What’s happening? – Félix Hernández will start for the Orioles against the Pittsburgh Pirates at LECOM Field in Bradenton, Florida at 1:05 pm on Thursday.
In his first start, the veteran right-hander allowed two runs on one hit in two innings, walking two and striking out two on Saturday night against Detroit. His fastball velocity was in the mid-80s.
Hernández will be opposed by Mitch Keller.
Orioles executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias said before Wednesday’s Grapefruit League game that “aspects of the play have been uneven. We’ve had games with terrible defense. We’ve had games with terrible pitching. We’ve had games with good defense and good pitching. The offense has come and gone.
“The important thing is that the competition that we need is here in order to staff this roster, in order to put an interesting group out that will have an opportunity to carry forward our goals and have a competitive team and a team that will continue to develop us into the playoff team that we’re ultimately building towards.
“We’re all still watching that. This is a thick camp. There are a lot of guys here, a lot of pitchers that are being stretched out to length that need innings, and then mixing that with the dynamic of a smaller spring training schedule … It’s been challenging. I think it will continue to be challenging to get the playing time all around and the innings all around that we want just given that we have so much competition and so much uncertainty on our roster right now.”
What happened? Keegan Akin allowed two runs on three hits in 1 2/3 innings as the Orioles beat Toronto Blue Jays, 4-3, in seven innings on Wednesday in Sarasota, Florida.
Akin struck out four and walked three of his first five batters in his first spring start. He followed Matt Harvey in his previous appearance.
“I was trying to aim the ball rather than pitch the ball and throw it,” Akin said. “It was more of a mental thing than anything. To forget that and go back out there and get out of the second inning was my one positive for the day.”
Manager Brandon Hyde is looking for improvement from Akin.
“His command isn’t there right now,” Hyde said. “I’d like to see him pick it up from that standpoint, but it is only his second appearance. He’s got some more to go. His command isn’t quite the same as it was at the end of the year last year.”
Shortstop Freddy Galvis was 3-for-3 with an RBI as the Orioles won for the first time after four straight losses.
“I think we’re playing OK,” Galvis said. “We have to play better. Like a team, we have to do every little thing to win a game.”
Tyler Nevin had two hits and drove in a run.
Rio Ruiz is out because of illness. Hyde said that he could play in a day or two.
Harvey threw a three-inning simulated game on the Ed Smith Stadium complex back fields. Thomas Eshelman also threw.
“I thought he threw the ball well,” Hyde said of Harvey’s outing. “I thought he had life to his fastball, a shape to his breaking ball. I think he was really happy with it. Threw some good changeups. He’s got a two-seamer now that’s got some nice sink to it. Threw to a handful of our hitters, got three innings in, should be on the mound in game action his next turn.”
What’s up with? Rylan Bannon was put on the 40-man roster last November and the infielder is getting an extended look.
“I want to give Rylan as many at-bats as I can,” Hyde said. “Rylan’s a guy that’s put up some minor league numbers. He missed last year because of the minor league season being canceled, so I just want to give him some looks at third, at second. He’s hit throughout his career.
“I think we’re going to continue to evaluate Rylan as we go along in camp and give him as many at-bats as possible. He’s a strong kid that’s got an opportunity to hit, a chance to hit and has done that in his minor league career. We’ll see if that translates into the big leagues.”
What’s what? Elias said that the alternate site roster at Bowie will consist mainly of players who would be on the Triple-A roster and could be depth pieces for the Orioles. The exception will be last year’s first-round draft pick Heston Kjerstad, who is recovering from myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle),
The younger prospects who are not in major league spring training will report to Sarasota next month. Last year, it was a mix of Triple-A players and top prospects the team wanted to observe.
“Many of the rookie debuts that we had were platformed off of that Bowie alternate site experience and nothing more, “Elias said. “To see those guys go to summer camp, go to Bowie, some of them for weeks or a month and then come right up and have success against the Yankees the very next day seemed to work … We want to get back into regular minor league play as soon as possible.”
What’s the word? “Certain players need failure, different types of failure. They need game experience. They need to face unpredictable, different competition on different nights. They need to get used to the professional game, whatever that may be. We’ve all kind of been accustomed to what minor league baseball provides in terms of rearing these guys for big-leaguers and also showing us who are the big-leaguers and who aren’t … 2021 is not going to be the same as 2019, but it’s going to be better than 2020.”–Elias on the advantages of the minor leagues
What’s the number? 40-50. Elias said that’s the average number of competitive innings Oriole pitchers threw at the alternate site last year.
What’s the record? 3-6-1. The Orioles visit the Pittsburgh Pirates in Bradenton at 1:05 pm. The game will be available through MLB.TV on Pirates TV and radio.
Follow Rich Dubroff on Twitter @RichDubroffMLB
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