The Baltimore Orioles won their Opening Day game, 6-2, over the Tampa Bay Rays at a sold-out Tropicana Field. The O's were led by right fielder Travis Snider and starting pitcher Chris Tillman. (Kevin Richardson)
In postgame interviews following the Orioles' 6-2 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays Monday, outfielders Travis Snider and Alejandro De Aza were already toeing the company line. Both spewed cliches about how it's all about the team and not individual accomplishments.
That's really boring stuff for sportswriters. But it's exactly what Orioles manager Buck Showalter and the club's veterans want to hear from two of the team's key newcomers, or relative newcomers (Snider arrived in January via a trade; De Aza was traded to the Orioles in August, so this was his first Opening Day with the team).
One of the reasons this club has been successful in the past few years is that Showalter, executive vice president Dan Duquette and their staffs put an emphasis on the type of players they want to acquire. Selflessness is high on Showalter's list.
So when De Aza was asked about his performance leading off Monday (he had a homer and two 10-pitch at-bats) he said he wasn't concerned about where he hit in the order. Then he added, "I try to get as many pitches as I can from the pitcher so the guy behind me can see what the pitcher has."
And after Snider's three-hit, two RBI day -- which also included two strong defensive plays in right field, Snider uttered this gem: "A team win. That's all I'm looking for. However we get it done."
** Ryan Flaherty hit a homer in the ninth inning Monday against Kirby Yates. It meant nothing as far as the game was concerned. But it could mean a lot for Flaherty, who has had terrible starts to begin each of the past two seasons.
Flaherty began 2013 and 2014 in 0-for-17 skids. I don't care who you are, that's a confidence crusher. So for him to homer in his fourth at-bat of the season, at the very least, takes a little pressure off having another rough beginning. It now can't be as bad as the last two.
After the game, Delmon Young was ribbing Flaherty about not going "0-for-18" and Flaherty was smiling. It's easy to joke about it now, of course.
Flaherty was actually a bit of a surprise starter at shortstop. The assumption was that Everth Cabrera would play on Opening Day. But Flaherty was 4-for-9 against Tampa Bay starter Chris Archer.
More important, Showalter's short bench Monday consisted of two catchers and a middle infielder – either Flaherty or Cabrera. Showalter preferred having the switch-hitting speedy Cabrera on the bench, because he could be used in a variety of situations, whereas Flaherty is more of a defensive replacement off the bench.
** When Chris Davis comes back from suspension Tuesday, the Orioles have to take someone off the roster. The expectation is that it will be catcher Steve Clevenger because he can be sent to the minors without passing through waivers. And no relievers (except Kevin Gausman) can be. So Clevenger could head back to Triple-A.
Subsequently, Clevenger's frustration will grow. It's what the Orioles do with their role players, but it's difficult to be on that Norfolk shuttle. And Clevenger has been a frequent passenger, primarily because Showalter has never been enamored with Clevenger's defense.
You have to wonder whether it would be better off for the Orioles to trade the Mount Saint Joseph graduate to the National League, where he can be more of a pinch-hitter and part-time catcher. But you also figure his trade value isn't particularly high, and the Orioles love having usable and optionable depth in the minors. It's a tough call.
** In his first regular season game not in an Orioles' uniform, Nick Markakis drove in both of his team's runs in a 2-1 Atlanta Braves victory over the Miami Marlins on Monday. Markakis, whose status for the opener had been in question as he recovered from December neck surgery, batted third for the Braves. He was 1-for-4 with an RBI single and an RBI groundout. He also stole a base. Nelson Cruz was hitless in four at-bats in his debut with the Seattle Mariners.