Opening Day FAQ: Orioles vs. Rays

April 8th, 2022

ST. PETERSBURG -- Last year, the Rays had to reconcile their regular-season success with postseason disappointment. They won 100 games, the most in the American League, on their way to a second straight AL East championship. They debuted former top prospect Wander Franco, who headed a wave of young talent, and unleashed AL Rookie of the Year Randy Arozarena for his first full season.

For a team coming off a trip to the 2020 World Series, they expected another long October. Instead, Tampa Bay’s season ended in Boston after a four-game defeat in the ALDS. Now, as the Rays begin their season Friday afternoon against the Orioles at Tropicana Field, they are as motivated as ever.

“To say that we were ready to leave in the first round of the playoffs, that was not in anybody's expectation,” Rays second baseman Brandon Lowe said. “We all expected to be back in the World Series, and I think that's lit a pretty big fire under us this year. We want to be back in that position again this year.”

Meanwhile, expect the Orioles on Opening Day to look far different than the Orioles come season’s end, with top prospects expected to make their long-awaited debuts into the summer, signaling what’s hoped to be a turning tide in Charm City.

“We got a lot of guys who have experience and play really well, too,” said first baseman/outfielder Trey Mancini. “And that's an important mix. I think we got a lot of guys that you'll see making their debuts this year that are going to be really good Major League players, too. I think we've gotten better.”

When is the game and how can I watch it?
First pitch is scheduled for Friday at 3:10 p.m. ET at Tropicana Field. The game can be seen on MLB.TV and locally in each market on Bally Sports Sun (Tampa Bay) and MASN (Baltimore). Radio broadcasts will be available on WDAE 95.3/620 AM and the Rays Radio Network (Tampa Bay) and 98 Rock FM/WBAL NewsRadio AM/FM (Baltimore).

The starting lineups
: The number of lineups the Orioles will trot out in 2022 might be a good jellybeans-in-a-jar guessing game come year’s end. Part of that is due to the prospects who will soon arrive and shake things up; part of it is due to uncertainty surrounding the current roster; part of it is due to the tinkering manager Brandon Hyde is prepared to implement as the year opens, with matchup-based nods expected to be the norm. So with the left-handed Shane McClanahan on the mound for the Rays, the O’s will go right-heavy, which meant starts for Ramón Urías, Jorge Mateo and Kelvin Gutiérrez.

Rays: Few teams utilize platoons as frequently or successfully as Tampa Bay, which is one reason why Cash used 158 lineup configurations last season. With lefty John Means starting for the Orioles, Cash stacked his batting order with right-handed bats like Díaz, Ramírez and Margot. Interestingly, outfield prospect Josh Lowe will get the start in the DH spot after a late promotion to the Opening Day roster. Arozarena hit leadoff against lefties most of last season, but he’ll bat cleanup in the Opening Day lineup while Franco remains in the No. 2 spot. Lefty-hitting Brandon Lowe – coming off a 39-homer, 99-RBI season – should play a prominent role as well.

Who are the starting pitchers?
will make his second consecutive Opening Day start, an “obvious” choice for the club, as Hyde put it. Means really should be making his third straight start, but arm troubles following Summer Camp landed him on the IL to start the 2020 season. Such concerns are a focus for Means in ’22: He has yet to surpass 200 innings in a season, and has landed on the IL with arm ailments in each of the last three campaigns. Coming off a season in which he threw a no-hitter and dominated the Red Sox on Opening Day in Boston, Means hopes Friday is just a table-setter for another impressive season.

Rays: Left-hander will make his first Opening Day start after an excellent rookie season. McClanahan went 10-6 with a 3.43 ERA and 141 strikeouts in 2021, pitching 123 1/3 innings over 25 outings. The 24-year-old, who features a fastball that can touch triple digits and two elite swing-and-miss breaking balls, was especially strong last year down the stretch (3.01 ERA in his final 17 starts) and against the Orioles (4-0, 2.74 ERA in four starts). McClanahan is unlikely to be intimidated by the moment, considering he’s already made a historically rare debut in the 2020 postseason, pitched in the World Series and started Game 1 of last year’s ALDS.

