SARASOTA, Fla. - The Orioles provided Wei-Yin Chen with five innings today and a lesson in facing low-level minor league hitters.
Chen took on a lineup filled with Tampa Bay Rays Single-A players in a light, steady rain at Twin Lakes Park. He allowed three runs (two earned) and five hits, with one walk, two strikeouts and one hit batter. The Orioles kept him on the mound for an extra out in the third inning, resulting in his second strikeout, to increase his pitch count.
The defense behind him also added to his pitch total. The Orioles committed three errors and botched two rundowns after Chen had picked off a runner.
The day is considered a success because the Orioles stretched him out to five innings. I had Chen throwing 78 pitches, 53 for strikes. His interpreter, Tim Lin, said Chen threw 79 pitches. Since that figure likely came from the bench, I'll go with 79.
Chen worked on his two-seam and four-seam fastballs, and using his change-up against left-handed batters. He learned how difficult it is to set up hitters at this level because they take such an aggressive approach at the plate.
"I tried my best, but these minor leaguers swing at every pitch I throw, so it messed up my tempo a little bit," Chen said.
The miscues in the field had the same result, but Chen took it easy on his young teammates.
"I wouldn't complain about the defense because, even in the major leagues, you always have errors behind you," he said. "I still worked on my stuff. That's the only thing I wanted to do today."
Executive vice president Dan Duquette, manager Buck Showalter, bench coach John Russell, pitching coach Rick Adair and an assortment of front office personnel watched Chen throw today. There was another Single-A game being played at the same time, and groups of minor leaguers took batting practice on another field.
The atmosphere didn't quite match a Grapefruit League game at Ed Smith Stadium, but Chen has been making that adjustment while the Orioles schedule his starts at Twin Lakes Park.
"It doesn't matter if you're pitching in the major league spring training or the minor league spring training. It's still a game," said Chen, whose outing also attracted at least one scout from a division rival. "You have to give your best effort on the mound."
Chen said he didn't tire in the fifth, when the Rays collected three of their five hits and scored their final run.
"I still felt really strong in my last inning," he said. "I was only working on my fastball and change-up and they hit all my fastballs. That's the only thing."
Showalter kept checking the action on all three fields. Cuban outfielder Henry Urrutia, shut down briefly after tweaking his ankle, took live batting practice. Old Mill High graduate Josh Hader threw two innings, had his fastball clocked at 91-93 mph and continued to impress officials and scouts. Matt Hobgood also pitched today.
Steve Melewski will provide more information later today in his blog.