SARASOTA, Fla. - Manager Buck Showalter gave today a passing grade. A nice ceremony before the first pitch to celebrate a refurbished Ed Smith Stadium, and an inspired power display that triggered a 12-6 victory over the Rays.
Who could complain?
"I'm glad that the weather held out for us," Showalter said. "It was a lot of fun. You couldn't have scripted it much better. It was a good start for the ballpark and everything. The organization and the city of Sarasota put a lot of time and money into this, and to see it come to pass is a pretty special day for everybody.
"The players kind of fed off it, too. Sometimes, you kind of act like it's ho-hum, but they understand. They see all the people lined up out there with hard hats on. A lot of things went on to get to this day."
Asked about his lineup, Showalter said, "I'll be the first to say we'll have a day like this in spring training. It will be one of the few times until we get later into spring that we'll get everybody on the field together, but I thought it was important to everybody to kind of manipulate things a little bit to get where you could run those guy on the field today, with the exception of Derrek (Lee). They'll play together in spurts, and then it'll be more toward the end of spring. There's some potential there. We'll see where it takes us.
"I'm not going to downplay that part of it. I want our guys thinking good things about what could be, and there are a lot of bridges you've got to cross, a lot of them from a health factor. If we add Derrek and things keep progression from there, and even a guy like Duke (Justin Duchscherer) and some of our young pitchers...every day is another step for all of us, including the young pitchers. I'm as curious to find out as the fans are."
Showalter didn't want to jinx Nick Markakis when the outfielder's name came up, putting a finger to his lips as if to hush the reporter. But there was no avoiding the subject after Markakis homered twice and drove in four runs.
"It's the first spring I've been with him," Showalter said. "Nothing that Nicky does surprises me because he gives himself a chance to be good. He's got that Nick look and you know that it's time for work with him. He takes his job very serious.
"You also think about the byproduct of adding ... it's more than just adding statistics to a lineup, it's adding a presence that gives you a chance to feel like one guy isn't carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders - whether it's Nick or Robby (Brian Roberts) or Matty (Matt Wieters) or Luke (Scott) or whoever. Try to spread the baton a little bit."
Showalter also talked about Jeremy Guthrie, who retired all six batters he faced and struck out one.
"His tempo felt good," Showalter said. "Didn't hear any complaints about the mound or anything. He's good. It felt like it should. It felt like you hope it does early."