Holliday stands out after Skenes' matchup, Burnes works on cutter and slider (Orioles win 9-8)

SARASOTA, Fla. – Orioles leadoff hitter Jackson Holliday swung at the second pitch from Paul Skenes today and grounded to second baseman Nick Gonzales.

The first-overall pick in the 2022 draft retired by the first-overall pick in the 2023 draft, with the assist going to the seventh-overall selection in 2020.

And after catcher Henry Davis, the top selection in 2021, hit a three-run homer against Corbin Burnes in the top of the first.

This was not your typical spring training game.

Skenes’ fastball topped out at 102 mph in his exhibition debut and he hit 100 mph against Holliday, who lost the only matchup between them. Skenes wasn’t returning for the second inning.

Perhaps they’ll meet again next month in Spring Breakout in Bradenton. Today was the appetizer. Or maybe a sorbet to cleanse the palate in the first week.

“I’m sure MLB loves it, too, to pair all these guys against each other and let them go at it, and they even made a game for it now,” Burnes said.

“I’m sure they love it, but as far as us out there, we’re out here playing baseball. Got those guys trying to earn jobs on a big league club. As much as the media and MLB likes to blow it up, these guys are out here trying to put their work in and keep their heads down and try to make the club.”

Holliday said it was "really cool" to be part of the one/one brigade.

"It was really fun," he said. "I think everyone contributed a little bit, which is kind of cool. Getting out there with four No. 1 picks is pretty special, and it's pretty crazy that we're right here in Sarasota, so it's been fun."

And facing Skenes?

"I was excited," he said. "I get to face him today and probably in that futures game thing or whatever that is. It's pretty cool to be able to compete against him. Seems like a pretty awesome dude and it was pretty fun.

"Throwing 102. It's pretty fast. I felt comfortable, but a matter of time before the at-bats get to the point that I like. ... I'm thinking maybe mid-season form I like my chances in that at-bat, but it's still early. But he looked pretty good."

Skenes was done after 10 pitches, and after Adley Rutschman, the first-overall pick in 2019, flied to deep right field and Heston Kjerstad, the No. 2 pick in 2020, flied to left. Burnes was supposed to complete two innings but came out after 1 2/3 and 38 pitches, 25 for strikes.

Burnes’ final batter was Gonzales, who singled to center field. Morgan McSweeney struck out Oneil Cruz to strand Gonzales, and Burnes was charged with three runs and three hits, with one walk and three strikeouts in his second exhibition outing.

The pitch count grew from 22 in Saturday’s debut against the Red Sox, when he tossed a scoreless inning.

“Today, kind of the nature of it was going in, work on the cutter, especially cutters both sides, so that means throwing a bunch of cutters to right-handers,” Burnes said. “You call behind 2-0 and make a decent pitch to a guy who likes the ball down there, he’s going to hit it pretty hard.

“We’re really close. Off-speed stuff was really good today, so the second inning was basically like, I told Adley, ‘Hey, the off-speeds in a good spot, let’s hammer the cutter, hammer the slider a little bit more, get a feel for that.’ It’s getting there. The cutter away to lefties was really good today, so that was good to see. Made some improvements there from the last outing. The last piece of this thing is just keep hammering those cutters to the glove side.

“Got, what, four more outings till Opening Day? We’ve got plenty of time to work on that.”

It’s also spring training for the umpires, and Matt Brown, who was behind the plate, squeezed Burnes hard to deny a third strike on Rowdy Tellez. Davis followed with the home run.

Holliday waited to shine, going 2-for-4 with a single into left field in the fifth inning and a game-tying triple into the right field corner in the sixth that made him 3-for-11 this spring. Pinch-runner Enrique Bradfield Jr. scored on the three-bagger.

"I'm getting more comfortable," Holliday said. "Not to the level that I would like to be swinging it, but last few games, starting to tick up a little bit, so I'm happy about that. I feel comfortable. It's just a matter of getting at-bats and a matter of time before I start putting together good at-bats and getting a few more hits.

"I'm excited the way it's trending."

“Looked like he stayed on the ball better today," manager Brandon Hyde said after his club rallied for four runs in the bottom of the ninth in a 9-8 win. "Took some good swings. Hit one ball hard the other way, one ball to pull side. Just getting more comfortable.”

