Human beings are always learning throughout life, whether consciously or otherwise. One day, the small lesson may shape the next year of our life, while another day, a seemingly enormous learning experience may only have consequences for a shorter time.
As in life, baseball generally falls into this same game.
The Orioles opened the 2015 season by taking two out of three from the Rays on the road. There were definite learning experiences. Defense is still a priority and played a role in the two wins (as well as in the loss, but not in a negative way). The offense is pretty much like it’s been for the past three seasons: power heavy, lean in the on-base department, and always one swing away from doing significant damage while at the same time being very capable of being shut out on any given night.
There aren't many surprises here. And three games in a 162 game season is such a small sample size that there shouldn't be.
But what fun is there if you can't throw out a couple of observations from the first series of the year:
· Zach Britton looked great on Monday and Tuesday, recording 5 strikeouts over seven outs. That power sinker didn’t go away in the off season. O’s fans have seen how a sinker pitcher can be successful as a closer as Jim Johnson was fantastic in 2012 and very good in 2013. Britton’s sinker is heavier than Johnson’s and should lead to more overall strikeout’s and with the O’s defense, the induced ground balls should lead to successful save situations.
· The output from Steve Pearce, Travis Snider, and Alejandro de Aza has been encouraging through three games. Snider and de Aza have shown patience in seeing more pitches, while Pearce has carried over what he began in 2014. Where will all three end up? That will play a role in where the 2015 Orioles land come October 4.
· The heart of the order, Adam Jones, Chris Davis, and Manny Machado have not produced on offense. The cautious optimism of Pearce, Snider, and de Aza also factors in here. Not hitting in three games is certainly not a panic alarm button or even something that needs to be analyzed. All three have a track record.
· With JJ Hardy and Matt Wieters still on the disabled list, two defensive and offensive cogs are missing in action. Their returns will be the first time, baring additional injuries, that we see the 2015 starting lineup at its best.
· Pitching wins divisions. 2014 made that very clear. While five walks from Miguel Gonzalez was hardly ideal, his ability to work around them and limit his hits were key to keeping the O’s in Wednesday’s game. They also ultimately lead to the loss, as the second walk of the inning, on a controversial ball four, would lead to Brian Matusz entering the game. Matusz had less than stellar command and walked two straight, leading to the first run of the game for the Rays. Four walks in a row leading to only one run could be looked at as a gift. But not on Wednesday Night.
· Jason Garcia looked good in his Major League debut. For a guy who has never pitched above high-A ball, he was poised and could be nice bullpen option. TJ McFarland was carried for the entire 2013 season and it didn't have any negative impact on the outcome of the season unless you are someone who thinks 85-77 was a disaster.
Tomorrow the Orioles return home to Camden Yards for the first time since last October. The American League East Champions banner will be raised and baseball will truly feel like it is back as Toronto, followed by the Yankees, come to town for more AL East head to head action.