SARASOTA, Fla. The Orioles are home today to play the Toronto Blue Jays, and it's Zach Britton's latest chance to make a push for the last spot in the rotation.
Britton allowed only one hit in 3 2/3 scoreless innings in his last outing against the Boston Red Sox. Brian Matusz went five innings yesterday in Fort Myers. Jake Arrieta went 4 2/3 innings in Dunedin. Wei-Yin Chen went five innings at Twin Lakes Park.
This seems like a good time for Britton to pitch into the fifth.
Miguel Gonzalez is expected to go at least four innings today at Twin Lakes Park. He's been hidden from another division opponent.
"Most guys who go over there, their velocity will be down a tick or two," said manager Buck Showalter. "They know they're going to get X amount of pitches. You can roll them over. They know they're going to throw 15 or 18 pitches an inning, so it gets a little mechanical.
"I know pitchers that absolutely love it. Kevin Millwood, you could pitch him the whole season down in Twin Lakes and he'd be all right. He loves it because he got his work in, and he said, 'I'll pitch one time in the stadium, and let's go,' and it's pretty good. Chen did it some last year. (Jason) Hammel seems to do well. His velocity doesn't suffer.
"It's a hard place to pitch. You feel like you're in a desert. It's open. You have to be a little bit of a self-motivator to get something out of it."
The Orioles still have 48 players in camp. Showalter joked about adding a few more, rather than making cuts.
"We may go up. We're thinking of going to 52," he quipped.
Jair Jurrjens apparently never heard from the Netherlands team about joining it for the World Baseball Classic as the tournament inched toward its finish. He was a consideration before it started, but he decided to stay in camp.
The Orioles beat Tampa Bay twice in 2012 without stepping on the field. The Rays were interested in Cuban outfielder Henry Urrutia and they seemed close to signing Nate McLouth over the winter before the Orioles reached agreement with him at the Winter Meetings.
Mark Hendrickson has permitted one run and struck out five batters in five appearances spanning 4 2/3 innings. Daniel McCutchen picked up the save yesterday against the Boston Red Sox after striking out two in the ninth. Perhaps more relievers should consider lowering their arm slots.
Showalter talked about McCutchen twice after yesterday's game without reporters teeing him up with a question. He's really impressed by McCutchen, who, in turn, seems to be enjoying the change in delivery. He views it as a new toy.
Before yesterday, Danny Valencia led the Orioles in plate appearances this spring. Then he crushed a ball to left field for a tie-breaking home run in the ninth inning after replacing Manny Machado at third base.
A few people have asked which Oriole is the emergency catcher. It's got to be Ryan Flaherty, though you won't find a chest protector and shin guards in his locker. Yesterday, Showalter referred to him as "also a guy who maybe could fit as a third catcher."
Showalter continues to praise Flaherty at every turn, but that doesn't mean "Flash" is certain to make the club. Far from it.
"He's got some real upside," Showalter said. "He's had as good a spring as anybody here. It's going to be a tough one there, one way or the other. We're going to try to put our best foot forward, and if that includes Ryan, we're going to take him. I know he makes my job easier as far as having his versatility. You may even think about him if Nick (Markakis) or Nolan (Reimold) can't go in the outfield."
I'm still not sure how Flaherty makes the club if Markakis and Reimold are healthy, and Brian Roberts, Alexi Casilla and Wilson Betemit also are on the 25-man roster on April 2.
Showalter made sure to watch Old Mill High graduate Josh Hader on Monday while last year's 19th-round selection pitched two innings in a Single-A game at the minor league complex.
"He's got deception. That's the thing that's most intriguing," Showalter said. "Have you seen him throw? It's what I like. I like deception in a delivery. And Rick Peterson tells me he's actually tested as one of the better deliveries in camp, with that funkyness."
It's also appealing when a guy's velocity jumps up to 91-93 mph, a nice increase from the left-hander's high school days. And Hader put on about 15 pounds, which he needed to do.
"He's interesting," Showalter said.
Showalter asked Urrutia if he owned a computer. He told Showalter, "No." The manager then asked whether he knew who Hank Aaron was, which brought another negative response.
"I said, 'If and when you come to us, your name's going to be Hank. It ain't going to Henry. It's going to be Hank Urrutia.' Is that good?" Showalter said.
"(Matt) Wieters already called him Hank. 'Hammerin'' Hank Urrutia."