every day,” López said. “That puts you on the spot … There are a lot of good arms.
“We have a good staff. It inspires me to just keep going. That energy that they have in the game, in the clubhouse, everywhere, we just keep it together. It makes me work harder every day.”
Hyde thought López pitched well in the first two innings.
“He was really aggressive on the fastball,” Hyde said. “Had a ton of life. He spun some good curveballs in there. The fastballs flattened out in the third inning. We didn’t help him out defensively.
“The wind was howling out like it’s been howling out lately. The balls really got pushed to the outfield and over the fence. His fastball got a little flat there in the third. I thought he pitched a better fourth. I was encouraged by his first two innings.”
Ryan Mountcastle homered and doubled. He’s batting .250 this spring with an .882 OPS.
“I’m feeling pretty good,” Mountcastle said. “I just had to get my timing down. Sometimes it takes me a little while during spring but starting to get the hang of things and starting to see the ball pretty good.”
Mountcastle is still learning left field, and he thinks playing in the windy conditions of Florida will help.
“I feel good. It’s definitely tough down here,” Mountcastle said. “It’s probably the toughest it’s going to be all year. I guess doing this is going to make me better, and I feel pretty comfortable right now.”
In his first game since signing on Tuesday, third baseman Maikel Franco had a two-run double. Catcher Pedro Severino homered.
Hyde noted that Franco didn’t have any balls hit to him and that he and swung the bat well. Franco won’t play on Monday.
What’s up with? Cole Sulser allowed a home run to Jorge Polanco in the seventh. He has a spring ERA of 3.60.
“I think he’s improving.” Hyde said. “He has thrown strikes and not walked people historically in his career. That was something he wanted to get back to, to be able to be on the attack when he goes into the game, and he’s doing that fairly well this year.”
What’s what? If Franco doesn’t play on Monday, he still has seven games to get his timing down. Assuming he plays most of them, he should be the starting third baseman on April 1st when the Orioles open the season in Boston.
What’s the word? “I think we’re all excited. There’s a lot of talent on this team, a lot of good hitters. If everybody can stay healthy, we can have a very dangerous lineup.”-Mountcastle on the Orioles’ possible batting order.
What’s the number? 6. The Twins hit six home runs, three against López, and one each against Sulser, Eric Hanhold and Evan Phillips.
What’s the record? 7-12-1. The Orioles play the Pittsburgh Pirates in Bradenton at 1:05 p.m. on Monday. The game is available on MLB.TV through the Pirates television feed. Pittsburgh’s radio feed is also available.