Opposite-name twins face off for O's, Bucs

March 7th, 2021

BRADENTON, Fla. -- Spring Training spawns all sorts of weird situations, all sorts of strange matchups, especially this year. But what happened Sunday at LECOM Field was something else entirely.

The third-inning matchup would have otherwise been a footnote in the Orioles’ 13-1 loss to the Pirates, had it not posed such a challenge for those scoring at home. What are we talking about? The name fun that occurred when Orioles righty and Pirates infielder squared off for the first time.

The at-bat, which resulted in a seven-pitch walk, generated all sorts of reaction on the internet because their names are literally the inverse of one another.

Despite their similar names, Phillips and Evans have starkly different stories.

Phillips, 26, was born in Maryland and grew up in North Carolina, was drafted by the Braves in 2015 and acquired by the O's in the '18 Kevin Gausman trade. He has appeared in 44 games for the club over the past three seasons, pitching to a 7.36 ERA.

Evans, 28, grew up in California and was drafted out of high school in 2011, reaching the Majors with the Mets in '17. He has appeared in 45 big league games over parts of three seasons, most recently hitting .359 with 14 hits in 11 games for the Pirates last year.

The two had never faced each other in the big leagues before.

Perhaps it's fitting that the situation involved the Pirates, who are no strangers to this sort of name fun. In 2018, Pirates infielders Kevin Kramer and Kevin Newman -- both of whom appeared in Sunday’s exhibition -- made headlines by creating the ultimate baseball “Seinfeld” tribute in recent memory.

The Phillips-Evans saga also wasn’t the only notable name event Sunday. Both teams trotted out No. 2 hitters with the same last name pronunciation -- and -- though they are spelled slightly differently.

John Means business

wasn’t helped much by his infield defense on his way toward surrendering four runs in two-plus innings in his second spring start, with much of the damage coming after a potential inning-ending double-play ball wasn’t turned in the second frame. Still, Means wasn’t nearly his sharpest in the outing, allowing four hits and walking one without a strikeout.

“I felt like the command was there early in counts; I just wasn’t putting people away,” Means said. “I’m healthy, I feel like my pitches are breaking well. I’m just not executing them as well as I’d like, especially with two strikes.”

The Orioles' likely Opening Day starter, Means should be in line for at least four more starts this spring. The 2019 All-Star went 2-4 with a 4.53 ERA in 10 starts last season.

Out of hand

Outs were hard to come by Sunday for several relievers after Means, with Fernando Abad (one inning, five runs) and Dillon Tate (one inning, three runs) struggling in their outings. In between, Shawn Armstrong, Travis Lakins Sr. and Eric Hanhold each logged a scoreless frame.

Getting extra work in

Before the O’s laced up Sunday, a roster full of their camp reserves defeated the Pirates in a five-inning “B” game at the nearby Pirate City complex. Non-roster hurlers Dusten Knight, Marcos Diplán and Cody Carroll pitched in the exhibition, which featured hits from prospects Adley Rutschman, Jordan Westburg, Gunnar Henderson and Ryan McKenna. Henderson logged another at-bat later in the official game, striking out against David Bednar.

Where is Baumann?

The highest profile O’s pitcher yet to appear in a Grapefruit League game? No. 8 prospect Michael Baumann, whose work has been limited to the backfields thus far this spring. Hyde said Baumann threw “a couple innings” in a simulated game last week and has another backfield session set for this week. The Orioles are easing Baumann in after the righty suffered an elbow strain late last summer; he’s likely ticketed for Triple-A Norfolk to begin the year.

On the move

The Orioles reassigned five players to their Twin Lakes facility in Sarasota, Fla., in their first wave of cuts: catcher Brett Cumberland, infielder Mason McCoy, right-hander Marcos Diplán and lefties Zack Muckenhirm and Josh Rogers. They have 67 players remaining in big league camp.

Up next

After enjoying their first off-day of the spring Monday, the Orioles will reconvene in Fort Myers, Fla., on Tuesday to play the Twins. Dean Kremer will match up against Kenta Maeda, with first pitch set for 1:05 p.m. ET from Hammond Stadium.