Some leftover thoughts and observations from the Orioles' Opening Day win

The Orioles are 1-0, the record that really matters.

Only 161 more to go, and then more. It’s almost inconceivable that this team isn’t playing deeper into October than 2023 at the least.

I’m not using yesterday’s Opening Day trouncing of the Angels as my sole reason. They don’t appear to be very good - on paper for sure and on the field in their first regular season game. What are the odds of that happening without Shohei Ohtani?

There was a lot to unwrap from a day that began with Nick Vespi’s unexpected inclusion on the roster. I heard earlier in the day that he was summoned to Baltimore but didn’t know why until the Orioles announced that Jacob Webb went on the paternity list. So, Vespi makes his first Opening Day roster and Webb is denied his first.

Gotta admit that a baby is one heck of a consolation prize.

We also had David Rubenstein’s introductory press conference, which began with Governor Wes Moore talking about the declining homicide rate in Baltimore that skillfully melded into his excitement over new ownership and the bond between city and team and the Orioles’ importance to everything. You had to be there – or watching it on MASN.

A brief question-and-answer session, truncated because the press conference started late and manager Brandon Hyde was scheduled to speak with the media at noon, included someone from the D.C. television media taking up valuable time by asking Rubenstein about Wizards and Capitals owner Ted Leonsis keeping his teams in D.C. instead of moving them to Northern Virginia. Nothing even remotely close to Rubenstein’s wheelhouse, and he leaned in to speak with Moore before formulating a response that included how he doesn’t own those teams and doesn’t have inside information.

He tried and I respected the effort.

Cal Ripken Jr. met again with the media afterward and was asked about the Francis Scott Key Bridge collapsing, in between questions about how his relationship with Rubenstein led to his inclusion in the ownership group and specifics about his role.

What else can we take from yesterday’s events?

* With Tyler Nevin designated for assignment, Jordan Westburg could get lots of starts as the designated hitter against left-handers.

Westburg plays a nice second base, but Jorge Mateo started yesterday and Ramón Urías was at third. The Orioles signed Tony Kemp after breaking camp and he’s a left-handed hitter. Colton Cowser and Ryan O’Hearn, also left-handed hitters, joined Kemp on the bench.

Mateo had a throwing error on an attempted double play that left Dillon Tate with an unearned run. He was making his 25th career appearance at second base and first since Sept. 11, 2021 against the Blue Jays.

But back to Westburg.

Manager Brandon Hyde needs to figure out how he wants to construct his lineups against lefties when he has so many left-handed hitters. And, as we were reminded, the Orioles will be seeing plenty of southpaws early.

“Westy’s going to play a lot,” Hyde said. “He’s going to play a little second, he’s going to play third, he’s going to DH. I’m going to try to give him a lot of at-bats. I thought he did a great job for us the last couple months last year and he had a nice spring training, did a great job defensively. I thought his at-bats got better as camp went on. Facing a left-handed pitcher today, wanted to get him in the lineup for sure.”

* Gunnar Henderson was the leadoff hitter again yesterday, and the Angels started left-hander Patrick Sandoval. Cedric Mullins batted seventh.

The first lineup shouldn’t be interpreted as being the norm, but it sure seems like Hyde prefers a one-two of Henderson and Adley Rutschman.

You can see why. And it isn’t a slap at Mullins, who belted a three-run homer.

Henderson went 1-for-4 with a walk and run scored. Rutschman went 2-for-4 with two RBIs, a walk and three runs scored. His streak of reaching base on Opening Days died at eight when third baseman Anthony Rendon made a nice stop of his ground ball and threw to second base for the force.

Mullins will hit leadoff in some games this season. I’m making the assumption. Maybe it happens when Henderson sits. He’s the more prototypical guy for the role. But there’s nothing wrong with Mullins batting seventh, as he did yesterday.

* Kemp was the last Orioles player to arrive, if we’re not counting Vespi, and the first introduced yesterday.

You just never know. Baseball is unpredictable, sort of like life.

Kemp used to live in Sykesville and I moved there when my daughter was 3-years-old. I stayed until 2019. She’s now 31.

You do the math.

