Burnes tosses scoreless inning in first start with Orioles (Cowser hits walk-off homer in 4-3 win)

SARASOTA, Fla. – The first pitch thrown by Corbin Burnes as an Oriole was a strike. The first batter he faced struck out looking.

So did the second batter.

Burnes was intent on making a quick impression in the club’s exhibition opener against the Red Sox. Announce his presence with authority and walk off the field.

The much-anticipated start lasted only one inning, with Burnes pulled after 22 pitches, 13 for strikes. He allowed one hit before Mike Baumann replaced him.

Ceddanne Rafaela and Wilyer Abreu took called third strikes, Bobby Dalbec lined a 1-2 pitch into center field for a single and Pablo Reyes grounded out. A large, sun-soaked crowd cheered him.

The goal was 20 pitches, which is why Burnes came out.

“Today was just getting the feet wet, getting out there, feel the adrenaline going again in a game situation, and then get to work with Adley (Rutschman) a little bit,” Burnes said, the media scrum near the home bullpen much larger than normal.

“Obviously, a little bit structured today as far as what we were doing, pitch-wise, but had a little bit of freedom there to mix and match with some stuff, but wanted to make sure we threw a bunch of sliders, which we did there, especially to Dalbec. All in all, a good outing. Get out there, touch the mound, get some swing-and-miss and some looking on some good pitches, so it was good.”

“It was cool to play around with some stuff in-game today,” Rutschman said. “We can work on all we want to work on in bullpens, but the game’s always going to be a little different. Different setting and definitely productive.”

Burnes said he didn’t feel any nerves with his new team.

“For me, it doesn’t matter if it’s today, Opening Day, playoffs. I go out and approach the day as I would any other start,” he said.

“The way I go about things and my routines, it doesn’t matter whether it’s Game One, Game 12 or Game 162.”

Rutschman has caught Burnes in the bullpen and they’re getting acclimated. The Orioles look forward to pairing them well beyond Game 162.

“It was good,” Burnes said. “Like I said, we were kind of structured with what I wanted to throw today to make sure I touched on certain things while I was out there, so not much as far as tunneling and playing pitches off each other. Did a little bit there to the lefty. But it was good just to get back there, see setups in a game situation. Got a few things to build off going forward.”

Rutschman described Burnes’ approach and professionalism as “top tier.”

“It’s been awesome to work with him so far,” he said. “To see him do his thing in the weight room, in bullpens, just hanging around with the guys, it’s amazing. He’s very knowledgeable about what he’s doing.”

The structure that Burnes talked about will continue through the next few starts, but again with the freedom to deviate.

“Especially with new catchers this year,” Burnes said, “just to kind of see how they would go about game-calling.”

Leadoff hitter Cedric Mullins flied to the right field fence against Garrett Whitlock in the bottom of the first and Rutschman cleared the center field fence for a 1-0 lead.

“It’s the best feeling,” Rutschman said. “It’s always tough to get the first one out of the way, so I’m glad it was the first AB.”

Ramón Urías tied the game 2-2 in the fourth with a sacrifice fly after Ryan O’Hearn’s single and Austin Hays’ double.

Baumann breezed through the second inning, retiring the side in order with a strikeout. Mark Contreras led off the third with a game-tying home run off Jonathan Heasley.

Nathan Hickey followed with a single and stole second base, Urías made a nice backhand stop and throw to retire Rafaela on a blistering ground ball, Heasley struck out Abreu, and Dalbec looped a run-scoring single into right field.

Ryan Watson replaced Heasley, and Rutschman threw out Dalbec trying to steal.

Garrett Stallings tossed three scoreless innings with two hits allowed. Nick Vespi retired the side in order in the seventh.

Jackson Holliday started at second base and went 0-for-2 with a strikeout and fly ball. He applied the tag on Rutschman’s caught stealing.

“I think everyone was excited to see Jackson out there today and get him out there, so it’s an exciting time for the organization,” Burnes said.

