ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - I had a little time to kill before the Orioles took the field for batting practice, so I asked J.J. Hardy about last night’s rundown that ended with him plowing into the Rays’ B.J. Upton.
Third base umpire Scott Barry called Upton out, which brought manager Joe Maddon from the dugout for a prolonged argument. Hardy assumed that he was guilty of obstruction, which would have stoked an eighth-inning rally.
Hardy spun around and almost spiked his glove after making contract with Upton, so you can imagine his relief at Barry’s ruling.
Barry explained to Hardy that Upton ran out of the basepath that the Rays’ center fielder created between second and third.
“We just worked on that about three days ago, too. We went over it for the 20th time,” manager Buck Showalter said.
“I was initially thinking about what my argument was going to be, that he was out of the line before any contact was made. Just because you make contact doesn’t make it obstruction. If he’s starting his way back to second base, it’s obstruction. If he still has momentum going toward third base, it’s not. So I’m not sure what the argument was. Joe had a very good argument and I would have felt the same way, but I felt like I would have one, too. But I agree with Joe, what it looked like. We may have caught a break there.”
One other note from last night’s game: Catcher Matt Wieters caught three third-strike foul tips, including one from Evan Longoria that produced the second out of the ninth inning.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen that before. That’s hard to do,” Showalter said.
Wieters’ reflexes are so good, he actually caught one ball below his shin guards. Showalter couldn’t believe what he saw from the dugout.
“I looked over at John (Russell) and said, ‘Really?’” Showalter said. “He had a great game behind the plate last night.”
Showalter hadn’t discussed tomorrow’s assignment with Zach Britton, who will make his major league debut. He decided to let the left-hander get comfortable in his surroundings.
“I’ll talk to him a little bit during BP, let him walk around, get acclimated,” Showalter said. “You can see from talking to him why we decided to let him get a peek, a day to get his feet on the ground a little bit.
“It’s still about pitching and getting your emotions in check, even guys like (David) Price and Jeremy (Guthrie). I think the most excited guy I saw last night was Willie Randolph. The guy has been in 11 World Series and it’s like he’s playing his first game in Little League. That’s beautiful.”
Britton will be nervous tomorrow. The key is how he handles it.
“You want somebody to have some emotion about it, but you’ve got to kind of slow your clock down a little bit when you get out there,” Showalter said. “I’m sure the most comfortable part of his day is when he gets a chance to do something he’s got a lot of confidence in.”
I thought the Orioles didn’t care about slowing down Britton’s clock (see what I did there?)
So why Britton instead of another pitcher assigned to Triple-A Norfolk, such as Chris Jakubauskas?
“Zach is on the roster,” Showalter said. “And where we are, I don’t think anybody else is really stretched out. Jak threw three or four innings the day before yesterday. And obviously with (Brad Bergesen’s) issues, we were down. By the time we go around again, we’ll have other options, but for right now that was really our only option.”
So why Jake Arrieta in Monday’s home opener?
“Looking at the way it shakes out over the course of a season, it doesn’t give any of them more starts,” Showalter said. “And I think he was a little more equipped to pitch in that game. It’s where his day fell in spring training. Obviously, we could have adjusted it a little bit, but it felt like he was equipped to handle it and he was pitching pretty well in the spring in his last couple outings so we knew we were going to line up with Jeremy (Guthrie) and Brian (Matusz) the first two days and we felt like he was our best option (for the home opener).
Matusz is scheduled to visit the team dermatologist in Philadelphia on Tuesday. He’ll also be examined in Baltimore by team orthopedist Dr. John Wilckens. We’ll know more about his finger and back next week.
Update: Alfredo Simon checked into the team hotel in Sarasota today and will report to the Twin Lakes complex tomorrow.