SARASOTA, Fla. - Second baseman Brian Roberts fouled a ball of his right ankle in the bottom of the sixth inning, bringing head athletic trainer Richie Bancells and manager Buck Showalter out of the dugout.
Roberts crouched down in obvious pain, then tried to walk it off. He stayed in the game and struck out, then was replaced by Yamaico Navarro in the top of the seventh.
Showalter has removed most of his starters, so it may have been Roberts’ turn to come out anyway.
Darren O’Day went two innings for the first time this spring, striking out four batters. Jim Johnson tossed a scoreless sixth and T.J. McFarland protected the 6-5 lead in the seventh despite allowing a two-out double.
Zach Britton met with reporters after allowing five runs and seven hits in 1 2/3 innings.
“I was trying to work on some things, like fastballs inside to the righties and they just beat me with it today,” he said. “It was up in the zone. I was talking to Buck and Rick (Adair) after that outing and they said, ‘You were just up, trying to get it in.’
“It’s something I’m working on, the four-seamer, showing a different look to the righties and they just beat me on it. And I was behind in the count. When you’re behind in the count and you’re trying to work on stuff, it doesn’t end up well. You’ve got to be ahead in the count and I wasn’t able to do that with any of the pitches today.”
It’s a tough spot for Britton to be in, trying to make the club while also doing a little experimenting on the mound. Results do matter right now, but he also needs to prepare for the season.
“Yeah, you’ve got to find the balance between them,” he said. “I wasn’t getting ahead, and there were probably some times where I could have gone to a sinker and maybe tried to get out of the inning instead of being stubborn and going with the four-seamer. But I trusted Matt (Wieters) behind there. I kind of went with what he wanted to call. He knew the game plan and I think sometimes it’s more important that you work on it and if you do have a bad outing, it’s spring training. But I don’t have the luxury of having an outing like that when you’re competing for a spot.”
“You always want to put a good effort out there and it just wasn’t there today,” he said. “You don’t want to have one like this when you’re competing for a spot, but at least I was working on something, and I understand that if I’m going to throw that four-seamer in to righties, I’ve got to make sure it’s down or in and off the plate. They’re a good lineup, they had some good hitters in there. When I was behind, they made me pay for it.”
Britton, whose ERA soared to 6.10 this spring, understands that Orioles camp is winding down and he’s got precious little time to make a positive impression.
“We’re getting down to the nitty gritty, so I maybe have one outing left,” he said. “I think you just have to show you bounce back. I think that’s the biggest thing here, showing that you’re healthy. I felt like my rhythm was good on the mound. It just wasn’t there. I didn’t really sync it up. It was just a matter of getting the ball down and locating it better.
“I went down in the bullpen after I threw. I wanted to get up in the bullpen a couple more times. I wanted to get a feel more for throwing the four-seamer inside to righties.”
Now for the blunt question: Does Britton still think he has a chance to make the club?
“Definitely,” he replied. “I don’t think stats are everything they are looking at. Obviously, you don’t want to have a game like this at all, whether it’s the season or spring training, but I think there’s other stuff they’re looking at.
“I feel healthy, my stuff has been pretty good. Obviously the results today weren’t very good, but the velocity has been pretty good, movement on pitches has been pretty good. But like I said, you don’t want to have an outing like this, you don’t want it in their mind at all like you had a bad one. You want to put a good foot forward.”
Update: T.J. McFarland wrapped up the contest by allowing one hit and striking out two over three scoreless innings, as the Orioles completed a 6-5 victory.