Hays' 3-run homer, Mountcastle's grand-slam power Orioles over Pirates 7-4; Gibson's 2nd start - BaltimoreBaseball.com
Spring Training

Hays’ 3-run homer, Mountcastle’s grand-slam power Orioles over Pirates 7-4; Gibson’s 2nd start

Photo Credit: Kim Klement USA TODAY Sports

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SARASOTA—What’s happening? Tyler Wells gets his second spring start as the Orioles face the Philadelphia Phillies at BayCare Ballpark in Clearwater, Florida at 1:05 p.m. on Thursday.

Wells allowed three runs on five hits in two innings against Atlanta on March 4th in his first start. He’ll be opposed by Aaron Nola.

The game will be available on MLB.TV.

Dillon Tate, who’s suffering from a forearm injury threw off the half-mound.

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“He feels great, said really encouraged by how his arm feels, said we’re going to stay with the progression he’s on and go from there,” manager Brandon Hyde said.

DL Hall, who hasn’t pitched because of a back injury, threw a side session on Wednesday and will throw live batting practice next week.

Félix Bautista, who hasn’t pitched due to knee and shoulder injuries will throw a live batting practice in the next several days.

Nick Vespi, who had hernia surgery in January and hasn’t pitched will throw a simulated game in the next few days.

Terrin Vavra, who was scratched from Saturday’s lineup with left shoulder discomfort, continues to improve and should return to action in the next few days.

Rule 5 draft pick Andrew Politi, who’s thrown three scoreless innings this spring has been impressing the Orioles.

“I’ve thrown in a bunch of big league spring training games before with the Red Sox,” Politi said. “It’s about trusting your stuff and not really worrying about who’s in the box.”

Since he was drafted from the Boston organization, Politi has been exposed to a different philosophy with the Orioles.

“I think it’s just going over how to use my pitches,” Politi said. “Wanted to throw each pitch. It gives myself a better understanding of how to use my arsenal. I think that’s been the biggest difference.”

Navy and UMBC will meet in a game at 6 p.m. on March 29th at Oriole Park.

What happened?  Austin Hays hit his second three-run home run in two games and Ryan Mountcastle hit a grand-slam as the Orioles beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 7-4 before 4.072 at Ed Smith Stadium on Wednesday.

“Just trying to make sure I’m swinging at good pitches to hit and laying off the stuff out of the zone,” Hays said. “Right now, I’ve got some good pitches in the middle part of the plate and got some barrel on them.”

Hyde knows that a key to the 2023 season will be better performances from Hays and Mountcastle.

“Nice to see Austin Hays drive the ball the other way the way he’s been doing,” Hyde said. “We hit a bunch of balls the other way, which is nice to see.

“Mounty keeping the ball fair to left and then hitting a long grand slam. I felt like our guys were scuffling out of the gate offensively. We’re swinging the bat a little better now.”

Kyle Gibson pitched three scoreless innings, allowing two hits in his second start,, both against Pittsburgh. He’s allowed one run on four hits in five innings.

Gibson watched video with pitching coaches Chris Holt and Darren Holmes after his first start.

“Delivery-wise, it wasn’t where I wanted to be,” Gibson said. “Being able to talk to them about that and make those changes, I felt a lot better on the mound. A little bit more dynamic, a little more athletic naturally makes everything move a little bit better, a little bit sharper. Still want to be in the zone the first pitch of the at-bat, but if you’re able to battle back in the zone and win those 1-1 counts, you can make up for some first-pitch balls.”

Cionel Pérez allowed a run in the fourth. Keegan Akin pitched two scoreless innings, allowing a run and Reed Garrett gave up a run in the seventh.

Ryan Watson, the organization’s Pitcher of the Year in 2022, gave up an apparent three-run home run to Canaan Smith-Njigba, but he passed Travis Swaggerty at first. Smith-Njigba was called out, and two runs were charged to Watson.

Nolan Hoffman, who the Orioles have brought over from minor league camp picked up his third save in four scoreless outings.

What’s up with? Connor Norby was the Orioles’ second-round draft pick in 2021. Norby hit a combined .279 with 29 home runs and 73 RBIs with High-A Aberdeen, Double-A Bowie and Triple-A Bowie last season. In eight games, he’s 5-for-16 (.313) with an RBI.

Norby is one of several top infield prospects and camp and is trying not to be intimidated by the depth the Orioles have accumulated.

“It can be if you look at it like that,” Norby said. “ If you look at it like I’m going to get better because he’s out there pushing me and I’m still rooting for these guys to do well.

“We’re all competitive. We all want to be in the big leagues. We understand the business side will come out at some point. It just shows us how talented us as an org is. That’s what we’re most happy about, just the depth that we have everywhere.”

Norby says he’s learning from major leaguers each day.

“We’ve tweaked a couple of things in my swing that I might have lost since last year, just refining that,” he said. “Just watching these guys how they go about their day, seeing what they do, what makes them everyday guys. That’s the biggest takeaway here from myself and a lot of the younger guys here is how do they go about their day. What do I need to do? What might work for me that they’re doing? That’s been great so far, trying to get eyes on them every day.”

What’s what? One of the great groups of all time, The Four Tops sang the National Anthem before the game. The Four Tops were appearing in Sarasota on Wednesday night. They added “Ain’t No Country Like the One I Got” before concluding the anthem with “the brave,” a takeoff on one of their hits, “Ain’t No Woman Like the One I Got.”

What’s the word? “It’s nice to look around the room and see a couple of guys and have one [Tyler Wells] on the pitching staff. It gives you a lot more confidence. It just goes to show you have a true opportunity here.”-Politi on being a Rule 5 draft pick with the Orioles, a team with a history of retaining them.

What’s the number?  2. Hays has homered twice in his last two games. He homered only once last season in his final 31 games.

What’s the record? 5-6-1. The Orioles play the Philadelphia Phillies at Baycare Ballpark in Clearwater at 1:05 p.m. on Thursday.

Call for questions: I’ll be answering Orioles questions next week. Please email them to: [email protected]

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