SARASOTA, Fla. - The Orioles return home today to host the Tigers after traveling to Bradenton and Tampa for their last two games. A batch of roster cuts are anticipated, though there have been a few false starts over the past week as manager Buck Showalter waits for some of his day-to-day players to get back on the field.
Showalter told reporters yesterday that Chris Tillman likely won’t pitch in April unless it’s at extended spring training. An opening day start already was eliminated from consideration and the club pretty much knew that he wouldn’t be ready on April 15. It can live without him for a month.
A fifth starter must be found and executive vice president Dan Duquette seems committed to giving the in-house candidates the first crack at it. I’ve been asked many times to handicap the race and it’s extremely difficult at this juncture.
Mike Wright tossed four innings in Friday morning’s B game against the Pirates and could be termed the favorite. The Orioles have always liked his arm, but they’re adjusting its slot to get him more over the top and to prevent him from spinning off the ball.
Showalter studied Wright’s delivery in the B game and offered an occasional “there it is” when the former third round pick out of East Carolina nailed it.
The Orioles had Wright allowing an unearned run and one hit over four innings. He had one earned and one unearned, but whatever. It was a B game.
“I felt really good,” he said. “I got some ups and downs, some good work in. Feel like I threw some really good pitches.”
Wright continues to bond with new pitching coach Roger McDowell, who also paid close attention on Friday before heading over to Bradenton for the Grapefruit League game. McDowell stood by the bench or moved behind the backstop next to Ramón Martinez, the Orioles’ special assignment pitching instructor.
“My natural arm slot is lower three-quarters and I’m trying not to go straight from that too much,” Wright said. “Just getting down the mound and getting toward the catcher and have my energy go all in one direction. It’s something I’ve been working on for years, not falling off before I’ve thrown the pitch. Sometimes, it just takes another opinion to see something else at a different point in your delivery that kind of cleans it up.
“I felt really solid (Friday) and a couple of pitches I got out of whack, going back to my other one, but Roger mentioned something and I felt like I got back into it pretty good.”
The Orioles continue to regard Wright as a starter, whether at Camden Yards or Harbor Park. They’re not ready to move him into the bullpen in a full-time role.
Wilson had a blown save yesterday against the Yankees, but he also got credit for the win after allowing one run in three innings. Aquino tossed two scoreless innings to lower his spring ERA to 0.82 in five games. He’s surrendered one run and struck out 10 batters in 11 innings, but he hasn’t gone more than three innings in any appearance. If he’s a serious candidate, he needs to be stretched out.
Kevin Gausman gets the start today and he’s the clear favorite to be on the mound April 3 against the Blue Jays at Camden Yards. The mystery is how the other starters line up behind him and who’s No. 5?
(Yes, it was Brooks Robinson. You know what I mean.)