Recapping Kremer, Vavra, Politi and more after Orioles' 2-1 loss (plus roster moves)

DUNEDIN, Fla. – Dean Kremer is ready for Opening Day. Not to take the ball for the first game in Boston. He doesn’t expect that to happen. But to break camp and pitch in games that truly matter.

Kremer worked a spring-high five innings this afternoon against the Blue Jays and did more throwing in the bullpen after reaching 67 pitches. Two of the three hits were solo home runs.

“I feel like I’m built up enough to kind of eat some innings,” he said.

Bo Bichette homered on a sweeper with one out in the first inning. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. looped a single into right-center, but Brandon Belt struck out on a changeup and catcher Anthony Bemboom threw out Guerrero trying to steal for the double play.

Kremer walked Matt Chapman among the three fly ball outs in a 19-pitch second inning. Then came the cruising part of his start, retiring the side in order on five pitches in the third and eight in the fourth.

Daulton Varsho led off the fifth by launching a fastball 401 feet to right field, 110 mph off the bat. Nomar Mazara, who had two hits today, didn’t move his feet. Just turned his head to watch.

Kremer retired the next three batters, striking out Cavan Biggio with his cutter. Thirteen of 15 dispatched after the Guerrero single in the first.

“I just thought he made a couple mistakes. That was it,” manager Brandon Hyde said after a 2-1 loss. “I thought the threw the ball really well. Had all the pitches going. … They didn’t do much against him and I’m happy with his start.”

The Twins also homered twice off Kremer in his last start in Fort Myers. All five runs against him have come on solo homers.

“Just mistakes that are getting hit middle-middle,” he said. “It doesn’t matter where you go, who you are, if you make a mistake middle-middle, guys will hit it, especially in the big leagues. Not too much concern.”

Kremer faced the Jays’ A lineup, which he’ll see multiple times again during the season. The mindset today didn’t change from how he’d approach a regular season start.

“We kind of know each other’s strengths and weaknesses,” he said. “It’s pretty much who executes and who doesn’t. There’s a little bit in spring training where it’s like, 'OK, I haven’t thrown this pitch yet. I should probably break it out just to get a feel for it and make sure I’ve got it.’ But for the most part it’s just executing a plan.”

* José Berríos shut out the Orioles through five innings, but he left in the sixth after Terrin Vavra’s leadoff home run and Kyle Stowers’ single. Vavra’s ball traveled 399 feet to left-center.

Vavra also singled in the third inning, the ball 106.1 mph off the bat to exceed his previous high, and reached on an error in the eighth before Jackson Holliday pinch-ran and stole second base.  

“I think it’s always good to get some good feelings, good results, but right now you’re just trying to take each at-bat as its own,” he said. “Same approach you always have, but right now you’re just trying to get on time and continue to react well. I think there’s going to be bumps along the way and everything, but I felt like today was a step in the right direction and something to keep building off and go into the year.”

Said Hyde: "He's a contact guy, that's what we like about him. He uses the whole field. He's got the ability to walk, also. He's got a great line drive approach, and contact, that's important for him, for us. Been taking really good at-bats this spring."

Vavra can’t relax and assume that he’s made the club, though he’s done everything to warrant it. He’s 13-for-37 (.351) with two doubles, a triple and two home runs.

“I’m just trying not to worry about that right now,” he said. “I think we’ve got a week left of camp and there’s a lot of decisions to be made and that’s nothing that I can control, so just going out there and put good swings on balls and play good defense and try to keep learning and focus on all I can.

“We have a great competition in this clubhouse and it’s all very respectful. It’s just super fun to be a part of, and you never want to put the cart before the horse. You want to just let those decisions play out the way they’re supposed to and trust the hard work that you put in and the preparation that you put it. And ultimately, whatever decisions is made is for the best.”

Shortstop Jordan Westburg walked and singled in his first two plate appearances, with an exit velocity of 109 mph on his line drive into left field.

Stowers also singled in the eighth as part of his 2-for-4 day.

* Rule 5 selection Andrew Politi faced the top of the Jays’ order in the sixth and handled it with ease, striking out George Springer on a cutter and getting ground balls from Bichette and Guerrero on a cutter and curveball, respectively. He threw 10 pitches, eight for strikes.

Seven of Politi’s eight appearances have been scoreless.

“That’s a tough assignment, those three guys,” Hyde said. “He came in and pumped strikes, and once again, a good curveball. Good cutter/slider. Got a couple balls off the end of the bat. So, good to see him pitch with some confidence and throw strikes.”

Bryan Baker had a 1-2-3 seventh inning for his second consecutive scoreless appearance. Mike Baumann, in his third appearance since the Orioles began using him in short spurts, stranded two runners in scoring position in the eighth. He struck out Yhoangel Aponte on a 97 mph fastball.  

* Center fielder Cedric Mullins is returning to the Orioles on Thursday after reaching the finals of the World Baseball Classic with Team USA.

Mullins went 2-for-10 with a home run. He was in left field for the 3-2 loss to Japan in the championship game.

Hyde exchanged text messages with Mullins earlier today.

“Proud of all three of them,” Hyde said, also referencing Kremer and outfielder Anthony Santander. “What a great experience for them to pitch in that sort of postseason or bigger environment. For three guys who have never been in the postseason before, to be able to play in front of 40-some thousand people with things on the line, I think it’s just going to really benefit them and their career going forward.

“It’s hard to do, it’s hard to play in those environments, and those guys showed extremely well, so that’s only going to benefit them going forward.”

* The Orioles got the camp roster down to 44 today by reassigning outfielders Colton Cowser and Heston Kjerstad - their No. 1 draft picks in 2020 and 2021 - to minor league camp.

Inevitable moves, but Cowser will be knocking on the door at Triple-A and Kjerstad is expected to be one level below, with the chance to move up.

Cowser was 7-for-33 with three home runs, nine RBIs, 13 walks, 15 strikeouts and 13 runs scored. Kjerstad was hitless in his only at-bat today and went 16-for-42 with four doubles, a triple, four home runs, nine RBIs, two walks, 10 strikeouts and 12 runs scored.

Cowser and Kjerstad to minor league camp
Givens unavailable due to knee soreness (plus othe...

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