SARASOTA, Fla. - The Orioles prospects took over the ninth inning today, with Chance Sisco hitting an opposite-field, three-run homer off Rays reliever Brandon Lawson after DJ Stewart singled and Ryan Mountcastle doubled.
The Orioles stranded two runners in scoring position and lost to the Rays 6-3, but it provided a nice touch to an otherwise nondescript exhibition opener.
“Yeah, especially back-to-back-to-back,” said manager Buck Showalter. “I think we hit four balls hard that they caught. A pretty good first day for the most part.
“I thought we had some pitchers that presented themselves well. I thought Mike Wright was good.”
Wright allowed one run and one hit in two innings, retiring the last five batters he faced. Leadoff hitter Micah Johnson worked him for a 12-pitch walk and later scored on a sacrifice fly, but Wright didn’t let the game get away from him.
“I was talking to Roger (McDowell) in the dugout, that was a good outing because that’s something that he’s got to be able to do,” Showalter said. “You’re going to have a guy foul off six or seven or eight, whatever it was. You’re going to have a guy roll a ball through the hole. Now what are you going to do? He kept it to one run, kept us very much in the game. That was good to see
“Didn’t let his emotions get in the way of him. That was a good, calm, professional outing.”
Wright is hoping to incorporate his cutter into more of his outings rather than leaving it at Triple-A. He wants to use it as a tool for increasing his effectiveness against left-handed batters who own a career .328/.384/.578 slash line against him in the majors.
“I think his changeup’s gotten better, too. He’s made an adjustment on his grip a little bit,” Showalter said.
“You can tell he came into camp with that, talking to Roger and Brady (Anderson). I know Brady was with him and it’s something he really wanted to do to be able to give himself something to go to a little bit when he’s behind in the count, something with movement.”
Rule 5 pick Pedro Araujo and hard-throwing left-hander Joely Rodríguez each tossed a scoreless inning. Araujo retired the side in order with two strikeouts in the fifth. Rodríguez was firing 95 mph fastballs while surrendering a bloop single, striking out one and shattering a bat.
“Araujo was good today and that was good to see,” Showalter said. “Joely Rodríguez has been impressive all camp. It was good to see him out there.
“We can say what we want to, but if they start making a case out of the chute ... and we’re going to have to start cutting down the numbers at some point. Nothing imminent. But that’s how you get an opportunity and continue to have an opportunity.”
“I don’t think it’s, ‘Hey, we’ve got this type of pitcher, so let’s go get this guy,’ ” Showalter said. “Pitching’s pitching and if you get people out, it doesn’t matter who pitched before you, who pitches after you, because the guy that you’re facing wasn’t the guy that was hitting off the other guy. It’s somebody else.
“Maybe if you’re looking for situations that maybe a hard thrower may fit better here with this guy with his slider bat speed. It’s always good to have options.”
Tim Beckham didn’t have a ball hit to him in five innings. Meanwhile, Manny Machado was involved in two double plays. He short-hopped one throw that first baseman Chris Davis scooped to save a run and an error.
“The one I liked was the real routine one that he caught glove side and J.J.’d it over to the second baseman instead of something that you don’t need to do,” Showalter said, another nod to Hardy’s consistency. “That’s very efficient.”
Salcedo took over at second base in the top of the sixth inning and made some nice plays, with smooth pickups and transferring of the ball.
“Salcedo can catch the ball. Salcedo’s a baseball player,” Showalter said. “Just little things like, double into left-center field and you know you’re going to have infield depth that’s different than normal and as soon as he’s bringing the ball in he’s looking into the dugout. A lot of guys aren’t that aware. He’s an aware, sharp player. He brings a little something different. That’s why guys like having him on the club.”
Minor league infield coordinator Dave Anderson suggested that the Orioles sign Salcedo.
“He can really catch it,” Showalter said.
Orioles minor league third baseman Jaime Estrada, who’s on the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League roster, received a 50-game suspension without pay after a positive test for Strychnine, a stimulant in violation of the Drug Prevention and Treatment Program.
Estrada, a 26th round pick in 2016 out of Central Arizona College, is a career .246/.374/.310 hitter with one home run in two seasons with the GCL team.
Infielder Éngelb Vielma will take his physical with the Orioles in the morning after flying into the area tonight. He isn’t significantly behind the other candidates for the utility job.
“Not yet, not yet. I don’t think so,” Showalter said. “There are so many games down here. We’re not even in March yet. I think he’ll be OK.”