SARASOTA, Florida-What’s happening? Tyler Wells, who is being considered for the starting rotation, will start on Thursday, and Keegan Akin will pitch behind him when the Orioles face the Pittsburgh Pirates at LECOM Park in Bradenton, Florida at 1:05 p.m. Wells has allowed a run on four hits in 4 2/3 innings in two starts this spring, walking one and striking out five.
Manager Brandon Hyde said Austin Hays will be the designated hitter, and that Trey Mancini and Ryan Mountcastle will not play.
Pittsburgh will start Zach Thompson. The game will be televised on MLB.TV.
Right-handed pitcher Conner Greene and outfielder Kyle Stowers were reassigned to minor league camp. The Orioles have 42 players in camp.
DJ Stewart’s bruised finger on his left hand is improving after he was hit by a pitch. “He’s going to take some light swings,” Hyde said. “We’re hoping that [he returns] in a couple of days, but he needs to get a little bit more batting practice. He’s done some tee work already. He’s got to pick that up a little bit. In two or three days, we hope he’s in there.”
With the regular season beginning on April 8th, Stewart is running out of time to begin the regular season with the team. Stewart was 2-for-10 (.200) with an RBI before he was hurt.
“I’m going to give him as many at-bats as possible these last five days, hopefully, and set up a competition there, but I think he’ll have enough at-bats,” Hyde said.
What’s happened?—Bruce Zimmermann allowed an unearned run and one hit in three innings as the Orioles beat the Tampa Bay Rays, 7-6, before an announced crowd of 2.734 at Ed Smith Stadium on Wednesday.
Zimmermann retired the first five batters before Taylor Walls’ popup was muffed by shortstop Jorge Mateo for a two-base error. Curtis Mead’s run-scoring double was the only hit allowed by Zimmermann. He struck out two and didn’t walk a batter.
In his first start on March 24th, Zimmermann allowed three runs on two hits in three innings. He struck out four and walked one and missed a few days because of stomach bug.
“I was happy with it. It was just good to get out there after the last one, being under the weather,” Zimmermann said. “Being at full strength and showcasing what I have. It felt good to have one of those out there today.”
Hyde liked what he saw.
“Zimmermann was better today,” Hyde said. “I thought he was more aggressive with his fastball. His velo stayed up throughout his outing. I thought he threw some good changeups. He was just more aggressive like the Zimmermann we saw last spring training.”
It’s possible that Zimmermann could start the Orioles’ home opener on April 11th against Milwaukee, the fourth game of the season.
“Honestly, my first goal is to come out here and get prepared for the season,” Zimmermann said. “Obviously, just make the team again. That’s the first thing. After that, if it just so happens to line up, it lines up, I’d be more than happy whether I’m pitching in Tampa or Baltimore. It doesn’t really matter to me, as long as I’m pitching.”
Chris Ellis allowed four runs, one unearned, on five hits in three innings.
“I just think Chris is a little bit out of whack right now,” Hyde said. “The breaking balls are kind of similar, a delayed start to his spring. It’s a little bit unfair. He didn’t have a ton of time throwing sides or live [batting practices] before game action. His fastball was fine. He was just a little of whack, pitching-wise.”
Cedric Mullins, who had been 1-for-16, led off with a home run in the third.
“I was having solid at-bats,” Mullins said. “I feel like overall, I’m seeing the ball really well, mixed in a couple of walks. I think the past couple of games, I’d say, were my worst approaches. I was kind of making those adjustments. Got a result today. Had another hard hit ball earlier in the game, just keep moving forward.”
Mullins said he does look at spring training statistics.
“Of course, I do,” he said. “I think the process of spring training is what you have to focus on. If there are situations where you’re chasing a lot of pitches, you’re hitting the ball soft, you’re not really taking good swings, that’s when you’re kind of on the worst, but if you’re having solid at-bats and the results just aren’t there, you’re having lineouts, those are things that you prefer in spring.”
Mateo homered in the fourth. Mancini, Mateo and Mountcastle each had two hits.
Kelvin Gutiérrez’s three-run double in the ninth enabled the Orioles to overcome a 6-4 deficit. Joey Krehbiel struck out the side in the ninth to record the win.
What’s up with Mike Baumann? Baumann, who was 1-1 with a 9.90 ERA in five games last September with the Orioles, remains in camp. Baumann has pitched just once in a Grapefruit League game, giving up four runs on six hits in two innings on March 23rd against the Yankees in Tampa.
He threw in a minor league game at Twin Lakes Park on Monday because innings in major league games have been hard to come by in this abbreviated spring training.
“It just feels good to get on a mound against guys,” Baumann said. “No matter who it is, going full speed and trying to get whoever it is out.”
With the Orioles likely using tandem starters at the start of the season, Baumann could be in the mix.
“I think it’s good,” Baumann said. “Guys are able to keep their routine, and get their innings in as well as be able to have that mindset as a starter and also get to work as a reliever at the same time. It’s good to get some innings in, three, four innings at a time.”
What’s what? For the second time in as many games, the Orioles used the new electronic pitch communication system, a technology that allows catchers to electronically communicate signs to pitchers, rather than doing so manually with their fingers. It works through a transmitter that is worn by the catcher on a wristband, and a pair of receivers — one inside the catcher’s helmet and another in the sweatband of the pitcher’s hat. It’s to prevent sign-stealing.
Count Zimmermann as a supporter.
“It was not as awkward as I thought it was going to be and ,actually I think it’s really nice because you can speed up the game at your own will,” Zimmermann said.
“You can get the pitch calls as you’re going back to the mound, so if you’re feeling good and you’re rolling, you’re a fast working pitcher, I think it will be big to your advantage … I don’t think it will be too much of a learning curve for a lot of the guys. I was initially against it until I actually used it.”
Catcher Anthony Bemboom, who worked Monday’s game against Philadelphia in Clearwater, Florida, said he liked it, but knew there could be issues.
“The disadvantage for the catcher is that it’s just a little bit bulky on your wristband,” Bemboom said. “It didn’t happen the other day, but the ball could hit the wristband on a block. It could bounce one way or the other. There was a couple of times when I hit it on my shin guard, giving regular signs with no one on … It said ‘knuckleball’ and he’s throwing a fastball, but other than that, everything was fine.”
What’s the word? “I wouldn’t call it a throwaway. I still went out there and hit my pitch limit and everything. Obviously, how I was doing that, and how I was feeling, a very different scenario. All in all, coming off this one, I felt really, really strong through three, body-wise, so I don’t think being ill for the last one affected me all that much. As far as the buildup moving into the season, I think we’re exactly where we need to be.”-Zimmermann on the difference in his two starts.
What’s the number? 5. Tim Naughton, an Orioles 34th-round draft pick in 2017, wasn’t invited to spring training, but he’s appeared in five games in relief, more than any other player in camp. Naughton is regularly included on the short list of minor league players the Orioles bring to games in case they’re needed.
If a starter isn’t able to complete the inning, Hyde will summon Naughton, who has faced seven batters, retiring five. He’s given up a hit and hit a batter while impressing Hyde with his ability to get out of innings.
What’s the record? 6-5-1. The Orioles will play the Pittsburgh Pirates in Bradenton, Florida at 1:05 p.m.
Follow Rich Dubroff on Twitter @RichDubroffMLB