Givens unavailable due to knee soreness (plus other notes)

DUNEDIN, Fla. – Veteran reliever Mychal Givens has slipped out of lock status.

Givens hasn’t pitched since Thursday due to a sore left knee, which manager Brandon Hyde revealed this morning. Givens has made only four appearances with the Orioles this spring, allowing an unearned run in four innings and striking out seven batters.

“Hoping he gets on the back field in a couple days,” Hyde said.

Asked whether the knee could impact Givens’ availability on Opening Day, Hyde said, “Hopefully not.”

“It just got sore,” Hyde said, “and so we’re taking some precautionary measure against it, taking it easy with him, and hopefully he’ll be able to break with us.”

Dillon Tate is headed for the injured list, but closer Félix Bautista appears to have avoided it. Cionel Pérez, Bryan Baker, Austin Voth and Keegan Akin are expected to be in the visiting bullpen at Fenway Park for the March 30 opener.

Removing Givens, who signed a $5 million deal as a free agent that includes a mutual option, would improve the chances for Tyler Wells, if he fails to crack the rotation, and for Joey Krehbiel, Mike Baumann, Rule 5 pick Andrew Politi or Spenser Watkins.

Akin also hasn’t pitched in six days, but he logged two innings on a back field this week and will come out of the bullpen Friday night against the Yankees’ split squad in Sarasota.

DL Hall will make his next appearance on Saturday. He worked 1 2/3 innings Monday in Clearwater.

Politi is on today’s trip and ready to make his eighth appearance and keep pressing for a job.

Politi had three straight scoreless appearances to begin spring training, allowed two two-run homers against the Phillies in Clearwater, and posted three consecutive scoreless appearances.

Hyde likes pitchers who pound the strike zone, and Politi has walked only two batters and struck out seven in seven innings.

“I think I had a good spring,” Politi said this morning. “I think the best thing is I went out there and I threw a lot of strikes and I competed and did whatever I had to do.”

The 5.14 ERA is deceiving, since all the scoring happened in one game.

Politi was challenged to show how he’d respond to the adversity, and he returned to Clearwater Monday afternoon and blanked the Phillies with no hits allowed for 1 1/3 innings.

The rookie inherited a bases-loaded, two-out jam from Bautista and retired Bryson Stott on a popup.

“I was honestly thinking that after the game. I was kind of happy that I got to go back there, face the top of the order, go there in a big spot and just kind of change the results,” said Politi, who was selected from the Red Sox organization at the Winter Meetings.

“I think it’s been a little bit better just being on the same page with the catchers now and having them catch me a little bit more. It’s been a lot easier to communicate, as opposed to earlier when you get thrown in a game with a new catcher. But the communication’s been great. I’ve been able to go in there and feel more comfortable throwing.”

The curveball keeps impressing Hyde and his staff. He mentioned it again Monday and said the club would continue to evaluate Politi.

“That was a pitch that I’ve thrown a lot, I used it a lot last year,” said Politi, who had a combined 2.34 ERA and 0.966 WHIP in 50 games between Double-A Portland and Triple-A Worcester.

“It’s more just, they want me throwing it more early in counts, behind in counts, just kind of getting it mixed in a little more, as opposed to being the fastball/cutter. Just getting that curveball in, especially 0-0. Getting ahead with it makes it difficult for hitters.”

Grayson Rodriguez starts Thursday night against the Tigers’ split squad in Sarasota, Kyle Gibson starts Friday night against the Yankees’ split squad in Sarasota, and Wells starts Saturday night against the Pirates in Bradenton.

Hyde said he won't shorten the starters in their final exhibition games.

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