O's stumble out of blocks with a spring in their steps

The Kickoff

March 02, 2007|By PETER SCHMUCK

JUPITER, Fla. — JUPITER, Fla.-- --The Orioles opened their 2007 exhibition season yesterday at Roger Dean Stadium, and, I've got to tell you, it was great to see Fort Lauderdale on the road jerseys.

There I go again, making jokes when I ought to be more supportive of the ballclub, but it's not like anything significant is going to happen in the first preseason game, unless you count Steve Trachsel reaching his pitch limit about halfway through the first inning.

Don't misunderstand. I've really got no bone to pick with Trachsel, who came here on a moment's notice to replace injured starter Kris Benson. If he puts up 15 wins like he did last year for the New York Mets, I don't care if his ERA ends up in a dead heat with Barry Bonds' hat size.

(Quick side note: I recently read where the equipment manager of the San Francisco Giants testified that Bonds has gone from a 7 1/8 to a 7 1/2 baseball cap since he signed with the Giants 15 years ago, which is supposed to be evidence that he's been using steroids or human growth hormone. I think it's only fair to point out that my hat size has increased from 7 3/8 to 7 3/4 over the past decade, and the only thing I've been using is a delicious combination of Velveeta and Nalley's no-bean chili with my Doritos.)

Trachsel doesn't have any head-size issues, which probably was a good thing with all those line drives whizzing by him yesterday. He gave up four hits and three runs in one inning, but - on the brighter side - this is the time of year to do that. Nobody expects to be sharp the first time out, and Trachsel wasn't the only pitcher to put a crooked number on the scoreboard in the Marlins' 8-6 victory.

His regular-season status is not really in question. He was brought in to fill the fourth or fifth slot in the rotation, barring miraculous progress by Benson, who is entering the second week of his shoulder rehab and might not accept divine intervention if it were offered. The Orioles were just happy a pitcher of Trachsel's ability and experience was still available in the free-agent market during the final days of the offseason. Presumably, Trachsel was just happy that his agent's cell phone didn't drop the call and the $3.1 million offer that came with it.

"It's been an interesting 10 days," he said, which left me wondering if we've both been in the same spring training camp.

The most interesting thing in yesterday's game was the two-run, walk-off home run that Orioles minor leaguer Freddy Deza surrendered to Marlins first baseman Jason Wood. The alternative was an extra-inning game featuring 18 players who you (and I) have never heard of, so I'm guessing even the Orioles were happy to move on to their post-game wind sprints and the bus ride back to Lauderdale.

Not really. You don't get to this level without being intensely competitive, so the Orioles probably would have preferred to keep playing, but nobody will even remember who won yesterday's game by this time tomorrow - except, of course, Deza, and you probably never heard of him either.

The Orioles' offensive highlight came from veteran utilityman Chris Gomez, who started at shortstop and launched the first Orioles home run of the year in the fourth inning. He earlier delivered a run-scoring double to open the Grapefruit League season with a three-RBI performance. And you were wondering why Miguel Tejada doesn't like to take days off.

If you're still looking for some deeper meaning from the preseason opener, Jay Gibbons started at first base, where the club hopes he can get comfortable enough to give manager Sam Perlozzo maximum left-handed/right-handed roster flexibility.

Gibbons' performance was uneventful, which at first base is not a bad thing. He didn't get a ground ball in four innings in the field.

He'll start at designated hitter in the Orioles' home opener today at Fort Lauderdale Stadium. I'm pretty sure he won't get any ground balls there either.

peter.schmuck@baltsun.com

The Peter Schmuck Show airs on WBAL (1090 AM) at noon on Saturdays.

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