BOSTON — Kyle Bradish went to bed Wednesday knowing he wasn’t due to pitch for a few days. The Orioles’ right-handed starter still had trouble falling asleep.
That excitement level was shared by Baltimore’s five other players who made their first opening day roster, with half of the six making contributions to the Orioles’ season-opening 10-9 victory Thursday over the Boston Red Sox.
Catcher Adley Rutschman’s path to superstardom continued with a home run on his first swing, four hits and a walk as part of a record-setting 5-for-5 day. Gunnar Henderson, Rutschman’s successor as baseball’s top overall prospect, drew two free passes as Baltimore’s designated hitter, one starting a four-run fourth inning. Right-hander Logan Gillaspie struck out the only batter he faced to end the bottom of the eighth. Like Bradish, outfielder Kyle Stowers and utility player Terrin Vavra didn’t appear in the opener, but each of three will have significant roles moving forward.
These six players all made their major league debuts last season as Orioles, with those initial appearances coming across five months. They collectively savored Thursday’s festivities at Fenway Park.
“We each came up at different points last year and got to experience our ‘firsts’ on our own,” Vavra said. “But this is something that we’re all gonna share together and we’re gonna be able to look back on and think about these guys and the moment that you were in it all together.”
Last year, Bradish was the first to arrive, making his first start in late April against Boston. Gillaspie came out of Baltimore’s bullpen in mid-May, with Rutschman’s long-awaited arrival four days later. Stowers’ first major league stint came as a substitute player during a June series in Toronto. Vavra was called up in late July, and Henderson’s debut came a month later.
The six had spent time together in the Orioles’ minor league system. On Thursday, they all got to be part of opening day festivities.
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“Makes the moments more special,” Stowers said. “I think that’s why team sports is so great, because you’re sharing these moments with people you love and care about and people you’ve spent a lot of time with, so it makes it something that we’ll never forget and something we’ll be talking about for the rest of our lives.”
Entering spring training, Rutschman, Henderson and Bradish were all viewed as likely members of the roster, while Stowers, Vavra and Gillaspie had to battle for their spots. Vavra said he learned before the Orioles’ final spring training game that he made the team. Stowers let his family know he made the trip with the club to Boston but couldn’t guarantee whether he would officially make the 26-man roster until manager Brandon Hyde and executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias told him Wednesday.
Hyde said Gillaspie’s stuff and mindset left an impression and earned him a bullpen spot, but Gillaspie said he spent spring training “just waiting for a tap on the shoulder” for a meeting to tell him he was being sent to the minors.
“But the longer that I was there, I was like, ‘Oh my God, I might actually make it,’” Gillaspie said.
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The first game and the 161 that follow matter equally in the standings, but there’s a significance that belongs to the commencement. Henderson called it “a dream come true” to make an opening day roster. Rutschman noted how season openers carried “a different energy” even during his time in college and the minors.
Before Thursday’s historic performance — Rutschman’s five hits set an opening day record for a catcher and an Oriole — he said he was interested in hearing what aspects of the day his fellow first-timers took away from the experience. That it came alongside one another was an early favorite.
“It’ll definitely be memories that we’ll cherish forever,” Henderson said. “We’re all good friends away from the field, and we enjoy spending time together. To be able to spend an opening day with each and every one of these guys is pretty special.”
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