ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - Orioles manager Buck Showalter already planned on bringing left-hander Zach Britton to Tropicana Field today. Once last night’s game stretched to 18 innings, he decided to also include left-hander Mike Belfiore on the expanded roster.
“We were the only ones who got normal sleep,” Belfiore said with a grin.
“I found out at like 3 a.m. They called me right after the game. I kind of updated myself on the game, but I was still sleeping a little bit. But yeah, 3 a.m., they gave me a call.”
His phone ringer was set to loud.
“Never leave it on silent,” he said. “I learned that real quick.”
Belfiore has been keeping track of the games, just in case he’s needed. And because he enjoys the intensity of a playoff chase.
“It was more paying attention because it’s a fun race to watch more than anything, and obviously I have a shot any day to go up. I kept it in mind, kept making sure I saw the score and everything,” he said.
“We’ve been down in instructs, basically staying on cue if they needed us and throwing bullpens and sim games. Just kind of making the season a little longer for us.”
Belfiore threw two days ago and is ready if called upon today to make his major league debut.
“I got plenty of rest. I’m feeling great,” he said.
“We’ll see what happens. I can’t control when I go in there and not. I can only control how I prepare and all of that, and that’s the most important thing.”
Showalter said left-hander Tsuyoshi Wada was “an option” for today, but Britton and Belfiore have been here before and are “a little more ready.” Showalter also said that the duo will stay with the club for the rest of the month.
Showalter said the Orioles needed reinforcements in case Miguel Gonzalez “blows a shoe in the first inning,” a nice horse racing term.
Gonzalez left his most recent start with a strained groin.
“I don’t care how many sprints and stretches and side work he’s done, there’s a different intensity in games,” Showalter said. “You’ve got to cover yourself. And it’s not like everybody who pitched yesterday can’t pitch today.”
Gonzalez left Tropicana Field during last night’s game and headed back to the team hotel, which is a common occurrence with the next day’s starting pitcher. However, the Orioles would have brought him back if last night’s game had continued well past the 18 innings.
Steve Johnson would have followed Bud Norris, and Gonzalez was next man up. Britton would have started today.
Britton was ready to head back home for the offseason before the Orioles called him.
Six of the eight Orioles who played all 18 innings are in today’s lineup.
Showalter said catcher Matt Wieters was agreeable to starting today’s game on the bench instead of behind the plate. Wieters originally wanted to catch every remaining game on the schedule, but Showalter intended to sit him today, no matter what happened last night.
“I kept looking at him after the 12th inning,” Showalter said. “He’d come in, I’d look at him and he’d look up at me with those big eyes. He’d wink and smile and go, ‘I’ve got it. Good.’ That was all.”
One reason Alexi Casilla is starting today at second base is Ryan Flaherty’s career stats at Tropicana Field. He’s 1-for-19 here.
Showalter wanted to give Brian Roberts a break today after the second baseman played all 18 innings last night, taking into account his age and all the surgeries he’s endured.
“He would never admit it,” Showalter said.
Showalter checked on a few players after last night’s game, but he didn’t make a lineup decision until talking to them again this morning.
Said Showalter: “You want to provide for that part where they get up and go, ‘Wait a minute, what in the hell did I tell him last night?’
“Some of the people I talked to last night, they said, ‘Buck, if I was sitting out and I saw the other five or six guys out there who played in that game and I’m sitting over here, I’d feel like (crap) and I’d be disappointed at whoever didn’t put me in the game. We want to take this on. We’ve got nine games.’”
Showalter could have used nine pairs of fresh legs today, but what about the presentation? These are must-win games. Go with the players who give you the best chance.
“They want to be a part of this, they want to play through it,” Showalter said. “They don’t want to be that one.”