How might the bullpens line up after the starters?
Asked repeatedly this spring who he might turn to in the late innings of games once the season opens, Hyde has recoiled -- especially after the trade that shipped their best two relief arms to Miami. Dillon Tate has impressed this spring, while Paul Fry is an enticing option who first needs to move past serious struggles in 2021. Should Means receive an early hook, Jorge López would be a long-relief option; Means is not expected to pitch past six innings, pending efficiency. In short, like many places on the O’s roster, bullpen roles are fluid by necessity, not luxury, as opposed to Tampa Bay.

Rays: The Rays don’t have set roles in the bullpen in terms of which reliever pitches which inning, instead mixing and matching based on matchups and game situations. All-Star righty Andrew Kittredge will work the highest-leverage moments to begin the season, but he’ll be backed by a deep and versatile group that also includes potential high-leverage options in Brooks Raley, J.P. Feyereisen, JT Chargois and Jalen Beeks, among many others. After an abbreviated Spring Training, Cash will likely be careful with Rays relievers in the early going, avoiding use on back-to-back days when possible.

Any injuries of note?
The big one to note is top prospect Adley Rutschman, who was not a certainty to make the Opening Day roster and has been ruled out -- for both the Major and Minor League Opening Days -- with a right triceps injury. Otherwise, DJ Stewart was slowed into the latter half of camp with a left hand contusion and Jorge Mateo with a sore right hand after respective hit-by-pitches, but both are expected to be available in full for Friday. Bullpen candidate Isaac Mattson (right shoulder soreness) is at least a few weeks from being ready for Opening Day.

Rays: Quite a few. The Rays will be without former top relievers Nick Anderson (right elbow surgery) and Pete Fairbanks (partially torn lat) for much or all of the first half. Ace Tyler Glasnow (Tommy John surgery) may not pitch at all this season. Top prospect Shane Baz (arthroscopic elbow surgery) is also currently sidelined, removing another intriguing Opening Day rotation option. And Yonny Chirinos (right elbow surgery) will provide key rotation depth at some point, but he must recover and rebuild his arm strength first.

Who’s hot and who’s not?
Mateo, Urías and Mountcastle also put together sensational Grapefruit League showings, while expected starters Mullins, Mancini, Hays and Santander are looking to move past tough springs. On the pitching side, Means, Cionel Pérez and Tyler Wells were all excellent.

Rays: The Rays really don’t evaluate their players based on Spring Training production, especially their numbers during an abbreviated camp in which they prioritized long-term health over short-term performance. But it’s worth noting that Arozarena had a nice spring, as did Lowe, Margot and Walls on the position player side. As a whole, their offensive output ticked up over the final days of camp. In terms of pitching, the Rays were pleased with the stuff they saw from McClanahan, Kittredge, Beeks and Chargois, among many others they’ll see throughout the season.

Anything else fans might want to know?
• Tropicana Field’s gates will open at 1:10 p.m., two hours before first pitch, and parking lots will open two hours before that. The Rays will unveil their 2021 AL East championship banner in a pregame ceremony, and both teams will be introduced on the field before the game. Of note: The Rays will give away 2022 schedule magnets to all fans on Opening Day.

• This was a one-sided matchup last season, as the Rays went a whopping 18-1 against the Orioles and outscored them by 79 runs (150-71). That made them just the third team in MLB’s divisional era (since 1969) to win 18 games against one opponent in a single season, joining two 2019 teams: Cleveland (18-1 vs. Tigers) and Houston (18-1 vs. Mariners).

• McClanahan is the 15th Opening Day starter in Rays history, the fifth in as many seasons and Tampa Bay’s youngest since Scott Kazmir in 2007. And he has a special connection to the Orioles. He was born in Baltimore, lived there until he was 6 years old and frequently took the train to watch the Orioles play at Camden Yards. He was a big fan of Baltimore legend Cal Ripken Jr. and had a life-sized poster of the Hall of Famer in his bedroom.

• Means making his second consecutive Opening Day start makes him the O’s first pitcher to do so since Chris Tillman from 2014-16. Among lefties, he’s the first to do so since Dave McNally from 1969-71.

• On Monday, the O's will celebrate the 30th anniversary of the opening of Camden Yards. Baltimore native and left-hander Bruce Zimmermann was named the starter for his first career home opener, marking the first Marylander to get the nod in 54 years and the first to start in the home opener, including position players, since Ripken and Brady Anderson in 2001.