The catching situation and Johan Santana's role as mentor

SARASOTA, Fla. - The Orioles are making another trip to Fort Myers this afternoon to play the Twins. Left-hander Wei-Yin Chen is on the mound for his third start after shutting out the Pirates on one hit over three innings in his previous appearance.

Overall, Chen has permitted two earned runs and six hits in five innings, with one walk and three strikeouts.

Zach Britton, T.J. McFarland and Tommy Hunter also will pitch for the Orioles. Britton, as I mentioned yesterday, will be working for the fourth time in nine days.

Right-hander Mike Pelfrey is starting for the Twins.

I've heard from scouts outside the organization that the Orioles are searching for a backup catcher. They haven't committed to choosing between Steve Clevenger and Johnny Monell.

Clevenger is 7-for-16 with one home run, five RBIs and four runs scored. He could be in today's starting lineup while Matt Wieters continues to get treatment on his right ankle.

Monell, who traveled to Tampa yesterday and went 0-for-1 after entering the game as a pinch-runner, is 5-for-15 with one homer, six RBIs and three runs scored.

"I'm playing well right now," Clevenger said. "Catching good. That's the most important thing. I said from the beginning, I'm just going to go out there and do what I can control, and that's hustle and just play the game the way I know how to play it, and let Dan (Duquette) and Buck (Showalter) make the decision at the end."

Defense will decide the winner, as Showalter has stressed from the first day of camp.

"They said that right from the get-go," Clevenger said. "I think that's what's going to be what's construed between the competition, who's catching the best. Obviously, the bat may have a little effect, but to me, I think they're looking for a catcher to play defense and they made it very clear at the beginning."

Clevenger and Monell have lockers next to each other. They chat about their situation on occasion. They're not consumed by it.

"We really don't talk about it too much, but we get along," Clevenger said. "We're always talking in the outfield. We take BP together almost every day. We're always having conversations. It's a friendly competition. Obviously, I want to win a job and so does he, and we try not to dwell on it too much, and just go out and show Buck and them what we've got and let them make the decision at the end."

While I'm driving down I-75 south this morning, Johan Santana will remain in camp to receive treatment on his left shoulder and continue his throwing program.

Santana already is paying dividends without stepping on the mound by mentoring young left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez, who was reassigned to minor league camp on Wednesday.

Rodriguez, who grew up in Venezuela idolizing Santana, allowed eight runs and 12 hits in six spring innings. He sat beside Santana in the dugout during a recent game, which didn't go unnoticed by manager Buck Showalter.

Santana tutored Rodriguez on his approach to pitching and his devastating changeup.

"He's just got to take everything easy," Santana said. "You can't rush things up. He reminds me of myself when I was younger. I was out there. But I think he's got great stuff. It's just a matter of time for him to get comfortable and also to understand.

"We were talking about his changeup. He was telling me his changeup is too hard. We're trying to work a little bit, just to get a feeling for it. It's not going to happen overnight. But he's a great kid. He's always willing to learn and always asking questions. So, he's put himself in a good position to improve, and that's pretty good."

How does Rodriguez remind Santana of himself as a young pitcher?

"It's too quick," Santana said. "You want to grab the ball and throw, grab the ball and throw. You've got to pace yourself and take it easy, and I think he will get that. He just needs time to understand that and put everything together."

Rodriguez understood that results didn't matter as much as the experience gained in his second major league camp.

"No question," Santana said. "He's only, what, 20? And he's here already. It lets you know a lot about him. But he's still young and still learning, so you can't get away from that.

"I think as he grows and he gets more experience, it's definitely going to be better and he's going to realize what this is all about."

Santana also is available to other pitchers in need of advice, including Dylan Bundy, who's rehabbing with him on the back fields at the Ed Smith Stadium complex.

"They have good arms here," Santana said, "good chemistry."

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