TAMPA - No matter how many times I think it's going to be different, 5 a.m. always arrives early. You can set your watch by it.
The Orioles completed their 3-3 road trip and begin a three-game series tonight against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim Near Disneyland But Not the Disney World Resort.
Freddy Garcia has already worked himself into a lather because he's facing the Angels. He's practically foaming at the forehead.
Garcia is 16-3 with a 2.66 ERA in 29 career starts against the Angels. He made his Orioles debut against them on May 4 and took a no-hitter into the seventh inning.
Jered Weaver gets the start tonight for the Angels. He's only made four this season and has allowed one earned run in three of them.
Weaver is 6-3 with a 2.76 ERA in nine starts against the Orioles, but he's posted a 6.19 ERA in three starts at Camden Yards.
Chris Davis, who went 0-for-12 in the Rays series, is 6-for-28 (.214) against Weaver. J.J. Hardy is 1-for-15, Matt Wieters is 2-for-13 with a home run and Alexi Casilla is 3-for-19.
Danny Valencia is 3-for-15 with two home runs against Weaver.
I understand why Casilla is viewed as a valuable bench player, a weapon to be used in the late innings, but he has a few things to offer at the bottom of the lineup and at second base, which he demonstrated again yesterday.
Wieters had his fourth passed ball yesterday, one short of his 2012 total.
Hardy sensed that the Orioles were in a bit of a funk after losing the first two games of the Rays series and scoring only one run. They sure snapped out of it.
"After the first two games here where we got six hits total, yeah," he said. "We definitely weren't getting hits, but you've got to tip your hat to their pitchers. They threw the ball really well, and we just came out aggressive."
Manager Buck Showalter was encouraged by Pedro Strop's scoreless inning in Saturday's loss. Strop struck out the first two batters he faced and allowed a hit.
"It was a good first step for him," Showalter said. "He felt good about it. It was a positive out of the game."
I wrote yesterday about Zach Britton allowing only six earned runs (eight total) in his last four starts over 25 innings with Triple-A Norfolk, with nine walks and 21 strikeouts. Showalter is also encouraged by his progress.
"His last outing R.J. (Ron Johnson) said was the best one of the year. That's good to see," Showalter said. "His velocity has been consistent, so that's good. And his command. He's around the strike zone a lot with a good, live fastball. And tempo. He's been consistent. It hasn't been that yo-yo back and forth.
Jon Rauch gave up two hits in two-thirds of an inning yesterday in his fourth appearance with Norfolk. He hasn't permitted a run in 3 1/3 innings. He's allowed three hits, walked two and struck out two.
Rauch has a June 18 opt-out clause in his contract.
Jake Arrieta gave up seven runs and nine hits in 4 2/3 innings, with two walks, two strikeouts and two wild pitches. He also committed two errors.
The Orioles are keeping Arrieta in Norfolk's rotation, but they may be willing at some point to put him in their bullpen if he earns a promotion. He has options and would give them some flexibility. Brian Matusz and Darren O'Day are the only relievers who can be sent down without having to pass through waivers.
The Tides were beaten in 13 innings yesterday, and catcher Chris Robinson took the loss in his pitching debut. Indianapolis' Andrew Lambo hit a walk-off home run.
Robinson did retire one batter.
Former Oriole Felix Pie went 1-for-7 with three strikeouts for the Indians and is batting .265. He also committed his fifth error.
Single-A Delmarva left-hander Josh Hader tossed 6 2/3 scoreless innings yesterday in Game 1 of a doubleheader. The Old Mill High grad allowed only four hits.
I don't think the South Atlantic League can hold this kid much longer.
Nice scene following yesterday's game at Tropicana Field: Starting pitcher Chris Tillman completing his interview outside the visiting clubhouse and calling out to Wei-Yin Chen, who had walked past him and was heading back to Sarasota. Tillman rushed over and gave Chen a big hug.
Chen is one of the most popular players on the team and he's missed - and not just because he's an asset in the rotation.
Kevin Gausman's next start will come against Red Sox, who follow the Angels into Camden Yards. Gausman's leash doesn't necessarily stretch into September, but Showalter will keep giving him the ball as long as he doesn't get lit up in a succession of starts and develop "that look" in his eyes.
In other words, as long as he doesn't become overwhelmed and appear to be losing confidence. And right now, Gausman is perfectly fine in those departments.
A scout from outside the organization already has written up Gausman as a No. 2 starter with the potential to be a No. 1.
"I think he has the best stuff of any pitcher on the staff," the scout said. "His ceiling, he's got a chance to be the best of the whole group. His slider will be better. I've seen his plus-changeup. He basically pitches 95-96 mph and he can command both both sides. He has real good sink. And his slider, at least he can locate it fairly well. It will be a pretty good pitch for him, and the changeup will be a devastating pitch for him.
"He's still a young puppy, but he's the best guy they've got. He could really step up."
There's no timetable for Dylan Bundy's first start of 2013, but you can sense the excitement in the organization over the throwing progression that begins today in Sarasota.