Feats of Clay Rapada

SARASOTA, Fla. - I just opened the curtains and saw my first heavy rain of the spring. It's coming down in buckets, accompanied by claps of thunder, but the forecast calls for clearing in the afternoon. Time spent pairing up the animals has probably been wasted.

The Orioles will be playing under the lights in Bradenton tonight, their second road game against the Pirates in less than two weeks. It's the shortest drive of the spring, replacing Jupiter, so no complaints on this end.

The baseball gods get their revenge on Saturday when I'll spend about 2 ½ hours on the road each way for a game against the Astros in Kissimmee. At least, that's what I've been told. I've never been there, but I hear it's quite a haul from Sarasota.

Anyway, I've been asked if anyone has stood out so far in camp, if anyone has raised their stock and perhaps forced me to reconsider my dark horse pick. (It's too late to actually do that, but I appreciate the offer.)

I'm not predicting that he wins a roster spot, but left-handed reliever Clay Rapada isn't doing anything to hurt his chances.

Rapada tossed a scoreless inning yesterday against the Twins, getting a ground ball, pop up and strikeout. He's allowed one run in four innings this spring, with no walks and four strikeouts. And as manager Buck Showalter points out, Rapada mostly has faced right-handed batters.

"He's shown that he can defend himself against right-handed hitters," Showalter said after yesterday's 11-2 victory.

Showalter will provide more chances for Rapada to face lefties by creating matchups on one of the back fields. The man doesn't miss a trick.

Showalter wants another left-hander in the bullpen besides Michael Gonzalez. He also wants a few guys who can go multiple innings. That desire would seem to place Mark Hendrickson, a former starter, in a favorable position.

Hendrickson has allowed one earned run in five innings (yesterday's run was unearned.) He's not exactly killing his chances. But if Showalter wants more of a specialist from the left side, Rapada could be his man.

Lefties were 1-for-19 against Rapada last season in his 13 appearances with the Rangers. They batted .120 with 10 walks and 37 strikeouts in the Pacific Coast League.

For his major league career, Rapada has held lefties to a .186 average, compared to .292 for right-handed batters. Lefties hit .317 against Hendrickson last year.

Word on the street is that Showalter really likes Rapada. He's spoken well of Hendrickson in the past.

Rapada vs. Hendrickson is developing into one of the most interesting battles in camp.

Speaking of left-handed relievers, has anyone seen Troy Patton?

Patton has made one appearance, not counting the intrasquad game. He took the bus to Clearwater on Wednesday and didn't pitch. The Orioles played twice yesterday. Not a peep.

I've seen more from Mike Ballard and Mark Worrell than I have Patton.

Here's a "Did You Know?" to close the morning:

Did you know that two Orioles coaches have brothers named Terry who played in the NFL?

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