This, that and the other

SARASOTA, Fla. - The Orioles are playing split-squad games today if the weather allows it. Lots of rain is in the forecast.

Brian Matusz gets the start against the Phillies in Clearwater, followed by Kevin Gausman. Ubaldo Jimenez was supposed to get the start tonight against the Twins in Sarasota, but manager Buck Showalter told reporters yesterday that the right-hander will pitch in a Triple-A game in Fort Myers.

Showalter is anticipating a cancellation due to the weather and he wants to make certain that Jimenez builds up his innings. Steve Johnson has replaced Jimenez as the scheduled starter.

Nick Markakis will play right field in Clearwater. Again, weather permitting.

Tommy Hunter pitched two “innings” yesterday in a Triple-A game at Twin Lakes Park. He gave up four singles and recorded four outs.

Just getting in his work.

Johan Santana threw off flat ground again yesterday and is nearing a mound session.

The Orioles must let their pitchers bat today against the Phillies, who won’t allow them to use a designated hitter. I found it odd, but a few players said it’s a common practice by National League teams that want their pitchers to get used to facing opposing pitchers. The Mets and Cardinals have done it in the past, and Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg is old school.

Matusz was taking some practice swings at his locker yesterday. He’s ready to rake.

Matusz is 1-for-8 in the majors, the hit coming in his most recent at-bat on June 20, 2012 against the Mets’ Dillon Gee at Citi Field.

Zach Britton offered to make the trip and serve as the designated hitter. No wonder. He went 5-for-8 with a double and home run in 2011.

Remember how Orioles pitchers were better than the designated hitters that year? Chris Jakubauskas was 2-for-3, Jake Arrieta was 1-for-4 and Jeremy Guthrie was 1-for-5 with a double.

Britton has hit the last home run by an Orioles’ pitcher, and he got the silent treatment in the dugout after connecting off Atlanta’s Brandon Beachy.

“I had no idea what was going on,” Britton told reporters after the game. “I didn’t even know that they were giving me the silent treatment, but I kind of figured it’s a good gesture.”

Britton, who also played the outfield in high school, became the first Orioles pitcher to homer since Kris Benson on June 17, 2006 against Mets right-hander Pedro Martinez.

Perhaps you’ve heard of him.

Showalter will reveal the identity of his opening day starter later today. Seems pretty obvious, but I’m practicing my surprised look in the mirror.

I talked to a few scouts from outside the organization last week who raved about left-hander Tim Berry, the 50th-round pick in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft who has emerged as a legit pitching prospect. One scout was more impressed with Berry than Eduardo Rodriguez.

The same scout questioned why Rodriguez is throwing off the third base side of the rubber, which presents more of a challenge with his breaking ball.

Glad to see that Caleb Joseph is being praised in camp for his improved defense. I’m just wondering how many catchers will make Triple-A Norfolk’s roster.

Joseph has to be on it after batting .299/.346/.494 with 31 doubles, two triples, 22 homers and 97 RBIs last year at Double-A Bowie. If the backup competition stays between Steve Clevenger and Johnny Monell, the loser figures to be optioned to the Tides. And what about Brian Ward?

The Orioles also have David Freitas, the PTBN in the Jim Johnson trade with Oakland.

Michael Ohlman will be the main guy at Bowie and could force his way onto Norfolk’s roster later in the summer.

Speaking of Clevenger, he went 3-for-3 with two doubles yesterday and raised his average to .545 (12-for-22) this spring.

If he isn’t the backup catcher on opening day, it’s through no fault of his own.

Yes, the Orioles are stressing defense from the backup. Clevenger isn’t a liability behind the plate. I’ve talked to scouts who think he’s fine and they wonder why the Orioles are looking outside the organization.

I understand Alexi Casilla’s frustration over not playing and losing serious ground in the competition for utility infielder, but hopefully he understands that the Orioles are holding him back to prevent a more serious injury to his left knee. He can’t play if there’s still swelling. It would be irresponsible of the athletic training staff to clear him.

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