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Many hopeful signs in 2016 Orioles opener


Many hopeful signs in 2016 Orioles opener

Monday’s Orioles home opener was special in a number of ways. On most Opening Days, the game ends around six, and fans go home for dinner.

This opener was three minutes shorter than the two rain delays, and by the time the game ended, at about 8:45 p.m., perhaps a third of the original crowd remained.

They saw Chris Tillman, who like the rest of the starting pitchers, had a rough spring training, look sparkling for six batters, the last five of whom he struck out.

They watched the bullpen hold a Minnesota Twins team, who Buck Showalter thinks is one of the best in baseball, to two runs in seven innings.

And, they saw Mark Trumbo, who’s been portrayed as a one-dimensional power hitter, slap four singles.

Most of the fans who remained went home raving about Joey Rickard, who didn’t seemed fazed as he made the jump from playing in tiny Florida ballparks to much larger ones.

He began his major league career with two hits and an excellent catch, which some fans criticized, because the Twins scored the tying run as he ran down a foul fly ball.

Showalter said he made the right play, taking the out, and it only set up the winning room, which came with two outs in the ninth.

Matt Wieters, who has a special relationship with Tillman, loved his fastball, but looked tentative at the plate when he watched two called third strikes go by with runners on base and two outs.

Wieters ended the game by lining a ball up the middle to score Chris Davis just after Trumbo’s fourth single.

The Orioles, who during the first weeks of spring training, looked anything but crisp, seemed especially fluid defensively.

RELATED: Wieters' ninth-inning walk-off gives Orioles win on Opening Day

If Rickard can hit decently, and no one expects his spring heroics to continue, his fundamentally strong play in left field can make a real difference.

Rickard impressed all who watched him in March with his heady outfield play. A year ago, he began with the Port Charlotte Stone Crabs in Class A, and on Monday became the first Orioles Rule 5 draft choice to start on Opening Day.

Of all the things we saw on Monday, the most impressive and meaningful was Tillman’s electric stuff. After his spring starts, he kept saying how he was happy with how he threw while his line said otherwise.

A year ago, Tillman looked terrific in spring training, then struggled through an inconsistent season.

If Tillman, second game starter Yovani Gallardo and Ubaldo Jimenez can have representative starts this week, it could show baseball that the Orioles are much better than most had predicted.

Tillman would normally have gone on Saturday, on four days rest, but because of the artificially short start, Showalter may think again about the rotation.

After Gallardo and Jimenez face the Twins, Mike Wright is scheduled to face Tampa Bay on Friday night, and while Showalter hasn’t picked a starter for Sunday, Tyler Wilson is likely to get it.

Wilson pitched three scoreless innings in back of Tillman. The other candidate for the Sunday start is Vance Worley, who was warming up and would have pitched Monday’s 10th inning and beyond, if necessary.

The team struck out 10 times, which could happen regularly, but walked five times, which Showalter pointed out after the game.

Last year, the Orioles averaged over eight strikeouts and about 2.5 walks per game.

Rickard seems sensible, and readily admitted to being nervous, but it didn’t seem to stop him. What was most impressive about him last month was how comfortable he seemed at the plate as the month went on and the pitching improved. His average did, too.

The Orioles’ 25-man roster will change quickly. Brian Matusz will throw on Thursday at Bowie, and then return to the Orioles on Sunday. Kevin Gausman, after two rehab outings, should be back on Apr. 19, Showalter said.

Jimmy Paredes, the third Oriole on the disabled list, is still far from playing. He’s swinging a bat without facing live pitching. At the end of spring training, Showalter cautioned that Paredes shouldn’t be forgotten.

Paredes was hurt early in spring training and didn’t get a chance to revisit the glory days of March 2015 when he was Joey Rickard.

Unlike Rickard, Paredes started last season on the disabled list, and when Jonathan Schoop was hurt, he stepped in and began hitting for half a season.

It would have been interesting to see how Showalter would have used Paredes in spring training, and whether that would have impacted the decision to keep Hyun Soo Kim. If the decision came down to Kim and Paredes instead of Kim and Xavier Avery, would Paredes would have been let go?

Probably, but the switch hitting Paredes could still come in handy later on.

MORE ORIOLES: Fatal flaw: One reason why each MLB team won't make 2016 playoffs

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Orioles agree to one-year deal with pitcher Chris Tillman, according to reports

USA Today Sports

Orioles agree to one-year deal with pitcher Chris Tillman, according to reports

SARASOTA, Fla. -- A person familiar with the negotiations says pitcher Chris Tillman and the Baltimore Orioles have agreed to a $3 million, one-year contract.

The deal includes performance bonuses, the person told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity Monday because the deal had not yet been announced.

Tillman was 1-7 with a 7.84 ERA in 19 starts and five relief appearances last year. He would be the second starter added by the Orioles in the past week after right-hander Andrew Cashner.

Tillman likely would join right-handers Dylan Bundy, Kevin Gausman and Cashner in the rotation.

