The worst thing about spring training is also sometimes the best thing: It doesn't count. The statistical meaninglessness was a positive for the Orioles in their Grapefruit League opener against the Tigers. They lost 15-2. Nothing went well. Everything was terrible. And, thankfully, in a little over a month, everything that happened today will be erased and none of it will matter one bit for the regular season.
It's hard to say that a spring training debut is something that can be hyped, but after having generated some early praise for repeating his mechanics from last September, you might have liked to see that Ubaldo Jimenez would carry some of that over into actual game action.
Jimenez was scheduled to throw only the first two innings of the game and he could not even complete those. Before getting the hook with only one out recorded in the bottom of the second, he had walked two batters, hit two batters, and committed a throwing error on a bunt. Add in two hits allowed and the fact that his relief, non-roster invitee Chris Jones, allowed a home run to score the two inherited runners, and Jimenez surrendered six runs, five earned, on only those two hits.
It was only the first spring outing. Even last year's World Series titan, Madison Bumgarner, struggled today in his first outing of the spring, allowing four runs in 1.2 innings. Of course, he didn't walk or hit anyone, either.
Of that outing, Jimenez told reporters, "I know I walked two guys, but all of the pitches were really close. ... I wanted to command the fastball, and I feel good." To the extent that one problem he had was confidence last season, it's nice to hear him still sound upbeat after an outing that looks bad on paper. He also told reporters, "I don't have to change anything." Well, let's hope that he is right.
Jimenez was hardly the only Orioles pitcher to struggle today. Newly-minted 40-man pitchers Oliver Drake and Eddie Gamboa also checked into the game and gave up four earned runs apiece. Drake allowed his runs in only one inning of work, in which he walked three batters and also hit a batter. In doing this, he shamed the name of Jim Palmer by allowing a grand slam. That slam was hit by Yoenis Cespedes.
Gamboa, the knuckleballer, gave up his runs over two innings of work. He walked a batter and also hit a batter and gave up a home run of his own, a three-run shot to Aaron Westlake.
One Orioles pitcher made a good first impression on Tuesday: Rule 5 pick Logan Verrett, who tossed the final two innings of the game and held the Tigers substitutes scoreless. Verrett did well to work out of a jam in the eighth when he gave up a single and a walk to put two men on with none out. After a groundout advanced both runners, he faced second and third with only one out. Verrett induced a shallow groundout, both runners holding, then struck out Tigers reserve Wynton Bernard to end the inning.
This game was not exactly a drubbing by the Tigers A-team of the Orioles A-team. That can also be heartening for O's fans. While the hitters in the O's starting lineup all have had at least some time in the big leagues, not many of them figure to be everyday starting players. Jimenez struggled, but Drake and Gamboa were longshots to force their way into a crowded bullpen picture to begin with.
Plus, there's still a month for everyone to get tuned up to where they need to be. You'd much rather see the team come out of the gate firing on all cylinders, so much so that it even carries down to the reserves and non-roster players. That was not what happened in Tuesday's defeat, but it's early to worry. If Jimenez gets bombed in his next few outings too, then it will be time to worry.
The Orioles got their two runs in the game thanks to a little ninth-inning garbage time rally from some of the late-inning replacements. Michael Almanzar led off the inning with a single. Unfortunately, he promptly got picked off. Undeterred, Drew Dosch, the seventh round pick from 2013 who was just along for this trip for the ride, reached on an infield single and scored on a double by Julio Borbon. Henry Urrutia added an RBI single to score Borbon before Dariel Alvarez popped out to end the game.
Tomorrow afternoon, the O's will take on these same Tigers. The teams will look much different since it will be the contingent of O's who play in home games and whoever Detroit sends on the road. Kevin Gausman is the starter for the O's in the 1:05 game, which will be broadcast in the Baltimore market on 105.7 FM. You'll have to wait until Thursday night to see them on TV.