Opening Day weekend thoughts
*The Orioles improved to 3-0 after Sunday’s 3-1 win over the Twins, marking the second consecutive season they’ve opened 3-0. It’s the first time they’ve posted back-to-back 3-0 starts since 1996 & ’97. Manager Buck Showalter has been quick to point out that the team pitched well last April and we all know what happened there.
So, what does he take out of these three games and the stellar performances of Jake Arrieta, Tommy Hunter and Jason Hammel?
“I’d much rather be going that way than some other way,” Showalter said. “You’re hoping Jake graduates a little bit and you’re hoping Tommy Hunter does, too, because he’s only 26, 25, whatever it is. Jason Hammel’s 29 years old. He’s still trying to really establish himself, and he is compared to the rest of our guys. Seen a lot in the past where some adversity kind of sets in and people look for some help. That wasn’t the case with Jason at all. He didn’t look over in the dugout or bullpen one time.”
*Hammel has made significant strides mentally as well as in his mechanics, working this spring with pitching coach Rick Adair on his posture and an improved two-seam fastball, which had some serious sink on Sunday afternoon. Adair said Hammel reminded him of Doug Fister, although Hammel throws harder, and so he’s been working on some of the things he did with Fister in Seattle.
“There are some other things he’s done,” Adair said of Hammel’s adjustments this spring. “He’s gotten the ability to get on top of the ball a little bit easier now. Going to the two-seamer after everything else he’s done, it worked out, so he’s pretty excited about it.”
*Brian Roberts is still on the disabled list, but he’s been helping his teammates get a jump on the basepaths.
Working with a 1-0 lead, the Orioles added a pair of runs in the sixth courtesy of Wilson Betemit’s two-run double. The O’s put runners on first and second with one out, thanks to Adam Jones’ single and Nick Johnson’s hit by pitch, and the pair pulled off a double-steal with reliever Matt Maloney on the hill to set the table for Betemit.
“Brian Roberts, the contribution he’s made, he’s been working with some of our guys, two or three of them, [on] some of the methods that have made him so prolific in stealing bases, and third base,” Showalter said. “I swear if I didn’t know better, the way Robby does it, Adam’s like a copy of it. Robby had a big smile on his face after the game.”
The stolen base was the first for Johnson since July 18, 2009.
*J.J. Hardy’s first-inning homer got the Orioles on the board on Sunday and it was his first this season. Hardy joins Adam Jones, Nick Markakis (2) and Matt Wieters with early-season homers, which is a good sign for the middle-of-the-order. It will all come down to pitching, but to get the early runs the Orioles have been able to put up the first three games, does wonders for the guy on the mound.
*Next up: The Orioles will welcome the Yankees for a three-game set and a big early-season test for lefty Brian Matusz. You can read more about Matusz’s thoughts regarding last season and heading into Monday here.
It’s hard to say how well the Orioles pitched or hit against a Minnesota team that looks to be in for a long season. The O’s have now won seven straight games against the Twins, outscoring them 39-9 during the streak, which includes a four-game sweep in Minnesota last season. This weekend marked the Orioles first home sweep over Minnesota since August 6-8, 2002. But with American League East foe New York coming to town –fresh off being swept by the Tampa Bay Rays — there should be plenty of interesting storylines to watch develop.
*With saves in both of his first two opportunities, Jim Johnson has successfully converted 10 of his 10, dating back to last season.
*Sunday’s win also puts manager Buck Showalter 12 victories shy of 1,000 wins. He would be the 58th manager in Major League Baseball’s history to reach that mark.