The 29-year-old right-hander lives in Sarasota and had been working out at the Orioles' facility before spring training. Manager Buck Showalter watched Tillman throw and was impressed.

Tillman began last season on the disabled list with right shoulder stiffness.

"Better than he did last year at this time. I think he's got the chance to pitch well for somebody this year," Showalter said. "A lot of the challenges he had last year -- this time last year -- aren't there. Somebody's going to reap the benefits."

Tillman's is 73-55 with a 4.43 ERA in nine major league seasons, all with the Orioles. He won 16 games in both 2013 and 2016.

"He's a guy when he's healthy you can bank on him giving you 200 innings and keeping his ERA between a 3 and a 4," Gausman said. "That in the AL East is always going to be very valuable."


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Orioles Spring Training Schedule 2018

USA Today Sports Images

Orioles Spring Training Schedule 2018

Live baseball is close to gracing our television screens again. The Orioles haven't had the most active offseason, to put it mildly. Fans are still wondering who will make up more than half the spots in this year's rotation, and Manny Machado's upcoming free agency is looming over every decision the organization makes.

Still, it's exciting to be able to follow the team again. Not every game is televised, so get ready to constantly refresh your favorite beat writer's Twitter account for all your updates.

Even without getting to watch the games, it'll be comforting to once again check box scores in the morning to see if Jonathan Schoop is building on his breakout season, or if top-prospect Austin Hays is all he's cracked up to be (spoiler: he is).

This year's spring training will be especially interesting, considering how many big-name players will be signing in the next few weeks. The O's haven't yet made a big splash this offseason, but with the sheer volume of capable players still on the market, you have to wonder if they'll try to sign some impact players at bargain values.

Typically, the excitement of adding a new piece to the lineup or rotation has to be reignited after a long winter off, but this season, those additions will be taking place while camp is already underway.

It's going to be a hectic few weeks as teams prepare for thier seasons, so bookmark this page to check on on the Orioles spring training schedule over the next few weeks as the team finally takes the field in 2018.

Orioles 2018 Spring Training Schedule

Friday, Feb. 23 (SS) - Rays at Orioles, 1:05 pm (MASN)
Saturday, Feb. 24 (SS) - Orioles at Phillies, 1:05 pm
Saturday, Feb. 24 (SS) - Twins at Orioles, 6:05 pm
Sunday, Feb. 25 - Orioles at Red Sox, 1:05 pm 
Monday, Feb. 26 - Tigers at Orioles, 1:05 pm
Tuesday, Feb. 27 - Orioles at Rays, 1:05 pm
Wednesday, Feb. 28 - Cardinals at Orioles, 1:05 pm (MLBN) (MASN)
Thursday, Mar. 1 - Orioles at Rays, 1:05 pm
Friday, Mar. 2 - Pirates at Orioles, 1:05 pm
Saturday, Mar. 3 (SS) - Orioles at Phillies, 1:05 pm
Sunday, Mar. 4 - Red Sox at Orioles, 1:05 pm (MASN)
Tuesday, Mar. 6 - Orioles at Twins, 1:05 pm 
Wednesday, Mar. 7 - Orioles at Rays, 1:05 pm
Thursday, Mar. 8 - Blue Jays at Orioles, 1:05 pm
Friday, Mar. 9 - Orioles at Blue Jays, 1:07 pm
Saturday, Mar. 10 (SS) - Pirates at Orioles, 1:05 pm
Sunday, Mar. 11 (SS) - Orioles at Red Sox, 1:05 pm 
Sunday, Mar. 11 (SS) - Phillies at Orioles, 6:05 pm (MASN)
Monday, Mar. 12 - Orioles at Pirates, 1:05 pm 
Tuesday, Mar. 13 - Orioles at Twins, 1:05 pm 
Wednesday, Mar. 14 - Yankees at Orioles, 1:05 pm (MLBN) (MASN)
Thursday, Mar. 15 - Orioles at Cardinals, 1:05 pm
Friday, Mar. 16 - Orioles at Mets, 1:10 pm 
Saturday, Mar. 17 (SS) - Blue Jays at Orioles, 1:05 pm
Sunday, Mar. 18 - Mets at Orioles, 1:05 pm
Monday, Mar. 19 - Orioles at Tigers, 1:05 pm
Tuesday, Mar. 20 - Rays at Orioles, 6:05 pm (MASN)
Wednesday, Mar. 21 - Orioles at Yankees, 6:35 pm 
Thursday, Mar. 22 - Red Sox at Orioles, 1:05 pm (MASN)
Friday, Mar. 23 (SS) - Rays at Orioles, 1:05 pm
Saturday, Mar. 24 - Twins at Orioles, 6:05 pm
Sunday, Mar. 25 - Orioles at Phillies, 1:05 pm 
Monday, Mar. 27 (in Norfolk, VA) - Orioles at Tides (AAA), 3:05 pm