Franco begins ramping up with two-run double in 12-7 loss

The recipe for ramping up a player in 2021 spring training includes a dash of hitting, a dash of fielding, a dash of baserunning.

The exact amount depends on the individual and team. A later signing could require handfuls.

The Orioles are going to keep Maikel Franco busy with less than two weeks remaining until opening day. Workouts on the back fields for a couple of days, an intrasquad game yesterday and his first exhibition game this afternoon.

More starts at third base and maybe swings as the designated hitter. Lots of batting practice. A quick breather Monday and a return to the lineup.

“If we can get him caught up and we feel like he’s ready to help us on opening day,” manager Brandon Hyde said earlier today, “then we’ll make that decision.”

Franco grounded into a double play in the first inning and stroked a two-run double in the third. Hyde didn’t remove him until the sixth in a 12-7 loss to the Twins in Sarasota.

Franco struck out in the fifth before Ryan Mountcastle homered to reduce the lead to 7-6.

ed smith stadium.jpg“No balls hit to him, so didn’t really have much from the defensive side, but swung the bat really nice on the double,” Hyde said in his Zoom call. “His first game action besides an intrasquad on the back field in a while. I thought he took good at-bats, good swings.”

Jorge López allowed one run in his last three appearances spanning nine innings. Making the start today, he was tagged for seven runs (three earned) and seven hits in 3 2/3. The Twins hit three home runs in the third - the first surrendered by López this spring.

López made it through two scoreless innings, but JT Riddle led off the third with a homer, Luis Arraez walked and Kyle Garlick launched a two-run shot over the batter’s eye.

The Twins collected two singles with two outs and second baseman Richie Martin was charged with an error on an Alex Kirilloff bouncer that struck his shoulder, according to the radio feed. A difficult play. And the day got a lot harder for López when Willians Astudillo hit a three-run homer for a 7-0 lead.

Four of the runs were unearned, if that’s any comfort to López.

“I felt everything was working really good - four-seam, sinker,” he said on his Zoom call. “Just a little bit up in the third, I left everything up.”

“I thought Lopie threw the ball really well the first two innings,” Hyde said. “He was really aggressive with the fastball, had a ton of life. He spun some good curveballs in there. The fastball might have flattened out there the third inning. We didn’t help him a little bit defensively. The wind was howling out like it’s been howling out lately. The ball’s really gotten pushed to the outfield and a couple over the fence. But his fastball just got a little flat there in the third. I thought he pitched a better fourth. I was encouraged by his first two innings.”

Tanner Scott replaced López with one on and two outs in the fifth, rather than getting a clean inning. Jorge Polanco popped up and Paul Fry retired the side in order in the fifth.

Scott pitched yesterday in the intrasquad game and had a shorter leash today going back-to-back.

Fry returned for the sixth and allowed a leadoff double to Astudillo and an Arraez single for an 8-6 lead. He’s surrendered 11 earned runs (12 total) and 13 hits with four walks in 7 1/3 innings. Opponents are batting .406.

Martin made his spring debut after January surgery to remove a broken left hamate bone. He went 1-for-3 with a run-scoring bloop single in the sixth, after Pat Valaika doubled, while also undergoing a rapid ramp up.

Severino was 2-for-26 before lining a JA Happ pitch over the left field fence in the second inning for a short-lived 1-0 lead. The Orioles scored four runs in the third, with Mountcastle contributing an RBI double and Chance Sisco an RBI grounder.

Mountcastle entered his final at-bat in the seventh inning 7-for-16 with five doubles, two homers and five RBIs in his last five games. He lined out to complete his day. More loud contact.

“That first week, his timing was just a little bit off and now I think you’re seeing who Ryan Mountcastle is, hitting three balls on the nose today,” Hyde said. “Double, homer, lineout to right field, using the whole field, staying on the baseball. Early in the spring, he was pulling off just a little bit, but now he’s really staying on the ball and driving the ball to all fields.”

“I’m feeling pretty good,” Mountcastle said. “I just had to get my timing down. Sometimes it takes me a little while during spring, but starting to get the hang of things and seeing the ball pretty good.”

Finding it in the Florida sun and tracking it in the wind can be exasperating.

“I feel good,” Mountcastle said. “It’s definitely tough down here. It’s probably the toughest it’s going to be all year. I guess doing this is going to make me better and I feel pretty comfortable right now.”

Polanco led off the seventh by homering off Cole Sulser. Trevor Larnach hit a two-run shot off Eric Hanhold in the eighth.

Hanhold has allowed nine earned runs (10 total) and 11 hits with three home runs in 7 2/3 innings. Shortstop Jordan Westburg made two errors in the eighth inning today that put runners on the corners, but Hanhold escaped that jam.

Caleb Hamilton hit the Twins’ sixth home run, leading off the ninth inning by connecting against Evan Phillips.

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