Burnes will get the Grapefruit League season started for the Orioles - BaltimoreBaseball.com
Spring Training

Burnes will get the Grapefruit League season started for the Orioles

Photo Credit: Kim Klement USA TODAY Sports

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SARASOTA, Florida-What’s happening?- Corbin Burnes is manager Brandon Hyde’s pick to start Saturday’s Grapefruit League opener at Ed Smith Stadium against the Boston Red Sox.

Burnes, a former Cy Young Award winner who was obtained from Milwaukee on February 1st, probably will be the Orioles’ Opening Day starter, too.

“It’s exciting to get games going. To get in the first one gives me a chance to get an extra outing this camp to just to get to know these guys and better prepare for the season,” Burnes said.

Last year, when he was with the Brewers, Burnes threw on a back field instead of pitching in the Cactus League opener.

“It made more sense to get in a game and get game action in to get to know the catchers a little more,” he said. “The most important relationships are with the catching staff. Next is with the pitching group, whether it’s the starters, the relievers, the coaches, analytics group, just to get on the same page with all those guys as far as game planning goes.

“How I go out and game plan and pitch Game 1 affects who throws Game 2 and Game 3 as far as we attack hitters. You’ve just got to have that relationship with those guys so you can convey to them what you’re doing out there to help them better prepare for their start as well.”

Burnes said he’s working on his relationship with catcher Adley Rutschman.

“It’s been good. It’s an ongoing process of getting to know each other,” he said. “I’ve thrown a couple of bullpens to him now, so getting comfortable with each other now … Takes some time, takes getting to know each other. I think we’re in a good spot as far as setups. Now it’s just like getting in game action and being on the same page with game calling.”

Hyde said Burnes was chosen because the timing was right.

“Just because it’s lining up to the beginning of the year,” Hyde said. “We’re trying to put guys in places. He’s in turn, bottom line.”

In the past, Hyde used pitchers not projected to start as his starter for the first Grapefruit League game. Last year, it was Drew Rom. Others were Yefry Ramirez (2019), Chandler Shepherd (2020), Thomas Eshelman (2021) and Spenser Watkins (2022).

In another development, shortstop/third baseman Gunnar Henderson said his sore left oblique muscle is improving.

“I’ve been doing some more volume in swinging. I did some defense yesterday. I’m feeling good, so I’m making the right progression,” Henderson said.

Henderson said he will miss a few Grapefruit League games and estimates he’ll return in about 10 days.

“He’s doing some ground-ball stuff and taking some batting practice in the cage and is going to be just fine,” Hyde said.

What’s happened?—Yennier Cano, Cionel Pérez, Albert Suárez and Jacob Webb were among those throwing batting practice in the stadium. Austin Hays homered off Pérez. Others who hit included Heston Kjerstad, Jackson Holliday, Jorge Mateo, Cedric Mullins and Jordan Westburg.

Hyde is planning to play Kjerstad in left and right field during spring games.

“Play a lot and get a lot of at-bats,” Hyde said. “Heston just doesn’t have the major league experience in the corner outfield, so we’re going to give him all the experience we can out here.”

Hyde doesn’t see Kjerstad playing first base this spring.

What’s up with?—Silas Ardoin was the Orioles’ fourth-round pick in 2022 and played for High-A Aberdeen and Double-A Bowie last year. At Bowie, the catcher hit .286 with three home runs and 10 RBIs in 28 games.

“It’s been a great experience to be around these guys who’ve been there and done it and won at a higher level,” Ardoin said. “To be able to watch Adley and James [McCann] work, it’s always a pleasure.”

Ardoin’s father, Danny, played five games for the Orioles in 2006. Danny Ardoin had a five-year major league career with Colorado, Minnesota,  the Los Angeles Dodgers, Texas and the Orioles.

“Everything in my development, he’s taught me so much coming up as a young kid,” Ardoin said of his father. “He has unlimited knowledge in baseball, and you can learn every single day. Even though he played for a long time, he’s still looking to learn and teach me things. We kind of bounce ideas off each other. He’s been a big part of my development. I’m really appreciative of having him in my house, one call away.”

What’s what? It’s not often that a player is signed to a two-year, minor league contract. The Orioles signed right-handed pitcher Nathan Webb to one because Webb had Tommy John surgery in March 2023, and part or much of this year will be devoted to rehabilitation.

He hopes to pitch in games in early May but isn’t sure whether he’ll pitch in extended spring games in Sarasota or at affiliates in Maryland.

“I don’t have many more questions because everything has gone so smoothly,” Webb said. “I haven’t felt anything from Day 1. I kind of stay the course, do what I’m supposed to do and everything’s been working out.”

Webb is working on his own but has enjoyed his time with the Orioles this spring.

“Before I signed, I was talking to people that had been here in the past and they said, I’d love it here, and so far, that’s the case,” Webb said. “I really like it here. It’s a great organization. I’m happy to be here, but I’ve got this weird program right now where some things I can’t really participate in.”

What’s the word? “It’s a close-knit group. Obviously a pretty young group as well. They want to come in and win a World Series.”-Burnes on his impressions of the Orioles.

What’s the number? 2. Burnes started the last two Opening Day games for Milwaukee.

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