What’s happening: Results are never particularly important when a starting pitcher with a job locked up takes the mound in March.
Yet, when it comes to Orioles’ right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez, it’s always worth monitoring how he does, no matter the scenario.
And today is a situation that has some significance, at least from a narrative sense.
Jimenez takes the mound this afternoon at Ed Smith Stadium against the division rival Toronto Blue Jays.
It’s the first time that Jimenez has faced the Blue Jays since last Oct. 4, when he gave up a three-run, walkoff homer to Edwin Encarnacion to end the American League Wild Card Game and the Orioles’ 2016 season.
The stakes are completely different, of course. And Encarnacion certainly won’t be in the Blue Jays’ lineup today; he signed a free-agent deal with the Cleveland Indians in December.
But it’s important for Jimenez to keep building toward the regular season, even though his rotation spot is set.
Jimenez’s results in his past two spring outings have not been good – six earned runs in a combined 7 2/3 innings after allowing just one run in his first five Grapefruit League innings. In his last outing, Jimenez became the first Orioles’ starter to complete four innings; he lasted 4 2/3. Kevin Gausman has since gone five – and that’s a goal for Jimenez.
The next few Orioles’ starts after today will be taken by pitchers trying to make the rotation: Chris Lee on Wednesday, Mike Wright on Friday and Gabriel Ynoa on Saturday. Thursday is the last of two off days this spring for the Orioles.
Seth Smith (hamstring) and Ryan Flaherty (shoulder) are not expected to play today.
Welington Castillo and Manny Machado were expected back in Florida from the World Baseball Classic late Monday night. They likely won’t return to the clubhouse until Wednesday.
What happened: Lefty Wade Miley was supposed to start Monday against his old team, the Boston Red Sox, but he was scratched with flu-like symptoms.
Miley wasn’t feeling well in his last start, March 14, but he and the club thought he had improved enough to pitch. He drove to Fort Myers, Fla., but was still dealing with illness and was sent home.
That sent the Orioles scrambling – a little bit, anyway – to make up the innings. They summoned minor leaguers Stefan Crichton and Scott McGough from Twin Lakes Park to help out if needed.
Lefty Vidal Nuno, who was supposed to pitch in relief, received the start, getting about an hour’s notice. Nuno said the spot start wasn’t a problem, but his failure to put hitters away led to shaky results: three runs on four hits and a walk in 1 2/3 innings.
“Spring training is getting your work in, no matter whether it’s the first inning or any inning,” Nuno said. “It’s just falling behind in the count and just not finishing my two-strike pitches. The last two outings have been a little difficult for me in not getting the two-strike (pitches) where I want them to be. It cost me a little bit today.”
Nuno, who had pitched once previously since coming back from Team Mexico last week, is fighting for a bullpen job. So is righty Oliver Drake, who is out of minor-league options. He relieved Nuno and gave up three runs on five hits in 1 1/3 innings.
Drake now has a 10.61 ERA and has allowed 18 hits in 9 1/3 innings, making it look like the U.S. Naval Academy product won’t make the team and could be lost on waivers.
“The question is will (his pitch arsenal) play up here, and it did some last year for us,” Showalter said. “High pitch counts. It’s been a lot of pitches getting through innings. So, you can just about take him out of the multiple-inning-guy (role). It’s gonna be a challenge for him right now.”
Starting in the fourth, a cavalcade of unheralded minor league pitchers threw one inning for the Orioles: Cody Satterwhite, Jefri Hernandez, Crichton, McGough and Brian Moran.
Pedro Alvarez, trying to make the transition from corner infield to outfield, played right again Monday, and had a little trouble with a hard liner in the second off Marco Hernandez’s bat. Alvarez slid as the ball bounced in front of him. He knocked it down, but it squirted to his right and he momentarily lost track of it. Hernandez darted to second and was credited with a double.
Offensively, Alvarez had two hits, including a homer in his second consecutive game.
“I’ve seen guys that have been around forever not make that play. Defense, outfield, is going to be a work in progress for him, just like it was for Mark (Trumbo),” Showalter said. “People forget he was really good for us offensively for a couple months, and I think the last few days have been a reminder of that.”
What they’re saying: “No more symptoms of that, nothing has creeped back or anything, so I feel really good. Now, I can just focus on getting ready for the season, and I feel pretty good with where I’m at right now compared to where I was last year. – Closer Zach Britton on overcoming oblique discomfort early this spring.
What’s up with: Anthony Santander. The club was hoping to get the Rule 5 outfielder back in the mix early this week. But Showalter said Monday that his “return to the lineup is not imminent.” A MRA last week on Santander’s right elbow – which apparently ached when he threw — showed only slight inflammation. Time is running out this spring to evaluate whether the 22-year-old can play the outfield.
What’s the number? 13 – That’s how many players from minor league camp traveled with the Orioles to Fort Myers in case they were needed to play. That’s 13 of 30 players on the day’s roster that were not formally invited to big league camp. Only seven of those that made the trip, including Miley, are on the 40-man roster.
What’s the record? 12-10-2 – The Orioles lost 7-4 to the Red Sox, their second straight Grapefruit League defeat. This one looked like a loss before the first pitch was thrown. With Miley’s illness, the Orioles used a makeshift staff against a Boston lineup that featured five projected starters.