Having won 12 of their previous 15 games, the Orioles still felt there was room for improvement, and they decided to swap out Terrin Vavra, a useful utility player, for infielder Joey Ortiz.
Vavra didn’t drive in a run in 26 at-bats, and in Ortiz’s first major league game, he drove in three runs in the Orioles’ 7-4 win over the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park on Thursday night.
The Orioles (17-8) are facing three straight left-handed starters with Detroit, and Ortiz should be getting playing time that Vavra wouldn’t.
Ortiz was robbed of a hit in his first at-bat when Detroit leftfielder Akil Baddoo made a diving catch on his liner in the third inning.
In the fifth, Ortiz hit an opposite-field single that bounced over the reach of first baseman Spencer Torkelson and drove in two runs, and he hit a sacrifice fly in the seventh that began a five-run rally that enabled the Orioles to take a 7-4 lead.
Ortiz joined Don Baylor as the only Orioles to drive in at least three runs in their Orioles’ debut.
He grounded out in the ninth inning and played a flawless second base, deftly turning a double play.
Vavra played second base, third base, left and right field for the Orioles, and Ortiz played second base in his debut, though he’s primarily a shortstop.
Ortiz is the fourth member of the 2019 draft class, general manager Mike Elias’ first, to make the majors. Catcher Adley Rutschman, infielder Gunnar Henderson, outfielder Kyle Stowers and Ortiz were four of the first five picks the Orioles made. Outfielder Zach Watson was selected in the third round but hasn’t played in the majors. Stowers, who began the season with the Orioles, is back with Triple-A Norfolk.
Santander hits No. 2: Last season, Anthony Santander led the Orioles with 33 home runs but didn’t get off to a strong start. He hit a home run on Opening Day at Tampa Bay but didn’t homer again until the Orioles’ 17th game. He hit just three home runs in 21 games in April.
Santander hit a two-run home run in the five-run seventh, just his second of the season. He’s batting only .207.
Santander starred for Team Venezuela in the World Baseball Classic, but he was still hitless in his first 15 Grapefruit League at-bats.
Disappointing start for Gibson: Kyle Gibson allowed three runs on eight hits in 4 1/3 innings, his shortest of the season.
In his previous five starts, Gibson’s shortest start had been 5 1/3 innings, and with the no-decision, he remains 4-0.
Shaky save for Bautista: Félix Bautista recorded his sixth save with a scoreless ninth inning, but it wasn’t easy. Bautista walked the bases loaded, but struck out Jonathan Schoop and Jake Rogers for the second and third outs.
Bautista’s ERA is 1.42, but he’s already pitched in half the Orioles’ game (13 of 26), a pace that’s unsustainable.
Only three of Bautista’s appearances have been clean ones.
Manager Brandon Hyde had left-hander Danny Coulombe and right-hander Yennier Cano warming up in case Bautista needed help, but on his 31st pitch, he struck out Rogers.
Davis’ contract eclipsed: Lamar Jackson’s reported $260 million contract agreement, of which $180 million is guaranteed, is not only the largest in NFL history, but it’s now the largest one in Baltimore sports history.
Chris Davis signed a seven-year, $161 million contract with the Orioles in January 2016. All of that money was guaranteed, as is the case with baseball contracts.
Oriole fans undoubtedly hope that Jackson’s contract won’t be the largest contract in Baltimore sports for long. If the Orioles are able to extend Rutschman or Henderson at some point, one of those contracts could challenge or exceed not only Davis’ but perhaps Jackson’s.
Minor league update: In his second rehab appearance, relief pitcher Dillon Tate allowed two unearned runs as Double-A Bowie lost to Richmond, 7-2. Tate, who allowed a run in his first rehab appearance at Aberdeen, pitched an inning and struck out two. Tate is on the 15-day injured list with a right elbow injury.
Shortstop Jackson Holliday hit a two-run home run, his first since joining High-A Aberdeen, and tripled as the IronBirds beat Wilmington, 7-2.
First baseman Isaac DeLeon also drove in two runs.
Catcher Creed Willems drove in three runs and hit a two-run home run, his fifth, as Single-A Delmarva beat Salem, 8-5.
Triple-A Norfolk’s game in Charlotte was rained out and will be made up as part of a doubleheader on Friday.
Follow Rich Dubroff on Twitter @RichDubroffMLB