Everything about this spring for the Orioles, and more likely everything about the Orioles for years to come, has been about young talent — the acquisition of it, and the development of it.
All the while, a pair of veterans with eight years of big league service time apiece — designated hitter Mark Trumbo and right-hander Andrew Cashner — hit important benchmarks on their paths to Opening Day in the Orioles' 6-4 Grapefruit League win over the Toronto Blue Jays at Ed Smith Stadium on Wednesday.
Trumbo, who had knee surgery in September, appeared in his first spring training game and grounded out twice while reporting no discomfort after running down the first base line. And Cashner, for the second straight outing, flirted with a soft cap of 30 pitches in an inning and pitched into the fourth, just as his schedule for this time of year would dictate.
Neither is participating in any of the hotly contested camp battles, and it's been nearly a decade since either populated a top prospects list. But they're just as important to the 2019 Orioles as anyone else, and days like Wednesday mattered for each.
"It's been a lot of work put in to kind of get out there — months and months of effort all leading up to it," Trumbo said. "It wasn't a great day at the plate, but it was rewarding. I think it feels pretty good. I got to run down the line. I was kind of hoping to put the ball in play. I don't really care if I got a hit or not. I was trying to stress it a little bit, and it feels normal. That's a good sign."
“He felt good,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “That’s good news.”
Trumbo noted that it wasn't emotional for him as much as he was happy for the training staff, including head athletic trainer Brian Ebel and rehabilitation coordinator Kyle Corrick, who couldn't hide their own excitement for him.
Now, it's a race against the clock to get enough at-bats to feel ready for Opening Day on March 28 in New York against the Yankees.
"I've tested it enough to know that it's solid, so I'm not really very worried until something pops up," Trumbo said. "But it feels normal. It feels strong. Now, it's just kind of getting as many at-bats as I can. ... I've tested it enough to know that it's solid, so I'm not really very worried until something pops up. But it feels normal. It feels strong. Now, it's just kind of getting as many at-bats as I can."
Cashner tries again
Last time out against the Boston Red Sox on March 8, Cashner had a clean first inning but ran into two-out trouble and couldn't finish the second before hitting that 30-pitch soft cap.
That repeated itself in a three-run second inning Wednesday, which featured a walk, a pair of soft singles and a well-hit double before Cashner was able to strike out Dalton Pompey and pitch into the fourth inning.
He ended up leaving the last out of the fourth to Yefry Ramirez, allowing three runs on five hits with a pair of walks and four strikeouts.
"I thought I looked good," Cashner said. "I thought my fastball was down in the zone. I'd have maybe liked to work on my curveball a little bit more, but I thought my changeups were down. There were a few pitches that I might have done a little bit differently in the season, but overall, the results were what I want.”
Said Hyde: “I wanted to try to extend him as long as we could, and I was hoping that inning wasn’t going to go any further. We talked a little bit about it. I thought he had really good stuff. He threw the ball well. Just some mistimed walks. You walk guys that you shouldn’t walk, you have the potential to open up a big inning. That three-run inning was a walk, a two-out walk to [Cavan] Biggio which allows their big boys to come up, and at the end of the game those guys hit one more time. It’s making quality pitches when you need to, and he did a nice job getting out of the inning.
“He showed really, really good stuff. I know he’s really happy with his slider today. It’s a positive outing, but just from a general standpoint with our pitchers, to be able to eliminate walks and eliminate innings is going to be big for us.”
Same guys every time
Hitting in Orioles camp has been extreme: either someone is on fire or can't buy a hit. Many of the run-producers in Wednesday's win were the usual standouts.
Infielder Drew Jackson had an RBI single to bring his average to .375 on a 1-for-3 day, and right fielder Joey Rickard had a two-run single in the sixth inning to climb to .367.
The pesky Orioles reserves reversed a 5-4 deficit in the eighth inning with a bases-loaded walk by Christopher Bostick, a scorched line-drive sacrifice fly by JC Escarra, and a single by Stevie Wilkerson.