“I think he’s had eight days off. Probably a little rusty. Then he settled in and pitched pretty well there. Gave up an unearned run,” Showalter said following the Orioles’ 8-1 loss to the White Sox.
“He’ll be better. Thought second, third and fourth, you can see what he’s capable of. His work day, get back in rhythm and schedule, and you’ll get to see him be better.”
Is it possible that Saunders had some jitters?
“That’s part of what makes guys tick at this level, that adrenaline,” Showalter said. “I put myself in his shoes with the eight days off because of the trade and the travel and what-have-you. I’ll certainly give him that respect of a guy who’s had success. He’ll contribute here.”
Saunders thought he was making good pitches.
“I kind of look back at Matt (Wieters) and said, ‘What’s going on here?’” Saunders said. “I had a little adrenaline going there, but I just told myself before the game, ‘Try to be yourself and don’t try to do too much in your first game.’
“I thought the only bad pitch was to (Alex) Rios, and he hit that double. Things just didn’t go my way in the first inning. Like I said, I made some good pitches. That’s all you can do.
“I just told myself, just keep making pitches and things are going to start going your way. I tried to keep the team in the ballgame as best I could. They turned some double plays for me, but I just fell short today.”
Saunders dismissed the notion that he was rusty.
“I wouldn’t say so,” he said. “I tried to keep myself as sharp as I could, throwing flat grounds and just looking at video and all that stuff. It just didn’t go my way there in the first, and that was pretty much the game as it ends up.”
Saunders didn’t bring his best stuff to the mound, but he was carrying a little extra emotion.
“You always want to set a good impression your first time,” he said. “It sucks that that first inning was the first inning, but you’ve got to turn the page quick and look forward to the next start.”
Saunders, who was 3-0 with a 4.58 ERA at Camden Yards before tonight, also must adjust to life back in the American League.
“It’s a little bit of an adjustment, but we’re professionals,” he said. “That’s our job. It comes with the job and if you can’t do it, then you don’t belong here. I don’t think that was the case at all. It was just a bad first inning. Didn’t go my way.”
The Orioles did little with White Sox starter Dylan Axelrod, who had a 5.63 ERA before tonight.
“It’s one of those things, there aren’t any secrets,” Showalter said. “You know what he’s going to do. He’s going to mix in just enough fastballs. He’s got two breaking balls. We were looking at two outings. He pitched real well against Boston and New York this year. Any time you can command two breaking balls and have that type of confidence in them, you’re going to have a chance, especially when you’ve got a little lead to work with where you can create some aggressiveness in hitters. You’ve really got to be patient with him, because you’re going to see a steady dose of different breaking balls. Everybody knew it coming in, but getting behind like that certainly didn’t help matters.”
Did Axelrod hold an advantage because the Orioles only saw tape of him?
“Not necessarily,” Showalter said. “It works both ways. You’ve got to tip your hat to him. He pitched real well. I thought he had command of both sides of the plate and spinning the ball. Two different breaking balls, and mixed in enough changeups against the left-handed hitters. He’s had a pretty good year down in Charlotte and he’s had some success up here in the big leagues. You’ve got to do nothing but give him credit.”
Down on the farm, Wilson Betemit went 0-for-4 at Double-A Bowie. He’ll start again on Thursday.