ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — As the Orioles plugged through this offseason without adding a premium bat to the lineup, club officials kept saying that a needed offensive boost could come from two players already on the 40-man roster, two guys who had combined to play in just 33 games in 2012.
Veteran second baseman Brian Roberts and left fielder Nolan Reimold were hoping that the club would afford them one more chance to prove they are healthy enough to contribute.
"Obviously, they could have easily gone out and tried to fill spots that haven't been necessarily occupied every day in the last year or two," said Roberts, whose season ended last year on July 1 and who had hip surgery in August. "And they held tight and they believed in us as players, and I think that is encouraging."
In Tuesday's season-opening 7-4 win against the Tampa Bay Rays, the duo combined to go 4-for-8; each had two singles. Roberts, batting ninth for the first time since July 2004, scored the tying run in a five-run seventh that propelled the Orioles to victory.
"It was fun," said Roberts, who had played in just 115 games over the past three seasons because of myriad injuries including multiple concussions. "Not that you forget how fun baseball was, but when you are out for such a long period of time, sometimes you forget what the atmosphere and the energy is like and just the joy of playing the game. So it was great."
Reimold batted .313 with five homers in his first 16 games last April, but he was shut down with a neck injury that required career-threatening surgery. The 29-year-old worked all offseason to be ready for Tuesday.
"It feels really good. It's been a long road, but it feels normal," Reimold said. "It was definitely an exciting Opening Day for me since, all things considered, going through the long offseason, and a lot of the rehab that it took for me to be out there."
Things could have been dicey early for Reimold. The Rays' first hitter of the first inning, Desmond Jennings, hit a fly ball to left that Reimold caught while running into the wall. He was fine but laughed a little at the timing
"I know, right? The first out of the game, I got tested real quick," he said. "Good thing I got it."
Even though their contributions were minimal, the presence of Roberts and Reimold wasn't lost on their teammates.
"I think it's huge," first baseman Chris Davis said. "It's good to finally get those guys back. But I think we had a good idea in spring training who we were going to go with towards the middle [of spring] and it's good to get everybody out there and kind of meshing together."
Orioles manager Buck Showalter said he took some time Tuesday to consider what it meant to have Reimold and Roberts in the lineup.
"You take it in. You know they're going to have a pretty good night tonight," Showalter said. "When you've been away from the game like Brian and, really, Nolan for a full season, you don't take anything for granted."
Machado joins impressive list
Orioles third baseman Manny Machado, 20, joined an elite group of Orioles players to start an Opening Day game at age 20 or younger. Others include Brooks Robinson (19 in 1957, 20 in 1958), Ron Hansen (20 in 1958) and Boog Powell (20 in 1962). The last 20-or-younger Oriole to appear in an Opening Day game was Wally Bunker on April 13, 1965.
The first pitch of the Orioles' and Rays' 2013 season came at 3:13 p.m. from lefty David Price to catcher Jose Molina. It was a 94-mph called strike on leadoff hitter Nick Markakis. The first out came on the next pitch, a grounder to second base. Adam Jones had the first hit, a double to right center in the first, and he scored the Orioles' first run of 2013 on the first home run of the season by Matt Wieters, a two-run shot to left. Davis drew the first walk in the first inning. Jim Johnson picked up his first save with a scoreless ninth.
Around the horn
Steve Pearce made the first Opening Day start of his career Tuesday as the Orioles' designated hitter. It came just an hour away from where he grew up (Lakeland, Fla.) and on his father Steve Sr.'s birthday. … Pearce became the 11th different DH the Orioles have used in their past 11 Opening Days and 17th in their last 18. Harold Baines, in 1993-95, was the last Oriole to start consecutive Opening Days at DH. … Rays senior adviser Don Zimmer, along with his family, was honored before the game on his 54th big league Opening Day. His son, a San Francisco Giants scout, threw out the ceremonial first pitch. Zimmer was then encircled by the entire Rays team at the mound. … Roberts made his ninth Opening Day start, most of any current Orioles player. Markakis made his seventh, most by an Orioles right fielder. Brooks Robinson and Cal Ripken Jr., have the most Opening Day starts in team history with 20. … Seven players on the team's Opening Day roster weren't on the 25-man roster this time last year: Lefty T.J. McFarland and infielder Alexi Casilla are newcomers to the organization. Taylor Teagarden, Miguel Gonzalez, Nate McLouth, Machado and Pearce all played for the Orioles in 2012, but they didn't appear in a major league game until at least May.
Baltimore Sun reporter Eduardo A. Encina contributed to this article.