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In his first Orioles start, Yovani Gallardo showed what fans should expect all season

Though new Orioles pitcher Yovani Gallardo wasn't heralded as the game-changing rotation piece the club needed, he showed what he was capable of doing in his first start in 2016. As expected, he was good, not great, and for the O's, that's all he needs to be.

Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

The undefeated Orioles already have two more wins against the Twins than they did in all of 2015 (0-7 vs. Minnesota), and in a few ways, the O's have been equally predictable as they have unpredictable.

In the first two games of the opening series, the Orioles already have 11 walks, a pleasant surprise for a team known for its lack of restraint. As such, the Orioles are an early silver-medalist in team on-base percentage (.380). In Monday's home opener, Chris Tillman appeared to be reincarnated as The Crow, though we won't know until Friday if his first start was merely him dodging a fatal fireworks accident or if he will in fact succumb to the Lee family curse.

And as expected, Joey Rickard has signed on to play Superman in the next unwatchable Zack Snyder movie, an easy decision for Warner Brothers after a 4-for-7 start at the plate.

Yay for small sample sizes!

Where the Orioles have seen their fair share of early eye-openers, Yovani Gallardo's club debut went about as well as any realistic Baltimore person could have expected. It wasn't bad, nor good. Inflating, nor deflating. Gallardo was simply...solid.

Much was made to do with Gallardo's declining velocity and inability to go deep into games, and in his Baltimore coronation, Gallardo followed suit. Allowing only one run to go with two hits, three walks and four strikeouts, the 30 year-old Mexican righty exited the game with a two-run lead after five innings.

In a classic FIP-defying start, Gallardo sweated through the slight majority of the ballgame, and it's likely this is going to be the kind of pitcher we see throughout his Orioles tenure. For better or worse, I'm sure you want to know why.

Again, a statement of fact, Gallardo is no longer the pitcher he used to be. A pitcher that has seen his K% slowly evaporate from 23.7%, 18.6%, 17.9%, to 15.3% over the past four years, he's learned to be creatively cautious.

Yovani Gallardo First Orioles Start

Pitch Type Average Velo (Max) Count
Four-Seam Fastball 89.3 (90.0) 10
Two-Seam Fastball 89.1 (89.9) 13
Changeup 87.2 (89.0) 12
Slider 86.4 (89.0) 43
Curveball 78.2 (82.8) 11

Without much disparity in velocity, Gallardo forced himself to mix and match his entire array of pitches in order to fight through five long innings. I'd imagine PITCHf/x was unable to decipher a few sliders from other offerings, say, a cutter, but that doesn't take away his reliance on his favorite pitch. As unpredictable as he was with repertoire, Gallardo was just as savvy in his placement.

Granted, Gallardo lived dangerously on occasion by missing Wieters' glove up in the zone with his slider, but I'm inclined to believe he pitches around the hands of hitters for effect. By using the slider at a higher frequency, especially towards the top of the zone, the fastball becomes an illusion, more so with two strikes. Gallardo's slider breaks more vertically downwards than horizontally, and as a hitter down in the count, you expect to see a pitch breaking to your knees, not rising above your hands.

That split-second deciphering from a slider to a fastball can cause swings like this of Trevor Plouffe's, even at 88 MPH.

In what was a night of weak contact for the Twins, Gallardo's trade-off was throwing an average of 17.8 pitches per inning. As PITCHf/x shows, Gallardo didn't cave to the pressure of meaty fastballs on the inner-half of the plate. Instead, Gallardo avoided the middle of the plate early in counts, using the right side and lower-half of the plate to set up hitters higher in zone.

Gallardo obviously had a plan of attack, and though he wasn't as crisp as we'd hope to see, it worked nonetheless. By cutting, sinking and spinning the baseball, Gallardo isn't going to give many hitters the opportunity to square him up, no matter the situation. Unfortunately, that does come at the risk of prolonging at bats.

Gallardo fits in with the Orioles current rotation because his stuff doesn't afford him the risk of missing over the plate, but sometimes pitching is more finesse than sheer power. Gallardo wasn't trying to fool anyone when he explained how he's had to change his style, and as Wednesday night proved, it's a formula that can work.

There are going to be frustrations in how Gallardo goes about his business, but changing speeds and eye-levels is the foundation of pitching. Mid-90's fastballs aren't always necessary. Forced to shed his former-self, Gallardo isn't going to "wow" us. His scheduled starts may even come with a passing yawn. But like most of his new teammates, he's different.

And I'm a sucker for different.

*Stats and media courtesy of Brooks Baseball and MLB.com*