Tonight started out with excitement for me as an Orioles fan because I was going to get to see the major league debut of Jason Berken, it ended being even more exciting for a different reason.
Jason Berken didn’t pitch terribly but he also wasn’t dominant by any stretch of the imagination. The twenty-five year old right hander earned a win in his major league debut as he battled in and out of trouble in five innings. Berken’s fastball sat in the 92-93 mile per hour range for most of the night with the exception of when he cranked it up to 96 once in the third inning. His fastball had good movement, at times almost breaking off the table like a low nineties splitter. The only problems I had with his fastball was that he seemed to have some trouble commanding it in the zone as the game progressed and I feel he threw an inordinate amount of heaters without attempting to keep hitters off balance.
Berken’s changeup looked a lot better than advertised in many scouting reports and seemed to fool hitters the few times he threw it. As for his slider it remains a work in progress although he did throw one particularly nasty slider to strikeout Vernon Wells in the first inning that tailed away from the right hander.
Overall Berken seemed to be battling on the mound and showed some flashes of talent throughout the night. In his five innings Berken allowed two eared runs on seven hits and three walks while striking out three Toronto hitters. Berken did do a good job of throwing first pitch strikes, something young Oriole pitchers have failed to do in the past. Of the twenty-four hitters he faced he threw sixteen first pitch strikes. While he did a good job getting ahead of hitters Berken seemed to have trouble putting away hitters once he got them to two strikes, which I think was partly due to his inability to spot his fastball and the lack of a dominant second pitch.
As for the hitters, Adam Jones continued to show why he is quickly becoming a superstar. In the fifth inning he hit an absolute bomb to left center that gave the Orioles a 3-2 lead that they never relinquished. Jones now has eleven big flies on the year and looks poised for a potential thirty home run season and a ticket to the midsummer classic in St. Louis at the age of twenty-three.
The Oriole bats really came to life tonight scoring seven runs on fourteen hits and blasting three balls out of the yard. Nolan Reimold looks to have the goods in left field; his two run shot in the sixth inning was to dead center and showed the kind of power potential the twenty-five year old possesses. Reimold has been more than holding his own in the big leagues with three home runs and six RBI in just twelve games this season, and has made Dave Trembley’s decision a lot easier when he fills out his lineup card.
While an Orioles victory and Berken’s major league debut were both great, Andy MacPhail trumped both with his announcement during an interview with the Orioles broadcast teams. After asking about the young pitchers in the minor league system, Buck Martinez seemingly innocently asked, “Where do you stand with Matt Wieters and what is the situation with your top prospect?” Right on cue MacPhail made the statement that Oriole fans have been awaiting all season, “He’s ready and it is time.” And with that all the speculation ended and it was announced Matt Wieters will be making his major league debut Friday night against the Tigers.
I am not one to shower the Orioles P.R. department with praise but I think this was handled perfectly. First of all they have given Oriole fans three days to get pumped up and flood Camden Yards to see the “Savior of Baltimore Baseball”. The announcement was clearly premeditated as they had clips of Wieters with the graphics “Wieters Making His Major League Debut Friday” immediately ready as quickly as the words left MacPhail’s mouth.
I got so excited I completely forgot there was a game going on but luckily I was recording it so I could go back and give you my wonderful recap. I stated during spring training I would not venture down to Eutaw Street until Wieters was brought up, so I will be rounding up as many friends as I can to give Wieters the welcome he deserves Friday night.
The Orioles had planned for Friday night to be their first fireworks night of the season and now it looks like will get two fireworks displays for the price of admission.