SARASOTA, Fla. - Though the batting order in the first exhibition game shouldn’t be viewed as a precursor to the regular season lineups, Cedric Mullins carried the look of a legitimate leadoff hitter today against the Twins.
Mullins walked, stole second base and scored in the first inning, doubled and scored in the third, and singled and scored in the fifth, as the Orioles posted a 7-2 victory at Ed Smith Stadium.
Christopher Bostick replaced Mullins in center field, another movable piece maneuvered by manager Brandon Hyde.
Chance Sisco caught the first four innings and hit a three-run homer in the first on his initial swing of the exhibition season. He’s in a heated competition that includes Austin Wynns, Carlos Pérez, Andrew Susac, Martin Cervenka and eventually Jesús Sucre - assuming he gets out of Venezuela with a work visa.
“I don’t really know how important it is,” Sisco said of the home run, which came on a 1-1 fastball from Twins starter Chase De Jong. “I think it’s good to get in the box and see some pitches. Try to put the barrel on the ball is really all I was trying to do right there.
“Yeah, the result was pretty cool, but at the same time we’re not out there trying to hit home runs. I don’t think it’s really a home run and a hit contest right now.”
Sisco admitted to having some nerves prior to the game, saying, “You’ve always got the butterflies going out there for the first one, and even every game, you kind of have some butterflies.”
“To be able to get out there, get the first inning out of the way, get the first at-bat out of the way and come away with a hit, it’s obviously fun after that,” he said.
Sisco has fresh eyes on him after a miserable rookie season. Exactly what he needs in his attempts to again break camp with the team.
“It’s important,” he said. “Like I said, I don’t really think the results are as important for me right now as it is putting together good at-bats and trying to put the bat on the ball. If we’re lining out and hitting the ball hard, that’s really all we can do right now, so for me that’s what I’m trying to do. And that’s really what I try to do all year is just put the bat on the ball and hit line drive and whatever happens after that is kind of out of my control.
“I took some time off, reflected on last year, made little tweaks with a few things to try to put me in a better position. Definitely tried to flush everything that happened last year and use it to my advantage.”
Players adjusted to seeing Hyde and new coaches in the dugout instead of former manager Buck Showalter and bench coach John Russell in their usual spots along the railing.
“He was on the front step right there as you’re coming in the dugout,” Sisco said. “Super energetic, easygoing right now, but super energetic and we’re just trying to have fun with it and I think everyone’s doing a really good job right now.
“I wouldn’t necessarily say it felt different from a coaching standpoint. I don’t know. It’s just fun to get back out there again. It’s just fun to be able to be out there on the field playing with all the guys and trying to learn the coaching staff along with the new players that we have.”
Yusniel Diaz hit a two-run homer in the third inning and struck out with the bases loaded and one out in the fifth. Ryan Mountcastle grounded into a force and stayed in the game at first base, where he made a backhanded stop and throw to start a 3-6-1 double play in the seventh inning.
Rio Ruiz played third base in the latest wave of substitutions and his sacrifice fly in the bottom of the seventh expanded the lead to 7-2.
Mike Wright tossed two scoreless innings, retiring the side in order in the fourth after allowing three singles in the third. Left-hander Paul Fry stranded two runners in the fifth by snatching a line drive. Evan Phillips gave up two hits and walked a batter in a scoreless sixth, but Bo Schultz surrendered an unearned run in the seventh after Jackson’s error.
Left-hander Josh Rogers stranded a runner in a scoreless eighth after taking a comebacker off his right foot that produced an infield single.
Yefry Ramirez seemed happy overall with his outing today, though the high pitch count was a downer. I had him at 45 in two innings, the Orioles counted 44
“I need to continue to work on the little things,” he said via translator Ramón Alarcón. “Keep making adjustments, attack hitters, make better pitches and keep my count down.”
Improving the slider has been another goal set by Ramirez, who allowed one run and two hits today and walked two batters. But he’s also had a revelation.
“I realize if I’m able to be more consistent with my pitching mechanics, all of my pitches will get better,” he said, “so the main focus was my mechanics.”
There should be a more expanded comfort zone for Ramirez after pitching in the majors last summer.
“I feel very comfortable,” he said. “I think there are more opportunities for me to make the team this year than last year, so I’m trying to go out there and hopefully earn a spot in the rotation.”
The 20-second pitch clock wasn’t a factor for Ramirez today. He barely noticed it.
“I was not really paying attention to it,” he said. “In the minors we had a pitch clock like that, so I was already used to that rhythm, so I was not paying attention to that clock at all today.”