ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Orioles manager Brandon Hyde used six pitchers yesterday just to get through a regulation 2-1 loss to the Rays on opening day. Knowing that he couldn’t count on starter John Means to get deep into the game in the left-hander’s first start after a truncated spring training. Comfortable to play match-ups and use shorter-inning relievers to cover what remained after the fourth.
Paul Fry was the last man standing among the group of Orioles, and he had the lightest workload.
One batter, four pitches, one soft line drive to leave the bases loaded.
A big deal because he kept the score close. A bigger deal considering the opponent.
The Rays battered Fry last summer, handing him three loses and forcing a demotion to Triple-A Norfolk on Aug. 29 that lasted through the rest of the season. The final straw being the four runs allowed in one-third of an inning – Joey Wendle’s grand slam after a single and two walks loaded the bases.
Maybe the pitches were tipped. Maybe it was just a really good team taking advantage of a struggling reliever whose confidence was eroding. Maybe it was a fluke. But there had to be an explanation for Tampa Bay’s 18 earned runs and 20 total against Fry in only 4 2/3 innings. And the 15 walks.
Fry wasn’t thinking about any of it yesterday. Apparently, neither was Hyde, who dumped him into a bases-loaded, two-out jam in the eighth.
Tempting fate? More like trusting Fry, who earned chances to close last year before the roof caved in on him. He even had three straight scoreless appearances against Tampa Bay in June and July.
Brett Phillips stepped to the plate yesterday and fell behind 0-2 on a couple of fastballs. He took a slider in the dirt and lined another one to shortstop Jorge Mateo in the shift.
“It was huge,” Fry said. “I think I doubled my last 10 games against them innings-wise.”
The man lost some games last year, but he kept his sense of humor.
“Yeah, it was big,” he said, “especially coming out there with the bases loaded, just attacking with strike one, strike two. I left a slider a little bit middle there, but got lucky with positioning, So, take it as a positive.”
The memories of last summer’s failures against this team don’t just fade away, but he can avoid taking them to the mound.
“Not at all,” he said. “Pitch by pitch, task at hand, one pitch at a time.”
Fry is available again this afternoon, when Jordan Lyles makes his Orioles debut.
Tyler Wells starts Sunday’s series finale, followed by an unknown pitcher to work in tandem.
Hyde won’t announce it. The Rays will figure it out by checking the visiting bullpen to see who’s warming. That’s how it usually works.
Keegan Akin could be the left-handed contrast if he isn’t used today. He didn’t get to start the last exhibition game in Lakeland after the sides agreed to cancel it, but he threw a light bullpen session in Sarasota Wednesday that actually kept him available to pitch here.
A few minor league notes:
Left-hander DL Hall was assigned to Double-A Bowie and put on the development list while he builds up his innings in Sarasota.
Left-hander Antonio Velez, acquired from the Marlins in the Tanner Scott/Cole Sulser trade, also was assigned to the Baysox.
I wondered yesterday what happened to Tommy Wilson, acquired from the Mariners after the Triple-A Rule 5 draft. He was placed on Bowie’s injured list.
He joins right-hander Brenan Hanifee, who had Tommy John surgery in May 2021.