SARASOTA, Fla. – Orioles first baseman Chris Davis hit his first mammoth home run of the spring on Monday, a drive off the videoboard above the center field fence that temporarily gave the Orioles the lead in a game they would eventually lose, 9-2, to the Minnesota Twins at Ed Smith Stadium.
Davis, who led the majors with 53 home runs and 138 RBI last year, broke a 1-1 tie with the shot off right-hander Trevor May, who was rated by Baseball America this year as the Twins’ eight-ranked organizational prospect.
Orioles starter Bud Norris pitched two scoreless innings, giving up one hit and striking out two in his spring debut. He is one of the presumptive members of the regular season rotation and – for one brief start, at least – showed why.
“I mixed everything in,’’ he said. “I just wanted to pound the zone. I threw a lot of fastballs. Early in spring, that’s kinda the idea, to control your body and some pinpoint location stuff. (Matt) Wieters and I have talked about some things we’re working on, just picking up tempo and stuff like that. It was just good to get in a good rythym and flowing and go from there.”
Norris was followed to the mound by top prospect Kevin Gausman, who also pitched two innings and struck out two, but allowed a run after retiring the first five batters he faced. He walked first baseman Chris Colabello with two outs, then gave up back-to-back singles to Jason Kubel and Wilkin Ramirez for a run.
Wilkin would later slam a three-run homer off non-roster pitcher Tim Alderson to break open a close game in the eighth.
“I felt good,’’ Gausman said. “More than anything right now it’s kind of feeling your body, working all your pitches and trying to try to find the bottom half of the zone.”
He was throwing his fastball in the mid-90s, but didn’t seem to think that was unusual for this early point in the exhibition season.
“I probably threw about this last spring training,’’ he said. “It always takes me a little longer to get ready armwise. I started throwing the exact same day this year as I did last year. I was just trying to make sure I was ready when I came into camp.”
Relievers Darren O’Day, Tommy Hunter and Alfredo Aceves each followed with a scoreless inning, but the Twins tied the game in the top of the eighth when pitching prospect Mike Wright gave up a game-tying two-out triple to Twins shortstop Danny Santana.
The Twins scored seven times in the eighth and the Orioles, for the first time this spring, would have no answer. They staged a big late-inning comeback to win their home opener against the Blue Jays and scored five runs in the top of the ninth against the Red Sox to turn an apparent blowout into a tight loss.