Cano's hot start, Santander's milestone game, Norfolk's latest offensive outburst

PITTSBURGH – After pitching four times in a span of six games, Orioles reliever Yennier Cano stayed in the visiting bullpen yesterday until Oneil Cruz's walk-off single in a 5-4, 11-inning loss to the Pirates.

Cano is in All-Star form again in the early stages of the 2024 season. He’s tossed 4 1/3 scoreless innings with five strikeouts in his usual high-leverage role.

“Very impressed,” said Tim Cossins, who works as the Orioles field coordinator and catching instructor but is in the bullpen for games. “It’s kind of a continuation of what we saw last year. And the way he prepares and the way he goes day to day, it’s not surprising. He’s just one of those guys that’s super routine-oriented and super locked in.”

The finest work might have come in Cano’s most difficult outing.

The Royals put runners on second and third base with no outs Monday in the eighth inning of a tie game. What followed was a groundout with the infield in, an intentional walk, a popup and a called third strike on Nick Loftin.

Cano shouted, straddled the mound and held his pose. And the Orioles won it on Jordan Westburg’s walk-off home run in the ninth.

“He’s very impressive,” said veteran closer Craig Kimbrel. “He pitches with a lot of confidence and that definitely shows in his pitches and how he pitches. He’s been able to get us through some big innings already this season and through some big moments, leaving guys on base and giving us opportunities to come back and win games and keep games where they are. He’s fun to watch.”

Kimbrel won’t play the comparison game.

“Every person is their own person. Everyone has unique styles, you know?,” Kimbrel said.

“He’s just himself to me. That’s what I’m watching right now. He’s just him.”

Cano was the main closer last year after Félix Bautista injured his elbow and needed Tommy John surgery. He could have expressed disappointment with Kimbrel’s signing but seemed to celebrate it in spring training.

“I was super happy because we needed a closer,” Cano said on March 5 via interpreter Brandon Quinones. “Obviously, we don’t have the best closer in the game with us right now in Bautista, but I think it was a great signing. When that happened, some people asked me, ‘But aren’t you a closer?’ And I was like, ‘No, I just take care of the seventh, eighth inning, or whatever they need out of me. But I’m not a closer.’

“I was really happy to see we went out and got him, because he’s going to be big for us.”

The reaction is typical for Cano.

“I think that’s just the kind of teammate he is,” Cossins said. “When you hand him the baseball, I think he’s going in to get outs and I don’t think he processes it beyond that. He’s just a super team guy. He’s always prepared, he’s amazing to be around, he’s super physical and he’s just a perfect teammate.”

* Anthony Santander played in his 599th career major league game yesterday, putting him on the threshold of a nice round number this afternoon in the series finale.

This has been a theme on the trip, with Austin Hays appearing in his 500th game Friday after entering as a pinch-hitter.

Santander’s nine RBIs tied him with Salvador Pérez for second in the American League yesterday behind Adolis García’s 10. He went 0-for-4 with a walk and run scored.

He also made another diving catch in right field. The defense has been impressive.

* Triple-A Norfolk gave Charlotte another beating last night, winning 13-1 and outhitting the Knights 16-3.

The Tides went 8-for-19 with runners in scoring position. The Orioles were 0-for-14.

After scoring 10 runs in the first inning Friday, Norfolk was denied last night when Heston Kjerstad doubled with two outs and was thrown out at the plate on Coby Mayo’s single. But the Tides scored five in the third, two in the fifth and sixth, one in the seventh and three in the eighth. Connor Norby came within a triple of the cycle and had four RBIs.

Norfolk has scored 69 runs in five wins over Charlotte. Kjerstad is batting .500 with a 1.659 OPS, Mayo is .405 and 1.152, Norby is .385 and 1.227, Jackson Holliday is .343 and 1.107, and Kyle Stowers is .333 and 1.253 OPS.

Has manager Brandon Hyde seen this kind of outburst from a group of prospects?

“I haven’t, no,” he replied.

“They’re all off to pretty good starts. I haven’t seen the opponent they’re facing, but yeah, to see that many guys get hot that early, especially with those kinds of numbers, I’ve never seen it like that.”

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