Orioles second baseman Jonathan Schoop talks about playing an exhibition game in Norfolk before the start of the regular season. (Eduardo A. Encina, Baltimore Sun video)
After nearly six weeks of temperate Florida sunshine in spring training, the Orioles were greeted with blustery winds and mid-40-degree temperatures on their trek north as they stopped in Norfolk on Monday to play an exhibition game against their Triple-A affiliate.
In their final tuneup before Opening Day on Thursday at Camden Yards, the Orioles beat the Tides, 7-6, at Harbor Park before boarding a flight to Baltimore.
“I don’t think there was a lot of sadness leaving Sarasota today,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “They’re all ready to get on with it. … We’ve been there long enough, and this is kind of the start of us moving north.”
“It’s actually good in a way. There’s actually something to be gained by getting [into the cold].”
Second baseman Jonathan Schoop hit a mammoth two-run home run — his seventh homer of the exhibition season — to the right-center-field area of Harbor Park that few reach with the wind blowing off the Elizabeth River beyond the outfield fences. His sixth-inning blast off left-hander Jayson Aquino tied the game at 3.
Schoop hit six homers in his last 12 exhibition games.
“Jon is ready to go,” Showalter said. “He’s had a good spring on both sides of the ball.”
Right-hander Andrew Cashner made his final start before making his Orioles debut Saturday, allowing two runs — one earned — on four hits over 3 1/3 innings.
Cashner battled his command in the cold, opening the game with back-to-back walks and hitting Andrew Susac with a pitch in the back to open the second, but he overcame that with strikeouts on six of the 10 outs he recorded. He threw 69 pitches, 43 of them strikes. Showalter said Cashner achieved the day’s goal of getting up four times.
“I think you’re used to the heat, you’re used to the sweat,” Cashner said. “And it’s a whole different warmup when it’s cold out, so it’s just getting that feeling, maybe not being as loose, all that stuff,”
Cashner said he felt ready for the season, and is eager to show an reinvented slider during the regular season. He essentially abandoned the pitch last season in favor of a cutter.
“I felt good,” Cashner said. “I feel like I’ve got four plus pitches and I kind of figured some things out the other day with my slider and I think it’s going to be a big pitch for me this season. Was locating sinkers both sides of the plate. Trying to get a feel for the cold weather and the baseball and all that.”
He was hurt by a fielding error by Danny Valencia at third that opened the fourth inning. That runner scored on a double by Susac. Jaycob Brugman followed with a single, and Susac scored on a fielder’s choice to put the Tides up 2-1.
It was an unusual game for the Norfolk club, which basically treated Monday’s game as a split-squad contest. Usually when the Tides fly north to Norfolk for this game, it is for good. But because of the major league season opening earlier than normal, the Tides travel party returned to Sarasota after the game to complete minor league games, which conclude Thursday. Norfolk’s International League regular-season opener isn’t until April 6.
“This game is usually looked at a little differently because usually it gets me out of spring training a little bit early,” Tides manager Ron Johnson said. “I come up here, we play the game and I’m good to go. But this time, the schedule wasn’t so good for the situation. But I don’t really care. We’ve got four days left. If we stayed here, we wouldn’t do anything until the 6th, so that’s too long. So we’re going to go back, finish it up and we’ll come back on Saturday.”
Top Orioles prospect Austin Hays, who played for Norfolk on Monday but will open the season with Double-A Bowie, was 2-for-4 with two runs scored, and Brugman, Mike Yastrzemski and Daniel Fajardo each had multiple hits for the Tides.
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