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Norby homers, Rodriguez struggles with command as Norfolk wins opener, 6-4

The Tides had not won their opening game since 2007. Really.

Baltimore Orioles v Minnesota Twins
I wanted him to pitch well, but he didn’t.
Photo by Brace Hemmelgarn/Minnesota Twins/Getty Images

Norfolk Tides 6, Durham (Rays) 4

Friends, I’d like nothing more than to be able to tell you that Grayson Rodriguez went out on Triple-A Opening Night and was utterly dominant, exposing the Orioles choice to start him in the minor leagues as being every bit as cynical as segments of both the local and national commentating crowd took as assumed. I’d like to tell you about Rodriguez striking out like ten guys in a five-inning start where he still had pitches left to spare to get to 100.

That’s what I’d like to do. Reality is not so kind to any of us here today. Rodriguez did not snap out of whatever was plaguing him in spring training at all. He labored through four innings, allowing three runs (two earned) while giving up four hits and serving up four free passes. The best version of Rodriguez is not allowing eight baserunners in four innings. Last year, he did not walk more than three batters in any one game. I hope this thing can be figured out soon.

It wasn’t a “one bad inning” problem for Rodriguez, either. He walked a batter with two outs in the first inning, then gave up a two-run homer. In the second inning, Rodriguez ended up with the bases loaded after giving up a single and two walks. No runs scored in this inning, but he was back with problems in the third inning. An error by spring training star Ryan O’Hearn and two singles turned into an unearned run there.

The good news for Orioles prospect watchers, as well as the Tides season record, is that the hitting prospects we’re all looking to see were either getting on base or driving guys in. For now, that’s Colton Cowser, Connor Norby, and Jordan Westburg. Joey Ortiz is hanging back for a few more days in Florida, though he’s expected to be with the team for its home opener.

Norby, who hit 29 home runs in the minors last year, made a nice start towards having 2023 also be Norbin’ Time by blasting a three-run home run in the second inning. Pretty good! That was Norby’s only hit in five at-bats. He also made this nice grab:

Cowser and Westburg were a bit more successful at getting on base. Cowser had a hit and walk in five plate appearances. He also stole a base. Westburg turned in a pair of singles in five at-bats. Good start for those guys as well. Erstwhile Orioles Nick Vespi and Joey Krehbiel each threw a scoreless inning to lock down the win for the Tides. Vespi has not allowed an earned run at the Triple-A level since September 2021. This streak now spans 30 appearances at the level.

With the victory, Norfolk won its first Opening Day game since 2007. I was shocked to learn this was the case. That’s an impressive stretch of futility. Now it’s broken. May they get off to a nice winning streak to start off this season, especially if the prospects can power them to wins.

Box score.

Saturday’s Scheduled Game

Norfolk remains the only affiliate in action. They’ll be playing in Durham again at 1:05. Bruce Zimmermann is set to pitch for the Tides. Durham’s starter is TBD.