ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Twenty-three of the 25 players on the Orioles’ roster for Tuesday’s opener with the Tampa Bay Rays played with the team last season. That’s not disconcerting to manager Buck Showalter. He’s more focused on the turnover from last Opening Day to this year’s.
“We’ve got a lot of people here that weren’t with us to start the season last year, a whole lot,” Showalter said.
While Alexi Casilla and T.J. McFarland are the only players on the Opening Day roster who didn’t play with the Orioles last year, four weren’t on the roster last April: Miguel Gonzalez, Manny Machado, Nate McLouth and Steve Pearce. Brian Roberts and Taylor Teagarden were on the disabled list.
“We went through a heck of a journey last year. We have a lot of people who know what the journey’s about and know what’s expected and who they are,” Showalter said.
Less than six months ago, the Orioles closed their regular season here, and after a wild card win over Texas and a draining five-game series loss to New York, here they are again.
“It seems like an eternity since we started spring training, but it doesn’t seem like an eternity since we finished in New York last year,” Showalter said.
This year, there’s certainly no consensus among baseball prognosticators. There are some who are predicting the Orioles to return to the postseason, and a number who think they will finish last.
“It’s not going to tear us down,” Adam Jones said.
“We’ve all played this game long enough to know that you can say what you want, but you’ve got to go out and play 162 in order to put yourself into a position. Last year we did it; it was last year. You’ve got to repeat what you did. Somebody told me early in spring: ‘the way a team wins is everybody just does their part.’ We’ve got a lot of guys that are very, very, very good.”
Three of the players in Showalter’s Opening Day lineup against David Price are ones that he had injury concerns with: right fielder Nick Markakis, left fielder Nolan Reimold and second baseman Brian Roberts.
Of those three, Roberts had the cleanest spring. Markakis was slowed with a small herniated disc and Reimold a sore left shoulder.
While four players are on the disabled list, one of them, right-handed pitcher Steve Johnson, wasn’t going to make the team. Another, Chris Tillman will be back for the fifth game, and a third, Tsuyoshi Wada is recovering from Tommy John surgery.
The only new injury was last Monday’s ligament tear to Wilson Betemit’s right knee. He’ll be replaced by Pearce.
“I feel pretty positive. If you had told me at the end of spring we’d be sitting where we are physically, I’d have signed up for it in blood,” Showalter said.
One surprise was that Manny Machado will move to the second spot in the order. J.J. Hardy was there most of last year.
“I like the presentation he gives us initially,” Showalter said. “I think, Manny sometime in his career, you could hit him a lot of different spots.”
Machado is looking forward to the challenge.
“Buck does everything for a reason. He's trusting me and he has faith. He's going to put the best nine guys out there, nine guys that are going to help this team win, so that definitely boosts my confidence going into opening day, knowing that your manager and your teammates have faith in you,” Machado said.
A few of the stalwarts from last year are gone. Mark Reynolds is in Cleveland and Robert Andino is in Seattle.
“You’ve got to prune the tree now and then,” Showalter said.
Pearce will be the DH. Showalter wanted to make sure he was in the lineup because the Orioles aren’t likely to face another left-hander for perhaps another week.
“I used to think you that you had to play a certain lineup on your Opening Day,” Showalter said.
“Just trying to put everybody in a place to the most success that they can have.”
Here are the Opening Day lineups:
Tampa Bay Rays