Showalter speaks after 6-4 loss

SARASOTA, Fla. - Every kid in Detroit will wake up tomorrow wanting to be Tony Plagman.

Plagman didn’t start today, but he was a strong finisher. He tied the game in the seventh inning with a home run off Luis Ayala and won it for the Tigers in the ninth with a two-out, two-run triple off Jim Johnson.

Baseball America rates Plagman as the fourth-ranked first baseman in the Tigers’ organization.

Johnson walked two more batters today, giving him five in seven innings. He’s 0-3 with a 7.71 ERA this spring.

“By little increments, he’s getting back there,” manager Buck Showalter said. “I thought his velocity was a little crisper. His arm strength, he wasn’t having to really reach to get it. It’s coming little by little. It’s a progression and he’s getting there.”

Brian Matusz has a 3.65 ERA in 24 2/3 innings this spring after allowing three runs over five innings today. Matusz retired the last nine batters.

“He threw well,” Showalter said. “I’m glad we got him close to 90 pitches. Struck the first guy out and didn’t get the call. Gave up 14 foul balls. Seemed like 17 pitches he didn’t have to throw. I liked the way he competed and battled. He’s presented a very physical front. He’s reached back and got a little bit.”

We’re still waiting for confirmation that he’s made the rotation. Tsuyoshi Wada also is competing for the fifth spot.

“From where (Matusz) was to where he is, I’m happy with the progress,” Showalter said. “There’s another level and we’ll be making those decisions shortly, but I’m pleased that he’s been able to get a return for what he put into it. Hopefully, he’ll never go back to that place again.”

Showalter hasn’t confirmed when Matusz will pitch again, only that it’s going to happen. As I’ve written, he’d be working on normal rest Wednesday against Triple-A Norfolk.

The Orioles pushed back Wada’s next start to Tuesday because they can’t backdate a potential assignment to the disabled list if he pitches on Monday. Not that Wada is necessarily headed to the DL, but they want to keep their options open.

Monday is a “paid” game. That’s not the case on Tuesday, when fans are encouraged to make donations to the State College of Florida’s baseball program. Apparently, that makes a difference.

Matt Lindstrom is scheduled to pitch in an unpaid game for the same reason, though his appearance will come against minor league hitters. If he’s idle until Monday, the Orioles would have to create a simulated game for him.

Is Lindstrom (hamstring) a DL possibility?

“Not with a week away, but I never say never,” Showalter said.

Lindstrom threw today and told Showalter that his leg felt fine. He’ll cover first base tomorrow in morning drills to further test it.

“From what I know about Matt, he’s that type of guy - ‘What? They’ve got me on the medical report? Come on.’ But I’ve also learned through the years to kind of see through some of the bravado.”

One of the last remaining competitions in camp is between left-handed relievers Troy Patton and Zach Phillips. Patton allowed a hit in one-third of an inning today and hasn’t been scored upon in 10 appearances and 10 1/3 innings this spring, though he’s permitted eight hits and walked four. Phillips retired the side in order with a strikeout in the eighth and has allowed two runs and four hits in 12 1/3 innings.

Patton is out of options, but Phillips has one remaining. Showalter said it’s possible that both relievers make the team. But for that to happen, Alfredo Simon would probably have to go on the disabled list. He’s also out of options.

“Zach’s pitched very well this spring,” Showalter said. “I’m not going to handicap who’s pitching better than the other guy. There’s a way you can take both of them. It’s going to be hard, but ... I just caution everybody that there’s a lot of things moving that you can construct when you’re trying to do what’s best for the organization and depth.

“Both of them are capable of getting left-handed hitters out. They showed us that last year. But also, I know that both of them don’t have a real long track record of doing that, so I’m a little cautious with it.”

The Orioles need a long reliever. Without Simon, Patton or Phillips would have to take on that role, and neither one is stretched out enough to eat significant innings if a starter gets knocked out early.

Chris Tillman is still in camp. Perhaps he’s a possibility, though the Orioles have preferred keeping him in a starting role in past years.

Wada isn’t going to the bullpen. He’s more likely to go on the DL and build up his arm strength at extended spring training while Matusz heads north as the fifth starter.

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