Sarasota, Fla. — New Orioles manager Brandon Hyde has said repeatedly this spring that he’s more interested in the effort and energy his team displays than the results, but being undefeated after the first two games of the exhibition season is nice, too.
The O’s put up six early-inning runs in each of the weekend games at Ed Smith Stadium and scored a 9-8 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays in Grapefruit League on Sunday afternoon.
Third base prospect Rio Ruiz crushed a three-run homer in the first inning and — after the Blue Jays scored four times in the third inning to take the lead — veteran catcher Carlos Perez belted a two-run double in the fourth that put the Orioles back in front.
Even after everyone in the starting lineup was long gone, the Orioles scored three more runs in the seventh inning to build a big lead that barely survived a late Blue Jays rally. Right-hander Brandon Kline finally flashed his 96 mph fastball and struck out the side to end the game.
Hess makes spring debut
Right-hander David Hess made his first start of the spring and allowed a run on three hits over two innings. He gave up a leadoff homer to Jays center fielder Dalton Pompey in the second inning, but said he felt okay about his performance.
“I felt like, all things considered, it was a pretty good start,’’ he said. “Getting out there for the first time and getting the rust off in a sense, I left a two-seamer over the middle, which is something I’ve been working on and obviously the home run wasn’t ideal, but I felt like a got a lot of soft contact today.”
Hess bounced back after the home run to retire the last three batters he faced, which apparently impressed new pitching coach Doug Brocail.
“I was talking with Broc afterwards and he said that I kind of showed who I was today,’’ he said. “Went out there and competed and the thing he said he liked a lot was after the home run I went right back at them and got one-two-three.”
Though he spent a lot of time at the major league level last year, Hess said he doesn’t think that gives him any advantage in the battle for a place in the big league starting rotation.
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“The way I look at it is that everybody’s got a fresh start and there’s still a lot that everybody’s trying to prove regardless if you have a year, two years, three years or 10 days.”
Ruiz making good early impression
Ruiz played in each of the first two games and drove in a run in a pinch-hitting appearance Saturday against the Minnesota Twins. He led off the fourth inning with a walk in his second at-bat Sunday, aggressively went from first to third on a single and scored on a base hit by Austin Hays. The O’s went on to score three times in that inning.
Though Ruiz clearly has made a good first impression, he said that he’s actually trying not to think about that.
“I'm just focused on trying to see the ball as well as I can and put a good swing on it,’’ he said. “In earlier camps that I've been in, I've tried to do too much out of the gate and tried to impress too many people too often. This time around, I kind of just went in and just said, 'Just be you.' It's going how I wanted it so far.”
The Orioles claimed Ruiz off waivers from the Atlanta Braves in early December. He has appeared in the majors in each of the past three seasons, but he got significant playing time only in 2017, when he appeared in 53 games and batted .193 with four homers and 19 RBIs.
He hit his first major league home run off Washington Nationals ace Max Scherzer during that season. The one he hit Sunday doesn’t compare, but he was proud to clean up those base runners in that situation.
“I think any knock is important, especially with guys on,” he said. “Given the situation, it was two outs. You just play for a run at that time, and it just so happened that the ball went over the fence. Definitely happy about that.”