SARASOTA, Fla. – Was Sunday a microcosm of what this season’s Orioles may be like? There was a grand-slam home run and a two-run shot by two additions, Pedro Alvarez and Mark Trumbo, and a starter who was challenged.
To be fair, Chris Tillman missed time with a strained right hip, and this was only his second official Grapefruit League start.
Tillman allowed three runs on five hits in four innings in the Orioles’ 8-8 tie to the Tampa Bay Rays before 8,405 at Ed Smith Stadium.
The Orioles are 5-2-2 in their last nine after starting the season 0-10-2.
As the Orioles prepare for their only scheduled off day of spring, they’re starting to look more like the team manager Buck Showalter envisions.
“Getting there, getting there,” he said.
He likes that J.J. Hardy and Jonathan Schoop, who both missed time last year with injuries are both moving well and that Adam Jones’ shoulder seems strong.
Matt Wieters’ right elbow seems to mending, and the he hopes that Kevin Gausman, who was given a cortisone injection for shoulder tendinitis, won’t be far behind schedule.
If you told me we had a chance to come out of here at full strength, I’d be real excited about that. I’m hoping that Gaus’ shoulder manages well. If it pushes him back in the rotation a little bit…we can do that,” Showalter said.
A week from now the Orioles have to decide on their rotation, Showalter said, and if Gausman’s shoulder responds smartly he could still be in it.
“From all indications, we’re hoping this puts him over the hump. It’s something if it was in the middle of the season, it’s something he’d probably pitch through, but we don’t have to do that right now. We can hopefully resolve it and it won’t be an issue,” Showalter said.
Alvarez, who played his first game a week ago, hit an opposite-field grand slammer in the second off minor leaguer Jhan Marinez. He added a double that tied the score at 7 in the sixth.
Trumbo, who had a three-run home run on Friday night, hit a two-run shot in the third.
Tampa Bay brought most of their regulars along. Most of the Rays will board a short flight on Sunday night for a short flight to Havana for Tuesday’s game with the Cuban National team.
Logan Morrison and Evan Longoria hit back-to-back home runs off Tillman in the third.
“Those were mistakes and they deserved to get hit,” Tillman said. “Our guys hit some too. It goes both ways.”
Tillman will be happy to have the same kind of run support he had.
“Those guys made a lot of good swings today,” Tillman said. “I think that’s the most important thing in spring, getting to watch the guys hit the ball out of the yard. It’s fun watching the guys, fun watching not only in the game but doing their work.”
The Orioles have 23 home runs in 21 games. Jones has 3, Manny Machado 2 and Chris Davis 1.
Hardy, Wieters, Hyun Soo Kim and Caleb Joseph have yet to homer, but rookie Christian Walker has 4.
Showalter is seeing signs of this team’s power potential.
“There were a couple home runs that would have been out of anywhere, anytime at least. Our contact to damage ratio should be good. We’re getting to know Mark a little bit, what his strengths are. You do see stretches of it. We haven’t had everybody out there yet. We’re close to it, hopefully get Matt back. He had a good day today. That was encouraging,” Showalter said.
Zach Britton struck out the side in the eighth, and Brian Matusz threw a scoreless ninth in his first appearance since he injured his back on Mar. 2.
T.J. McFarland gave up a grand slam home run to Tampa Bay’s Steven Souza, Jr. in the fifth.
Kim had two hits and raised his average to .200. After an 0-for-23 start, he’s now 8-for-17.
NOTES: Jeff Beliveau and Alfredo Marte were reassigned to minor league camp leaving the Orioles with 43 players on their roster. Showalter would like to see Beliveau, who hasn’t pitched this spring due to labrum surgery last April, in a game before the end of spring training. … Tyler Wilson, Darren O’Day and Brad Brach each threw two scoreless innings in an intrasquad game. Mychal Givens pitched one shutout inning. … After Monday’s off day, Mike Wright starts against Minnesota on Tuesday in Fort Myers against Logan Darnell. …Alvarez, Davis, Kim and Wieters will play in a minor league game on Tuesday. Jones and Hardy are scheduled for their first road game against the Twins.
MORE ORIOLES: Gausman has cortisone shot for shoulder tendinitis