PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. - Left-hander Nick Additon retired the side in order in the eighth inning, Tim Alderson survived a one-out walk in the ninth and the Orioles opened their Grapefruit League schedule with a 4-2 win over the Rays at Charlotte Sports Park.
Francisco Peguero, Steve Clevenger and Alex Gonzalez each had two hits. Jemile Weeks reached base twice and scored two runs, and Gonzalez had two RBIs.
Manager Buck Showalter described Chris Tillman as being “sharp” today.
“There were times last year when he kind of searches for his arm strength early, even in the season, but he was pretty sharp today,” Showalter said.
“He has a different presence about him. He’s not that much heavier or anything, but you can just see there’s definition. The way he carries himself and everything. That was fun to watch.”
Showalter thought Zach Britton was sharp at times, though the left-hander allowed one run on three hits and also walked a batter.
“These guys, first time they go out there and they’re carrying that type of velocity, he’s pretty excited about it,” Showalter said.
The run off Britton came on a ball that third baseman Michael Almanzar might normally have fielded.
“Did they score that a hit?” Showalter asked.
Showalter also noted how Henry Urruta looks “a lot more comfortable in the outfield.” And how Caleb Joseph “looks calmer behind the plate,” according to bench coach John Russell.
Eddie Gamboa did a nice job of keeping the Rays off-balance by mixing his knuckler with a fastball that touches the low 90s.
“It’s one of those things where you’ve got to really sell yourself, ‘Am I a knuckleball pitcher or not?’ And that’s kind of what he’s trying to work through,” Showalter said. “But you can see why we’re comfortable with going through the process with that, too? How many knuckleball pitchers lead a guy off the first pitch of an inning with a fastball? It’s unconventional unconventional, if that makes any sense, which I’m sure it doesn’t.
“Dave (Wallace) and I were talking about, sometimes, there’s a conversation to be had about, ‘Are you a knuckleball pitcher or not?’ He’s got two of them. (Phil) Niekro had a hard one and a soft one. Joe (Niekro) threw a real hard one. He throws a hard one, too.”
Showalter also talked about the difficulty in managing today’s game following the news that director of public relations Monica Pence Barlow passed away early this morning.
“The game’s a little reprieve, but there are so many things you associate with Monica,” he said. “Seeing you all and not having her standing over your shoulder. But she is.”