TORONTO - It worked once so the Orioles will try it again. Whether you want to call him an opener or say the Orioles are going with a bullpen game, right-hander Nate Karns will start the third game of the series in Toronto on Wednesday afternoon.
“We’re going to go with Karns again and (Alex) Cobb will have the home opener (on Thursday),” manager Brandon Hyde said today before the Orioles series opener at Rogers Centre. David Hess will start tonight and Andrew Cashner starts on Tuesday night.
Karns went two innings when he started the game Saturday at New York. He pitched out of a bases-loaded jam in the first and went two scoreless on 33 pitches. Five bullpen pitchers followed as the Orioles beat the Yankees 5-3 to improve to 1-1 before taking Sunday’s series finale.
It might be hard to believe, but the Orioles, who had a couple of wild postgame celebrations in New York for Hyde, coach Tim Cossins’ birthday and John Means’ first win, were not very exuberant as a team when they first got together under the Florida sun.
“Early in spring training it was the quietest group I’ve ever seen,” Hyde said this afternoon in the visitors’ dugout at Rogers Centre. “Or been around. It was the opposite of what I’m used to. I didn’t know if these guys were going to loosen up, relax and enjoy what they are doing. Over time it got a little bit better.
“Games like what we just had in New York - those bring teams together. Because you are fighting with each other. You see when you pick someone up or the encouragement, you see that matters. I was trying to portray to them in spring training how important that is and how much more fun it is to play when you have a team full of guys pulling for each other.”
Meanwhile, Hyde said Renato Núñez, who is the DH again tonight, is now able to play in the field whenever his skipper wants him out there. Núñez had been bothered by a sore right elbow.
“He is starting to lengthen it out a little bit. He’s on a throwing program right now. He’s game-ready right now. I just wanted to give him some time to get his arm right,” he said.
Orioles outfielder Dwight Smith Jr., who is off to a .455 start (5-for-11) at the plate, is set to play his former Toronto teammates tonight. He’ll bat second and start in left field.
Drafted 53rd overall by Toronto in 2011, Smith posted some solid numbers the last two years in 104 plate appearances for the Jays, batting .293/.365/.467.
“It’s awesome coming back here to a place I know. It is always a dream come true to come back to the team you got drafted by,” he said today.
But it was also the team that designated him for assignment when they needed a 40-man roster spot in early March for pitcher Clay Buchholz. That led the Orioles to acquire him for international bonus slots. So will there be any extra incentive for Smith tonight?
“I won’t know until I actually play the game,” he said. “I’m trying to be as relaxed as I can and take it as a normal day. This offseason I worked hard to compete for a job. It didn’t matter where it was, and here I am.”
Smith is enjoying his first few games as an Oriole.
“It’s awesome, the energy we have and the good vibes right now,” he said. “Everyone comes to play hard every day. Want to keep the momentum here for this series and take it home for the home opener.”
O’s gain early lead: The Blue Jays were in a gift-giving mood and the Orioles took advantage to score four runs in the first and lead 4-0 tonight. Jonathan Villar hit a two-run homer for a 2-0 lead. An infield single, error, two walks and a wild pitch on a strikeout followed to add two more runs. Chris Davis drew a bases-loaded walk for his first RBI of the year.
Right-hander Sean Reid-Foley needed 34 pitches to get through the inning and the Blue Jays’ run of 24 straight scoreless innings from their starters to begin the year ended.
The Orioles made it 5-0 in the second on Trey Mancini’s sac fly. It scored Cedric Mullins, who was hit by a pitch, moved to second on a grounder and to third on Villar’s single, his second hit in two innings.
Update: Mancini’s seventh inning solo homer made the score 6-0. Hess came out for the home half, got Brandon Drury on a liner to short, then had a lengthy discussion with Hyde. The skipper had come with the hook even though Hess had yet to surrender a hit. Pedro Araujo came on in relief, promptly walking Justin Smoak and giving up a two-run homer to Randal Grichuk and a Rowdy Tellez single before Teoscar Hernández lined into an inning-ending double play. At the end of seven, O’s lead 6-2.
Update II: Mike Wright pitched the eighth for the Birds. With one out, he was ahead in the count to Jays shortstop Freddy Galvis, but Galvis launched his 1-2 offering over the right field fence. At the end of eight, Orioles lead the Jays 6-3.
Final update: Richard Bleier had another rough ninth inning, allowing two runners (including one inherited from Wright) to score before striking out Lourdes Gurriel to nail down the Orioles’ 6-5 win.