By Dan Connolly, The Baltimore Sun
9:34 PM EDT, April 6, 2012
After throwing seven shutout innings Friday in the Orioles' 4-2, Opening Day win over the Minnesota Twins, right-hander Jake Arrieta wasn't proclaiming himself as the club's ace going forward.
"I don't know if I would necessarily say I am the No. 1 guy at this point in time," said the 26-year-old right-hander. "We were all aware it could have been a number of guys selected as the Opening Day starter."
His goal, he said, was to show his teammates that he could be trusted with the lofty assignment.
"I just wanted to set the tone and be a guy that some of other guys can look at it and say, 'OK, we know that when he takes the mound he is going to get us into the seventh and eighth innings and put us into a position to win the game,'" Arrieta said. "And I think that's what an Opening Day guy, a No. 1 starter, has to do. I think I've got a ways to go to really establish myself as that guy, but I am willing to do that."
No doubt Arrieta set the tone for Friday's victory, limiting the Twins to two hits and two walks while striking out four. His fastball was consistently in the mid-90s and both his curveball and slider looked exceptionally crisp.
"Unfortunately, their young starting pitcher kind of dominated us," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "He had a lot of good pitches. Curveball was nasty. Pretty tough to see the ball out there on both sides."
Arrieta's outing was particularly impressive considering he had surgery in August to remove a bone chip from his throwing elbow. There was a question as to whether he would be ready for spring training, but he was determined to make the club's 25-man roster.
"I wanted to be ready for this day," he said. "And being able to be on the mound today at 100 percent makes it all worth it."
Friday's start was reminiscent of Arrieta's first outing last year, when he limited the Detroit Tigers to one run in six innings in the Orioles' home opener.
"He was really good. He pitched maybe a little better than he did last year in the same venue," said Orioles manager Buck Showalter. "I thought he kept his emotions under control, which is always a challenge with everybody."
Johnson closes, as expected
The Orioles ended up in a save situation Friday afternoon, and Jim Johnson got the call. He allowed a hit and a walk but got out of the jam to pick up his first save and 22nd of his career
Showalter didn't announce that Johnson, who saved his final nine opportunities last season, was the official closer until Friday, but he told the right-hander a few days ago — shortly after Johnson's son was born.
"He texted me something about the baby and something else, and I said, 'Congratulations. And by the way, you're closing.'" Showalter said. "And he said, 'Yeah, I know.'"
Johnson was hindered in the spring by back issues, but Showalter said he thought Johnson had returned to form.
"It won't be an easy job. He'll have some times where he won't be aesthetically pleasing or whatever you want to call it," Showalter said. "But Jimmy showed us last year that he's capable of doing it."
Kevin Gregg, who began last year as the club's closer, will fill a variety of roles in the bullpen.
"Certainly pitching late in the ball games is one of them," Showalter said. "We've got a lot of options there."
Sutcliffe to Hoiles again
Former Orioles pitcher and current ESPN broadcaster Rick Sutcliffe threw out the ceremonial first pitch Friday to former Orioles catcher Chris Hoiles, a matching of the battery that participated in the first pitch at Camden Yards 20 years ago.
"There's always going to be anther Opening Day," Sutcliffe said. "But there was never going to be another first Opening Day at Camden Yards. That's what brought me [to Baltimore]."
Sutcliffe said he believes his first pitch that day was an outside fastball. On Friday, the 55-year-old Sutcliffe didn't exactly bring the heat with his ceremonial first toss.
"I know it looked like a changeup, but it wasn't," he quipped.
MASN play-by-play announcer Gary Thorne is racking up the frequent flier miles. He announced both ends of the NCAA Division I Hockey Frozen Four on Thursday night then flew into Baltimore for Friday's Camden Yards opener. He'll announce the hockey championship game Saturday in Tampa and then come back to broadcast Sunday's Orioles-Twins game.
The first pitch of the Orioles' season was a 94-mph fastball from Arrieta to Minnesota's Denard Span at 3:09 p.m. It was called a strike. Span made the first out, a comebacker to Arrieta. The next batter in the inning, Jamey Carroll, was the first base runner on the first walk of the Orioles' season. J.J. Hardy scored the season's first run after picking up the Orioles' first walk in the first inning. First hit, first homer and first RBI: Markakis' two-run shot against Carl Pavano in the first. Arrieta recorded the first strikeout in the second, catching Ryan Doumit looking to end the inning.
Around the horn
LHP Dana Eveland, who cleared waivers Thursday, joined Triple-A Norfolk's roster Friday. To make room for him, the organization released right-hander Armando Galarraga. … Brian Roberts, who is on the disabled list with concussion symptoms, was with the team for Friday's opener but was not introduced to the crowd. When he took pre-game grounders, he did so wearing a helmet. Roberts saw his string of eight consecutive Opening Day starts end. … During pre-game introductions, Gregg received some boos from the home crowd. ... In his first Opening Day start, second baseman Robert Andino was 1-for-3. ... This was the Twins' fifth straight Opening Day loss. ... The Orioles held a moment of silence for players and staff that passed away in 2011-12, with names scrolling on the video screen. The presentation ended with a picture of former pitcher and team executive Mike Flanagan, who died in August. ... There was a passing of the microphone in the press box. Dave McGowan, who was the Orioles' PA announcer for 14 seasons, officially turned over the mic to new PA guy Ryan Wagner to kick off pre-game festivities. … Pitching coach Rick Adair made his major league coaching debut with the Cleveland Indians in 1992, on the day Camden Yards opened.
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