Rodriguez pitches 4 innings, allows 3 runs in Norfolk's opener; Thoughts on Orioles' Opening Day - BaltimoreBaseball.com
Rich Dubroff

Rodriguez pitches 4 innings, allows 3 runs in Norfolk’s opener; Thoughts on Orioles’ Opening Day

Photo Credit: Kim Klement USA TODAY Sports

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 In his first start after his surprising demotion to Triple-A Norfolk, Grayson Rodriguez threw four innings, allowing three runs, two earned, on four hits, walking four and striking out two as the Tides defeated Durham, 6-4, in their season opener on Friday night.

Rodriguez, who was expected to make his major league debut, instead was sent down by the Orioles after a rocky spring training when he had a 7.04 ERA and walked seven in 15 1/3 innings.

Durham’s Rene Pinto hit a two-run home run in the bottom of the first. After first baseman Ryan O’Hearn made an error to start the bottom of the third, Osleivis Basabe hit a run-scoring single for the third run charged to Rodriguez.

Rodriguez, who threw 75 pitches, walked two in the bottom of the second and threw a wild pitch.

Second baseman Connor Norby hit a three-run home run in the second for the Tides. Third baseman Josh Lester added a two-run homer in the fourth.

Kyle Dowdy allowed a run in two innings and recorded the win. Reed Garrett, Nick Vespi and Joey Krehbiel pitched scoreless innings, with Krehbiel registering the save.

Bruce Zimmermann and Spenser Watkins will pitch Saturday and Sunday for Norfolk.

Thoughts on Opening Day: Orioles bench coach Fredi González once said that he believed Opening Day should be a national holiday. After all 30 teams opened the season on Thursday, there were just five games on Friday, a day that’s deliberately left open in case of a rainout.

The only teams hosting games on Friday were Miami, Houston and Seattle, which have roofs, and Los Angeles and San Diego, where it rarely rains during baseball season.

After the Friday offday, the Orioles play the second game of the season against the Red Sox at Fenway Park. Dean Kremer will face Chris Sale. If manager Brandon Hyde keeps his pitchers in line, Kremer should start the Orioles’ home opener on April 6th, the seventh game of the season.

There’s also an offday scheduled on April 7th.

The Orioles improved their record in the season’s first game to 45-25. They’re 2-3 under Hyde. The Orioles have never opened at home under Hyde, though they were supposed to in 2020, when the pandemic delayed the start of the season until July 24th, and in 2023, when the lockout pushed the season’s start until April 8th.

It was the third time in four years that the Orioles opened in Boston. Despite interleague play, the Orioles have yet to open—or close—a season against a National League opponent, though last year’s rescheduled home opener was against Milwaukee.

In 2021, the Orioles won their first three games in Boston, outscoring the Red Sox 18-5. They won just 49 more games, had a 19-game losing streak, their second longest in history, and finished 52-110, their second worst in franchise history.

Last season, the Orioles opened by losing their first three games to the Tampa Bay Rays by a combined score of 15-4. They went on to win 83 games, their most since 2016, and had a 10-game winning streak, their longest since 1999.

The Orioles’ starting lineup featured six players—centerfielder Cedric Mullins, first baseman Ryan Mountcastle, rightfielder Austin Hays, leftfielder Anthony Santander, shortstop Jorge Mateo—and Ramón Urias—who were in the lineup the year before. Urías played second base in 2022 and third base on Thursday.

Gunnar Henderson was the designated hitter. Last season, Henderson was the starting DH three times in his 34 games.

A year ago, Trey Mancini was the designated hitter, and his departure ensured that an interesting Orioles’ trend would continue. Since 1996, the Orioles have used 24 different designated hitters and have used the same DH in consecutive years only once (Delmon Young in 2014 and 2015).

The Opening Day roster had just one rookie, Henderson, who finished 2022 with 116 at-bats. If he had exceeded 130 at-bats, he would no longer have rookie status.

Henderson isn’t likely to be the only rookie for long. DL Hall and Grayson Rodriguez should be recalled by the Orioles relatively quickly, and infielders Connor Norby, Joey Ortiz, Jordan Westburg and outfielder Colton Cowser could all make their Orioles debuts in the next several months.

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