Checking on Gonzalez

FORT MYERS, Fla. - Miguel Gonzalez, expected to settle into the middle of the Orioles rotation, threw about 85 pitches over six-plus innings yesterday at Twin Lakes Park.

Gonzalez, facing the Boston Red Sox's Triple-A team, stayed on the mound to record an extra out in the first and sixth innings to increase his pitch count.

"I felt good," he said. "Expo (Luis Exposito) did a great job back there."

Gonzalez was satisfied with his changeup, slider and cutter, but said his split-finger fastball "wasn't good."

After facing only two Grapefruit League opponents this spring, Gonzalez is slated to pitch against the New York Mets on Saturday in the Orioles' final exhibition game. They will finalize their roster the following day before heading to St. Petersburg, Fla., in preparation for the April 2 opener against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field.

"It's going to be nice," Gonzalez said. "Hopefully, I'll face some of their good hitters."

Manager Buck Showalter hasn't announced his rotation, but Gonzalez will be included in it. He's expected to join Jason Hammel and Wei-Yin Chen in the top three and is lined up to start the third game on April 4. Hammel will get the nod on April 2 unless something drastic happens to change those plans.

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