KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Outfielder Andy Van Slyke did not arrive at Kauffman Stadium yesterday with inflated expectations. It was his first regular-season game in the Orioles starting lineup and all wanted to do was fit in.
Unfortunately, he did.
The Orioles were dominated by Kansas City starter Kevin Appier and Van Slyke went along for the ride, going hitless in three at-bats in a largely suspenseless 5-1 loss to the Royals.
In fact, all of the Orioles newcomers who appeared in the game shared in the club's offensive frustration. Second baseman Bret Barberie went hitless in three at-bats, striking out twice, and reserve outfielder Kevin Bass came up empty in a pinch-hitting appearance with two runners on in the eighth inning. At least it wasn't the home opener.
"I hope it isn't like that every day," Barberie said afterward.
Van Slyke didn't seem concerned. The Orioles are expected to be one of the top hitting teams in the American League, and he is expected to be a consistent contributor if he can remain healthy. It was one bad game against one very good pitcher, but Van Slyke did not consider it a bad experience -- even on a cold damp afternoon that seemed to lack the usual Opening Day excitement.
"I was excited," he said. "Everybody has their own perspective. I felt like I was in the big leagues for the first time because it is my first time in the American League. In a sense, it's like playing American League teams in spring training. You're trying to learn names. You're trying to learn pitching patterns. There are a million things to learn, but you're never too old to learn."
One of the things he learned yesterday was to get out of the way when Sherman Obando is going after a fly ball. The two collided chasing a shallow fly by Gary Gaetti and the misplay resulted in two Kansas City runs. The error was charged to Obando, but Van Slyke tried to share the blame.
"I called for it in English," Van Slyke said, "he called it in Spanish, and there was a miscommunication."
There is no misunderstanding Van Slyke's intentions. He has come for a chance to be part of another championship team. He played for three division champions in Pittsburgh. Now, he has a chance to play major role in the Orioles' run at the AL East title.
"If I contribute I'll fit in," Van Slyke said. "If I don't, they won't like me. I hope they end up liking me real well. It's going to be very interesting to watch this year unfold."
Barberie has no illusions about his place in the offensive scheme. He is the only member of the starting lineup who isn't expected to be a big run-producer, so his job is to get on base ahead of the heart of the batting order.
"With a lineup like that, you're going to get a lot of chances to score runs," Barberie said. "Coming from the Marlins, where the three middle guys drove in all the runs, this lineup looks stacked. [Appier] was tough today, but hopefully, we'll come out and score some runs tomorrow."