Yovani Gallardo was quite possibly the most important offseason acquisition by the Baltimore Orioles. They likely felt better about the move following his final spring training outing.
That's when Gallardo showed how positively he could affect the rotation after an otherwise frightening exhibition season. The veteran right-hander looks for a similar performance Wednesday night in his first meaningful start for Baltimore as he faces the Minnesota Twins.
Both teams had Tuesday off after a long day to open the season at Camden Yards, with two rain delays causing the game to last more than 5 1/2 hours. Eventually, Baltimore won 3-2 when Matt Wieters singled home Chris Davis in the ninth inning.
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"You want to win the first one, but to be able to sit around here as much as we did today, it's a lot better feeling going home with a win," said Wieters, who was 0 for 4 with two strikeouts before delivering the game-winning hit.
Having a veteran like Wieters behind the plate could make a big difference for Gallardo (13-11, 3.42 ERA). The only spring game he caught that Gallardo started came Thursday against Atlanta, and he allowed one hit in five scoreless innings. In his other three exhibition outings - all without Wieters catching - Gallardo was torched for 15 runs and 16 hits, including five homers, in just eight innings.
"Of course, anytime you go out there and pitch well, it's always a positive thing," Gallardo said. "Especially the last one, it's very important to get that timing, get that rhythm down in the last start of spring training to prepare for the regular season. You've got to be ready. From here on out, there's no excuses."
Gallardo's previously poor spring followed a second half with Texas in which he had a 4.69 ERA as opponents hit .323 against him. Those numbers were 2.62 and .231, respectively, before the All-Star break.
Still, it marked his seventh straight season of at least 30 starts and 180 innings.
"I feel good about adding Gallardo," said manager Buck Showalter, whose starters' 4.53 ERA last season was second-worst in the AL. The rotation's 915 2-3 innings were three off the league low.
Gallardo hopes to enjoy a debut like the one teammate Mark Trumbo had Monday, delivering four hits in his first game after coming over from Seattle.
Trumbo struck out all three times when he last faced Minnesota's Kyle Gibson (11-11, 3.84) in 2014 but homered off him the previous year.
Gibson's 0.82 home runs allowed per nine innings over the past two seasons ranks eighth in the AL, one reason the Twins view him as a vital piece of the rotation. He threw a team-high 194 2-3 innings in 2015.
The right-hander posted a 2.78 ERA in six spring starts despite most recently surrendering four runs and seven hits in five innings against Boston on Thursday. Still, Gibson said he was "pretty happy" with that performance.
He's 1-0 with a 2.70 ERA in three starts against Baltimore, limiting Adam Jones to 1 for 8 and Davis to 0 for 5.
Gallardo threw 5 2-3 scoreless innings in his only start versus the Twins last year and is 2-2 with a 3.14 ERA in eight career outings against them.
Joe Mauer has gone 7 for 14 with four walks against him and had two of Minnesota's seven hits Monday. He's batting .386 in his last 18 games against the Orioles.
Slugger Byung Ho Park went 1 for 3 with a run in his big-league debut.
"It's surprising I wasn't as nervous as I thought I'd be," Park told MLB's official website through a translator. "I was comfortable out there from the get-go."