SARASOTA, Fla. - The next time reliever Darren O’Day pitches in a spring training game, he doesn’t expect the Orioles to hold a 13-run lead against a largely anonymous opponent in winds that could lift a house off its foundation.
O’Day made his spring debut yesterday against Team Spain and allowed two runs and three hits in the seventh inning.
“The goal yesterday was to get out there in a game and throw and be healthy and make sure everything works,” he said.
“It was a tough game to get into a rhythm because of the way it progressed. But it was my first time out and I felt good. Everything worked fine. Just a step along the path.”
The game lasted 3 hours and 40 minutes, and the Orioles won, 19-7.
“It was just a long day,” O’Day said. “That’s a long time to just sit there and watch baseball. But there’s no excuses. There’s going to be games like that during the season that take forever. We play New York and Boston, and those games take a while, too. There’s no excuses.
“You can’t do scouting reports on those guys. I’ve never seen a lot of them play. A big part of my game is knowing what hitters are trying to do.”
Manager Buck Showalter has brought O’Day along slowly this spring. Same with Jim Johnson and Luis Ayala, who also debuted yesterday.
“I’ve had springs before where I knew I was going to throw, but you have to look at it that it’s a long spring training,” O’Day said. “This time last year, I probably only had two or three innings. It’s just a little different. As long as I get my nine or 10 innings in, I’ll be fine.”
This time last spring, O’Day was coming off a season ruined by injury and unsure whether he would make the club. Now he’s got a two-year deal in his back pocket and a guaranteed spot on the roster.
“I still feel like I’m fighting for a spot,” he said. “I had a good year last year, but you never rest on your laurels because there’s always someone trying to take your job. I’ll try to do my thing.”
He should try to do the same thing as last year, when he went 7-1 with a 2.28 ERA in 67 innings and stranded 37 of 43 inherited runners (86%), the third-best mark in the American League.
As Pedro Strop began to slump late in the season, O’Day emerged as the set-up man and practically pitched every day down the stretch.
“Pedro’s going to be fine,” O’Day said. “When he’s right, he’s probably the best reliever I’ve ever played with. His stuff is unbelievable. And Pedro hasn’t been pitching for that long. I’ve been pitching for 23 years. Pedro’s been pitching for five. He’s still kind of figuring it out.”
Strop has left camp to pitch for the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic.
He’s going to be pitching in tight games and game situations, which is only going to make him better,” O’Day said. “We expect that he’ll be back just as strong as he was last year.”
Johnson will pitch again Sunday. O’Day may do the same, though he hasn’t been told.
“I think we’re on similar schedules,” he said. “I’ll have to do a multiple-innings thing. I don’t know if he’s required to do that, but I’ll do that. For the most part, our schedules are pretty close to the same. Toward the end, I’m sure we’ll start treating games like they’re real - coming in in the middle innings. But you kind of know what you need to do to get ready.”