What’s happening? – The second round of fifth starter auditions technically started Wednesday with Mike Wright Jr, pitching against the St. Louis Cardinals at Ed Smith Stadium.
Wright lasted two scoreless innings, giving up one hit and one walk while striking out three. In his first outing of the spring, Wright allowed one run in two innings, so his ERA sits at a tidy 2.25 in four innings.
“I threw up zeroes. I fell behind a lot of hitters today, but as far as my stuff, I felt pretty good,” Wright said. “I felt I was right around the zone right about where I wanted to be, just slightly making that adjustment back into the strike zone was a little bit tough in the beginning of the counts. But, ultimately, like I said, I threw up zeroes, so that was good.”
Wright, 28, threw 31 pitches, but only 15 were strikes. That’s going to have to improve for him to wrestle the fifth starter spot away from several others. And Wright knows that.
“The only way you make the team is, as a position player, if you hit and field the baseball. As a pitcher if you throw strikes and get outs,” Wright said. “I’m trying to make the team and the rotation, and the only way to do that is to throw up zeroes.”
Today, Rule 5 lefty Nestor Cortes Jr., will get his second chance at the competition when he takes on the Tampa Bay Rays at Port Charlotte. Cortes also allowed one run in two innings in his first start.
Although there are several others who could figure into the battle – Gabriel Ynoa, Miguel Castro – Cortes has an advantage in that he’s the only southpaw in the mix and the Orioles’ primary starters are all right-handed. Wright and Ynoa are out of minor league options, however, so they would have to clear waivers before being sent back to Triple-A.
What’s happened? – Before Wednesday’s game, Orioles manager Buck Showalter made a lineup switch, swapping Chris Davis from first base to designated hitter and Mark Trumbo from DH to first base.
Afterward, Davis said he has been dealing with some right forearm stiffness – possibly from sleeping on his arm awkwardly – and that he likely will take “a couple days off” from throwing, but otherwise should be fine.
“It doesn’t seem like it’s gonna be a big deal,” Davis said. “It’s muscular, so we don’t have to worry about any ligaments or tendons or anything like that. It’s just something I have to deal with and take it day-by-day. The swing feels good, though.”
Davis hit his first homer of the spring in the fifth inning, an opposite-field, three-run shot against right-hander Daniel Poncedeleon. Davis also walked and struck out Wednesday.
“I talked about when I reported about how I wanted to be more aggressive this year, meaning more aggressive in the strike zone, obviously not just going up there and hacking at anything,” Davis said. “So, I feel like the at-bats I have had so far have been, maybe not the result I was looking for, but they are definitely heading in the right direction.”
** Outfielder Colby Rasmus, who is attempting to make the Orioles after taking a break from baseball in the second half of last season, had a chance to play against the club that originally drafted him in the first round (28th overall) in 2005.
Leading off against the Cardinals, Rasmus singled against 22-year-old right-hander Jack Flaherty, who was a Cardinals’ supplemental first-rounder in 2014. He also walked in three trips to the plate before leaving after the fifth with the other regulars.
** The Orioles learned Wednesday that outfield prospect Austin Hays will be sidelined for a few days with a right shoulder strain. He was switched to DH on Tuesday and has yet to play in the field in Grapefruit League action. A MRI on Wednesday showed inflammation but no structural damage – good news for the Orioles’ top prospect.
A MRI diagnosis wasn’t as positive for lefty Chris Lee. He suffered an oblique strain in Tuesday’s game and will be sidelined likely four weeks, missing the remainder of spring training. Lee was a longshot to crack the Orioles’ Opening Day roster, but he was expected to start at Triple-A Norfolk.
** The Orioles announced a partnership with the U.S. Naval Academy on Wednesday that includes hosting an Army-Navy doubleheader at Camden Yards on March 25, “a Navy Day” at Camden Yards in August and an exhibition game between the Orioles and another big league team at Max Bishop Stadium in Annapolis next March.
** Here are some pitching assignments for the upcoming week: Andrew Cashner will throw a two-inning simulated game today and three innings in another sim game on Tuesday. Miguel Castro will pitch two innings in a “B” game Friday. Chris Tillman will have a two-inning simulated game on Saturday. Dylan Bundy will pitch Friday against the Pittsburgh Pirates and then a four-inning simulated game in his next outing.
** Designated hitter Pedro Alvarez made his Grapefruit League debut, striking out and flying out in two at-bats.
What’s up with? – SS Manny Machado. You know he is still an Oriole and you know he is now a shortstop. He also seems a tad motivated at the plate, too.
Machado had three hits in his first seven at-bats heading into Wednesday’s game. After flying out in his first at-bat, Machado connected for a no-doubter grand slam in the third inning against Flaherty. Machado also singled in the sixth and is now hitting .500 (5-for-10).
Last spring, in a camp interrupted by his time at the World Baseball Classic, Machado batted .154 with one homer and one RBI in 26 at-bats. This offseason, he has dealt with trade rumors heading into his free-agent season and a position change that the 25-year-old requested.
“Manny’s gonna be OK in his career,” Showalter said with a half-smile. “So, I think more than anything he is looking forward to the challenge of being the shortstop we need.”
What’s what? – Three Orioles’ spring debuts occurred in one half inning. In the top of the sixth, the Orioles emptied their bench, putting in reserves for basically every position. Nothing unusual about that in the spring. What was somewhat noteworthy is which players entered. Jaycob Brugman went to right, Engelb Vielma took over at shortstop and Andrew Susac squatted behind the plate. All three were making their Orioles’ debuts; two of them, Vielma and Susac, are on the club’s 40-man roster and the third, Brugman, had been on the 40-man but was designated for assignment and cleared waivers to stay in the organization. That’s why his Grapefruit League debut was delayed. Susac was battling a staph infection and Vielma had visa issues.
What’s the word? – “There has been (outside) commentary related to that. There is still a lot of work to be done before appreciating really what might have happened or is happening in this particular market. … We won’t have any idea as to whether or not that’s a consideration until we’ve taken into account how all the moving pieces fit or don’t fit. – Union chief Tony Clark, whose annual tour of spring camps included Sarasota on Wednesday, discussing whether potential owner collusion is a legitimate factor in this winter’s stalled free agent market.
What’s the number? — 21 years, 10 days. That’s how old infield prospect Ryan Mountcastle is. That’s also seemingly how long it took for his 400-foot-or-so blast in the sixth inning to land behind the left-center wall at Ed Smith Stadium. The sound – like a cannon-shot – and the distance were impressive. But also worth noting is that it came against right-hander John Gant, who is ticketed to be the Cardinals’ long reliever this year. So, this wasn’t a cheap shot versus a minor leaguer for Mountcastle.
What’s the record? — 1-5-1. The Orioles had a chance to win two in a row, but collapsed Wednesday. They allowed a 9-1 lead in the seventh to evaporate, and the Cardinals ultimately won, 10-9. Andrew Faulkner and Steven Klimek combined to give up eight runs in the seventh; each surrendered a homer to Yairo Munoz.