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Friday Bird Droppings: Where the Orioles are firing on all cylinders

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Yes, it was only a spring training game, but there was a lot to like in the Orioles’ 13-0 blowout win yesterday.

Baltimore Orioles Photo Day
Chris Davis is coming for you, Grapefruit League pitchers.
Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images

Good morning, Camden Chatters.

Show of hands: who here is super excited about Grapefruit League action? ...OK, I’m seeing no hands.

I get it. Exhibition baseball isn’t that thrilling. The box scores are filled with random names of minor leaguers and non-roster invitees who won’t wear an Orioles regular season uniform any time this year, if ever. The players you do recognize generally don’t play more than a few innings this early in the spring, and they’re not exactly giving their maximum effort when they’re on the field. Heck, most of the Orioles’ spring games won’t even be televised for the Baltimore viewing audience. The games are meaningless, the players are just getting their work in, and there aren’t many conclusions to draw about the team or anyone on it.

Still, sometimes you wish the Orioles could bottle their spring training performances and carry them over into the regular season. Yesterday’s practically perfect 13-0 drubbing of the Pirates in Sarasota was one such example. If you’re an O’s fan, there was a lot to like, however trivial it may be.

Looking for impressive showings from the Birds’ young prospects? You got it, starting with Ryan Mountcastle, who crushed three extra-base hits — including a homer — and Austin Hays, who doubled twice and made several dazzling defensive plays in center field.

Interested in tracking the roster-bubble candidates as they try to win a spot on the team? Veteran lefty Tommy Milone made a strong opening case for a starting job, tossing two shutout innings with three strikeouts; Rule 5 pick Michael Rucker threw two scoreless; and possible utility man Pat Valaika mashed a home run.

Perhaps most intriguingly, the Chris Davis Redemption Tour continued unabated, as the much-maligned but newly beefed-up slugger swatted his second home run of the spring and also singled. Davis has reached base in seven of his eight plate appearances in Grapefruit League play, and his coaches have raved about his improved confidence at the plate.

Will any of yesterday’s performances ultimately mean anything when the curtain opens on the 2020 regular season in a month? Probably not. But it’s better to see players doing well than the alternative.

Links

Hays dazzles in Milone debut (O’s win 13-0) - School of Roch
Roch Kubatko provides further details on Austin Hays’ defensive heroics yesterday. I feel confident in saying that 2020 Austin Hays will prove to be a much better solution in center field than 2019 Cedric Mullins was.

Ryan Mountcastle on playing left and his early spring offense - Steve Melewski
Melewski spent about three hours doing radio play-by-play of the Orioles game by himself and also found time to churn out this article. I feel so unproductive.

Howard County Native Bruce Zimmermann Eyes Opportunity To Make O’s Roster – CBS Baltimore
Bruce Zimmermann grew up an O’s fan, even though they were in the midst of their 14-year losing stretch during almost his entire childhood. It would be a nice story if he could help contribute to a perennial contender in Baltimore.

Here are the Orioles’ 2020 Top 30 Prospects - MLB.com
MLB.com is rolling out its top 30 prospects for each team, and Jonathan Mayo analyzes the Orioles’ system. Of note: the top grade he gives to any O’s minor leaguer for any individual skill is Zach Watson’s speed, which is listed as a 70 on the 20-80 scale. Wow, I’ve really got to see this guy run.

‘Are we supposed to give up?’: O’s prospect Steve Bechler’s family still grieves – The Athletic
I must sadly admit that I had completely forgotten about this tragic moment in Orioles history. But Steve Bechler’s death in 2003 continues to have lasting effects on his loved ones, as Dan Connolly writes.

Orioles birthdays

Is today your birthday? Happy birthday! The three Orioles born on this day are former first-round pick Dallas Williams (62), who appeared in just two games for the Birds; lefty Mike Milchin (52), who pitched briefly in 1996; and the late Dick Kokos (b. 1928, d. 1986), an outfielder on the inaugural 1954 club.