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Eastward ho! Rare trip to Florida's Atlantic coast offers Orioles change of pace, opportunity

Maintenance worker Bill Sloan paints railings inside First Data Field, spring training home of the New York Mets in Port St. Lucie, Fla.
Maintenance worker Bill Sloan paints railings inside First Data Field, spring training home of the New York Mets in Port St. Lucie, Fla. (Jeff Roberson / AP)

The Orioles’ Grapefruit League road schedule is typically filled with trips along Florida’s Gulf coast with an occasional trip to the state’s interior around the Orlando area. But the Orioles rarely make a trip to Florida’s Atlantic coast for a spring training game.

The Orioles used to call the Eastern side of the state home. They trained in Miami for four decades in the franchise’s early years and worked out in Fort Lauderdale for 14 years before moving to Sarasota in 2010.

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Before this year, the last year the Orioles went across the state to play a Grapefruit League game was 2015, when they traveled to Jupiter to play the St. Louis Cardinals. And only once since moving to Sarasota have the Orioles played consecutive games on the East coast, that time coming in 2010 in the team’s first year training in Sarasota.

So the next two days will be rare for the Orioles. In fact, most of the players have never done this. The Orioles will travel across the state — on two-lane roads through orange groves and open marshland — to play the Cardinals in Jupiter on Thursday and then go north to play the New York Mets in Port St. Lucie on Friday.

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Orioles manager Buck Showalter said most of his regulars will make the trip and likely play in both games. With less than two weeks remaining in the exhibition schedule, the opportunities to get regular-season-ready are dwindling. The only two starters not expected to make the trip are center fielder Adam Jones and first baseman Chris Davis.

So the next two days will be a road trip in the truest sense. Players will stay in a hotel between games, and Showalter and his staff headed east after Wednesday afternoon’s game against the New York Yankees.

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“I think we’re embracing it where it might be an advantage,” Showalter said. That’s the way we’re kind of going at this. Guys are going to be at a hotel. We’re going to take just about everybody and it’s starting to move toward the end of spring. We’re going to see two teams that we really don’t play during the season.”

One benefit of the trip will be that the Orioles will play a pair of National League teams, freeing themselves of the monotony of a schedule that includes multiple games against all four American League East rivals and also this year’s first opponent of the regular season, the Minnesota Twins.

Because of that, Showalter had pitched some of his starters in simulated games, and now that minor league games are underway, some of the team’s starters and late-inning relievers will go to Twin Lakes Park to get their innings in by pitching in minor league games.

Playing these two games will allow two of his starters to build their innings count to five frames against major league competition. Right-hander Kevin Gausman will start Thursday’s game, and right-hander Andrew Cashner will start Friday’s.

“There’s a lot of good to come out of it the way we look at it,” Showalter said. “It’s not like it’s a 17-hour bus ride. It’s three hours we hope. Sleep in a little bit. They’ll be able to get some uninterrupted rest and be by themselves a bit. I know a lot of our guys are really looking forward to it.”

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