Trying to win the games 90 feet at a time

SARASOTA, Fla. - When your manager is Buck Showalter, a player knows he has to take care of the little things and always be prepared to best do his job.

The latest example came yesterday when Showalter spent a good portion of his postgame interview session talking about pitchers' times to home plate out of the stretch.

It is clear Showalter was not thrilled with some of the organization's pitchers in that respect when he came to the Orioles and he and his pitching coaches - in the majors and minors - make sure the pitchers know they won't get a job in Baltimore if they are lacking in this area.

Showalter talks about winning (or losing) the game 90 feet at a time. When your catcher is Matt Wieters, he'll throw out plenty of runners and save the team 90 feet often - if he's given a chance by his pitchers.

Showalter believes that a time to the plate from the stretch of 1.3 or 1.35 seconds gives Wieters a shot. Take longer than that to get him the ball and you are asking Wieters to do too much with his throws.

Showalter pointed out a fringe benefit of improvement in this area. He cited minor league pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez as making big improvements in his times to the plate and felt it also helped his delivery and mechanics when he got faster. So he got both quicker to the plate while also improving his mechanics.

Maybe the Orioles' ability to play 90 feet at a time helped them to a 29-9 record in one-run games last year. With Showalter, the O's players in the majors and minors know that no aspect of the game is to be overlooked. Not if they want a chance with the big club.

Meanwhile, the Orioles host Boston this afternoon at 1:05 at Ed Smith Stadium. Yesterday's loss leaves the Orioles with a Grapefruit League record of 11-5-1.

Zach Britton is today's scheduled Orioles' starter. Others scheduled to pitch include T.J. McFarland, Luis Ayala and Mark Hendrickson. Boston is going with Clayton Mortensen along with Alex Wilson, Chris Hernandez and Oscar Villareal, who went 3-4 with a 2.88 ERA over 68 2/3 innings for the O's Triple-A Norfolk affiliate in 2012.

What a game: It was quite a game last night as the Dominican Republic beat the United States 3-1 in the World Baseball Classic. With the win, the Dominican advances to the semifinals. Team USA now meets Puerto Rico tonight and the winner of that game will reach the semis while the loser will be eliminated.

Pedro Strop had another strong outing for the Dominican team and picked up his third win of this event. He is the only pitcher in the WBC that is 3-0. With the score tied 1-1 in the last of the eighth, Strop got Ryan Braun on a groundout before Joe Mauer singled. He then fell behind Giancarlo Stanton 3-0 before coming back to strike him out looking on a 97 mph fastball. He then got Eric Hosmer on a fly out to end the inning with his O's teammate Adam Jones waiting in the on-deck circle.

Strop has pitched 4 2/3 scoreless innings in the WBC, allowing just two hits with no walks and five strikeouts. He also has pitched three scoreless frames with five strikeouts for the Orioles in spring training play. He is simply throwing the ball very, very well right now and looks poised for a big year.

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