Filed under: Baltimore Orioles, Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees, Tampa Bay Rays
By Wes Yee
While the AL East certainly isn’t decided four days into the 2010 season, the Orioles’ Buck Showalter had to be pleased with an opening weekend sweep of the defending division champion Rays. Showalter, whose comments about Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein and Yankees Shortstop Derek Jeter drew early controversy, got 12 dominant innings from youngsters Chris Tillman and Zach Britton. Tillman, who turns 23 on tax day, didn’t allow a hit before being removed after six shutout innings. Tillman, just another piece acquired in the Erik Bedard deal, pitched half seasons in the majors in 2009 and 2010. He posted 5+ eras in both seasons, with troubling walk rates. That problem jumped his pitch count over 100 on Saturday, and kept him from having a shot at a no-hitter. Nonetheless, it was an excellent 2011 debut for a very talented pitcher.
Britton was nearly as good, allowing a single run on a bunt in six strong innings. It was electric debut that saw the 23 year old flash a 91-94 mph sinker with excellent armside run. He also showed excellent command of a mid 80’s changeup, which he used for four of his six strikeouts. Some scouts pegged Britton, who actually was slated for AAA before the Brian Matusz injury, as the Orioles best pitcher in Spring Training. He showed great maturity and poise, pitching in a close debut game against an albeit weakened Rays lineup.
While 3-0 Baltimore sits atop the East on April 3, it’s far too early to snatch the favorite cap off of the 0-3 Red Sox staggering heads. Showalter’s young staff will no doubt suffer some growing pains along the way, but for the first time in years it seems like the O’s have righted the ship.
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