Anyway, we’ve sort of bonded over it. Not that it’s a real challenge because he’s incredibly nice.

* The Orioles don’t have an official dugout celebration, but they’re working on it.

Mateo doubled and players at the railing raised their arms and cheered, as they did for other hits. No water works.

We already knew they moved on from that one.

An engine revving gesture was seen on the field after a hit, and players are deciding whether it’s worthy. There used to be something similar a few years back, like starting a lawn mower.

These things can’t be rushed.

I’m trying to imagine Frank Robinson arguing the merits of spitting water versus revving an engine, and Earl Weaver being amused.

* The baserunning is good again.

A small sample size, for sure, but Henderson didn’t hesitate in the first inning while going first to third on Rutschman’s soft single into right – he got a great read on it – and Rutschman did the same in the second Ryan Mountcastle’s single to right.

Those plays didn’t influence the outcome. The Orioles won 11-3. Mountcastle walked to load the bases in the first after Henderson went to all that trouble. But the little things can make a huge difference.

Pitching, defense, three-run homers and smart baserunning. That’ll get you into November.

Natty Boh and Coke products don’t make an impact, but as long as we’re celebrating …

* The depth showed again with all 10 batters reaching base and nine collecting hits.

Urías went 0-for-3 but reached on an error and walked.

“The quality of the at-bats we were taking early in the game were unbelievable for me,” Hyde said, “the way we were laying off close pitches.”

* Ryan McKenna was designated for assignment and the Orioles lost their late-inning defensive replacement.

Is Cowser that guy?

Cowser replaced Anthony Santander in right field in the ninth. Hyde raved about Cowser’s defense in spring training. Santander is no slouch, but Cowser is viewed as an upgrade.

We’ll see what happens if they’re both in the field at the same time.

* New pitching coach Drew French made only one trip to the mound that I noticed – I spend a lot of time looking at my laptop screen – and he didn’t cover his mouth while speaking with reliever Dillon Tate in the eighth inning.

Former pitching coach and still current director of pitching Chris Holt always did it. His defense against lip readers.

It’s probably something that many of you didn’t notice. Weird that I did, since I spend so much time looking at my laptop screen.

* Hyde still can push the right buttons.

Hyde sent up O’Hearn to pinch-hit for Westburg after Austin Hays’ leadoff walk in the seventh inning because the Angels had right-hander José Cisnero on the mound. The lead was big. Westburg delivered a two-run single earlier in the game.

Why bother, I said to no one in particular? It’s not like Westburg can’t hit righties.

O’Hearn lined a double to right field and Mullins followed with his home run, pumping his fist as he rounded first base. I shoved my fist in my mouth, as much as would fit, and stopped second-guessing.

* Hyde still likes his players.

“This is a real special group of guys,” he said in his pregame session. “A grinder-type of group that just wants to win. It’s team first and that’s how we were last year and I expected them to be like that this year.”

* Fans like Aaron Hicks more than Mike Trout.

Hicks got a nice ovation by road team standards during the Angels’ introductions. OK, it was more like polite applause. But they must have appreciated his brief time with the Orioles.

The club didn’t bother with a video tribute and probably will abstain with Adam Frazier when the Royals come to town.

* Hyde remains amused by the obsession with the spring training record.

So, it isn’t just me.

“I wish we would have won a little bit more to get on a roll in spring,” he quipped.

“We played good baseball, so I think we’re ready. How I evaluate spring training is not by wins and losses because I’ve been on really, really good teams that weren’t very good in spring training record-wise. But what you want is, you want to play good baseball. You want your pitchers to throw strikes, you want to catch the ball defensively, you want to take good at-bats. And honestly, the last third of the game in spring training a lot of times is kind of a crap shoot because there’s a lot of guys playing out there who aren’t going to be on your team and theirs.”

Preach, Brandon, preach.

“It just really showed honestly how deep we were and how talented that we were, not just the 26 guys that are here, but who we brought over from minor league camp or who we had in major league camp that maybe are in Norfolk right now,” he said.

“For the most part we played pretty clean baseball the whole spring training, which is really hard to do and not normal. … We broke camp about as healthy as possible, so that’s always the main goal.”

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