Ryan McKenna has no idea how long he’s going to stay with the Orioles beyond the trip to New York. His taste of the majors could sit on the tip of his tongue as he reports to the alternate training site in Bowie later this week. He could be introduced to fans at Thursday’s home opening day.
A mere taste turning into a mouthful. An appetizer or a feast.
He isn’t counting courses. He’s just appreciative of the invitation, so unexpected less than a week into the season.
Rule 5 pitcher Mac Sceroler, on the other hand, knew what was coming. He already has a seat at the table.
McKenna replaced Austin Hays on the roster yesterday, made his debut in right field and at the bottom of the order and went 0-for-2 with a walk. Sceroler got out of a bases-loaded jam that he inherited in the sixth and tossed 2 2/3 scoreless innings to provide a lone highlight in the Orioles’ 7-0 loss at Yankee Stadium.
Jorge López worked 4 2/3 innings and left after walking the bases loaded in the fifth. Shawn Armstrong, reinstated earlier today from the injured list after completing the intake process, ran the count full to Aaron Hicks and walked him to force in a run. Giancarlo Stanton hit a 471-foot grand slam, exit velocity 115 mph per Statcast, and the Orioles faced the harsh reality that they wouldn’t go undefeated.
López was charged with four runs and three hits with three walks and five strikeouts and threw only 41 of 75 pitches for strikes. The Orioles issued six walks in Boston and seven tonight.
Armstrong stranded 11 of 13 inherited runners last season. First batters went 0-for-14. But manager Brandon Hyde will concede that Armstrong was plopped into a tough spot tonight after being away from the team for the birth of his son.
“It’s not the ideal spot for Army, but we went as far as we wanted to go there with Lopie,” Hyde said. “(Adam) Plutko was down today, just didn’t want use certain guys, and Army obviously was fresh. I thought the AB to Hicks, couple pitches that were close but lost Hicks and then Stanton got him with a grand slam.”
Sceroler wasn’t handled with kid gloves, either. He replaced Paul Fry in the sixth with the bases loaded, one out, Judge at the plate and a run already across. The nephew of Ben McDonald, in his major league debut and with no experience above high Single-A, got a called third strike on a 94 mph fastball with the count full and retired Hicks on a foul popup.
What followed was a 1-2-3 seventh, with Gary Sánchez striking out on a split-change, and an eighth that included strikeouts of Jay Bruce and Matt Tauchman with the split-change, a pair of two-out walks, a wild pitch and his first major league mound visit.
“I was just trying to get an inning for Fry because he hadn’t pitched yet and didn’t want to go too far because I’d like to have him tomorrow,” Hyde said. “Brought him into a really tough spot. Hats off to him making his debut, punching out Judge to get out of that inning and throwing two great innings after that. That’s something he’ll never forget. But it wasn’t planned for me to use Sceroler in that way. Showed a lot by being able to get through that.”
Unlike McKenna, Sceroler broke camp on the active roster and must remain in order to stay in the organization. The minors aren’t an option unless he passes through waivers and the Reds decline to take him back, which wouldn’t happen.
López retired eight batters in a row before Judge drove a 94 mph fastball to the opposite field, beyond McKenna’s reach and over the fence for a 1-0 lead.
McKenna took a changeup in the dirt in the third inning, fouled off two cutters and swung through a changeup.
Batting again with runners on the corners and two outs in the fifth, McKenna grounded a 1-1 changeup to shortstop for the force. He fell behind 0-2 against reliever Luis Cessa in the eighth and drew a walk.
DJ Stewart is expected to be activated from the injured list this week, with Thursday the apparent target date. If he’s ready, and that’s how he appears during workouts in Bowie, the Orioles could remove McKenna or one of their utility players.
The Orioles likely will stay with a 14-man pitching staff and shorter bench. Anthony Santander, Rio Ruiz and Chance Sisco were the reserves tonight. Ruiz sat against left-hander Jordan Montgomery, who shut out the Orioles on four hits with no walks and seven strikeouts in six innings.
“It’s disappointing early in the year to lose Austin,” Hyde said. “Pretty optimistic that it’s not going to be very long. I think it’s a mild strain. It’s a hamstring, so like all hamstrings you just kind of never know, but I think we’re fairly confident that it won’t be very long.”
López struck out Stanton to strand Judge in the first inning. He struck out Gleyber Torres and Sánchez in the second while retiring the side in order. DJ LeMahieu struck out on a 95 mph fastball to close a routine third, but Judge hit his 18th career home run against the Orioles leading off the fourth.
The plate kept moving on López in the fifth and the bullpen was tardy settling down the game.
Fry loaded the bases with one out in the sixth, LeMahieu singled for a 7-0 lead and Sceroler jumped into the fire.
He landed on both feet and unharmed. The Yankees were the team getting burned for a change.
“I think that once you get on the mound, everything becomes a lot more familiar to you and then you tend to kind of block out, like where am I at, who’s in the box, what’s the situation, and then it all just gets back to just competing and throwing strikes,” Sceroler said.
“First off, it’s a blessing just to get this opportunity and to be put in a situation like that, I think that’s kind of what every person wants to be put in to just kind of prove themselves, that I can be here in tough situations, I can pitch and get the job done. It was definitely comforting for me to be put in that situation and succeeding. Kind of lifts bricks off your shoulders, knowing I can compete here, my stuff is good enough to play here.”
The emotion as he returned to the dugout after the fifth?
“I could finally breathe,” he said. “I knew that I was still in the game, so I couldn’t relax too much, but I could take about five or 10 minutes to kind of relax, process what just happened and breathe and just get back to competing out there.”