When the Orioles celebrated their 2016 season opener April 4, their roster included 10 players who were running down the orange carpet for their first Opening Day festivities in Baltimore.
Among them were two veteran big leaguers -- outfielder Mark Trumbo and right-hander Yovani Gallardo -- who have experienced their share of Opening Days with other teams. Now they're starting a new chapter with the Birds.
The Orioles acted relatively quickly in adding Trumbo during the offseason, acquiring him from the Seattle Mariners Dec. 2, 2015 for backup catcher Steve Clevenger. Getting traded was nothing new for Trumbo, who has been swapped three times since December 2013 in deals involving five teams and 13 players. This trade, though, brought Trumbo to the East Coast for the first time, after he spent his first six years playing for West division teams (the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Arizona Diamondbacks and Mariners).
Trumbo, 30, welcomed the new opportunity when he learned he was headed to Baltimore.
"I was excited," Trumbo said. "This is a tremendous organization, and I felt like it would be an awesome opportunity for me. … [I'll] hopefully drive in quite a few runs for this team and kind of be a middle-of-the-order type of guy."
In many ways, Trumbo is the prototypical Orioles hitter -- a high-power, low on-base percentage slugger who can mash majestic home runs but rarely takes a walk. The retooling Mariners decided he wasn't the best fit for their lineup for the $9.15 million he would command in arbitration, prompting his trade to the Orioles.
At various points of the offseason, Trumbo was penciled into several different positions for the Birds. He came aboard when the O's were in the middle of protracted contract negotiations with free-agent first baseman Chris Davis, prompting speculation Trumbo might serve as the Orioles' new first baseman if Davis signed elsewhere.
When Davis rejoined the O's in January, Trumbo was expected to become the primary designated hitter, especially when the Birds reportedly reached an agreement with free-agent outfielder Dexter Fowler to play right field. But Fowler spurned the Orioles and other right field options fell through, leading the O's to enact their emergency plan: making Trumbo an everyday outfielder.
Trumbo kept an eye on the Orioles' roster machinations throughout the offseason, preparing himself to play wherever the O's needed him.
"Obviously, it kind of directly influences me, but I was kind of prepared to do a number of things," Trumbo said. "Right field is one of them, and it kind of looks like that's where I might play most of the games out here."
Although Trumbo entered 2016 with 265 games of outfield experience, he isn't known as a good defender. In right field, FanGraphs rates him negatively in defensive runs saved (minus-10) and ultimate zone rating (minus-8.4), indicating he historically does more harm than good in the outfield. But the Orioles formed a more positive assessment of Trumbo's outfield play during spring training, enough that manager Buck Showalter had no regrets penciling him into the right field spot on a daily basis.
Even if Trumbo doesn't dazzle defensively, Showalter thinks he'll make up for it in other ways -- not just through his offense, but through his baseball acumen and clubhouse contributions.
"Mark's a student," Showalter said. "He's fit in real quick. He's a watcher. You start having advance reports, and you can tell who speaks and who talks and some of the information they share. He's going to be a contributor, even when he's not hitting."
Trumbo wasted no time making a good first impression with Orioles fans. Batting in the cleanup spot on Opening Day, Trumbo went 4-for-5, becoming the fourth player in franchise history to collect four hits during his first game with the O's. Trumbo even swiped second base in the first inning, just his 21st career steal during 691 games.
Trumbo wasn't the only Oriole to have a successful debut. On April 6, during the Birds' second game of the season, it was Gallardo's turn to take the field for the first time in an O's uniform. By the end of the night, he had his first Orioles victory, holding the Minnesota Twins to one run and two hits in five innings of work.
Gallardo, 30, was one of the last additions of the offseason for the Orioles, as he didn't officially join the club until late February. His signing was not without controversy. Initially, Gallardo reportedly agreed to a three-year, $35 million deal, but the O's saw something they didn't like in the results of his physical. After a few days of renegotiations, the Birds inked Gallardo to a restructured deal that turned the third year into a club option and lowered his guaranteed money to $22 million.
The complications with Gallardo's physical added fuel to the fire for critics of the deal, who were already concerned with discouraging trends in Gallardo's recent numbers. Even while posting a career-best 3.42 ERA in 2015 with the Texas Rangers, Gallardo allowed more base runners than ever before (1.416 WHIP), had the lowest strikeout rate of his career (5.9 per nine innings) and averaged a mediocre 5.58 innings per start. Skeptics doubted whether he was an adequate rotation replacement for departing free-agent lefty Wei-Yin Chen, especially because the Gallardo signing cost the Orioles their first-round pick (No. 14 overall) in the 2016 amateur draft.
Still, Gallardo's Orioles debut demonstrated the kind of contribution he can make to the club. Even while battling his command and failing to top 90 mph on his fastball during his April 6 start, Gallardo induced a lot of soft contact from Twins hitters, getting big outs when needed to escape jams. He relied on the movement of his pitches -- including a slider, curveball and changeup -- more than velocity, with successful results.
"He's a guy that's going to add and subtract," Showalter said. "I think he's kind of involved and kind of knows who he is and who he isn't. [He's] the type of guy that'll keep you in a ballgame and give you a chance to win it if you catch it and score some runs. And on a given night, if he's carrying a little extra stuff, he'll get a little deeper in the game. He's a pitcher. He doesn't give in in counts and knows when to pitch backwards."
For Gallardo, putting his team in a position to win is the top priority.
"It's one of those things that I've been able to do throughout my career," Gallardo said. "To go out there every fifth day and just be consistent, do everything that I can to get this team a victory each and every time that I'm out there on the mound."
Despite not joining the team until after spring training began, Gallardo already feels like a good fit in the clubhouse.
"It's a good group of guys, and they want to win," Gallardo said. "Everybody in here's very positive. They pull for each other. Just from watching them play from the other side of the dugout a couple times, it seems like they have that energy. They pick each other up. They want to win, and it's very competitive, and I think it's one of the things that attracted me as well."
Gallardo and Trumbo might not be long-term Orioles. Trumbo is eligible for free agency after 2016, and Gallardo could be gone after 2017 if his option isn't picked up. Baltimore might not be the last stop in either one's major league tour of duty; such is the plight of the baseball journeyman.
For now, though, both are happy and comfortable in their 2016 home -- and both are hoping to make their Orioles experience a memorable one.
Issue 220: April 2016