“He’s professional in the way he goes about his business,” Rutschman said. “He’s a hard worker, has looked great so far in spring training, and it’s cool to have that first interaction.”

Enrique Bradfield Jr., the Orioles’ first-round pick in last year’s draft, came over from the minor league side and pinch-ran for Cedric Mullins in the fifth.

* Tyler Wells, Bruce Zimmermann and Craig Kimbrel threw live batting practice this morning on the Camden Yards replica field.

Kyle Stowers keeps making hard contact in camp. He lined a double to right field off Wells and single to right off Zimmermann, another left-on-left success. But he also struck out against Kimbrel on a nasty knuckle-curve.

James McCann and Ryan Mountcastle also lined balls to the outfield in Wells’ first inning. Mountcastle bounced a single up the middle against Wells.

Sam Hilliard, trying to make the club as a backup outfielder, struck out against Wells and lined a Zimmermann pitch off the right field fence. A teammate on the bench joked that Hilliard was now allowed to get another at-bat.

* Kyle Bradish played catch again today as scheduled, moving back to 90 feet.

Interviewed on the MASN broadcast, executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias said early reads on the platelet-rich plasma treatment are “very positive,” the club isn’t over the hump, “but we’re moving in a positive direction.”

* Colton Cowser hit a two-run, walk-off homer to give the Orioles a 4-3 win.

Errol Robinson, who came over from Twin Lakes Park, had a bloop single to left field off Nate Tellier and moved to second base on a wild pitch. Cowser drove a cutter to left-center field, getting the ball into the wind.

A teammate pointed out that the exit velocity was 105 mph and Cowser shouldn’t downplay it.

“It felt great to get out in front of the fans again,” Cowser said. “Heck, even if I had gotten him over to third, I would have felt like it was a pretty quality at-bat.”

“A little bloop and a blast to end it,” said manager Brandon Hyde. “I thought Colton took a good swing on that ball, even though it kind of got up in the wind there, a little help.”

Cowser, who was hit by a pitch earlier, is on a nice roll. He hit a grand slam in the Triple-A championship game and a walk-off in the first exhibition game.

“If you want to count the four months in between,” he said, smiling.

Cowser is fighting for a roster spot after going 7-for-61 with the Orioles last summer. It’s important to get off to a good start.

“I think it’s important for everyone,” he said. “It’s not something I’m necessarily trying to press to do. Mainly just trying to trust my process at the plate and understand what I’m trying to do. Really just try to hone into a consistent approach to take into the year.”

A good camp could earn Cowser a job as a fourth or fifth outfielder, depending in roster construction.

“I’d like to think so, but those decisions are kind of out of my control,” he said. “I think as it pertains to myself, I’m just going to go about my business and control everything I can control each and every day. We have a really talented roster and I’m just looking forward to going out there and competing.”

Said Hyde: “He’s got a lot of tools. He can run, he can throw. He can play three spots in the outfield. I just wanted to see him a little more comfortable here at the major league level. I think he will the second time around. And he’s off to a good start this spring.”

Hyde also liked what he saw from Burnes in the abbreviated outing.

“He had really good stuff,” Hyde said. “I think he’s really happy with his secondary stuff. Pulled his fastball a little bit to the last couple hitters, but a really good cutter and sinker, and really good secondary stuff. He’s right on track.”

Stallings, a non-roster invite, was the most impressive pitcher.

“Just the strike-throwing ability. That’s something he’s done in the minor leagues,” Hyde said.

“We’re looking for rotation depth, and for him to go out there and give us three really good innings, filling up the strike zone, that’s what we’re looking for.”

Trey McGough, the Rule 5 pick in the Triple-A phase who attended Mount St. Mary’s, allowed the go-ahead run in the eighth on David Hamilton’s RBI single.

The announced attendance was 7,950, the largest crowd for a home opener at Ed Smith Stadium.

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