SARASOTA, Fla. - The fields are finally emptying at the minor league complex at Twin Lakes Park. Players are headed inside to eat, work out and attend meetings.
Jake Arrieta and Jair Jurrjens each tossed five innings in the same minor league game. Zach Britton and Kevin Gausman pitched on another field. Freddy Garcia passed his physical and threw a bullpen session. Wei-Yin Chen also threw on the side, with pitching coach Rick Adair stopping him a few times to offer instruction.
Arrieta, Britton and Gausman each came down with a blister on their pitching hand. On the same day.
Gausman had three more innings to go, but the Orioles stopped him as a precaution. It's nothing serious. They were just being careful with him.
Arrieta threw 75 pitches, none of them sliders or curveballs because of a blister on the inside of his middle finger. Those pitches put pressure on the finger. He stuck with the fastball and changeup.
"It needs a couple days to let that nail grow out and just kind of let that skin generate, but I'm all good to go," he said. "A guy like Gausman, hard throwers, guys who used a lot of the seams, tend to develop a blister from time to time. You've just got to be careful about not cutting that nail too deep. That's the main thing there. That's an error on my part for cutting it a little too short, but now I know."
Arrieta allowed an RBI double in the second inning and got better as his start progressed.
"I really commanded my sinker to both sides of the plate really well," said Arrieta, who will start the home opener April 5. "I quickened my time to the plate a little bit. What I've talked about with Rick and Buck (Showalter) is trying to be as quick to the plate as I can while maintaining good command down in the zone. I got to around 1.2 to the plate with good velocity, good life, so that's a good sign. I'm looking forward to next Friday.
"Everything is compact and in control, and I feel very confident being on the mound from the stretch and the windup, very confident and capable from both aspects of my delivery. Everyone knows that's one thing I needed to clean up and I've done that this spring. I'm right where I need to be."
Britton will start the third game at Triple-A Norfolk after a couple of bullpen sessions. He went four innings today and threw more than 60 pitches despite a blister on the side of his thumb.
The blister popped and Britton applied a little Super Glue to his thumb. Problem solved.
"I was just trying to get my pitch count up, so I went back out there for another inning," he said. "Me and Rick (Peterson) have been doing stuff in the bullpen, so I really wanted to get a good feel for what we were doing. This is the perfect time. I could have kept throwing with (the blister), but there's no reason to at this point. But I wanted to get my pitch count up, because I really haven't gone too many innings this spring overall."
Britton is working on his finish, "a bad habit that I formed," he said.
"I don't know when it happened, if it was when I was injured or whatever, but just finishing the ball better and getting that sink consistent again. And today the sink was really good. I was missing down with it the first couple of innings, but it was probably the best sink I've had with it this spring. I've just got to command it a little better, but you can play with sink. As long as it's moving, that's a really positive sign.
"We were just talking right now and we're in a good direction. Not quite where I want to be right now, but we're headed in a good direction, which is really nice."
Jurrjens went five innings and stayed on the mound for extra outs in the fifth. He allowed three runs and four hits, with a walk, in the third inning. Otherwise, he seemed to be in control. And one of those hits was a blooper down the right field line that glanced off the second baseman's glove.
Jurrjens is expected to start the second game for Norfolk.
Garcia said he's ready to pitch. He went five innings and threw 80 pitches last weekend in his final start with the San Diego Padres before they released him.
Garcia will throw a few more bullpen sessions and likely start next Sunday for the Tides. He can opt out of his contract after five starts if the Orioles don't purchase his contract.
"If they don't need me, I can go," he said. "We'll see what happens. Hopefully, I'll pitch the way they want me to pitch. I think this is a good situation for me. I know I can help the team when they need me. I can be in the starting rotation, I can be in the bullpen. I did it last year and I'm fine with that."
Garcia views the Orioles as a team on the way up after they made the playoffs last season.
"They played unbelievable baseball," he said. "When you play in that division and the last month of the season, you're one game from first place, that's one of the toughest divisions in baseball. It's pretty amazing. What they're doing is pretty good."
The Orioles completed their last order of business this morning by placing Tsuyoshi Wada, Wilson Betemit and Steve Johnson on the disabled list and purchasing Steve Pearce's contract. The club had an open spot for Pearce on the 40-man roster.
Wada's placement on the DL is retroactive to March 22, Johnson to March 23 and Betemit to March 26.
Also, Duquette spoke with outfielder Lew Ford outside the Twin Lakes Park clubhouse earlier this morning. Ford will be assigned to Double-A Bowie because of an excess of outfielders at the upper levels of the farm system.