When the two American League East clubs meet for the first time this season on Friday night at Rogers Centre, Baltimore will be looking to start off fresh, going for its first season series win over Toronto since 2004. The Orioles went 11-8 against the Blue Jays that season, but they have posted a 49-79 record since, including a 9-27 mark over the past two seasons.
Winning the two clubs' first meeting of 2012 won't be an easy task for the Orioles, as Toronto will send Brandon Morrow to the mound. The right-hander is fresh off a seven-inning, one-hit season debut against Cleveland, whose only hit off Morrow was a two-run homer in the fifth inning that Jason Kipnis hit once a two-out error allowed the inning to continue.
Though Morrow's overpowering debut might have been overshadowed by the Blue Jays' 12-inning victory, it certainly wasn't lost on Indians manager Manny Acta.
"Brandon Morrow is one of the toughest guys in the American League," Acta said after the game. "He's got elite stuff. When he's around the plate and he pitches ahead, he's as tough as any one of those guys that have big names. He was able to do that today. He was tough."
Orioles manager Buck Showalter knows that overcoming challenges, including finding success against Toronto and the hard-throwing Morrow, will be a recurrent theme for his young club.
"I want to have a team that we can move the parts around and present a healthy front a lot more and present challenges that we weren't able to do in the past," Showalter said. "[The players] are really willing to do what it takes to [allow] our team to be successful. It's a heck of a trust on their part toward the organization and the coaching staff."
On Friday, the O's will counter with right-hander Tommy Hunter, who turned in an impressive season debut of his own on Saturday. The 25-year-old tossed seven innings and allowed just two unearned runs en route to a victory over the Twins.
Hunter, who left the game in the eighth inning to a standing ovation from the Camden Yards crowd, wasn't too eager to talk about his solid outing after the game, though. Instead, his focus had already shifted to Friday's showdown with the Blue Jays.
"I've got 33, 34 more starts, I hope," Hunter said. "After that, we'll look back and see how it is."
Orioles: Wieters heating up
Catcher Matt Wieters recorded just one hit in his first 11 at-bats this season but found his rhythm when the O's hosted the Yankees. Wieters went 5-for-8 with a home run in the three-game set, raising his average from .111 to .364 in the process.
Wieters, a career .266 hitter now in his fourth season, is batting .282 in April for his career.
"Fortunately, toward the end of [Spring Training], I felt good," said Wieters, who slugged four homers in the season's opening month last year. "It's always a good point to get going toward the end of Spring Training and get ready for the year."
Blue Jays: Bautista's slow start continues
Two-time defending Major League home run leader Jose Bautista continued his early-season struggles on Wednesday, unable to record a hit for the third straight game.
Manager John Farrell said before Wednesday's game -- a 3-1 win over Boston -- that he isn't worried, despite the fact that Bautista has gone just 1-for-19 since recording three hits, including a homer, on Opening Day.
"He's struggled to find his timing," Farrell said. "We've all been accustomed to seeing Jose just continue to hit balls in the seats. But there were times last year, and I'm sure the year before, where he goes through some stretches where his timing is off a little bit."
J.P. Arencibia and Bautista are a combined 4-for-27 (.148) with six strikeouts and no home runs lifetime against Hunter.
Orioles shortstop J.J. Hardy has homered in two of his three career at-bats against Morrow.
Toronto outscored Baltimore, 97-75, in the teams' 18 meetings last season.