SARASOTA, Fla. — - It's time for the games to begin. The Orioles open the exhibition season this afternoon against the Tampa Bay Rays in what will be Baltimore's Grapefruit League debut as the spring resident at Ed Smith Stadium.
"Everybody is anxious to get the spring training games under way," manager Dave Trembley said.
Jeremy Guthrie will take the mound for the Orioles against Tampa Bay's James Shields. Newly signed left-hander Will Ohman and right-hander Matt Albers also are scheduled to pitch for the Orioles, along with other unannounced relievers.
As with any early preseason game, there will be a lot of names in the box score, since the pitchers throw only an inning or two and the regulars play sparingly.
"The starting lineup will probably play five innings," Trembley said. "We'll see what we get. I don't think it would be more than two at-bats."
Brian Matusz will be next up in the spring rotation Thursday, followed by Chris Tillman on Friday night and Kevin Millwood on Saturday. Millwood threw simulated game action Tuesday.
Bottom line: They'll finally be playing against guys wearing a different uniform, which is a fairly exciting prospect after more than two weeks of mundane drills and bullpen sessions. How much everyone will play during the early weeks of the exhibition season will depend on the player.
"I've written my lineups out, and I've talked to guys accordingly," Trembley said. "I would say that I'll do the best I can of staying away from the regulars on back-to-back games for the first week. It might change after that. I don't think it will be the same for all the regulars."
Sarfate's chancesDennis Sarfate
can do the math. He knows there are precious few spots available in the Orioles' Opening Day bullpen and plenty of competitors.
"I can't really think about who I'm competing against," said Sarfate, a right-hander who went 0-1 last season with a 5.09 ERA in 20 appearances and spent about four months on the disabled list with a circulatory condition in his pitching hand. "I can only control what I can do out there. I think it will be exciting if I do make it, but there are a lot of good arms going for the last few spots."
The Orioles will likely go with a seven-man bullpen, and five of those spots appear to be set. Free-agent acquisition Mike Gonzalez will close, and Jim Johnson, Kam Mickolio and Koji Uehara will serve as right-handed setup men. Mark Hendrickson will be the long man. Alberto Castillo, Mike Hinckley, Ohman and Wilfrido Perez are the candidates for the situational left-hander role.
Barring injuries or a trade, that leaves one spot for a group of right-handers that includes Sarfate, Albers, Cla Meredith, David Hernandez and Jason Berken.
First base candidate Michael Aubrey
will be on restricted activity for the next week or so after undergoing a medical procedure on his back that required stitches.
"Obviously, you know that was not a baseball-related issue," Trembley said "It was another medical issue, something that he had gotten done. I think they have to be careful. He has a wound on his back, and when it heals, we'll go from there."
Hernandez is expected to pitch today, and he'll unveil the two-seam fastball that he has added to his repertoire to give hitters another part of the strike zone to worry about.
"That's going to be a big pitch for me," Hernandez said. "I knew that if I didn't make any changes, I'm not going to be here very long. I know what I had was good enough in the minor leagues, but that's not the goal."