The Orioles began selling tickets to spring training games on Saturday morning, and with the area snowbound for the time being, it’s nice to think about something a little warmer.
Sarasota, where the Orioles train, can be warm in March. It can also be cold.
Last year, they had their warmest March on record, but as pitchers and catchers reported in February, the temperature reached freezing for the first time in years.
Pitchers and catchers report on Feb. 18, position players five days later, and the Grapefruit League season begins a week later as the Orioles visit the Atlanta Braves at Disney World.
The Braves have former Orioles Jim Johnson, Nick Markakis and Bud Norris, and will play at Ed Smith Stadium on March 2 in the first of 16 home games.
Because there are 15 teams in Florida, each team must play two split-squad games. The Orioles have split-squad games on March 5 and 17. Their home games on those dates are both at night.
Fans of the Red Sox and Yankees flock to Sarasota for a glimpse of their favorite teams, and they’re inevitably disappointed. For first timers, teams rarely send their front line players on the road, especially early in spring training.
So, if you’d like to see the Orioles play on the road in spring training, you’re likely to see a lot of Ryan Flaherty, Caleb Joseph, Nolan Reimold and Christian Walker. You won’t see much of Chris Davis, J.J. Hardy, Adam Jones, Manny Machado and Matt Wieters.
Exceptions may be made on March 22 and 27 when the Orioles play against the Twins in Fort Myers and the Pirates in nearby Bradenton.
Buck Showalter likes the field at Hammond Stadium because it’s maintained by the legendary groundskeeper George Toma, and Pittsburgh plays just 20 minutes away from Sarasota.
The Orioles’ longest trip will be their first game, two hours away. Unlike last season, there are no trips to Jupiter, across the state, or to Lakeland, where the Tigers play.
Detroit does come to Sarasota in the last week of spring training.
Most games are played at 1:05 p.m.—home and away. The Orioles will play two home games at 7:05 p.m. Those are the split-squad games and three at 6:05 p.m. Those three come in the last week of spring training, at Pittsburgh, and at home on March 29 and 30 with Atlanta and Detroit.
If you’re coming in the first 10 days of spring training, home games will feature regulars for perhaps five innings. Starting pitchers are scheduled for two innings in their first start, three in the second, and the sixth-ninth innings are the time for players many are unfamiliar with.
But, pay attention because come the second half of the season, you may be seeing them.
Last year, Mychal Givens wasn’t even a spring training invitee. He was used as an emergency pitcher, and now he’s a mainstay.
Chaz Roe was a pitcher who threw in the late innings, and by May, he was in Baltimore.
The Orioles end this year’s Sarasota run on March 31 and fly to Philadelphia the following day for a 6:05 p.m. game against the Phillies.
It will be slightly warmer in Philadelphia on Apr. 1 and much warmer in Sarasota than it is here today.
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