SARASOTA, Fla. - After a nice stretch of home cooking, the Orioles hit the road again for another game played under the lights. The clubhouse opens to the media at 2 p.m. and I'll be Tampa-bound about an hour later for tonight's matchup with the Yankees.
Since Jeremy Guthrie is getting his innings at the minor league complex, the Orioles will dip into their bullpen for tonight's game. Jim Johnson, Rick VandenHurk, Mark Hendrickson, Michael Gonzalez, David Riske and Clay Rapada are making the trip. The Yankees will counter with Ivan Nova, Mariano Rivera, Joba Chamberlain, David Robertson, Pedro Feliciano and Luis Ayala.
Mark Reynolds figures to start at third base after sitting out yesterday's 14-8 loss to the Astros. He's batting .219 with two doubles, no homers and three RBIs in 32 at-bats. He's struck out 11 times, but he doesn't lead the club. Nick Green has 12.
"I started out pretty good," Reynolds said yesterday. "I was hitting balls hard and they weren't finding any holes. There were probably about seven ABs where I felt like I had no clue what I was doing up there, but I got back to kind of just getting into good hitters counts. I'm trying to get a pitch I can drive, and I think over the past two or three days I've had some pretty good ABs."
You can't always judge a season by Grapefruit League results.
"Last year I had an unbelievable spring. I had like eight homers, and then I had the worse season of my career," he said. "Obviously, I'd like to be hitting .350 with a bunch of homers, but I'm still getting comfortable with my whole approach now. I think it's starting to come around a little bit. I'll try to start attacking balls earlier in the count. I'm kind of past the whole point where I need to see pitches. I need to get a feel for the speed of the game again. Hopefully, over the next week or two I can string some ABs together where I'm driving the ball and staying with my approach, and not panicking because I don't have a homer yet. I'm not going to go up there and try to hit homers. I'm going to keep with what I'm doing, and I'll be fine."
One of Reynolds' doubles slammed off the fence in right-center field. It looked to me like he might be concentrating more on going to the opposite field.
"It's been more about getting a ball I'm looking for early in the count and hitting it hard," he said. "I think I have like four or five straight ABs where I hit it right at people or third basemen are making unbelievable plays or the outfielders are playing in perfect spots. When I'm up there in RBI situations, I'm trying to get the job done, and when I'm hitting with nobody on base, I'm trying to put a good AB together and work the pitcher a little bit.
"I think it's that point where I'm going to start doing some damage rather than seeing pitches and try to feel stuff out."
Let the damage begin - perhaps tonight in Tampa.
Also, as long as I'm cleaning out my notebook, here's a quote from reliever Kevin Gregg about being used earlier in games during spring training. I asked him if it's an adjustment pitching the early and middle innings, which allows him to face more major league hitters, as opposed to entering in the ninth in save situations. The adrenaline must pump a little faster during the regular season.
A different mindset?
"Yeah, exactly," he said. "The stock that I put into those outings right now in spring training aren't real high, I'm just trying to get my arm in shape, trying to get a good feel, trying to iron out some things in my mechanics, and this is just part of it. I've done this before when my mechanics weren't right, work on some things and get hit around a little bit because you're trying to get something done. Coaches know that I'm working on something, so I take the results with kind of a grain of salt."