Showalter: 'This is about being the last team standing'
SARASOTA, Fla. – Nelson Cruz felt like he was back home in his first game with the Orioles. Cruz scored from first on Chris Davis’ double in the Orioles’ 9-7 win over the Toronto Blue Jays before 6,901 at Ed Smith Stadium on Saturday.
Cruz, who signed on Monday, played in Thursday’s intrasquad game, was 0-for-1 with two walks. In the third, he scored all the way from first.
Manager Buck Showalter asked Cruz, who played for him in Texas in 2006, how he felt.
“It doesn’t feel like butterflies or anything. I feel normal, I guess, as soon as I come out to the field. It’s something I haven’t done for a while. It comes natural,” Cruz said.
Showalter started all his available regulars. Manny Machado isn’t cleared to play yet, but all the other big names were on hand.
Davis hit an opposite field double, for the Orioles’ first two runs in the third.
Miguel Gonzalez allowed a run in the second on three hits.
Toronto scored five runs in the sixth off Edgmer Escalona. Dan Johnson, who was with the Orioles briefly last September, cracked a three-run home run.
The Blue Jays led 7-2 heading to the eighth, but the Orioles scored seven runs in the bottom of the inning.
Francisco Peguero began the inning with a single and scored on a base hit by Jonathan Schoop.
Xavier Paul singled for two runs, another scored on an infield out, and Peguero hit a three-run triple.
"He's a runner and he's a defender and he's a plus-thrower and he seems to be playing with a lot of energy," manager Buck Showalter said.
Peguero’s chances of making the Orioles lessened when Cruz arrived. Cruz felt better today as he arrived at the ballpark.
“As soon as I came into the stadium, I missed that. Good at-bats, I guess. With more at-bats, I’ll feel better,” Cruz said. “My legs feel good. I would like to see more pitches the next time.”
Davis, whose opposite field double scored Cruz and David Lough, is excited to be reunited with Cruz. The two played together with Texas.
“Like clockwork. I was glad to see him work an at-bat like that. I think that's kind of where we're all at after the first few days. Get in there, see some pitches. You just can't simulate this stuff. You've got to be out there, you've got to turn on the competition again, and I felt good,” Davis said.
Gonzalez is happy to have a place in the rotation secured, but he’s pitching as if he doesn’t.
“You’ve still got to go out there and perform. You can’t take it easy, no matter what. I think there’s guys out there that want our position, so we’ve got to keep doing our work,” Gonzalez said.
Steve Johnson pitched two perfect innings. Ryan Webb allowed three hits, but no runs in the fifth, and after Escalona’s horrible inning, Kelvin De La Cruz pitched a scoreless seventh. Josh Stinson allowed an unearned run in the eight, and Evan Meek closed the game with a 1-2-3 ninth.
The Orioles observed a moment of silence before the game in memory of public relations director Monica Barlow, who died of cancer at 36 on Friday.
Showalter, many of the players and coaches wore wristbands with Barlow’s initials. The manager was hoping for a more noticeable type of remembrance, but indicated that the team couldn’t get clearance from Major League Baseball for it.
“Everybody was thinking about her today,” Showalter said.
Davis knows that Barlow was one of the faceless people appreciated by the team, but unknown by the public.
“I think the biggest thing for me was she was a friend for me, and when you come from a place where everything has been routine for a lot of years, you find out who your true friends are. And Monica was always there for me. Always kept me in check, but at the same time just made me proud to be who I was and to do what I did,” Davis said.
NOTES: Henry Urrutia will miss at least two days with a sore right shoulder.
-Showalter said that Ubaldo Jimenez will start on Friday against Philadelphia.
-Quintin Berry, who had been sidelined with back spasms, was inserted as a pinch runner in the eighth inning and scored a run.
-The Orioles play Boston at Fort Myers on Sunday. Brian Matusz starts against Felix Doubront. Showalter said that he would bring minor league outfielder Mike Yastrzemski along. Yastrzemski’s grandfather, Carl, was a Red Sox great.