BALTIMORE — After squaring off six times in spring training, the Baltimore Orioles and Minnesota Twins became quite familiar with each other.
On Monday, it gets real.
"It's a new beginning," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "This is when you've got to show your cards."
Opening day at Camden Yards features two AL squads that finished with nearly identical records in 2015. The difference was, the Twins derived a good deal of satisfaction from going 83-79 and Baltimore was disappointed in its .500 finish after reaching the league championship series one year earlier.
Both teams expect to improve this season. The Twins appeared to take a step in that direction during an uneventful spring training in which they went 19-11 — including 4-2 against the Orioles.
"I don't put a lot of stock into wins other than, when you win games, you're doing some things right," second-year manager Paul Molitor said.
The Orioles opened 0-10 with two ties, and that wasn't even the worst of it. Free agent outfielder Dexter Fowler appeared close to signing before returning to the Cubs, and right-hander Yovani Gallardo finally came aboard after an exhaustive physical. Gallardo is now part of a starting rotation that will open with Kevin Gausman on the disabled list and without stalwart Miguel Gonzalez, who was cut last week.
Kim to start season with O's: There was also the saga of outfielder Hyun Soo Kim, who failed to make the transition from South Korea to the majors but will start the season on the 25-man roster because his contract provides him the option of declining an assignment to the minors.
The Orioles will seek to put all that behind them Monday, when Chris Tillman makes his third straight opening day start. The Twins will counter with right-hander Ervin Santana, who closed out a 7-5 season by going 4-1 with a 1.88 ERA in September.
Although the Twins are in the AL Central and Baltimore operates in the AL East, these teams have already seen each other so often it's as they're in the same division.
"It's a little strange to see a team so often in spring and then have to line up against them," Twins righty Phil Hughes said before Sunday's workout at Camden Yards. "I had to throw on the minor league side and do all sorts of stuff in spring training just so I wouldn't have to face the Orioles four times in spring training."
Showalter really couldn't explain why the Orioles and Twins are seeing so much of each other this spring.
"Go figure. That's another scheduling glitch," he said. "The priority was always to get your work done and prepare for the other 13 teams in our league. We tweaked that some the last couple times we played them, just to be on the safe side."
The less he sees of the Twins, the better.
"They've got a really good team," Showalter said. "They're one of my picks to really be very competitive this year. I really love the job that Molitor does."
The Twins are seeking a suitable encore to their breakthrough season.
"If we do a couple things a little bit better, we have a real good shot of doing what we need to do," Hughes said. "Hopefully these young guys feel a little more comfortable in their second year."