Hammel on Hammel (and game update)

SARASOTA, Fla. - Brad Bergesen tossed three scoreless innings today, allowing two hits, walking two and striking out one. Miguel Socolovich replaced him in the top of the seventh with the Orioles leading, 4-1.

Socolovich gave up a run in the seventh. Orioles 4, Rays 2.

Jason Hammel started for the Orioles and allowed one run and one hit, walked one and struck out two. His only real mistake was a 2-0 fastball to Matt Joyce that cleared the right field fence.

"Before in the past, I'd give up a home run like, I could have crumbled," Hammel said. "I think I came back and got the next three guys out three in a row with good, quality pitches. So, obviously something's working."

How did this outing compare to his first one?

"Definitely a step forward," he said. "Fastball command was much better. That's my emphasis during the spring. And of the three innings, the first and third were very good for me. The second, it seemed like I was working on my full counts, but I wasn't. I feel that things are coming along. The curveball felt really good today and the changeup, too. Things are moving in the right direction."

Hammel battled a few of his former teammates, including Carlos Pena and Evan Longoria. The Rays didn't send a bunch of reserves to Ed Smith Stadium.

"Obviously, you want to show them something," Hammel said. "I don't feel like I have anything to prove to them, but it's funny how baseball comes full circle and I'll be facing them during the season. Obviously, it's a good test because we'll be seeing them a lot this season and I'll keep working hard and keep moving forward."

I decided to ask the cliche spring training question: "Is this where you want to be at this point in camp?"

"Very close, very close," Hammel replied. "Rick (Adair) has me doing a little something mechanically with my hands, just creating a little more movement. We're trying to cut out the side to side. That's where I get in trouble, with my upper half going side to side, so we're putting some hand movement in, and that's going to delay things a little bit because we've got to find the timing with that. But for the first time out using it, I felt great."

Hammel is a candidate for the opening day start, along with Tommy Hunter and Jake Arrieta.

"I just want to be a part of the rotation," he said. "I've got a big league uniform on and that's the most important thing to me. I'm not going to take anything for granted. I'll come out here and continue to work hard as if I don't have a job, and wherever they put me in the rotation is just fine with me."

That doesn't mean he'd take such an assignment lightly.

"I've always wanted to be that guy," he said. "I want to be the guy you can lean on. It's been something I've worked really hard for in my career. It just hasn't worked out that way. I'm going to continue to work hard and maybe get that opportunity some day."

Update: Matt Antonelli's sacrifice fly scored Jai Miller, who doubled to center field, and increased the Orioles' lead to 5-2 as we head to the top of the eighth. Miller has doubled and hit a three-run homer.

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