Holliday made another start at second base and keeps learning the adjustments.

"It's a little different," he said. "Shortstop obviously everything's going to your left. Second base, a lot's going to your right, especially with double plays. I feel more comfortable, I'm feeling good with positioning. It's a little bit different, for sure. You go out the majority of the time for cuts, but just making sure that before every pitch that I'm prepared to do what I have to do, and it's been fun so far. I'm just waiting to get some more ground balls. I feel like I'm just standing out there."

Holliday took ground balls earlier with new second baseman Kolten Wong, a veteran voice of experience.

"Just talking with him has been awesome," Holliday said. "We talked a little bit about footwork at second base on double play feeds, just stuff that he had been taught by José Oquendo, who I grew up a little bit around and my dad (Matt) was around quite a bit. Just talking to him about certain stuff because obviously he's a really talented defender and it's been cool so far, Day One. Keep learning from him."

* Kyle Stowers broke camp with the Orioles last spring. He’s trying to bust up every mock Opening Day roster that doesn’t include him.

Stowers hit his second left-on-left home run today, this time against Bailey Falter, and it was an absolute missile - launched to right-center field at a sound that hurt eardrums.

In his next at-bat, Stowers singled into center field against left-hander Ryan Borucki. It’s becoming a trend going back to live batting practice.

Stowers held at 2-for-2 after his free pass in the sixth. The media again wanted to grill him about his success versus southpaws.

"I'm surprised you don't wanna talk about the walk against the righty," he quipped. "I honestly haven't been seeing as many righties so far for whatever reason. As you guys know, I've been having a little more success against the lefties thus far, and so I was really happy to have that at-bat against the righty. Like I said, I feel confident against both lefties and righties, but it was nice to have a successful, positive result against the righty."

Stowers has done a nice job staying on the ball against left-handers and erasing the advantage.

"Left-on-left, I think most guys would tell you you're kind of forced to stay on it a little bit longer and it kind of cleans up a lot of lefties mechanically because of what you have to do to have success. ... Just not giving up on that front side."

The outfield competition got a whole lot more interesting with Stowers' return to it after going 2-for-30 with the Orioles last year and injuring his right shoulder and fracturing his nose on a hit-by-pitch at Triple-A. He said his spring so far is "OK, I think it could be better."

"I love what I'm doing in my work, I love what I'm doing off the field," he said. "I feel like I'm working really hard. Obviously, we all want the results to be better, but I'm really happy with the process I've been putting in and just have to stick to it."

Asked if he thinks he has a good shot to make the club, Stowers replied, "Yeah, absolutely. I feel like I have a chance to be in the mix. There's a lot of talented players, and there's a lot of talented players all over the big leagues, and I think no matter where you are you're going to be competing. I've just got to focus on my end of the deal and do what I can to have success."

Jorge Mateo followed Stowers’ homer with a shot to left, pausing to admire his work before beginning his trot. Falter received an injury visit, stayed in the game and surrendered Tyler Nevin’s double into right-center.

Mateo wasn’t done with his power display, hitting a two-run homer off Colin Selby in the sixth to cut the Pirates’ lead to 5-4. Nevin singled for his third hit of the day, making him 7-for-12 in the Grapefruit League.

* Craig Kimbrel made his Orioles debut in the third inning and served up a one-out home run to Ke’Bryan Hayes and two-out single to Davis. He struck out one batter and induced two bouncers to Mateo.

Kimbrel threw 13 pitches, nine for strikes.

Danny Coulombe allowed a run in the fourth. Cionel Pérez retired the side in order in the fifth with a strikeout. Keegan Akin tossed a scoreless sixth with a walk and two strikeouts.

Jacob Webb allowed two runs in the seventh on three hits and a walk, giving Pittsburgh a 7-5 lead.

* Samuel Basallo, the No. 2 prospect in the organization, took batting practice on the stadium field this morning. Basallo also is catching but is prohibited from throwing while recovering from a stress fracture in his right elbow.

* Ryan Mountcastle was scratched from the lineup due to illness, but Hyde said the first baseman is "fine."

* Silas Ardoin had a two-run triple in the ninth, he scored the tying run on Errol Robinson's single, and Robinson stole second base and scored on Daniel Johnson's walk-off single.

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