After watching him pitch in Florida, Merullo provides a take on Wada

The latest outing for pitcher Tsuyoshi Wada was Saturday and it went well. The 32-year-old left-hander from Japan pitched six innings in extended spring training, allowing just three hits and one run on 76 pitches.

Matt Merullo wasn't there to see that outing, but he has been in the dugout for Wada's other starts during extended spring training as he works his way back from Tommy John surgery last May 11.

Merullo is among the staff members heading up the Orioles' extended spring program until he begins the New York-Penn League season in June as short-season Single-A Aberdeen's new manager.

He left Sarasota for a day to appear at Ripken Stadium on Saturday as part of the IronBirds' Fan Day. During a break from his time talking with fans, I asked Merullo how Wada was looking in his earlier extended spring outings.

"He has been pitching well," he said. "I'd like to say the word that comes to mind is he has been cruising through some innings. He's shown good command. I don't have any history with him, but it's fun to watch him. He can spot his pitches and locate. He's got very good poise out there.

"He's very businesslike and professional out on the mound is probably the best way to put it. You don't see a lot of emotion, just a very professional approach and he's had some good innings for us down there."

Wada spent nine seasons pitching for Fukuoka of the Japan League. During his last season there in 2011, he went 16-5 with a 1.51 ERA and in his career is 107-61 with an ERA of 3.13 in over 1,400 innings.

Per his contract, Wada cannot be optioned to the minors, but he can join an affiliate as part of a 30-day rehab assignment. He may do that after one more extended spring start.

Does it look like Wada is getting closer and closer to possibly being ready to help the Orioles in the big leagues?

"I'd like to think they do have something there (to help the Orioles)," Merullo said. "Scott McGregor is in charge of the rehab program there and he, Dave Schmidt and Chris Correnti have done a great job of bringing him along. I know it's only extended spring, but there are still some young, aggressive hitters that are good competition there.

"There's been a steady progress and I know the people that have been with him the whole time, going back to last year, feel real good about where he is right now."

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