Baltimore Orioles

Orioles observations on a good game to watch (if you could), Tyler Wells on the clock and more

SARASOTA, Fla. — Even the altered version of Saturday’s lineup brought a smile to Kyle Stowers’ face.

Although the Orioles scratched hot-hitting Terrin Vavra from their starting nine because of left shoulder discomfort, the top part of their lineup for a Grapefruit League exhibition against the Atlanta Braves still featured four other young players who have climbed through the system together in Gunnar Henderson, Adley Rutschman, Stowers and Jordan Westburg. The first three were all taken atop the 2019 draft, with Westburg, a 2020 draftee, quickly joining them in the upper minors.


“You see the lineup card, and it’s just like, ‘Man, we’ve been doing this together for a long time now,’” Stowers said. “Obviously, there’s groups in the big leagues that have been together longer, but for us to be going through such transformative years together, our early 20s and into adulthood and going up through the system together, you see the names in the lineup, and it’s just familiar, it’s comfortable and, man, it’s a lot of fun.”

Adding to the excitement was that the split-squad Braves were starting Rutschman’s National League counterpart as a Rookie of the Year runner-up in right-hander Spencer Strider; the winner of the award, Atlanta outfielder Michael Harris II, homered in the first inning. Once Strider was out of the game, Colton Cowser and Joey Ortiz drove in runs, and Jackson Holliday, Coby Mayo, Connor Norby and Heston Kjerstad got into the game; each ranks among the Orioles’ top dozen prospects. Left-hander Cade Povich, who figures to be Baltimore’s top pitching prospect by this time next year, threw two scoreless innings for the second straight appearance.


The Orioles’ 3-2 loss, decided with Norby in the box and Holliday representing the tying run at second base, showcased some of the Orioles’ and baseball’s top young talent. And the only people who could watch it were those at Ed Smith Stadium.

Of the Orioles’ first seven spring training games, only one has been televised by either participating team. The Mid-Atlantic Sports Network’s first broadcast will come Monday, with only three more to follow. MASN is also broadcasting only four Washington Nationals games; those totals are believed to be the lowest for any team this spring.

Last month, Orioles CEO and Chairman John Angelos, who is also the CEO of MASN, said the lack of spring training broadcasts is “certainly a valid question and criticism.”

“Spring training games are relatively low-rated games,” Angelos said. “They’re very low-rated games. Most of them are in the afternoons on weekdays. The only professional sport that’s really still doing anything on afternoons and weekdays is probably horse racing, right? It’s a tough putt. It doesn’t mean you should or shouldn’t do it, but it’s hard to make it pay.

“Now, the counter argument is just spend it as a cost of doing business, right, and it’ll help promote the teams. It’ll help promote the game. That’s a totally reasonable argument. We have historically made the decision to focus on fewer games in the spring and pour more of our production into the course of the season.”

Saturday’s game certainly counted as one that would “promote the game,” or at least promote the Orioles. Only an announced 5,109 fans got to watch it.

Tyler Wells was the first Orioles pitcher to offer some criticism of the new pitch clock. "Mixed reviews on it today, just because a few things didn’t go my way," he said after feeling rushed during a pitch that led to a home run. "But at the same time, too, I can understand why people like it.”

On the clock

“What’d you think of the pitch clock?” has frequently been offered among the questions asked of Orioles players during their midgame interviews with reporters. On Saturday, Tyler Wells became the first pitcher to offer some form of criticism of it.

In the right-hander’s first spring outing, Wells gave up Harris’ first spring home run on a cutter down the middle. He obviously didn’t want it in that location, but he also said he would have preferred not to even throw that pitch.


But with the game’s new pitch clock ticking down, Wells figured he didn’t have time to shake off catcher Adley Rutschman and instead threw a pitch he wasn’t fully committed to instead of risking an automatic ball. The change was made to improve pace of play; the Orioles have yet to play a game that’s taken three hours.

“I’m sitting there, I’m thinking a different pitch, but you look at pitch clock, I’ve got five seconds [left],” Wells said. “Don’t have a whole lot of time to shake, and I wasn’t too sure about the whole step-off thing, so ultimately, it is going to take some getting used to, and I can see how it definitely helps with the pace of play of things. Mixed reviews on it today, just because a few things didn’t go my way. But at the same time, too, I can understand why people like it.”

Wells was clear he didn’t have an issue with Rutschman’s call for the cutter, saying the pitch might have gotten better results if he had thrown the pitch to the backstop’s suggested spot of up and in. The home run was the first of three runs Wells surrendered, as many as fellow rotation candidates Kyle Gibson, Cole Irvin, Dean Kremer, Kyle Bradish, Austin Voth, Grayson Rodriguez and Spenser Watkins have allowed combined this spring. Behind Wells, Bruce Zimmermann pitched three scoreless innings after allowing two runs over two innings in his first outing.

But Wells said he didn’t want to talk about the rotation competition, preferring to focus on what he needs to work on.

“It’s spring training, first start, and it sucks to give up runs regardless,” Wells said. “I’m one of those people, I don’t care if it’s the first start, I don’t care if it’s a playoff game. It always sucks to give up runs.”

‘A nice touch’

Saturday’s game was a split squad for the Braves, meaning their coaching staff was divided between Sarasota and North Port. But they were particular about one selection to head on the road.


Baltimore Orioles Insider


Want to be an Orioles Insider? The Sun has you covered. Don't miss any Orioles news, notes and info all baseball season and beyond.

The pregame lineup exchange featured Doug Mansolino, who serves as a player development adviser for Atlanta, and his son, Tony Mansolino, the Orioles’ third base and infield coach.

“I thought that was a nice touch,” Orioles manager Brandon Hyde said. “You can tell where Tony comes from. They’re, like, identical. But I’ve actually known of Doug Mansolino for a long time. He’s a baseball lifer, and Tony doesn’t fall far from the tree.”

Father and son then posed for a photo with the umpiring crew at home plate; the Oriole Bird rushed over, just missing the shot.

Grapefruit League

Orioles at Rays

Sunday, 1:05 p.m.


Radio: 97.9 FM, 101.5 FM, 1090 AM