ARLINGTON, Texas — Cal Ripken Jr. was in the TBS broadcast booth for Friday night's American League wild-card game, alongside former Atlanta Braves pitcher John Smoltz and play-by-play man Ernie Johnson. Ripken had previously been a postseason studio analyst, but he only recently started working from the booth.
And this is the first time, of course, that he has played this role as a broadcaster for an Orioles playoff game.
"I'm enjoying being here,'' Ripken said before the game. "I've enjoyed being in the clubhouse with the Orioles for our interviews. It's a unique personal opportunity for me to watch them feel the excitement that we felt a while ago."
He made a comment early in the broadcast that had to raise some eyebrows in Baltimore, saying that the Texas Rangers' Adrian Beltre is the best defensive third baseman he's ever seen -- even better than Brooks Robinson.
TBS also made a bit of a miscue when it put his name up on the screen in the seventh inning as "Carl Ripken Jr."
Ripken, who did his game from the broadcast booth last month in Baltimore, is also slated to do the American League Division Series featuring the Orioles-Rangers winner and the Yankees.
Mike Bordick, who shared the left side of the infield with Ripken when the Orioles were last in the postseason in 1997, was at the ballpark, too, doing pregame and postgame coverage for MASN.
Showalter chooses versatitle roster
Teams had to submit their 25-man wild-card rosters to Major League Baseball by 10 a.m. Friday, but the Orioles' roster wasn't released until about four hours before the scheduled first pitch.
There weren't many surprises. Orioles manager Buck Showalter kept 11 pitchers, starter Joe Saunders and 10 available relievers.
Showalter did keep utility infielder Omar Quintanilla active, which was somewhat of a surprise considering Quintanilla hasn't started in a month. Utility man Steve Tolleson and outfielder Xavier Avery were the two non-injured position players left off the roster, as were starting pitchers Chris Tillman, Miguel Gonzalez and Wei-Yin Chen. Steve Johnson, who had also been a candidate to start Friday's game, was on the roster.
Teams can change their roster before the next round of the postseason.
"They're all tough [choices]," Showalter said before the game. "I think everybody knows that that can change very quickly. I hope we have the opportunity to look at it on the plane going back tonight. …We had it wired. We had a meeting the last day in Tampa, that morning, and nothing really changed from the input that [executive vice president] Dan [Duquette] and I got from the coaches and scouts and things. We feel good about the way the chance we're going to get with the roster we have."
Showalter said it was an easy choice to keep Tillman, Gonzalez and Chen off the roster.
"They're a precious commodity that we're going to continue to protect and hopefully have available for us if we are fortunate enough to win tonight," Showalter said. "But there's some versatility tonight where [Quintanillia] is concern, trust factor with experience, and some things that we think those guys bring. And Xavier is a weapon underway, and we think we have some guys that aren't far behind that."
Also, the health of first baseman Mark Reynolds, who fouled a ball off his left foot, was in question and Friday's starting second baseman Ryan Flaherty, would have been the team's backup first baseman. So Quintanilla gave Showalter an extra utility infielder in case Flaherty had to go to first.
"'Q' gives us some versatility at second base, especially if we do some things with Ryan and Robert [Andino], Q covers us there," Showalter said. "You've always got to ask yourself, if [J.J. Hardy] breaks his wrist the first pitch he sees, what are you going to do? 'Q' is probably one of our better backup shortstops. I'm sure people here in Texas know him. He's a threat at the plate, too. Very smart guy, gives us a good option.
Reynolds has no time for pain
Reynolds said before Friday's game that his bruised left foot was still quite painful, but he was expected to get a painkilling injection between batting practice and first pitch.
There was a report Thursday that he underwent an MRI to make sure that he had no structural damage in the foot, but no further tests were ordered after X-rays showed that there were no fractures.
"The X-rays showed I had no broken bones,'' Reynolds said, "and that's all I cared about."
Reynolds got hit by a pitch in his left hand in the second inning but stayed in the game (and went on to steal second base).
Reynolds and Adam Jones, who also has been playing on a sore ankle, got praise from Duquette for their durability.
"That's the culture of this team, led by Jones,'' Duquette said. "That's how you become a top quality major leaguer."
Markakis, Roberts provide support
Despite being sidelined by injuries, Orioles right fielder Nick Markakis and second baseman Brian Roberts were both with the team in Texas.
The two longest tenured Orioles were unable to play, but their presence has given the team a boost, Showalter said. The club still holds out hope that Markakis (broken left thumb), the team's best hitter in the second half, could rejoin the team if the Orioles advance to the World Series. Roberts is slated to be fully recovered from hip surgery in time for spring training.
"They would have been a part of this," Showalter said. "I know how much it means to both of them. My heart really tugs at me every time I see them in the clubhouse.
"And Nick, no guy can drink more milk than Nick Markakis has trying to heal a bone overnight. He's got it all going on. I'll tell you, it's been a rallying cry in our clubhouse. We've done the math on Nick. If we could somehow get through this and get later into October, Nick has got a chance to play. I can't tell you how special that would be to everybody."
Markakis received one of the loudest cheers from Orioles fans perched above the team's dugout during batting practice.
Around the horn
Of the 25 players on the Orioles' wild-card roster, seven previously played for the Rangers: Endy Chavez, Chris Davis, Tommy Hunter, Darren O'Day, Pedro Strop, Taylor Teagarden and Quintanilla. … Ten of the Orioles on Friday's roster already had postseason experience. For Jim Thome, Friday's game marked his 16th postseason series. The other nine O's with postseason experience had combined to play in 22 postseason series before Friday. None have won a World Series.
Baltimore Sun reporter Dan Connolly contributed to this article.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times