Oriole Park at Camden Yards
Game 1: Friday, April 10th, 2009
First Pitch: 7:05pm (EST)
Probable Starters: Andy Sonnanstine, RHP (Rays) / Mark Hendrickson, LHP (Orioles)
Rays: Sonnanstine is a master of deception, employing an array of pitches that he can throw from all different angles. But he has learned to primarily use his fastball to setup the other pitches. Among those other pitches, Sonnanstine has added a changeup to his repertoire this spring, which he is fast gaining confidence in the more he masters it. The right-hander's mantra is to dispatch of hitters one way or the other in three pitches, which allows him to get deeper into the games and save the bullpen. He is 2-2 with a 6.67 ERA in five career starts against the Orioles; he is 1-1 with a 3.86 ERA in two career starts at Camden Yards.
Orioles: Hendrickson was signed by the Orioles in the offseason to slot in as a long reliever and spot starter, but several of Baltimore's projected starters stumbled during Spring Training. That ceded a spot to Hendrickson, one of the more experienced pitchers on Baltimore's staff. The southpaw began his career with the Blue Jays but has since bounced to Tampa Bay, the Dodgers and the Marlins before resurfacing in the American League East with Baltimore.
Game 2: Saturday, April 11th, 2009
First Pitch: 7:05pm (EST)
Probable Starters: Jeff Niemann, RHP (Rays) / Jeremy Guthrie (1-0), RHP (Orioles)
Rays: At the beginning of Spring Training, the Rays had four legitimate candidates for the fifth spot in the rotation: Niemann, Jason Hammel, David Price and Mitch Talbot. Niemann earned the job. The 6-foot-9, 280 pound right-hander, who was the Rays' No. 1 pick (fourth overall) in the 2004 Draft, had a slower than expected path to the Major Leagues due to injuries and problems with his mechanics. This spring he showed marked improvement in pitching down with his fastball and with his breaking ball command, which proved exceptional all spring. In addition, Niemann seems to be ironing out his mechanics, which sometimes is a difficult undertaking for a pitcher of his height. While getting everything coordinated might be harder for a taller pitcher, the downward angle of his pitches can make them extremely hard to hit. Niemann made his Major League debut for the Rays in 2008, making two starts and three relief appearances. One of those starts came against the Orioles at Tropicana Field, where he picked up his first Major League win after holding Baltimore to one run in six innings on April 13. On Sept. 23, he picked up career win No. 2 at Camden Yards when he pitched 2 1/3 innings of relief against the Orioles.
Orioles: Guthrie answered some questions about his rough Spring Training on Opening Day, when he pitched six relatively strong innings against the Yankees. The right-hander walked three batters, which isn't characteristic of him, but saw his velocity return to normal levels. Guthrie also got some help from his defense, crediting shortstop Cesar Izturis and third baseman Melvin Mora for outstanding work. His second start will come on normal rest and will be against the defending AL champions.
Game 3: Sunday, April 12th, 2009
First Pitch: 1:35pm (EST)
Probable Starters: James Shields (0-1), RHP (Rays) / Adam Eaton, RHP (Orioles)
Rays: Shields had a rough Opening Day outing when he allowed five runs to take a loss against the Red Sox. Clearly Shields did not have his best stuff, but he battled through 5 1/3 innings. Shields has built a reputation as a pitcher who will do whatever is necessary to pitch his team into the seventh or eighth innings, which is evidenced by two consecutive seasons with 215 innings pitched. The right-hander is 4-1 with a 3.21 ERA in 12 career starts against the Orioles; 2-0 with a 3.14 ERA in six career starts at Camden Yards.
Orioles: Eaton was released by the Phillies early in Spring Training despite still being in the final season of a lucrative three-year contract. Eaton, a former first-round draft pick, hasn't had an ERA under 5.00 in any of the last three seasons. The right-hander still has a winning record for his career and the Orioles are hoping he can hold down a spot for the first half of the season. Most of Eaton's experience has come in the National League, but he briefly pitched for the Rangers.