Another big crowd came out to watch the Orioles play at Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota on Saturday afternoon and another big crowd watched a late rally come up just short in a loss. The O's fell behind early against a squad of Red Sox minor leaguers and rejects and never led in a 7-6 loss. The team is now 2-4 in the Grapefruit League.
Boston scored four runs in the first inning against O's starter Bud Norris. This was Norris' first time facing live hitters since the postseason last October. Things like that are why the results in spring training are not always important. Though Norris was scheduled to pitch two innings, he came out after only one, but threw a few more pitches in the bullpen to get all of his work in.
About the start, Norris later told O's reporters that the most important thing is he came away from it healthy. "I didn't really have a scouting report," said Norris. "I'm trying to work on the things that I needed to work on." That included his change-up. The comment about the scouting report may have been in reference to Blake Swihart, the well-regarded Sox prospect who only has a total of 71 at-bats above Double-A, who smoked a three-run home run off of Norris. In the regular season, he would be more prepared to face hitters like that, he said.
Does any of that make you feel any better? Opening Day doesn't feel that far off. It's less than a month away now. But these early spring training games are for shaking off the rust, so if Norris feels good about it, that has to be enough for us. Hopefully he looks better the next time around.
The O's got back a run in the bottom of the first, helped by a two-base error when a ball off the bat of Alejandro De Aza went through Sox third baseman Garin Cecchini's legs. De Aza scored on a bloop single by Chris Davis later in the inning. That run came off of the Red Sox starting pitcher, knuckleballer Steven Wright. Two knucklers in one week? What is this madness?
It's not only for Norris that we have to repeat the mantra that early results don't mean much. In the seventh inning, Dylan Bundy was pitching for the Orioles and he looked wild once again as he gave up a couple of runs. He couldn't complete two innings, getting lifted after only 1.2 with three hits and two walks allowed, plus a wild pitch. Bundy also picked up a couple of strikeouts, but command seems to be an issue for him early on in the spring.
We know Bundy is already ticketed for Double-A in all likelihood. If he was able to show that he has no business being there because he really belongs in the big leagues, that would be nice. It hasn't happened yet. But it's early! So we have to tell ourselves.
Another thing that stung for O's fans was the appearance of Eduardo Rodriguez in the game for Boston. Rodriguez pitched three innings, unusual for this early in spring training. Maybe the Sox were trying to show the O's what they'd be missing. Rodriguez did not allow a baserunner in three innings of work. He struck out three Orioles, and he pitched the 3rd-5th innings, so that was against the starters. The 2014 season was fun but there will be an ongoing cost for it for as long as Rodriguez has a career in Boston.
On the bright side for pitching, prospect Hunter Harvey worked a perfect inning in the eighth, recording one strikeout. He faced a few reserves of what was already a B-squad of Red Sox at best.
Not only were the Sox on the road, but they also have a home split squad game today. The team they sent to Sarasota showed it. Of course, the Orioles still managed to lose to that team, so what does that tell you? It's March 7 and it doesn't matter, is what it tells you.
It was the Orioles backups who got the runs back in the ninth. With one out, Nolan Reimold took a walk against Sox pitcher Dalier Hinojosa. He found himself on third base after a Christian Walker double. One batter later, they were still standing where they were for a lengthy at-bat by Dariel Alvarez in which the Orioles outfielder kept fouling off pitch after pitch. Hinojosa could not put him away.
Finally, Alvarez launched a titanic blast into the seats for a three-run home run to pull the Orioles to within a run. On the radio, Fred and Joe were quite impressed with this home run, noting that it landed ten or eleven rows deep into the stands. That is not a cheap shot.
Jimmy Paredes followed the home run with a walk. The tying run advanced to scoring position on a Henry Urrutia single. The O's, however, were down to their last out, and Rey Navarro flew out to end the game.
Next up for the O's is a road game against the Twins at 1:05 on Sunday afternoon. The game is scheduled to be on MLB Network as well as 105.7 FM in Baltimore.