Orioles should be playing last exhibition game today

I should have been flying home this morning from spring training. Should have been waking up at the Marriott inside the Tampa International Airport - a veteran move to drop off the rental car and switch hotels the night prior to departure - and stumbling to my gate after six weeks in Sarasota with only a single day off.

The Orioles would be playing the Mets later today at the Naval Academy in one last exhibition game - a substitute for the usual workout day.

Major League Baseball requires teams to give their players an off-day, which would have been recognized on Wednesday leading up to the opener against the Yankees at Camden Yards.

Means-Delivers-Orange-Sidebar.jpgThe forecast on Thursday calls for temperatures in the low 60s, and the one day this week without rain. John Means would have been starting for the Orioles.

In a normal world that has ceased to exist.

The coronavirus pandemic’s impact on sports includes delaying the start of the regular season, with a June opener now viewed as a best-case scenario. Optimism is running low.

Maybe July. Maybe never.

Andrew Cashner started on opening day last year in a 7-2 loss to the Yankees in the Bronx, snapping the Orioles’ winning streak at eight games. No team had beaten them in the first game since the Rays in 2010 at Tropicana Field. No team has beaten them in Baltimore since the Rays in 2008.

Manager Brandon Hyde hasn’t named his starter this year, but Means was lined up for the assignment before the shutdown. The decision came down to Means or Alex Cobb, who is expected to have been on the mound for the second game.

As long as he could avoid another blister.

Trivia: Name the last left-hander to start on opening day for the Orioles prior to Means. Answer to follow.

Hyde chose Cashner last year as the replacement for Cobb, who was forced onto the injured list with soreness in his groin that eventually led to hip surgery. Luke Voit hit a three-run homer in the first inning after Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton singled through a vacated right side against the shift.

“They found some holes against us today,” Hyde said afterward. “Over time that will go the other way, I would believe.”

Not nearly enough.

There were at least five hits off Cashner that might have been prevented without the shift, but it also enabled the Orioles to turn a pair of double plays.

Cashner was charged with six earned runs and six hits with four walks in four innings. Mike Wright let two inherited runners score.

Both pitchers are out of the organization. Cashner remains on the free agent market and Wright signed with the DC Dinos in the Korean Baseball Organization after the Orioles traded him to the Mariners in April.

David Hess worked two scoreless innings. He was optioned to Triple-A Norfolk last week.

Cedric Mullins led off and played center field. The Orioles also optioned him last week. Rule 5 pick Drew Jackson pinch-hit for Dwight Smith Jr. The Orioles returned him to the Dodgers. Jonathan Villar was the second baseman. The Orioles traded him to the Marlins in December. Joey Rickard was the right fielder. The Giants claimed him off waivers in June. Jesus Sucre was the catcher. The Orioles outrighted him in April.

Austin Hays is expected to be the center fielder to start the 2020 season. Hanser Alberto likely will be the second baseman. Pedro Severino is viewed as the primary catcher.

No one knows what’s happening in right field while the Orioles await more news on Trey Mancini. Their primary concern, of course, is his health.

Answer: Left-hander Eric Bedard started the 2007 opener against the Twins. The Orioles lost 7-4 at the Metrodome.

The last southpaw to start an opener for the Orioles before Bedard was Jimmy Key in 1997. It isn’t a usual occurrence.

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