Orioles fifth starter candidate Gabriel Ynoa drew the short straw Sunday afternoon.
Ynoa is competing for a spot in the Orioles regular season starting rotation and he was pitching at Ed Smith Stadium, so he normally would be facing a visiting lineup packed with minor league hitters.
Not this time. The game between the Red Sox and Orioles was being televised back to New England on NESN, so the Sox lineup Ynoa faced featured a bunch of frontline major league players and a couple of first-round draft choices.
He got off to a nice start, striking out Mookie Betts and Andrew Benintendi at the outset, but the Red Sox pretty much had their way with him for the rest of his two-inning appearance.
Eight of the next 10 batters reached base, and six of them scored. Benintendi came back to homer in the second inning, and third baseman Rafael Devers went deep in a four-run second inning that left Ynoa trying to put the best face on a tough situation after a 10-8 Orioles win.
“Those are things that happen,’’ he said through interpreter Ramón Alarcón. “I know that I have better stuff than what I showed today. I know I can help this team, so I’m just concentrating on the next start right now.”
Since he’s out of options, he figures to get a few more chances to make a better impression. He also faced the Red Sox in his first start of the spring and pitched well, but that still has to make you wonder whether he has a realistic chance to be in the major league rotation when the season opens.
“What is it … March 4?” manager Buck Showalter said after the game. “I’d like to see him pitch better. Two outs, nobody on, nine pitches and then 20-something pitches later. It’s tough. That’s the big leagues, though. You can never let up. And they had a lot of their guys in the lineup today and he didn’t pitch very well.”
There certainly have been some mixed messages flying around Orioles training camp.
Showalter said before the game that the competition for starting jobs is still wide open.
"I think it's a little early," Showalter said. "We've got a lot of people that we're considering, and we've got it set up through the middle of the month. We should be able to take a really good look at guys. I'm not going to handicap it now. Nobody has really separated themselves negatively."
But Showalter has also said on several occasions that he’s trying to keep his projected starting pitchers away from the club’s American League East rivals this spring, so what is Ynoa supposed to think?
“I feel confident that in the next start I’m going to do a better job,” he said, “so I’m just concentrating on that right now.”