SARASOTA, Fla. - It's not often that spring training games begin on February 23. Thanks to getting players ready for the World Baseball Classic, the Baltimore Orioles-and everyone else had to get an early start this year.
Players began reporting on Feb. 12, and now 11 days later, the first of five weeks of exhibition games began.
If you care about results, the first win went well. The Orioles beat the Minnesota Twins 5-3 before 5,797 at Ed Smith Stadium on Saturday.
Manager Buck Showalter doesn't much care.
"Got a long, long, long way to go," Showalter said. "We're still a week away from getting out of February."
Last year, the Orioles didn't play their first game until Mar. 5, a full 10 days later.
"We play the schedule. That's what you do. They didn't spring this on us yesterday. We knew it was coming and you plan accordingly."
There aren't many interesting storylines in this camp, and that's probably a good thing. After a 93-win season and a near upset of the New York Yankees in the Division Series, the Orioles made few moves.
The team has stockpiled candidates for the fifth starter, and several of them pitched on Saturday. Zach Britton, Jake Arrieta, Tommy Hunter, Steve Johnson, Rule 5 draft choice T.J. McFarland and Dylan Bundy all worked an inning.
Britton and Arrieta, who were the leading winners of 2011, had forgettable seasons in 2012. While Britton missed all of spring training, Arrieta leaped ahead to Opening Day starter.
After combining for 21 wins in 2011, they had just eight last year.
They each pitched a scoreless inning against Minnesota.
"Definitely trying to be relaxed the first time out. Don't want to overdo it or anything. It's easy to do that," Britton said.
He allowed two hits in the first inning. Arrieta walked one.
"Guys now are probably going to be swinging early and often, especially as spring gets underway. They haven't acquired really many at-bats, so they want to jump on fastballs when they see them, but that's what we want to work on," Arrieta said.
The Orioles won the game on non-roster outfielder Trayvon Robinson's two-run home run in the eighth inning.
BUNDY STRUGGLES: This year, the spotlight is off Dylan Bundy. A year ago, he was the center of attention, and Showalter pitched him in an early game against Boston in Fort Myers. Showalter put him in to pitch the fifth on Saturday, and he allowed two hits and a walk to load the bases before pitching out of trouble by striking out Minnesota's Chris Colabello.
"First batter was good, other than that I was a little wild at times," Bundy said. "It didn't leave me a lot of options early in spring training to throw a lot of breaking stuff. I got out of the inning, that's important."
Bundy is much more serious than the average 20-year-old and the runners bothered him.
"Yeah, they affect me. I expect better than that from myself," Bundy said. "But no runs, that walk kind of gets to me a little bit. I'll have two or three days off before I get in another game."
DAVIS AT FIRST: Chris Davis played well at first base with seven chances in five innings. Showalter is convinced first will not be a problem for Davis.
"He's off to a good start. He's had a great week of work down here," Showalter said. "They hit some balls that he could impact the game on defensively, and he did. The ability to play first base at a high level is there."
ROBERTS AT SECOND: Brian Roberts went 0-for-2 before leaving the game after three innings to attend a friend's wedding. It gave Showalter a chance to see Jonathan Schoop, who may have played in his only spring training game.
Schoop leaves on Sunday to play for The Netherlands' team in the World Baseball Classic.
Minor league catcher Allan de San Miguel has already left to play for Australia. Adam Jones (U.S.), Pedro Strop (Dominican Republic) and Chris Robinson (Canada) leave next weekend for their country's teams.
COMING UP: The Orioles play Toronto at Dunedin on Sunday. Jair Jurrjens, Mike Belfiore, Kevin Gausman, Daniel Schlereth and Troy Patton are scheduled to pitch. Showalter will add a few others. Mark Buehrle will make his Blue Jays debut.