Checking on Kremer, O'Hearn and more in today's exhibition game against the Rays (O's lose 7-2)

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. – Dean Kremer jogged from the dugout to the mound today for the bottom of the fifth inning. He got another up. And he got the chance because he was cruising.

Kremer retired nine batters in a row and he wasn’t done. With Albert Suárez ready in the bullpen, Kremer threw all three of his pitches for strikes and Francisco Mejía flied to center field.

Now, he could sit down after registering his longest outing of the spring.

Ten in a row were retired since Kremer hit his second batter of the day. He allowed one run and two hits in 4 1/3 innings, with one walk and three strikeouts.

In four exhibition starts, Kremer has surrendered six runs and 12 hits and struck out 11 in 12 1/3 innings.

“I’ve felt decent for the most part the whole spring,” he said. “Every now and again I’ll have an inning where it just won’t feel the same, but I’m sure that’s everybody. For the most part, I feel good.”

Kremer issued a one-out walk to Brandon Lowe in the first inning and it cost him. He hit Harold Ramírez, and Jonathan Aranda’s bouncer up the middle got past Kolten Wong for an RBI single. The Rays weren’t barreling him. They just took what was given and also got lucky.

Jose Siri had a leadoff single in the second and Kremer hit Curtis Mead, but the next three batters were retired to begin the right-hander’s roll. Kremer was averaging 21 pitches an inning.

He threw 16 in the third and 10 in the fourth, with the three strikeouts coming in that span.

“A little bit of a rocky start and then got in sync there after the second and kind of carried it through,” Kremer said.

It began to click for Kremer after he got back in rhythm. He was speeding up, but corrected it. And the Rays got the most impressive version of him since the start of camp.

Is Kremer close to regular season ready?

“I feel ready to compete if I need to,” he replied. “Of course, I’d like to have that next (start), but feel ready to compete.”

Kremer got a called third strike on Siri with his two-seam fastball in the fourth.

“It’s another weapon to have if I need it,” Kremer said. “It’s kind of being able to execute everything with two strikes, and the more weapons the better.”

* Ryan O’Hearn started at first base today and went 0-for-2 with a walk. And it did nothing to impact whether he’s in Baltimore on March 28.

O’Hearn is 8-for-30 (.267) with a double, two RBIs and five walks. He was 15-for-40 (.375) last spring with two doubles, three home runs, six RBIs and five walks, but didn’t go north with the team.

That won’t be a problem in 2024. He’s on the club and can use these games to prep for Opening Day, though he isn’t the type who’s wired to make assumptions and lift his foot off the pedal.

Manager Brandon Hyde will say it again.

“I want him to know he’s on the team, obviously,” Hyde said.

“I want him to just get ready for the season. Last year, he was trying to make the team and did everything he could to make the team. And this year, I want him to feel good physically, get the at-bats that he needs, get the proper defensive reps and just get ready for the season. So, that’s obviously helping him relax a little bit from the standpoint of not having to worry about being on the team or not. He’s on the team.”

And having a spring that’s the norm for established players.

“He’s earned it and he deserves it,” Hyde said. “He’s one of the leaders on our team, also. Love the way he goes about his business. He’s a total professional.”

“It’s a fun change for me, because I feel like my whole career I’ve been fighting for those last two spots,” O’Hearn said. “It’s been awesome. But still trying to keep up the intensity and get myself ready to go. We’ve got 10 days until we leave. Maybe the last week or so I’ve been trying to crank up the intensity and really just treat it like a regular game, and I’m getting there. I feel good.”

* Jackson Holliday was in the lineup after playing in last night’s “Spring Breakout,” and his ground ball in the second inning reached right-center field for a single that raised his average to .314 with a .904 OPS.

Holliday lined to Lowe to end the fourth and grounded out in the seventh.

Jordan Westburg singled in the first and doubled in the third, giving him 10 hits in 33 at-bats, including three doubles, a triple and two home runs. He lined to left field in the fifth and grounded out in the eighth.

Wong tripled into the right field corner in the fourth and scored the tying run on Ryan McKenna’s sacrifice fly. But Suárez was charged with five runs in the seventh inning, included a runner that Ryan Watson inherited. The Rays scored six times for a 7-1 lead.

Suárez’s ERA has risen to 6.35. He's surrendered runs in only two of his 11 1/3 innings, but opponents have scored eight.

Coby Mayo had an RBI grounder in the eighth.

* The Orioles lost 7-2 and are 16-5-1.

Hyde liked the way Kremer finished his start.

“The first two innings were kind of similar to Grayson (Rodriguez) yesterday for me,” he said. “Not commanding the ball as well as Dean wanted to today, and then third and fourth inning and into the fifth was really, really good Dean Kremer. Really good fastball and threw some good curveballs and the split. Nice to see him kind of bounce back after struggling to find command the first few innings.

“We expect big things out of Dean. Dean’s got the ability to be a really good starter in this league and showed that the second half last year.”

Suárez tossed three scoreless innings with seven strikeouts on March 5 in Clearwater but hasn’t been as sharp in his last two outings.

“The first two innings were really good,” Hyde said. “He lost command a little bit. Maybe that’s a little bit of spring training fatigue, but first two innings he did have his command and looked like how he had been pitching all spring. Just kind of lost it there that third inning.”

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